Ironman Australia Race Report; A first timer

As I was lining up for Carbo dinner at Ironman Australia this lovely lady popped up to me to say hello.  It was an Ironchick, Lisa and Port Macquarie was going to be her first Ironman.  I could see that she was absorbing all that is Ironman – she was absolutely loving it  and I loved the brief chat we had.  She oozed love for the sport.  Lisa emailed me her race report from last weekend, kindly sharing the advice she took from Hilary Biscay, the new found love of Vegemite and how she is now looking back and being grateful for the race she had.  ENJOY, I know I did…..


Race report – Lisa Redmond, Ironman Australia, Port Macquarie 4/5/14


Twelve months ago I entered Port Macquarie Ironman. I had watched NZ ironman a few months before and cried as I watched total strangers run up the finish chute. It left me with a desperate feeling to know how elated they must have felt, to have done something so truly enormous that most normal people can’t even comprehend. I had done my first sprint tri 14 months before, had never done a half distance, never run over 15km nor swum over 1.5k.

I turn 48 next week, so I am a bit of a late starter to this wonderful sport but that’s what I love about it. Age doesn’t matter at all and you make so many fantastic friends of all ages. My training buddy who also raced Port for her first IM is twenty years younger than me and we have a great time training together.  I had faith I would continue my  training and I knew I was determined to do it. In the twelve months after entering I did 3 half distance races and improved my racing with each one. I literally only missed two training sessions in the last 6 months and I hit the end of taper feeling like a million dollars; I was going to do a super time, get near the podium, who knows, maybe even by a wild stroke of luck, score a rolldown sport. After all it rolled down to 5th place in my age group last year. aaaaah… (or should that be ha ha). – the confidence of the truly ignorant.

I think it was a good thing at the pro panel on Friday I listened to Hilary Biscay’s answer to the question –

What is the best advice you can give to a first timer?

Her response went something along the lines of – Don’t put pressure on yourself by having time expectations of how your entire race will go, because if something goes wrong you don’t want to feel your whole race is ruined. Just take each stage as it comes and enjoy it.

Great advice Hilary and a little voice in the back of my head said “heed this advice“.

The days preceding the race were exciting and I lapped them up. It was amazing just to be there in Port walking around amongst lots of other athletes, all there for the one reason. So exciting in fact that I completely forgot that I had my wetsuit drying on top of the car and I lost it on my way to transition on Saturday. Panic and tears were the order of the hour, so panicked that I didn’t answer my phone, which would have cut the panic short as it was the lovely person who had just picked it up. It took me about fifteen minutes to be reminded that I had my phone number on it, “oh, the missed call – Hello, please tell me you have my wetsuit”, of course they did!! Disaster averted, but in terms of saving pre race adrenalin, I had none left I can tell you!

During the week as race day drew closer the predicted temperature dropped, wind speed picked up and last minute arm sleeves and bike jersey expo sales went through the roof. Race day did not disappoint, I doubt a single age grouper did a swim warm up. It was freezing out of the water and many of us kept socks and shoes and jumpers on for as long as possible.

My legs were visibly shaking standing in our swim start group from nerves or cold I am not sure. The rolling swim start and weir crossing had occupied many conversations in race lead up and everyone was waiting to see how it worked out. As a competitor it was brilliant, we just waited in our self seeded groups, walked into the water and off we went, simple as that.

I have had much more aggresive starts in ocean swims and age group waves. So after twelve months of training for this day suddenly it had started and I knew there were many, many hours in front of me. I also knew that despite having an encyclopaedic race plan I really had no idea exactly what was going to happen.  I am not the best swimmer and my swim strategy goes something like – just kept on feet, preferably of a big male whenever I can and try not to follow them if they go off course. The water temp was good and you could see the feet in front most of the time.

