Ironman Cairns – 9th June 2019
The decision to back up Port Macquarie Ironman with Cairns Ironman five weeks later became a reality when my university timetable came out in March revealing that I had no exams this semester. This was six weeks after I had completely ruptured two tendons and partially tore one tendon in my left ankle on a training run. I knew my goals for Port Macquarie were going to change due to this injury, so I saw this as a second chance opportunity to get my Ironman PB. After a quick call to coach and getting the go ahead, flights and race entry where booked!
Between Port Macquarie and Cairns, I had two weeks of intermittent training with nerve pain in my neck, and the following two weeks a was sick with an upper respiratory infection. The lead in was not ideal and after a 43 minute PB at Port Macquarie, I could not envision another Ironman PB.
Race Week: I flew into Cairns on Wednesday; it was extremely windy and rained until Sunday. Even getting pre-race rides and runs done was a challenge around the weather conditions without taking unnecessary risks. I did not go and look at the swim start up at Palm Cove until dropping my bike off on the Saturday as I heard conditions could be trying. WOW, it was going to be a hard swim, although my swim has improved recently; I grew up in Bowral so was never a water baby as such. The waves were not huge, but you could see the swell and the current was quite strong. At that point, I made one of my goals; to complete the swim. The weather forecast for race day was mainly fine, with strong southerly winds, and rain in the afternoon. By that time, I would be on the run.
Race morning: Typically, an early one, getting a lift to Palm Cove with fellow Project Ms Jay and Ben. After getting my nutrition on my bike, I was off to check the conditions of the swim (imagine chocolate milk in colour and chop you would not go SUP boarding on) and chill till race start with Emma. Once the pros went off, I stood in line waiting to get shuffled into the water; this seemed to take forever and later I found out I didn’t get into the water till almost 8am! The minute I hit the water, my HR went through the roof, I frantically struggled to get out to the first buoy and breast stroked A LOT! I had to do anything to keep moving forward, but also bring my HR down. It took to the second buoy to feel semi-normal and start to swim properly in the rough conditions. Everyone had warned me about the swim, and I knew it was going to be tough, I just wanted to complete it at this point. The rest of the swim I did find a rhythm and just chipped away. I also ended up with a fat lip after a chick grabbed me and tossed me when we kept swimming into each other. Who knew in a rough open-water swim you could bump into others? Was happy when I saw 1.17 exiting the water, I knew it would be a slow swim, but I was actually happy with that time in those conditions. Through T1 I was surprised by the lack of volunteer help compared to Port, so I found myself unpacking and repacking my bags myself. Maybe that’s how they all are except Port. I wasn’t to know.
I was excited about the ride. Others had spoken about picturesque views, smooth roads and of course this ripping southerly I had to look forward to. I was meant to be racing by HR the whole day, but after just a few kms on the bike I realised my HRM was on the brink for the day, so I would be racing by feel. The course is quite undulating and in typical Courtney style I found myself getting overtaken on hills but comfortably overtaking others on the flats. Compared to Port, I found the course had no support, but the roads were much faster to race on. On a two lap course we faced the ripping southerly two times with the worst being the last 30kms into town. After showers on the first lap of the bike, the second lap brought really warm weather, and my nutrition wasn’t cutting it. I needed to start getting electrolytes from the aid stations just to hydrate. The last 30kms into town with the wind, were horrendous, I tried to stay small and keep the cadence up. I kept telling myself I just needed to get back to town, its only 30kms. It wasn’t until I was back in town and only 2km from T2 that I realised I felt dizzy. I had never felt this before, and it was a bit worrying. At this point I didn’t even check what time I did on the bike as I was worried about how I felt.
Once in T2 I took my time getting my shoes on, and refuelling to ensure I wasn’t going to faint, or require medical attention. Because the family had not come up to Cairns with me, I knew I needed to be smart with nutrition, and look after myself.
I knew the run was going to be the mentally toughest part of the day; not having the family cheering me on and knowing no one up there it was going to be a lonely old slog. The race plan was to walk every second aid station, as we were building on Ports race plan of walking every aid station. I did this for the first 5-10kms but increasing felt worse with the dizziness! I decided if I was going to see the end of this race I would need to walk all aid stations, at least until I started to feel better. I was still going by feel as my HRM had not worked all day. It was raining the whole run and I just plodded away ticking off the laps in my head. I kept an eye out for Emma every lap to at least have some interaction throughout the long day. The run was lonely and dark with very little support. I made deals with myself about having a Red Bull on the last lap and looked forward to the DJ on the northern end of the course to take my mind off my shattered quads. I think it was the third lap, I was taken by surprise with a child swinging around with some nylon rope, and while I ran past him, I got whipped in the face by the rope! Not what anyone wants through an Ironman run! Some explicit words may have been said out loud!
I do not look at overall time on my watch through an Ironman so I had no idea if I was in line for a PB or not, and not looking at my time after the bike leg I just knew I was behind my PB due to my swim time. My run time was exactly what Port run time was when I looked at my watch in the last few kms. Usually I flick my watch screen over to overall time just before the finish line, so I know running down the finish chute if I have PB’d, but I didn’t even do that this time as I was so grateful to have made the finish line. I lapped up running down the finish chute and crossed the line with a jump (I’m sure my feet left the ground). I then stopped my watch and saw 12.19!!! I was stoked, I cried walking into recovery at the disbelief I just did another 20min PB after Port Macquarie just five weeks earlier.
I enjoyed the recovery tent for way too long while making phone calls and answering all my messages I had received through the day. It really is a fantastic feeling crossing that line, one that I look forward to doing again soon (but not in five weeks).