Tom Callaghan IMOZ 2016
IRONMAN AUSTRALIA 2016
Ironman Australia was always going to be special for me. I suppose every Ironman will end up special to me for different reasons, although this was only my second Ironman so there is still that fear of the unknown lingering over me in the lead up (which 99/100 times I respond best to). Not only was this another Ironman with my own expectations, this was the first Ironman that I was a part of the TEAM environment – something words won’t do justice. There is a reason TEAM has produced so many winners. “Just surviving” wasn’t the goal anymore #successbreedssuccess
I made the not so long trip (compared to others) to Port Macquarie from Sydney on the Tuesday before the race so that I could spend some time getting to know the local conditions and everything I had heard was true, unfortunately. Before i had checked in to my hotel I was on the bike and dodging potholes and in the small chain ring – but as we know everyone’s in it together on the day so I wasn’t playing victim!
I am lucky enough to have an uncle who lives in Lake Cathie (just out of Port Macquarie) who does a bit of riding himself and happened to know the entire bike course. He was kind enough to drive me around the bike course and give me some local knowledge of where I can expect it to be fast and where I can expect it to be slow and what wind patterns are typically doing in certain spots so there were no surprises come race day. Best uncle ever, I know.
Being a lone wolf training by myself 97% of the time from Sydney it’s always great fun to train with others and I got to do just that when the rest of the TEAM squad started arriving in town heading out on a ride with 3 guns in Renee K, Nathan Sandford and Ben Meadows. Later in the week then getting to meet the rest of the squad at a group swim.
Before a race I like to stay pretty low key, take my mind off of triathlon and over thinking in general and then let all of my juice out on the day. So that’s exactly what I did. Apart from the compulsories like training, checking in etc I did not a lot. I played putt putt, went on a short nature walk and checked out some tourist spots with Courtney (girlfriend/partner in crime). On the Saturday I got my last instructions from super coach X-Man and then it was game on.
I have a fairly long list of rituals I need to do on race morning and have a recurring nightmare before every race that I am late to the start line. These two things are the reason I’m normally the first walking in to transition. As we know nothing changes on race day so it was the usual Weet-Bix with banana over the top and lots of hydration (mainly electrolyte and then some energy mix within the final hour before the race). Having the TEAM around as well as another mate of mine, Justin, doing his first Ironman made the atmosphere so much better as I felt as though I had a tonne of support on top of the wave I already had. I get more nervous in the weeks leading in to the race. On the race start line there are crowds, music, people to race and everything on the line – what I love!
Just before I start a race I get this wave of emotion and hormones (mostly adrenaline and testosterone mixed) and I feel invincible – something I had to learn to control as we know its a long day ahead. I was straight in the water behind my mate Justin and stayed on his feet for a long long time, about 10 seconds! Haha – was very expected, he is a bit of a fish and was out of the water in 51mins. Early in the swim I try to relax myself and find my own rhythm. I have no issue with losing a bit of time in the swim because I know my strengths will come out later in the day and its not worth burning a match in my swim trying to keep up. I knew what was required of me, knew what was realistic and wasn’t wavering from that. The swim felt like it was taking me forever, I just felt like I was swimming for ages. However on the way home I was already overtaking people which was new territory for me on the swim. I got out in 1:02. Not breaking records any time soon but it was bang on what I expected (between 1:00 and 1:05) which meant I was on target which meant I had no reason to worry at this point.
