Done and dusted in 7hrs and 13 mins.
90km bike ride
I had an absolutely magic day! The goal I set myself had nothing to do with time and everything to do with experience. I wanted to enjoy it, be present in the day and soak it all up. I didn’t want to push myself to breaking point and end up crying in a gutter – yes I’ve been there, done that. I wanted to be able to look back and know I worked my butt off but not say “dear god, never again”. I was so fortunate to have a wonderful race experience, and now I’ve had a chance to rest and reflect, I can’t wait to share my stories with you!
Leading up to race day, I set myself a daily checklist to help prepare my mind and body. I focused on hydration, electrolytes, magnesium, stretching, and really watched my nutrition. I also meditated on the journey, watched inspirational videos (thanks Coach!) and get plenty of sleep. I was hyper-focused on these elements for at least 2 weeks prior, and prevention being better than a cure, I noticed the effect on what the preparation did for my body by what didn’t happen on race day. I didn’t cramp up, amazingly I didn’t get dehydrated, and my mind was in a good space going into the day.
On Sunday the alarm went off at 3am and I started hydrating with water and electrolytes. I prepared a little Youtube playlist of my favourite motivational videos ahead of time, so I plugged the headphones in and got in the zone while I went around getting prepared. Everytime I listen to these videos I get something different out of them. And the beauty is that I’ve listened to them so many times that when I need a pick-me-up, all I have to do is dig my favourite lines out of the memory bank, and I’m back in a focused headspace. Checkout my little list: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-j8klDCf4oxzO7LPh15dXFwbYXY1Kvlc I also pulled up my before/after photos. Everything from the start of the journey at 163.5kgs down till now which helped me put everything in perspective.
I found triathlon because I wanted to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle for the rest of my my “new” life. And above all, I wanted to find a sport that would continue to challenge me that didn’t have a ceiling. So with the big picture in mind, the race was all about the experience. If I found myself out on course struggling mentally, my plan was to list off everything I was grateful for along this journey one by one until I turned myself around. In the end, I didn’t really find any deep dark mental holes but found I was going through my gratitude checklist anyway because I was so in awe of the experience. Fitness got my body around the course, gratitude saw my mind successfully complete the race.
After getting set up in transition, I caught up with Coach and some of our amazing crew who travelled up to cheer us on the race! As much as Coach Stu has been an integral part of this journey, the RTT crew have been invaluable. All of the tips, tricks and words of wisdom were with me throughout the race. I couldn’t have got here without Stu and the RTT crew, that is for sure! Setting up for the swim, I thought of nothing but the swim. Same for the bike, and pushed all thoughts of the half marathon aside. Its very easy to get overwhelmed during the race, and I know for myself if I havent even started the swim and I start stressing thinking gees after this I’ve got to ride for over 3 hours, then I’ve got to go for a run, I’m going to start derailing big time. So now all wetsuited up, baby oil applied, and anti-chafe literally EVERYWHERE we prepared for swim start.
The water was unreal! Temperature sitting at 21 degrees, a little choppy and ultra clear, it made that ocean swim a dream. There were 13 buoys out on the swim, and my focus was to check them off one by one. I tried my best to calm my breathing, make each stroke count, and sighting to make sure I stayed on course. I must’ve done alright in that department because my swim was bang on 1960m so we didn’t end up too far off course! I did see a little turtle underneath me at one point which just made my day and coming around that last turning buoy and seeing a crowd on the beach at swim finish was such a high! I finished the swim in 43mins which I was blown away with! Hello PB and thank you wetsuit and salt water! Running through the overhead showers out of the swim, I took a few extra seconds just to get as much sand off as I could and wash my face. A complete bugger the night before I managed to cut my finger while cooking dinner and lost all of my bandaging in the swim. Not entirely sure how but I managed to bump it and it was bleeding all over again so tried to clean that up quickly too. And then I took a blissful 7 full minutes in transition getting ready for the longest part of the race – the 90km bike ride.
