Monday, May 2, 2011

Port Macquarie 70.3 Race Report

What a day. What an AWESOME day. What a STUPENDOUS day. Every emotion was felt a thousand times over with each of my senses in overdrive. It was without a shadow of a doubt the most amazing day ever since embarking on this journey and made all of the pain during training so worth it.

When I woke up Sunday morning after a restless nights sleep I set about working through my pre-race preparation list. I even had my breakfast on this list. But I work well when I have a plan to stick to and this morning was going to be no different. Susan and her hubby Ule had come over and was up at the crack of dawn with me and making me a cup of coffee and filming my every step. It wasn't long after that Elissa was up, then Mum then the rest of the clan.

Pretty soon it was time to leave and Elissa, Mum and I set out so I could go get my race marking on my leg.
I was not nervous at this point, rather just going with the flow and making sure I tried to remember everything. From there it was time to head over to transition to wait for it to open so I could set up my race kit.
This is when the nerves started to become apparent. You know that dreaded dry mouth syndrome. Thats what I had. But I still worked through the process of what I needed. It was good to have Zoe come over and have her help me see if I set out everything correctly. Whilst there I saw Kristen, Kim, Cloe, Mel, Ruth, Paul, Barto, Matt, Trent and Andrea. I even got to meet Tiffany Loftus-Hills who is the editor of Australian Triathlete Magazine. She is a really nice woman and gave me massive amounts of encouragement along the course.

Before too long it was time to give my whole family and friends a big kiss through the fence and it was time to head off to the swim start.
Standing around with close to 500 competitors was nerve wracking. I could feel my emotions start to engulf me and I said bye to my friends and stood on my own to the right till I was hugged from behind by Zoe. She patted me on the back and told me that all would be good. As we made our way into the water I took a deep breath and thought THIS IS IT.

Making my way out to our start I felt good. I saw both Ruth and Paul out there and we were all very excited. We wished eachother goodluck and then the sound of a Muscut went off. I tried to stay ahead of the rush but I could feel everyone start to move forward and before I knew it they were all around me and on top of me - literally. They were tapping toes, grabbing legs and jostling for my position. It really took every ounce of restraint to hold my ground and pacing.
As we hit the turnaround point, the mass of swimmers started to thin out like I thought they would and I was able to find some clear water. I took full advantage of it and started to lengthen out my stroke and I started chipping away at swimmers. Coming back in and finding the exit was easy. All I had to do was look for the red carpet and the mass of people. And no sooner did I start to see and feel sand at my fingertips I got up and started running.
I could hear my name being called and when I finally looked up there was a multitude of faces and not once at this point could I spot my family. Official swim details for 1.9km swim:

Time: 31:09
Overall rank out of water: 81
Division position rank: 17
Average per 100m: 1:38
T1: 2:10

At transition I tried my hardest to stay focused and make sure I had those 2 gels before getting on my bike. I applied sunscreen, put my shoes, helmet, race bib, sunnies on and Ventolin puffer in my Bento box and made my way to the exit. Making my way out of the main town centre was a real buzz. Absolutely everyone was shouting out my name - there were cowbells going crazy, those big horns "Vuvuzelas" and people clapping hands. It was so overwhelming.
Then the hard work began. Trying to climb hills on legs that are deficient in blood flow is very hard. The first 10km out of town are nothing but rolling hills and I really struggled. I got up them but the toll on my legs was something I could not ignore. So needless to say when I hit the downhills I just tried to let them recover. Making my way out Ocean Drive was the hardest thing I had ever done. There was a headwind the whole way and it hurt really bad. Not just physically but the mental side of it was tougher still. It made me question everything about myself - and I was so lucky when Zoe came flying past me she snapped my brain back into the place it needed to be at.

Getting passed all the time doesn't worry me anymore. I know thats what happens and so I don't get caught up with trying to keep up with people. I just accept that as a known fact FOR NOW. Maybe one day in the future this will begin to happen less and less. Now the things I could complain about was the wind, sore tight shoulders from holding onto the aero bars, and a headache. These things bothered me immensely. My helmet was bothering my forehead so I spent a bit of the ride trying to find a comfortable spot for it to sit in.