As we drew closer to the weir I was a bit worried. It looked like there were a lot of people near me in the water. So I did try and put on a bit of a spurt to find some clear water to reach the steps and be next to the handrail. It was all smooth sailing with heaps of volunteers making sure we safely crossed. The water was a few degrees colder on the other side of the weir but we weren’t on that side for too long. Before I knew it we were heading back down the channel to transition and the swim was coming to a close, 1.09 when I got out of the water – What the heck, I am a 1.16 pool swimmer for that distance  (I did say I was pretty slow) so I felt like the day had got off to a good start.

The transition tent was chaos in a very fun sort of a way. It felt like the backstage at a circus. I am sure the cold weather led to way more nudity and a greater deal of activity than maybe usual, as so many complete changes were made and more layers put on. I had packed accordingly the day before. I already had my calf compression sleeves on, so the bike jersey just went over the top of my tri top and sleeves and socks for warmth on. The volunteers were awesome and such lovely ladies, I hope they enjoyed their day also. I am not sure what I did in there exactly, as I took 7 minutes to get out onto the bike, which is pretty ridiculous, but it sure didn’t feel like that long. I am glad I rugged up a bit, it was bitter out there to start with and I really feel the cold,  it turned out the only thing I took off for the whole ride was rolling down my arm sleeves.

One thing that was major in my race plan and everything I had read in the lead up was to take it out easy and try not to over exert on the hills, for the first half of the bike. Crap,…my heart rate monitor didnt work for the first 60km, so I had to just work on perceived effort. Not a good start, as I fiddled and faddled with the bloody monitor strap for most of that first lap.

As we headed out of town the first time I just kept getting passed. Lots of people standing and climbing those first hills right from the get go. I kept telling myself not to panic and stick to the plan, as I sat on my seat and spun up the hills trying to stay easy. I would either catch them later or they were just flat out better than me. It was a tough day out there, I had expectations of being closer to six hours than the 6.46 I ended up riding.

It never seemed like the wind was in your favour. It was either straight at you or across and I never got up to that nice rolling speed that eats up the miles and makes you happy to have race wheels, so I just had to adapt.

The first time I hit Matthew Flinders there were quite a lot of people riding it and it was good to get that short scarey hill out of the way. The wind was so strong coming down the hill to the cricket field on the outskirts of town I was nearly blown off the bike and if the wind didn’t take advantage of any lapses of concentration, a pot hole would. The long straight out of Port down to Lake Cathie on the second lap seemed to take forever. The wind was just belting us and every time I looked up it seemed like there was just as much road in front of me.

My gut was feeling a bit unhappy and I didn’t eat anywhere near the gels I thought I would, I just couldn’t stomach them for some reason. So I was relying heavily on my Infinit nutrition Go Far drink mix and honey shotz. I had two Malteaster bunnies in my pockets to have as a treat at the far turn around on each lap. My argument is that they are prime bike nutrition as if you read the label they have similar amounts of carbs & sodium to a gel….that’s what I keep telling myself. That second choc bunny was like gold, there was no way I was dropping it. I let each mouthful melt in my mouth for as long as possible and I think I might have just licked the wrapper. That perked me up for the push back into town.

My second climb up Matthew Flinders saw me pass a lot of people walking and then it was the best feeling in the world to be heading back into town to get off the bike. Maybe I could have gone a bit harder earlier, but I had a plan and I executed it, adapting to what my body was telling me as I went. So I am happy with that.

What fun it was to pass my bike to someone else to deal with when I hit transition. I think I may have said he could keep the rotten thing and I never wanted to see it again, but he was probably offered lots of free bikes that afternoon and I really do love my bike, I just wasn’t feeling the love at the time.

Onto the run, yay, my run has been getting better over the past year and although I had never run over 30km I was confident it was not too big a task to add a few more k’s to that. If there was anything I would have like to have changed it was that I may have let fear start to creep up on me during the run. I started off at my target pace of around 5.30/5.45 kms which would see me run about a 4 hour marathon.

