Hi All

I’ve written often, in the past, about how I like to plan my holidays around a major participatory sporting event. My youngest granddaughter, Hailey, is being christened here, in Brisbane, at the end of the month so I ended up competing in the Cairns Ironman 70.3 half ironman for a second time last weekend. Cairns is situated in the far northeast of Australia alongside the heart of the Great Barrier Reef – well known for some of the best Coral Reef in the Ocean.

For a variety of weak reasons, I had not done the requisite training to aim for a record-breaking time. Having competed in endurance-type athletic sports for the past 50 years, I thought I could just use muscle memory to force my way through nearly 8 hours of teeth-gritting tenacity. This worked very well for the 1.9km swim and 90km cycle, but the memory changed to a form of dementia for the following 21km run – It turned out to be one of those runs where you continually set your sights on the third next lamppost before resting and walk/running again. 

The race starts in the sea at Palm Cove some 20km north of Cairns – the water temperature was 23 degrees with calm seas prevailing. Such a good feeling sitting on the beach just before sunrise waiting for the start with clear blue skies displaying a glorious, rusty-coloured haze over the tranquil seafront.

My swim time was good enough for me to exit and start the cycle near the front of the field. It was not long, however, before I was overtaken by most of the remaining, very fit-looking athletes in the 70.3 event – all boasting the strong calves and well-defined quads of seasoned cyclists. The cycling section takes one 31km north traversing alongside very scenic stretches of coastline – just miles and miles of azure waters and unspoilt beach sand. The tarred road is just metres away from the beaches and takes one through the forest-like countryside. I was so mesmerised by the views that I soon decided to turn my race into a “Stop and Smell the Roses” event. The cell phone was out of the back pocket every few minutes snapping away at all sorts of combinations of seas and cyclists.

The run is a double loop around the waterfront weaving amongst popular restaurants feeding the best seafood to indulgent tourists – all the while envying the flashy yachts and boats parked around the harbour.

One cannot visit that part of the world without taking a boat out to see the Great Barrier Reef which I duly did on the Monday afterwards. The journey to the far eastern side of the Barrier took about 90 minutes in a fast boat with about 50 others. I spent a few hours snorkelling amongst coral reef and marine life of every colour under the sun. In hindsight, I should have chosen to dive with an aqualung as other novices did. 

Those of you who think you are too old for this kind of sport might want to know that the oldest finisher in the Full Ironman (3.8/180/42k) was from Japan – 91-year-old Hiromu Idada – yes you read it correctly – 91!

Cairns is a beautiful part of the world with June being the best time of the year to visit – the heat in mid-summer is, apparently unbearable with migrating Jellyfish being a big concern for swimmers. Not a bad idea to add this to your bucket list. Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy Mike G.

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