Winning a race is special. It’s an incredible moment, that you try to re live as much as you can. Stepping into the finish chute, the finish line ahead, as the first athlete, is truly magical!
On Sunday 6th May, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do that for the third time in my career over the full iron distance. I defended and retained the title I won at Ironman Australia in 2017 taking back to back wins to become the 2018 Champion. Not only that, I became the first woman to ride under 5hours on the course, setting a new bike course record of 4:56:12 As well as joining only three other women to have gone back to back at Ironman Australia, one of those being the legendary Chrissie Wellington (2008, 2009). Additionally, to this, I made history at Ironman Australia, as for the first time, the Professional Women, were given the number 1 bib. It was an incredible honour and privilege to wear the #1. I took a great deal of pride in being able to wear that number from my performance in 2017. It was an added bonus to then cross the line, winning again in 2018, with the #1!
I don’t shout from the roof tops much, I tend to find the negative in most situations, but Ironman Australia was another special moment in my triathlon career, and those facts mentioned above are part of that. If you’d have told me when I started this sport, as a complete rookie that I’d be a Professional Triathlete, then that I’d win a full iron distance race, let alone three, one of them being a defending* a title… well I’d have probably thought you were on something.
*a friend in the week leading up to the race sent me a message… “don’t think of it as defending, think of it as ‘attacking champion’ it’s much more positive”. Thank you!
In a similar way to Ironman New Zealand, I had a “Ilia” moment, leading into Ironman Australia. On arriving in Port Macquarie, I went out on my bike to spin my legs out post travel. During the ride I headed down to the infamous Port Mac breakwall. The breakwall is lined by rocks, all of which have been painted by locals. Some related to the Ironman race, others in memory of a friend or family member, others just decorated. I stopped by one, which some friends of mine had painted several years ago, and asked a gentleman who was walking by if he would mind taking a photo of me. Ed was his name, and he was originally from South Africa, but had lived in Port Mac for over 20years. We got talking and I discovered Ed’s incredible story. He didn’t know who I was, nor did I expect him too, nor did he ask, nor did I want him too, it was great to just talk, and all he knew I was just another athlete in the race at the weekend. But he said four words to me, which I held all week.
Be Unstoppable, Be Unbreakable, Be Unbeatable, Be Unshakable
(Life will be unforgettable)
Chance encounters are often very special.
Two weeks before Port Macquarie I raced in Challenge Melbourne, a half distance race. I did this race last year, as a last minute decision made whilst on a ride in the Port Hills on Friday morning, and then being in Melbourne Friday evening for the race on Sunday. This year I’d made the decision earlier in the year and arrived a few more days before the race. However, I finished second (again), by a similar if not bigger margin. Whilst it was a podium and I was happy having had a pretty average swim chasing fish in the ocean and not racing, it would seem, it still was quite hard to process, especially two weeks out from Ironman Australia. However I was looking at it through the wrong lens and after a good conversation with Matt (Dixon, my coach), I had a different view and saw the value and positives from my performance. I headed to Port Mac excited to race. It was about my best performance and bettering 2017.
Ironman Australia will always be a pretty special place after winning in 2017. As I wrote back then, I started the sport in Australia and Port Mac was the first half distance race I did as a complete beginner. Being only a few hours drive north of Sydney, it’s a race that has so many friends both racing and supporting that I’ve known from when I first started the sport.
I was excited to get back to Port. I was staying with the same family, Rob and Jan Harris who had so kindly looked after me so well last year. It was great to be back and I was welcomed by the community, even getting recognised in my favourite cafe. That may not be such a good thing, as probably proves I went there too much?
From AG athlete to two time #ironman Champion. We caught up with Laura Siddall as she prepares to defend her IRONMAN Oceania #IMOZ title in #PortMacquarie. 📹 Korupt Vision #triathlon #ironwoman #swimbikerun #imaus
Posted by Australian Triathlete Magazine on Thursday, 3 May 2018
I love the buzz at these races, and Port Mac do a great job. Apart from the official announcement that Port Mac is going to be home to Ironman Australia for another 3 years, which was fantastic news, the event kicks off with the Bright Night Run, a great community event with hundreds of people running along the breakwall all dressed in fluro and bright colours. Of course, there is Ironkids too which is always a fabulous and fun morning. But the whole town is alive in the days leading into the race. I was also fortunate enough to meet the legend that is Ken Baggs, (he’s just released a book about the history of Ironman Australia), as well as catch up with my buddy and now Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist, Lauren Parker! Truly inspirational!)
