Thursday, August 6, 2015

Into the unknown!

‎A few weeks ago I came up with a great idea, why not do an IRONMAN triathlon. The thought first sprung into my mind at the recent cannondale sales conference in Ogden Utah where I was listening to inspiring story of Bonner Paddock. Bonner has  cerebral palsy and has refused to allow it to stop him from doing anything. He's climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and in 2013 completed the hawaii ironman and in the process sustained 27 fractures in his legs!! As he stood before the cannondale family in the Ogden town theater he still had 3 fractures to fully heal which will give bonner the green light to begin exercise again and onto the next challenge. Of course he's already planned that and having never mountain biked in his life he's decided to set his sights on the Leadville 100 of course!! And who'd bet against him with his pedigree of achievements, I truly inspiring story. So what did bonner's story have to do with me wanting to do an ironman?? Well as I sat there I was reminded once again of how lucky I am to have a fully functional healthy body. Hearing what bonner went through to complete Kona I decided that I wanted to do an ironman as completely unprepared as possible and see how my body could carry me. Crikey If bonner could go through the suffering of sustaining 27 fractures the very least I could do was to through my hat in the ring and see how much punishment my body could take. I pondered this for another couple of weeks tooing and frowing between common sense and stupidity and ultimately settled on the latter. That was that, I picked up the phone, called my buddy Brandon who runs my awesome sponsor xterra and said sign me up for IM Whistler, it was now only 2 weeks away! That wasn't all, not only had bonner inspired me but I wasn't entering just to complete an ironman, I wanted to qualify for Kona so I actually had to race this thing! Now I was faced with a real challenge, 2 weeks to figure out how to swim a distance I hadn't swam for over 18 years!! The ride obviously didn't bother me but then I had to run twice as far as I'd ever run before!! Oh and do it relatively quickly so I qualify for Kona. Yeah this was a nice little challenge to tackle.

With such limited time till the event there was only ever one training option, crash fitness program! This was a training program devised by my best mate bomma which basically was called upon when you were way out of shape and you needed to get into really really good shape really really quickly! So naturely I picked up the phone and call bom! Bom's advice was perfect as always. He didn't bother going into the fact that I had no idea what I was getting myself into or that I was crazy, no, he simply said "right you've got f!c! All time so just train like you always do on the bike but instead of jumping in the spa afterwards pull your sneakers on and go for a jog, get your body used to running when you absolutely catcus"! Sound advice so I decided to try and make that as race specific as possible and did 2 days of long rides where I rode for 6hrs hard then got off and ran 1hr week one and 2hrs last weekend. My theory was although I'd only covered 24km I was running with 8hrs of fatigue in my body and my goal was 9hrs 30min as whistler is a very hard course. I figured nothing would prepare me for that final hour + of suffering so I'd save that as a surprize for the day. ‎I hadn't run for about 10weeks as I'd had a little hip soreness which was kind of a blessing as I couldn't run fast even if I wanted to, all I could do was plod which was the perfect pace for the marathon I needed to survive. My swimming was limited as I'd had a nast crash on my MTB three weeks ago and put a couple of small strains in my right pec muscle and behind my shoulder blade so I only got a few seeions in the pool at a very slow pace. It was funny I couldn't breathe on my right side as it felt like I was being stabbed with a knife in the chest but the left was tolerable so that was lucky, I could atleast keep the biomechanics of the swim going. I crammed in some high intensity on the bike as true to bommer's advice it was my only option for maximizing crash fitness!! Last tuesday I did my final solid workout which was the 3.8km swim just to ensure I would make it that far and the 180km's on the bike as hard and fast as possible. I followed that up with bom's crucial advice and quickly knocked out 5km on foot just to make sure my body knew that it's wasn't on vacation anymore once the pedals are snapped out of the cleats! It's funny how time fly's when your racing to be ready in time and before I knew it it was time to get on the bird again and jet on up to canada for the big race!!!

