"From dawn till dusk, never be in a rush" - 2015 IRONMAN Melbourne reflections from Anna C. @ 27 Apr 2015

Among many very admirable qualities, Anna is a mother of two, a wife, a sister, a teacher and also a daughter who raced IRONMAN with a clear motivation close to her heart: to honour her Dad’s life and raise awareness for Alzheimer’s Australia that has greatly assisted her and her family through her Dad’s dementia.

How has Alzheimer’s affected your family?
Dad was always a hands-on, fit, athletic, supportive, encouraging and loving father. I never thought he would get this disease because of the healthy lifestyle he led. The disease didn’t discriminate and he started to lose communication, appear depressed and confused about 3-4 years ago. Suddenly, this time last year, his night waking and hallucinations became more frequent and difficult to manage. He was hospitalised, medicated and ended up in a nursing home. We saw him regularly but, sadly, we had less meaningful experiences towards the end. The haze sometimes cleared and we got 15 minutes of random lucidity. Those times were like finding gold.
Sadly Dad passed away recently on Tuesday 14th April 2015.

What would your Dad think about IRONMAN?
Mum and Dad travelled to Forster 10 years ago to watch my last IRONMAN. He thought it was “marvellous”, “incredible”, and “everyone is a winner in the sport”. Dad had great endurance. He used to play 5 sets of tennis, followed by a gym and swim session at his tennis club. I tried to encourage him to try a triathlon. He used to run with me sometimes.

Tell us about your triathlon background
I started in 2000-2001 at Nunawading Triathlon Club and I’m still an active member. I couldn’t put my head down when swimming 15years ago, but through coaching and experience, I can swim all day (just not efficiently). Every year, since having the kids, I do Shepparton Half IRONMAN and different sprint distances. I love the social side of the sport particularly.

You have such a busy life, how do you juggle training for an IRONMAN around everything?
Mack and I always dedicate half a day each on weekends to sport so luckily I haven’t had to make too many sacrifices. We like to exercise every day regardless of our sporting goals. Family and friendships come first, so often I do split sessions to fit around commitments.

Talk us through your race day for IRONMAN 2015:
Waiting in the horse barriers on the beach in Frankston pre-race, Julie and I were chatting about all things non-triathlon. I spotted my cousin's wife ahead looking petrified about the swim as she has a phobia about sharks and deep water. We walked ahead to console her and then got the giggles about the craziness of the day that lay ahead of us. We swore that we would enjoy a Parma, beer and chips the following day and agreed the motto for the day would be, "if all else fails, just laugh".

The Swim:
Looking at the clock, I realised it was well after 8 and somehow I wasn't starting earlier enough, however the rolling start was a great way to ease in to the event without a rush of nerves. The swim was beautiful, the water clear, and I felt lucky that the conditions were perfect. I'm no efficient swimmer but it was definitely the preferred leg of the day. I don't wear a watch or Garmin, so I had no idea of my time but I yelled out to Mack for validation when I ran up the beach.

The Bike:
My main concern for the day was how on earth I could withstand such a long day in the saddle and hopefully have no feelings of hypothermia coming out of the water on to the bike. I was really cold, teeth chattering, but the arm warmers worked a treat. I noticed there was a northerly on the first 45km to Nunawading and was dreading doing it the second time as the wind would surely pick up by then and so too the heat. My main priority was to stay hydrated, eat a heap, average about 28-30km/hr, and vary my position on the bike frequently between aero and sitting up so to prevent hip, bits or butt pain.

I tried to distract myself from the monotonous effort of high cadence by taking in the Nuna support. I actually enjoyed the solitude and thought about the year that had been and kept reminding myself that I was doing this for another cause, Alzheimer's Australia and dad. "From dawn till dusk, never be in a rush". All of these objectives paid off and I got off the bike surprisingly loose and charged.

The Run:
The aim for the run was to make it to each drink station and walk through them but keep a good pace in between. This was going really well for the first 7km but then the heat really took its toll. I just wanted to guzzle water but knew I didn't want to chuck. I was desperate to walk when approaching aid stations and found it hard to get going again. The pain in my quads was excruciating. My other concern was that gels were unpalatable at that stage but I needed the carbs so took in the Endura, ate Vegemite, and sucked on watermelon.

I loved the atmosphere on the run, all the neighbouring house residents hosing us down, people on the beach enjoying the hot March day, and friends who came out to support. There was no way I was going to fly past them. 26km mark was my nemesis and I needed to dig deep. There was no doubt I'd finish this but the pain and the exhaustion was overwhelming.

Another friend found me at 31km mark and the temperature started to drop. This gave some reprieve, and with that, I could start running again. Only 7km till I saw family, friends and the Nuna crew. That was my target finish line and remained the focus. Encouraging words from Karina, Andy and Rosi lifted my confidence and the pace picked up. It was so awesome to see mum particularly as she watched my last IRONMAN ten years before. I kept expecting to see dad beside her, with his tiger's hat on and beaming smile, anticipating my arrival.

I was really enjoying chatting to everyone who came to support me and asking about their day that I completely forgot that I had to finish this thing! No problem from then on as the adrenalin set in. When I finished, my in laws told me the time I did and I was stoked as I was going to be happy with anything under 12.5 hrs. So satisfying!!!!!