My Ironman Arizona Race Report – Smelling the Roses

The days leading up to the race were very relaxed. We were originally going to fly in Friday afternoon but ended up changing flights and arriving Wednesday evening instead. I think that made the world of difference in helping me stay calm and focused and it also meant that we were able to get in a couple of practice swims and become familiar with the race site. I really enjoyed those morning practice swims in Tempe Town Lake, not because the water was so lovely (!), but because it allowed me to loosen up my muscles, get comfortable in the lake, and just enjoy hanging around with friends and relaxing. It was a great start to each day.

Inevitably the time leading up to the race passed all too quickly and before I knew it, the wake-up call, the alarm clock and my Blackberry were all singing in unison. It was 3:30am on race day. I’d actually been awake for the past 30 minutes, and every hour on the hour prior to that, but I felt really refreshed, excited and ready to go. After a quick breakfast and sunscreen application, we made our way to the car and drove to the race site. We got there pretty early, around 4:45am, and it was still fairly quiet. Transition didn’t open until 5am. We had plenty of time to setup the last remaining items: nutrition and water on bikes, pump up tires, put nutrition in special needs bags. Once that was finished, I left transition with some other T3’ers and hung out until the start of the race, chatting to each other, laughing, putting on wetsuits, more sunscreen, and wishing each other luck.

I then realized that I hadn't seen Gordon for over half an hour. We hadn’t even shared good luck wishes and kisses yet! I figured he must have needed some time on his own to collect his thoughts and prepare for the race, he tends to like being left alone before the start of races. I was hoping that I would see him on the way to the docks, or even in the water. So I made my way to the docks with Liz and Jim, who I have done most of my training with over the past 6 months. To the sounds of “Right Here, Right Now” we jumped into the water, which was surprisingly not too cold. Then we swam slow and easy over to the start line. The air was pumped full of energy. Everyone was happy and excited and nervous. The crowd was already cheering. The water quickly filled up with over 2000 bobbing swim caps. I still hadn’t seen Gordon so I yelled out a “Good luck Gordon, I love you!” in the hope that he might hear me (no he didn’t, as I found out later, but it was worth a shot!).

Then all of a sudden we were off! It felt like a washing machine in there, but I was very careful to watch for people around me. I didn’t want to get a broken nose or black eye! So I carefully swam around and through the masses. Surprisingly the mass start didn’t seem too bad and I started to settle into a rhythm. It seemed as though I fairly quickly reached the bridge, which I thought was the turnaround point, but the turnaround point was probably another 400m beyond the bridge and it felt like I was never going to get there! Finally, we got to turn around. This is when it started getting tough because all of a sudden I had a couple of men trying to swim at me. Not around me. But at me. I had to be careful about which side I breathed to, in fear of getting an elbow in the face!

I managed to finally find some space on my own again, and everything was okay for a while. I didn’t feel tired at all in the water. I guess all the swimming these past 6 months really paid off! Then finally I was at the final buoy, again more fights with big, aggressive men who were trying to swim at me, I think I may have shoved one of them and swore at another… but then I was being pulled up out of the water by the volunteers and the swim was done! 1:09:20, an awesome swim time for me and about 5 minutes ahead of my goal!

I picked up by “swim to bike” bag and ran to the women’s change tent. I quickly got changed into my bike gear – I decided to completely change from swim briefs into bike shorts for the ride. Some people do the whole thing in tri-shorts but I wanted to be comfortable. It was also quite funny how I had no sense of modesty and completely stripped down without a care in the world! I ran out of the tent, had sunscreen applied by a volunteer, had my bike handed to me and then I was over the mount line and on my bike pedaling out of transition to the sounds of the crowd cheering. It was an exciting feeling. It didn’t take long before the crowd thinned out and I was able to settle down and start focusing on the long ride ahead of me.

The good thing about a 3 loop course is that I had a lot of opportunities to look out for all of my training buddies and cheer them on when I saw them! I got passed by a couple of my T3 buddies, who are faster cyclists than me, but I enjoyed the small satisfaction of having beaten them out of the water. But still, it pays off to be faster on the bike than on the swim! Anyway, I quickly settled into a groove, pedaling steadily but not too hard, taking in my nutrition every 15 minutes, enjoying the scenery and looking out for my friends. By the turnaround of the first loop I still hadn’t seen Gordon, so I figured that I must have beat him out of the water (yay!). However, I was expecting him to pass at any moment. All thoughts of that disappeared, however, once I hit the turnaround. For some reason I had not noticed the wind that was gently pushing me out to the turnaround point… and all of a sudden I found myself pedaling into a strong headwind. So my thoughts switched more to survival mode – okay, need to conserve energy, keep the cadence high, don’t push too high a gear, stay as aero as possible, keep the legs fresh, keep drinking, eating… it was exhausting pedaling into that headwind, that’s for sure. I came to the end of the first lap and it was great to feel the energy of the crowd again and to finally stop pedaling into the wind!

