We set of for the airport at 6:30pm and got dropped off at departures leaving Josh the oldest to drive my nice new shinny car home. We haven’t received any messages yet so fingers crossed the car is ok.
We have left the house with five kids aged from 16 to 24 and one dog, three of ours and two girlfriends. Trying not to think about it too hard and I’m sure the dog knows where the food is.
The flight was on an Airbus 380 which was very nice and departed just after ten. We travelled 11 hours through the night and arrived in Dubai around 5am local time having had no sleep.
Only a two hour layover before heading to Oslo.
When we went to board we were told our seats had been changed, panic set in for about three seconds until the delightful lady informed us we had been upgraded to business class and I think I heard her say something about my good looks and charm.
At this point Susan got very excited and was acting like a kid in a candy shop especially when she realised alcohol was free flowing.
More legroom than I can shake a stick at and champagne with breakfast and the second leg of our journey got underway with great anticipation of a few hours sleep.
On arrival in Oslo it was the usual story, bike and two bags through quickly then a twenty minute wait for the last bag. Oh the joys.
Picked up the rental car without a hitch then we headed the 20kms or so into Oslo to find a bike shop. This is a result of not being able to take CO2 containers on the plane. Shopping done then on the road to the start town of Eidfjord.
We picked up the bike Corse about 90kms from the start. Undulating would be an understatement and nowhere could be described as flat as stated in the athlete guide.
The last 25kms into town were down hill which meant they were up hill on race day. It took half an hour to drive down the hill. Scared the pants off of me thinking about cycling up it.
We finally arrived on Wednesday night after 31 hours of traveling. We headed into town for dinner where I scoffed down a hearty portion of meat balls and sweet potato mash.
We took our self’s off to bed at around ten with a rum and coke. Slept well until just after five. We made the decision to get up and exercise. I cycled 20ks following the river upstream whilst Susan chatted and took photos. On my return we both went for and easy 5k jog.
Thursday was registration and shopping day. Nothing too exciting to report. After lunch it was swim time. Susan went first in her costume. Only up to her waist but that was enough. I donned the wetsuit, hood, booties and ear plugs and dived straight in. The face and hands were crazy cold but my head, body and legs remained warm, even after twenty minutes. Looking good for Saturday.
On Friday we get the news the swim has been shortened to 1.9km due to the water temperature being 10 degrees. Bitterly disappointed as I was hopping the long cold swim would have a negative effect on the skinny cyclists.
After a relaxing morning it was time for the race briefing. Nothing exciting here except I’m sat in a hall surrounded by the fittest bunch of people I have ever seen. I felt over weight and very heavy. It looked like everybody weighed under 75kgs and had a BMI in single figures.
Afterwards we had a lovely pasta dinner and headed off to bed at 10:30.
After a reasonable four hours sleep it was time to get ready for the big one. Wetsuit and booties on, breakfast then jump in the car and head to transition. After the usual set up, check and re check of all my gear it was time for a few happy snaps before boarding the ferry.
The boat was full of contrast from groups of competitors eagerly chatting too individuals trying to find a quiet spot to ponder the day ahead. I was with the latter group.
Smack on 4 the boat pulled away from the dock and a wave of emotions came over me. Mostly “what have you done this time”. I sat quietly going through my race plan and thinking about all the advice I had gleaned from Guy Crawford my coach. At 4:40 I headed down onto the car deck and start jogging around to warm up. Then it was off to see the man with the fire hose to fill my wetsuit up with water straight from the fjord at 10 deg. Big shock to the system but just doing as I’m told. Off for another jog then time to head to the loading ramp.
I wait around a bit not wanting to spend any more time than needed freezing bits of me off. A check with a crew member and its three minutes to race start. Time to jump in. The four metre drop went without drama and due to already being drenched with cold water there were no adverse reactions to the water temperature. I swim over to the waiting kayaks and push through to the front. Only needed to wait about a minute before the boat sounded its horn to start the race and we were off. Lots of bumping and kicking going on from the off and almost all the way to the swim exit. Due to the coldness breathing was shallow and laboured resulting in waves of anxiety whenever a single breath was missed. Not a nice feeling swimming in the dark in a thousand feet of water.
I came out of the water in 33 minutes which I was happy with but had no idea how far up the field I was. Turns out I was 77th. Legs were going well, no stumbling on the long run to T1. Half way there I was met by Susan my support for the day. She greeted me with hot coffee that I drank on the fly.
Not wanting to ride in wet clothes, the only thing I had on under my wetsuit was a pair of bathers. No changing tent and no time to be lost so I was stood in the middle of T1 naked and about five meters away from the crowd who were all cheering like mad. Susan helped me strip down and re dress before sending me on my way with a “love you”. The first of many on the day.
The first 100 metres were flat then it was uphill for the next 40ks. I started out easy and had a steady stream of skinny people shooting past for the next hour. The route was spectacular to say the least. From small thin tunnels through the mountain to large road tunnels over 3kms long, then there was the old road which wound around the side of the mountain hugging the cliffs before darting inland and shooting upwards at up to 12% on thin twisty paths with precarious drops to the river below.
After about an hour I met Susan for the first of many pit stops. A quick chat and I was on my way. The hill continued upward until the 40k mark.
