2009 Ironman, Busselton, WA – One of Australia’s Great Triathlons

Last weekend saw the running of IRONMAN WA, in sunny Busselton, Western Australia. In addition to the Elites 1,309 individuals lined up for the sixth edition of IRONMAN WA. Michael Shortall from the Balmoral Triathlon Club talks about his experience and the emotions of completing this amazing triath

By Michael Shortall

Last weekend saw the running of IRONMAN WA, in sunny Busselton, Western
Australia. In addition to the Elites 1,309 individuals lined up for the
sixth edition of IRONMAN WA.

made this trek early in May of this year for the Half Ironman and
having fallen in love with the surrounding areas of Margaret River,
Dunsborough, Bunburry and of course Busselton itself, due to its flat
open stunning landscape and prestine waters, and of course the lack of
Matthew Flinder Drive type hills, I thought this be the most
appropriate place for me to undertake my first IRONMAN.

Ironman WA Busselton_Michael Shortall

Arriving in Perth at 10am on the last Registration Day, Thursday, the
support crew (constituted by the old man Jimbo, and Sue and my
girlfriend Liv) headed along the Bussell Hwy for the 2.5 hour drive
south to IRONMAN HQ.

Once settled and registration was complete, we were all able to enjoy
the Parade of Nations followed by the Carbo Dinner (a must) and
thereafter a superb lunch at a Margaret River Vineyard on Friday (about
30 minutes from Busselton) before the nerves kicked in. In my sporting
life, I have never felt anything like the adrelalin as I did on Friday
afternoon and in particular on Saturday 5 December at 5am (1 hour
pre-race time).

Put simply, I was scared. 3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42.2km run. ……….Simply mental.

As I approached the starting line with 1300 other crazy lunatics, I
looked down at my hands and noticed they were visably shaking. Moments
later though, my nerves disappeared as a blue swimmer crab ran over my
foot, only to be picked up by a fellow competitor and hurled 20 meters
to my right narrowing missing another competitors head.

Then, the gun.

A journey of survival had begun. As I tend to do in most my swimming
races, I look for straight lines away from the traffic for the first
500m. This was no different and worked a treat. 30 minutes down and I
settled into a rhythm and began to enjoy the clean crisp water.

At the first turn, I right shouldered the longest pier I have ever seen (it heads out deep into the Indian Ocean
some 2 kms) …… once rounding the pier I headed back to Australia.
Finishing in the top 25% of the field at 63 minutes, I moved into
transition (T1). Transition is a funny place in IRONMAN. Unlike
anything I have experienced before. Helpers everywhere….they’ll even
comb your hair if you ask nicely…I enjoyed it so much I spent 7 and 1/2
minutes here… (time flies when you are enjoying tea and
scones)….bygones… Anyway after being handed my bike and guided to the
exit, I set off on the longest bike ride of my life.

Essentailly, the Busso bike course is 3 long flat 60km laps of pain and
tracks out of town through a fairly open newish residential area
towards the tree lined Layman Road and out to Tuart Drive and the
Bussell Highway. As I headed out I looked at my right arm ….marked with
the times I needed to be and where…. Finish Lap 1 9.30am, Lap 2
11.45am, Lap 3 2.00pm oh and don’t forget….goo, salt , gatorade, water,
water, powerbars, goo, and remember to breath and stretch….this is a looooooong race !

IRONMAN is mental; as much as it is physical. They all say it. Your
friends, your club members, the pros. On the bike as much as the run,
this rang true. Your mind wanders. The legs keep pumping…but every now
again, you need to bring yourself back, kick yourself. Take it easy,
pump it up only a little….after all there is a 42km run to follow…in
the sun.

What seemed like an age (especially the final lap, when the winds hit
35km/h, I finally stumbled off my Argon 18 helped by the supporters in
T2 once again (where I apparently enjoyed another 7 and  ½ minutes
drinking machiatos), only to face the third challenge. A Marathon.

By this stage, the legs were sore, the body tired, but the mind was determined and fairly fresh. It had been
8 hours or so, thus far… and effectively I was over half way in time
but not half way in conquering this demon. IRONMAN is the run. Of all
the legs (excuse the pun) that plays havoc with your head, this is the

6 laps of a 7km course (3 doubles x 14k) which traverses the shore of
the Indian Ocean. I run out of transition around 2 pm and at this stage
I am hopeful.

Hopeful that I can finish before the cut-off (11pm) and hopeful that my
body won’t disintegrate and break down. Placing one foot after the
other I break the run up into pieces. ‘’Get the first 10k done M …then
its only 30k to go” ….”I can do 30k…I’ve done that before many
times…”…. An hour goes, its 40C in the shade and I am 9k down . ‘OK,
get to the 21k mark. That’s a half…. You’ve done heaps of those things
this year ….that’ll be 2.5 hours to go….now that is do able !”….slowly
but surely as the sea tantalizingly appears on my left then, my right
as I double back, I get ever closer. I pass the support crew… Just when
you start to tire you see family..and the heart pumps….. adrenalin once
again. This time its 15k to go, then 12, then 8 …. By this time it is

I can do this. I will do this. Finally I whittled away the last kms. I
start to get emotional. This has been a life experience I won’t forget.
I round the final bend and into the straight.

Busselton the township is still out….supporting all 1300 competitors
and lining the street…it seems like thousands of people. Approaching
the blue IRONMAN carpet to the finishing line I see my crew and I begin
to shed a tear. A huge hug, I turn and finish the last few metres.
Crossing the line…those immortal words of the announcer scream out
across the night sky…. Michael Shortall, you are an IRONMAN !
I then  collapse and head to the medical tent.

thanks to my beloved support crew and particular thanks to my great
friends and fellow club members Tom Cahill and Justin Betar who gave me
so much encouragement this year. Without their help this would not have
been possible.

Port Mac 2010 here we come !