I got to whistler on thursday evening so had a couple of days to check the place out and recon some of the bike course. On‎ friday I did 2hrs reconning half the bike course followed by a 5 minute run and 5minute swim, I was determined to keep my powder dry. Saturday was a short ride of 45min and then a 5minute swim again in the afternoon to make sure that my wetsuit fitted, I was all good to go. Getting ready for an ironman is quite the logistical experience, there are mc millions of things to think off!! Bike transition bag, run transition bag, special needs bike bag, special needs run bag and off course the range of different things you can put in them. Add to that the decision of how many bottles to carry and how much food to strap to your bike and you mind is going a million miles an hour to ensure you don't forget anything! I was exhausted just from thinking on saturday evening so fortunately sleeping wasn't a problem, I was tucked up by 8 ready for the 4am alarm to get my race day underway. Not surprisingly that alarm did indeed go off as planned and it felt like on 5minutes since I'd fallen asleep so deep is your slumber at such an ungodly hour. Still I jumped up full of enthusiasm, I had a feeling similar to before oceanside that it was going to be a great day.

Having had the experience of the half ironman in march, I had my morning routine and transition setup all dialed. As I did in oceanside I took the good guy approach and was certain to take a track pump with me to make some friends before the start. Once again I was amused by how many people had forgotten about bringing a proper pump and came to me frantically for a loan of mine, it truly is the greatest way to make friends in a triathlon transition area!! Before I knew it it was 6:45 and 15min before start, the time is set to pull on my snazzy dazzy green and black xterra racing wetsuit and get myself into the water and onto the start line. Another thing I learnt from oceanside was the importance of vasaline for any possible rubbing part of your body and I lathered myself in the stuff. This stuff is really golden and my suit slid on like a glove and I had maximum mobility, barely felt like it was even on so my excitement to get stuck into the gym grew even more!! I bounded into the water with maximum enthusiasm and charged out to the startline. At this point there was a little drama, as I placed my goggles over my eyes they were completely fogged, I wiped them but they didn't clear, I couldn't see 10cm ahead of me. Stupidly I just figured they will be right once I get‎ going and sat on the start line ready to rock and roll!! Soon it was the big count down to the start, 5 4 3 2 1 bang!! And I shot of the line like frog in a blender!! 


Swim:

So we were off and racing and I felt fantastic in my vasaline lathered wetsuit covered body!! I had my head down and backside above water I charged on without really knowing which way I was going but as I felt fast by my standards I didn't really care!! Big mistake! After about 5min or so of not being able to see it finally started annoying me so I decided to stop and see where was at as with no one around me I figured I must be a long way in front!! Yeah right!! A long way going the wrong way more like!! I was about 100m away from the boy line and swimming completely on my own with the front pack dissapearing into the distance!! Oops!! At this point common sense should have made me flick the goggles but instead I decided again to try and wipe them and plow on! Sure enough after another 5 or so attempts to clear the goggles as I stopped to check my line I found myself swimming further of course again as I rounded the top marker at about 500m into the swim. At this point I finally bit the bullet and flicked the goggles ‎and this was the point where I realised luck was on my side, it was fresh water!! No goggles no problem!! And I was finally off and racing being able to see where I was going again, it was an amazing feeling and took me back to my nippers junior surf life saving days when this was no problem in salt water, I couldn't believe I'd been such a wimp and not ditched them earlier!! Anyways better late than never and most importantly my race was back on track literally and figuratively!! It kind of felt like getting a flat tyre in a road race and having to do a wheel change inside the last 20km when the race is going balistic. The chase back on gives you such a rush of adrenaline you feel like ten men, it was kinda the same in this swim, I felt like I could absolute flat out without any regard for how much effort it took. It was a great feeling as I swam through the field in the final 3km in the pool with my visibility back at 100percent and I ensured I left nothing in the water, I had to make up precise time I'd lost in the first lap. I figured I didn't need my arms for the rest day so I may aswell use them up so I threw them over as fast as I possibly could! When I finally hit the beach I'd certainly given it all I had to make up time as i barely had the strength to pull of my wetty. I pulled on my bike shoes, with the rain now falling I didn't hesitate in pulling on a rain coat, better to be to warm than to cold, clipped on my helmet, scoffed down a 500ml mocha iced coffee, and charged out of transition with my cannondale slice tri bike, I was now onto my leg of the race!!


