Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ironman Melbourne: 7 sleeps to go - a recap from 1 yr ago

This time next week Mike Reilly will be calling the final few hours of Ironman Melbourne.

I thought today would be a good day to post a shortened version of my husbands race report from last year which gives a brief of overview of the course and his experience of the day.

As we know, depending on the weather, it could be very different this year. Also, the swim course route has changed, start time is later so no swimming in the dark and now the run loop at the beginning is an extra 1km so finish line is at St.Kilda Gardens not out front of the St.Kilda Baths.

Enjoy the read - and if this is your first Melbourne Ironman and you have any questions, fire away, he would be happy to answer.


Ironman Melbourne swim course is located in Frankston, which is 42km south of the finish line in St.Kilda. This is unique as Melbourne presents the only “point to point” run course on the Ironman circuit.

The course is not without a few logistical challenges as bike check in on Saturday afternoon in Frankston requires a return trip of approx 80kms for the majority of competitors who based themselves in St. Kilda.

Buses to Frankston were arranged by the race organisers for Saturday bike check in and Sunday race morning. We jumped on a bus 4:45am Sunday morning and arrived in Frankston approx 40min later.

Race morning check in went smoothly, I spent less than 10min setting up my bike before taking the weight off my legs to prepare for the day ahead.

The Swim start was out of the ordinary as a large number of swimmers decided they were good to go before the gun fired! I was swimming to the start line when I saw the field take off so hit the start button on my watch and got amongst it.

The swim course starts in front of the Frankston pier and is rectangular with 1.6kms to the first turning buoy. Compared to other Ironman swims I had minimal contact except for a rogue kick to the side of my head, which came out of nowhere. A bit more than half way through the swim I noticed my hands then arms go numb. This has not happened before but lesson learnt re wearing a sleeveless wetsuit in Port Phillip Bay!


As usual it was frantic stripping off the wetsuit and putting on helmet etc for the ride. I had packed arm warmers and a vest to wear over my race singlet but decide against putting them on, as I wanted to get on the bike ASAP. BIG mistake! I spent the next 90min the coldest I’ve been in a race. My fingers were next to useless so I was changing gears with the back of my hand.

Ironman Melbourne bike course takes place on the Eastlink Freeway, which is a mostly flat road with a few undulations and a 2km hill going into a tunnel at the turn around. You can stay in the big chain ring climbing both sides. The road surface is excellent and with slight winds on Sunday, times were fast.

I was able to set a fairly high pace on the bike with speeds in excess of 40km/h on the flats for the first 2 hours, completing the first 90km lap in 2:20. I watched my SRM hit some pretty high numbers but didn’t feel I was stepping into the abyss so kept it rolling.

Overall the bike course is fast if not windy and has lots of false flats. 


The first 2kms of the run course is an out and back section, which is the only time during the marathon where you see other competitors running towards you. After the first 2kms the course follows The Bay north to St.Kilda. The number of spectators on the course was great with plenty of encouragement and funny comments along the way.

Good mates had bikes and rode the marathon course, which meant every 5, or 10, kms I had them giving it to me as only mates can! My wife was in a car, which meant I was also receiving some loving support. The other option for supporters to follow their triathlete was via a bus that could drop you off at ‘live’ sites at approx every 10km.

The run course is flat for the first 23kms. From 23kms to 34kms there are a series of long undulations that feel anything but easy to run in a fatigued state. I ran the first 21kms in 1:35 feeling good. At the 25km mark, running up a short hill from The Bay to the road it was as though someone dropped a small car on my back. Two runners that I had passed went by during the next kilometer and I felt like I was going backwards. We like to tell ourselves to “Eat the Pain” but every step was agony and I still had 17 bloody kms to run!

I had to block the thought of another 90mins of tortured running out of my head so I focused on staying relaxed with good form and running 6 feet in front of me over and over and over. Getting through to 35kms the wheels were starting to fall off.

Coming to the 40km mark I saw two competitors ahead of me, and from the look of them they were in my crusty age group! Having previously missed going to Hawaii Ironman by one finish place
I didn’t want it to happen again so dug in and passed them with one running behind me for a few hundred meters until I didn’t hear his laboured breathing any longer. Fortunately they were more stuffed than me so I managed to shuffle by.

Then at last… I was in the final 500m. The crowd was massive, music pumping, people screaming and I heard my name a few times but I wasn’t going to relax and enjoy it as I sensed another competitor was approaching so I did a final burst to get across the line.  Mates who were at the finish line told me later I was imagining the afore mentioned runner but I checked the results and some dude was 6 seconds behind me!

The race was not easy but I managed a 30min PB, which qualified me for a start in the Hawaii Ironman in October.

The Organisation

As a first event in an urban setting this race was bound to offer some strategic challenges for the organisers. We loved it being in Melbourne, which is renowned for it’s great cafes and shops. The expo was in a huge circus like tent that sat right next to the bay. The finish line was positioned between the beach and restaurants. These restaurants hosted the carbo and award dinners and they converted the expo tent into a huge theatre for the awards night, which worked well. 

The weather was changing by the day (note to bring layers of clothes including warm jacket) with an 80km hour northerly (headwind for entire marathon) on the Thursday. However, the weather gods smiled on us on race day with light winds on the bike and run.

Looking back at all the other Ironman events we have attended this one was a cut-above anything we have experienced – apart from Hawaii. We will definitely be back for more. Well done to the organisers!

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