Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Thank you to our supporters. Especially my gorgeous nephews (Aiden, Luke and Dibby Dib) who painted this sign that Nonna and Heppy brought over.
At 18:27, almost 11 1/2 hours after I took my first stroke in the calm waters of Lake Taupo in pre-dawn light, I approached the end of the lakeside road that I'd been running along for over 4 hours.

I could hear the finish line before I could see it. The unmistakeable din of the voice of Ironman, Mike Riley, was announcing to athletes ahead of me that they were home.

I turned right up Tongareiro Avenue, the main drag in town, and could see the barricades and grandstands that lined the final section of the marathon route. I loved this crowd: it had been raining all day with wind and chilly temps added in for good measure - and we at least had the luxury of being able to keep our heartrates up and bodies moving all day! - whereas the supporters had been out there since dawn, cheering all of us that had passed by.

As I ran along the final minutes, knowing that I was about to enter the Ironman family, I couldn't stop smiling. Tears were welling up but the excitement of realising a goal and a dream about to become reality took over. I was on cloud nine. Nothing could touch this.

As I turned the corner into the Transition area and lined up the finishing chute I took a moment, slowed my pace, and let a couple of runners past. I wanted to savour this moment forever. All I remember is trotting down that chute, my grin reaching my earlobes as I smiled at every face in that crowd, and found mum and David towards the end. How lucky am I to have this moment. I gave them a hug and didn't even hear Mike announce "Brett Murphy from Sydney, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!". I then rejoined the chute and ran under the banner: 11h:31m.

I was home, I was over the moon, and I STILL couldn't stop smiling.

Simi was still out on the course, but she was doing great. She started the marathon at a flying pace (I was just behind her, on my second leg and took about 4km to catch her) and gave it everything she could - also beaming at the crowd - before her back injury started to flare up. As we ran together for a while we both knew that we would both finish and both realise our dreams. It didn't matter what time we finished in. That was all that mattered. (Simi will write her piece later).

The day for us began at 3am - we had to get up and get some brekky and carbs into us before getting back to bed for a short rest - if not sleep, before getting up proper at 4:30. On the road at 5, the short drive down to Transition and the tent city.

It was bucketing down with rain, which felt strange because it was still dark. We entered the tent zone, got marked (arms and calves), dropped our special needs bags (you put stuff in here that you might need on the cycle or run legs - like a jacket or a sandwich) and checked our bikes that had braved the wind and rain overnight. Simi will tell you what happened to her thumb, but suffice to say her day almost ended before it began!

We spent the final 30 mins huddling in front of a gas heater as we counted down the minutes before having to do up our wetties and head down to waters edge. The moment of truth was here.
Traditional welcome from the Maoris. The sun wasn't even up and they were sending us off into the water! Lucky for us we were still huddling in front of a gas heater up in Transition at this time. Oops!
We heard the cannon go off at 645 - the pro's were off on the swim leg. It was still dark and we were praying for it to lighten up in the next 15 minutes before our mass start of 1500 atheletes took to the water.
Dumping our swim bag in the truck next to the water (this bag had all our gear that we'd change back into at the end of the race) there was no way that we could find our family in the sea of thousands that were lining the water's edge.
I had seen photos like this before and quite frankly was dreading this moment - waiting in the water for the cannon to go off before a 3.8km swim. But it was surreal. Water was nice. Most people calm.
We waded into the water, adjusted our goggles and luckily remembered to prep our Garmins and Polars for race start. We were calmly nervous. Still too dark to see the buoys that marked the 1.8km out and back along the lakeside.


We were off. I concentrated on not letting my breathing get out of control and therefore making me flustered. I settled in to a nice pace and let other swimmers race past me. Simi was behind, but we had already said our goodbyes when the cannon fired. She'll be fine, I knew it.
We're out there somewhere. Inspecting the blisters on someone's feet up close.
Passing the first fluro orange buoy after 150m I calculated from yesterday's swim that there were another 24 to go. This could be a long morning. Luckily I wasn't getting passed by too many swimmers and my pace was ok, so I was happy. I could see perfectly in the crystal clear water so there was lots to take my mind off the fact I was doing something I usually looked forward to with dread. Thankfully no dodgy soundtracks playing in my head... yet.

Passed over the hundreds of golf balls that surrounded the Hole In One pontoon, and someone had arranged golf balls into the Ironman logo on the lake bottom with a huge arrow pointing the way forward. Yep, keep going, I told myself. So tempting to stop.

