Wow!! What an incredible day. Ironman Australia Champion 2019! That feeling stepping onto the finish carpet, and running down the chute, is one of the most incredible highs you feel. I wish there was a way to capture it and bottle it. That was an emotional one.
Ironman Australia 2019…coming in having won the race the past two years. 2017 was my first Ironman Professional win, after a string of second places. It was an incredible feeling to finally step up and take the win. Coming back in 2018 I felt an honour and privilege to return, particularly as I was given the number 1 bib, a bib normally given to the men, but let’s not go there. It was fantastic that Ironman Oceania gave the women the top seeds that year, it was special. To win again was amazing, and become a back to back Champion was something I wouldn’t have dreamed off.
To be honest I didn’t really think of 2019 as the three peat. It wasn’t really till I arrived in Port Macquarie and the questions about the “three-peat” were asked, that it came into my head. Yes there was an awareness that I was coming back having won the past two years, but it wasn’t at the front of my mind in terms of wanting to chase it for the three peat. Of course I wanted to win, and the focus was just on this one race not the previous ones. However there were also a whole host of other thoughts going on in my head that put 2017 and 2018 to the back of my mind.
Since Ironman New Zealand, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Now I’m the first to say this is all relative in the big picture of things, I’m very aware of that. I have a good life for which I’m very grateful, and the opportunities I have are pretty damn cool. However, I’ve not exactly been full of confidence, lots of questions and not being able to see the positives. A dark spiral. Training was going well, but I just couldn’t bounce off it. I kept pulling it apart, not building on the positives and the numbers.
Port Macquarie of course has great memories for me with the wins in 2017 and 2018. I was once again staying with the Harris family, Rob* and Jan, who I’ve stayed with the past two years. They are so generous and welcoming of me into their home and family. They are both very involved in the sport and local community, being part of the Local Organising Committee but also volunteering on the day. I always love seeing different sides of the sport and it’s great being part of the Harris family. (*Rob is claiming it’s his steak dinners he cooks on race eve that is the winning formula! Well I’m not going to say anything against that!)
As a good reminder to many of the reasons I do this sport (not just the training and racing), there was a good week lined up with joining the Women for Tri, for a swim and then Q&A hosted by Witsup; Pro Q&A; the Night Run; podcasts and catching up with friends. Also since the race was going out on Facebook Watch and Ironman Now as part of the globally Facebook coverage, we had a few additional interviews to do, and it was exciting that the race was going to be shown live. Always a highlight, there was also Ironkids race. It was absolutely pouring down with rain but the kids still showed up and ran their hearts out. Their smiles as they came over the finish line, many of them sliding down the finish ramp, but still just loving it.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect come race day. As said confidence wasn’t exactly brimming. I guess I just wanted to make it a race, I just wanted to be competitive. There was a frustration in my training and performances so far, and this was probably underlying my thoughts. Was it going to be the same again? It was about just trying to get something out there. Trying to close the gap on training and racing and trying to improve on the performances earlier in the year. I had to work hard to get my head in the right place of just being present on the day. Not thinking about what has gone before, but focusing on today, the now.
Race morning – It was a gorgeous morning, no wind, beautiful sun rise, a sense of calmness and time. I knew that Caroline and Kelsey would go off the front and I was likely the next swimmer, but likely to find myself solo. I was ready for this so didn’t panic. It was just what it would be. It would be a best effort 3.8km time trial. Swim the course. The swim is pretty cool at Port Mac. Starting with an out and back in the river before rounding the corner and heading under one of the bridges, where you can see and hear the spectators above. Then there’s a unique part of the course, where you have to climb up and over a weir. Another chance for close up engagement with the spectators, and also a quick glance over my shoulder to see who was on my feet. Out and around another few turn bouys before back over the weir. At this point I knew the fast age group swimmers were catching fast. They’d only started four minutes behind us unfortunately, and I could see the carnage and splashes approaching quickly.
Running up in to T1 I found myself in the change tent alone, a little surprised at having dropped the two women who were on my feet on the first weir crossing. It meant though I could just focus on getting out on the bike and riding my race.
Port Mac is a two lap course, the first and last 10km of each lap a pretty hilly and rolling section. Then some flatter sections before a few rollers again and more flats. It’s a great mix of hills and flats, with the rough road surface as well. It’s an honest course. My plan was to just get going pretty strongly out of town and the hills and then once through that section, head down and give it a crack at some of the numbers I’ve been seeing in training.
