Punishing your mind and body non stop for one minute less than 15 hours is hardly everyone’s cup of tea but for SOPHIE BALDWIN the ironman is like one of life’s earliest lessons — don’t touch the stove, it’s hot. So what’s the first thing you do when no-one is watching?
IRONMAN, it’s certainly not for everyone. I did my first one in Cairns last year and had returned this year to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke.
It seemed like a good idea at the time but as I was swimming 4km, riding 180km and running 42.2km in and around Cairns it very quickly soured to maybe one of my worst – leaving me thinking “oh, my God, who does this for fun”?
But as I crossed that finish line I could hear my girls cheering out I love you mumma, with tears running down their eyes, and for that one brief ecstatic moment it was so worth the torture this time around.
Will there be a third?
Maybe … not. I just need to get over this one.
Ironman is always an unknown.
You train for months and months and who knows what the day is going to bring.
In the lead up to the race this year the weather had been terrible and the sea at Palm Cove scary – dark, swirling and choppy.
The surf gods were kind on Sunday though as we had the best seas in days.
We must remember I use the term ‘best sea’ loosely as it was still dirty, choppy and horrible just less so.
I entered the water thinking it might not be too late to pull out (as usual) but once you get in there you just have to get the job done, one stroke and mouthful of sea water at a time.
I exited the swim one hour and 21 minutes later (amazingly seven minutes faster than 2018).
My transition was long as I had to go to the toilet because I couldn’t master the art of peeing in my wet suit and swimming at the same time, it took way too much concentration.
But nine minutes later I was on the bike.
The first part was great – a tailwind up to Port Douglas.
Turning around, not so great – still a tailwind just not for people going south.
It’s a two lap bike course and the last 70km were spent riding into a head wind.
There are also a few hills and I was praying to my dad in heaven to get me up the last few (and I may or may not have uttered quite a few offensive words during that request).
I am not a great rider but I managed to clock a fastest pace of 61.2km down one of the hills, not bad for someone who used to fall off their bike in the driveway when I first started.
I got into Cairns seven hours and 22 minutes later to my cheer squad – daughters Annie and Molly and Moll’s boyfriend Jack.
I was ever so glad to hand over my bike and hit the run.
Another toilet stop and a lovely volunteer helped me in and out of my suit or I would have been battling for 20 minutes to get that bloody thing on and off.
I hit the run and thought ‘yay, just a marathon to go’.
I was cruising along nicely until my stomach went into revolt about 2km in, leaving me battling a cramping stomach and my urge to want to quit for the next 40km.
It was a four lap course this year and to add to the joy it rained for most of it.
I also had near-terminal chafe from my tri suit and the constant rain (bathing has been excruciating ever since and requires gently lowering my body in and out of the water until it stops stinging).
I burst into tears at about 30km when I saw my girls and told them I wanted to stop. They told me to keep going, I was nearly there.
Moama local Dee Hore (who supported her husband Big Trav who did the half ) stood out in that rain, encouraged me and gave me a kiss and a cuddle every single lap, I love you mate you helped get me to the finish.
The last 8km Moll ran with me, pushing me the whole way – “come on mumma, you are nearly there, not long to go now” and then bang, all of a sudden, I could finally enter the bloody finish chute after running past it three times.
The announcer yells Sophie Baldwin you are an Ironman, I give my kids, Jack and my niece a kiss, high fived tri-club mates Haydn O’Neale, Ryan Kervin and Luke Barlow (three awesome locals who supported me in the lead up and stood in the rain to watch me finish), the crowd cheered and it was done.
I felt every second of the 14 hours and 59 minutes on that course – but I didn’t let it beat me.
Why do I do it?
It certainly isn’t for all the flattering photos I get in my tri suit.
I do it because it is a challenge – mentally and physically – but most of all I do it to show my two beautiful bubbas you can do anything you put your mind to, even if it’s hard.
And quite simply, that’s enough.