I enjoyed the first half of the second loop immensely. I was probably averaging 25mph out to the turnaround. I felt fast and smooth. Then before too long I was back in the headwind again, which was even stronger than on the first loop. At this point my friend Marla caught me and we started our game of leapfrog. It was fun being out there with her. We spent the next loop and a half passing each other – I would pass her for a while, then she would pass me. It was definitely a highlight of the day to be out there on the bike course with her. I was also stoked that she hadn’t pulled away from me yet! I was so happy to get to the end of the second loop and start out on my third, and final, loop of the bike course. Again, it was fast heading out to the turnaround point, then again almost at a standstill coming back. I didn’t even stop for my special needs bag, as I hadn’t got any flats and the idea of Pringles wasn’t as appetizing as I thought it would be. This last part of the ride was tough. The wind had really picked up by now (up to 25mph with 35mph gusts) and I was just slogging it out, trying to get done. I remembered the pre-race advice from my friend Mike, who told me to make sure and look up and smell the roses from time to time. I did try that. I looked up to see the roses and muttered to myself that there weren’t any bloody roses at all. Sorry Mike, I tried!

Loop 1 – 17.32mph
Loop 2 – 18.79mph
Loop 3 – 14.79mph

Eeek, that third loop was sloooow!

After a long 6:35:12 I was finally off the bike, yeah! But what was this? My lower back was killing me. So I walked through transition, picked up my "bike to run bag and headed over to the change tent. I wasn’t as spritely as my previous run through transition! I saw Dr. Chris Seller’s by the tent, he had been treating me back in Austin for my shin splints over the past month, and he told me to get on the table and proceeded to do some active release therapy on my lower back to loosen it up. After a few minutes I felt so much better, got changed in the tent and was good to go!

It was only now that I finally allowed myself to think about running a marathon. All during the bike the thought would come in to my head “shit, I still have a marathon to run!!!” but I would keep squashing it and focusing on the task at hand – cycling. But now, with just the marathon ahead of me, I finally started to think about it. The bad news was that I realized that I could walk the marathon and still make it by the cut-off time of 17hrs. Not the most positive way to start the marathon!

I started running and didn’t feel too bad. Tired, yes, but nothing hurt. I caught up to one of my T3 buddies who was on the start of his second loop. He was walking. I think I saw that and sub-consciously registered that if one of the fastest people in my group is walking then it’s okay if I walk a bit too. Thus started the battle of the run/walk for the next 25 miles. When I was running I was holding a pretty decent pace, but I would suddenly find myself walking for no reason. I’d see a hill and decide to walk it, or a rest stop and decide to walk through it. Right from mile one I threw my nutrition plan out the window, thought “what the hell”, and started drinking the cola, the chicken broth, and eating cut oranges. Those oranges were the tastiest food I’d had all day… delicious! But I was still sick of being out there and just wanted to be done. I tried to walk as fast as I could when I was walking, but I really should have been running. I know I had enough strength and stamina to run that whole marathon, but mentally I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I saw Gordon on each run loop. I think he knew I was hurting because every time he saw me he would yell out some encouraging words. I remember saying something like “I hate this, I just want to be done”. Mentally I had checked out. He looked good. Tired but strong and determined. I tried to make encouraging comments to people around me, saying quite a few “good onya mate, looking strong there”. One of the more exciting parts of the run was at the end of my first loop when the women’s leaders ran by me. That was pretty cool. Except for the fact that I still had two loops to go. Somehow I made it through and finally I was out on my final loop. It was getting dark then, still reasonably warm and windy. I kept plugging away, running, walking, head down, cap pulled down, trying to wave at people when they called my name, thanking the volunteers at the aid stations. Around mile 24 I realized that if I kept running I would beat 13 hours. But then I talked myself out of it and thought, who really cares, isn’t 13:15 good enough? That means I can keep walking! Then I realized that I just had to finish this thing. So I tried my best to keep running and sprinted from mile 25.5 all the way through to the finish line. I came around that corner, saw the finish line, sprinted towards it, shared a few high fives with some kids in the crowd, then ran through that finish line. It was so good to be done!!!

Finish time was 12:58:27. My goal was 13hrs. I beat it!

Crossing that finish line felt so good, just to be done. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel emotional at all. Of course I was proud of myself, definitely, but mainly just tired and happy to be done. Oh, and completely adamant that I would never do another Ironman.

