Thursday, February 11, 2016

The longest day - Geelong IM70.3

This kid, leaves me speechless Photo: Selina Reid

40 weeks of preparing, 14 weeks of hard training, a new bike, wetsuit and running shoes. Forget the Sprint Triathlons or the half marathon during the year, this was like nothing else.

I booked accommodation in Geelong for the Friday and Saturday night prior to race day, we were able to get a late check out which certainly helped out post race. I may have left the booking a bit late... so we ended up in your standard 1980 motel with 1990's reno work done to it, but with a kitchen for a meals, TV and a location ten minutes walk from the finish line, we weren't complaining.

Official Wetsuit zip support crew Photo: Selfy by Me!
Pre-Race Day was all about family and not freaking out, checking my bike into Transition and walking around the expo with Z-Girl and Super Wife meant I was less focused on the event than if I was on my own. An afternoon swim with Team Reid at Eastern Beach was the best bit of the weekend, just a moment where you felt like it was a family holiday not a march into the unknown.

I am sure I don't get nerves, but I do start to over think. The night before I was never going to forget a thing, in fact I was going to take items I didn't need on the grounds I had them, the bag was packed and repacked, and everything double checked. Sleeping was an issue, between Z-Girl and I, we tossed and turned so much in our sleep we forced Super Wife to the couch, my head was not acting in fear but instead was planning the event in full in my head, and I mean everything:

Get out transition Olly and put your right foot in your shoe first, energy bar then water, then another chew of the energy bar, remember light feet on the pedals, hard legs on the hills.

SHUT-UP BRAIN I'm trying to sleep I have 5-6hrs of hell in the morning!

I never waited for the alarm at 5am, I just got up, fixed myself some breakfast chomped down some extra magnesium pills to avoid cramps and walked my lonely butt down to transition, so far the hardest thing I had encountered was attempting to peel the plastic seal off my IM race number temporary tattoo, I just couldn't find the corner and almost resulted in waking the wife to borrow a nail. Geelong at 5:30am on a race day morning is eery. Zombie like Triathletes all walking out of the shadows, reserved with no noise, headphones or just walking with dead straight eyes, nobody dare mention what is about to happen, the silence was calming to me. Focused on my race, my plan I had gone over 20 times in my head last night was now right in front of me.

Tools set-up in transition, bike hadn't blown a tyre over night (my biggest fear) and the air was warm and the water was calm. Perfect conditions to get this show started. Listening to my music I sat on my own waiting for Super Wife, and just as I was watching Craig Alexander be the first one in the water on race day, there she was right behind me. Never too sure how the day was going to play-out I wanted to make sure I saw her and Z at my two calmest moments of the day, the beginning and the end. Everything in between is just a bonus. With baby in one hand Super Wife zipped up my wetsuit, something I am yet to master on my own and is a good reason to start my own club or employ a coach if she couldn't be there.

Verge Race Team buddies showed up, a rag-tag bunch of cyclists and triathlete friends I have somehow aligned myself with over the past year, but it sure made me smile and little more to see them, Ivan (Captain) making sure branding was all perfect and photos taken, Faz asking me questions I didn't have answers for, and Daz with his GoPro I'm positive he is involved in a reality TV show with that thing but my suspicion is yet to be proven.

Just thinking 'don't drown your family is watching' Photo: Ivan Dennis
200 + males 30-34 years of age all bunched into a start line for a 5hr + race for most of us, and somebody always wants to push past me to the front! Seriously. I'm a comfortable swimmer and find it less than comfortable having to swim over people who for some reason feel the need to flex muscle early to their friends/ family my standing at the front.

Gun goes and I walk into the water, they all run and dive in like this is going to be over quickly, I find a nice line, a good early pace and move over those two that just nudged past me, open water swimming is perfect like this, long course, big opening straight to shake out the weak swimmers and allow everyone plenty of space. My pace was above my average, I hit the turns gaining 2 minutes at each one, glancing at my watched I start to feel even stronger and push hard to get to the finish and out of the water.

As my ears clear the ocean its a wall of noise, and the full support group were right on the turn into transition, yelling at Ivan (Captain, Mentor, and non-paid coach) that I'm 8 minutes up,  I think he thought I was grumpy, I was pumped. A good start and I haven't wasted any energy.

