Stephane’s Ironman Western Australia Race Report
We had 17 GPC Squad athletes racing in Busselton for Ironman Western Australia. This was our biggest number ever racing an Ironman. We were expecting hot conditions with 34 degrees Celsius but we were expecting a triathlon. Unfortunately, the swim got cancelled because of a shark swimming around the pier. I would have liked to see what a 2m shovelnose shark would do when 1800 triathletes jumped into the ocean. I understand, it is all about insurance, liability & reputation. We got locked into transition for a while. I knew something was wrong when the 70.3 athletes were not coming into transition. We were told that the swim was cancelled & that we will get sent in pairs out onto the bike. The start will now be 8am & the entire vibe of the race changed. The happiness & excitement disappeared from transition & I felt really sorry especially for the first timers. I was there to break nine hours, now my focus became to qualify for Kona. The deal with my wife was that I could go to Kona if I ever qualified two other GPC athletes on the same day. I had only ever qualified one other coached athletes the three times I qualified, so I was hoping that Kate, Jess, Ricky, Ben & myself would qualify. It would now be hard for Reggie & Graham to qualify without their strength, swimming.
I started in about 50th with Alex Price. Alex is my level in all 3 sports. Super nice guy & great physio who is ready to take a risk & go for it. He has been trying to break 9h for the last 8 Years & I am sure he will succeed one day. After 15kms we had caught up to every age group athlete except Dane Roberts. I had the chance to ride with Ben & Ricky as well as Olaf Kasten & Campbell Hanson.
We were taking some good legal turns & everyone was doing their share of the work. After 30kms, the temperature was already over 30 degrees & people were cramping & getting dehydrated. It probably did not help that some people stayed in the sun on the beach for over an hour waiting to start. After 60kms, Alex & Cam took off on us but we kept the pace steady as I knew we were going the break 2 hours 15mins for the first 90kms.
Jake Riley passed us at 80kms & I knew he would get off the bike as first AG. The machine stays at 290 watts for the full 180kms & he took off quickly. Nathan Groch caught us too & stayed with us.
After 90kms, we clocked 2 hours 13mins. Bit fast? Not really as I never felt once in the red & felt like I could talk at any time. I stopped using heart rate & watts on the bike and decided to go back to perceived effort & listening to my body. After 100kms, Olaf & Ricky dropped off as we caught Dane.
At 120kms we caught Alex, which left only Cam & Jake were in front. Ben decided to accelerate & Nathan dropped off. I stayed with Ben til 130kms & took the “smart” decision to drop off & ride the last 50kms on my own. 4 hours 35mins, a PB for me over 180kms. Jake broke 4 hours 30 minutes & Ben was 2min in front of me.
A bush fire nearby shortened the bike course for the competitors in the later stages of the race & one competitor even got hit by a kangaroo.
I started the run at 4:40min/km pace but I was struggling with quad cramps straight away. I went through the first 10kms in 47:30 & I was happy with that considering it was now 36 degrees! I passed Cam Hanson & Jake Riley too which put me in M40-44 lead. I focussed on three things, relax the body & my breathing, cooling down with water & ice & drinking Coke. I felt good even with the cramps until 15kms & I was 3rd overall AG. Ben was leading but Levi Hauwert was running like a possessed man! He made the clever move to stick to his own pace & wattage on the bike & it paid off!
Between 15 & 21kms my pace slowed to 5min/km to 5:15min/km & that is when Cam passed me to take over the M40-44 lead. I had some great help along the way with people giving splits on Cam & cheering. Goody & Chloe, Ben & Jean, Tim, Ivan & others. Thanks heaps, it helped me deal with the pain & the cramps.
The last half marathon was hell, pure mental battle, just focussing on putting one foot in front of the other & trying to stay under 5:20min/km pace. I even stopped a few times at aid station which I had never done before. At 30kms mark, it looked like Cam was struggling more than me. He was walking & I accelerated for two kms to pass & drop him, hoping I would kill him mentally but I killed myself instead. 7kms to do, the cramps were horrible & I was running like I was stepping on needles. I was struggling to hold 5:45min/km pace now & Cam passed me again. I kept fighting & Chris Goody yelled out I was still in front of him on the live timing with 5kms to go. (Cam started in front of me)
I gave it all & even dropped the pace to 5:20min/km the last 3kms but Cam managed his marathon better & was the best on the day. Well done Cam.
It was a typical Aussie day & it was a hard run! 300 people pulled out. Ben O’Neill had the race of his life, won his age group & finished 2nd age grouper overall. Kate Bramley & myself both got second in F30-34 & M40-44. That also gave us our Kona ticket.
Ironman World Champs in Kona will be the 40th edition & it is the most prestigious triathlon ever to race as Triathlon was born there in Honolulu in 1978.
Ben will go for the second time but Kate & I for the first time.
8h14 Inc two transitions + 52min swim would have given me 9h06 like last year in much harder conditions so I am happy with my race.
I should have increased my sodium intake in the bike when I knew the weather would be hotter & I should have carried some pickle juice to stop the cramps on the run. Even if I believe I could have run under 3h20 in cooler conditions, I still need to work on my run & lean up more. Not easy to run a marathon at 88kgs
Sub 9 Hours Achievable
Hell yeah & I won’t give up til I do it.
I will try in Busso next year after racing Kona.
Thanks to all who have helped in my prep, all the GPC Squad sponsors, my squad, Jean Moureau & my wife and kids of course.