Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sunsmart Ironman Western Australia 2011

Facebook Pictures: Ironman Run 1/2

Facebook Pictures: Ironman Run 2/2

Facebook Pictures: Ironman Swim

I've been on vacation mode and haven't provided a much reporting. Since I consider Ironman my A-race for the year. It would be a shame to not report.

My objective for this report is to give those who (especially coming from Asia Pacific region) are interested in Ironman Western Australia some information that might help them out for 2012.

Air Travel
I chose Cathay Pacific and luckily for me the rate was on special. Unfortunately, my weight for luggage was a measly 23kg. My bike and box is 18kg so it doesn't leave me too much room to spare. So, I filled the bike to 28kg, and then had to tear up my luggage to bring it down to 25kg which then they let it through without cost. One important thing to do is to make sure that you take your time packaging your bike and other essentials. You don't want to pull the wrong thing out like CO2 cartridges or scissors.

Perth is the closest city to arrive to Busselton via international travel. In most cases, you'll probably have to sleep over at least one night before you head down 220km south. There are many choices you can choose but, if you want to take it on the cheap; here are an idea:

Choose a backpacking hotel
I decided that I would save my money and spend about 6 hours close to the train station heading down to Busselton. My flight arrived around 10pm and I crashed at a motel called The Emperors Crown $33AUD/night. It is less than 500 meters to the train station. But getting there from the airport will cost you in 2011 around 40-50AUD, but at least it means you don't need to hail a taxi in the morning if you choose this route. If you choose this method going back to Perth, your choice is only by bus and it will not stop at the train stop. It will stop at the bus depot which is about 4-5km away from the mentioned hotel; it's around $20AUD for this distance at night..

Transportation to Busselton
There are three choices: bus, train/bus, or rent-a-car.
I decided to take the train, but it only has room for 2 bikes; so you have to book in advance or be lucky on arrival. I did the latter. The cost is around 25AUD + 10AUD for bike. It's the same for the bus, but you have to get to the bus depot which is around 4 km away and you need to be there around 7am unlike the train which leaves at 9. The train will head down to Bunbury and then you'll wait for about 10 minutes to take the bus. The conductor on this trip loved to rhyme the city with some other dumb saying like: "The weather is fine in Serpentine." It was amusing for the first one, but 11 times?? It's a little annoying.

Busselton Hotels
All I have to say is BOOK early. I think the best place to stay if you got the dough is Esplanade Hotel. It is minutes from the carb loading/awards tent and super close to the Jetty where the start of the race is. If you aren't so luck, prices can range from 60-300AUD. If 4.5km isn't an issue then you can try Restawile hotel; it's tricky on day of race since who really wants to walk when you have 220km+ that day. You can try to hail a cab, but book early and it'll cost around $20 AUD

Busselton isn't cheap! For an omelet and orange juice, it'll cost around 23 AUD. Lunch and Dinner is  usually more than 30 AUD. The waitress don't accept tips since they are paid hourly 20AUD minimum. You'll get used to the fare hike if you live from the South Asia area especially Hong Kong where an honest meal is around 7-10AUD for breakfast. There is pizza at the Fat Duck Cycles and Espresso Shop which is the official bike repair shop. I was somewhat disappointed that basic repairs aren't free compared to other Ironman 70.3 and Ironman Nice. But, it makes sense when you think they have to eat breakfast too.

Australia cities don't seem too kind when it comes to Internet access when you are a tourist. You are probably better to get a plan from you local area. If you are in Hong Kong, it appears that data only for an Ipad can be sought for around $10AUD. Three has a good international package and around $15UAD if you have text/data like an iphone. Make sure you figure out the roaming setup so you aren't surprised. Another choice for voice is to buy a $30AUD pre-paid sim card at the POST

If you aren't a wine tasting type, there is MTB trails down in Margaret Rivers. I tried it the day after the race and it was pretty amazing course. Tell Rob from Dirty Detours that JoggerJoel sent you ;) And if you like skydiving, there is a local airport nearby Busselton. I wanted to do it but the weather turned sour.

The Pre-Race
Schoolies as they say "Down Under" just get out of school, so you might find some young drunks early in the week. This means - be very careful when you ride your bike around town. Traffic is more congested than normal (I hear). I arrived on Wednesday and left the following Tuesday. If it is your first time to Busselton from an International arrival; you'll want to buffer 2 days for travel. So, I wasn't in a hurry like I am in closer cities where I arrive on Friday and leave Monday. For some who are lucky, Monday is winner's night... Those who aren't it's nice to be part of the scene - come on, you're an Ironman! I pretty much swam for the 3 mornings when they had life guards in boats, from the beach and bridge. Don't be too concerned, but after I left Busselton, I heard there were a few sharks in the area and someone did get attacked. Also, there was a dolphin in the area that week, but I missed it.. The bike course is a little hard to complete with traffic, but they are bicycle aware since most of them are for the race. Although, it is still pretty scary on the main roads which I went to Dunsborough and back (~40km). Don't be too excited there as there is just a small mall and beach.. For running, the beach is awesome - it's easy to do 5-10km and the road near the beach is used for the course which is pleasant. I will warn you that there are a lot of flies and they are a big swatting nuisance; also the night flies are thick as well.

If you read my other blogs, you'll quickly understand my background as a swimmer. I just want to get through it before the cut-off time. Well, I'm a little faster than that, but not by much. In the beginning of the race, the water looked so calm, but as I was heading toward the jetty point, I was being pushed to the left and into the buoys. After the jetty turnaround - around 1.9km; the jetty or bridge helped break up the waves, but unfortunately in the end, my time was about the same as Nice, France. Actually, it was a little slower but I will blame it on the video!

Obviously my time should be faster than Ironman France since it was very hilly and this is not. But, Busselton shouldn't fool you - the track is fast because it is flat as a pancake, but the wind can really slow you down. And as the day goes by, it gets even stronger! A few things to note about my ride: After 90km, my aero pad holding my forearm was tightened too much (not by me) and it broke. I had to come up quickly with an ingenious plan and I used electrical tape and GU packet to help me the rest of the way. The other issue was the wind, it caused my eyes to become very blurry and it took a few kilometers on the run to see again.

Supposedly, I should be stronger as a runner than a cyclist and swimmer. But, after those two disciplines, well; I'm not. It takes me an additional hour to run a marathon than a 'regular' marathon. So, I was about 5 minutes slower on the run than in my first Ironman - Nice, but I will point fingers to my bike as I road much harder and faster. With mountains, you get to rest on the downhill. In Busselton, there are not hills!

Ironman wrap up
I'm overall happy with my first two Ironman participation. I know that I still have a lot of work today, but now I have a base to work off of. I hope to continue participating in at least 2 full Ironman distances a year and several half Ironmans. I hope you find my report useful and feel free to keep in contact by 'friending' me on facebook.