Time splits were telling me I was anything from six minutes to seven minutes down from the front and at the far turn I got a good chance to check this split. Caroline was about eight minutes now, with Kelsey about five minutes ahead. No panic, just do my thing. At the end of the first lap the time was coming down to both the women ahead. Kelsey was now just forty seconds or so up the road and Caroline was back to five or six minutes.
I caught Kelsey just as we finished the hilly section on the way back out of town, and carried through to to see if I could bring the gap down to Caroline at the front. At the far turn, I got the chance to see the gap was now about four minutes and I was still making progress and feeling good (relatively of course). I just continued to chip away and I was finally joined by one of the Facebook Watch cameras with about 30-40km to go. With about 10km to go I had Caroline in sight, and knew I’d catch her before T2. In fact I was going to catch her up the infamous Matthew Flinders Hill! That would be pretty cool. However, unfortunately I found out later, that the Facebook Watch coverage had been following Caroline as I approached her, only to cut away to the mens race at the critical moment we climbed Matthew Flinders side by side and I went into the lead! #facepalm emoji!
Leading into T2 was pretty cool and felt I’d put myself in the game and at least it hopefully had made it a little more exciting for the viewers. I headed out on the four lap run with my trusty bike lead – Skye. Skye been the lead cyclist for the past two years and so it was good to see her again. I wasn’t feeling super fluid, but had decided on the bike to just try and run freely. To not actually think too much about form but just try to run. I had about a 40second lead on Caroline, but I knew she was chipping back away at my lead. That’s ok, I’d given it a crack, which was what I wanted. As the first lap went on, my lead was diminishing. I remember saying to Skye, “well at least we got to be together for part of the race this year” – perhaps an indication still of where my confidence was. Skye’s reply, well she pretty much barked at me, “It’s not over yet” Sorry Skye! Ha ha!
Caroline caught me at about the 8km mark I think, I knew she was there, because suddenly there were motorbikes and cameras around again! ha ha! I fully expected her to run through me, but as she pulled up on my shoulder, I automatically just fell into step with her. We ran together back to town. I was almost having a pinch myself moment! Wow! What’s happening! I just decided to enjoy this moment for as long as it lasted.
The run course in Port Mac is quite narrow at times and can get congested, so there were a few times where I dropped back or moved ahead, to either get through an aid station with a clear run, or just through a narrow section. We ran past the finish side by side, stride by stride. Behind the finish line the course hits a short hill section and I was in the lead going up the hill, again due to the path narrowing more than anything. I’d wanted to actually be behind Caroline at this section to see how she was running, but instead I was running blind at the front. Oh well eyes front then. At the top though I got a call out that Caroline wasn’t with me, but I didn’t dare look back so just kept my eyes fixed forward. Again, the live coverage missed this criticial move! Eyes forward I just kept looking ahead, and over the next few kilometres I think I got the lead out to around two minutes where it then hovered a little. At the far turn around it looked again like she was gaining and I was thinking, here we go again! But as the lap went on and I started the third lap the splits were staying the same, or starting to creep up again. That gave me some confidence, but I still had 18km to go and that’s still a long long way for things to happen. I was also aware of Kelsey Withrow in third and running well.
The support out on course was once again incredible. It really does blow me away. I know it’s easy to say but honestly, the calls of my name, in all formats, from the people on the side of the course, but also from other athletes in the race, is always incredible! I may not respond, but believe me when I say I hear everyone and every call out and it means a lot! Thank you! One of the many good things about Port Mac is the number of tri clubs up there lining the course, and it’s always a buzz to run through the Tri Club Alley. I started the sport of triathlon in Australia , in Sydney, and so there’s always so many friends out on course racing or watching, as well as the amazing support I’ve received from the Port Mac community over the past few years.
Starting the last lap and I got a split of over three and a half minutes. I was trying to do the maths on the number of kilometres left and what time the women behind me would have to be running per kilometre to catch me. Just don’t do anything stupid you’ve still got a long way to go, it can still all unravel. But I was feeling pretty strong (again relative after 215km of swim bike and running), but I still couldn’t let myself believe. People were calling out that I’d got it, it was mine. Always love the positivity of the crowd! Ha Ha! This was of course lovely but heck again I still had 8km to go… 7km to go. By this time I knew we were getting close though, as once again I had bikes and cameras following me. That’s a buzz as it is. Think the sound of helicopters over head, motor bikes surrounding, cameras flashing… ha ha and you’d be thinking the wrong sport. It wasn’t quite like that but still a buzz.