As I reflected on the race the following morning, I thought about the drive and determination required to train for and finish an Ironman. The sense of accomplishment at finishing such an event. The sheer ability to keep going when you don't think you can go anymore. It gave me goosebumps to think about what I had just done. It made me want to do another Ironman.


A huge thankyou

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that wished us luck for the Ironman, and especially to those of you who tracked us on race day and sent us notes of congratulations. It looks like a few of you were able to watch us cross the finish line via the live video feed, which is really, really cool!

Thanks for understanding what a big deal this was to us. It felt so good to have all of you cheering us on, and was definitely a huge motivation for both of us while we were out on the course, toughing it out.

We love you all!!!



T-11 hours

I'm sitting in my hotel room watching a movie, Gordon is lying by my side listening to music and relaxing. I'm feeling contemplative and pretty calm. I was feeling much more nervous earlier this afternoon and yes I have welled up a few times already. But a phone call to Mum, Dad and Kate got rid of the tears and calmed me down immensely.

Having a blog is great, and having my blackberry is good too! I just re-read my "Journey to the start line ..." blog to remind me, again, why I am doing this and how hard I have worked to get here. It was exactly what I needed to read.

I just stepped outside. The weather is cooling down, twilight is upon us, and in roughly 24 hours I hope to finish my first Ironman!
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.

Feeling a little nervous now!


That's a lot of bags!

Feeling calm

We are having such a great time out here in Arizona. Each morning we have been getting up and doing a short practice swim in Tempe Town Lake, then enjoying a leisurely breakfast. It's very relaxing out here, even with the notion that we are doing an Ironman in less than 48 hours! I think I'm just about sick of eating though, it feels like our days are revolving around where to eat next!

It was warm and very windy yesterday with some rain in the evening. Today the weather has been perfect. Hopefully this nice weather will stay through the weekend!

We're just about to jump on our bikes for a short ride then its off to the pre-race dinner and meeting. Tomorrow the goal will be to relax as much as possible, pack our bags (all 5 of them!), drop our bikes off and get an early night...
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.

Having a leisurely breakfast in T3 blue


Beer at ABIA

Gordon and I are sitting in the Highland Lakes Bar at the airport. There is live music and the place is packed! They could do with a better beer selection, but I suppose the Ziegenbock will have to do... Arizona here we come!
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.


My journey to the start line of Ironman Arizona 2007

2.4 mile swim
112 mile bike
26.2 mile run

That's 140.6 miles. In one day.

When I say I'm training for an Ironman, these are the types of comments I typically get:

- "Is that the one in Hawaii?" to which I reply "no, that's the world championship of triathlon, you have to be really good to race Hawaii", or
- "I did a sprint triathlon once" to which I reply "uh, the Ironman is a little bit further than that, but good for you doing a sprint!", or
- "Yeah, I could do that, I just can't swim" to which I frankly, have no reply and am simply dumbstruck, or my personal favourite,
- "Is that the Danskin?"

But of all the things I've heard, no one has ever asked why. Why do an Ironman?

I did my first triathlon on Sunday June 9th, 2002. It was the Danskin sprint triathlon - 800m swim, 12mi bike, 5km run. When I crossed the finish line (subtract 1hr17min from the picture, my wave started later!) I said to Gordon that it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I meant it. I also knew that I wanted to do another triathlon, but not an ironman. The idea did not even enter my head at that point.

But over the years, as I finished 5K's, 10K's, half marathons, a marathon, sprint triathlons, olympic triathlons, and then half-ironmans, I found myself finally starting to think about what it would be like to do an ironman. Could I really do one? Surely if I trained properly I could do one, couldn't I? So that's where I found myself back in May 2006. The registration for Ironman Arizon 2007 had just opened up. It seemed doable. The timing was perfect. So I signed up! Oh, and I signed Gordon up too because there was no way I was going to do this on my own.

So I guess my reason for doing an ironman is simple: because I can. Because I want to see exactly what I'm capable of, to discover my physical and mental limits. Because I love the training, the people, and that feeling when I cross the finish line. There is no other feeling like it.

Our training program started on 1st November 2006. Right as the weather started cooling down. I'll be honest. It was tough at times. For those of you who have been following my blog since then you know that I've had some tough rides, some mental battles, and a brief flirtation with injury. But through it all I've persevered. I've ridden in the rain, the wind, the cold. I've ridden my trainer for hours on end when the weather was too nasty outside. I've done long runs on very tired legs. In the cold, the rain, the wind, the early morning hours, the late afternoon hours. I've swum when the pool deck was covered with ice, when the sane people were still sleeping in their nice warm beds. But oh what a feeling to be gliding through that warm water while the rest of the world was sleeping! I've toughed out the long rides that took up the entire day, and celebrated with the post-ride brunches and meals at times of the day that simply do not make sense. I've had a great time chatting to training buddies during the long rides and long runs. I've biked and run on my own. I've seen myself getting stronger week by week. I've developed new mental toughness that I never had before. I've had some of the best times I've ever had in Austin, these past 6 months.

