“You only get to do your first Ironman once. So take your time down that finishing chute! Soak it all in. Look around. Find your loved ones. Embrace them. And draw in all that energy! That is the feeling you have been chasing all day. That is what you have trained so hard for. So don’t rush it. Remember it, savour it and enjoy it !”
Advice I gave first time Ironman Athlete Janelle Wolski ahead of her first Ironman at Ironman Australia last weekend…. And she heeded that advice with full gusto ! Her finish line video and pics are incredible and a memory she will savour forever !
When the dust settled after her race, she shared her experience with me, and by sharing with others, may just inspire someone else to take on a challenge that scares you, to step outside your comfort zone, to be brave, and to trust in the process…..
Prior to the race: I was nervous off and on , all week prior. Why was I so nervous ? I asked myself…. I think I was scared I wouldn’t have the mental toughness if there was a situation in the race where I got overwhelmed at what was ahead of me and I might just give up …….which isn’t like me but these thoughts kept creeping in . There is also the ‘mum guilt’ that pops up … if I fail at this , what a selfish waste of time all the training has been and the expense, the race, accommodation etc etc.. I know this is irrational for many reasons. The training plan fitted in with our lifestyle ( legend coach!), sometimes I dropped the ball with things on the home front and at times I was distracted, but the kids knew what I was aiming for and well, that’s life sometimes. We can’t always have all our ducks in a row, and I know that that’s aok.
I suppose when nerves set in and thoughts of uncertainty about race day follow, the self sabotage sets in !!! What a ride it’s been and I hadn’t even started the race . I know tapering can make you cranky or feel off but I wasn’t expecting the nerves …………..I guess it also showed how much I really cared about achieving this goal …………
Race day ………3 hours sleep tops, but I had a fantastic sleep the night before and a nap during Saturday and others have probably functioned during an ironman on less sleep. I just kept thinking that no matter what , by this time tomorrow the day would have been played out and just relax girl …… I started to feel better on the walk to transition and Bryan (hubby) was a calming voice, ‘this is normal don’t worry, everyone is feeling the same‘. Thankfully it helped and I started to feel better …….. Transition done , I found some Maitland Tri Club girls that raced their first IM last year and before I knew it we were walking to the swim start ( thanks to Ange, the constant reminder that it is just a long training day) … as coach would say “hurry slowly.”
The swim was amazing , I forgot to hit go on my watch, oh well, I turned it on at the weir. I liked the stop start of going over the weir, a chance to reset and site from above. The next time going back over the weir I got to put my swim cap on that came off , this has never happened before but no dramas , I didn’t rush the swim and at no time felt tired , I felt I was pacing right and because I stuffed up my watch I had no idea of my time when I got out of the water, I was in disbelief later to find out I did 1.13 … goal was 1 hour 20 mins and I expected to go over that …… I was wrapped!
Transition 10 minutes … I’m glad I didn’t go over 10 minutes , I’m totally fine with my transition time and the decision to wear bike knicks as I was comfortable the whole ride , I have no plans to do another ironman in the near future , but if I do, I would like to get use to long rides in a tri suit so as to not have to fluff about with the clothing changes. :-p
Off on the bike and realised I left my electrolyte / hydration tablets in my bike bag. Thankfully (again thanks Coach!) I had backup at personnel needs station. Crisis averted..
The ride going out was flat , I was doing 30 km p/h plus .. with hardly any pressure on pedals, was I going to hard? I didn’t think so , so I kept on at that pace , the bike course was easier than the old course, everyone I have spoken too has disagreed though.. There were rolling hills but no steep spikes of hills like the first 15km of the old course ( which I knew was ahead of me ). At the 30 km mark I had that preempted thought of “shit what have I got myself into“ but it was brief, I didn’t let it fester and though and reminded myself that I’d done the work. Nutrition – I consumed my 3 hour plan of infinite nutrition in 2 hours and my hydration was gone in 1 hour …. I hadn’t factored in being so thirsty and hungry after the swim. The 44 km mark came, personal needs stop done, too easy, back we go .
Technically, there were steep long downhills that didn’t feel too steep when going up them . Going down the hills I didn’t pedal much , I got good speed , tucked in and let my legs rest while I held on tight. The tail wind going out was nice but the roads were bumpy and there were bottles strewn all over the place, many with flat tyres. It is proper country roads, so not many spectators. I liked the course ….. but …… it’s not appealing to do it again, I would prefer doing the old IM course because of the scenery, the out and back and the spectators.
