VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 4 POSTED ON: 4/21/2011
Busselton Ironman Race Report – Michael Hermans I just wanted to give all those who gave me support and well wishes an insight into what was an amazingly memorable day. I have just arrived home from Perth after competing in Ironman Western Australia. The triathlon consists of a 3.8km swim around the famous Busselton jetty, followed by a 180km bike ride and a 42.2km marathon which finishes in the main street of town. My preparation started about 6 months ago and being the wettest winter in 35 years didn’t help my motivation when the alarm went off at 5am each morning. I had an injury setback 15 weeks out from race day. Diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome (tendon in your thigh that causes pain in your knee) I was ordered to take some time off and when I returned I was only allowed to slowly continue my preparation by doing walk runs, extremely light rides and swimming with a pool buoy. Leading into the race the longest sessions I could complete were one 130km ride and an 80 min slow jog. My rehab consisted of three cortisone injections in my knee (one 7 days prior to the race), dry needling twice a week, physio and massage. I had a daily routine of strengthening exercises, taking anti-inflammatory and icing. As frustrating as it was I was given the advice that it is better to go into the race without the injury albeit with less training under my belt. Having arrived in Busselton on the Wednesday afternoon I had plenty of time to prepare for Sundays event. We put the bikes together, drove the course, did a few swims and took the “less is more” approach pretty seriously. Race Day I received a text message from a good mate who was on the way home from a wedding at about 12.08am and couldn’t get back to sleep (cheers Nathan). I rose before my alarm at 3.20am. Everything was relatively organised so we had some breakfast consisting of sustain, toast, juice and a banana. It was a struggle to get anything down after two solid days of carbo loading and constantly having a full stomach. That coupled with the extreme nerves of the day ahead gave me a fairly sick feeling. We drove to transition and I did the final checks of my bike in the dark, put on some sunscreen and suited up in my wetsuit ready to go. A few quick photo’s with some training mates and we headed to the pier for the 5.45am swim start. The beach was like an amphitheatre with thousands of spectators lining the beach and pier to watch the water turn to white as start gun sounds. It was a perfect morning, clear skies, beautiful clear blue calm water and not a breath of wind. We had lucked out with the forecast sitting in the mid 20s and winds increasing throughout the day, we were hoping not too early so that it wouldn’t affect the bike leg. I turned to my good mate Daniel who had been my closest training partner and we shook each others hand and congratulated each other on everything we’d gone through to get to this point. Wished each other the best and waited for the start gun. It was an amazing feeling waiting in silence for the start gun, there were plenty of thoughts of self doubt. The start was fairly intense to say the least. It seemed to take at least 1km before the competitors spread out and I found myself with plenty of space trying to stay on the feet of the swimmers in front of me. The swim was one loop around the Busselton Pier which goes out to what looks like the horizon. The water chopped up a little bit when you make the turn and you can feel the rolling waves as you get deeper in the ocean. My strategy in the swim was to conserve as much energy as I can and come out feeling fresh. I was a nice swim and I came out of the water in 1 hour 11 minutes feeling great. Transition in an Ironman differs from other triathlons as you get changed in a transition tent and then run out to grab your bike. You can’t leave anything else next to your bike so it is fairly simple. Coming into the transition tent was mayhem though, while you could sit down and get out of your wetsuit there were people screaming everywhere trying to get volunteers to help them. I sat down and asked a volunteer to pull my wetsuit off my legs while I put on my helmet. I jumped out of transition in 2 mins which was quick and things were going great. I said to myself ‘one third complete’ and focused on getting into a rhythm on the bike as soon as I could. The 180km bike course is renown for being flat but can be windy and consisted of three 60km laps out of town, along the beach and through a forest before the turn around and heading back along the same roads. The two most common bits of advice I was given before the race was to make sure you nail your nutrition and pace yourself on the bike. If you go too hard on the bike, your run will over before it starts. My first lap was a little quicker than it should have been but close enough. It is extremely hard to pull back on your pace when you feel great and are racing against the clock. I watched my fuel intake carefully which consisted of about 90grams of carbohydrates per hour using sports gels, powerbars and Gatorade. I also had electrolyte tables twice an hour and towards the end of the bike, some pain killers to combat my ITB knee pain. I completed the first lap and waved to my support crew (Emma-Kate, Mum, Dad, Caroline and Zoe) and smiled for the cameras to try and soak it all up and enjoy the day. Caroline had made a massive banner which said “Team Hermans, We’re here with Mick” and it looked amazing (easily the best banner on course and even made the formal highlights package at the awards night). So it was a huge mental boost every time I went past them. The wind started to pick up slightly on the second lap and I trudged on making sure I pull my pace back to a more consistent speed that would get me through three laps. The 100km mark was a small goal I was concentrating on to help me break down the race. When I got to 100kms I was expecting to pat myself on the back and say well done. But I was alarmed, I wasn’t feeling great and the fatigue was starting to wear me down. When I turned for the last lap, there were less smiles and no waving to the crowd. I had 60km to go on the bike and my day was starting to get tougher. With 50km into to go the wheels really started to come off. I was getting bad stomach cramps, could no longer swallow any more powerbars and struggled to stay in the aero position for any great length of time. All my preconceived ideas of finishing times were now completely irrelevant and my strategy had dramatically shifted from aiming for a time, to simply survival. I’m not going to lie to you, the