Jody Gilchrist – Ironman Cairns 2013
I have talked about this race A LOT over the past 6 months. But the past 3 weeks debriefing with many people inside and outside of triathlon has been the most enjoyable. The conversation varies depending on who I discuss it with. Some understand the enormity of the event and some have no idea of what is involved. Either way all are thrilled with my result and I am genuinely humbled by their reactions.
On the 3 December 2012 I started being coached by Xavier Coppock. After a chance meeting with his sister Naomi at my local pool and a brief introduction at Shepp 70.3. I researched X (thank you Google) and liked what I read especially about his own amazing achievements and positive nature. After a phone call I instantly felt comfortable with X. I decided if I was going to invest in coaching I would do all that was asked of me and commit to every session. Sometimes I didn’t like it (mostly Williamstown open water swims when the ocean was angry and I was petrified!) and it often hurt. We set out some goals short and long term with the aim of getting to Kona one day in the distant future. I got wrapped up in the training with his team preparing for IM Melbourne and starting looking at IM races for myself. After Christmas 2012 I asked X did he think I would have a enough time to prepare for Cairns. His response “If you are happy to have a solid 6months training for sure!! Will this be your last 45-49?? If so, go for it!! :)” So I entered after checking with my partner David, who was and is always 100% supportive. Anyone that has trained for Ironman will know how critical the support from family is. But David did remind me that after IM Western Australia 2010 I said “I am never doing that again”. Sorry I fibbed.
So after months of 5:15am starts, hours and hours of swimming, riding, running and washing I made it to taper. Some people struggle with taper but I love it as it means my race is just around the corner and it’s time to rest and freshen up. I had a couple of niggling injuries in the preparation but I managed them with chiro, physio, podiatry and massage. I also got through prep without getting sick and that is pretty unusual and lucky. I did have some doubts and anxiety about my training which X was quick to calm me down about, thanks mate. I left for Cairns on the Tuesday before race day to get as much acclimatisation as possible. Spent some quality time with Tim and Debbie Tingiri which was lovely. Thanks Tim for helping me put my bike together and last minute training. Caught up with friends Pilot Tim for a run, Jenny for a coffee and chat. Along with many others from interstate. The weather was warm, humid and showers each day, typical FNQ. I had time for a much needed haircut and manicure. David arrived Thursday night and I felt that the stars were now perfectly aligned. David and I saw The Great Gatsby on Friday (4 stars). We had a team dinner with Xavier on the Thursday and the Welcome dinner on the Friday, my nerves where in check and I was feeling great. The day before the race and the morning of the race I asked X for some advice about the race. On both occasions his response was not what I expected but what I needed to hear. I am a very anxious athlete and it has ruined some recent performances. He knows this and reminded me to acknowledge my supporters, the volunteers, smile and have fun. So simple but often gets lost in the hype. We had talked about times a couple of weeks earlier. I really wanted to break 12 hours as my 1st and only other IM was 12:40. Xavier had predicted at worst I would do 11:05 (swim 1:20, ride 5:45, run 3:45) and probably breaking 11 hours. I thought he was mad but the numbers individually seemed possible. But could I put them all together on race day? The seed was sown and I had prepared well. From that day I started thinking if everything went to plan, why not?
Race day arrived, slept well, carbo loaded and ready to race. David and I joined the procession to T1 to set up, dropped special needs off, as scheduled. I was nervous and excited, David kept me grounded. Photo opportunity with coach X, chat with Tim and Debbie then off to the race start area and wait for the 70.3 athletes to get going. This time always seems like an eternity. Hugged my supportive dude and left smiling and waving. Got into the water and people were chatting away nervously. Ran into my 2 newest friends Jeff and Marina amongst all those people, nice to see familiar faces. We wished each other well and parted ways. The swim was chaos as usual and a lot of people had missed the start, so it seemed an eternity before the faster swimmers cleared the pack. Felt relaxed swimming after the rumble had settled down. Swim 1:15:55
Exit water and take the long run to T1. Ran past David into and out of T1, that boy knows his way around a race course! Out on the bike and I pass a loudly cheering Damo Harris who sadly had to withdraw due to pneumonia. Thanks Damo for getting out of your sick bed, I was really pleased to see you. The ride was beautiful, hilly and wind assisted to Port Douglas. Before I got to PD I had a mechanical, a twig off a tree fell into my front wheel, broke a spoke and slightly buckled my front wheel. I lost quite a bit of speed and took me about 10km before I realised the brake pad was rubbing against the wheel. I removed the offending spoke and opened the brake leaver. I’m not proud to say there were tears but I pulled myself together pretty quickly. All seemed ok and off I went still 105k to go and prayed the whole way nothing else went wrong. Stopped at the mechanic on Rex’s lookout for reassurance. He said it’s not perfect but I would be fine and to get going, so off I went. I was really strict with my nutrition plan but was feeling quite tired on the last 30km of the bike and my right foot was burning (Moreton’s neuroma). There was also a pretty strong headwind. Prayers answered and into T2 and VERY happy to be off the bike and seeing David. As I struggled to walk into T2 I was seriously concerned about how on earth I would run. The announcer had called me off the bike in 3rd for my age group. Did I hear right, that must be a mistake. Got changed, comfort stop and off I went, wave to David, also Nicole Hart. My goal was to run the whole marathon and I reminded myself of that as I left T2. Ride 5:52:50
