For those of you not keen on reading the minute details I present the Craig Simonetto Tinman Memorial 3 Dot Point Summary:
• The Ironman race was hard
• The Ironman training was really, really hard.
• I finished in 13hrs 37mins.
For the rest of you, read on!
Sunday December 5th
3am – why was I awake? My alarm was set for 3.45am. Regardless I got up and went down for breakfast. It was dark but it wasn’t raining. A good start given that the day before had been wet and windy.
A bit later, Craig and AB surfaced and we all went through our own pre-race routines.
At 4.30am Roger took us down to the race site and we checked our bikes were still there then pumped up the tyres before getting into wetsuits ready for the swim. With 1201 people racing it was a bit busy down there!
The pros started at 5.30am and then we moved into the water for a 5.45am start.
The majority of the field was on the right hand side of the beach so I headed to the left in an attempt to guarantee myself some clear water at the start. It worked.
Thankfully the rifle that the police had arrived with earlier was for starting the race rather than picking off sharks in the water.
After the national anthem we were off!
3.8km swim: up one side of the Busselton Jetty, across the end and back down the other. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t good. I got smacked up going around the buoys at half way and was again glad of my water polo experience. I’d felt a bit average on the way out to sea but it all came together heading back in. There was a bit of chop and swell which of course I am not used to. 1hr and 8mins later I was out of the water and running through the showers on the beach and through to transition. That was the easy bit of the day done.
Transition 1 Swim – Bike: An Ironman is a bit different to a regular triathlon. A lot of people (myself included) do a full clothing change for each leg. Rookie mistake number one was putting the towel in my run transition bag instead of the swim-bike one. Luckily there are volunteers to help you out and they helped me get my cycling shirt on! 10 minutes all up including putting sunscreen on and getting my bike. Not to mention listening to the guy beside me who had been terrified the whole way!
180km cycle: That’s a long way. 3x 60km laps of pretty much dead flat riding. There were aid stations every 15km which were magnificent. You could pick up water, Gatorade, flat cola, food, bananas, sunscreen etc. Not to mention the very popular portaloos! My first lap was excellent. There was very little wind and everything felt good. I was aiming to average around 30km/hr and when I got to the turnaround in under 2hrs I was ecstatic. Unfortunately the majority of my second lap was a debacle. The wind came up, my back got sore and if I tried to get onto my tri bars I felt queasy. The only thing to do was keep riding. I broke the lap down into the 15km sections between aid stations having to stop at each one for a stretch. Eventually I came good but the damage was done to my overall cycle time. The third lap was OK but I was pretty happy to ride back into Busselton to start running. That ride took me 6hrs 29mins; half an hour slower than I had aimed for. The good point was that I had been eating and drinking almost non-stop and felt pretty energetic as a result. I’d seen my Tridents team mates out there and they were all looking good. I was also really grateful to see our support crew a few times on the ride. I made sure I was smiling when I saw them!
Transition 2 – Bike to Run: This was another full clothing change but I decided to keep the white arm sun protectors on that I had worn on the bike. They kept my arms cool and given my fair complexion, it meant I wouldn’t need sunscreen at every aid station! 7mins 30s was how long I spent in the tent. Most of it was stretching my back out in preparation for the last little bit of the race.
42.2km Run: That’s right, just a quick marathon to finish up the day. The course was 4 laps along the beachfront. It was pretty picturesque and sheltered from the wind. But there was no shade at all. I started out walking the first few hundred metres, then shuffling, then jogging until I felt good enough to run. Having had a torn Achilles tendon during training I was paranoid about it. I really did NOT want to walk the whole way. It turned out pretty well. There was a huge crowd around the course and with all competitors having their name on their race number it was non-stop cheers and encouragement. There was such a party atmosphere on the run that it was hard not to smile and enjoy yourself. It also took my mind off the pain for a while at least! There were loads of people playing music which was cool as well. I saw most of the Tridents team on the run looking strong and all still ahead of me! And our support crew was there as well yelling, encouraging and taking photos. My first lap was great, I felt strong and was running pretty well. Even the second lap, whilst slower obviously, was pretty good. But lap 3 got tough. At about the 30km mark my body didn’t want to run anymore. I set myself small targets ahead to shuffle to and kept that up for a while. It wasn’t pretty but I was moving forward.
The end of each lap was parallel to the race finish. As I came into town for my last turnaround I was in a world of pain. But everyone says you have to look good in public so I made myself run the kilometre in and out of town before disappearing around a corner and having to walk for quite a while. In the end I walked most of the final lap but I knew it was almost over. The soles of my feet hurt like hell but apart from that I was just tired. Having been eating and drinking all through the run as well I wasn’t shocked that towards the end all I could stomach was water. I tried to shovel down some jelly beans and pretzels but it wasn’t a great idea in the end! At the 38km mark I made the decision that I would run the whole final kilometre. I upped my walking pace up until that point – I had to beat 14 hours.
Well the last kilometre was a dream. I ran the whole way. The finishers chute was a wall of sound that I imagine only professional sports people usually get to experience. I crossed the finish line feeling great in a time of 13hrs and 37min. Slower than I had wanted but still under the 14hr mark.
After you finish and get the medal and towel they take your official photo. AB was there to meet me at the end having finished 2hrs earlier. I was glad as he took me to the massage tent where I went through more pain than in the entire race. But it was worth it. Then a quick feed before collecting our gear and heading home.
I really don’t think I want to do another Ironman. The race day was good fun really and an awesome experience but you have to put in so much time to get to that point. Someone had written in chalk on the run course something like, “the miracle isn’t that you will finish Ironman, it is that you made it to the start”. And I agree.
There is no way that I could have done this without the support of Alison, Zoë and Angus. I’m sure I’ve put them through way too much since I started targeted Ironman training when the rest of the club were on a rest break back in April! My parents were pretty awesome as well, interested in different ways but very supportive of my goal.
My Coach, Ben Gathercole, is a master. He knows what to do and how to motivate his athletes. All I had to do to end up an Ironman was to do exactly what I was told. It was hard, tiring and at times infuriating but he is the man.
And the guys I trained with; Craig, AB, Seppo and Pete were magnificent. Although it is a solo race the bulk of training, especially those 6hr rides, are team efforts especially in terms of support and motivation. It was like being part of a brotherhood. Not to mention all the other Tridents who came out riding with us or were kind to us in the pool when we were struggling with major fatigue.
Being in the Tridents Triathlon Club has been fantastic. The number of messages we all received during training and while in Western Australia was astounding.
I’m going to single out a couple of people here who provided support and motivation above and beyond. First of all Steve. Steve has done 10 Ironman distance races. He and his family are having a tough time at the moment but he’s been with me in spirit through my sessions. His advice about looking good in the finishing chute was invaluable!
My Ironman family in WA; Roger, Margaret and Shelley. What a great support crew. You guys were amazing, kind and so supportive.
Then there’s Jo. Jo did her first Ironman early in the year. She came out on long rides with us, baked us muffins for the end of long Saturday swims and provided a constant torrent of supportive emails and text messages. That was awesome.
Al, who loaned me his tri bars and bike bag - thanks mate!
And Retlaw. From washing our hair in the showers at the pool (seriously) to dragging me around on the bike and in the pool, Ironman Retlaw was nothing but positive. He told me it was OK to fall asleep at work on a Wednesday between the 3hr ride in the morning and the afternoon run session!
My colleagues have also been very supportive. They no doubt mostly think I am insane but they have smiled politely as I had trouble walking up stairs or finding enough food to shovel in!
So, that’s it. Mission accomplished. What next??