next couple of hours weren’t enjoyable. I was emotional and tired. I couldn’t stomach the food intake and was worried that if I couldn’t get down some fuel, it was a matter of time before I collapse and was already questioning my ability to finish. The other riders had spaced out a fair bit also so it was on a solo mission from now on without having anyone around me to distract me from the pain. What’s more is that the wind kicked up to 25 knots and it was demoralising to have the wind in your face for the last 30km when you feel terrible. My biggest alarm was that I start to cramp in my legs and I because I prone to cramping in endurance events, I was concerned I’d cramp all through the run. I used an easier gear, tried to increase my cadence and turned the pedals over where I could. A had to constantly stand on the pedals to subdue cramp and I was very low. As I rolled towards transition I was met with a roar from ‘Team Hermans’ but I didn’t have the energy to acknowledge them with much gusto. I had completed the bike leg in 6 hours. I pulled the bike up and didn’t do one of those superman jumps off the bike into a free flowing stride like you see on all the videos of Hawaii Ironman. I stood there and contemplated how on earth I was going to get my leg over the middle bar. I handed my bike to the bike spotters who just take the bike off you and rack it for you. I couldn’t walk. Both legs cramped up at once and I stood there with my hands on my knees while listening to the crowd on the sidelines gasp. I tried to walk but I was cramping everywhere. When I looked at supporters on the sidelines they had their hands over the mouths and I saw on their faces that I must have looked like I was in a pretty bad way. I slowly hobbled and managed to walk into the transition zone to grab my T2 bag and take a seat without bending my legs. I just sat there. I had nothing left. I was almost in tears with frustration and honestly thought my day was over. I had a marathon to run and I couldn’t even get out of my chair. One of the volunteers came over to help me and I looked at him and said “I’m tired” (or something along those lines that isn’t recognised on spell check). In hindsight it must have been a pretty funny sight. He then did the equivalent of a verbal slap in my face to straighten me out and focus me again. He looked me in the eye and said “mate do you understand how good it is going to feel when you run through the chute at the end of this. I know you are thinking of the pain now, but just keep moving and you’ll be an Ironman”. He was right though of course, I didn’t fly across the country to quit before I put my runners on. I told him he’d have to dress me then and the poor guy had to pull my pants off and change my clothes as if I was in a nursing home. I regretted not catching his name afterwards as I would have loved to buy him a beer. He wasn’t getting paid and spent his whole day unchanging people while getting abused, my hat goes off to him. I hobbled out of transition and amazingly the cramps in my legs started to subside. I stopped thinking about the 42km I had to run and was only concerned in doing the first lap. After all, it was further than I thought I’d get at that point. My stomach cramps were getting worse though and every 50 metres I’d have to stop running and clench my stomach. I had to try and calculate how much fluid I had consumed throughout the race as I thought I may have taken on too much (this can be as big a problem as not enough fluid). It was like trying to do calculus after drinking 10 beers. I figured I’d have to do something dramatic with my nutrition to be able to get some sort of normality with my stomach. I stopped drinking for about 40 mins and through away my race belt which consisted of all my energy gels for the run. I couldn’t get them down and suspected it was a result of having too many of them that had given me the terrible stomach cramps in the first place. I hobbled through the first lap and my day started to improve from there. My running got more fluent and while I battled stomach cramps for the entire time I felt better and better striding it out. I was going through a routine of running strong and passing a few people, then stopping to combat stomach pain while they overtake me again. It was pretty hot at this point as it was the hottest part of the day and the sky cleared up after what happed to be an overcast ride. I walked through every aid station (2km apart) to try and take on Gatorade and I drank mostly flat coke from the 15km mark onwards. I had only tried coke in a race once before which resulted in me stopping to vomit 100m later so I wasn’t game enough to try it again up until now. It worked though. The caffeine sparked me up and the simple sugars were the easiest thing to digest. I put cups of ice down my race top and chewed on it to keep me cool. The run course was broken down into 4 laps and my support crew said that every time I came past I looked stronger. While the stomach cramps held me back I churned through the run. On the final lap I ran past Emma-Kate and my family, smiled at them and yelled “see you at the chute” before heading out towards to longest loneliest part of the course for the last time. Daniel was in front of me on his was back into town and I ran across a large median strip and well off course to go give him a high five knowing we were both going to be ironman finishers, something we had talked about on a daily basis for the last 6 months. I neared the end of the final lap and turned for the chute to finish the run in 5.03hrs (12.26 all up). It was an amazing experience. 200m of cheering spectators, high fiving everyone, it was unforgettable. I saw Emma-Kate and my family and leaned over the fence and gave them a massive hug expecting to get emotional, but I managed to hold it together. The support they gave me on the day was unforgettable and Emma-Kate had endured 6 months of 5am wake up calls, bikes in the living room, cranky moods and large absences on weekends due to my selfish pursuit. I heard my name over the loud speaker. Mike Reilly who is the voice of Ironman yelled “Michael Hermans… YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” and I crossed the finish line looking to the sky. It was an amazing end to the day and will stay with me forever. My body was fairly shot, blisters on my feet, screaming legs, I couldn’t live my arms above my shoulders, sunburnt, I was dehydrated and had a big smile across my face. Everyone has asked me what’s next from here. It seems like a couple of weeks rest and then most likely… preparation for Ironman Cairns in June. Thanks to everyone for their interest and support.