Bike:

Once out on course I immediately switched into race mode. I knew I was now around 20minutes behind the pro's due to my poor swim and I wanted to try and catch them. I wasn't going to worry about what my power meter said but instead just pick my way through the field and try and real in the front runners just like pulling back a breakaway in a road race, only difference was the team was me so had to do all the work myself!! Anyways I threw caution to what was coming up after the ride with the run and wasn't going to save any energy for that, I figured I'd worry about that when I got to it. My theory on this was pretty simple, provided I ate and drank enough I wouldn't run out of fuel so I could plow along all day and as the bike was the best place to eat I ate as much as I possibley could which really gave me confidence to push as hard as I wanted. At the turnaround at Olympic park after around an hour I remember seeing the power meter average reading 369watt, Ohh I thought, that's pretty solid but didn't for a second think about backing off. ‎Sure enough by the time I was passing back through whistler after around 75km my average power was now at 375 at the 1hr:45 mark, I thought gee, must have decent legs today so I plowed on stupidly without regard for fatigue. At some point I knew deep down I would pay for that effort!

Sure enough as I got to bottom section around half way I started to feel a little fatigue!! Fortunately the feed zone with my special needs bag was right there. I was pretty organised with my nutrition so my special needs bag had 2 simple things being 2 cans of coke! I figured halfway through a road race the coke is my go to for a pick me up so I packed 2 in case I dropped one! I made no mstake with the first one and got it down the hatch and was quickly back in my tt mode and chase of those still ahead of me on the road. This next next section was the tuffest to focus, 25km straight and flat one way, hook a u turn, and head back. At this point I was feeling my enthusiasm in the first half of the ride in my muscles. While I had no intention of backing off to much I did ensure I settled into a rhythm that would ensure I actually survived the bike leg of the event! The boring section ended up being not so bad as I picked my way through a few more of the pro's, I noticed they all like to draft of each other so when I passed I made sure I did it with as much mumbo jumbo as possible to keep them off my wheel. This was wasting more energy I guess but I didn't care, I'd committed to empty the tank on the bike so that's what I was trying to do. I got to the end of the 50km tt drag section and now just had the 30km rolling climb back to town to haul myself up and it would be onto the run. At this point I ditched the jacket and was in full final part of a road race mode down into my fancy camo singlet and running shorts to feel as racey as possible for the climb.

As I swung onto the climb I hit the wall hard!! It was about 3hrs 30min into the ride and I was still at 348 watt average, as soon as I glanced down at my power meter ‎when my legs went dead I knew i was about to pay a price for my complete disregard for the challenge I was facing. To be brutally honest on those first few steep ramps as I climbed out of pemperton I knew coming to a complete standstill was a very real probability, I simply had no power left, it was like a light switch turned off. Don't know if I want hunger flat or my legs simply gave up on me, probably a combination of the two, regardless it was a very difficult moment for me. 

Normally in a road race after working on the front for almost 4hrs you simply retreat to the back of the bunch and the gruppetto for a gentle roll to the finish, didn't have that option so I had to figure a way around it! Luckily there was really only one option, eat, and pedal easy and try and recover a little. Fortunately the climb consisted of lots of step ups with some little decents. My power was now all gone but was still moving forward, instead of being in the mid 300's with the watts I was cranking, the pedals around in the mid to low 200 watt range, I was in big trouble!! Anyways fortunately I kept moving forward which is the golden rule in ironman right? So long as your moving forward your getting closer to the finish! I thought of that a lot in the final 20km to the finish of the bike leg. Fortunately for me as climb progressed and I recovered on the decents and got some extra food in I started to feel a little more spritly. Speaking of food I'd made a last minute purchase from my super mechanic win Allen of wins wheels in westlake village just before I left for whistler. As I was walking out of his store I spotted some fancy new bonk Breaker bars. I thought that's a great name and if there's ever a risk of bonking it's in a jolly ironman so I'd best buy a couple! They had my favorite flavor of salted caramel so I grabbed a couple of them to jam in my feed container on my bike. So in my moment of desperation it was so so good to see these 2 bars sitting infront of my when I flipped the lid on my container and I quickly scoffed them down, I was in desperate need of needing a bonk to be broken so I crossed my fingers that they lived up to there name!! I have no idea if it was the bars that brought me back to life or not but I can assure you there is quite a strong placedo effect with eating a salted caramel bonk Breaker bar when you have well and truly bonked!!

