From Beginner To Qualifying For Worlds - Olivia Cartledge

half ironman race report

The meaning of the words ‘half Ironman’ has changed a lot since I started triathlons 18 months ago in the Beginner TriChicks Course. When I first found out what a half-Ironman was, I was certain it was something I would never do.


Fast forward to April 2018 and all of a sudden we’re one month out from the Busso 70.3 -  the race not feeling so impossible anymore.


They say that race day is a victory lap for your training, and that’s exactly what it was. The 16-week lead-up was definitely physically challenging, but the mental battle was the one I found the hardest and learnt the most from. This is how my victory lap went….


We’d all had our eyes on the weather forecast in the days leading up the heading to bed Saturday night we knew what we were likely to wake up to.


But still, gale-force winds were not the kind of alarm I was after that day.


The big plus of a rapidly deteriorating weather situation is that you’re kind of distracted from race day nerves!


Heading out the door we were hit with bucketing rain – looking back it’s at this point that we probably should have just put our swimming caps on, might have actually gotten some use out of them then. 


We arrived at transition, made sure our bike ‘baes’ had survived the night in the great outdoors (poor things) and then just as we were beginning to entertain the thought of putting on our wetsuits we were gently informed that the swim leg was cancelled.


Actually, that’s not true, this devastating news was broken by the world’s grumpiest official marching down the aisle of transition, totally unphased by the fact that she was CRUSHING OUR DREAMS. 


Out of the three legs, the swim has always been my biggest weakness. When I started TriChicks I could hardly make it down the other end of the pool but have tried my best to become more confident, faster and stronger.


I was excited to take on that leg of the race, as triumphs in the water are always my proudest because of the hard work it takes to make them happen. Tears were shed, we were all gutted we weren’t going to do our first half Ironman as we had planned.


Aaaaaand secretly we all knew that Elwood is horrific and that if we could brave that at training, we could 100% survive anything Busso was trying to throw at us! #letthetrichicksinthewater 


When Amy told me the swim was replaced with a 3 Km run my stomach dropped. I had done almost zero running in the month prior due to injury and was already nervous about how I would cope with a half marathon, let alone an extra 3 Km to kick the whole thing off!


But there was literally no time to freak out. I had the mindset going into the day that I didn’t care about pain and was prepared to run through anything.


The Swim


The start of the race was possibly the most the anticlimactic ever! Very different from the pressure cooker that is a swim start! Amy told us not to go out and run the first leg as a full paced 3 Kms, but to hold back a bit so that we didn’t blow our legs for the bike.


The Bike

When I think of the bike leg, two main things stand out:

  1. I felt like I barely stopped smiling the whole time;
  2. It was windy AF.


The bike is always my fave, but this time there was a little bit of fear associated with climbing aboard.


I was pretty certain I was going to come off at some point, so had spent some time thinking about the best landing positions for when it happened (land on your bum Olivia - you’ve eaten enough chocolate for a padded landing). 


Amy has told me that it’s good to race with a bit of mongrel in you! Can’t say this is an area I have excelled at in the past; however, I was pretty pissed off about the whole no-swim thing!


So head down and bum up it was out of T1 and I hit 50 Km/h as I tried to catch up with those ahead of me (note: there was a hell of a tailwind here… that was definitely 100% responsible for the high speed, I’d just like to think I had the whole mongrel thing going on).


It was a two-lap bike course which I loved and every time I saw a TriChick out there it gave me a boost.


Each lap was tough, but I felt relatively strong and consistent throughout.


Although, there was one point where I was trying very very hard and looked down to see that I was moving at only 20 Km/h. COOL. This was equally hilarious as it was depressing, it definitely made me laugh! 


As hard as it was, I couldn’t stop smiling! I was very aware that I was doing my first ever half Ironman and that I was actually going ok! The volunteers out on the course and all of the spectators and other competitors were all amazing.


