Melbourne hosts some of the world's toughest athletes on Sunday 22nd March at the Melbourne Ironman. The event starts with a 3.8km swim in the Frankston broadwater, followed by a 180km cycle taking competitors along the Eastlink toll motorway. The race concludes with a 42km run from Frankston to St. Kilda's iconic beach. This makes for a long day, even the top professionals expected to finish in just over 8 hours.
One athlete taking on the challenge is Melbourne's Martin Toman. Toman's story reflects the determination all these athletes embody. Toman competed in the inaugural Melbourne Ironman in 2012. He was well into the bike leg when a fellow competitor accidentally dropped a water bottle in the middle of the road. This went under Toman's front wheel knocking him to the ground at over 40km/hr. A fractured collarbone and scapula, an emergency trip to hospital, and several surgeries over a year of recovery only fuelled Toman's desire to return to take on this event again.
So what does it take to prepare Toman for an Ironman? Lots of training! Numerous pool sessions plus 4km open water swims at Lysterfield Lake. These prepare him for what hopes will be a 54 minute in the bay at Frankston. In these sessions the importance of correct swim technique and open water navigation is honed, along with the endurance required to swim the distance.
Given the cycle makes up a major proportion of the event, riding the bike also takes a great deal of time out of any Ironman athlete's week. These include cycle training rides of up to six hours plus race specific time-trial sessions. These build the endurance needed for a five hour cycle in an aerodynamic position. It is during this training that correct nutrition routines of energy gels and sports drink are experimented with and ultimately mastered.
The run, being a marathon, also requires a great deal of emphasis. Toman usually runs three times a week, including interval efforts and long runs of up to 3hrs. These runs help prepare the body for running strong off the bike. Many of Toman's runs around the hills of Upwey and Lysterfield.
This training amounts to a huge commitment when combined with his regular work as a teacher and his family responsibilities. Time and scheduling can be a challenge!
So why do it?
Each competitor has his or her story. For some it is putting to bed demons of the past: a way of recovering from health problems and overcoming self-image challenges. For others it is about stepping out of the ordinary and the complacency of our society: challenging oneself beyond the norm. For others it is a self-expression: a way to grow as an individual: not just physical strength but emotionally and spiritually growth. Whatever the reason it is a special event for all 2000 competitors and worth watching if you are in Melbourne.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor.
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html