Coming back into town and going out for 40 km I knew would be hard however the hills weren’t as bad as I remember when I did 70.3 a few years ago. I think my bike fitness made a huge difference. I had to keep concentrating at this time, the wind was brutal . More times than I can count I got knocked around by cross winds. Going downhill was particularly nerve wracking. A lapse in concentration and it could have ended my day but I was not breaking in the downhills unless absolutely necessary because it was free speed!
Many times throughout the bike my mind would wander to “how on earth am I going to run after this bike“? Focus was key, I was chatting about my angst with the run leg to a kids sports psych at the boys soccer once and she said “when you are swimming, think about swimming !” “Don’t think about running when you are still swimming”, lol simple and affective, be in the moment.
I was now on the home stretch back in town, firstly ….…..block out all the people already on the run course and already finished, run my own race, it has gone perfectly so far. I nailed the nutrition , I kept it going throughout the ride and it was a good distraction making a few little adjustments that I thought I needed. The wind was blowing straight up the Main Street of Port it felt like I was going nowhere it was sooooo strong. I did not want to lose control of my bike going down the Main Street of Port 😬 How embarrassing would that be!
Coming into transition and all of a sudden the bike was done! I gave myself a pat on the back – I was happy. I knew I had trained well and executed my race plan well when I was passing people in the last 30 km of the bike who are cooked.
Transition . There is a definite mental lift changing into run gear it felt good. Home stretch ! I have never thought finishing this Ironman was a given. There are so many variables that can be out of your control …mechanical or gut issues, sickness, random niggles that pop up… But so far so good !
Starting the run I wasn’t yet convinced I would finish but it was definitely looking very likely. I started running to see how I felt. I have learnt after doing long hours of training that often I will feel worse at the start before feeling better. This was in my mind to not panic if I set off and then felt crap ….. but that didn’t happen. I felt ok, no nausea , no low blood pressure feeling. Nutrition nailed. It was cold by now – and it suited me … not for others who ran in hoodies and gloves! I said to myself if I walk I will get colder and when the wind was behind me I’m not to walk. Some negative thoughts popped up in my mind when I saw someone else I knew out there racing and next thing I know………I am walking WTF !!!
I thought to myself, “I’m feeling pretty good stop with the unhelpful thoughts !!!” There was an aid station not far from me. I walked to it, regrouped and decided to run … mostly … with blinkers on and sticking to the plan. Get to 21 km, aid station and big hill walk only. Off I went and stuck to it pretty closely, I was happy ! The 3rd lap I thought, keep the plan going with 20% room for error 🙂 This lap was going to be the hardest, seeing others finishing, that point in the race when you aren’t on your last lap yet and it still feels a long way away…. So I had to block it out and my goal was to pass the last finish line for the last time for the last 5 or so kms , then I allowed myself to imagine finishing and think about the day and start to believe it would happen but not only that, it happened really well! I had NO idea at this stage what my time was, the last 2 laps I was feeling the pain. By the 4th lap I gave into the lure of more walks but was so proud of sticking to my plan as long as possible. I stuck to my nutrition which helped immensely I have no doubt !
A Tri friend met me with 200 metres to go and ran with me to near start of the carpet and said some really awesome things and said your time is fantastic and told me, I couldn’t believe my time, it was really such an amazing feeling! And the lights, the people the noise – simply incredible! I found hubby Bryan and son Liam and some other friends were there also, big hugs had all round! I always thought my legs would stop working at the finish line and I would be almost collapsing but I felt like I was running on a springboard. I was soooo proud of my time, but most of all I was so proud of myself, of my achievement. An absolute bonus, I finished well under 15 hours 14.22 !
What an amazing day, so very lucky to have the opportunity, grateful to have made the start line fit and healthy. There had been a few circumstances that had me very close to pulling the pin on the training and my goal, but I kept training through and adjusted training when needed – thanks to coach – it made all the difference!
…. Mmmm and right now I just had a thought …… imagine if I didn’t have a 20 minute transition time or picked up the pace in the swim? I could have got under 14 hours ? ………. and there it is …… so this is how it happens that somehow you end up registering for another Ironman 😂😂😂😂😂
Thank you SO much for sharing your experience Janelle. Such an incredible effort ! What a super star mum !