My power was coming back in the final 10km and instead of being relieved to have dodged a bullet and saving energy for the run I got back to work and had the power meter back up in the mid 300's, I wanting to make up as much time as was possible! It was funny really, I basically had 1hr where my body had a powernap and all of a sudden it was alive again!! Anyways for whatever reason I didn't care and figured make hay while the sun shined and I jammed the pedals as hard as I could on the ride into the run transition. An ironman I've heard is as much mental as physical and with that in those final km's on the bike I got excited about the 3rd race of the day, the marathon! I was sick of the bike, I'd been on it for a long time and wanted to do something else. At this point I believe the mental side mad a massive difference as the reality was tank and legs were empty, I could have happily gone home, showered and slept for the afternoon, happy with my 325 watt for 4hrs 45min effort, I'd never done that before. But no, I still had a marathon to do and I was mentally excited about that and that got my body excited, that was really really lucky for me!! Intact I was so anxious to get of the bike that I decided to make use of my fancy mavic triathlon shoes with the giant velcro strap for easy exit!! I'd never tested out taking my feet out of these shoes, truth be told I'd only ridden in them for 30minutes the day before on the ride over to transition, a little risky I know!! Anyways I reached down as I rolled to transition and slipped the feet out, for that brief moment I almost felt like a triathlete!! So as I jumped off the bike in T2 I had a massive spring in my step , pretty crazy getting of tt bike after close to 5hrs and not being one bit stif an sore, comfy bike I guess?? again this was quite fortunate for me as I'd never run a marathon before, now the race really began.


Run:

Into transition and I have to admit this was a pretty cool moment. There were only 4 of the pros ahead of me on course so the awesome crowd were excited to see the first of the battler class, this gave me a real buzz. I grabbed my transition bag and quickly went through the routine I'd gone over and over during that 180km's on the bike. I ripped off my socks as they were wet and I had some special weapons in my bag for my feet. As I was packing my bag I spotted my golf shoes and inside as they always are were my favorite golf socks washed and ready for my next round. I have no idea what brand they are but they are white and soft and seem to have heaps of cushioning, I never ever have sore feet or legs after a round of golf. My logic was that as golf was the closest I'd come to spending 4hrs on my feet then these sock might just have the same effect on a marathon. Again I'd never ever worn them running before but just had a hunch they wouldn't let me down. So I slid them on and promptly after my Mizuno running kicks. I grabbed my crucial piece of nutrition being a starbucks 500ml iced coffee and headed out onto the run leg. I plodded of slowly to get the iced coffee down, I love those things so had decided to go for comfort food in the marathon anticipating I'd need every positive I could get to get through it. The ice coffee's became my go to endurance drink oof choice on Richie's 400km birthday ride we did last year, again that was something I'd never done before in one day but I never ran out of fuel thanks to what I believe to be the 6 500ml iced coffee's I downed on the day. Worked for me then so figured I give it another whirl for the marathon. So I downed my milk and was now underway and I have been to admit I was stoked with my choice of comfy socks, felt like I had springs in shoes!! Who would have thought the trusty golf socks could be great marathon socks aswell, that was a stroke of luck! I had a pretty simply plan for the run, walk through every 2nd aid station and have a gell and cup of gaterade which was about every 4km. I figured if I do this I wouldn't run out of fuel which was my biggest concern.

The thought of running 42km seemed crazy even to me so I decided to break it down into blocks of distances to tick the km's off. The marker I set was 12km as Dylan gleeson whom was first age grouper 12months prior in whistler told me to do that section as easy as possible to ensure you've got the ability to go the distance. I trusted Dylan and plodded through the first 12km eating and drinking as much as possible. To my delight at 12km in I felt fresh as a daisy, almost like I'd recovered a little bit, my spirits rose! At this point I decided to keep this comfy pace until the end of the first lap. If I could get halfway feeling like I'd done nothing then that would be awesome specially considering before today that was the furthest I'd run. All went to plan and as I plodded along to start the 2nd lap I felt tickedy boo which I'm sure was largely mental but in honesty my legs still felt preety good. The next check point was 24km where the run special needs back was located. I was excited to get to this bag as it had another starbucks ice coffee and I was pretty certain the calories and nutrients in that bottle would ensure I wouldn't run out of fuel in the final 18km. I was putting a lot of faith in these ice coffee's!! Before I knew it I had my bag in my hand and my milk dissapeared within seconds, wish I was that good At sculling pints of beer!! And I was back into my slow plod! The last 18km is where I'd been told crazy stuff happens and things get tuff!! It was time to have if nothing else a tuff coconut!