As I got back to Westport Park, the emotions started to bubble to the surface. Goosebumps on my arms, as they are now as I write this and remember. I started to let some emotions flow. I’ll admit there were a few shouts out aloud, followed by HR spikes and increased breathlessness and reminding myself to calm down again! But it was getting close, I could sense the finish and all my emotions started building. The poker face started to show cracks as I started to believe I was going to get there.
For the first time, as the run course looked down the finish chute, I was actually able to take that right hand path, and step onto the carpet. Skye pulled off to the side and I gave her a quick hug. She’d believed in me, when I hadn’t. Then it all just boiled over. The past few months, the highs and lows, the frustrations, the race itself, today, everything and anything came out. I’ve since tried to find a video of the whole finish chute, again only to find the coverage only caught the last 10m of it! I can safely say there were a few screams, tears, yells and a lot of FUCK YEAHS!
Ironman Australia Champion 2019!
It wasn’t the three peat, although that’s incredible special and to see my name up the Roll of Honour with some incredible legends of the sport is amazing, but it was just the win today, in that moment that meant the world to me. I was just in a state of shock and stunned. The embraces, the hugs, the tears. Just magic. I can’t describe it. It was disbelief as well.
I think the next few hours went in a bit of a blur or numbness, still trying to take it in. Drugs testing, kit collecting, seeing my friends, getting back to my homestay to see Rob and Jan, back to the finish line for the final hours, all whilst trying to comprehend and let it sink in.
Much like the next few days! I always have a habit of just cramming so much into the following days after an Ironman, and Port Mac was no different. Just a day to catch up with more friends and interviews, before attending the roll down and then awards. In the evening I headed to the volunteers function which was just awesome! I’m glad they didn’t tell me what they had in store as I may have changed my mind! Myself and Jake Easton, the race director, were called up on stage and positioned into the school band they had playing. I was given a squeaky banana and hot dog, Jake a xylophone tie, and we were made to play individual percussion solos! Ha ha! I’ll claim I was better than Jake, but I don’t think either of us will be giving up our day jobs! It was a super fun night though. Then the next day I headed back to Sydney and flew back to NZ the following day.
I am writing this now only a few days later having packed up my studio in Christchurch, and left a whole lot of #stsl (shit that sid left) with a friend (thank you), my car with someone else (thank you too) and I’m sitting on a flight heading off on my European Adventures again.
I’m flying high (literally as I’m on the plane) from that experience in Port Mac, but fully aware that there are more races around the corner and more work to be done for sure. But it was a step back in the right direction, and the glimpses of what’s in there.
It’s always sad to leave Christchurch and the friends and support I have there. But I’m looking forward to Europe and my Girona base again, and seeing my family. I’m excited about the races I have coming up and some opportunities in the next few weeks on and off the race course.
Thank you to everyone for all the amazing support and messages! It’s been awesome! Thank you!
Thank yous –
Firstly Paul Buick – the annoyingly typical old school Kiwi bloke, but with that an incredible bike coach (and to be fair swim and run). My first experience of Paul was in Matt Dixon’s garage and a set of Russian Sprints, during my week long interview for joining Purplepatch. Matt had decided to not talk to me really for the whole week. He claims it was a test and there was method to his madness! Ha ha! Paul’s knowledge and experience is simple awesome, and I’ve spent many hours and hours (he loves to chat) talking bikes, training, and well everything. He was the reason I moved to Christchurch four years ago. Initially just for a couple of weeks, and now the whole summer each year! I can’t thank him enough for his time over the past few years.
Factor – that feel good factor ride on the SLiCK! Get involved!! Drop me a message if you are thinking about a Factor TT or Road bike – let’s chat as I’m a little bit excited about these bikes.
Parcours – the swoosh of the disc! SID10 for a 10% discount on these wheels. Happy to chat about my race go to and the wheels I ride for training.
Shotz – for the support from the very beginning
Kask – best helmets protecting my grey matter
Hoka – I race in the Tracers and love them.
Volare – my wetsuits and swim skins. 15% discount off through this link
Vredestein Cycling – I race in the Tubeless Ready and train in Fortezza All Weather (25) clinchers
Scicon – making my travel and adventures a little easier. Discount codes available each month – drop me a message.
Funkita – for the fun colours and prints, and simple awesome swim costumes.
Also to some key people who’ve believed and backed me – Jeff, Steve, John, The Harris’, my fairies (the pink and blue ones), friends and family. For all the support that came through on the live feed and also after in all the messages.