Australian Mike Bundy, (shown here at Ironman New Zealand), Qualifies for his 5th Ironman Australia in the Cairns 1/2 Ironman.
Multisports.com Athlete Tells of Challenging Race at the Cairns 1/2 IronmanSurvivor: Cairns 2001
5:30am and I'm walking down to the race from my hotel, gazing at the stars in the clear sky, noticing that there was just the faintest breath of a breeze and enjoying the warm tropical early morning in Palm Cove -- just 30k north of Cairns -- and I'm thinking that this is as close to perfect as it gets.
Not 20mins later and it's raining hard, it's getting cold and the wind has really picked up, causing the sea we are about to swim in to turn really nasty -- obviously I'd upset someone... and I'm thinking... what ever it was -- I take it back!!!
The swim was nominally 1900m of rough-water swim -- *very* rough water -- moderate swell with a big ugly chop -- strong winds and a strong cross current pulling everyone off course -- the weaker your swim the more off course you went – worse yet, one of the course markers was blown off course (an M shape course) which had the effect that the further back you were the further you ended up swimming to catch it -- for some, that it was an epic swim -- the organizers did their best and retrieved it when it became painfully obvious, but they already had their work cut out for them keeping people from being washed up and dumped on the rocks... at least the water was warm and thankfully free of crocs...
Long T1 as I regained my composure from what I was convinced has been close to a full IM swim -- if not in actual distance then certainly in level of effort and energy expended -- before walking the bike to the start of the course and committing myself to the next 90k of testing conditions. The winds were simply outrageous. I had a rear disc and a 90mm DEEP on the front -- man, talk about a handful -- combine that with gale-force winds and rain and you have a lethal mix.
Coming back along the cliff-line, there were times I got picked up by the wind and simply had no say in where I was going. And the ‘icing on the cake’ for this leg; the seat post head bolt on my bike came completely loose -- on mine, there is just one bolt that acts as rail-clamp bolt and angle adjuster... Logic (and knowledge of how it worked) told me that so long as I kept my bum planted on the seat I'd be ok -- but everything else said that I was about to lose the seat and probably impale myself on the bare post. Ouch! By the time I made T2 I was physically and mentally drained -- it took me ages to get my run shoes on because I simply couldn't manage it.
Finally, I’m on the run. At least at Cairns the run is dead flat -- this year even more than last -- but the price for an even flatter run was a run course comprised of 4 out & back loops. Again... wind, rain, then the sun would pop out for 10 minutes and you'd bake in it, then more rain -- of course the wind never stopped and there was a head-wind on each return leg. The bottom half of the run course was fine gravel, which turned into a mushy mix in the rain -- not sloppy or anything, but enough that you couldn't get any drive of the surface and it sucked your energy -- it was a relief to get back on the pavement each time.
Finally, I reached the finish line, some 25mins slower than last year; but, actually in line with the slower times of the whole field, including the pros. I picked up 4th in my group and my qualifying slot for IM Australia 2002. A tough day out for sure. At the awards ceremonies later that night, the race conditions were the only topic of the night -- in fact it was the general consensus among all, including all the top pro's, that it was the toughest 1/2 anyone can remember doing -- the joke going was that they were going to run off a special batch of t-shirts ---
"Cairns 2001: I Survived!"