With my final ice coffee on board it was the mother all placebo effects, it was like taking of with fresh legs all over again. The next mental marker I was told to focus on by Dylan was between 25-30km, he told me that's where things get interesting!! Have no idea what he meant by that but I just kept telling myself I was in cruise control and was doing it easy. Not whether it was a positive or negative but at around 26km mark I had my first little drama, I had a tumbling tummy and felt the urge to drop some pounds!! All had gone so smoothly so I didn't panic and when I spotted a porta loo in the distance I fixed in on it and looked forward to sitting down and having a crash weight loss session!! This turned out to be an awesome turn of events as as I got back out on course I felt fantastic and I was now in the middle of dylans danger zone so all was going great. After a couple more km my tummy had another little turn so after the success of the first visit to the porta loo I didn't hesitate in stopping again at the 30km mark to lighten the load even more for what I was sure would be a challenging final 12km's, things had to get tuff sooner or later! The next marker I set was 33km's in as this was where the final turn around of the day. I figured if I get that far all I then have to do is run back to town and also that last 9km was ever so slightly downhill so I was sure I could make it from there.

As I rounded the final turn around to begin my haul back to town I have to admit my legs were getting a little heavy and I needed a spark. Again I'm certain someone was smiling down on my that day as a boost would come in the form of a girl named Claire who was on her 1st lap and trotting along at a fine pace. As she came up to me she told me I looked great which was ironic as that exactly what I thought about her!! She looked to be in extremely good shape if you know what I mean so I quickly repayed the compliment. She told me to hang tuff and that I was going great, I was obviously bluffing those around me pretty well!! Anyways I quickly asked what pace she was running at and she said 3hrs 20 - 3hr 30min pace which was the exact pace I was hoping to run best case scenario. I ask her if she minded if I ran with her to keep me going along and focused on something else other than suffering and she absolutely. Claire was awesome, constantly looking over her shoulder and encouraging me and I had ne drama's following her from behind, it was quite a pleasent sight, I mean point of focus!!! I have to admit Claire must have been some sort of Rockstar as every second person was cheering her on, that's why I'd never forget her name, regardless Rockstar or not she was definately my hero at that moment!! As Claire kept me plodding along I was now getting toward my final checkpoint at 37km. My superstar dad ran his first marathon at 55 and did it in 3hrs, pretty dam impressive hey! Anyways his only advice he gave me was that at 37km everybody falls apart, you just have to fall apart less. I love my dad, he's always an amazing point of motivation for me and this was no different. Little did he realise I took this advice in a completely different way, I was flattered and bouyed with even more self belief that he thought I would even make it 37km's!! If I made it that far it would be a miracle, let alone what the body starts to do at that point!! 

Anyways as I rolled toward the 37km danger zone falling apart was the furthest thing from my mind.‎ My eyes were still firmly set on Claire drumming out the tempo in front of me so much so that I didn't even see the 37km marker and the next one I saw was 38km!! You beauty I thought, I've dodged a bullet here and for the first time I had had enough of the run and just wanted to get to the finish, I was fresh as a daisey. I strided up beside Claire and thanked her for her help but it was time for me to boogy to the finish. She gave me a big cheer and I was off to bravely face the final 4km alone! I also knew I was in 9th overall and wanted to stay in the top 10 and I was sure there were guys not far behind. I decided I'd jam in a quick couple of km's to kill of there challenge as I wanted to ensure I reached the finish area alone so I could enjoy my first run down an ironman finish shoot. I couldn't believe how good I felt and had to remind myself that 3km's is still a ways to run so sprinting wasn't wise, still my km pacing dropped by almost 1minute for those final few km's. It was such and awesome feeling to see the board that says 2nd lap go left, finish go right, all of a sudden I was alone again like at the beginning of the run and off to enjoy my first ironman finish shoot. I'd watched a head of doco's on ironmans over the years and always marveled at how people could sprint at the end of all that. Well now I have the experience of that adrenaline and absolutely you want to sprint! Firstly to get your backside accross that line as quickly as possible, and secondly because the crowd is so excited and motivating that you feel like your floating, it was simply an oarsome experience finally passing under the ironman finish arch in 9hrs 23min. I'd finished my first ironman!

