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IMWA 2008 race report
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Rob




Joined: 06 Jul 2004
Posts: 637
Location: Suburban Smug SUV driving Surrey

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:14 pm    Post subject: IMWA 2008 race report Reply with quote

Hello everyone

Here is my very long and self-indulgent report from IMWA 2008. Executive summary: no training, stressful journey, salty and warm, then a bit windy, sore bum, not so sore bum, then hot and windy, 11.39, no pizza.


Since I am spending five months working in Perth, Western Australia, I thought that while I was here I might as well do Ironman WA. To me, this seemed like a good idea but unfortunately the triathlon gods disagreed with me, quite strongly. They didn't want me to do this race, and they had a sophisticated and multi-layered plan of interventions to ensure that I stayed away. Having knocked me out of IMUK earlier in the year with a five week chest infection that ensured I hadn't done a lot of training by the end of September, the next phase of their plan was to get me to pull some back muscles schlepping heavy bags around at the start of October, as we moved all the junk that's necessary for a family of four from the UK to the other side of the planet. The back problem led to some muscle imbalances that started all sorts of things going wrong and culminated in a torn left quad six weeks before the race. I found myself a physio who knew what he was doing, after one false start, and managed to get some biking and a lot of water running done, along with two sessions a week of pretty painful therapy. Two weeks to go and it was fixed and I could run again, but obviously I was woefully undertrained, with only two decent long rides (both in the same week, one 85km and one 100km, the latter on the IMWA bike course) and no proper long runs. Still, I thought, I've paid me money so I'll do the race, and all that water running should count for something.

Friday morning and we all set off for Busselton. The triathlon gods hadn't finished with me yet, though: about 100km South of Perth the head gasket on the cheap and rubbish second-hand car that I'd bought thinking “it'll do for five months” blew and the engine overheated and basically destroyed itself. I went back to Perth in a tow truck, with wife and kids in a very expensive taxi. Hmmmm. After a period of despondency I decided that I was going to do the sodding race if I could, and phoned the race office: they said I could register on the Saturday if I got there by 11 AM. I dashed around a bit and got a hire car, and at early o'clock on Saturday we set off, getting to Busselton at about 10 AM. Great. I went to the office and they said I should go to the race briefing and then find Colin in the registration tent, so I learnt not to draft on the bike and that the best way to avoid problems with the stingy jellyfish is to have been stung lots by them in the past. Helpful. After the briefing I went along to the registration tent as instructed, where I found a group of about twelve people all in pretty much the same boat. After much confusion Colin was finally pinned down and he produced The Official List of People Allowed To Register Late. Those pesky triathlon gods, getting desperate, had made sure that The List was rather short: only about six of the group of supplicants were given the hallowed green wristband and all the good things that come with it.

The rest of us, those whom the gods had decided to destroy, were sent back to the race office. The race office people said “Ooooh, we'll have to ask the race director. You just hurry up and wait over there.”. So we waited for a while, because the race director was, not surprisingly, a bit busy. Eventually someone came out and took us aside and said we had to go back to the registration tent. At this, we rebelled. Fortunately some of my co-late registrants had arranged this weeks in advance and had printouts of emails from the race office confirming this, which made it tricky for them not to let us in. Eventually we were herded into an outer sanctum behind the race office, from which we were taken individually to an inner sanctum where we stood trembling in front of a lady who I believe is the RD's wife to plead our cases. I noticed while I was pleading mine that I was wringing my cap between my hands in the approved “But moi family have farmed here for generations, master, and served you well. If you throws us orf your land then young Willum will starve!” way. Late registration is clearly something most serious, and not to be permitted lightly. After I had explained my situation, however, and it was decided that I had genuinely been held up and wasn't just some slacker, all was fine and I got my stuff nice and quickly. Hah! Once again I thumbed my nose at the powers that be and scampered off to rack my bike and sort out my gear.

The next morning I had the traditional 4 AM start, ate breakfast and off I went for the race. The triathlon gods had one last go at stopping me starting: the valve extender for my back wheel broke off as I was pumping it up, leaving me with a tyre that was a little soft but without any means of blowing it up if it got any softer unless I either pulled the tub off the wheel or tried to put my spare valve extender on by feel, which would risk deflating the tyre accidentally without getting the extender on properly. Cunningly, I did neither: I thought the wheel was rideable and so I would just leave it as it was and worry about the valve if I needed to. I handed my pump in, got marked, changed into my wetsuit and strolled down to the swim start. The sun was just rising and the few clouds in the sky were lit up flamingo pink as I ate a PowerBar, listened to some lady identified only by her non-standard first name sing “Advance Australia Fair” in an pseudo American accent (this being Australia no-one paid any attention) and watched the pro start. Off they went and then it was 15 minutes until we lumpen masses started. I got in the water, splashed around a bit and then lined up with the other yellow hats towards the back of the pack until the gun/horn/cannon/flock of doves (I cannot remember at all what they used) went off.

