IMWA 2018 Race Report, Alexandra Meek

IMWA 2018 Race Report, Alexandra Meek


Pre race

Daniel and I weren’t feeling super prepared for the IM – enough to get through but maybe not to do amazingly but hey ho, it was our first IM (first/last?  ï¤” *shrugs*) so all about the experience. We had all our food/supplies baggies prepped in Perth in the days before heading to Busso. Daniel had the brilliant idea of rounding all the gel/bar corners to reduce puncture injuries while carrying them in our clothes. Not just a pretty face!

Daniel’s parents and his aunt and her partner had flown in from Melbourne on the Friday so we got to catch them for dinner which was great, if a bit later than ideal. Not too much to say about Saturday. Did a little warm up session, had a tour of transition with Paul Jones, consumed food/drinks. Unfortunately, we found the rack numbering for the transition bags made fairly limited sense when we dropped everything off.. They'd seemingly stuck the numbers onto the racks before placing them in their final locations and then hadn't quite placed them in the right order. Not the end of the world but a bit confusing… gotta keep the slackers doing the IM on their toes!

The most exciting part about Saturday was puzzling over the rolling start. As Daniel’s a bit faster than me, technically he should start earlier. We knew Daniel would beat me in the swim and probably the ride as well but we’d been wondering if I could catch him on the run. Coming up with our estimated race times, I was aiming for sub-11 and had 10h45 as my estimated time in my nutrition calcs. Daniel was aiming for 10h30 but we knew he was a bit more of a mystery.. a riddle wrapped in 95 kegs to cart around the marathon course – in the short events he runs pretty well off the bike and often gets his run PBs during triathlons but we also know his first few marathons were pretty serious tyre fires so while we could estimate my time as 10h30-11h00, our estimate for Daniel was more like 10h00-12h00; maybe he would whoop my arse or maybe I’d whoop his, it could really go either way. We both wanted the Sleek IM championship; Daniel held all the triathlon family titles while I had all the running and duathlon family records. There’d been plenty of trash talk in the months leading up ‑ all in good fun of course! We eventually decided that as we were gunning for similar enough times, we’d start together so that we’d know what was what if we did end up together in the run. Genius! Usually we have to yell paces and times at one another during the run leg of triathlons and do complicated maths to work out who’s winning (okay well it seems complicated due to our reduced mental capacities depending on how many hours we’ve spent sporting). If there was one thing the IM could do with, it was some simplification, so this would help. This meant we needed to compromise on starting position in the rolling start – Daniel could start a little behind where he should and I could start a little ahead of my place down the ranks. We figured most people wouldn’t get the seeding right anyway.

The morning

This was pretty calm compared to most triathlons. It was nice already having most transition stuff sorted. Nevertheless, of course we were still getting into our wetsuits when the gun went off for the event start. We’re pretty cool, calm and late! When you’re as practised at it as we are though, you can keep a pretty cool head. It’s about the only thing cool about us so we’ll take it.  ï˜œ Once we got to the swim start, as everyone was already rolling to the start, we could no longer tell which wave was which so just inserted ourselves in where we happened to arrive on the beach. Of course, we could have asked the people around us where they’d been before everyone started rolling but as neither of us likes speaking to anyone to whom we haven’t been introduced, we opted to not do anything about it. We didn’t realise until too late that there were two start chutes with one person from each starting at the same time. We were both in the same one; this wasn’t part of the plan! This meant we had to start a few seconds apart... I went over first, a move I would later regret.

The swim conditions were amazing. I think I’ve had more chop in the pool depending on who was going the other way!! Okay, maybe not quite but it was pretty good, no complaints about swim conditions. It was evident from pretty much immediately that we’d started too far back. I was on my own for most of it, generally swimming past people and so having to do a bit of weaving. I figured Daniel must have it even worse. I wasn’t feeling too bad but was nevertheless happy to be done. I’m glad I don’t hate swimming anymore but it’s still my least favourite leg of a triathlon (it’s over the quickest though so definitely has its benefits). I had a few people yell at me as I ran up the beach that I was only 4 minutes behind Daniel. *wiggles* I had predicted 1h05-1h15 as my most likely swim time based on my jetty swim of 1h07 in Feb. I hope I’ve improved over the year but I also needed to do a bit more afterwards this time so couldn’t smash myself completely. I went over the perilous stairs from the beach towards transition – why they’d thought those were a good idea I don’t know. Daniel said he heard someone go down behind him and I heard afterwards that someone broke a collarbone. Once I’d made it over the stairs of death, a few more people yelled out that I was only 4 min behind Daniel :D :D Everyone clearly knows who I like to race (second behind my number one competition Ghost-Alex).

