Race Report by Bill Barry
“Ok, I may as well start at the beginning. A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Ok, not a galaxy, but ya get the idea. When I was a chap, while I was up waiting for some late night metal show, I came across this documentary about a guy who had Aids and after some time of self pity and abuse he decided to change his life around. He ended up doin an Ironman( i think Hawaii ). It was a very inspiring docu, and as I had seen some Triathlons and enjoyed watching them, I said to myself that one day I would do an Ironman.
Fast forward quite a few years, and drunk one night at a wedding, surrounded by my fellow almost retired footballers, I declared I would do an Ironman before I was 40. Waking up the next morning, I realised that not only had I set myself a goal, but I had given myself a deadline. Oh sh*t, what have I done. Ok, its out in the open, I may just go and do it.
The next year I did my first triathlons and I was on the way. A few of my friends decided they were fed up of team sports, and they were taking up tri as well. Because of young kids i decided I would wait till my youngest Renee was at least sleeping through the night before comitting to the preperation for Ironman. In the meantime my mate had only went and done an Ironman before me. The cheek. He wanted to get it in before kids!! Wise move. Anyways, my mate, the one and only David Devine from Waterford tri club set a benchmark of 10:54. So there was my target. As you can see I’m not the least bit competitive!!!!!
I was planning on doing Austria as my mate had done Austria, and lets be straight, I wanted more than anything to beat him. But myself and Alma were saving to go to to visit our best friends in Sydney the year after, and after a suggestion while on skype to them, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do my Ironman in Australia. So some time last November, I embarked on my Ironman training. I tried my best to follow the Joe Friel training plan. It was a long lonely, cold, sleep deprived Winter. Training was done mostly in the mornings before work or straight after work. Long runs and bikes early Sat/Sun to get back to spend time with family. But to be honest, I wasn’t much company!!!! The training got especially tough in the New Year when sessions were too long for indoor training, but the weather was shocking for outdoor. I would have loved to train more with all you guys, but I was on a different plan than ye, and I wasnt the most reliable time keeper when fatigue started to set in and I would give myself an extra hour in bed. Thr training in the pool with you guys really set me up well for my swim. Liam worked wonders with my stroke, and my competitive nature made sure Peter and Don pushed me hard. On one of my toughest days out on the bike I met a similarly soaked and cold Fintan going the opposite direction on the Carlow/Kilkenny road. As it turned out I had to abandon after 140k due to being soaked right through and shivering with the cold. But the thoughts that my team-mate was out suffering too, kept me going to that point. I couldnt wait to get to the sunshine in Oz.
The stress of the logistics of getting myself, wife, two kids, and the precious bike to Oz, and to the start line was made minimal by Alma’s brilliant skills and hard work organising everything from flights, accomodation etc. My mate in Oz, Pa was great and collected us from the airport and roped in a mate Trent to carry me and the bike. We arrived at our rented house in North Bondi, and began the acclimitisation process. A week of very little sleep followed, as the kids were bouncing off the walls with energy in the middle of the frickin night!!!! The second day there, Pa had me up at 5 in the morning to cycle out with him and his mate (ex pro-cyclist) to West head. Undulating he said. I’m on taper I said. We’ll take it easy he said. Easy and undulating it wasn’t, but boy was it worth it. It blew the cobwebs and jetlag off me and I was rewarded with one of the most enjoyable cycles of my entire life. And the scenery was fantastic. I had two weeks of taper training( and sight-seeing) in Sydney before my race and Pa became my tour guide around Sydney, training in Centennial Park on bike, running along Bondi beach, and swimming in sydney harbour behind a shark net in Parsley Bay. On one loop around the small bay, as I swam along the shark net I suddenly noticed a very large, fast, dark shadow on the other side of the net!! I practiced my T1 transition as quickly as possible!!
The Thursday before race day we drove the five hours to Port Macquarie. By we, I mean Alma and Pa drove. Our family in one car, Pa, Lily and their two boys in the other. I was delighted they were coming to cheer me on. We were staying in a motel 100m from the swim start. Race check in and I was finally starting to get nervous. Did some recce’s of the course and first thing I noticed as we drove the bike course was the road surface. It was shit. Even Alma noticed it just from driving on it. That had me worried. Did a short brick recce and I was happy enough with that. Two days out I did the early morning swim on course. All the Aussies were remarking how cold the water was. It was like a frickin bath. Yez should try swim in Lough Dan!!!! I swam up to the first turn and I didn’t feel particularly well. I decided there and then to ignore Joe Friel and give myself a rest day the day befor race. Also I took a spin out to the new addition to the swim course. Namely a concrete weir we had to climb in the middle of the swim. More on that later.