The key to this part of the race was chunking it right down. It was roughly 20km out to the first turn around point out near Coolum, back to Mooloolaba, a little jaunt along the ocean and then repeat. It was 6 check points I could tick off and rather than being some gigantic 90kms, it became manageable little pieces. On the first lap out to Coolum, we were pretty lucky! There wasn’t a lot of wind about, the sun was out, and there was stacks of room on course. Remember, I’m the rookie that needs a lot of space! Coming up to Buderim Avenue (aka the hill on the course) there were spectators EVERYWHERE! It was such a buzz going through there and I felt like a total rockstar! There were good vibes out on course, albeit it was a little lonely out on the motorway. I passed the time yelling out to the volunteers to thank them, checking out the scenery and keeping on top of my nutrition. I had a checklist for the bike that I went over and over again in my mind. Was I relaxed on the bike and not tensing up? Was I on top of my nutrition? Had I got in enough water? Was I in the best gear for where I was on course? How was my heart rate? Was I making sure to pull and push while pedaling? Was I breathing deeply? I pulled out my little checklist so many times I lost count but it kept me focused and present. I’ve always found I tense up in my arms, neck and shoulders while I’m riding but it’s an unnecessary use of energy, so the more relaxed I can be, the more I can focus on energy where it’s better spent.
I did have a memorable little mishap on the bike though! On the second lap out to Coolum the headwind really started to pick up. I was expecting it though thanks to all of the hot tips I’d received, so I made sure to get into a solid gear, get down and push/pull those pedals. Coming up to the turn around point I felt like the wind was hitting me diagonally. There were a few gusts where I thought I was going to end up sideways so I was nervous having to turn right at the turn around point going into that wind. So turns out I can turn left no problems, right isn’t so crash hot. Coming up to the turn around point I slowed down, down shifted and left my brain on the road. I braked too hard, got caught in the wind, saw I was heading for the barricades and couldn’t unclip and down I went on my left hand side. Got a lovely scraped knee for the privilege and put on a show for the officials and a couple of spectators – you’re welcome. As per my normal style I fell off virtually going no speed at all so I just had a bit of a bloody knee and my chain come off the bike, but other than that no damage. Thank goodness that I’d learned to not only change my tyres but also to fix a slipped chain! So heading back to the end of the bike I had caked blood up and down two of my fingers, I was covered in chain grease, my knee was bleeding and I looked like a total mess but I had a big smile on my face! Mind you, I spent those last 20km thinking how in the hell did I not unclip, and started stressing that I’d lost my mind and could now not unclip and had become one with my bike. I had visions of another stack at the dismount line but fortunately I found my brain again and unclipped with plenty of time to spare, and no more entertainment for the officials! My bike leg was 3hrs 25mins and another PB!
Now I steeled myself for the run. Running as you know is my favourite discipline! But running 21km in the midday heat after already having swam and ridden is a feat. Reflecting now, I’d had some unrealistic expectations about the run. In the leadup, we entered Jetty 2 Jetty Half Marathon and I had a blitzer of a run in 2hrs 20mins. Well ahead of where I where I thought I’d finish but when I came to Race Rehearsal, I had a really tough run at 2hrs 40mins – which in hinesight is still miles ahead of where I’ve come from but I was really disappointed. But running a half marathon fully rested, hydrated first up in the cool morning is very different from running a half marathon tired, at lunch time, with jelly legs. I had to change the way I approached the run for race day otherwise I was setting myself up for a disaster. So I set my plan into motion. I got some water before I left transition, went to the toilet, and knowing the first aid station was about 4km a way I ignored the watch and headed out for an easy start just running on feel. I was surprised by the time I got to the aid station, my heart rate was in a good spot, my legs felt pretty good considering what they’d been through, and I was still chirpy! My plan was to walk the aid stations – no clue how long they are but probably a good 30m? They had a table of water at the start, and then other tables further along with food and sports drinks, then another water table at the end. First water table was one cup of water for me, one cup of water for a shower to cool down. I walked to the end table and repeated the 2 cup drink and shower routine so I could start off again cool and having had a good drink of water. The aid station top tip absolutely helped me get through that run! It was another way of breaking down the 21.1kms into manageable pieces. Every 2km or so I was going to get a shower and a drink. Everytime I set off I felt like I was on an adventure to find the next station! And that helped massively. Once I got to the first aid station, it dawned on me that I was going to finish this race. I felt comfortable, and strong! I wasn’t running at a blitzing pace but I knew I could maintain it without spiking my heart rate and getting that lactic acid build up that makes you want to hurl in the gutter!!!
