Guest Post: Triathlete Mel’s Ironman Experience – she did it!
We were excited to be able to see Mel Brunker take on her first Ironman triathlon event in Cairns two weeks ago. Not only did the dedication to training pay off but she was also one of the fastest women in her age group which won her a spot to the World Championships. A huge achievement! She tells us about how the day evolved. Congratulations Mel!
Cairns Ironman – done and dusted!
Its been almost two weeks since Cairns Ironman triathlon – my bucket list event for 2016.
The lead up could not have been better, tapered a few weeks out, so by the day of the race I was almost crawling up the walls wanting to get out there and do some exercise! Packed up the family on Wednesday, and took off on Thursday to warm sunny Cairns. I love the heat, so stepping off the plane and feeling that warm humid air was exactly what I needed after leaving freezing cold Sydney. Hired a car and was straight up to beautiful Palm Cove where we stayed and the race begins. Beautiful blue skies, no surf…perfect conditions – but that all changed on Sunday morning, race day!
After getting last minute race plan instructions from my coach on Saturday, I actually had a really good night sleep, which is very rare the night before an event for me, I usually toss and turn all night. Anyway, woke up to a very wet windy, chilly morning, and the calm crystal clear blue water had turned to a choppy murky scary mess! Set up my nutrition on the bike, pumped up tyres, all the while thinking how on earth am I going to survive the 3.8km swim with stingers, crocodiles, sharks and the possibility of drowning in the waves...the swim is my weakest leg by far, and I had completely neglected open water swimming in the lead up to this event.
Anyway, determined not to talk myself out of starting the race, I put on my wetsuit, had a gel, and off to the swim start. The swim ended up being not so bad, it was rough and bumpy, but I survived. The bike leg was a blast, my favourite leg by far. It was cold, rainy, windy, then hot, sunny and even windier, but it didn’t bother me, I was still having fun at this stage and not quite comprehending that I was doing an Ironman. I was just loving riding on an open road, with no cars…in tropical north Queensland. When the sun came out, the scenery was spectacular, the beaches are stunning, and the coastal course would have to be one of the best rides ever. After unfortunately getting a five minute drafting penalty on the bike, I started the run leg and felt surprisingly ok. I ran past my coach who told me I was in 10th position and to just maintain a steady pace. The first 21km was great, the 2nd 21km quickly became challenging at about the 28km mark, I couldn’t get in any nutrition, was feeling quite nauseas – and an old knee injury set in. It was so hard to keep pushing, my pace slowed, and mentally I started giving up. The aid stations, became an excuse to slow down, and I then ended up walking some of them, just trying to get in whatever water/electrolyte drink I could. I’ve had 4 kids, and during the last 6km of this race was likening this event to child birth. But I kept going..
The excitement of nearly getting to the end and seeing my kids at the finish was what kept me going, they had watched me train and work hard for this day, there was no way I was going to let them down by quitting. Anyway, got to the finish, that red carpet is amazing to run down, and hearing those words in the distance, “you are an ironman” is pretty special.
I ended up completely surprising myself, came 4th in my age, and totally unexpectedly got a qualifying spot to the Ironman World Champs in Kona this October! The thought of doing another one in tougher conditions is very daunting, but I’m up for the challenge again!
So with my Kona ticket in hand, I boarded a flight home that night, started a new job on Tuesday, had a few days rest, with plenty of Rose-Hip Vital to aid recovery and help with the knee inflammation, and am now back in training for Kona. I never thought it was possible for me to qualify for Kona, but goes to show that having a few people believe in you and having a bit of faith in yourself, you really can go beyond what you think is possible.
I learnt a lot about myself, qualifying for Kona is a huge bonus, but one of the best things was when I picked my youngest daughter up from school, her teacher said she was talking all day about how her mum did a huge race, came 4th and got a really cool flowery necklace and gets to do another race…showing the kids hard work pays off is what its all about!