My legs felt great and the first lap was fine until I started to feel like I was getting a stitch at about the 6km mark and I eased off to make sure it didnt progress. I have never had a stitch in 2 years of training so I was a bit spooked, after that every little gut cramp or muscle niggle gave me a fright. I realised then that having come so far I was absolutely terrified of not finishing and a bit more fear started to creep up on me and I did run a bit more conservatively. This was definitely now about finishing and I was constantly monitoring how I felt and trying to get ahead of myself a little and anticipate needs before they arose. Four laps felt like a kind of mental torture, each time you collect another band you think about how good it is going to feel to get the next one, you cant let yourself think about the fourth one until you are on that lap or it just does your head in.

Mel Hauschildt was finishing as I had 3 laps to go, bugger!!! I may not have ran as fast as I would have liked to, but I did run the entire 42km except for the aid stations. Those I have to walk to make sure I drink what I pick up and don’t literally drown in my plastic cup. The first couple of laps I ripped into the vegemite, so I must have been feeling salt deficient, probably because I had not had all the gels I had planned. I would leave one aid station and depending on what I had just consumed I would be planning what I was going to have at the next one. I got a bit teary at one stage going past the big telstra message board. I felt a bit selfish for all the time training and racing had taken me away from my family – but then I told myself that I knew how proud my two daughters were to be watching their mum race and how enriched their lives are by being part of this undertaking and to just suck it up and keep going.  I was passing huge numbers of people walking on the run and boy did I feel sorry for them. It’s a long slow walk to do 42km.

Every lap I did the course became more crowded with walkers and dodging safely around them in the dark was an effort in concentration itself. By the last lap my hip flexors were really aching but I had run within myself and I knew I was going to finish now and mentally that was a huge boost. I had enough to push out a quicker last couple of  km’s. By the end of the run I had improved my position by another 144 places, so although I would have liked to be a bit faster I am happy with how my overall race plan panned out. My overall time was 12.39 and I was fifteenth in my age group and I did “chick”  quite a few of my fellow tri club members. If I could say one thing I did learn, it was that this race is a completely different beast to a half.

My mother passed away late last year. She would never have understood such a sport or racing like this. I wish she could have, but due to health issues throughout her life her world view was very limited. I know that one day she did say to me, that I always looked happy and healthy and I didn’t let things get me down, so in some way she recognised what we all know intrinsically, this sport is more than just a swim, a bike and a run.

It is about inner strength, human spirit and a journey for each and every one of us in our own way. A journey we can share with others but still our own to make it what it is and it seriously does not matter how fast you are compared with anyone else. When I train or race I do it because I have the ability to do so, and so many people don’t. I never, ever take that for granted, it is a blessing to be able to ride really fast on a smooth road on a sunny day, or splash through water with the sun just warming your back and first light breaking.

There are special moments all around us when we push our own boundaries and if we recognise them and are grateful for them the journey will always be worthwhile, no matter what the result. There will be other races, but never another first Ironman.

Coming through that finish arch gave me the most amazing, happy feeling and I knew it had been a very good day.

I hope everyone else had their own good day also, Lisa


A huge congratulations Lisa.  Well done.

It makes me want to sign up for another one 🙂

Must be a little Iron still in my heart,   Cathx





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5 thoughts on “Ironman Australia Race Report; A first timer”

  1. What a great story Lisa and so well articulated. I also lost my mother late last year. I also completed my first ironman a few months after that at Busso. I vehemently agree with you that ironman is much more than a race. Well done girrrl. Flic

    1. Loved your story Lisa. Made me laugh several times specially when you handed your bike over… I raced Port Mac as my first Ironman and I also lost my wonderful mum last year to illness as well, so I can totally understand your feelings . I know my mum would have been proud of me and I am just thankful that at 47 years old I can get out there and enjoy such an amazing feeling to swim, bike and run . Congrats and might see you at another IM? I’m hooked ….

  2. Congratulations Lisa. What a great story and even greater achievement. The best part of Ironman is watching and listening to our Iron virgin stories. Yours was brilliant! See you out there soon Ironchick!!!!

  3. Congratulations Lisa. Awesome job. Fantastic read and an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing your experience.