So now I find myself 7 days from the race. It seems like just last month we were into our first week of training. I am excited. I am really excited! I'm not nervous. Not yet, anyway. There are moments when I catch myself thinking about race day and my heart beats with excitement and I can't wait to be out there enjoying it. Seeing Gordon and all of my other friends out there on the course, cheering each other on. Soaking up the energy. Pushing my body to the limit. Overcoming the mental battles that I am bound to face. I want to know what my limits are and push beyond them to that finish line. I've done the training. I'm ready. Now I just need to go and do it.

The race starts at 7am Phoenix time. The cut-off time is midnight, meaning I have 17 hours to complete the race. I'm hoping to finish closer to 13 hours, but I really just want to finish. The Ironman Arizona website has an athlete tracker, so that you can track Gordon and I on race day:


In "The Latest" box on the right hand side they will have a link to the Ironman Arizona race coverage (the link won't be up until 24 hours prior to race start). My race number is 2114, Gordon's is 694. Or, you can just type in McGregor.

Below I have given some estimated times for when I hope to finish each segment, and how that translates to Adelaide, Helensburgh and Austin timezones.

Swim: 8:15am Phoenix / 10:15am Austin / 12:15am (Mon) Adelaide / 4:15pm Helensburgh
Bike: 3:00pm Phoenix / 5:00pm Austin / 7:30am (Mon) Adelaide / 11:00pm Helensburgh
Finish line: 8:00pm Phoenix / 10:00pm Austin / 12:30pm (Mon) Adelaide / 4:00am (Mon) Helensburgh

They will also have a live video feed of the finish line, so if you log on around the "finish times" shown above you may just see us finish!

For Gordon's take on the whole thing, click here to visit his blog.


adding to the taper madness...

Not only am I starting to feel full of beans and full of excitement about my upcoming Ironman, but I have received two exciting pieces of news in the past 24 hours that have completely rocked my world, in a great way!

- My sister and her husband were successful in their visa interview yesterday in Melbourne. They will be in Houston the first week of May. They are really, actually, truly coming to live in the US, in less than a month!!!

- Gordon's brother emailed him this morning to say he will be in Houston next week for work and wants to come out to Arizona to watch us do the Ironman. So he is flying to Arizona on the Sunday, will get in around noon and will then come and watch us race then hang out with us until Tuesday. So we will have family there watching us after all!!! The added bonus is that we haven't seen him for 3 years, so it will be super awesome to see him again.

As if the excitement of doing the race wasn't enough... I am just about ready to burst with all this recent news!


Now this is looking better!

Sunday, Apr 15
High: 77 °F RealFeel®: 76 °F
Abundant sunshine and turning colder


Current forecast for IMAZ

Tempe, Arizona
Sunday, Apr 15 (a.k.a. "Ironman Arizona Race Day")
High: 91 °F RealFeel®: 93 °F
Abundant sunshine and warm

IMAZ Week 22: Bringing back the mental game

22 weeks down. 2 weeks to go!!!!!!!!!!

I am doing an Ironman in less than two weeks. Where did the time go?! It feels like just yesterday I was gearing up for my first cold weather ride and showing up to the group rides/swims/runs all shy and not knowing anyone. Now it's hot weather rides and runs, and everyone is teasing each other like we've known each other for years! We've become our own little triathlon family. I feel sad already that it will all be over in two weeks and we will all be moving on to different things. But first we get to do an Ironman and hang out in Arizona together and have so much fun it's going to be ridiculous.

Anyway, so week 22 was another taper week. Not much to report. We're all slacking off, taking it easy, eating too much, drinking too much and getting fat. Or that could just be me :) I finally had my first good run in about 3 weeks - this happened at 6pm Saturday evening. Kind of a weird time to be running, but good for getting used to the heat. I stuck with the run/walk routine and I actually felt pretty good! Now I just need to get myself mentally back on track. For the past few weeks I've been referring to myself as "injured" and every time someone asks me how my training is going I talk about my "injury". It sounds a little obsessive and far too self-indulgent, and quite frankly I am sick of talking about it, hearing myself talk about it, and seeing the look of boredom on peoples faces as I talk about it...

Last week I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, and I did with the exception of a couple of minor relapses. But from now on, not only am I not feeling sorry for myself but I am officially no longer injured. I am 100% healthy and fit and ready to do this Ironman. Nothing is going to stop me!

Now I just need to work on my song.