At this point a huge wave of relief came over me knowing I had made it up the 1250 meter ascent. So happy. It was time to re supply and rug up before heading across the plateau for the next two hours. Temperatures were around 6 deg. Having sweated up the mountain coupled with some short but very fast descents I found myself colder than I had been during the swim.
Finally I arrived at the half way point of the ride to be met by Susan and a strange man she had picked up. I wasn’t surprised as she does it all the time. Turns out his ride had left him behind in order to keep up with there athlete.
I stripped off the warm gear, grabbed more fuel and headed off once more. Rounding a bend shortly after I was greeted by a sign warning drivers of very long steep hills and the need for snow chains. This was accompanied by a lovely graphic showing three whoppers of a hill. My heart sank a bit when I realised this didn’t even include the last significant climb.
As I reached the summit of each hill I was greeted by Susan telling me how well I was going and offering up drinks and food. All most welcome.
The first couple of long descents were on good fast sweeping roads. I rounded one corner at just over 60kph in my aero bars to be met by a family of sheep in the middle of the road. No time to slow down and needed to choose in an instance which side to go around. Luckily I chose the right side as they bolted off into the scrub. Not funny.
The last hill climbed about 600 metres over eight of so kilometres. I was very tired at the bottom of the hill having already been on my bike for nearly seven hours. It dragged on and on. Again I was greeted by Susan about half way up, bubbly and buoyant as ever. Just after that point the road ramped up and I found myself looking for a lower gear. There were none to be found. 12% sat down churning out over 400 watts and barely moving, my heart was sinking faster than the Titanic. All I could think was don’t walk, don’t walk, don’t walk.
Finally got to the top with my legs blown to bits, head down around my forks and sweeting like crazy.
Started descending and quickly realised what they meant at the briefing when they said this was what they were most worried about.
The road had lumps, bumps and dips in it. All very hard or impossible to see. Some were in excess of 30cm high or deep. One switchback had them mid corner. To make matters worse I got stuck behind a support car which meant I couldn’t see the road ahead until it was too late. I was left with no option but to over take. Pulled out and went for it on a nearly straight bit of hill. Glanced down and 76Kph. Not what I wanted on this road but it was too bumpy to hit the brakes. Just one of a few scary moments.
Finally I made it to T2. Ride 8:10 mins
Susan was waiting for me with all my run kit laid out. Thank you once again dear.
A quick change and toilet stop and off I went.
On leaving T2 I was informed I was 211th. Can’t tell you how I received that news but I wasn’t happy. What a lousy ride I’d had.
Back to the running. The legs felt really good for the first 500 metres then fell off really quickly. I found it hard to run more than a few hundred metres before I needed to walk. The first 25km is advertised as flat. Turns out to be as flat as running laps of kings park.
As always Susan caught up with me every 2km and kept me fed and watered with what ever I wanted. I shouted chocolate, I got chocolate. There was only one problem and that was when I asked for salt tablets. I didn’t have any for the run so off she went pestering everybody until she found some. That’s my girl.
I was struggling more and more and km times were stretching towards 6 min km’s.
Just before the 20km mark we rounded a corner and there was the mountain in all it’s glory. All nearly 2000 meters of it. What a wonderful sight.
Another pit stop consisting of chocolate, coke and a bucket of caffeine and off I went heading to the start of zombie hill at the 25k mark.
The next 12ks average 9% on good roads. I don’t try to run but instead set a fast walking pace and manage to maintain 9 minute km’s without to much difficulty. I’m catching other competitors every km or so. With a quick hello and “how you going” I push past and set my goal on catching the next person. All awhile Susan is driving ahead then running back down the hill to meet me before walking a few hundred metres with me then doing it all again.
I get to the check point at 32.5 km’s to find out I’ve missed going up the mountain by about 20 minutes. Gutted but happy with my progress up the hill having overtaken 30 or so people. I set of on the alternate route to the finish.
My legs don’t want to run on the flat or down hill but are happy running up hill so I’m doing the opposite of almost everybody else. After 4 km’s I arrive at the hotel with two 3km laps remaining. I’m joined by Susan and we push on as fast as my legs would allow. Every time we go past one of the restaurants the patrons notice the Australian flag Susan is wearing and we get a huge cheer and loads of encouragement which spurs the legs on.
The last few hundred metres are down hill and we break into a slow jog crossing the line together waving the flag. Hugs and kisses all round then time to get into the hotel and off my legs.
What a race, it certainly lives up to all the hype and uses the word extreme in its title for good reason.
I had a reasonable swim, underestimated the severity of the ride and suffered badly, then made the best of the run on blown legs completing the run in just under five hours. No black tee shirt this time but still very happy with my performance. 226 km’s and just over 4000m climbed in 13h 55mins.
Thanks Guy for the training program, I wouldn’t have got there without it. To all my fellow triathletes at GKE and Fremantle Triathlon Club, thanks for the encouragement, support, best wishes and company on training rides and in the pool.
Lastly thanks to Susan, my wife and triathlon widow. She has put up with me never being around or with me being constantly tired especially over the last month when training went past twenty hours a week.
On race day she provided me with everything I needed and when I needed it, from warm clothing to nutrition and everything in between as well as moral support and encouragement. Susan also organised the whole trip from start to finish. I couldn’t have done it without you and I hope I can give you as much support on your Ironman journey over the next four months.