Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie – One Step

Quick recap

On a much harder course, I finished 30 minutes faster that my 1/2 Ironman in Galveston, TX three years ago.   Much like Galveston, Port Mac is a checkpoint – to see how I’m progressing towards the big goal of Melbourne in March, and the first big athletic event of my Ironman Campaign for Room To Read.  I was shooting for a 5:35, but thanks to faster transitions I managed a sub 5:30 race.

Apologies in advance, this is long, long, long, and most of it was written this morning after very little sleep.

The stats:

Overall: 5:29:50

Swim: 37:30
Bike: 3:00:28
Run: 1:45:10

Rank in Age 40-44: 63/148 finishers
Overall Rank: 368/1238

Bush fires

Right now, much of New South Wales (the state that Sydney and Port Macquarie are in) is on fire.  Over 50 fires still burn today, and hundreds of homes have been lost.  While many of us got to put ourselves to the test with the water, sun, and wind, firefighters and families are fighting a much more important battle all around the state.


Buntings signs in Port MacBefore any of the “me, me, me” stuff, I am in huge debt to a long list of amazing people:

  • Diane – without a kidney from my cousin Diane, I might not be alive, much less cranking out 113 kilometers and being in the top half of my age group.  I’ll never be able to repay what Diane gave me.
  • Dariusz – my Atlassian work colleague who made the trip up with me, and yells at me to “Go Faster!”  It’s fantastic having a friend who loves and understands the sport go along with you.
  • Los Buntings (picture at left) – Jill and Kyle (and Natalie and Nate, too!) have been my family in Manly, and have been the main people who have helped me through all the brutality of the last year.  They have given me so much it’s hard to think about it without getting choked up.  Love you guys a ton.
  • Andy – The main coach in the Warringah tri club who I have worked with over the past 4-5 months, Andy is a big reason why I was able to hit the time that I did.  He’s not only a good coach but a ton of fun to be around, and a good friend who cares about more than just our split times.  I’m very lucky to have met Andy.
  • My Warringah team mates – Mark, Daniel, Alistair, Dan, Craig, Linda, and Lindsay (and there were several others around, too!).   Awesome  training and racing with you.  Lindsay gets the overall prize for driving up, then both photographing and cheering throughout the entire race, finding me on every lap!  Amazing.

On to narcissism:


BryanFightingWetsuit_PortMacI’m not as strong of a swimmer as I was three years ago – it’s strange having gone from someone whose strength was swimming to having running be my strong suit.  I had jumped in the water on Saturday morning without a wetsuit and the water felt wonderful.  After a massage on Thursday my shoulders had opened up again, and every stroke felt great.   When the whistle went off Sunday at 7:15, I surged ahead with the 80 or so in my age and alphabet group.  I found a good rhythm quickly.  Despite loving swimming I actually dread the swim portion of a triathlon.  I never really know where I’m at.  I never really have a feeling for how far I’ve gone, how fast I’m going, or where anyone else is around me.  I’m constantly surprised.

At one point we turned left around a buoy.  Then we turned left again.  Then we were at the swim exit and running out.  But the 37+ minutes I was in the water, it was just swimming, occasionally kicking, and bumping into people.  At one point I did slam into a cluster of beginning swimmers who had started 15 minutes ahead of my wave like a bowling ball, scattering their little pod.  Sorry.  At probably the 1.2 k mark (400 m left) I began to fade, and my stroke lost a lot of it’s power, and then we turned against the current. In the last 500m, I put my head down, focused on my stroke, and went way off course.

Just as we were about to exit the water, the guy in front of me tried a shallow water dive – it’s a way to go faster than running in shallow water, where you repeatedly dive forward and pick yourself up and dive again.  It must have been his first time because the water was too shallow and he basically face planted as I ran around him.  Then exiting the water I wrestled with the leash on my wetsuit (see photo) for most of the run up to my bike.  Ridiculous.


I jogged out of the water and into transition. I peeked at my Garmin on my bike and it told me my heart rate was 170.  I was pulling off the wetsuit, grabbing my helmet, putting on my sunnies, and running with the bike.  Completely dizzy, heart racing, staggering left to right and back, I must have looked quite a mess.  Somehow I managed to get on the bike and pointed in the right direction in under 4 minutes.


BikeStart_PortMac_croppedThe first 15 minutes of the ride my heart was still racing and I was disoriented.  The perfect time for hills, sharp turns, and lots of potholes.   Saturday a short ride along that same part of the course now paid back in full – I knew the place where I could easily eat it, and I avoided it.   Eventually I settled down just as the longer, flat portion of the course began.   Notice, I did not say smooth.   There really isn’t more than about 1k of truly nice pavement in the entire 22.5k, where you’re lucky when you’re on chip seal and the rest is just poorly maintained road.

After the first turnaround on lap 1, about 5 minutes later I hit a bump and one of my fuel bottles popped out of the back bottle holder, and I had to stop, run back 30 meters, and grab it.   So a mini-duathlon in the middle of it all.

Everyone talks about the hill on Matthew Flinders drive.   Captain Matthew Flinders was a distinguished navigator and cartographer, who was the first to circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a continent.   And we honor him in Australia by naming a poorly paved road with a @#$% brutal hill and routing the bike course of Ironman Australia and Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie right up it.  Here’s to you, good captain.    The hill is short, but incredibly steep, and you’re grinding in your lowest gear quite quickly.   At the top I felt my quads twinge a little bit and thought that the second time around would not be so easy.