The swim is nice: you swim out along the West side of Busselton Jetty, which extends 1841m into the sea, back along the East side and then parallel to the shore for a short while to get to the swim exit. The contrast with my last IM swim at IMUK could not have been greater: one in a freezing cold lake filled with completely opaque greenish-brown water smelling faintly of manure, and the other in the warm clear blue sea. On the way out I swam right next to the jetty, which was a mistake because lots of other people wanted to do the same thing and I got knocked around a lot: had to stop twice because my goggles were knocked and started leaking. This all got me a bit confused and my stroke took a trip to Loserville for a while until we came around the end of the jetty. There's a definite feeling that you're out in the open ocean at the turnaround, with quite a bit of swell and the land an awfully long way away. Coming back I got it together a bit and caught quite a few people before going round the big yellow buoy and then following the line of little white buoys that lead you up to the swim exit. Swim time a pathetic 1:21. I'd been hoping for a 1:15 but never mind. Wetsuit off, bike shorts on, smeared with sunscreen by a helpful volunteer and off I went.

The bike course is three laps of an absolutely pan flat course with a section following the coast followed by a section shaped like an inverted “T” (if you have North at the top of your map) with the long section (the cross part of the T) running roughly NE/SW. I knew I wasn't especially fit so I settled into a reasonable gear and spun away keeping my cadence at about 90-95 and my HR at between 140 and 145. The first lap was windless and fast, taking about 1.55, and I spotted my family at the bike turnaround in town, which was nice. I overtook a fair few people, ate a PowerBar and drank some Hi5 electrolyte stuff. Going onto lap two the wind was starting to get up and for some reason my bike shorts were really starting to cause me some pain. I'd worn them for a 50km ride and they were fine, but now it felt like they were made of sandpaper. Ow. This really made it difficult for me to stay nice and low and aero because I was constantly squirming around trying to find a comfortable spot. The long stretch back from the first bike turnaround to the second one on the Bussel Highway was a bit of a grind (Murphy's law states that the headwind will come on the longest straight stretch of road in any race) but eventually I cruised back through town, two laps done in about 3.58. Going out onto the third lap I was really suffering with the shorts issue and wondering if I would manage to keep going for another two hours or so. My attention was briefly diverted by seeing a big pack of riders going back into town and blatantly drafting: although they were mostly keeping some distance from the rider in front they were all well within the draft zone, and given that this was a section where they would have been going into a respectable headwind and most of them were sitting up I guess they were getting quite a nice tow. These guys were all faster age group racers heading in to the end of their bike ride, all done up with aero helmets and disk wheels, all cheating away. I heard later that there were a lot of drafting penalties – good.

Once I'd finished being annoyed my attention returned to those parts of my anatomy that were feeling as though someone had taken a belt sander to them. I had a flash of inspiration, pulled into an aid station with a first aid tent and scrounged some vaseline which almost completely cleared up the problem. I got back to business and kept spinning along, feeling a lot happier than I did on lap two. My lack of training was starting to tell and my cadence was dropping, but I was OK: I made a point of taking it easy because I knew I wasn't too fit and there was that small matter of a run to come later. It was getting hot and I was a bit worried about keeping enough fluid coming in so I made sure I got a bottle of electrolyte mix at every aid station and just kept on slurping it down. I managed to drop two bottles in the road which wasn't good: one had not gone back to its proper roundness after I'd taken a drink and just slipped sideways out of the bottle cage and went under my back wheel, the other I just dropped. Hopefully no-one had any trouble because of them. Round the turnaround on the Bussel Highway I had a tailwind for a while, then back into town was a bit windy and grim. I saw some people heading out for their third laps – these people may be slower than most, but they must have amazing psychological strength. I think I would have found it really difficult to keep myself going if I were in that position. Hats off to them.

Back into town for the third time and my computer was reading 180km with about 3km to go – it's nice to know that all that is between you and the bike finish is the measurement error on your bike computer. Round the roundabout, back up the road and into transition where a nice lady took my bike away. I told her that I never wanted to see it again and she had the good grace to laugh even though she must have heard that a hundred times already. Final bike split was 6.08 for an average speed of 29.3 kph: not exactly fast but about what I expected. I made a classic error in transition and forgot to change my shorts before I put my running shoes on, then tried to do it with the shoes on which I managed but with some comedy hopping around which must have given a few people a bit of an eyeful, quick stop for sunscreen and off I trotted for the run.