Ironman Australia has a pretty unique swim, making us climb up and over a weir, twice. The gun fired and Annabel Luxford and Kelsey Withrow shot off as expected with me trying to cling on to every bit of wake and bubble that they left behind. I settled in finding my own way as the splash from the front two, moved away. I’d been prepared to swim on my own, so I it gave me a good opportunity to focus on my own swim and hope that I was moving relatively well. Coming out the water I got splits of between 7 to 8 mins down from the lead. Not disastrous, but not hugely ideal either.
I didn’t make much time on the lead on the first lap, but just kept riding my race. I was quite prepared that I may not make up any time, even lose some, but I focused on my own performance. By the end of the first lap coming up the infamous Matthew Flinders, I got a glimmer that I’d taken a little bit of time out from Annabel. Matthew Flinders is a bitch of a hill. It’s pretty steep, so bad that they put a carpet up the side in case you need to get off and walk your bike up. There is certainly no shame in this if you’ve ever ridden it! But it’s a great atmosphere lined with support, many in crazy fancy dress.
I managed to take back more time on the section through town which gave me a real boost and on reaching the far turn around on the second lap, it was down to about two minutes. With about 40km to go, I caught Annabel. To be honest at that stage she came back pretty quickly. I had all sorts of thoughts in my head, was she waiting for me, how many matches would I need to burn in the last 40km to get rid of her, how many matches would I want to burn? However, as I passed and surged ahead, glancing back after a few minutes, expecting to see Annabel behind me, I couldn’t see anything. I kind of knew then that it wasn’t the usual Annabel. She’s a world class athlete and knew she wouldn’t have let me ride away fro her, unless something wasn’t quite right.
However, I still had 35km to go and there was lots of racing still to go, the little matter of a marathon after getting back to T2 safely. I set about focusing on the task and trying to put as much time into the women behind me as possible. Also with half an eye on the 5hour mark and trying to dip under it.
The run course at Port Mac is torture. Not so much from the terrain, although the hill on each lap feels like Everest as the course goes on, but from the fact that it’s four laps, and each lap takes you to staring down the finish chute, the finish line just 30m away, before side swiping you to the left and forcing you to run down the back of the stands, hearing all the noise from Mike Riley and Pete Murray on the mics. You also have to return along this same path as you then head out to the far end of the course. You do this four times! Yep four times being forced to stare down the finish chute, but until you have those four magic arm bands (sadly not actually magic, that would have been quite useful), you can not pass go and proceed to the finish.
The first time split I got was to say I had six minutes on Annabel, as she got to Transition, however on running back past Transition, the lead cyclists for the second and third women were just leaving, and it wasn’t Annabel. I had a feeling that she hadn’t started the run. It was a shame to hear she’d been sick in the weeks leading up to the race and I was sorry to hear she’d pulled out. She’s a fantastic athlete, and has the ability to put down an impressive full distance race. I know this was her goal, and it’s always a shame to see goals vanish and out of your control, even when competing against that person on the day. I hope she recovers soon.
It was great to have my lead cyclist form 2017, Skye Lacey on the run with me again this year. Skye had been out on one of the aid stations on the bike and was hurling all sorts of abuse at me to get a move on (I was currently sitting in third and 7 or 8 minutes down), ensuring I was in the lead for the run! Thanks Skye!
Whilst the run is torturous, it is a marathon after all, it has great support and that energy carries you a long way. Whilst I’m not sure I was super responsive, as wasn’t feeling completely fluid on the run, all the encouragement and support is always noticed and taken in. Again, so much support out there from the side lines, of people calling my name and Sid, Sid Talks, but also from the other athletes on the race course going about their own races and day. This always amazes me and I’m truly grateful.