My nutrition on the bike went really well. I had all my gels in my PTC bottle and stuck to the times religiously. I also hydrated well between water, Gatorade and a few sips of coke plus a few Half Bananas. I did get a few stomach cramps but it soon settled so no biggie. And being the ever "Mother" that I am, I checked on those who were on the side of the road as I rode past to make sure they were ok and not needing any assistance. I even signalled to people behind me when there were things in the middle of the road. One of the guys rode past and said "Thanks so much for that". Made me feel good.

Coming back in was awesome. That headwind became a tailwind and it became my friend. My average speed went from 24km/hr to 34km/hr and I loved it. I still wasn't passing people but it was taking longer for people to pass me. As I made my way back into the outskirts of Port I kept telling myself "Make sure you are in the right gear before you hit Matthew Flinders". And I thought I was until it was too late. As I started to climb it I was thinking to myself "Gees, I don't remember it being this hard. This is killing me, oh my God I am going to die and fall off". As I quickly looked down at my gears I realised yes I was in the small chain ring but I was in the 4th hardest gear. Stupid me forgot to change it and now I just had to bite the bullet. Changing it up that hill was only going to make me drop my chain.

Lucky for the crowd being there - they really helped me up. When I finally made it they all cheered and gave me congrats without realising the battle I really fought to make it up. As I turned the corner - Leigh popped up beside me and said "Good on ya Barb, knew you could do it".

As I made my way into town for the final 10km the crowds started to thicken again. The sounds got louder and the atmosphere thickened with excitement and anticipation. I was coming home. I had made it. The bike leg was done and I had conquered 2/3rd's of my dream. I could see my family screaming and cheering me on and I was feeling so blessed to have each and everyone of them there for me. So as I crossed the line into T2 these were my stats:

Time: 3:07:32
Overall rank off bike: 207
Division position rank: 60
Average speed: 28.7km/hr
T2: 2:29

I was so happy to be putting on my runners. I have really learnt to embrace running and find it quite a pleasurable experience. Even more so doing it in an event such as this. Everywhere I ran there were people cheering me on. And it wasn't just my family, friends and fellow competitors, it was strangers as well. Each and every single one of them helped in making me reach that goal. And should any of you come across my blog and read this "I thankyou all from the bottom of my heart". As I made my way down the main road I spotted my coaches telling me I was doing great, I then spotted Nicole who I had met through DM. Here's our photo from our first get together. I will be catching up with her this Thursday morning.
I also heard this voice yelling and as I looked to my right it was David. Thankyou so much for all of my support David. You really brought a smile to my face and made me feel invincible. Thankyou for making the trip up and helping me make my dream become a reality.

As I made my way out for my first loop I came across so many of my team mates. To name them all would take forever but you all know who you are. You made my journey such a wonderful experience, one I will never forget to the day I die. Even when you were all in your own world of pain you all took the time to tell me how great I was going. I was even told by Tim that I had a great running style, that it was efficient. THANKYOU.

As I received my first scrunchie I danced a little jig inside. I was at the halfway point and could not have been happier. I then came across Paul. Ever since I have met Paul and his family, they have embraced me like one of their family. They are just the nicest people. Jennie and the girls were constantly cheering me throughout the day. As I went past Paul, I asked him how he was and how his knee was holding up. He said he felt great and with that - knowing he was okay I continued on my journey.
My nutrition didn't go as planned on the run. I felt spewy and couldn't think of anything worse than eating those Gel Bursts. Alison and Alan saw me at this point and asked me how I was going. I told her I felt YUK and she said "If your going to spew do it and keep going". Lucky I didn't. I was so glad i saw them out on my run. I did made sure I hydrated as well as I could along the course. At every aid station I walked and took into 2 sips of water, 2 sips of Gatorade for the first 10km. From that point on I had 2 sips of water, 2 sips of Gatorade and 2 sips of Coke plus a stick of Vegemite at aid station 1 & 3. This seemed to serve me well and I not once cramped or felt like I couldn't go on.