My plan was simple: just run at about 5min/km and see how I did. The run is three laps of a course that goes right along the seafront, first West of Busselton for about 6km, then back and past the transition area and about 1km further to another turnaround. It's partly on roads and partly on the cycletrack that runs next to the beach, it's as flat as the bike course and although some of it is shaded by trees a lot of it is exposed both to the sun and to the wind, which was strengthening some more. There were already a few people walking when I got on to the run and it was clearly going to be a long trek for some. Just after the first aid station I found my wife and kids, which gave me a big boost, then I was off into the heat again. There was lots of great support from the spectators on the run and I kept myself busy reading the messages chalked in the road, some of which were pretty funny. I think my favourite was “Jen: stop talking and get running”. Not long after I started the first lap I saw the leaders of the men's race going past in the other direction, and they were certainly moving. It must be difficult to run a sub-3 hour pace on a course that's narrow and littered with people who are either walking or running a great deal slower.

That first lap of the run was pretty hard mentally. After the excitement of getting off the bike has gone (in about 15 seconds) you have to face the fact that you've got a helluva long way to run and that you are a long way from finishing. Like everyone else, I deal with this by using “segmentation”: you don't think about the whole task, just the next part, in this case getting the first lap completed. Still, it seemed to take a very long time to get to the turnaround before I could start moving back towards Busselton, and then there is a section where you run on a bike path on top of the dunes with the hot wind blowing at you like a hairdryer and with the Busselton Jetty floating there in the heat hazy sea about 5 ˝ km away and apparently not getting any closer no matter how far you run. Still, just keep those feet moving and eventually you get there. I passed the family again and shouted to my four year old “What do we say Catherine? Suck it up, Buttercup!” which she gleefully repeated back to me. Past the transition area and onto the second lap. Only 28km to go. They gave me an orange scrunchie (no really, a thing for girls to put round their ponytails) to wear on my wrist to show I'd done a lap.

Lap two was more or less the same as lap one. I kept on plodding, except by now I was walking through the aid stations. This was necessary to let me make sure I drank enough, and had nothing to do with being absolutely dog-tired. By now I was starting to spot the salt people – these were guys who for some reason weren't throwing as much water over themselves as they possibly could (I was sluicing myself at every opportunity and putting ice in my hat on occasion) and the amount of salt that had crystallised out on the outside of their gear was amazing, often making black shorts look grey. I had a chat with a South African bloke who was on his last lap but he left me behind and I carried on running nice and slow and easy, passing quite a few people and not being passed by many at all. I saw the family again and once Catherine had spotted me I got an earful of “Suck it up!”. Back through Busselton and up to the Eastern turnaround and I went past the chute taking runners to the finish, thinking that the next time I saw it I was going down it. After picking up my new white “last lap” scrunchie I stopped briefly when I passed the family again to let them know when I was expecting to finish and headed off into the heat again. Now there were more people walking than running and some of them looked pretty rough. On the way back to Busselton I was passed by someone in a Wrecsam Tri suit (they get everywhere) and again we chatted briefly but he was on a mission ad I couldn't keep up. Even with only a few km to go I couldn't find the energy to speed up now and I was just grinding away and the walk breaks at each aid station were getting longer until I noticed and stopped myself doing it. Round the last turnaround and less than a km to go and I was still too knackered to speed up so I just enjoyed the last bit: lots of high fives etc. from spectators, then down the chute, through the finish and thank you for the medal. Run time 3.49, overall time 11.29.

I am pleased with my time: given the minimal training I managed to get in I think I did pretty well. The only part that really went wrong was the swim – I was doing 7.40 400s easily in the pool without a wetsuit the previous week, so how I managed to swim so slowly I do not know. The slow bike was a deliberate decision because I was worried about being able to finish the race, and I'm sure that if I'd tried to go much faster I'd really have paid on the run. The run was really slow for me but that was mostly just because I'd hardly mnaged to do any proper run training. Sure the heat was a factor but it wasn't desperately hot (maximum was about 27 degrees) and I don't think that slowed me down too much, it just made it a bit harder. The race in general was superbly organised (except for the minor issues about late registration, but that came right in the end), the course is lovely and if you're fit it is seriously fast and the whole town is really supportive: people in shops and cafes all want to know how you're going to do or how you did and the volunteers are absolutely outstanding. My only complaint is the shockingly bad availability of pizza after the race – none in the food tent you go through after the finish and then the pizza joint near where we were staying had sold out completely by 8.30 in the evening. Very poor planning indeed. I had to make do with chinese and got sweet and sour sauce on my finishers' t-shirt. Maybe that was the triathlon gods having the last laugh.
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WindyMiller




Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good work. What a shame about the pizza. I shall be trying to organise a family holiday to coincide with this in a couple of years time.
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die trying




Joined: 10 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Loved it. Congratulations and well done. Which was quicker - the triathlon or writing the race report Very Happy Only joking Twisted Evil
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pip




Joined: 22 Sep 2004
Posts: 5125
Location: Tooting (hopefully not for much longer)

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report. It is always great to read reports when its out of season.