Got to the turnaround poin, still surrounded by swimmers clawing at my feet or trying to climb up my back. Geezus, I thought I would've found space by now. Glanced at my watch: only 30+ minutes had passed.  That can't be right!! This marked the first of many "Achievement Zones" we'd agreed on - the swim turnaround. It's all homeward bound from here, easy. Amazing what the mind does to you.

Spent most of the homeward leg trying to find my own space (impossible! It was a constant washing machine, dodgem cars style!) and counting the buoys: 18..... 19.......20....... Finally I could see the last one but it was still an eternity away. Didn't matter, I knew I'd make it. I inched close and saw the thousands of supporters on the shoreline. Such a special moment. Nothing like a training session.
Yeeee haaaaa!!!! This was an ultimate achievement. I was SOOO excited!!!
Finding the sand beneath my feet I emerged from the lake with a huge grin and let out a huge "Yeee haaa!!!!" as I ran over the timing mat and along the 400m carpet lined either side with everyone's supporters that took us the stairs to Transition. Time to get into bike mode!

Happy boy - came out of the water at 1:07 (the clock is for the pros who started 15mins before us).
Seeing Mum and David and Simi's parents was a huge boost and there were tears all round. I was already having the best day of my life.

Into the tent, a volunteer gave me my bag and showed me to a chair - and ripped my wetsuit off me in a whoosh. On with the cycle shoes and helmet and a quick snack - and a read of the adorable note that Simi had left in my bag. Out on course I felt free - if not a bit chilly from my wet clothes that were under my wettie.

The cycle course was 2 laps of 45km out to a town called Reporoa and back to Taupo, mostly on a one-laned country road that went up over a hill behind Taupo and down the other side to the plains. We quickly found out that the rain had set in and the swim leg was going to be the warmest of the day! But that didn't matter: all through town you would pass people who were cheering, clapping, giving words of encouragement as you passed them - especially on the hills. "Lookin good mate" "Keep it up, you're doing well" or "Go the BRATs" as I was wearing my club gear. I love this sport!
The rain came down (kept my sunnies on as goggles, not for the sun!), but I didn't care.
Up over the hill I went, feeling good and well on my way to Reporoa. I settled in to a 30km/h pace for the first leg, making sure to drink and eat as planned (gels and powerbars). The road became a little monotonous but I reminded myself it was better to be cold and wet and off with the fairies than melting my muscles up a huge climb on a 42 degree day. This was heaven!

Turning around at Reporoa 1hr 15min later I let out another Rebel Yell. "Yee haa!!" and the volunteers cheered. They need to keep their morale up too and I loved interacting with them. They had it tougher than we did: cold, wet and windy and standing still! This was another Achievement Zone as it marked the fact that we really could do this.

Before I knew it we were back in Taupo, having clocked up 90km. Through town was a buzz: you really felt special as roads had been closed with priority given to the odd cyclist that was coming through. By pure coincidence our hotel was right by the corner marking the start of the big climb out of town. It was so nice to see our family there - the first time since exiting the lake, now an eternity ago.

With a cheer from them I set off up the hill, knowing that the next time I saw them I'd be well on my way on the marathon leg. Up and up I went and as the hill petered out around a left hand corner I passed the special needs bags tent and they already had my bag ready - a volunteer holding it out for me as I flew past. Now that's organisation! What was in my bag? A vegemite and cheese sandwich! Yum. A few bites wwere enough before I realised I'd be munching all day trying to digest it, so I stuffed the half eaten sandwich in the sandwich bag down my tri top, knowing it was within reach if I got peckish later.
Avoiding the slippery white lines. I think this photographer was trying to catch action shots!
I'm sure you're curious about what happens when nature calls. Let me tell you this: you'll rarely see athletes in an ironman race get off their bikes to go to the loo. For Ironvirgins like us, they call it christening the bike. Yep. No imagination required! Saves a lot of time and keeps the legs moving! I call it lazy, but it works a treat.

By now I'd had 3 gels (taped to the top tube of my bike) and had to have the next 3 on this lap - otherwise I risked not having enough energy or cramping up. Drink, gel, cycle, pee when required. Easy!

Reach the turnaround point for the last time (another Achievement zone and rebel yell - yeee haaa!) and headed home with the wind. I felt good. My average speed picked up and I was passing other tired legs. I was visualising coming down the hill into town and getting into my run mode. I had TOTALLY forgotten that I'd never done a marathon before - not to worry!!!