Get in my shoes quick! I had 400m to play with out of transition before you're hit was a nice hill to get the show started, racing up and out of Geelong and onto the main stretch it was time to think of my plan, I had ridden the road the week prior knew where the fast spots were, worked out the best part to eat while coasting without dropping below my average 30-32kmph, I drank water/calorie drinks on turn around points while I had already slowed down, and eating 1 bar and drinking 1 bottle per lap, finishing with a gel just prior to the run.
Big turn down the hill, light on the breaks love that Verge Kit Photo: Ivan Dennis

Smooth, happy but tight, I was right on time with my first lap and going to get just under 3 hour for 90km at pace, my hamstrings were tight I started to try and stretch them out on the down hills, but that hill in the middle of the ride was a quad burner and really hurt the second time around. Heading back towards the centre of Geelong I was excited for the run feeling that this race didn't have long to go (how surprised I would be) Flying down the hill I caught plenty of positive noise as I un-clipped and headed into transition.

Ok, it was a controversal choice and I will admit one made without really thinking too much about it. No socks! I don't wear socks for sprint triathlons, and I get a dizzy head if I bend down too long to put my shoes on, socks would have delayed more and I just wanted to get out and run. Bad move.

7km in and my feet are tearing, I can feel them just starting to lose skin and the heat stronger than I thought when on the bike was now zapping my body of sweat and speed. I move my stride to being short and sharp and kept a nice 5/5:30 pace going. The aide stations are nicely spaced out but I struggled to grab the water and ice on the move. My body is starting to ache, and is craving anything and everything at the aide stataions, ice, watermelon, water, sports drink you name I grab it and either throw it on myself or stick the ice down the front of tri-kit (this worked well and the ice settled on my thighs cooling them off)

The brain is starting to melt. The two and half lap course gets serious down the back end as it ramps up onto a hill and I have now resorted to walking the aide stations and running the rest so I don't drop any fluids, a energy gel seems to have little influence and as I come towards a hill at the 14km mark my body stops!

I start walking, I  couldn't stop walking, it was like my body had enough and wanted me to throw in the towel. I swear loudly at myself, and really only me and random spectator who seems to think my toerettes is playing up. Somehow I start moving again, slowly this time, my legs are moving against their will and I have given up any chance of making my goal time of 5hrs 30min; as I stare at my average pace on my watch I see it creeping up and I can't seem to go any faster only slower, it feels like I'm moving in reverse as if the finish line is getting further away not closer.

Should of worn socks Photo: Selina Reid
Struggling like this for the next 5km I reach the aide station at 18km mark, 3km to go I gather some water and I'm feeling dejected, like I failed before I finished, I'm being hard on myself but I felt I had put the effort in and done the right training, I didn't cheat things and to not reach my goal felt like a failure. I flick my watch to check my total time status; during the race I had made a point of not looking at total time and staying focused on the individual swim, bike or run. As I see the time come up my brain gathers itself together. 18 minutes, I have 18 minutes until the 5:30 mark and just over 3km to go! I can actually do it!

The finish line in sight and so was my goal time Photo: Selina Reid
The legs got moving almost automatically, I jogged, and then I started to run. I ran not fast but fast enough, I was now staring at my watch as the numbers ticked over, 5:25, 5:27, 5:28. I'm not sure how much was in the petrol tank but I mustered it all, the feet were stinging (in fact the back of shoes were filled with blood much to my surprise when I finished) I hobbled in a jogging pattern down the finishing shoot, family waving and my wife cheering loudly with my daughter in hand, I was excited, pumped, happy it was over I couldn't help it, I punched the sky! I double fist punched the sky! 5hrs 30min 22secs I DID IT!

My medal dropped over neck and finishers towel around my shoulders, I was moved to the chute to have my timing tag removed, and I stumbled. My body was shaking and my head couldn't make the English language work, I had spent everything. Moved by the helpful staff to a chair and given some cold drinks in the shade, I just sat staring at my blood stained shoes and for the first time all weekend I was blank in thought, I just didn't know what to think, I was stunned.

Post race was difficult to explain, I was quite more emotional than I thought. Won't lie I may of leaked a tear while walking back with my wife. There was a level of sacrifice required, with my training, with my time and with my wife. She supported the effort assisted me with the change in lifestyle and was right there when I said I was going to take it, and she stood at the finish line when it was all over.

This journey started when I watched roadside as long time high school friend sped past me during IM Melbourne, I just fell in love with the idea of testing your body across three different events, in a sport where medals are great but finishing is greater.


  1. So inspiring Mr Reid, pushing through on the run is tough but you smashed the last 3km. If only I can get over my fear of road riding I'd join in next year.

  2. Cracking Olly! Good write up, but more importantly amazing journey!