Yeppoon Half Ironman 2012

Finally! A Half Ironman I actually enjoyed and a PB as well! Bonus!

As regular readers will know I approached the Yeppoon Half Ironman with a degree of trepidation. Whilst my swim and bike has been pretty strong over the past few weeks, my run’s (due to injury) have been pretty much non-existent. In fact the advice I had from most of my professional colleagues was to give Yeppoon a miss.

However, I’m glad I didn’t.

The Yeppoon Half Ironman is run by X-Tri (who did an amazing job of organising by the way) at the Mecure Resort in (funnily enough) Yeppoon. Most of the other HIM’s I’ve done have been held in cities or towns, so to have an event in a Hotel Resort was a new experience. Especially as I had been able to secure accomodation in the resort itself, thus making it really easy to get to transition (about a 30sec walk from my hotel room) and it really easy for spectators to move around the course and offer their support.

From a race perspective Yeppoon is famous for it’s ocean swim. Basically the organisers walk you down the beach 1.9km to a start buoy, make you swim out to sea a couple of hundred metres then swim back to the resort following the shore line. Fine in theory, and for those that are comfortable with the swim it’s good fun, but for the uninitiated amongst us, it was a VERY LONG WALK and it looked a BLOODY LONG WAY back to the swim exit on the horizon! Add to that, the fact that there was a 3-4ft swell running, it made for an interesting swim.

Standing before the start I was certainly thankful that I’d done so much open water practice in Westernport Bay over the summer and autumn period.

Once the gun went off it was straight into the water and the surf. Within 30sec I’d been punched in the back of the head, though the swimmer did put his head up and apologise straight away (I’m not sure how I heard him), I didn’t mind the first one, but the second punch in the head about a minute later certainly hurt. The kicks in the ribs…. back….. legs…… arms….. head….. were purely incidental. The swim start in a triathlon isn’t referred to as Aqua Rugby for nothing!

Despite the conditions being so rough I actually enjoyed the swim, though I’m glad I only breathed on my left side as I couldn’t see the size of the waves or the breakers coming over my head. It’s funny what you remember when you’re trying to survive but I do remember that I actually laughed at the situation as I was on the top of one wave looking down on about half a dozen swimmers trying to get over the next wave in the set, then watching as the surf engulfed them.

Well it would have been funny except at about that time I realised that I was the next one in line to get dumped!

And the Jelly Fish!

They were a novel addition to the swim. It is the first time I’ve actually had to swim through large jellyfish.

I’d always assumed (wrongly) by looking at them that they were soft and ‘jelly’ like. I can tell you though that when you thump them, they are actually quite hard and furry, something like coconuts.  They also have an annoying habit of making your fingers go numb, something to do with the lethal poison they exude. (or so I’m told).

As a side note I was talking to a Iron’woman’ competitor after the race and she said she had been stung on the inside of her lip by a jelly fish. I really didn’t want to ask how that happened!

Despite numb fingers I actually came out of the water in record time, though I had to laugh all the competitors around me were high five’ing each other on actually ‘surviving’ the swim.

Normally it is the crowd that cheer, not the competitors!

On exiting the water the organisers had organised a nice little ‘sand ladder’ to get back to the bike transition, we were told this was because the swim was so easy, so a run up a soft sand dune was needed to ‘get the heart rate up’

From a bike perspective YHIM, is pretty flat. The course is a 5 lap affair, which is good as it meant we came past the spectators on a regular basis, though I do find counting to 5 pretty difficult these days. Something to do with all the brain cells I’ve killed in the past.

My real goal for the bike was to test out my Ironman race plan. Whilst I was pushing for a PB in Singapore, this time I was really only interested in cruising and saving my legs for the run. So whilst I was tempted many times to put the hammer down and chase the pack, I was determined to keep the ride under control at just under 30kmh.

I also tried out a new nutrition plan. To eat only natural food and to stay off the gels/sports waters. Coconut water replaced, sports drinks and museli bars/fruit replaced nutrition bars.

And it seemed to work, whilst the roads were very rough, I came off the bike in a touch over 3hours and whilst my lower back and shoulders were a little tight/tired I still felt pretty fresh for the run.

Well at least for the first lap.

The run a Yeppoon is also pretty flat, it is a 3 lap affair with about 2-3km of road/tarmac and the rest running offroad through the bush and around the golf course, which made the run quite varied and interesting. I did run into a slight problem at around the 9km mark, where my right knee (not the left with all the problems) locked up. It was about this stage though where I ran into Stu. Or rather Stu came running past me and said ‘Come on big fella you can make it. Run with me for a while’. And run with him I did. For an entire lap, he kept the whip out and kept encouraging me to keep going. He slowed when I needed a break, but also put down the hammer and helped me pick up my pace. And whilst at times I was cursing him for pushing me so hard, he kept my mind off my knees and miraculously the pain went away.

Unfortunately by the beginning of the third lap I ran out of fuel and needed to slow to a walk for a couple of minutes to scoff down a museli bar and lost track of Stu. I never had a chance to thank him for helping me through that dark patch, but then it was my turn to encourage another.

Earlier on the weekend I’d run into Fabian. Fabian is someone you couldn’t miss, he must be 7ft tall and weigh 130kg+. A big man with a big heart.

Fabian had previously completed an Ironman and then let himself go, but miraculously he had manage to get a ticket to the Hawaiian Ironman later this year, via the lottery system. I think I’ll write a separate blog post on this because there are some serious issues I’d like to discuss, but Fabian had to complete the Yeppoon HIM to ‘punch his ticket’ and validate his entry into Hawaii. But after a horrible bike, he was just starting his first lap as I was starting my third on the run and in serious trouble as he struggled to get his run underway and finish before the time cutoff. With a DNF his Hawaiian dream would be over.

So for a while I ran with Fabian, encouraging him to keep going, encouraging him not to think about the finish time but to simply put one foot in front of the other.

If there is one thing I like about Triathlon is that whilst for the most part it is an individual effort, everyone recognises the comeraderie and the suffering and will pull out all stops to help you out when required. The other thing I like about triathlon is the self sacrifice of the volunteers. They stand out in the hot sun for hour after hour giving drinks, food and aide to the competitors. So for the last lap, I personally thanked every volunteer I saw.

Then before I knew it this time, the finish came up.

6hours 6min 37sec, a new personal best and I’m particularly happy, as for the most part I didn’t feel like I was racing but more cruising.

That being said, I really don’t have any comprehension of how I’m going to do double the distance in a couple of months time. Though I’m guessing I’ll have to dig deeper than I every have before.

So what went well?

  • Swim was good, I feel really well prepared for an IM swim
  • Bike was controlled though slow
  • Slow run was okay and within tolerances given the state of my knee

What needs improvement?

  • I need to take on a little more food during the bike so that I don’t bonk
  • I still need to shed some unwanted kilos. The consistent message from the crowd, was ‘keep going big fella’. I’d rather them say ‘keep going little fella’
  • My knee whilst it is improving still isn’t right and needs some more TLC to get it right.