Once accross the line Jaime and Nat from sugoi whom are my snazzy apparel sponsor where the first to greet me. They were perhaps more excited than me as I think they were a little worried about me due to the lack of preparation and training I'd done, they certainly looked relieved to have me accross the line in one piece, they are such amazing supporters of mine. I headed straight for the massage tent but blew that off pretty quick as my muscles were so sore that if the lady touched me with any force I jumped through the roof of the tent. I called mum and dad and let them know I'd finished safe and sound, again they seemed relieved, I was beginning to realise I was perhaps the only one stupid enough to believe I'd be able to go out and do what I just did, truth be told I has some scarey thoughts and the day before aswell!! I the headed of to go hang with my friends from sugoi and slam a few beers and enjoy reliving the day with them. After an hour or so the days exertion started to show and I just wanted to go home and have a little sleep, I guess I was a little tired afterall! ‎After a couple of hours restlessness trying to sleep I realised I was far to fatigued to even rest! That was something new so I pulled my cloaths back on and headed back to the finish to watch the last few hours of finishes to complete the ironman. The cutoff time is midnight and it's a massive party down at the finish as everybody cheers home the final finishes. Here is where you see the hero's of the day, husband's and wives, parents and kids, legends pushing north of 70 charging accross the line, it's so inspiring seeing how elated all these guys are simply to make it to the finish. That the great think about an ironman, just getting accross that line is a real achievement and you see it on each and every face, really really cool. The final finisher passed under the arch at 16hrs 56min or 11:56pm and the course was finally empty, it was at that moment that I finally paused for a second the consider what had just happened in the past 20hrs since I woke at 4am for race day! It's all written above but was a cool moment to realise how much stuff you can get done in 24hrs!!

Things changed a lot for me in those 9hrs and 23minutes, those changes will became more apparent in the near future. I learnt a huge amount about myself, what I can put myself, how much a part the mind plays in sport, what keeps me going, I could have never anticipated how my outlook on my future in sport would change by doing an ironman. With only 4 months left in my sebatical year away from the world of professional cycling I've decided my final adventure event will be the hawaii ironman in kona. It's an event alongside the Olympics and Le tour de france I dreamed of as a kid partaking in one day. The fact that the 2015 tour wrapped up on the same day as the ironman was an interesting coincidence. This was another motivating factor for me to give it a good crack to be honest as so many of my buddies had just raced there ass's off all over france so the least I could do was inflict a little bit of fatigue on my body aswell!! When I line up on the start in kona I'll have ticked of two of those objectives, I would never have guessed kona would come ahead of le tour but hey you never ever know what card sporting life has got install for you next. I'll have to work even harder now to complete the set as I get back in the peleton next year but that's even more motivating for me now, 12months ago I'd lost that desire so I'm pleased that putting myself through an ironman finally got that spark and drive back that for so many years had been missing, better late than never I guess. Anyways onwards and upwards, I'll take a couple of weeks off to ensure I recover 100percent, if I need to I'll take a 3rd week, I'm not going to underestimate how much that event took out of my legs, specially considering I only did 2 weeks of solid training for it. I plan on taking kona a little more seriously and will commit 6 weeks to the race so will start in Ernest again on august 22nd and that will give me a week to taper and be fresh for the race day. Yeah I'll go to kona for the experience as I know that you can't expect to do anything exceptional of 6 weeks training but I want to be able to enjoy it which mean getting the most out of myself for the condition I have so that will drive me to train hard for that. 

Yep the ironman is one thing I'm glad I decided to have a crack at! Bonner paddock was so inspiring that no matter how out of my depth I felt in preparation or during the race I felt, I knew that wasn't even on the same plannet of being challenged as he was climbing killamanjaroo or completing the ironman. Bonner's story certainly rang load and clear in my head but he is just one amazing story to come out of the ironman movement. These absolute hero's concept of challenge is world's away from what all us able bodied athletes face in our sporting lives, I can't expres sin words how moving some of these stories are. Anyways, thanks bonner I'm off to kona and can't wait to see what adventures and amazing individuals I'll come accross over there.

Cjw



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