Ironman Australia – Port Macquarie
Sunday 5 May 2013
Tri Alliance Athlete, and first time Ironman: Tim French

Swimming, has always been my weakness. Dec 2011 I remember going to the the local 16m hydrotherapy pool and swimming 10 laps, and no two were consecutive. It was going to be a long road, slow from here, and it wasn’t easy.

I had entered my first triathlon, first half ironman in Yeppoon 2012. Thankfully I had given myself 10 months to learn to swim. The theory behind doing a half was I can ride a bike ok, and I can run and the % of  swimming is minimal. After 10 months of coaching myself in what I thought was Triathlon Training, a successful Half Ironman under my belt (no I didn’t drown), but I knew it was time to find some help.Tim French3

Welcome Tri Alliance. I joined as an online athlete in Sept 2012 – an online athlete as I live in Renmark SA, a town of 10,000 people located roughly in the corner where the SA/Vic/NSW borders meet, some 250km from Adelaide, 150km from Mildura, 700kms from Melbourne. Having done enough swimming to get me through 1.9kms, a total of 2000km of cycling, one Half Ironman, one half marathon, and one full marathon – which I promised myself I would never attempt again, boy were things about to change!

Seven months later, I was in my final stages of an Ironman build. It had been a long tough journey even to get this far. I wasn’t enjoying my running, I hated getting on the bike, and swimming was, well, still swimming.

Training hasn’t been easy. Summer here has temperatures above 40 day in day out, put that together with my job as a carpenter working outside in the heat all day isn’t ideal. I would do my wind-trainer with the air-con on 18deg, a fan above my head, and an industrial fan in front of me.  Long rides were still above 30 degrees until last week. They were so lonely – guaranteed to see more emus and kangaroos than other cyclists. The emus usually run along the side of the paddocks at the same speed I would be riding, almost like they are having fun and racing. Maybe they were?? I remember one ride there were three running on the side of the road, I came out of aero as the first one and second one crossed the road well in front of me, the third started to cross but his feet slipped out and he hit the road with a massive thud right in front of me, I hit the skids and thankfully stopped in time. Heart rate was up though!Tim French1

Swimming started out bad for me, and took a long time for me to enjoy it. Renmark has a 50 mtr outdoor pool (not heated) that is open in summer from 11am until 6pm, unless the guy decides he cant be bothered working and closes it early! It doesn’t get laned off, so picture me swimming with kids on tyres and thick foam floatie things that hurt then you head butt them. 😉 The other choice is the river, which in summer goes hand in hand with boats and beers. So after a few close calls I decided to avoid that unless I could talk one of my mates into kayaking next to me. The 50m pool closed in March for winter, which gave me two choices, 2-300 laps in the 28 degree 16m x 5 m therapy pool, (which is disgusting so don’t wear clear goggles!), or drive 150km each way to Mildura’s 25m indoor pool. I opted for the second. So 3 times a week during the last 8 weeks of training that’s exactly what I did. And the good new was, I really did start to enjoy my swimming.  Coach Ryan’s swim you tube clips were extremely helpful, I think I even know what ‘feeling’ the water is like these days!

I love my running, out there by myself with the ipod km after km. Thankfully I am a bit of an introvert. I got through my running every week, the heat being the biggest issue, and carrying a fuel belt pretty much every run. That became a problem when the long runs were too long and too hot for one fuel belt and on the final 36 km run I organised for my 2 sisters and mum to ride next to me and carry my water. Only one sister could make the whole distance, and instead of being hot it was pissing down rain, and freezing. Mum caught up with us again in the car and she asked if she could do anything. My answer was scrambled eggs and coffee when I get to my house in 30 minutes! And she did! 🙂

 I had done the training!

A week later I was in Port Macquarie and feeling really relaxed. I had a nice swim on Friday, the weather was great, water temp beautiful, and the swim course was flat. The bike course hills scared me a bit. It was a lot more undulating than I thought. It was going to be a tough ride, but something I had to control. After a few chats with Coaches Ollie and Sarah, my Brother and his Fiancee (she was racing also), eating some extra carbs for Emma-Lise J my only question was – do I start with bike shoes in transition, or on the bike like I usually do (I will never have that question again – keep reading…).  I was so calm, hardly nervous at all, even the morning of the race. I don’t know how or why, I guess I was ready??

The Race

Swim – Be comfortable, don’t worry about time just don’t drown.
Ride – Control yourself, 75% workrate, follow nutrition, and use small chain ring for every hill whether big or small.
Run – See how I feel after bike
T1&2 – Take your time, stay calm and extra 30 seconds wont matter
Overall – Make the finish line

Into the water… I felt good. Found my spot out wide and was talking to someone and buzzer went.. time to swim I guess.

The first 500m were hectic, but I just looked for any gap I could and kept swimming, telling myself it would open up. Stay relaxed.

Port Macquarie ironman

Eventually it did. First turn, I aimed wide, and went around it no worries. At the far end we swam around a houseboat. I remember imagining it as my friends fathers boat, and all my mates sitting on the boat on a weekend getting pissed while I was swimming. From here I just kept swimming, and had ‘Dori’ from finding nemo in my head. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, so I did.

