Photo credit: Cairns Post
In 2012 I received a boomerang with a note when I won the 70.3 in Cairns. The note says "this boomerang represents the yearly event of the race that you have won in Cairns and the hope of your return again". I have not missed the race since. For me, the location is stunning, the event is amazing and the vibe from the community is warm and welcoming and that is why I chose this event as my first Ironman. This year I stayed the entire week, joined by my mum and later Mike.
A little warm up
Mum and I travelled to Port Douglas the Sunday before the IM to do the Coral Coast 5150 as hit out. It was a chance for me to take mum to see the Daintree, Mossman Gorge and Kuranda. Mum had never been to Cairns so it was a lot of fun. I wasn't sure how to take it when the wind blew up and the swim was canned on the morning of the race (very unlike typical weather for June). The event was changed to a duathlon 2.5/40/10. I was nervous of what damage I could do to my run a week out from an IM. I played a conservative game for the most part of the race. Katey must have been frustrated by me constantly pushing her into the wind on the 10k run but I had to look after my legs for the following week. Katey had a cracker run and dropped in the final 3k. I was astounded I had run a 37 when we had finished, the pace really was on.
Photo credit: Korupt Vision
The main event
I was pretty nervous in the day or so before the race. I stayed at Palm Cove and tried to lay low. Key things I focused on in the lead up to the event included:
Taper: Despite reduced volume, I maintained intensity
Relaxation: I made sure I had no commitments for the week and that I had the chance to kick back in Cairns. Not always easy when working a full time job. I had a couple of calls but nothing major.
Gear was sorted: I made sure all my gear was sorted well in advance of leaving for Cairns
Focused on my plan: I wrote down my nutrition strategy (which I had practiced multiple times before the day). Whenever I was stressed or nervous I read the plan.
Gave myself time: I was pretty methodlogical with my gear. Slowly checking through to make sure everything was ready and ensuring that there were contingencies for different scenarios. There was basically nothing to worry about on race morning.
Before we knew it we were off and the race was on. I didn't know what to expect in terms of intensity but it seemed fairly similar to the Noosa Winter Festival 3.8k swim. I hung back for the first half of the swim. When I exited at the 1.9k I ran up the beach to avoid fighting the ocean on the way back out because of the right to left sweep driven by the southerly wind. This tactic helped for the return buoys. I ended up exiting the swim in 4th which was above expectations for me.
Michelle pushed passed early on the bike. I just settled in for a long day. I passed Kym at Rex's lookout. When I arrived a Port Douglas I noticed that Liz was far closer than the time check I had heard after the swim (I later learned this was due to a penalty from the swim). Kym worked really hard into the head wind and moved back passed me. I then noticed Gina was only a little while up the road. Being a rookie I put the gas on and caught up just before Port Douglas. I was trying to hang back. I thought "Gina knows these races, she has lots of experience so Ill watch what she does for a while and try and learn how to pace these things". Turns out what I thought was 12m was more like 7m and I was penalised out-bound from Port Douglas. This hurt a fair bit because I know better and knew it would probably cost me a podium. After serving my penalty it was a long road home. To be frank the strong headwinds and rain heading into Cairns from Smithfield had me worried about my run.
Photo credit: Cairns Post
Following a pretty slow and dejected transition I headed out onto the run cautiously, but sticking to the plan. I saw Kevin Fergusson in the first couple of kilometres on the run. It was a great moment for me to be able to do my first Ironman with Kevin there. Being from SA originally I have always looked up to Kevin and it was so kind of him to call out encouragement out on the course to help get me through it.
I didn't know what to expect but I knew I would get to 30k if I ate what I had practiced. I made good ground for the first lap picking up two places and cutting into Michelle's gap. At the start of the run I didn't think I would be able to catch back up to anyone so I was happy to move up a little. I was encouraged by the Red Dog crew each lap (I had no idea what anyone was saying it was so loud, other than Pete who seemed to manage to find some clear space, and Tex who popped up everywhere). I was within 2m of Michelle for the next 27ks, then nothing changed really. It was so frustrating for me. My legs gave out a little in the last 10k as would be expected. I honestly didn't believe the day would go so quick. I only really noticed it was a long day when it was about 4pm and we were still out there. I am really happy with the day but am super keen to have another go.
I am glad I went to the awards night. It was great to see Wardy get another AG win and It was nice to see the other girls.
Photo credit: First off the bike
My key learnings from this race were that I need to up my bike k's and strength to enable my run. I was not phased by the run but I need to be able to maximise my run potential. I need to make sure I know what 12m looks like. I need to have another crack!
Thanks to all the people out there that have helped with the training over the passed few months just to get me to the start line, Pete, Texas, Pidge, Dale, Dimsey, Neil, Storch, Harts, Mike. All the well wishers and all Red Dogs period. My sponsors have been amazing. I honestly have a pretty slick setup with fantastic equipment, apparel and nutrition. Power to the Scott Plasma 5 Premium. It's amazing bike, with amazing Profile Design wheels. Nick from Endura was even there when I finally got my bearings back in the medical tent.
Check out this race highlights package from first off the bike.