Some exciting racing over the weekend in Australia and around the world. Hoping those of you who did race had a great day out. I also want to congratulate all of the people that I know who were completing their first IronMan or 70.3. I love to see people out there having a go and on the weekend I got to enjoy the race day experience for the first time as a spectator. What I realised after my day of spectating was just how hard it is. As an athlete it is very easy to assume that I am the one doing the hard work and it is easy to see why. But I was absolutely exhausted after a day on course. It has certainly made me appreciate what those people who stand on the sideline cheering for me go through.
So for my first day of spectating duties I watched the events unfold at IronMan Australia and Port Mac 70.3. Months ago one of my good mates Matho decided to race the full IronMan. The same legendary bunch of blokes who I went to Taupo with last year for the 70.3 all agreed we needed to be there to cheer him on. I was particularly excited to go to Port Mac for the weekend because I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to put in some serious training surrounded by other athletes. In the lead-up to the weekend both Robo and Scotty were able to get late entries into the 70.3 which would be held on the same morning giving us even more people to cheer for. Once I got to Port Mac I definitely made the most of the area for some serious training. I managed to rip in and complete some serious volume up there. The best part was being to be able to experience the race course for myself. The riding was honest and left me absolutely shattered and running along the iconic beak wall gave me the extra motivation to push harder.
In preparation for race day the boys had all started to organise what we would do on race day to help bring Matho and the other IM athletes home. Azza, who is a bit of an expert spectator was giving a number of tips about how to manage the day and many other people were telling me how hard a day of spectating would be. I thought that I am a bloody fit triathlete. How hard can standing around watching a race be? I was shocked to see how much it took out of me.
What I realised early on was that spectating does not only happen on race day. As a spectator your role is that of support. In the lead up to race day we wanted to make sure Matho was in the best possible headspace. There was course recon, last minute trips to the shop and changes to dinner plans. It wouldn't have mattered what was requested to be honest. We were there to make sure Matho was in the best possible way come race morning.
Race day itself was a huge undertaking. Up at 4am and out the door at 5am. Loaded with my SLR camera, go pro and phone I was ready to rock. For the first half of the day me and Azza would work in tandem to cover the course as much as possible. That whole morning I was surprised to see that I had the same usual nerves I would as if I was racing. The nervous energy at the race start was palpable. There were athletes in tears, hugging their loved ones. There was a huge contrast between the front and back of the field. The faster athletes at the front of the swim start were serious, composed and not a lot were smiling. At the back there were people laughing, joking with each other and enjoying the experience. Scotty told me the back of the field is what triathlon is really about and I understood exactly what he meant. I was also surprised to see how tense I was before the race start. When I saw Matho run into the water to start his 226km race I literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
The next few hours saw me and Azza scout out different areas on the course so Matho, Robo and Scotty would see us out of the water and on the bike. As had the timetable down pat. We knew after we saw the boys off on the bike we had a few hours to ourselves. I ducked to the pool to get my workout for the day done (a casual 4km swim). Then it was right back into it. Here me and Azza really split up. After seeing Matho complete the first of his 2 90km bike loops, Azza and Matho's parents jumped in the car to drive the 40kms to the far end of the course to see him at the other end. I headed back into town to cheer on the boys on the 70.3 run. The IronMan website is notorious for being useless for tracking athletes and I now completely understand what they mean. I waited for 20 minutes to see Robo come into town on the bike. I was refreshing the live tracker the whole time only for it to suddenly announce he was already 7km on the run... I jumped in the car and raced down there. This is also when the rain started.
I made my way down to the run course where I was able to see the boys pass multiple times. I also saw some of my other friends racing as well as cheer for some people who I know via Instagram but had not actually met before. This period of spectating is also when the rain really set in. It looked like our evening of fun was going to be a bit damp. After seeing the boys come home in the 70.3 we all met at the apartment to get ready for Mathos run. We had ordered ninja turtle costumes an had water guns and music and were ready to rock the course.
The rain meant we left the water guns home and we almost decided to leave the costumes at home too. As soon as we arrived on course though we knew we had made the right decision to wear them. People loved them. We had our photos taken with people and athletes who were racing the full IM were running over just to give us a high-five. We were pumped and ready to see Matho. After about 45 minutes on course Matho came through. He was hurting. Im not sure if he even noticed that we were dressed as ninja turtles but requested we make our way to the far end of the course where it was darkest and loneliest. During the next 3 hours we moved around the course as much as we could to see Matho as many times as we could. We tried to keep the energy high dancing and singing along to some of the worst music you can imagine (we were even doing the Gangnam style dance) and as the night got later we got hugs from people who were nearly finished and chased some people who said they couldn't run anymore.
The last lap for Matho was hard and we did as much as we could to help make it easier for him. I was so impressed to see that despite how much he hurt and the fact his body would not allow him to run, he did not give up. We said goodbye to him with 2km to go and raced to the finish line. Watching that young legend of a man cross the finish line and hear Mike Reilly say "You are an IronMan" literally gave me goosebumps. Matho was home and he had become an IronMan. Standing at the finish line watching the emotion of the finishers almost made me want to do one. I still think it is a way off yet though.
After the race we got Matho home and started a debrief. I was feeling guilty because I was absolutely exhausted and could barely stay awake. In the end I had to go to bed. I was the first of the lot of us in bed and I had not even raced! I realised that being a spectator and supporter is hard. It is not only physically difficult but it is emotionally draining. You go through a wave of emotions throughout the race and do a surprising amount of running to get between the vantage points. It has certainly make me appreciate what my wife goes through when I am racing.
While the day was long, wet and cold I had an absolute blast. I was very lucky to be surrounded by some of the best blokes I know who helped to keep the energy high. But what absolutely made the day easier was seeing all of those legends out there racing. I saw it all. I saw the pro's fly past multiple times followed closely by some of the top age groupers. I saw middle of the packers giving it their all. I saw people dressed up, I saw people with broken bones and countless legends of IMOZ who had completed the iconic race more than 10 times. I was lucky enough to be at the finish line when one guy crossed the line of his 100th IM! Honestly, anyone who says they cant do a triathlon, go watch the finish line of an IM. You will see people of all shapes and sizes out there having a go. My day of spectating made me realise that the IM tagline 'Anything is Possible' really is true.
It was a long day but a day that got me rearing to go again. While it left me absolutely exhausted it also made me extremely grateful. Grateful that I somehow stumbled into this crazy world of triathlon. This world where I have made incredible friends. This world where you see people out there having a go. Where random people will cheer each other on and no one has a go at anyone for having a crack. A world where we all race individually but compete together.
Once again congratulations to everyone I know who raced. Especially to Mathieson Jenkin and Tom Luxton who completed their first IronMan. To Morenna 'Momo' Burn and Lauren 'Buffy' Blume who completed their first 70.3 and to Matt Bragg, Mike 'Robo' Robinson and Scotty Norrish for getting out there again.
What an experience, get out there and have a look and remember to TRI!