Sunday 23 March 2014
The third running of Ironman Melbourne – the Asia-Pacific Championships was held on Sunday 23 March 2014. Some of the best Ironman athletes from around the world head to our home town to fight it our for the title.
For Tri Alliance, we had 50 athletes on our starters list – similar numbers over the past few years, with all athletes on the start line finishing their races. We had a good mix of those doing their first Ironman, others returning to Melbourne for a second shot after the shortened swim last year, the die hard Ironman athletes who come back year after year, the small number of athletes looking at securing themselves a spot for the Ironman World Championships – the pinnacle of this sport and then there are those who knew leading into the race, that this would be their last as they prepare to hang up their Ironman shoes. No matter what each athletes goals were leading in, their journey to get here is inspiring in itself – and each of you should be extremely proud.
Race morning was perfect. It was reminisce of Ironman Melbourne 2012. Light winds, cloud cover, and a cool day to provide near perfect conditions for athletes. The water at Frankston was flat – a far cry from last year when the on shore winds caused havoc for organisers who had to make the tough decision to shorten the swim for athlete safety. But this year, there was no such concern. The only question on everyone’s mind – was how fast could these athletes go. Talk on the street was sub 8hours for the male pros.
The nervous energy at the swim start is incredible. Nervous small talk, athletes going through their own pre race routine, running through their race plans in their heads. Supporters at this time are often just as nervous as the athletes, hoping and praying that all things go to plan and their loved ones have the race they have trained and planned for.
At 7.20am the male pros set off, shortly after by the female pro’s. Again a short nervous wait for the age group athletes in the water as they prepared to start their day at 7.38am. If you have never experienced an Ironman Swim, it is nothing like you will see in any other race. Imagine being swum over, punched, elbowed and kicked for a good proportion of an hour. If you are lucky enough, you may find your own space and you can settle into a nice rhythm. For everyone else, fighting for your own bit of space in the water is a challenge, but at least it takes your mind off how far you have to swim – a tough 3.8km swim.
Our first athlete out of the water was none other than our Head Coach Ollie Allan in 55:36, followed closely behind by training partner Brett Archbold 58:02. It was thick and fast after that, with Simon Madden 1:01.27, Jody Biddle 1:01.29, Chris Mutimer 1:02.33, Trent Harlow 1:03, Brad Campbell 1:03.44, Nick Sissons 1:04.16, Adam Murone 1:04.33 and Peter Hinrichsen 1:04.34 having their swim of the day, impressive also was Narelle Crooks exceeding her own expectations after barely any swimming in the past 6 weeks due to a bike crash.
With everyone soon out on the bike, there is not much to do other than wait. The 2 90km lap course means a wait of over 2hours for supporters until they get to see athletes come back to the turn around. And it’s always a nervous wait, particularly when you think or presume a time your athlete will come in and then they don’t. ‘Did something go wrong’? are just some of the thoughts that can go through a supporters mind. But soon enough these are eased as athletes start streaming into the bike turn around.
As much as each athlete is focused on the job at hand, it was great to see so many of you enjoying the experience and soaking in the atmosphere. The bike turnaround is something to look forward to after essentially riding solo for 90km, and the buzz from supporters, and race callers Mike Riley and co is amazing.
Brett Archbold had a super ride, with our fastest of the day, with Ollie next even after coping a drafting penalty, as did Jody. Trent Harlow, Mark Gleeson, Andy Peters and Cam McConville all broke the 5hour barrier. Poor Michelle Bond didn’t have a great start to her day with a flat 30km in, but to her credit, she composed herself, changed the flat and continued on her way. All credit to you Michelle. Adam Murone, Nick Sissons, Chris Dixon, Jody Biddle, Daryl Clemson, Ed Smith and Tim French all had great rides also coming in under 5:15. And hats off to Matthew Fox – our only athlete on a road bike (not a Time Trial Bike) and still riding a 5:18. Very impressive!
The wind started to pick up during the morning, and those out there a bit longer found it tough on the second return trip back into Frankston, and they could wait to get rid of their bikes and tackle the run – a 42km marathon from Frankston all the way back to StKilda.
Brett lead the Tri Alliance charge on the run, and was right at the pointy end of the field, at times vying for a podium finish. Ollie had some work to do after his drafting penalty, and to his credit held strong to finish just 1min behind Brett. Runs of the day went to Cameron McConville to finish with our second fastest run time of 3:15.05, Ollie was next in 3:16, Tim French with a 3:19 and Brett holding in for a 3:20. Scott Memery had a cracking run to break 3:30, and Andy Peters and Adam Murone finished off their races strong. Others to break 4hour runs included Gleeso, Sean, Blake, Jody, Daryl and Geoff McDonald. Well done boys. Of the girls, impressive runs from Narelle Crooks in her Ironman debut with a 3:39 marathon, and Michelle Bond, making up ground after her flat on the bike to stomp home in 3:46.