Race morning, and I was quite calm. The kids weren’t too happy at being woken in the middle of the night, but Alma got the cheer squad up and at em. Wetsuit on and across the road for swim start. Pa met me in the carpark which was being used as assembly point and that was a very welcome sight. Swim start was the new rolling swim start, which meant I had to pick my forecasted swim time. I went for second group of 1:00 to 1:10. Ambitious I thought but hey, give it a go. Before I knew it our group was released and it was a very casual stroll down to waters edge and over the timing mat to start my race. All very surreal after a few years of bedlam swim starts. I got into my stroke very quick and noticed I was travelling at roughly the same pace as a guy beside me , so I decided to tuck in as close as I could to avail of a draft. After a few hundred metres we approached the first of many doglegs on the swim course. It was the first time I saw a bouy as lots of moored boats were blocking our view. I noticed the guy I was drafting on my right had pushed me way out left of our first dogleg right. I made a decision there and then to do my own sighting from that point. Sighting was difficult with all the boats, but thanks to Liam’s sighting practice in the pool(boy did i curse him at the time) I made my way towards the weir. Going over the weir the first time wasn’t too bad(if a little odd), but on the way back down the scaffold steps were only half the width of the out section. It made for a very contested approach to the second stair climb. This really got my blood going. I probably swam way faster in the second half, coz I was fighting for position the whole way back down through all the boats and doglegs til I could finally see the final turn into swim finish. I came out of the water feeling upper body tired but like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and relieved that phase one had been ticked off. I have to say that the feeling I had throughout the swim was that I was swimming consistent but slow. I got a nice little surprise later.
So, into T1 and took my time and was quite calm through my routine. Collected the bike and I was off. This I was dreading. It was a bit fresh at the start but I knew I’d warm up. Lots of people around me were wearing jackets!! The route out of town started with a testy little climb that I was to discover after had been added to the run route!! It was up and down for the first few km’s and I found myself being passed by lots of people going up the climbs and then passing same said people on the way down other side. I didn’t care, i was sticking to my plan not to raise my HR. Eventually got out on the open road and felt comfortable enough at my selected pace, if a little rattled on the heavy-gritted road. After a few km’s a marshall came up beside me and started yelling at a group behind me. I didn’t even know they were there.” Pass out or back off”. The course was flat on this coastal section but started to get a bit lumpy again comin out towards the turnaround. A few km’s out from the turnaround and I hear a familiar Irish voice hollering at me. Pa had driven out to cheer me on. I would be very welcome for that later on. Out to turnaround and back in by Pa and his son Lucas. That cheered me up again. On the way back into Port Macquarie I noticed the wind picking up a bit. And the climb up Matt Flinders drive was cruel after that distance. By the time i got back to town several people had come off their bikes due to the crosswinds at certain exposed points. Boy was I glad to have listened to the advice given by Pa’s Aussie mates to steer clear of full discs!! Heading to end of first lap I was very glad to be on target at 2:53 or thereabouts. And I still felt reasonably comfortable. But that was all to change. Met Alma and the kids on the climb out of town and Renee was fast asleep. The poor mite. Aveline was jumping around with a ‘Go Daddy sign’. When I got back out to flat coastal road I was met with an unrelenting headwind. Ah feck. My speed was down to 16mph and on the same stretch on the first lap I was 10mph faster. This is not good. The second lap outward was cruel in the extreme. By the time I met Pa near turnaround i was demoralised. Cooked I shouted at him. Bollox he shouted back. I trudged on. At the second turnaround(it’s a double turnaround per lap) I stopped to use the single portaloo. In my exhaustion I didn’t realise it was occupied. I sat on a fence and felt very sorry for myself. I may even have shed a tear.SShhh!! Had a chat with myself which went something like “you’ve come all this way, you’re not f***king giving in now.” Got back on the bike and carried on. Passed in by Pa again and had the strangest exchange. The way I heard it , he screamed at me ” get your f***king arse back into town, yer on the bloody home straight”. Apparently he said no such thing, and was very couteous and civil to me and just said softly to me to get myself back to the finish. Ya hear what ya need to hear I guess. Well, what I heard did the business and it spurrred me on. After I got through the horrible crosswinds on the bottom end of course I was back on the open highway and with a strong wind behind me i put the hammer down. Out went the HR plan and it was flat out all the way home. I pushed as hard as I could all the way back, til I got to Matt Flinders drive again. I’ll never forget the name of that hill. After almost 180km i nearly blew a gasket trying to power up it. Through all the ups and downs and crosswinds and into town. Boy was I glad that leg was over. I tried to push it all the way to finish, but Matt Flinders nearly broke me. Into T2 after 6:18. I was happy with that after the pain of that second loop.
