Here's another collage of images from my trip down under:
Breakky with Pablo and the twins * Fredo's, home of the famous crocodile pie * The beach at
Breakky with Pablo and the twins * Fredo's, home of the famous crocodile pie * The beach at
Yes, I finally saw a kangaroo. A real live one, in the wild, enjoying his breakky in a field. And now you can see him too – if you look very, very hard at this photo. See the blur, just slightly to the left of center? That’s my roo, hopping away while I try to focus the camera.
One of our adventures post-race involved visiting MJ’s sister Gabby on
Knowing that I was slightly kangaroo-obsessed, Tor regaled us all evening with roo stories. Granted, many of these stories involved hunting the animals, as they can be a plague-level nuisance to ranchers, but it was impossible not to laugh at every incident he described, with his colorful story-telling skill.
Apparently there are close to one hundred kangaroos out and about on the ranch every morning, so Tor made it his mission to help me find them. While MJ and Gabby rode Jack, Pablo and I loaded into Tor’s brand new ATV and explored every inch of the ranch – without seeing a single kangaroo. We did find one wallaby, but substituting a wallaby for a kangaroo is akin to swapping a bobcat for a mountain lion – it’s just not the same thing. Tor was in a state of total disbelief, and probably would have driven us around all day if we had been game. We did need to get moving, however, so we finally thanked him profusely for his effort, and assured him that we would probably see a kangaroo as we drove the long road back from the ranch. And sure enough, that’s when we saw this roo, captured so skillfully on film.
The next morning, I received a call from Gabby. She had stayed another night at the ranch, and sure enough, awoke to a huge kangaroo grazing right outside her door.
For those of you who’ve peeked at the race results, whether my finish time indicates this or not, I am alive and well. Sunday was an extremely tough day for a number of reasons – much tougher than I would have wished on myself. Yet as always, with Ironman racing, there’s more to learn from the pain than from the pleasure, and certainly some good stories to tell!
I’ve been thinking how best to report my race – because trust me, after spending just shy of 14 hours on course, I have a lot to say. Given that we’re in the midst of some post-race travel with limited internet connectivity, and given that a blog is not conducive to a rambling epic, I’ll break it into several shorter entries. I also have many more fun photos to share, but will save those for the end (and for a faster connection).
In contrast to the lead-up week, race morning hinted at sunshine and clear skies. Sure, it had torrentially dumped the night before and into the wee hours of the morning, but by the time we headed to transition the rain had stopped and the sun teased from behind the cloud. The transition area was a sopping, slogging slush-pit of mud, covering our feet and splashing our legs with every step. But it no longer mattered – the day was on and, as I heard one athlete remark, “It’s an Ironman, not a beauty pageant.”
My first stop in transition was for bodymarking, where a young volunteer marked my calf with the letter indicating the men’s 40-44 year-old age group. Knowing I likely wouldn’t be much competition for the guys, I had another volunteer wipe my calf clean and mark me as a woman.
Michellie (MJ) and our cheer squad of Ryan, Belinda, Damien and Whitey helped Pablo (HPP) and I pump our tires, drop off our special needs bags, suit up in our “wetties” and head down to the swim start. It had to be torture for MJ, who so badly wanted to race but had been forced to withdraw due to a bout of the flu, to be down in transition, fielding good luck wishes (from those who did not know she had withdrawn) and expressions of concern and caring (from those who were aware). She stoically switched gears from race contender to race-day Sherpa, making sure our every need was met.
I was thrilled to employ one of the best new tricks I’ve learned while here – covering each foot in a plastic bag before sliding it into my wettie. Trust me, try it and you’ll wonder how you ever pulled on your wetsuit previously without this valuable tidbit.
The swim was relatively smooth and uneventful – no wayward bashing of arms and legs, no chop in the water, not too strong of a current. It did feel extremely long, but no one said that 3.8k is short! I was a bit nauseated by the smell and taste of the muddy water and tried hard to ingest as little as possible, fearing it would haunt me later in the day. Heading toward the turn buoy on the second lap, the tide pulled a group of us off to one side, making it difficult to reach the turn, but all in all I felt it was a consistent, decent effort. I was actually surprised to see my time when I exited the water (1:25), as I felt I was swimming 5-10 minutes faster, but I shrugged that off in deference to my promise to myself to simply race my race and not worry much about the clock.
I made a slow slog through the mud of the transition area, my bike shoes filling with goop, and headed out to start the ride.
My bike and gear bags are turned in. My race kit is laid out on the bed. My bottles await filling, and there’s not much else to do now but relax, eat a bit more and sleep. And thanks to
I woke up this morning feeling good. All week my body has been giving me reasons to doubt my race readiness – but finally I feel that it’s all come around. I took a short final jog and felt as though I had to hold my legs back from breaking into a full-bore run. This is exactly how I would hope to feel the day before tacking a marathon onto the end of an epic swim and bike!