I wish I could go that fast on no training. I doubt I could do that time if i gave up work and trained full time Smile

Pip

ps - i can relate to the swim part. I was really disappointed with my IMCH swim time last year. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to go so hard on the swim in Austria next year, that I get out ruined!
pps - Rob, didnt realise it was you until i just saw the post on the turbo website. Congratulations. Will your brother lend you his car again for a celebration?
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runtilyoudrop




Joined: 24 May 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice report thaks for sharing it.

You could be quite good with some training Wink
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Slacko




Joined: 15 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report Rob, I enjoyed reading that. Smile

We stopped in Busselton for an ice cream on the way to Margaret River from Perth on a visit a few years back and remember how far out that pier goes! Shocked

Excellent time given the setbacks! Cool
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p00key




Joined: 24 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice report , well done . Sounds tempting Smile ... I too wish I could go that fast on so little training ...
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adrian73




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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report!! Great performance even with little training and of course.... great to see you defeated the gods Very Happy
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Rob




Joined: 06 Jul 2004
Posts: 637
Location: Suburban Smug SUV driving Surrey

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pip wrote:

pps - Rob, didnt realise it was you until i just saw the post on the turbo website. Congratulations. Will your brother lend you his car again for a celebration?


Hey Pip

Hmmm. Maybe he could lend me the AMG to drive around now that my car's got no engine. Not a bad idea... have to get it to Australia but I'm sure we could come up with a plan. Right now I'm celebrating by sleeping a lot...

Rob
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Rob




Joined: 06 Jul 2004
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Location: Suburban Smug SUV driving Surrey

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WindyMiller wrote:
Good work. What a shame about the pizza. I shall be trying to organise a family holiday to coincide with this in a couple of years time.


Do it if you can Mr Miller. There's nothing like it in the UK and probably not in Europe, plus the whole area is great for a holiday.
R
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Russ C




Joined: 04 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Rob,

Sounds like you had a nightmare just getting to the race. Congrats on getting through it all and putting in a great race though!

I had my second outing at IMWA this year and had an awesome race. I just love the region and the venue too. Fortunately didn't suffer from all the problems you had getting there as I arrived 2 weeks before the event. Got to meet lots of locals and train with them a bit, they're a really friendly bunch and very supportive.

I'd recommend the race to anyone. With World Long Course in Perth a month before you could even make an extended break of it! Very Happy

Don't want to hijack your thread, but I've race reports on my blog and a slightly different one on Tri247 too!

Congrats on your race. I'm keen to go back for a third time next year, maybe I'll see you there.

Rus
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Rob




Joined: 06 Jul 2004
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Location: Suburban Smug SUV driving Surrey

PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Rus

Well done on your 9.20. I was planning to drop you a line and grab a coffee once we were in Busso but that got overtaken by events. I agree with everything you say about the race: absolutely great place for it. Don't think my job will let me come back next year but who knows about further ahead.

Cheers

R
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Bainsy




Joined: 11 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff Rob, you should be very happy with that given the lack of training. You should also be pretty proud that you even made the start line, with all those obstacles thrown in your way many fo us would have given up long before we got into the water !!

Chapeau !

Bainsy
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Rob




Joined: 06 Jul 2004
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Location: Suburban Smug SUV driving Surrey

PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers Bainsy. I am very happy about the result given the lack of training. I think it shows that water running can do you some good, even though it's a seriously boring and embarrassing way to spend an hour.
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530am




Joined: 24 May 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:20 pm    Post subject: IMWA 2008 race report Reply with quote

Like the report! I also did this race although quite a bit slower. I completely agree this is a fantastic race and very well organised. I also amused myself by reading the chalk messages on the run my fave was

"just keep going one step at a time or alternatively just HTFU!"

It made me laugh on every lap,

I also liked the Asics Zone where walking was prohibited.

Have to agree though, post race pizza was lacking as was fish and chips. I ended up having cornflakes! and REGO.
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