Into T2 and I was very glad to sit down for a minute. Young fella started to put suncream on my shoulders. Handed him my chamois cream and asked him if he’d do that too. We had a good laugh at that. “Ya can look after that yerself mate”. Out of the tent to start my first ever marathon and i was feeling very low. I knew my 11hr target was gone. But I was met by my wife just outside the fence and i stopped for a chat and grabbed a few gels on the table. I told her how I felt and she told me I had done a 1:05 swim. I thought it was more like 1:15-1:20. I was chuffed and that really made all the difference going into the marathon. My quads felt completely dead. Not sore, just dead. I set out at a slower pace than I was hoping for but picked it up a bit and really got going. This was my favourite discipline and i was determined to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the run. The first test was the newly added hill on the way out of town. I ran up it at a strong pace and out past the club cheer area. This was an area the organisers had encouraged all the clubs to set up a cheer tent to create a bit of atmosphere. Why they had to make us run up a hill to get to it I’ll never know. But I was glad when they started cheering ‘come on bill’. How did they know my name? Maybe there’s another Bill behind me they know. Then on the way back through town a bunch of girls screamed ‘come on Bill Barry’. Then I realised I had my name on my number!! d’oh. I was tired!! The wind on the top end of course was very tough. Blowing from all angles. Then the lead woman came past me. Nice view, I’ll follow that for a while. That got me as far as the next fuelling station. The heat was starting to get to me on the second lap and I had no real nutrition or hydration plan for the run. I stopped at every second sation and grabbed a few gels and drank a few drinks. I had brought my own gels and most of my drinks on the bike leg and I was sorry I didn’t bring my own for run. Boy was I sorry. The Gatorade was barely tolerable and the gels were disgusting. By the third lap of four I was struggling and felt myself getting sloppy with my technique. I clipped my foot on a cobble block that was sticking up a bit and I jarred my ankle. I was really struggling with my ankle and couldn’t put my full weight on it when the camber changed. I could only run properly on the flat. By the middle of lap three I was walking through all the stations, I stopped and had a much needed chat with Alma and the kids and my mate Pa, but I couldn’t stomach the gels. The next station I stopped and stuffed my face with cakes and chocolate and drank a litlle coke. This eventually got through to my muscles and i started to feel a little better. On the fourth and final lap I got to the hill at the start and for the first time I walked up it. It took all my mental strength just to get running again. I really just wanted to walk to the finish. Then as I was starting to realise I was on my final lap, I passed a bunch of kids blasting out Slipknot!!! That was it, I was pumped. Your’e on the last f***king lap, your’e gonna do this. Let’s do this shit. I pumped out the last lap like a posessed maniac. I was screaming at people to get out of my way. On the run into town i picked it up another notch. The adrenaline was pumping now. I collected my last wristband and sprinted as hard as I could for the last few km’s. As I came into the finish I was running like a Phoebe-esque maniac and looking around for Alma and the kids. Couldn’t see them, but Pa nearly came out over the fence after me. I sprinted and jumped and fist-pumped all the way to the finish. You are an Ironman!!!!! I was carried to the recovery tent and sat down at a table and scoffed some pizza and coke. I nearly fell off my chair I was so exhausted, but some locals got me some more coke and propped me up. but I couldn’t hang around. All I wanted at that moment was my wife and kids. I stumbled out of the recovery tent and fell into my wife and kids embrace. What a day!!!!”
Filed under: Tri Race Reports |