The night before the race I had covered my bike in little notes – some with my favourite quotes that help me toughen up when I’m struggling. My favourite note was from my gal Delani – I couldn’t help but giggle every time I looked down and saw “wanna get doughnuts later?” written there! I’m never taking that off! I owe my bike time to you @de.tri_ 


The Run

And then there was one…. leg to go. The run was three 7 Km laps, with an extra bit tacked on the end to hit the 21 Km.


I really liked the lap format, it broke the distance down and we were able to see Amy twice per lap as well as running past each other for high fives (these eventually turned into thumbs up as the Kms clocked up).


As I started the first lap I was feeling great! I checked my watch and I was running under 5 min/Km and feeling strong!


As I ran past Amy she told me I was third off the bike, I thought it was kind of cool but it pretty much vanished from my mind straight away. I still had a half marathon to run, I was 1000% sure at least one person would catch me and my only real goal at this point was to get to that finish line!


Turning around at the 3.5 Km mark was tough, it was like turning into a wall of wind. I finished the first lap feeling pretty strong and told myself that lap two would be the hardest. I just needed to get through it and then I would be on the home straight! It didn’t quite turn out that way, by the time I was starting lap three I was in struggle town!


Mentally I was just running to the aid stations. I had walked through them all in the previous laps and now the thought of reaching each one was all that was getting me through.


I swear someone had moved them though… all of a sudden they were so far apart! With 2 kms left to go, I had well and truly hit a wall.


My fingers were going all tingly and I felt like I couldn’t control my legs or make them do what I wanted. I think I was managing a 200m run, and 100m walk for that last bit. Shout out to the guy in the red tri suit who came up next to me and told me he couldn’t leave me because he’d been pacing off me for the past 10 Kms. Cute, but nah bro go on without me – I watched him disappear into the distance. 


The Finish

FINALLY the finish line! The moment we had all been picturing for the past 16 weeks! I didn’t quite get the finish line moment I had imagined… crawling across the carpet wasn’t what I had envisioned for my triumphant post-race insta pic!


But I got there, it was amazing, Maddie Cleary picked me up off the ground, I got my medal, I got my towel and I got to give my Super Coach a hug.


I then became instantly aware that every single part of me hurt; breathing hurt, standing up straight hurt and even though the recovery area was filled with food I didn’t want a thing (woah). However, a pretty good remedy for post-race pain is watching your favourite people cross the finish line too! 


Finishing up with the third spot on the podium and a ticket to the world champs in South Africa was a result I never in a million years thought I was capable of.


It had never crossed my mind as a goal or even a possibility. I am excited and proud and eternally grateful to have the most amazing group of girls to train with and the best coach I could ask for – there’s no way I would have ended up with that result or even made it to the finish line without them by my side. 

On race day and over the 16-week build I learnt that setbacks make you stronger, your mindset can make the world of difference and that success is well and truly better shared.


Having a group of people around you who understand how you’re feeling in those rough patches is invaluable. They get it, they don’t think you’re silly and they’re there at 5 am to share your pain and help you through it.


The Busso half Ironman was one of the best days ever, and even though it was hard, I got to eat half a tub of ice cream for breakfast the next morning so it was well worth it.


Oh also, when the swim was cancelled I made Amy promise to drive me to the pool afterwards so I could do the 1.9 Km swim. Safe to say I didn’t really want to do that anymore post-race… thanks for not holding me to that coach, I think I would have drowned.


Want to receive triathlon coaching catered to your fitness, experience, and goals? Receive all the tools, tactics, and training sessions to unlock your athletics potential & achieve your most successful season. Take the TriChicks Quiz to see which program is for you. 


Take the Quiz!

Find out which triathlon program is right for you! 



Help! Which Bike Should i get?

Aug 13, 2023

My Running Journey: From 2km To Half Ironman

Feb 16, 2023

Can I really do a triathlon?

Feb 16, 2023