Renee Japan

I was pretty emotional the day before the race and living up to my reputation there was definitely a Diva moment or two! First ironman, a foreign country and having high expectations for my race was a pretty lethal combination in hindsight. My biggest fear coming from short course racing and only knowing one pace – “flat out”- was going out too hard on the swim or bike and not being able to finish. So the message of the day was to not overdo it and watch my pace.

I felt great race morning. The lake was so beautiful and the swim was pretty uneventful. I went out probably a little bit below race pace for the first lap and then kicked it up a notch half way through the second lap. It was easy to navigate and I felt great getting out of the water. Grabbed my gear bag, into the change tent and then got my bike.

Saw mum (being a typical mum recording my every move) as I was coming out of T1 then

Xavier just before the mount line. He told me I had about a 5 min lead out of the swim. I couldn’t stop smiling from the time I exited the water. Got on my bike and a few hundred meters down the road heard a familiar voice cheer for me and turned to see Marina on the side of the path with the bike mechanic. I was absolutely gutted for her and yelled out a four letter expletive best not repeated here. The bike course was incredible! I remember thinking “this isn’t that hard” at about the 50km mark. My average pace was about 34-35km/h at that stage… then the real riding kicked in. Hill after hill after hill after hill. And then there were more hills. And just when you thought they were over there were more. I almost ran over a snake on the road at one point I think I missed it by a few cm. There was a dirt section uphill that I couldn’t ride up, I had to get off and carry my bike up! And there was a U-turn so sharp that I had to unclip and half dismount to get around it then a volunteer had to push me so I could get going again because it was uphill! There were numerous sections we rode through near villages on rough paths and I would have seen at least 20 athletes changing flats up to this point. Special needs was at the 100km mark just before the big climb. I stopped and had a bit of a picnic here. Not knowing what I would and wouldn’t need I stuffed pretty much everything I had put in my bag into my jersey then finally got going again. The main climb was tough, there were several points where I thought I would topple off the side of my bike because I had no more gears left. Think speeds of 5-6km/h! I was watching my average pace fall from 34-35km/h right down to 28km/h. I only saw 1-2 other females out on the bike course in the entire 6 hrs and 25 mins I was out there so I knew I must have been doing ok. Every time I was tempted to push harder I kept repeating what Xavier had told me the day before “you don’t need to bury yourself on this ride” and just reminded myself to ride solid and steady but not hard. The scenery was absolutely incredible and I got a bit teary a few times thinking how lucky I was to be out there racing and how much my life has changed in the last 12 months. I came past

Rhys with about 30km to go. He wasn’t looking too good and said he was struggling.

Mate you are unbelievable to get through that race given how sick you were in the lead up. So much respect for you. (Bike course stat: Elevation gain 2,500m according to Garmin which is about the same as a ride with 10 Humevale repeats) For me, the bike leg went relatively quickly and I felt really good coming into T2. Again I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, had lots of energy, had got all my nutrition and hydration in and didn’t feel fatigued at all. There were times towards the end of the bike I almost didn’t take my last couple of gels thinking I would be ok as I was almost finished but it was Zoe’s voice in my head that made me get them down!

Did not want to have to answer to her if nutrition was the undoing of my race!

I did everything but have a shower in T2 (I really need to work on my transitions), walked out and saw mum, Marina and Xavier. Xave told me I had at least a 10 minute lead. I had a diva moment here and replied “10 minutes?! Is that it?!” And ran off.

Did my head in for the next few km cursing myself for not riding hard enough and worrying that I was going to be outrun any second. That all ceased at the 3-4km mark of the run where the course got so tough I didn’t have time to think about it anymore! The first 13km of the run was very hilly and mostly on gravel. One hill was so steep that no one ran up it – it was practically un-runable. Everyone around me was walking which was reassuring. I think it went on for a couple of km. I next saw

Xavier, mum and Marina at about the 16km mark of the run. I was feeling fantastic and just sticking to 5.30/km pace. It was here Xave told me I was in the lead by over an hour. Massive relief. It was a 30km run into town then 2x 6km laps to finish off so I had about 14km to run before I would see them again. I saw Sarah (Rhys partner) at about the 20km mark and stopped to sort out my nutrition with her and updated her on Rhys. She was such an awesome supporter on race day. I was still feeling great physically and mentally. Next I ran into Pete stopped and sitting down on the side of the road. What a champion. He said he had bad back issues and couldn’t run. He was in great spirits and was smiling and cheered me on. Reminded me to get running again after a quick chat. I can’t fathom finishing a race when in that much pain – massive congrats to you Pete. Just before I hit town I caught a

Japanese lady in another age group and we ran together on and off for the next

6-7km. We kept double checking each other’s race belts to make sure we weren’t in the same age group and giving each other a smile and thumbs up. Saw mum, Marina and Xavier on my first lap and Xave said I was still an hour in front. Had time to give mum a hug, had a toilet break and also got to see Ryan heading towards the finish line while I went back out for my last lap. He had just enough energy left to scream at me to “keep eating” until I finished. I got to see Brooke when we crossed paths on that last lap. We high fived and she had a massive smile on her face! It was at about the 35km mark my body started to hurt. The last 7km were the hardest (Run course stat: Elevation gain 380m according to Garmin which is about the same as a run with 12 Anderson St Hill repeats)

The finish line was amazing!! Such an incredible feeling to be called over by the announcer as “age group winner of one of the toughest ironman courses in the world”.

I am extremely grateful that I was in a position to be able to take it all in and enjoy the run and everything that was going around me. I know not many races will ever be like that again. I honestly don’t think I stopped smiling the entire day and hope my finisher pix reflects this!

The 3 biggest things I took out of my first ironman would be:

1/ Don’t stuff up your nutrition or hydration. I am most proud of this than anything else, I had everything written down and didn’t deviate from my plan at all. When I was in doubt I ate more and stuffed a few more electrolyte tabs into my bottle.

2/Anything can happen in this distance. I finally got to see what this means. So many guys took over me in the first 10-15km of the run but to my amazement I passed many of them later down the track. Goes to show it’s not over till it’s over.

3/ Listen to your coach. As much as we all doubt it at times they just always know best.

For now, Ironman is my new favourite distance.


A big thank you to Mum, Marina and Sarah for their support on race day. Marina I’m going to be your biggest groupie when you next race!! To Craig Percival for all your work on my swim and always backing me! To Toby for the massages/sports psychology sessions and to the boys at Omara Cycles, particularly Trent, for making and keeping my bike fast. To my good friends in this sport and everything you do for me from cooking me meals to dropping my bike off to the bike shop when I can’t….you know who you are! To all my TEAM training buddies, I received countless messages of support and it just blows me away how much a bunch of people back one another and genuinely want to see each other succeed.

And finally to Xavier. There are times (many times) we almost kill one another in frustration, but you are an incredible coach. Being able to take someone from doing their first Olympic Distance triathlon to an Ironman Age Group Winner and Kona

Qualifier in 12 months is amazing and I am the perfect example of how your expertise and coaching methods – if followed – get exceptional results. You know how to get best out of your athletes and I have the utmost respect for you. I have had and the will continue to have some pretty big goals but you never make me feel like they are impossible. I can’t even begin to explain how good it was to have you there in Japan and I can’t wait to see what the next few years brings us in this sport

#chaseyourdreams #orangearmy