When I got into T1 a volunteer came over to help. It turned out it was a friend of a friend who I’ve done a few swims with in the last couple of years so that was nice, she was helpful.

Out to my bike. I’d been pretty careful to count anything countable to help me find my bike quickly. Usually in transitions I look for my towel so I’d been a bit worried about spotting my bike but it all went seamlessly. At some point I saw Daniel going the other way and checked my distance so I could calculate how far behind I was (only about 3 minutes at that point!). I saw Alex and a few others I knew out there but mostly could only see my arms and the road underneath me.

I’d taken two bottles of Powerade on my bike with me as I know I can drink plenty of it but I was definitely glad to see the end of it, I think my tongue was burning from the sugar. The first bit of isowhey being so different and tangy was good but it wasn't long (a few mouthfuls?) before I was well and truly sick of that. If I ever find myself in a similar situation in future, I think I’d take a couple of different drinks or have another option in special needs or those shots that people mix in the bottle… there’s definitely room for improvement here anyway..

It was nice seeing the UWATC mob and other friendly folk near transition. I wasn't feeling bad on the first lap of the bike but I was a bit sad about having to go out for the second lap, 90km seemed like enough. I usually like to count down in more sensible units when I'm doing something long.. once I was 2/3 through the ride, at 120km, my train of thought went something along the lines of... 'great, 2/3 through... 60km to go... how far is that? shit that's still comfortably more than a river loop... that's... 5km to the Narrows, 5km to Canning Bridge, fuck fuck fuck, okay not time for counting down yet, think about something else. Fuck.'

My power was going downhill (not the good kind of downhill) and my shoulder and neck were killing. I’d kept myself amused calculating my distance behind Daniel at each turn but I probably paid for this a little as all the peeking up for him was putting extra strain through my neck. I’d been getting sore in training so I was expecting it and had put a few paracetamol and ibuprofen in my bento in case. At about 130km I had some paracetamol probably at least partly as something to think about (seeing as my count down had been aborted) and something to stick in my mouth that wasn’t sugar. I know it wasn't my legs that were hurting but I find the neck pain really distracting.

The paracetamol kicked in I think around the same time I chucked a uwey to have a tail wind – all of a sudden I felt amazing. This lasted about 20km until I turned into the headwind. I no longer felt amazing. It was pretty lonely on that stretch, I saw almost no one. I think I got up to counting down again from about 20 or 15km to go and ended up with the Les Mis song 'One day more' in my head and spent a lot of time deliriously singing that to myself as some form of entertainment... I think I was hoping for only 1km more. Two guys went past in this headwind stretch but they were going too fast to even really get a draft as they went by. I'm not sure if they sang any of the Les Mis harmonies on their way.. I felt like I was going backwards (though looking at the results afterwards, pretty much everyone was going backwards for that split relative to the rest). I was so relieved when I started getting into town.

I had planned on leaving my shoes on the bike but the dismount line appeared quickly in the end even though I’d spent some hours dreaming of it so I had to jump off in my shoes. I passed my bike off to a volunteer but my hips were killing me and I could only waddle through transition. I kicked my shoes off and continued my waddle. I know from training that my hips just need a few hundred metres before they’re ok so I wasn't too concerned. Before heading into the T2 tent, I had a quick planned toilet stop - as quick as it can be when you can't just whip it out! At this point I had some serious regret about already having removed my shoes - my poor socks! Daniel and I had discussed during our race planning that we'd probably have a better time in the marathon if we planned a brief interlude. No regrets!

