Ironman finish fulfills lifelong dream

Published on WO2 Andrew Hetherington (author)

Location(s): Kona, Hawaii, USA

Topic(s): Ironman

The Navy team, from left, ABCD McEwan, ABCD Bone, LCDR Northcote and LEUT Davies. (photo: Unknown)
The Navy team, from left, ABCD McEwan, ABCD Bone, LCDR Northcote and LEUT Davies.

Four Navy athletes made the pilgrimage to Kona, Hawaii, last month to take on one of the world’s most physically demanding triathlon events.

More than 2000 competitors started the Ironman Triathlon World Championships race on 10 October, but it was another thing to finish the 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run.

Three of the Navy competitors made it to the finish line, with only Able Seaman Clearance Diver Kevin McEwan, of Australian Clearance Dive Team Four, forced to pull out after the cycling leg because of a medical condition.

The Navy finishers were Able Seaman Clearance Diver Alan Bone, also of Team Four, Lieutenant Commander Mark Northcote, of HMAS Waterhen and Lieutenant Natalie Davies, of HMAS Albatross.

Lieutenant Commander Northcote finished in 11hr 17min to place fourth in the men’s military division and first in the military division’s 40-plus age group. Lieutenant Davies finished in 13:54.

Lieutenant Commander Northcote said he had always dreamt of qualifying for Kona and to finally race there was amazing.

“My parents came over from the UK, and my wife and kids came from Sydney, to watch me,” he said.

“The swim start was brutal and it was a full-contact sport with arms, legs and bodies everywhere.

“This is my strongest leg and in a normal ironman, I can get to the front of a swim.

“But in Kona everyone is a good swimmer and the pack of 1500 male athletes just swims together and over one another.”

He was pleased with his swim time of just over an hour. But the bike leg was a different experience.

“I started on the pace I had planned, but as I entered the lava fields the heat was magnified.

“There was a brief point of respite when I climbed into Hawi - I entered a low cloud and experienced rain and hail.”

When Lieutenant Commander Northcote came out of the cloud, he was back in over 40 degree heat and the wind had picked up.

“I managed to go down a hill 4km/h slower than I had gone up it due to the wind,” he said.

“I did the bike in 5:35, which was pretty much on pace even if I did slow a little towards the end.”

The heat hit home early in the run and forced him to walk for about a kilometre, eating ice.

Some cloud cover and a temperature drop about three kilometres from the end allowed him to finish the run in 4:32.

“It was an amazing experience that has been in my book of life tasks for many years,” Lieutenant Commander Northcote said.

“I’m really pleased how the Navy team banded together and wore the green and gold of Australia with Navy and Triathlon Australia branding. We were the envy of the other services and it was a great team effort.”
 
Lieutenant Davies said it was the most physically and mentally challenging race she had entered.

“I felt so privileged and humbled to have been able to compete and be a part of the atmosphere there,” she said.

“The huge number of people who were watching and cheering at the finish line was like nothing I had ever seen, making the run down the finishing chute even more special and memorable and fun.

“The course itself proved to have some extreme challenges on the day for me, the wind and the heat being the biggest.”

She said the best bit was the views the course provided.

“The countryside was beautiful and so varied. I swam over coral and fish in crystal-clear water, I cycled through lava fields along the Queen K highway and through a rain forest up near Hawi,” she said.

“I then ran along the coastline with palm trees, then through lava fields and finally through the town of Kona. It was a memorable experience.”

For information about joining the ADF Triathlon Club go to www.defence-triathlon.asn.au