As we arrived at the transition/start/finish area just after five most people were already there. Pumping bikes, taping power gels to bike frames, slabbing vast amounts of Vaseline on all limbs to make sure the wetsuit slides off 3.8 km later and to keep the chaffing at bay.
As we all started to make our way down to the beach, looking like a group of 1300 migrating penguins, I saw people cry. Girlfriends were hugging boyfriends like they were about to step on to the space shuttle. The guy next to me in the water with a matching orange swim cap looked at me with panic in his eyes, " I just want to get out of this alive! " was his comment as eh assured me that he felt much better now when he was in the water, moments ago when he was still on shore he wasn't far from vomiting.
Jesus people, it's just a race.
The Australian national anthem, an air horn and the race was on the way!
The swim was nice. Crystal clear water, allowing you to see the bottom all the way (but no fish or "big fish"). For someone like me who prefers to breath on the right the swim in Busselton is perfect. Just make sure the jetty is still on your right side and you wont get lost!
I was enjoying it all the way. Maybe a bit to much because it took me a while to long to get back to the bike park. Once there I took a few minutes extra to allow for the nice lady to spray my entire body with sunscreen and drink some (fresh) water.
Then it was me and "Oppy" for the next six hours. Being a slow swimmer has its perks. I was passing people from the first km. Passing big guys on $10 000 bikes wearing aerodynamic helmets is extra fun.
Exchanging bottles at the aid stations soon becomes the highlight of your day and on the last lap I started to attack chat to people, weather they wanted it or not. I was slightly bored. Going out on the last lap the headwind made me slow down a little, but hey, that meant that I would have a good tailwind coming back in to town, right? Wrong. The wind changed direction. Oh well. I was around 10 min late coming of the bike. I had eaten most of the gels I planned to and the Vegemite sandwich was almost gone. I felt ok. After a new layer of sunscreen, a cup of water and fresh socks my feet were quite happy to be back on the ground.
For every lap of the three loop marathon course you do you get a scrunchie on your arm. When you have to you are allowed into the finish shoot. It is a little bit discouraging to meet people that already have ribbons around their arms as you set out on your first lap.
It was really hot by now. The race management told us the night before that they had ordered another truckload of ice. I think we used it all. 37 degrees and a sun that did it's best to turn us all into sizzling bacon took it's toll. I didn't feel very fast, but I felt ok. I saw Nico the first time half way through my first lap. I was happy to see him running, not walking. The knees were still holding up. The second time I saw him he looked a bit more strained, but still running.
I tried to drink as much as I could at every aid station, water and High Five, and I think I managed to force down three more gels. And I kept moving my feet. I still wasn't in pain but ooohhhh how tempting those waves and that beach looked. And even if I wasn't really hurting my body was clearly trying to tell me that "hey, it's been a long day, how about some rest?" My normally almost too long step was probably down to a 10th in length and there was just room for one thought in my head - FINISH.
As I came around the last turn I saw that the person branded with the same age category and sex on her leg was slowing down (or was I possibly speeding up? didn't seem very likely) and I dug down deep for what ever powers remained. Before I knew it she was eating my dust. And then, there it was, the finish shoot. Only one problem, there was three people in it in front of me. After all the pain I put my body through that day I figured that one last stab wouldn't kill me. Like in a Hollywood production I flied over the finish line, arms stretched in the air, just centimetres ahed of all three men on that last stretch of grass.
Waiting for me was Nico, arms stretched out, ready to hang that medal around my neck. I laid yes on him, gave him a big smile and almost vomited on his feet. A quick swipe of the face and I was ready for my medal. I didn't get a kiss.
My goal had been to finish in under 12 hours. I did 11.52.
It was a long hot day and every fibre of my body reminded me of it the day after. But the truth is that once race day has arrived most of the work is already done, you just need to do what you have trained for, stick to the plan and try not to vomit on your loved ones.
Will I do it again? Maybe. We'll see.