The Ironman Triathlon distance dominates global training schedules. It is the ultimate one day multisport endurance challenge. The inaugural 2012 Melbourne ASIA Pacific Ironman Championship was won by Craig Alexander (7h57m) & Caroline Steffen (8h34m) on the weekend (Sunday 25th of March). Amazing times…amazing athletes…1,600 competitors…perfect weather conditions.
The pro’s are endurance super stars, but our focus for the day was on one of the everyday competitors simply hoping to realise a dream. We tracked Surfcoast 2 x Ironman athlete Lyndon Virgona throughout the event. Here is our wrap. We hope you enjoy the read.
Lyndon made his Ironman debut in 2011 at Port Macquarie. He finished in the dark in a little over 12 hours but wasn’t satisfied with the performance or the time. So…Melbourne Ironman was his place to turn those disappointments into a much sharper result.
Training for an Ironman is a significant committment. The pros clock up around 40-45 training hours a week, Lyndon was clocking up approximately 25+hrs a week under the guidance of Darren at Elite Triathlon Performance Australia (ETPA). The expectations were a lot higher than his debut race. Could he deliver a sub 11hrs??? Read on…..
We arrived in Frankston (about 40km outside the Melbourne CBD) to thousands of people scrambling for car parks. There was a massive buzz around the inaugural event, but hey, what else would you expect from a Melbourne based international sporting event.
What an amazing organisation the Ironman Brand has become. The event organisation was insane and all running right on time. As normal, the Pro’s head off 15min before the age groupers. An announcement indicated that approx 450 age groupers were making their Ironman debut on the day. 450 of 1,600 had never covered this distance before. A whole lotta respect goes out to those people. No wonder there were about 200 of them lined up at the Shitta about 20 minutes before the gun was set to go.
The 3.8km swim leg doesn’t appear to have troubled too many of the athletes with only the one person reported as missing the cut off. Apparently it was a pretty fast and enjoyable swim. Lyndon cruised through in 1h25m feeling comfortable and fresh for the ride. Craig Alexander smashed it out in 50min. A freak.
God knows what I was thinking but I didn’t take any photos of the ride leg so I apologise to all the bling junkies out there. Reports were coming back that the ride leg was building as one of the fastest Ironman ride legs on record. The pro’s were smashing the 180km’s out at a 41km average. Lyndon was maintaining an average just over 30kms which saw him complete the leg in 5h44m. So…at this stage he had clocked up 7h9m with the Marathon to go. Could he sub 4 the marathon to reach his overall goal of 11hrs???
The run leg is a rippa. Supporters in vehicles can track athletes all the way back into the Melbourne by driving and stopping along the route to cheer on all the competitors. We followed Lyndon along the route which he seemed to love until…..it all started to head south so we bailed to the finish line to give him some space.
He was comfortably running 5min km’s up to the time we left him which would have given him the sub 11hrs he was hoping to achieve.
We kept the support up until we reached the 33km mark when it was pretty clear that our support was no longer needed. The sole was digging really deep searching for some inspiration and we were worried that he wasn’t drinking or eating. He just couldn’t keep it down. How quickly things can change in this event. It was best to bail and leave him to deal with his demons. Unfortunately the sub 11 now looked a little unlikely. We kept our fingers crossed for him.
We headed off to StKilda where the finish line was located to pass on the updates to his wife and surfcoast mates who were waiting to cheer him across the line with the masses of people who had come out to witness history (Craig Alexanders 7h57m).
The clock was ticking closer to the 11hr mark and still no sign of Lyndon. Other athletes that were running around him earlier were starting to filter through the finishing shoot.
11hrs ticked by and still no sign. 11h15m…..he must be walking because he was still tracking sub 11h at the 33km mark. 11h30m….fark!!!!! Whats happened???? We had pumped him up and the excitement was building amongst his fans and now he was AWOL.
Finally, after 4h14m of running he came into view accompanied by a concern mate and runner. All we heard was “he is screwed, he needs a drip”. I must admit, he looked OK to me as he ran up the finishing shoot. But then concerned chicks and medics started to scramble to help him. It had turned into one of those emergency moments that you see on the Ironman documentaries. Secretly, I thought it was really cool knowing he would be well looked after….drama enhances the memories so once we had been reassured he was simply dehydrated it was time to capture it on film so he could reflect back on a day that was an amazing achievement. 11h35m is a fantastic finishing time for a rank ammo like Lyndon. It was also almost 1 hour faster than his previous time so surely he has got to be happy with that???? I’m quietly sensing there may be some unfinished business. They say Ironman is like a drug addiction. I guess I’ll never know.
To all those people out there that have raced and finished a full Ironman I applaud you. You should be proud of yourself. A massive congratulations to Lyndon and Ironman Melbourne for putting on an amazing event. Melbourne stepped up to the plate once again as the sporting capital of the world. I’m tipping the 1,600 field will be sold out in record time on Friday. Here’s hoping we can secure a spot for my wife to make her debut next year, although………I’m a little scared of the thought after witnessing what I did today. Inspirational day…..inspirational people…..chase your dreams and live life.
LYNDON VIRGONA: “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”