Ironman New Zealand 2017 Race Report Tommy Duggan
I arrived in Taupo on the Wednesday (race day Saturday), sick as a dog. I spent the 4 hour drive from Auckland driving down random farm house driveways to vomit. Food poisoning? Virus from the plane? No idea! I just hoped I was going to be better for Thursday as Kath Shone had me eating 500gm of carbs, and I currently couldn’t keep water down. I spent the rest of Wednesday in bed sleeping and trying to sip down sports drinks. No time to enjoy the spoils of the playboy mansion just yet.
Woke up Thursday feeling a little better but still felt like I had a frat house party hangover. Managed to choke down half a bagel for breakfast before heading in to town to check-in for my first Ironman. I could see the excitement and nerves on every other athletes face as I checked-in, I wasn’t feeling it. I was thinking about all the food I couldn’t eat that I should be eating. I went to the weigh-in desk and was already 2kg down on my normal race weight! Kept sipping sports drink throughout the day and cooked 3 cups of pasta for dinner. Managed to get about ¼ cup down before giving up…. Time for bed.
Friday I woke up, a little better again, ate a small breakky and thought I better dip the wetsuit before checking my bike in. Jumped in Lake Taupo for the first time. It is as amazing as described – fresh clear water, can see right to the bottom. Managed a slow 500m before deciding that was enough. I then met up with the boys of the playboy mansion for a quick 20 minute spin – I struggled! Feverish and sweating… back to bed! Get back up, head down and check my bike in. Still no excitement or nerves kicking in for me despite the buzz of Ironman all around me. We do a bike course recce with Foz – the course actually looks great and we all agree it suits us. Some rollers and some flat fast bits that should see the fluid crew ride well.
Foz came by the mansion later that day to talk to me about my nutrition and race plan for tomorrow’s race. We tweaked a few little things and due to not being about to get any substantial amount food down we decided on an easy paced swim and conservative bike to save a little energy to get through the run. When Foz asked me what I had been eating the last 2 days and I replied sports drink, he said in vintage Foz style “geez mate… you’re gonna struggle!” The boys of the playboy mansion thought that was a classic – that’s why we love Foz!
Got some pasta down for dinner while watching the boys eat double their body weight in carbs (pro tip from Chiggers: “Canned creamed rice mate, it’s taking off”).
Woke at 4:30am to the sound of waves crashing and wind roaring. Wait… what the f…..? Open the blinds and saw the glass lake was now like a raging ocean. Went upstairs for breakfast where Chiggers was giving everyone the wind test by opening the balcony door and showing how far the blinds would flap around. The nerves really started to kick in. That morning I looked my wife in the eyes and said I cannot do this, I was psyched out…. I head to the race start to drop my nutrition off at my bike anyway.
The pro swim starts at 6:45am with a huge cannon blast, now only 15 minutes until my first IM journey begins. I chug a gel and slowly follow the 1300 age group athletes to the deep water mass start. My feet are barely in the water, and haven’t quite finished my nervous wee when I hear the announcer saying that the age groupers are underway. I fight for some space and need to swim about 100m across to get close to the sighting buoys. I didn’t mind if I take on water as it is so fresh - stay calm and don’t panic, take it easy, I kept telling myself. The swim is very straight forward and after 1775m we hit the first turn buoy and have a 50m swim in to the current, must’ve taken me at least 1min 30sec to swim the 50m, it was tough and athletes were struggling. I pass the halfway point in about 38 minutes, way off my expected time. I continue to swim my own race and not worry about what is going on around me, or that my stroke is being cut short on the recovery due to the waves knocking me about. Over 80 athletes will be pulled from the water, and the 70.3 is delayed 45mins as all the rescue boats are out with the IM field. I finally reach the finish of the first leg of my IM journey.
Swim time: 1:15 (expected time 1:06, but hey, one of the pro men swam 1:07!).
T1: Long transition included running uphill, stairs and a lot of athletes! Get my wetty off with the help of a stripper, chuck my bike shoes on, eat, and run to my bike.
I jump on my bike without any hassle and start my first lap out to the Reporoa turn around point, 45km from Taupo. Scrambling to find a rhythm I start getting passed by a lot of athletes in the first 10km, I was thinking they must’ve had poor swims and are strong cyclists. I knew we had a huge tail wind as I was barely pedalling and travelling at 35km/h…. still athletes continue to pass me. One NZ athlete comes up beside me and tells me a story of how he just had a wasp in his helmet… then says “catch you around”… I doubt it I think as he rides off.
At the 30km mark I am looking down at my legs, begging them to respond and do what I knew they are capable of. I am struggling to get down on my aero bars as my neck is sore, and I had definitely stiffened up from being sick and staying in bed for 3 days without exercise or stretching, I really paid for this. I don’t panic, I keep pedalling, and stick to my nutrition plan of 1 bidon of Gatorade every hour with a gel/shot blocks/energy bar. I reach the turn around and the wind smacks me in the face straight away. My speed drops to about 26km/h and as I head closer back to Taupo the wind picks up even more. At the 70km mark I start to see stars, self-doubt kicks in, my neck hurts more, my legs don’t want to do this and I decide I am going to pull out at the 90km mark. I start to lose my nutrition by vomiting the glorious colours of my sports drink, I can’t get any more nutrition down. I swap my Gatorade to water at the next aid station. I finally reach Taupo, god it feels good… I can pull out and watch with the rest of the fluid crew!