On the home straight I was feeling good, tried to pee while swimming but it just wasn’t going to happen, so headed to the ramp. First, leg done! 🙂 I didn’t even look at my time as I exited the water, I had no idea what I had swum, but it didn’t matter, all I knew is I felt good.

Grabbed my transition bag and ran right to the far end of the tent as planned. Now stay calm Tim, don’t rush. No volunteers to help me, they were all busy, so prepared myself. Helmet, knicks, sunnies bike shoes, all on. Gel flask into pocket, and I was off.

I jogged out and then had to turn around a barrier to get to my bike. My bike shoes slipped on the carpet, I hit the deck, and my elbow landed on one of the hooks that join the barricade fence together. Ouch!!!

So embarrassed, I hope nobody saw that,  but I am sure hundreds did. Straight back up to my feet, and to my bike. I could feel the blood running down my arm and dripping off already. Do I stop and get it looked at? Nope grab your bike and keep going. I ran out and straight onto my bike and I was off. Blood was going everywhere, I dropped into aero and the aero pad was like a sponge for the blood, then it would drip onto my knicks and down my leg. I didn’t know how much blood loss would be good or would it effect my race, but I decided to deal with it if/when that happened.

I started to settle, started thinking about what I had to do. Ride easy, hit small chain ring every hill, get nutrition right. Shit! I had forgotten to take my gel in T1. What to do… take one! Checked my heart-rate… no reading, and my whole bike leg was going to be based upon 75-80% heart rate, and nutrition based on calories. I guess both of those ideas were out the window. It’s going to be one of those days!

I ride with a bike garmin, and use my watch only for my run but I turned my watch on to see if that would get a reading, but no. I re-scanned for heart-rate monitor and still nothing. From training I knew I burn about 150 calories every 17 min, so I changed the settings in the garmin to alert on time instead of calories.

Ok back under control I settled and started overtaking people (easy task when you swim like I do).

I was feeling really comfortable on the bike, things were going well, then about 3rd gel in the lid popped off my flask and went all over me. My hand, my face, my body, my bike. It was everywhere! I put the lid back on, licked the flask, licked my hand and my arm, and decided that’d have to do. I looked down at my knicks, there was blood, dried salt, and now gel all over me, I rinsed myself and my bike as best I could with my water but wasn’t going to stop.

At about 70km I saw my brother supporting, he yelled for me to ‘Ride Smart’ on way back out (the wind had picked up now) and also told me my swim time which I was very happy with. I was feeling great and knew exactly what he meant. Still spinning in small ring up every hill overtaking people struggling to turn their pedals. I put my head down and just rode, overtaking people one at a time.

By 100km I needed to pee. I have never done it while riding, but if it came to it today I was going to. I moved my nutrition bars just in case, but held on and with 10km left. I knew I could just wait until transition. I pulled my feet out of my shoes and came into T2 in my socks only (after T1 effort!). Straight to the toilet for what seemed to be the longest pee ever!

T2 was great, I still didn’t rush, had the best guy helping me this time was fantastic! I took my gel, drank some salt, and I was off.Tim

I had my running legs. This never happens off the bike. I had finally controlled it enough. I still had no heart-rate or calories, so I went back to basics. I had 10 gels to take, it was a 40 km run, take a gel every 4 km. I was flying. 6km in I saw Charlie running, and worked out he was 2 km in front of me. I settled into my 4.30pace that I was planning to run,  and felt great. I caught Charlie about 14 km in and kept running. Things started to slide at the halfway point, I pushed through to my special needs hoping they would fix everything. Once again the volunteer here was great, I grabbed my gel flask, skulled one small bottle of salt and was going to carry the other, but about 10 m away I changed my mind, called out to my volunteer and threw my 2nd bottle back, yelling ‘ill grab it next lap’.

About 3 kms later I was gone. All I wanted to do was vomit. I’d walk a bit, run a bit, walk again. I still had the legs, although heavy but I just wanted to hurl. I kept moving forward. I just wanted to get to the point where my brother was, I knew he would know what to do. I rounded the corner, and he wasn’t there. Shit!

I felt like stopping. I had had enough and I still had 13km to go. I kept moving forward, whether it be walking or running, continued to force gels down, ate vegemite, tried jelly beans was willing to try anything. Ok get to special needs again. I eventually got there, and just around the corner was where Marina was supporting. I can’t remember what I said to her, or even if I stopped and walked past her, but she must have know I was gone. I kept going, and she had run down the hill to see me again. This time I remember what she said, ‘think positive’!

Tim French2

It was what got me through I swear. (Thanks Marina!)  Running up the shoot I don’t remember much, I still wanted to spew, but I had done it. I was an Ironman! 🙂

Huge thank you to everyone from Tri Alliance for your support. What a journey and what an experience. Will I go again? Of course! Bring on Ironman Melbourne 2014!

Timothy French #194, 30-34M
Swim 1:10.51, Bike 5:30.44, Run 3:41.13,
Total 10:33.33 Div Place: 35

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