cheerleaders-at-race-finish.jpgRichard Ward recently completed the Ironman Western Australia race, on 12/7, and has provided a blow-by-blow report, including photos, of his race experience.  Interestingly, Richard has captured, in his own words, the unique Ironman feeling of mid-race breakdown followed by mind and body control that yield a final finish.  The word on the street is that Richard did the race only to photograph the cheerleaders.  VB.

Notes from Ironman Western Australia, December 7, 2008 

Woke early at 3:55 am. Had the necessary coffee and pre-race nutrition as digestive prep were top priority. Gail, my ever faithful manager, got me going. It was total darkness, but clear skies and the Southern Cross was visible in the still black morning. Yesterdays forecast foretold the temperature to reach 90 degrees with winds S-SW to 27K (not a good sign for the bike). Checked in at 5:15 am, final bike check and on with the wetsuit. I start the walk to the jetty and swim start. The Pros are off at 6 am sharp with helicopters in the sky and crowds lining the mile long jetty.  The Indian Ocean is warm. A wetsuit makes it perfect.  Shark evacuation plans were presented at the pre-race meeting (bottom line: do not harm any sharks). 6:15 am horn blows, mass start. Bodies are packed, side-by-side, over, under, and a mad house. No room to plant an arm or move forward. Finally, experience says to go left and get away from this mess. Fifteen minutes into the swim I found clear water. The end of the jetty is the turn and I see 30 minutes on my watch. I am stoked. I see a swim PR. The turn is into chop and a current. The wind is beginning. I touch land and the finish mat in 1:10:32. The transition is smooth: tri shorts, bike jersey, and arm warmers; no need for cold gear. The wind is not yet up. The skies are clear and the temperature is likely to climb. Three loops, this is one of the most scenic, flat rides one can do. I am feeling good (18, 19, 21 mph) with no wind, yet. One hour into the event, I go for the big chain ring and “click” ~nothing. The cable has come loose. O.K., I’ll spin 39/13, and save the legs for the run. Loop 1: looks like I’ll do 5:45.Loop 2: looks like I’ll do 5:50.Loop 3: I hope I get under 6:06 with the direct head wind. Cruel; energy going. A DNF is looking like an option. I really want to quit. I hit the T2 tent walking; change; swallow ¾ bottle of Endurox. Walk out.I am ready to lie down. I start to move forward running. It is more like moving in 2X gravity. I am passed by a 60+ year old woman with a painful, awful gait, and she is going twice my pace. At ~ mile 1, I think O.K. 17 hours and I can walk. Finally, at ~mile 3, I get my legs. I develop an Ironman shuffle. I am going, and it is O.K. If I just keep going, the guys back in SB won’t make me a poster boy for “friendly” ridicule. I keep moving. The course is beautiful. All along the beachfront are beautiful homes, boat harbors, annoying flies, the blue Indian Ocean and Geographe Bay. Winds are 25-27 mph.  I use every aid station and put ice under my hat. The temperature must be 90 degrees with no shade. Three loops. At each turn you get a “scrunchy” for your wrist (orange – loop 1, white – loop 2). I have scunchy envy as I complete loop 1. Luke Bell, the race favorite, I pass on loop 1. He has 2 scrunchies to my none. He probably still broke 9:30 hrs.  The sun is still high in the sky. I swallow a fly on lap #1, good protein. I know I will finish and can see that the run has disseminated most of the field. (I am actually not unhappy with my 4:52 run, as there was not much walking.)  The last 4K, my feet are burning, a problem I need to solve. I must beat 12:30. I manage, and finish in 12:27.

I remove the ice cubes from my hat; straighten my race number, and prepare for the finish line (the finisher’s photo being the primary reason for participating).  

Gail is there along with the Busselton High School cheerleaders. Can life get any better?  On Monday, AM, I find I am third in my age group, wow; maybe, I should go to the roll down, for Hawaii slots.  I go in the race office to see if #1 claimed his spot. “Yes, Allen just put his money in, and is going”.Well, just as well, he managed a 10:30. This venue is fantastic.  Three loops made it very interesting, especially on the run, when it’s hard to focus on the distance.

 All my thanks to Jack Bianchi, and my training partners. 

Richard Ward.