With the last 3-4km, I was trying to soak it in, but it’s still difficult as the finish line still seems so far away. You can never get ahead of yourself, the race can and does have so many ups and downs, that’s it is really not until you step onto that finish chute carpet, that you actually believe it. It’s such an amazing feeling, you try to make the very most of it and soak up every millimeter you can.
Winning Ironman Australia in 2018 was a very different feeling to winning in 2017. No less special just different. 2017 was my first full iron distance win, and almost a monkey off my back, actually winning a race after so many second places. However, to come back to Port Macquarie and win in 2018 was pretty damn good. Again, so many friends there to watch and support me, and I searched and failed to find their faces in the finish chute. You’d have thought a bunch of adults dressed as pink fairies would be easy to spot! It meant after crossing the line, I had to return down the finish chute to go find them, much to the amusement and confusion of Mike Riley and Pete Murray who were trying to collar me for an interview.
Regardless of the result, the day at Ironman or any full distance race is not over till the time runs out. Those last few hours are always magical, the real heroes and athletes who have been out all day for 15, 16 and 17hours. It was great to head back to the finish to welcome them all home. I even ended up doing 127 press ups with Pete Raudaschl. Pete, who had stopped just before the finish line, to do 100 (I think he lost count with the 127) press ups as part of his race, raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Please consider donating to this worthy cause here https://nbcf-getactive.gofundraise.com.au/page/PeteRaudaschl0
As with Taupo, the days following the race were pretty special as well. I had the opportunity to meet a local junior athlete, Anneliese and we were taken up in a Sea Plan over Port Macquarie as part of a promotional tourism video for the area. It was a fantastic trip, and the bike course certainly took a lot less time by plane! It also made Matthew Flinders and the other hills on the course look flat! I was incredible honoured to have been asked to be part of this and have the opportunity to meet Anneliese.
My Southern Hemisphere summer has now come to an end and I have now travelled north to base myself in Europe for the Northern Hemisphere summer. I will once again race in the Challenge Family European Series and represent the brand as Challenge Ambassador.
I cannot have asked for a better start to the year. To win Ironman New Zealand and to go back to back at Ironman Australia and now have three full iron distance wins to my name. Something I probably never really imagined when I started the sport as a complete beginner. If I’m honest it’s been a very mixed six months, many ups and downs with some emotional tests (all relative in the triathlon bubble). It’s certainly not been smooth sailing in many parts of the process.
However, I am incredible proud of what I’ve achieved, and the learning I’ve taken away.
I have a lot of racing still to attack in 2018 and still a lot to work on and I’m incredible excited about it and driven to further improve.
Thank you to the brands and team that support me! The main team….
Matt Dixon and Paul Buick, Purple Patch Fitness – for keeping me on track with the plan and focus and managing through the ups and downs.
Scody – Release the bubbles… loving my new 2018 race kit. Watch out for it being available soon. Don’t forget to use the code LauraS for your discount online, and contact me for your own custom kit.
Ceepo – Another bike course record, and the first woman under 5hours at Port Mac. No complaints with the fastest bike splits in each of my races and two course records in 2018.
Shotz – Amazing support, as always from Darryl and Steph. Great to catch up with them in Melbourne and just so grateful for their continual support.
Hoka – Loving the Hoka One One Tracer 2 as my race shoe of choice!
Kask – Proud to wear Kask and protect my head as I train and race. Never an excuse for not wearing your helmet, however slow you are travelling and however short the distance. Wear a helmet. It saves lives!
and the rest….
Volare – Volare Made to Fly wetsuits! Check them out – this cheeky Aussie underdog, no pretence, no ego, just great designs.
Funkita – Making swimming fun with awesome designs and fantastic quality suits! Contact me for discount codes!
Vredestein – I’ve been so impressed by these tires and been using them for training and racing for the past few years. Have used the clinchers and tubulars, 25mm All Weather and excited to try the tubeless ready tires soon.
SockMine – Comfy happy feet. I have to have a brand new pair of SockMine socks for each full iron distance race I do! SOCKMINESID for your discount!
Scicon – Helping me on my nomadic travels with my bike.
Oakley – love love love and long time Oakley fan / wearer!