Here is my story of how an Accountant became a huge supporter of Ironman Triathlons.
it all started with my friend, Adam.
I like to keep fit, and my friend Adam also likes to keep fit.... but he decided to take it to the next level. In late 2013 Adam decided that he would start training for the 2015 Melbourne Ironman. He begun limiting late nights, alcohol and sacrificed many other things as he started his intense training program with his BHP colleague, Gerhard. Gerhard was an experienced Ironman (this would be his 9th race!) and was mentoring Adam.
I personally thought they were both crazy. How on earth were they going to work full time as engineers and fit in nearly 20 hours of training each week?.... This would be interesting...
Adam was working in Roxby Downs and with 6 months until the big event, he commuted from Roxby to Adelaide every weekend for training. We offered Adam a place to stay for these trips and despite my doubt, Adam would wake up at 5am to ride 150km or run 30km before it got too hot. He always proved me wrong as I witnesses him do this every Saturday and Sunday for 6 months!
I was always wondering where Adam got his motivation. What did he think when people told him he was crazy or couldn’t make it? How did Adam remain focussed and dedicated to the cause?.... And more importantly, how could I also achieve the same level of commitment?
A spare of the moment decision made me travel from Adelaide to Melbourne to watch Adam and Gerhard compete in the Ironman event. I quickly made some banners and jumped on a plane to Melbourne.
The night before the race
Adam had 12 training sessions a week, taking up approximately 20 hours and according to his training plan he was physically fit to undertake the challenge. The night before the race however, Adam started to feel extremely unwell and was having doubts about competing.
To this day it is argued whether it was anxiety or (Iron)man flu!
According to his nutrition plan, Adam needed a big bowel of pasta and also big dose of tough love. He got both. That night I made him promise to compete despite his concerns of giving himself pneumonia if he completed the first swimming leg in the freezing ocean.
The day of the race
For those who don’t know what an Ironman involves, it a 3.8km open water swim, 180km bike ride followed by a 42km marathon. Not for the faint hearted!
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to Ironman Melbourne 2015, but I can honestly say that I was blown away by the whole experience. Approximately 20,000 spectators lined the Frankston Pier to support the racers in their first swimming leg. I waited at the side line with my banner for 2 hours and watched as other friends and families were cheering and crying support for the racers.
I wasn’t prepared for the level of emotion from both the spectators and the competitors. These families had also made sacrifices to support their loved ones to fulfil their dreams of becoming an Ironman. None of the racers could train, prepare and race on their own.
As the race progressed I found myself cheering for everyone, my support now extended to all of the 3,000 entrants. I watched a blind man undertake the race in tandem with his friend, and an 82 year old woman aiming to break a world record. Every time I started to feel tired and craved a coffee, I quickly told myself to “harden up” and to focus on what everyone else was achieving around me.
6 hours into the event, about halfway through the cycling leg, I realised that the event was not a competition. It didn’t matter who won or lost or what time they achieved. All spectators were cheering and encouraging every athlete. All athletes were cheering and supporting each other. The only thing that mattered was that you finished the race and you had the support you needed to get there.
(I later found out that Adam had 3 punctures in the bike leg and another competitor stopped to lend him spare tyre and gas cylinder so he could continue in the race.)
At the Finish line
I was fortunate enough to see Adam 7 times throughout the race before waiting at the finish line for him to pass. I was at the finish line in St Kilda for over 2 hours and witnessed some of the strongest, most powerful scenes I have ever seen. Emotion was at its highest level.
There is a term in Ironman called “crawlers”. As racers approached the finish line they are either excited, or they are physically broken and “crawling” along the red carpet. I was worried about Adam and what state he might be in.
The noise and atmosphere of the music, lights and people screaming encouragement, and watching both supporters and racers crying and collapsing as they crossed the finish line was overwhelming.
At last, I saw Adam and he wasn’t a crawler! I saw Adam cross the finish line as his name was announced with the encouraging last words “YOUR ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”
Adam was on cloud nine, but I however was an emotional wreck.
I couldn’t really comprehend the physical endurance of what he had completed, and I was so proud that he had finished and I was there to support him.
Adam finished the race in 12 hours and 8 minutes. Gerhard crossed the finish line right behind him at 12:12.
Somehow, somewhere, both men found the energy to walk a further 300m to the pub for a beer.