Hello from OZ!!!
I am very happy to report that I was able to stay out of the operating room this Ironman and I was able to win Ironman Australia for the 5th consecutive time! This is my 10th Ironman victory.
The one “wrinkle” to winning my 5th IM Australia was that the course moved from its original location in Forster, New South Wales to Port Macquarie – another lovely town about 60 minutes north of Forster. So despite all the hype about winning 5 consecutive titles, I saw this victory as my first one since the course was very different from the one I had won 4 times previous. The bike course was very technical and hilly as compared to the rolling, flatter and straighter terrain of Forster. Because I am a “put my head down and ride” kind of athlete, I loved the Forster course and I struggled to “embrace” the Port Macquarie course when I first arrived. But after a few rides and practice sessions, I loved the new course. It did not play to my strengths, but I knew that I could get into my “happy” spot and that was half the battle. That is what makes this victory so sweet – I was forced to get out of my comfort zone a little bit – and in doing that, I had a fantastic race!
I got out of the swim with Belinda Granger and about 3:30 behind Melissa Ashton, the 2nd place finisher in 2005. I was so pleased with my swim especially since I had had a bike crash three weeks prior to race day and my swimming had been compromised until about 7 days before the event! In fact, I was down right shocked with my swim! Belinda usually exits the water about 1-2 minutes ahead of me!
Out onto the bike, I felt relaxed and fluid, but Belinda hammered away from me pretty quickly. Her race is built upon her awesome biking power and although I bike as hard as I can and train very hard on the bike, my race is built upon marathon speed. I had so wanted to keep Belinda in my site, but I wasn’t able to match her pace. And so then, my race became about minimizing my marathon deficit. From 60-120 km, I had managed to keep the damage to about 5 minutes, but then Belinda hammered the last 60 km lap of the 3-lap course and she put 6 more minutes into all the women!!! Despite starting the marathon in 3rd place, 12 minutes down on Belinda, I had the 3rd fastest bike – so I was very pleased!
Despite my 12 minute deficit, I started the run completely at peace but absorbed by the task of catching the leaders. I love to run and I would run for the love of running – and the love of catching the leaders. My legs had felt terrible on the bike from all of the climbing, but once I started running, it felt like magic. This was a very tough run course and I knew that that played into my strengths. The first 12 km was flat and then 12-18 km was very hilly, then 18-32 km was flat and then 32 km to 39 km was hilly and then flat to the finish at 42 km. The hills were like little gifts to me!! At then end of 21 km on the run, I was only about 3-4 minutes down on Belinda and I had moved into 2nd place. I was running happy and content and that is probably why it felt so wonderful. Then at about 28 or 30 km, I passed Belinda and moved into the lead. She is such a fantastic competitor and she had raced a gutsy race. Once in the lead, I just continued to love what I was doing and that made the next 12 km pass quite quickly. I just kept telling myself that once I crossed the finish line, I didn’t have to “work” anymore. I didn’t have to practice my cornering or get physiotherapy and massage for my bike crash injuries or do anymore mental preparation or visualization – I could just rest and turn my brain off! I had been so anxious about this race, that even though I really felt calm and managed to watch a movie the night before the race, I didn’t sleep a single wink!
And so, in about 9 hours and 19 minutes and after running a 2:59 marathon, I won Ironman Australia. My husband, Dave, was at the finish line to greet me which was a wonderful prize in itself! But as usual, the greatest prize was the being welcomed by the town of Port Macquarie and being adopted by the Aussie people. I have memories to last a lifetime and a heart filled with wonderful gestures of kindness from my Aussie mates!
Thank you so much for your support. A proper race report will follow – I always have so much to say!!