At the turnaround at Settlement Point I thought to myself "This is it - I am heading home". Nothing in this world compared to that feeling. Even though my hips hurt so very bad I was heading home. I was heading back to the loving arms of my family. I was heading home to the cheers of the crowd. I was heading home to my DREAM. I was going to be a Half Ironman finisher. It was at this time I saw Jen and Rosyln for the fourth time and they both yelled out how proud they were of me. I started to cry.

That right hand turn into the final stretch was overwhelming. I started to cry some more and could feel all of the emotion of the day and the last 12mths engulf my body. The view of that black mat with with hundreds of faces on either side was like nothing else I had experienced. I could feel underfoot the cushioning effect of the mat and then to my right I spotted my family. They were all crying and screaming and as I high fived them I could see that they too had been with me at every step. That they too had lived the anticipation and anxiety, the stress and jubilation. I think that the day was probably harder for them than it was for me. I was living it but they would catch glimpses of me and then hope I was well on my journey. That's hard.
Then as I looked to my left I spotted Sarah and her husband and children. I high fived them as well as they too screamed my name. As I reached that arch I remember hearing the commentator saying something along the lines of "now she looks very happy to be coming home" and then he mentioned my name. At that point I burst into tears. I cried harder than I ever have, it became overwhelming and as I got handed my medal and towel it still didn't feel real. I kept looking around to make sure that I had crossed and then I heard my name. It was Clair. We held hands through the fence and we shared a moment - she had tears in her eyes and said how proud she was of me. Her "suck it up Barb" sign on the run and all her cheering will be forever in my mind.

Then I spotted Susan and Ule. Another special moment was had - we just stared at eachother and cried. Susan had been with me since the very beginning with my illness and had seen me reach the lowest of lows and highest of highs. This day was hers as well. Love you Susan.

I then spotted Cloe as she finished - she had battled through this with an illness - you are inspirational. I also spotted Krsiten, Matt and Mel and then my family. We hugged and cried and cried and cried. Stephen, Kurtis, Taillah, Kyle, Mum, Barry, Uncle George, Aunty June, Julie, Elissa all hugged me and cried with me. That moment is so very very special. I can still feel their hugs and feelings of pride.

I then felt a tap on my shoulder. This gentleman came up to me and said "not sure if you remember me but you rode with us at Kiama, I just wanted to wish you congratulations". I was gobsmacked. I felt so loved at that moment. I couldn't remember his name but he said his son was doing it as well. If you are reading this THANKYOU from the bottom of my heart for finding me and wishing me congratulations - that meant so much.

By this stage my legs and hips were starting to seize up. I headed for the massage tent and was given the best ever massage by the wonderful volunteers. You guys are worth your weight in gold. I missed Paul coming through the finish line but Mum got a tonne of photos so I was atleast able to see his smile as he made it through.

My run time really shocked me. I thought I was going really slow so I was super impressed with it:
Time: 2:09:38
Overall rank on run: 213
Division position rank: 57
Average pace per km: 6:08

And here is the best part.
Finish time: 5:52:58
Division position rank amongst women: 12 out of 30.

I am a Half Ironman finisher. I have the medal, the towel and T-shirt. But most of all I have the memories and that inner self pride of having set my sights on a goal and having attained it. I have overcome every obstacle and tried my hardest when at times it would have been so much easier to give up. I WON. I conquered all my fears and self doubt and did it and LOVED IT. I can't seem to find the words to give it justice. Just know that this experience will always be remembered.


Your hard work will be rewarded.

"The path to a dream is paved with sacrifices and lined with determination. And though it has many stumbling blocks along the way, and may go in more than one direction, it is travelled by belief and courage and conquered with a willingness to face challenges and take chances" Barbara Cage