I keep riding until I hit the hill that goes back out towards Reporoa for the second loop as I know that is where the squad will be cheering from. I see Foz and say “I’m out, I can’t get anything down, legs aren’t responding” Foz says “just keep going mate, eat anything, anything you can, just go slow”. Just go slow. So I do. This time I only average 29km/h out to the turnaround point at Reporoa. Athletes continue to pass me, and I am thinking that I am getting passed by athletes I wouldn’t normally be passed by. I don’t know if it is all in my head, a lack of training, no nutrition, stronger riders, round and round the reasons go. My neck and back are giving me grief and I still can’t get down into aero so I pull into the special needs station at 100km and grab some Panadol from my bag. I stop to use the toilet and stretch at the 130km mark – I never ever thought I would stop in a race on the bike! Get back on my bike, more athletes overtake me.
I reach the Reporoa turnaround and I am dreading what is ahead of me with the head wind. I start the 45km hellish journey back in to town, still not having anything expect water, I try a cliff bar, no good. I struggle to the 150km aid station and I stop again. I go into the porta-loo and take my helmet off. Dripping with sweat, eyes blood shot, I just stand there for about 3 minutes… doing stuff all really… just hurting! I start positive self-talk and to back myself and the training I have put in. I tell myself to ignore the pain, it’s an Ironman! Back on the bike, push and will myself to the 170km aid station. Off again, in to the porta-loo, helmet off, splash water on my head and face, listening to bikes passing me by outside, but this time feeling positive. 20km to go – come on! Back on the bike and for the first time I’m thinking about the marathon ahead of me. It takes me 1:08 to ride the final 20km back in to Taupo. I reach transition, listen to Mike Reilly announce the 5th pro male across the finish line, and hand my bike over to the volunteer – I don’t care if they ride off in to the sunset with it.
Bike time: 6:44 (1 hour longer than I expected). Passed by 207 athletes.
T2: So happy, feel like a new man. Stroll and take a seat while old mate fiddles around with my bag getting my shoes and sunnies out for me. Look around at the athletes in T2 – some covered in blood, some with sheer exhaustion, some smiling – we’ve all had our own battle on that bike. Shoes on, hat on, I head on over to the food table while the volunteers whack some sunscreen on me. I manage to get some coke down (first caffeine in a long time) and some chips. Game face on.
My longest run since September 2016 was 24km so I am not sure how long I will last, I don’t mind at this stage as the crowd is going nuts for all the IM athletes out on the run course – it gives me a massive boost. I figure I’d rather hold a conservative pace then try and run hard and only last 10km. So I start out at 5:50/km, pretty slow but it doesn’t feel slow. I start to approach the MTC tent for the first time, a little embarrassed by how long the bike took me and wondering what reception I would get. I was greeted with smiles, high-5’s, jumping up and down and loud cheers from my team mates as I run past for the first time, I smiled and I am pretty sure it stayed with me the whole time. Foz rides besides me and talks nutrition “chew down shot blocks”. I get to aid station 1 and grab a bunch of shot blocks and suck down 3 of them. At the 3km mark my wife and mate were running alongside me saying I looked strong, (not sure what they expected, ha!), but I did feel good. I tell them my aim is to run to 21km without stopping. At the next 2 aid stations I grab more shot blocks but start to get sick from them so decide no more, it will be coke and water the rest of the race. 8km my stomach grumbles… oh no, where the hell is that aid station with the toilet. I reach the aid station (just!), pretty annoyed that I have to stop I spend about 6 minutes in the toilet, kind of laughing about it. Back out and I keep running. The NZ run course is tough, but I welcomed the hills. I didn’t stop running unless I was taking on coke or in the toilet. I reach the first 14km turn around and feel amazing. I see Juan and Charlie and we cheer each other on. Chiggers and I high 5 each other as we run in opposite directions. I see Liam flying along and spot Gibbo who nearly got done for indecent exposure for having his tri suit zipped down too far! I pass Jen who smiles, waves and never stops, inspiring! I pass the MTC/fluid crew for the second time who cheer even louder! I head back out to the hilly section where lots of athletes are starting to walk, I keep running and I start to pass a lot of them. I feel great and my legs feel strong, just a few minor stomach issues. I stick with coke and ice water at every aid station, not ideal but it is working for me. I start to think ‘I’m going to be an Ironman!’ I keep running and at the 34km mark Lesley joins me for a kilometre giving me words of encouragement to finish it off. It worked, my last 8km was the fastest split of my day and I pass a lot of athletes. I push the last 6km with a local doing his 3rd New Zealand IM, we run stride for stride. I start think about all the hard work that goes in to an Ironman and I high-5 the MTC/Fluid crew for the last time. I run on a high all the way to the finishers chute…. Mike Reilly tells me I am an Ironman!!
My Garmin tells me I did a 4:04 marathon, but I also spent a marathon of time in the facilities.
Run time: 4:32 (expected – I had no expectations so I am stoked!).
Total time: 12:45:10
I wouldn’t change a thing about my first Ironman – it was amazing! The experience is the experience and it is what it is. I am damn proud of the time I did, and the support I received on course and from home was amazing. The fluid squad boys waited for me in the recovery tent – Chris waited for over 2 hours to congratulate me! We’ve got a pretty special thing going on at Fluid/MTC.
See you in Busso... if Foz says it’s ok!