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Paul's Journey to the 2016 Busselton 70.3 Half Ironman

It’s all over now, the 2016 Busselton 70.3 Half Ironman swim; all the preparation, the swim, the exhilaration, adrenalin rush, the celebration, tiredness and sore muscles. Now seems a good time to go back and review it all. I would like to share the story of my journey and final swim with you. I have learned so much along the way. Maybe my story might give some encouragement to others.


It all started in February 2015, fifteen months ago. I was invited to an early morning swim at the Anglesea surf beach in Victoria my effort was fairly mediocre. On returning to Mandurah, I was inspired to swim more and enjoy it. This is where the journey began. The nearest centre was the 25 metre pool at Pinjarra. I could only swim about 100 metres continuously, which was disappointing because I thought I was better than that. I persisted, going 3 times a week to the pool. When the opportunity arose, I would ask questions of the swim coaches. Remember I knew very little at this stage. For a while I met up with Masters Swimming there, but I discontinued swimming with them because I wasn’t nearly up to the grade to do the drills and continued back on my own doing as many laps as I could handle. The improvement was slow but continuous.  I recall I was excited the day I managed to swim twenty 25 metre laps. At the same time, I was reading internet articles on swim techniques, training schedules, exercise, building stamina, food intake. Trying to find information wherever I could to help build my performance.

Happy finishers!

I was still way behind where I wanted to be and looked for local coaching. During the time that Mandurah Aquatic Centre was being renovated, so I turned to KirbySwim down the road in Mandurah. The 25 metre pool suited me at this stage for drills which I wasn’t very good at. I would also fit in an extra swim at Pinjarra doing laps to measure my progress.

I was developing a problem in my right shoulder. Probably from concentrating so much on freestyle swimming, not that I knew that then. I had a right shoulder roto cuff operation several years previously which predisposed it to inflammation earlier than normal. Seeing an Exercise Physiotherapist in Mandurah turned that situation around. A range of exercises prior to swim training slowly allowed that shoulder to recover.

Swimming the Half Ironman 1.9km was beginning to look possible. My daughter Kate is a triathlete, I had discussed sharing the Busselton 70.3 with her and the idea lay on the table without commitment. When the time came to register, Kate registered as a single entry. If I was up to the grade and proved I was ready, we would convert over to a team entry - I would swim, Kate would do the bike ride and finally the run. I was buoyed over that and had further incentive to get ‘race ready’.

Then in September 2015 the Mandurah Aquatic Centre was opened. I liked the idea of a 50 metre pool and I joined Mandurah Mannas which ramped up my level of training and introduced me to open water swimming at Doddi’s Beach. It was challenging for a number of early swims there until that first 500 metres stretch was achieved without undue struggle.  

Then it was months of swim training, pool and open water swimming. Early in 2016 Kate said it was time to get the feel of race experience, “without it you can’t do Busselton”. At this stage I still felt a long way off and wasn’t very confident in long distance swimming.

There were three open water events in my run up to Busselton: 5th March “Bunbury Swim Thu” – 1.6km (time 43 min 31 sec); 13th March Coogee “Jetty to Jetty” – 1.5km (time 29min 32 sec); and 2nd April Masters OWS – 2km (time 43min 31 sec).  I have to admit I was spent after each event, but I had gained more confidence not to mention experience. After these competitions, I ceased pool training and concentrated on open water at Doddi’s three times a week, making 2 kilometers the minimum distance. 

Finally, 1st May, Busselton Half Ironman 1.9km - a run up start, 10.10am water entry, wet suits optional for teams, and about 100 in the team’s event wave. Kate recommended, and I did, a 5-minute pre-swim - water temperature 17.7 degrees, virtually no wind, calm sea and overcast.


At the start I felt good (and nervous), swam to my plan and finished in 36 minutes 12 seconds. In doing so, I exceeded my expectations and captured the dream.

What have I learned along the way?


  1. Have a strong incentive to train;

  2. Get good coaching and be open to advice;

  3. Joining Mandurah Masters was the turning point for me;

  4. The importance of post-training recovery nutrition;

  5. Get adequate sleep particularly before competitions, but also before hard training;

  6. Design an exercise schedule prior to training and competitions;

  7. Share your thoughts with swimming friends and learn from their experiences; and

  8. Look for the next challenge!

With Kate just before the race start

Waiting for the Starter's gun

Crossing the finish line

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