One of the unique things about Ironman Triathlons, compared to most other sports, is that one never quite knows how a race is going to turn out. Sure, other team sportsmen such as soccer, rugby or cricket players, and individual sportsmen such as F1 racing drivers, athletics competitors or skiers have good and bad days at the office. But the variables in Ironman are so great that, literally, anything can happen on a race day. Weather conditions, temperatures, wind and sea states are just four. Couple that with how you’re feeling in yourself –- fitness, preparation, mental state, rest and so on - and it all adds up to a multiple of variables that will determine how well, or not so well, one will perform over the 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42 km run. Perhaps indeed only Golfers are subject to similar variables and can have such vast differences in outstanding days and total write offs.
This was my third full Ironman. The perfect race in Austria in July 2011 in temperatures of 24C enabled me to achieve a very pleasing 10 hr 44 m – 1:15 swim, 5.30 bike and a 3:44 marathon. In Ironman Nice in July this year, the fierce temperatures of 32 C caused me to collapse from heat stroke at the 10km mark on the run. For Perth I was the fittest and lightest I've been for racing for 5 years but, sadly, the heat got to me again and sickness all day, vomiting and cramps allowed me a mere completion. 3 IV bags at the finish put things to right - the 5th time I've had to have a drip up in 3 years.
However, times and performance are only a part of the story in Ironman. The camaraderie, support, help and encouragement competitors give to each other is truly like no other in sport. No-one, bar the elite top 5s, are competing against anyone but oneself. It is a truly personal journey and challenge and we suffer in pain in ourselves. And the tremendous support offered by locals on the course - whose economies are considerably boosted by hosting Ironman events - truly makes what is an amazing experience.
3 down, but already I'm addicted, Roll on #4 - and this time to get my aimed sub-10:30.