Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ironman Cairns race report

My 5th place female finish at Ironman Cairns 2013 was not the "race of my life" in the way we usually use this phrase. No amazing breakthroughs were had, no sub-3 marathons were run, no swim or bike times crushed. Not even close. However, it was the "race of my life" in so many other ways. 
It was the "this is my life" , no really, "this is my life!" race and I loved every second of the experience. It all started race week in Port Douglas, which you can read about here

But for now I'll skips to Cairns... On Thursday, I rode with some friends down from Port Douglas to Cairns (North end of the bike course to T1). Riding into the headwind and through intermittent rainstorms, I mentally prepared for whatever we'd be granted on race day. Truth be told, I don't mind a good headwind. Tuck in and roll with it. "Get small" and hey, well I'm small so I think I'm good at that! 
Riding down to Cairns
Rainbow over T1 on Friday... After the rain, comes the rainbow

The rest of the pre race preparation went really easily. Thank you to all of the Aussies that helped me prep my bike and gear...The guys at SRAM/Zipp Australia really helped with some last minute bike adjustments and new tires as I had gotten a bunch of debris in my tires and needed to ride with some freshies. 

Ironman gear round-up. (I've got a post on this in the works!) 

Race morning: 
Alright. I'll mention it once, but then I'm hopping off the excuse train. On Friday before the race, I came down with a nasty cold/sore throat/low fever situation. I was not well. I really tried not to focus on this, and have some good friends who've had fantastic results while being sick, so I wasn't ready to pack it up and give up. That said, feeling 100% was not an option on race day. I made a decision to swim only aerobically as my breathing was really not going well. 
Breakfast went down just fine (a couple of bowls of gluten free cereal, MRM Hydration factor, and a Peanut Butter Choc Chip Bonk Breaker while prepping my gear in T1) . 

The Swim: 1:06 (2.4 miles)
Well, the swim was not the sub one-hour I was hoping for! Not even close. I "allowed" myself to swim comfortably and breathe, thinking this would still get me around maybe 1:02 or something... I just never felt great in the water. The water was hot. Definitely pushing the temperature cutoff, but due to possibilities of huge stinger animals that supposedly inhabit these waters, they keep it wetsuit legal. I came out of the water knowing there was work to do, but ready to put my swim split behind me. 
2 lap swim course..
swim venue

The Bike: 5:23/20.7 mph (112 miles)
The Cairns bike course is mostly flat/rolling until a 2-loop section which includes 4 climbs over the same hill that is about 1 kilometer long in each direction. The home stretch (last 40k-ish) is directly into a nice headwind. So, it is one of those courses that is not incredibly challenging on paper, but can really get you if the weather chooses to get hot or windy (both strong possibilities on any day in tropical north Queensland). 
loving my Slice! (Thank you Adam Weathered for the photos!) 
I felt pretty good on the bike ride and think the bike was indicative of my current bike fitness (nothing glamorous, but a work in progress). I held steady power all day long, passed Michelle Wu on the bike, kept my head in the game, stayed on my nutrition, and rode with the intention of getting off and running myself onto the podium. And all through the most beautifully amazing bike course I reminded myself, "You get to do this. Racing Ironman in the professional field in Australia. Seriously. So what if you are in 6th place and not winning the damn thing right now?, keep your head in the game because so many people don't have the opportunity to make this their life." I really never gave up on that day because I felt so incredibly lucky. 

The Run: 3:19 (26.2 miles)
The run is my jam and I truly believe on any day I can run darn close to 3 hours in an Ironman marathon. On Ironman Cairns day, it was not to be. I just couldn't push and hold beyond the comfort zone. I never felt terrible, but I never felt great, and I'm thinking my sneaky sickness stole a bit of my sparkle 'n shine. I just kept plodding along, knowing I would make it to the finish. I passed Michelle Gailey on the run to move into 5th place. I crossed the finish line, happy to complete my 9th Ironman and ready to be done!

Huge congratulations to Liz Blatchford 1st, Gina Crawford 2nd, and Stephanie Jones 3rd for an incredible race to the finish and showing how to really get these things done- constantly amazed by the women I get to race with. 
Running... photos by Adam Weathered
and another one...
Post race...
Finishing an Ironman, in 5th place, in Australia, was an amazing feeling. I don't care if you don't have what you or others may consider the  "Race of your life", finishing an Ironman is an accomplishment that will teach you more about yourself in one day than almost anything else I can think of. I embraced the feelings of accomplishment and am always proud of where I've come from in this sport and looking forward to where I'm going to go. 

Post race was about my next door neighbor in Cardiff, CA -Luke McKenzie and the night was all about celebrating his big, well-deserved, long-time coming victory. I was so happy for Luke, I think I forgot I had actually raced too. 
enjoying some Australian suds with Steffy

As always, thank you to my amazing sponsors, supporters, friends, and family. I have a post coming about all of the gear, nutrition, and time that it takes to go into an Ironman race ready and the details of my race plan... 
And thank you to the amazing people of North Queensland, Australia...Some of the nicest, most hilarious, and honest people I've met. The volunteers were incredible (especially the children!) - Hearing an 8-year old scream "Well done!" in a ridiculously cute aussie accent during an Ironman marathon will never get old! 
Cheers to this adventure and the next ones soon to come! 2013 has only just begun (in my mind at least!) 

P.s. I finally learned how to order a proper coffee in Australia...just as I was leaving. If you ever go, this may help....


velolassie said...

Well done- you sound like you are in a great headspace - bring on the rest of 2013!!! Maybe you can spread the word about flat whites in the US. Trying to get a decent coffee in the states has always eluded me :) said...

Sounds like a good time. And isn't that the point.

David Jewell said...


Francie Van Wirkus said...

Great race, great report! You look absolutely bounding in the run photos above. Strong Sports Sister!

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