Within the first 500m I passed a lady I thought may be my age group as her number was similar to mine. I settled into a rhythm very quickly and felt good, my right foot was numb but no longer burning. I kept looking at my Garmin as we went through Yorkey’s Knob thinking that it was wrong as I was on sub 5 min pace. Got to 10km in 49:30 and made the decision to slow down for fear of blowing up. I was having an amazing day but new I had to reel in the pace before it got ugly. The head wind was strong and it was still warm. I stuck with my nutrition plan. It was, a sip of Shotz gel, which I carried in a small bottle, and water at aid stations (2km apart). And Shotz electrolyte drink in between aid stations. I got to town and halfway in great shape and hadn’t stop running. I was delighted to see Deb cheering away and taking photos. Got to special needs stopped to replace bottles of Shotz gels and electrolytes. The crowd was huge and I couldn’t stop smiling. It was lovely to see my friend Sharon from Brisbane cheering loudly. Saw Jason my old Brisbane mate, colleague and training buddy from our early tri days also on course. Crossed paths with Tim, Marina and Adam all looking strong. For anyone who knows our coach X, knows you will usually hear him before you see him. I clearly remember his booming voice saying “here she comes” before I saw him, made me giggle. Then he was screaming support and clapping. As I passed he said you’re in 2nd just keep ticking the legs over. The happy tears started and I was thinking pull yourself together girl you still have 18k to go. Passed David just before the turn around and he said I was in first. What the? I wasn’t sure how to deal with this as it was so unexpected so I just kept doing what I was doing. But I did start to run scared of being caught. High fived a cheering Damo as I headed back out for another lap. It was great having my friends spread out along the course for support, and people you don’t even know cheering your name (it’s on your race number) it seemed they were all there just for me. It wasn’t until I headed out on the last lap did I start feeling the pinch. Told X as I passed him that I was starting to hurt. Apparently I wasn’t and he told me in no uncertain terms, a slap on the backside and off I went with his words ringing in my ears. Coming back into town for the last time was the most amazing feeling I will never forget. Just as I could hear X shouting “bring it home” and everyone cheering, the heavens opened and the rain was bucketing down. I was so emotional I was sobbing uncontrollably and struggling to breath. Just 500m to go, passed David beaming as I turned the corner into the finishing chute. Lots more tears and a high five with the supportive dude. The announcer called me through as an Ironman and 1st place in my age group, but I thought he said 3rd. I was a bit confused but very happy with my day. Just enough energy left to do a little star jump. I didn’t see the overall time and never even thought about it throughout the day, I was just trying to focus on each stage. As X reminds us “don’t think, just do”. Run 3:41:32.
Got my finishers towel, medal and t-shirt then struggled into recovery. I was stuffed. Ate some watermelon and ice cream. I knew I should eat more but couldn’t face it. A debrief with Tim, Adz and Marina. Changed my clothes and checked my phone, so many beautiful messages. I had my phone in my recovery bag, thanks for that tip Damo and the phone call. Rang David and X we were all so emotionally charged. Found out that Michael Harvey had come 2nd in the 70.3 and X’s team had won the 70.3, wow what a awesome day. I skipped the massage as the line was too long and I just wanted to see David and get him out of the pouring rain! I crossed the line in 11:01:34, I was over the moon and let’s just say the coach was pretty impressed with his prediction.
Walked the 1 km back to the accom, very slowly. Read my texts and social media messages. Finally able to stomach some real food and a shower. Slept a few hours as my body was buzzing from the caffeine gels. Woke early very sore but so happy that I had qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona.
I will be proudly lining up with super coach Xavier in Kona and pinching myself. We have come a long way together in such a short time, I will forever be grateful for his guidance. I had a diamond day in Cairns and not for one second do I under estimate how lucky I was and how much harder Kona will be. But as the Ironman motto goes “Anything is Possible”
The African’s have a proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”. Same goes for Ironman. People say you make a lot of sacrifices to train and race Ironman. I don’t buy that at all. I did not make one sacrifice, I did exactly what I wanted to do. I could not have done any of this without the love and support from my family and friends. They make the sacrifices for me to follow my dreams. Thank you.