It took me what felt like an age to find my T2 bag on the racks thanks to the intelligent numbering system (but it was probably only 10s). I put my super cool jerry rigged legionnaires hat / neck cover on. Even aside from skin cancer, getting sunburnt can seriously affect your performance and I need all the help I can get! In my general delirium at being eleventybillion hours into a sporting event, I did forget to completely do up my tri suit though (I’d needed access to my bars during the ride). But that was the only sunburn I got from the day, a hint of a triangle at the top of my trisuit.

Out on the run, I saw all the UWATCers again, Daniel’s family and Endurance Movement people as well as thousands of other people, the atmosphere was great. I asked a few people how far ahead Daniel was, was it about 15 min but we were far enough apart that people weren’t sure. That’s okay, I knew I’d spot him on the run 87 times and be able to work it out. I love a lapped run course from both a logistics and an atmospheric point of view. I saw Daniel and Alex Williams running together and was a bit jealous. Daniel called out his run pace – 5:15s. I yelled that I was running more like 5:30s and I'd never catch them. I just kept on trucking, never really pushed it. It’s always really hard finding a balance between pushing yourself hard enough but not blowing up. I was going slower than I’d wanted – a 3h30 would have gotten me 10h30 as I was at pretty close to 7 hours starting the run. I’d known holding 5 min/kms would be tough off the bike but I’d been doing it well enough in training – for 4 km though not for 42km.. As much as I'd have loved to run a 3h30, I could tell from pretty early on that it wasn’t happening and I wasn’t really keen on having a blow up. The wind had picked up a bit on the bike but there still wasn’t much to speak of and it was hot – nothing like the 37 degrees the poor suckers had to run in in 2017 but still, high 20s I think.

I was calculating my distance behind Daniel at each turn around – 3km, then 2km, then 1km. When I saw Daniel towards the start of my 4th lap, I called out that if I caught him maybe we could finish together. Daniel yelled out that I’d better keep moving then. :o I put my blinkers on and kept on trucking. Around the west turn, back through the crowds near transition, into the long stretch away from transition heading for the east turn. I was watching for Daniel coming the other way on the other side of the road. I wanted to check where he was so I could keep trying to catch him by the finish. And then, at about 36km, I heard ‘oi, come back’. I’d run straight past him. I was a bit disappointed that I’d caught him so soon, I thought it was going to take longer but it seems my telling Daniel we could finish together was enough of an excuse for him to start walking-or maybe he was just looking forward to my company so much.  ï˜€ We did a few run/walks but Daniel was pretty spent. I’d been on track for about 10h50 so pretty close to my predictions. With 4km to go, we could have still come in under 11 hours if we just ran 6 min/km for the rest. We ran for a few hundred but then Daniel said yeah nah. I jogged on, promising to wait before I got back to the crowds. I waited at the last drink station at about the 41km mark. I wandered around to all the volunteers trying all their wares - it was the most fun I’ve had at a drink station! Daniel eventually arrived and off we went-through the last lap band collection point, past the Slies, past the UWATC tent and on to the finish. I’ve never enjoyed the finish at any events in the past, I’ve always been too concerned with my time and getting over the line so a big part of the IM, aside from finishing, I’d said I was going to enjoy the finish line (unless I was chasing a time or a person, then I was going to chase). Given our times weren’t anything to write home about anyway, it was really nice to be able to go down the chute together and really enjoy the finish. I did have to go over the line first though to even out our times seeing as I’d gone over the start line first.  


So everything went pretty much as expected for me. I had been aiming to come in under 11 hours and I would have if I’d kept running. Of course you can always hope that everything will go way better than expected but the fact that nothing unexpected happened is still something I’m pretty pleased with. I was thinking as I ran that I wouldn't be pencilling another IM in too soon - I have a PhD to finish first! But certainly before I do another one, I'd want to be a lot more comfortable with the long rides. I’m glad my marathon time has improved over the years – the IM run was a whole hour slower than my marathon PB. It’s hard being out there for so long! I’d hope I can make some similar improvements if I try another IM but it’s nice not to be worrying about anything long for a while. Thanks to all the UWATCers and others who came and supported on the day, it means a lot in such a long race to get to look forward to seeing some friendly faces (instead of the other really sad faces out on the course  and thanks for the photos). 

And my poor teeth took days to recover after all the sugar during the race.