Ironman Australia seems somewhat of a blur now, almost two months on, with a fair bit of travel and eventfulness in my life since that high.
However, I’ll cast my mind back those eight weeks or so and I’ll be happy to relive it again, and give a little more technical insight into the race.
Winning Ironman Australia 2019 (sorry for the spoiler straight in there, if you didn’t know already), was the same emotional high as my first win in Australia in 2017. In 2017, Ironman Australia was my first full distance win as a Professional. I’d had a string of second places and so to finally be able to step onto the red carpet and take the tape as the Champion was just an amazing feeling. Returning in 2018, to defend, or as I see it to attack as the reigning Champion, was a huge honour and privilege, particularly as I was given the number 1 bib, something normally awarded to the men. Winning back to back was pretty special. However, returning, this year in 2019 and being able to complete the three peat, was something I’ll remember for ever. It wasn’t necessarily going three years in a row, although that is very special to me, but after the disappointment of the first few months of the year, being able to prove to myself that I can still compete. Since the beginning of the year, for some reason I hadn’t been performing on race day. Training was going well but I just couldn’t get it out on race day. My confidence was taking a dive. I was doubting myself. Even leading into Ironman Australia, training was still going well but I just couldn’t bounce off it. I kept pulling it apart, not building on the positives and the numbers, but just dragging myself down.
However, come race week you have to put all that behind you and focus on the day itself and what’s ahead. However, it used every bit of power, and every tool I had to get myself mentally into the right place to be able to compete on the day.
Race day and it was almost just a perfect sunrise and morning, no wind and a sense of calmness. There were a couple of great swimmers in the race who I knew would be off the front, but I just focused in on my own performance, trying to think of it like just a 3.8km individual time trial swim. I came out of the water and onto the bike, with a think about a 7-8min deficit to the front. Not ideal but not disastrous either. The bike course at Port Macquarie is a two 90km loops with 3 opportunities to possible see your competitors at different turn points. It’s also got about 10km of hills at the start and end of each lap as you start out from T2. The road surface is pretty rough and slow, and there’s some sections with potholes and bumps and lumps. It’s definitely a course that you need to make sure everything is tighten up and secured onto the bike.
At the first turnaround and the first chance to see the competitors, I was still about 8minutes down off the lead but now only 5minutes to second. As I came back to town at the end of the first lap, I had closed right into second, and had her in my sights, and had gained a little time back on the lead. I moved into second around 100km, but just kept my head down and tried to ride as strongly on the second lap as I had felt on the first. By the far turn, I had a little confidence boost to see that I was now perhaps just a couple of minutes behind the lead, and with about 15km to go, I could see the leader up the road. I made the pass as we went up the infamous Matthew Flinders Hill, a 7-10% gradient just before the last few kilometres back to T2. By T2 I’d managed to get about a 40-60second lead.
On the run, and I wasn’t feeling too fluid but gave myself some time to find form. I was pretty sure Caroline would catch me on the run, but just felt quite happy I’d given it a crack on the bike and seen the numbers that were much more reflective of my training. It was a step back in the right direction.
Caroline caught me at about the 8km mark, I knew she was there because suddenly there were motorbikes and cameras around. I fully expected her to run straight past me, but as she pulled up on my shoulder, I just fell into step with her, and we started running stride for stride. It was awesome! It was like that suddenly helped me to find a rhythm. We ran shoulder to shoulder back into town, past transition and past the finish line. I had decided I would just enjoy this moment for as long as it lasted and just go from there. To run stride for stride with someone in a race, was pretty awesome. Running down past the finish line, it got quite narrow and I ended up slightly ahead as we started up the hill to the Triclub Hill. I’d actually wanted to be behind Caroline at this section to see how she was running, but rather than changing my rhythm to drop back, I just kept my eyes forward and ran what I hoped was strongly but controlled up the hill. At the top, I heard that I’d dropped Caroline, but not wanting to look around, I used the next slight down hill to try to increase my foot speed and put some more time into her.
I didn’t actually dare look back, assuming that she’d be right behind me still. I think I managed to pull out to about a two minute lead, where it remained for probably the best part of 20km, before managing to increase that lead to over three and a half minutes as I started the last lap. It certainly wasn’t easy, I was still convinced she’d catch me, and also had a slightly faster running Kelsey in third place to consider. But I tried to just focus forward, making it hard for anyone coming from behind to catch me.
In that last lap I was trying to do the math, of what pace they’d need to be running to catch me, trying to just convince myself to keep moving forward, don’t do anything stupid. But Ironman events, and the marathons are funny beasts and even the very best athletes have faltered in the final few kilometres. I never got ahead of myself.
Until perhaps when I got to about 1.5km from the finish line, I could take a moment to let some emotion out, as it started to bubble up inside me. To be able to take a few high fives and to thank the supporters who’d been backing me all the way. I’m getting goose bumps just as I write this now.
To finally be able to take that right turn onto the finish chute, to see that red carpet and the finish tape, waiting for me, to start that final 20m or so, to take the title, suddenly every emotion roared to the surface. I couldn’t believe it.
Ironman Australia Champion 2019!
It wasn’t the three peat, although as said that is incredibly special and to see my name up the Roll of Honour with some incredible legends of the sport, but it was simply the win, in that moment that meant the world. I was just in a state of shock and stunned. The embraces, the hugs, the tears. Just magic. Can’t describe it. The doubts, the fears, the knocks then make it so incredible sweet and special when you can put two fingers up to them and the world, so to speak.
I’ll say it again, Ironman Australia Champion 2019! YES! Thank you! Amazing!
If you want to read even more details and an even fuller insight into my race, my full blog can be found …. https://laurasiddall.com/2019/05/16/things-come-in-threes-good-things-ironman-australia/
However seeing as we are on a wheel site, and Parcours specifically I thought I’d give a little insight and detail into my race set up choices and why.
Bike: Factor SLiCK, Dura Ace Di2 groupset, 55-42 chainrings, 11-25 cassette
Wheels: Parcours Chrono/Disc Combo
Tires: Vredestein Tubeless Ready (25mm)
Saddle: Dash custom saddle
Nutrition: Shotz Gels in flasks. One flask fits four gels. Two flasks in my Dark Speed Works bento box and two flask in my back pockets.
Hydration: Shotz Electrolyte Tablets. 1 x 700ml aero bottle on the front, 1 x 750ml aero bottle on the frame.
Spares: Inner tube, patch, Pitstop, tire levers, CO2 + valve on (behind the saddle) / Pitstop, CO2 + valve on (frame box)
The course at Ironman Australia is ideal for a disc wheel, and I love the Parcours Chrono, so the Chrono front and Disc rear was ideal. Whilst the road is undulating with a few hills, there aren’t really too many places where you are losing momentum and having to accelerate the Disc again. That’s when it can really sting. As long as you are keeping the Disc moving, then it almost does the work for you. Discs are about keeping the momentum, the more you lose that and have to re accelerate, the more it eats into your legs. So even with a few hills, you can still keep the disc rolling. I think actually the Disc is also particularly good in Port Macquarie, due to the rough roads. When you are moving, the Disc actually helps you to keep moving over that rough and slower surface, the inertia almost moving you forward on its own. Ok I’m not quite saying this wheel is magic and you don’t need to pedal, you definitely do, there is no free speed on this course, but the course is good for keeping the rolling going. My Parcours race choice wheels are Chrono front, and then either the Disc, or the Chrono rear!
As for tires, I’ve been a long time fan of Vredestein tires, using them for many years now. I started using the Vredestein Tubeless Ready tires, 25mm mid last year and these are the tires I have on my race wheels.