Slowing down as I got to transition for the second time I hopped off the bike when a waiting volunteer took it from me and I collected my run bag - also waiting for me (how do they do this!!!!). More smiles, claps and words of encouragement from the volunteers and I realised I couldn't feel more special and humbled than I did that day. This was a very special moment in my life.

As I willed my jelly legs to work (always a song playing) I looked at my run split and was happy to have finished faster than I'd estimated. Lots more time for the run leg!

Changed out of my wet socks and into a fresh pair, my big toenail still hanging on, and a small volunteer kid came up and gave me a paddle pop stick with a huge swab of vaseline on the end - for those sensitive nipples and hard to reach places.

I started my marathon as I intended to finish it: a comfortable pace and a smile on my face. This was heaven - so many people out along the route, and with the race number now turned to the front, spectators could read your name and give you a cheer as you passed them. "Well done, Brett from Australia. You're doing well". I would hear this from 5 year old kids to veteran grandparents, and you can't help but respond with a "Thank you!" or at least a smile and a thumbs up.
I was deliriously happy. Nurse!!!!
The funny thing was that some people would say my name from a huge distance away - too far for them to be able to read my name. And then I realised that the kiwi pronunciation of BRATs (as in, "Go BRAT") sounds just like my name. Either way, it was great to have that connection.

Still smiling. Starting out on the run. 42km to go.
I ran past our hotel and our now-soaked parents at 3.5km, 16.6km, 24km and 38km on the 2x out-and-back marathon. It was such a lift to look forward to this, even if it would only last for a split second (I didn't want to slow down or stop in case I never got going again!). Apart from these times I looked forward counting off the distance markers (23.... 28.... 32.... 35... 37.... 39.....) as I knew they were all taking us towards the finish line.

Running past the hotel was a highlight on the run - we got to see our parents 4 times on the 2-lap out-and-back marathon course.
At some points - when I was most delirious - I wouldn't want to reach the finish line because it would then be all over. At other times some spectators told me I was mad: "If you're smiling that much, you're obviously having too much fun". It was absolutely wonderful!
Sometimes I would fall into step with another runner - and if I'd caught them it meant they were struggling. We'd have a few words "Mate, it's a matter of getting to the turnaround point then back up over the hill and then all downhill to the finish" and all I'd hear is a heartfelt "Thank you" as he laboured with each step. I grabbed a cup of coke and a chocolate bar from the aid station and replied with a "no worries". No wonder I put on 2 kilos by the end of the race!

When I reached 32km I realised I was in unchartered territory - I'd never run this far before - and there was a hill separating me from the finish line. My knees started to ache and my left ankle was swollen, but I convinced myself it was all in my mind, and that it was more comfortable to keep running than attempt a walk. I'd also calculated an 11hr 30min finish based on my current (slower) pace so there was no way I was slowing now. Simi and I had our brief run together and she sent me off with a smile. We would see each other soon when we were both an Ironman.
One foot after the other. Easy.
Saw mum and David one final time before they jumped into the car to see me cross the line. The final kms were a struggle, but I was still ginning and to be quite honest - really couldn't believe I was about to finish.

In those final minutes I thought back to where it all started a year ago: buying my first road bike, going for longer runs, getting over my fear of long distance swimming, getting up early before work for training (!!!), comitting to the Ironman journey, realising how lucky we are to be young and fit and healthy - and relishing this - and battling the fears of this day that was always looming. I was about to become an Ironman and prove to anyone reading this that any average Joe can go on their own Ironman journey and reach their own goals and find out so much about themselves. It's not for the elite: it's for anyone who wants to achieve something in themself. By comitting to it you're almost there.
Mum and David were at the finish line. What a wonderful moment.
Coming down that finishing chute is really something special. I never thought I was capable of spending a whole day in the wet, wind and cold - and smiling every minute. The only tears I had were tears of pure happiness and the thrill of living life. It was the best day of my life and I will treasure this forever.
One of the happiest days of my life.

Back in SYD - still 100ft tall.
If you're interested in the stats, take a peek here: http://ironman.co.nz/main.cfm?id=94&aid=46151

If you'd like to contribute to giving a kid with a disability the chance to becme more active and mobile, visit here: http://www.everydayhero.com.au/brett_and_simi

Thanks for your support.

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