An Ironman’s story

After ticking off a couple of sprint and Olympic distance triathlons followed by a few half ironman events, it seemed only natural (or crazy!) to have a crack at a full ironman. 

So I re-mortgaged the house and entered the Port Macquarie event. To my disappointment I failed to feel any super powers embrace me upon completing the entry form!

Even though my training leading up to the event was at the lower end of requirements I did manage to get in one 3.8km swim and one 180km bike ride. When it came to running, I topped out at one 20km run.

Olivia, Willa, Miles and I arrived at Port Macquarie on Friday May 5. I was in bed by 9pm. I wasn’t nervous, I was scared, and the anxiety resulted in a two-hour sleep and waiting for my alarm to go off at 4.30am. 

Olivia dropped me off at bike transition around 5.45am. I gave my bike the once over, pumped up the tyres and tried to remember the row it was in for later as there were 1400 bikes there.

The MC ran through some of the race day stats: 1400 competitors, 2000 volunteers, 206 medicos. At this point the enormity of the challenge hit home, and I thought, “there is a reason why there are 206 medicos involved in this beast.”

The first 1.7km of the swim went well and outside of the odd clip over the ear from another swimmer I was surprisingly enjoying the first part of the ironman race. As we went over the weir and started swimming to the turn-around buoy my legs started to cramp. Not badly, but I knew that I had to back the pace off, so I decided to stop and try and stretch the cramps out.

Unfortunately the best way to keep the cramps at bay was to back the pace off. Getting towards the end of the swim I thought I might put the hammer down and round up some of the other blokes before I got on the bike.

20m from the swim exit every muscle in both legs cramped simultaneously. I stopped swimming immediately, a life guard on a kayak spotted my helpless situation and came over to me. I asked him to tow me in to shore 20m away, he said I can’t or you will be disqualified! After a couple of minutes and with my legs still straight as his paddles with cramps I swam the last 20m on my back until I could put my legs on the sand and put some pressure on them to relieve the cramps, eventually I hobbled out of the water and into transition.

I headed out of the tent and off to find my bike, I looked up to good news: it wasn’t the only one. Despite my cramps my swim was still ok, 1hr 10min.

180km here I come, a distance I had ridden before, but only once!

The hills getting out of Port are brutal, particularly on legs which are yet to warm up, so seeing the family waving a banner, wearing their ‘Go Dad’ t-shirts and cheering was a nice little morale booster 4km into the ride.

The first lap or 90km was fairly uneventful. I was averaging bang on my target pace of 31.5km/hr and I’d passed a net 80 riders (you have to keep your mind active doing something).

The weather report was for the wind to turn from Westerly to Southerly late in the morning which would have been perfect for the final 45km heading North. Reaching the Southern turn around at 135km my average had dropped to 31km/hr. I had hoped to pick it back up with the help of a tail wind for the last 45km, however upon turning around the first thing I noticed was there was no tail wind. Not long after this, my stomach started doing a dipsy-do and out came a whole lot of liquid. The mental game was now on.

As we headed closer towards Port the streets were getting busier with spectators, some offering words of encouragement, some offering beer as they enjoyed themselves on a Sunday afternoon. When I got to the infamous carpeted hill at Mathew Flinders Dr, it was full of spectators and had an Elvis dressed in jumpsuit singing songs in the middle of the road! I knew this was the last effort I needed to put in on the bike and before I knew it I was zooming back down the hills into Port. I hobbled into transition around 2.45pm. My bike leg was done, bang on six hours or 30km/hr, a little off what I was hoping for but could have been worse.

Running into the transition tent for the second time, the plastic chairs were starting to look like sofa beds, and all I wanted to do was lie down! 

With the legs barely moving as I entered the run course they started to cramp again. I stopped and stretched and got myself to the first aid station. They had a product called ‘cramp fix’, I asked how much I could take in a day, they said 100ml, so I took 100ml and carried another 100ml bottle with me just in case. Amazingly, after a few minutes the cramps let go and though you still had to line me up with a post to see if I was moving, I was making progress.

Going through the main part of town for the first time was amazing as everyone was full of words of encouragement, shaking cowbells and cheering us on. The run course is four laps with one little hill. 

The crowds throughout the run course were amazing and I’m convinced without them not only myself, but over half the field would struggle to complete the marathon. After five hours it was finally my turn to enter the finishing chute to the mass of spectators high five-ing me and the voice of MC Pete Murray saying ‘Nick Turner, You are an IRONMAN’!

Crossing that finishing line at 12hours 36minutes was the end of an absolutely brutal day which undeniably is the ultimate challenge, putting three endurance legs back to back.

Thanks very much to Olivia, Willa and Miles for all of your support in the lead up to the race and your great colourful banner and shirts on the day offering words of encouragement. 

Thanks to Nick Field for all the training rides. To everyone who showed interest in this somewhat crazy hobby of mine pre, and post race, thank you.

In summary, it was an amazing day and with the starting goal to finish inside the 17.30hrs cut off time I was stoked to stop the clock at 12 and a half hours.