While cheering most of our athletes on through the #GiantIMParty at the Great provider, it is always inspiring to to everyone – so close to the finishing line, yet still so far. But after covering the distance they had to this point, there was no question that the finishing line was the goal of the day. Special mentions to Dave Burton – sit down with this man one day to learn of his story and you will be super inspired. Glenn Barber – coming all the way from training in India, the likes of Darly Clemson, Brad Campbell, Chris Dixon, Sean Helmot, Blake Henry, Adam Murone, Brad Riddington, Kerri Whitney all completing their first Ironman. Along with Scott Memery who made a great come back after a crash left him with a broken collar bone less than 3 months before the race. And what about Jamie Marks – a stress fracture in his foot in his final prep and the plan was to swim, bike and pull out on the run. But no one was more surprised than we were when we saw his running through to the finishing shoot. What an amazing effort! Our own dietitian Margaret Mielczarek, Evalin Ling, Michelle Grocock, Karyn Winterton all returned from last year and posted big PB’s. And to our final athlete across the line David Rylance. A top effort on your first Ironman Dave – remember no one said it was going to be easy, and it certainly wasn’t. But no one can now take that experience away from you and you can call yourself an Ironman!
But the overall race of the day goes to Trent Harlow. This guy did not put a foot wrong all day in his first Ironman. With a respectable 1:03 swim, 4:50.31 bike and a blistering 2:46.08 marathon run to finish 4th M40-44 in 8:48.25. In any other age group, this time would have easily landed him on the podium. And is no mean feat – with even the most experienced athletes searching for that elusive sub 9-hour barrier. We all witnessed it two years ago when Ollie had the race of his life in 8:54. Well Trent has now gone and smashed that! And when you are racing against guys such as David Meade and Damien Angus – one cannot be disappointed in missing out on podium honours. These guys are triathlon royalty in their own right! What an amazing achievement Trent. (And as always, those famous last words – never again…..) Well not unless you qualify for Kona that is!!
So onto our Kona qualifiers. Solid days for Brett Archbold and Ollie Allan landed then with 8th and 9th respectively in M30-34 and booked their return to Kona. This time they will get to share the experience together. Surprise of the day was Cameron McConville who placed 22nd and secured himself a roll down spot in his first Ironman, and of course Trent Harlow who blitzed the race and forcing himself to be ‘as mad as the rest of us’ and take on the big island. These boys join Marina Jurjevic who qualifed earlier in the year. So a great group of athletes heading over to Kona in October 2014 this year.
We can’t round out the report without sending a huge thank you to our scores of volunteers on the day – we had over 100 athletes, friends and family who lent a hand at one of our two aid stations at Mentone and Elwood, along with those out on course cheering and providing encouragement when its needed.
A special mention goes to Suzie Latta who organised everything from gathering the volunteers, putting together rosters, organising gear, attending IM Melbourne meetings, volunteer tees, last minute changes and everything else that goes in between. Thank you Suzie, the job couldn’t have been done without you! Along with Caleche Watson who was our official ‘volunteers caterer’ again this year – she has got this job done pat! Thanks Caleche – our volunteers very much appreciated it. The hard work you all put in on the day is fantastic and cannot be under estimated – so thanks again to you all!
“When I was thinking of doing an Ironman, I had 2 options – Busso for the family or Melbourne with the Tri Alliance family. I am glad I chose Melbourne because the volunteers at both aid stations carried me a bit further and faster. Thank you all. One fantastic job!” Paddy – first time Ironman.
” I want to sincerely thank you for your amazing work yesterday – it was very very much appreciated. I hope you found it as rewarding & inspiring as I did when I volunteered the previous 2 years. Your support for us Tri Alliance athletes provided a massive boost – I pushed myself more knowing the TA aid station was ahead.
Thanks again” Chris – Ironman!
Post race, our athletes enjoyed letting their hair down, starting with cheering on their fellow athletes and competitors at the #GiantIMParty at The Great Provider. A restless nights sxleep and it was off to the Kona Roll Down, then a boozy lunch, some were lucky enough to sneak in a quick lay down, before it was onto dinner and drinks at The Mavis Bar at The Urban Hotel StKilda, and rolling onto good old Robarta until the wee hours of the night. And just when you thought that would be enough celebrating, a group continued on the next day for another lunch with mandatory drinks! If the race wasn’t a shock to the system, the drinking after definitely was! 🙂
From here, our Ironman athletes will enjoy a nice long break to refresh the mind and body, reacquaint themselves with their families and friends, enjoy sleep ins, weekends to themselves – all the simple things that most of us take for granted. Then reassess their race goals and plans for next season. We do have four athletes that have chosen to hang up their Ironman shoes – including Brad Riddington and Paddy Fitzgerald who completed their first (and last) Ironman – although, they are the famous last words! And Mark Jenkins (3rd IM) and Martin Sammut (2nd IM) have decided that they have enjoyed their Ironman experience and will pass the baton onto the younger generation. 🙂 Well done to each of these boys on their achievements.
Entries to the general public go on sale next Tuesday 1 April. Click for more details. If you are thinking of entering and this will be your first Ironman, make sure you call the office to chat to one of our Coaches before you enter so they can help guide you to your first Ironman.
Until next year….. happy recovery! 🙂