Graeme Parsons race report
Geelong Ironman 70.3
23 Feb 2020
The day really began after I parked my car in the dark at 5.30 in the morning.
‘Why am I such an idiot? Why do I keep doing these things to myself?’
My usual pre-race meltdown had struck (maybe you have your own version).
I listened to Helen telling me sensible things as we walked to transition. Inside, I met a couple of millennials who’d entered at the last minute and ended up at the mature end of the field. Sharing a laugh with them helped me relax and after warming up I went into my wave start feeling pretty good. The morning was calm although a little on the cool side at 13 degrees. With water temperature around 20 and the sun coming up with a forecast of 30 you could almost kid yourself it was the Darwin dry season.
Within each age group (mine was men 55+) you had to self seed based on your estimated swim time. I chose to go with the sub 33 min group and soon found myself plunging in with the other wrinklies.
The Geelong 70.3 swim goes straight out into Corio Bay before a right turn and diagonal back to shore with a sharpish left near the end. I felt strong in the calm conditions, swimming just on the naughty side of the big red markers (less swimmers there) and ducking inside at the turns. I didn’t know it then but my swim time was just under 32 minutes. Spot on.
My wetsuit’s name is Flatman. He and I usually make a good team but this time we were getting on so well he wouldn’t get off—if you know what I mean. His zip was stuck and no matter what I did I couldn’t get my shoulder free. At last I dragged him off, gave him a final stomp and grabbed my bike, Venus. Poor Flatman.
I usually put my cleats on at the bike rack but not this time. I’d like to say I jumped on my bike barefoot and accelerated to 40 before effortlessly pulling on my cleats. In reality, I carried my cleats because I didn’t want them full of grass from the 100m run through transition. I ran across the mount line, leant my bike against a wall, sat down and pulled on my bike shoes. Then I mounted Venus and she carried me away like she always does.
I like to race ‘blind’ which means no Garmin or watch, just relying on observation and instinct. I’ve lived inside this body for 70 years and I mostly trust what it tells me. When I’m racing I don’t want to know about times and cadence and stuff—with just one exception. I look at my speedo when I’m going downhill. It’s great for the confidence.
Coming off the bike, I boosted my ego with a barefoot dismount and soon I was starting the run. I heard the announcer say the leader in my age group was … John Someone. Bugger! Then he added my name. Great.
My main worry was a dodgy calf that had mucked up the final weeks of my prep, so I was wearing a calf compression sleeve. In my case, they should be called head sleeves—positive thoughts and all that. Plus my reverse sponsors? Nurofen had donated two little white tablets.
My coach had lectured me about walking the aid stations and taking it easy on the hills and for once I followed instructions. What do you know, it worked! It helped me refocus and stay tuned to my hydration and nutrition plan. I carried a salt lick too, not tasty but great for warding off cramps. I actually enjoyed most of the run, especially the final kilometre with the shade and spectators, and was delighted to cross the line in one piece.
But that was nothing to what I felt when Helen told me I’d won my age group. Luckily I had a finisher towel by then (hate to see a grown man cry). Overall in a field of seven aged 70-74, I’d come first in the swim, second in the ride and first in the run.
A lot of people helped me get there. Helen Clarke is the best partner a triathlete (or a man) could wish for. Coach Stephane Vander Bruggen gave me the right combination of listening and advice. My physio Laura Anderson and my chiropractor Hamilton Mack patiently dry-needled and massaged my recalcitrant calf and told me how to stretch, strengthen and pace myself.
I ended up having a great day out, winning my first Australian age group title and qualifying for the Inronman 70.3 Age Group World Championship. To cap it off I was able to catch up with Darwin Tri Club friends Jason Hamilton and Kyle and Lauren Gear.
I received heaps of love and encouragement from many friends before and after, so thanks to you all. I knew some of you were following me and I thought of you out there, including my previous coach and friend Daryl Stanley. I hope I gave you all a minor thrill on a Sunday morning. I certainly gave one to myself.
? Reverse sponsors = I pay them.
Most triathletes are familiar with the concept