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IRON X and throwing myself in the deep end

Three weeks ago I was called by Iron X organisers to see if I'd be interested in competing in their new concept Iron Man event. They'd had someone pull out last minute and they wanted me to fill the void.

Now why would they invite me to compete in a Nutri Grain Iron Man? Well this wasn't your normal iron man of swim board ski.This iron man included a beach obstacle course in the traditional transition area as well as a 2x 20m underwater legs and a SUP leg. Basically it was an iron man flipped on its head, a change from the traditional surf life saving aspects. a change that maybe wasn't being completely accepted by the traditionalist surf life savers but a change that could breath some new life into their sport.

i was invited because I'm a stand up paddler, most notably because i won Molokai 2 Oahu last year. for me i was honoured to receive the invite but explained to them i hadn't competed in a surf Life saving event since i was 16 years, old more than 12 years ago, and that i had never paddled a surf ski. they reassured me it was an endurance event and one they thought i would be up to, they also suggested to maybe spend a bit of time on a surf ski over the next 3 weeks. I set myself the goal of not coming last, i was under no illusion that I'd be competing to win but i didn't want to embarrass myself.

so in the depths of my off season where I'd been doing more foiling and surfing then anything else i dove into the surf Life saving world. Reece from BOS skis sorted me out with a ski, current Nutri Grain Iron Man Champion Kendrick Louis' spare ski, and Tank from Bennett sorted me out with a 10'6 clubby mal. i did a few gym sessions at manly surf schools surfers gym working on some of the movements in the obstacle course which included med ball throws, tyre flips, sand bag carries, monkey bars and rings. i even did a cross fit session with the crew at Cross Fit Salt Shed just to get some technique advice, meanwhile i plunged myself into Mark Visser's breath hold course.

Now I knew i wasn't going to get any fitter in the next 3 weeks but i had a lot of skills to learn so that was my focus. I worked on board paddling with Cam Coghlan and Lachie down at Manly LSC but spent most of my time trying to figure out the surf ski. I was lucky enough to get advice from the likes of Dean Gardner from Ocean Paddler, Liam Farrell from the Salty Paddlers and Reece Boswald from BOS skis. Working with Reece on skills in and out through the beach breaks and up wind and down wind was where i really felt it began to click, i stopped falling in and began to push down swells which was actually a lot of fun.

Two and a half weeks flew by and before i knew it it was time to fly up to the Sunshine Coast for the event on the Australia Day long weekend. The obstacle course was open on the Saturday afternoon so i took the opportunity to run through the different aspects of the course and create a bit of a strategy for tackling it. The slip wall, med ball throws, tyre flips, net crawl and sand bag carries were all doable but the the ninja, monkey bars and rings, were probably the toughest component of the obstacle course. this was because of the thickness of the bars with slippery wet hands from the ocean legs of the course made b it ready easy to skip. I practiced it a bit too much on the Saturday and ripped my hands up a bit but learnt a lot that would help me on race day.

Race day rolled around and the girls were first to go. it was amazing to watch down on the beach, a seriously edge of my seat style viewing experience. There was a lot of back and forth with the penalty legs, for not making the underwater sections and not making the ninja, playing a big part in the race. Courtney Hancock was too strong on the day, stuck to her race plan and got the win.

it was now my turn to race and i had to settle myself down after the excitement from the girls race. We were introduced to the crowd and we were straight into the start. My plan was to play to my strengths and minimise my mistakes, i couldn't afford doing any penalty sections if i was to avoid coming last.

The board was first and i had planned to not use too much energy on this part as even at my top speed i think I'd still not be able to hang in. i drafted for the first couple seconds before falling off the back of the pack and getting into my own rhythm, this was not unexpected. The battle ground was next, with the tyre flips first, these really took the energy out of me but i was determined to complete the ninja, i couldn't afford to not. i took my time to dry my hands, then use a bit of chalk, one big deep breath and i was on. i took my time, was conservative across the bars and then propelled myself into the rings. The gamble paid off and I was back into the pack, overtaking Lincoln in the net crawl and scaling the slip wall right next to Boothy and Oli. Then it was time for the swim with the underwater leg on the outside. i planned to really take my time for this section focusing on completing the underwater section. I lost touch with Boothy and Oli but Lincoln failed on both of the underwater legs, i had a bit of a gap on him heading into the SUP leg. The SUP leg where i had planned to make my move proved to be too little too late, i was already gassed in diesel mode chugging away. I used the SUP section to regain a bit of composure and again focus on making the ninja. again i took my time dried my hands thoroughly, applied chalk, took a big deep breath and conservatively attacked the bars and rings. I made it again, the only athlete on the day to complete the ninja twice, i was pretty stoked but more relieved to not have to do the penalty run. Lincoln got close but again failed in the ninja so i created a bit of breathing room heading into my newest form of paddling, the surf ski.

it didn't start smoothly as i jumped on the ski the rudder hit the sand and tipped me ever so slightly to the right, take two, all good i was off and racing, momentum was my friend. in the second lap i saw Lincoln head just about halved the head i had over him so i really upped my effort on the last section into the beach and managed to milk a few little bumps into a wave to the beach, calmly rode the wave as far in as i could and ran up the finish shoot to achieve my goal, not last.

i really felt for Lincoln though he was heading into this as one of the favourites with a background in iron man as well as one of the world's best SUP paddlers but it just wasn't his day, each mistake snowballing into the next mistake. He still very nearly had me despite running and swimming the 2 respective penalty loops but at the end of the day my strategy of focusing on my strengths and not making mistakes paid off.

it really was an awesome day, the crowd was unreal, from all reports the broadcast was awesome and all the athletes agreed it was a tough but enjoyable course. I'm hoping they continue the iron x concept next summer and maybe I'll be able to compete a bit higher up the rankings with more than 3 weeks to train 😉💪.
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