As the run went on, less and less were on course as others had gone through the shute already but it just meant more space, more opportunity to thank the volunteers, coppers, traffic management, and cheer on the other runners still slogging it out. So many other athletes have missed out on their races with COVID and we were so blessed that Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast was able to go ahead. The last kilometre of the run was just a happy blur. One final hill to climb, and then it was downhill all the way into the finish. Just as I was about to round the corner to cross the red carpet and start the run down the shute I heard the MC announce my arrival – once again I felt like a total rockstar and then a bit of oh god, everyone’s looking at me please don’t stack it! My RTT crew were lined up on the sidelines and I got to high five them going through, and then when my two little Hoka’s crossed under the arch they kept running straight to hug my mum and partner on the other side. The two people who have had to endure me speak about Ironman everyday for the last 5 months, and witness my ups and downs, tears and tantrums, lack of sleep, meltdowns and over the top exuberance. I also had two beautiful friends drive up from Brisbane to surprise me at the finish as well! My heart was full and overflowing with gratitude and a whole lot of relief. This is what a half Ironman feels like. I mean, I was absolutely delirious by this time it felt like but the buzz at the finish isn’t something I’ll forget for a long time.
I catch myself now, a few days on, thinking I can’t believe I did that. And I have to stop that thought in it’s tracks. I did do that. I set myself a massive goal that terrified me, and I chipped away at it, training session by session until I achieved it. If this is what I can achieve now, what else is out there? The triathlon journey has actually helped me develop more as a person then I ever would’ve thought possible. This sport has helped me appreciate the power your brain has over your body, and that there is a mastery in developing a mindset that enables you to conquer unimaginable goals. It actually makes me excited. For what’s on the horizon, and where we can go next.
But for now, it’s the fourth leg of triathlon. And for me that is rest. Absolutely delicious, unhurried, relaxing rest! And it’s something that my mind needs just as much as my body. I do have many goals left to conquer so this is not the end of my journey by any means. But it’s important to take some time now to be with my loved ones, and give back when they have sacrified so much to help me achieve this goal.
Thank you to all who have read my blogs and joined this wonderful journey with me! As much as it’s been about the actual triathlon journey, I hope you’ve seen just like me that it’s amazing what our minds and bodies can achieve with hard work and consistency. And for those out there who are not yet triathletes, maybe these have terrified you, or maybe encouraged you to give something new a go! I hope to see you out and about, and maybe one day at swim start.
And if you have health goals of your own, just know that my superstar Coach Stu is not just an excellent Triathlon coach, but is also a run coach and personal trainer so take the time to read the testimonials (https://www.facebook.com/ReadyToTriTriathlon/reviews and https://readytotri.com/testimonials) from people of all walks of life who Stu has helped. I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again. Stu is one in a million, and has helped open up a new world for me that I didn’t know existed and would be as rewarding as it is. Here’s to the next phase of the journey!
P.S. I did cross that finish line with the wallet out. Hello Ironman 70.3 Cairns in June 2022. Let’s take this gig up north and go racing with the crocs!
Elyse is a 33-year-old, North Brisbane local diving into all things triathlon! Starting January 2021, as an irregular Parkrun-er, definitely not a cyclist or a swimmer, to going out on a limb in the world of Ironman. Elyse has struggled with being overweight most of her life, and eagerly sought ways of getting out of PE throughout school but as an adult, has tried to reinvent her relationship with food and sport for a better life. 92kgs down post gastric sleeve, Elyse loves a challenge and seeing what magic this new life holds.
Elyse is coached by Stuart Payne
Stuart has competed in triathlons from Sprint to Ironman distance. As a qualified Triathlon Australia, Australian Athletics Run Coach, and a certified Ironman coach, he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complementing other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments, etc.).
Contact Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org
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