The start of the bike is always good for my confidence due to the fact that I get out of the water with and behind people that aren’t as strong on the bike so I spend a lot of time overtaking. Based on the nature of the course I was expecting slow from the start however a taper works wonders and after the first hour and a bit I was averaging 34-35km/hr which was a lot faster than I had banked and I thought I was up for something special that day. I recall Xavier’s instructions saying do not chase or try to go with people early in the bike and I found myself in this great group effortlessly where we all just spent time back and forth behind and in front of each other and no one was drafting, another pleasant new experience in triathlon for me! The average speed naturally wore away as the Ironman bike does and the undulation came in to play. PS anyone looking for gossip about Matthew Flinders Drive – I didn’t find it challenging the first time as fatigue wasn’t an Issue and the crowd support was amazing. The second time was different, bad weather meant it was almost deserted and fatigue had sunk in by then! On the second lap I had both positive and negative things happening for my personal race. Negative I saw TEAM mate Tom G had opened up a solid gap on me but positive is that I passed Alex Jackson towards the back end who had beat me by a bit over 10mins at Husky Long Course in Feb after his strong swim/bike and he wasn’t coming with me. I knew both of them were contenders for the day. I think the most frustrating thing about the bike was that my front hydration system (new Giant Trinity model) fell off after some bumps at about 85km and I spent a lot of the second lap not aero making sure that bottle wasn’t going to drop off. At about 140km the bottle came off again although this time at speed going down a hill. After a u turn and ride back I found it had completely fallen apart from the bolt. I tried to put the bottle down my pants and it came out 50m up the road and I decided to part ways. I didn’t know what impact this was going to have on my race. Every aid station I found myself grabbing a bottle, sculling it and waiting again. Not ideal, but everyone’s going to have issues on the day it’s about how you choose to respond to them that determines the outcome of your day. It was going to take more than a bottle to stop me. Off the bike in 5:31 – again around the target and race time of 6:40 coming out of T2. It was a chase for the sub 10 status from there.
Now was my time to shine. I didn’t know how far back I was (ended up being about 12-14mins approx) although I knew it was time to play my strong card. Within the first km I saw Xavier and he reminds me that it’s a long way to go. This was just what I needed to hear as it calmed me and made me take a calm and patient approach. I focused in just being as consistent as possible with my pacing and trusting I will be running as strong at the finish. I had 4 different points on a single lap where I had support, meaning support at 16 points throughout the marathon. Having training mostly by myself this was massive. I was receiving updates from different points as to where I was in relation to people in my age group and that was motivating to hear and see I was closing gaps so rapidly and had the legs to keep going. It was at the very beginning of the 3rd lap I caught race leader (18-24) Tom G. That was a big moment for me because I knew what that meant. Kona is in the picture. I knew I could hold the pace but I wasn’t going to take any chances not knowing if I was putting time in to others, especially later when the tracker had crashed. Running past Xavier in the 3rd and 4th lap it was simple instructions – keep going and get what I need at aid stations. Running past him for the last time with a couple km to go, I asked where I was in relation to others. With the server crashed he said 1st or 2nd and told me to chase someone up the road. I took that as I’m not home yet and put everything I had in to leaving nothing out there. The last 500m or so I began to see familiar faces and knew I had executed the race I wanted so the fist pumps and cheering had started, which was probably great for my supporters who I gave a simple smile and thumbs up earlier staying on task and conserving energy and keeping calm. It was done. A marathon of 3:22 and overall of 10:03. Exactly what I told Xavier I wanted about 7 months earlier came true – almost to the minute.
I found myself not in recovery but in the medical tent getting my blood sugar levels back up. I think those last few kms of running so hard at the end of an ironman caught up with me. I knew I had done well but wasn’t sure exactly of my placing. The medical staff asked me how I went, I couldn’t give them an answer and said I may have won my age group but I’m not sure. They looked it up and we saw I had won. It was a nice little moment. In a way I was alone and could just process it by myself for a second. I could lay there content with what I had done and think about what had just happened. Such a long build mostly solo had ended just how I hoped. It was perfect. I could control my thoughts and emotions. I got out of the medical tent excited to see everyone and I was greeted by friends, family and Courtney all so proud of me and happy for my achievements. We came, we saw, we conquered. We got a Kona slot, a trophy and a tonne of new friends! Yes I mean it when I say WE. We as in everyone who was involved in the process and everyone who cheered my name on the day or sent me messages.
I can not thank some people enough for what they have done for me and the impact they had on this journey. The sacrifices Courtney made and her understanding for what was required to get to this point was awesome. Xavier for the guidance and support along the way. I know I can count on Xavier to tell me things EXACTLY as they are with no bulls**t and I love that. If I’m running like a baby giraffe he doesn’t tell me I look so strong, he tells me what I need to do. Being a young fella, I still have to thank my mum! No words can describe what she has done for my life and you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. This isn’t a generic my mum is awesome, this is a I’ve seen what she’s been through and the person she chooses to be despite it is admirable. My race day cheer squad Sarah, Lukey, Alyssa, Jordan, Mick, Morto, Scott, Georgia, Zoe, Riley, Jim & Kylie – you guys rock and sorry I’m not much fun when racing but I’m there to execute a plan and fun comes later haha! Finally everyone associated with TEAM to make it what it is. I love you all!