Lap 2 felt much better, until I realized that I was the beneficiary of a tailwind, and as soon as I was headed back, my pace shifted from 34 to 24.  The quick maths told me I was in jeopardy of missing my 3 hour goal for the bike at that point, so I pushed a little harder, tried getting a little lower.

Captain Flinders’ legacy almost did me in the second time, were it not for a course volunteer who yelled at the group of us pushing up to keep our cadence going and not let our legs slow down.   When I got to the top my legs were shot but my heart was fine so I spun my way away from the rest of the pack around me.

I was very happy to get off the bike and put on my running shoes.

End of Lap 1 01:28:58 45.0km 30.35 / 1:59 02:10:22 553 96 485
End of Lap 2 01:31:29 90.0km 59.03 / 1:01 03:41:51 522 91 462


Nothing eventful happened in T2.  Oh, except that I thought I had two gels already in my tri-suit but I only had one.  Oh, and that when I first pulled in, all of a sudden blood sprayed everywhere and I thought I’d had a brain hemorrhage.  But it was just where I had accidentally shaved off a piece of my thumb last week (don’t ask).  Oh, and then I discovered I had tied my shoes together before the race and so I had to untie them just to put them on.  Oh, and then I forgot my race number and wasted 30 seconds round trip getting it.  But other than that, really nothing.


FinishLine_FingerI’ve never had any run be as painful.  My quads were close to cramping with the first steps off the bike, and my legs were in varying amounts and locations of pain throughout the run.  Not enough to stop me, or keep me from smiling; just present, and always threatening to get much worse if I pressed the pace.   My heart rate stayed under 160 the entire run – again, cardio is not the issue.

Every other km I went from feeling strong to feeling dead.  The wind from the ocean kept me cold, and I remembered Maurice yelling at me in Texas – “EVERY REST STOP, YOU RUN THROUGH, YOU POUR WATER ON YOUR HEAD, AND YOU DRINK.  EVERY REST STOP.”  It kept my body temperature low enough and my pulse steady.   I had a weak stretch from about km 15 – 18, especially up the hill the second time.   Overall I made up 26 places in my age group and passed ~100 other guys during the run, so I guess that’s good.

Run3.1K 00:14:23 3.1km 12.93 / 4:38 03:59:02 512 89 452
Run6k 00:14:37 2.9km 11.90 / 5:02 04:13:40 475 82 419
Run8.3k 00:12:10 2.3km 11.34 / 5:17 04:25:50 454 77 398
Run10.7k 00:10:59 2.4km 13.11 / 4:35 04:36:50 439 74 387
Run13.6k 00:14:17 2.9km 12.18 / 4:56 04:51:07 415 69 363
Run16.6k 00:15:19 3.0km 11.75 / 5:06 05:06:27 393 65 345
Run18.8 00:12:36 2.2km 10.48 / 5:44 05:19:03 383 64 335
Run 00:10:45 2.3km 12.84 / 4:40 05:29:49 371 63 327


I’m feeling good about my chances at Melbourne, where I’d like to hold 30kph for 6 hours on the bike.   I averaged 30kph over a brutal, bumpy, hilly, and at the end, windy course.   Without the hills, I think my run can be strong.  I’d like to pull off a 4 hour marathon, but even with a brutal run I’m wondering if I could go a little faster…

Follow Up

  1. Get a new rear bottle mount that won’t toss my bottles
  2. Longer swims (Manly Dam, here I come!)
  3. Possibly trade off one running session for another biking session each week
  4. Core, core, core.  And, core.
  5. Look at changing my bike fit to not put so much pressure on my quads
  6. Remember to re-apply sunscreen after the swim…

6 thoughts on “Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie – One Step

  1. Bryan, I tried the comment box, but you know your Mother is computer challenged, and if everyone sees my comment, it might embarrass you.

    I was enthralled, amazed, and so very, very proud of you. I read every word and will read it again. What an amazing fete – and to have the unexpected problems, and still rank so well outstanding! You bring not only joy, but such pride to your family, and I know to Lars who is so interested in your doing this. I must admit fear gripped me when you got dizzy and disoriented. I guess those who run, swim, and bike would laugh at me, saying that’s par for the course. I loved the signs to Uncle Bryan.

    I know you have giant things to accomplish in your work right now. Do you get a little down time in the training? I’m always looking for an excuse to skip my walk or stationary bike ride (5 min.) or yoga, so I am a terrible example. Not one of my genes is a part of this. So the genes and the kidney are all Rollins. But you certainly took on these challenges with a lot of gut determination to do this regardless. Wish I had been at the end of the race to hug you – or pour water on you or whatever is a sign of love at a half ironman event.

    I love you so much, Mother On Oct 21, 2013, at 5:44 AM, BJR’s Ironman Melbourne for Room to Read wrote:

    > >

  2. Pingback: 2013: Rear View Mirror | BJR's Ironman Melbourne for Room to Read

    • Thanks! The main thing is handling the incredibly bumpy bike course. Ride some rough roads if you can, just to get your butt conditioned for the surface. If you have a chance, ride the first 5-10k of the course to check it out. One downhill with some bumps is pretty nasty.

      The run is beautiful – when it hurts, don’t forget to look around and enjoy how nice it is.

      All the best in port!

      • Thanks so much! I’m heading out to my hometown this weekend where there are plenty of rough roads so that’ll be pretty easy! Just gotta try and be brave and stay down on my bars for as much as possible!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s