The weather forecast has improved significantly – downgraded from severe thunderstorms and an 80% chance of rain to merely showers and a 50% chance of rain. If it turns out anything like today, we’ll be lucky indeed. While there were some fierce showers overnight and earlier in the morning, the sky has cleared beautifully, allowing for magnificent views across the bay. This bike course is touted as one of the most scenic on the Ironman circuit, and if the sky remains clear I’m sure we’ll all be treated to the visual proof.
At the moment I’m icing my ankle one last time for good measure, awaiting a visit from friends Luke McKenzie and Amanda Balding (in town to commentate tomorrow’s action) and gearing up for dinner (kindly cooked for us by Belinda). Then I’ll climb into bed, a mix of nervous anticipation and calm readiness infusing my dreams.
I’ve been reminded today that it’s not the easy things in life that give us a chance to shine – it’s the way we tackle adversity, how we manage in the face of great and sometimes painful challenges, that allow our best selves to come forth. I only hope I can rise to meet the difficulties that tomorrow is sure to sling at me with the same grace and strength as the friend who has given me this reminder. It is, after all, that tenacity that makes us Ironman athletes!
One of my favorite things about international travel is having a chance to soak in the wonderful quirks of another culture. Of course, they are only quirks to me – here they are perfectly normal. For example, I noticed right off the bat how no one is in anywhere near as much of a hurry as in the States. It’s most obvious at the grocery store. At home, it’s a mad dash to see how fast you can unload your cart, help bag the items and pay for your goods in one flash effort. Here, the clerk gently scans one item at a time, chit-chatting away or humming a slow little tune. The people behind you do not breathe down your neck and huff in a passive aggressive fashion – they just wait patiently for their turn.
In that same regard, everyone is super helpful. Whether at the bike shop, the chemist or simply asking directions on the street, people are more than willing to lend a hand. I’m particularly fond of the chemists here (drugstores in the
Another fun feature of Australian culture is the affinity for nicknames. Everyone has one – generally a shortened version of their last name with either a “y” or an “o” added to the end. Thus I would become “Benno,” save for the fact that MJ dubbed me “Hollaroo,” which is even more to my liking.
Yesterday was a glorious day here in Port Mac, due to the long-awaited appearance of the sun. It still poured rain at various intervals, but the sky opened up enough to bring smiles and renewed optimism to everyone involved with the race. It’s muggy as all get out, but that only adds to the tropical feel which I completely enjoy.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for all competitors on race day will be to avoid slipping and falling flat on our bums while navigating the transition area. It’s a normally grassy field which is currently a mud-fest, with several areas full of standing water. We sampled the swim course yesterday and the water is solid brown, with zero visibility and a flavor that inspires you to keep your mouth closed. On the bright side, it’s also fairly protected with no impact from the wild ocean swell that is pounding the coast. Rumors were circulating that the swim might be canceled due to an excess of storm debris and bacteria, but fortunately we received an email last night confirming that the course will remain unchanged. Promptly after my practice swim yesterday I downed a Coke, which is said to help kill and flush any perilous matter from unsanitary water. It seems that with the massive volume of water flowing through the area, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about – but better safe than sorry.
After swimming I went on an adventure with Nicole to a tomato and strawberry farm called Ricardoes. We were drawn there by the promise of a lunch café offering farm-fresh produce menu items – and we were not disappointed. Actually, every bit of produce I’ve tasted here has been incredibly flavorful, and our lunch was no exception. We chatted, ate and laughed for a few hours, a significant and delicious distraction from my race week nerves.
MJ’s friends from Sydney – Ryan, Belinda, Damien and baby Olivia – arrived yesterday, with promises of being the best-ever race day cheering squad. We went out on the town for a Thai dinner and a small sampling of beer – just enough to ease us into a sweetly relaxed state. Then it was time for another early sleep in preparation for the final countdown to Sunday.
Yesterday, I received some serious pep-talking from a collection of friends – exactly what I needed, since I’ve been struck with nervousness unlike any other I’ve experienced prior to an Ironman race. MJ helped calm my fears about the potential race day weather conditions, reminding me that even if it is dumping down, we’ll have the full width of the road, minus traffic, at our disposal. She also promised me that, when the third round of hills of the bike and run hurt, I can rest assured she’ll be feeling the same pain. HPP encouraged me to relax as much as possible on the bike, even if it is pelting rain. The best way to lose control is to let the fear grip me, and the best way to prevent any trouble is to simply steer smart and keep pedaling through the wet and wind. Nicole encouraged me to embrace the inclement weather, to be a badass chick who digs adversity and appreciates the wind-burn for its simulated suntan effect.
Last night I lay in bed, wondering why on earth I had let the first few days here get me so freaked out. I certainly didn’t come all this way and work this hard to be reduced to wimp status by the weather. I came here to race an Ironman, and an Ironman is never meant to be easy. So does it really matter if the pissy skies add an extra element of challenge? Who’s afraid of a little thunderstorm?
And so I woke this morning feeling a million times better. The storm calmed a bit through the night, and I slept long and soundly. I accompanied Mike to the airport for his departure and to collect my own rental car, which I managed to convince the agent to release to me without a driver’s license. I had left my license in the apartment, but thankfully Aussies are a trusting bunch, as he handed over the key with my promise to phone in my details – something which would never transpire in