Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii, 8th October 2011

3.8km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 96oF
Swim 1:10:50 - T1 02:52 - Bike 05:08:10 - T2 04:06 – Run 03:17:14 Total Time 9:43:12
11th 45-49 Age Group, 287th overall, personal course PB
I qualified to race at Kona in May at the St George IM Utah. Qualifying relatively early in the season allowed me time to recover and have a relatively uninterrupted programme to build my fitness for race day. I had raced well in Utah and, making my fourth visit to the Big Island with eleven other IM finishes under my belt, I felt I had learnt a great deal about executing a solid IM performance.
Each year I travel out a little earlier in order to benefit from acclimatising to the conditions and training on the race course. This year I went out nearly a full two weeks before race day and come the morning of the 8th, I felt well rested and eager to race.

The surf had been pretty big all week and race morning it was a little easier but still not what I would choose for the toughest swim I would do all year. Treading water, we jostled for space and then bang, the cannon roared and we were off. My first few strokes were pulling bodies not water as 2000 of the world’s top athletes fought for the front swim pack. It was mayhem but eventually the physicality subsided as we hit the turnaround point. I glanced at my watch, 35 minutes; on track. Before long I was clambering up the steps and into T1, number belt on, onto the bike and riding up onto the Queen K, resisting matching the quad busting surges of the other riders around me. It would be a long day and patience would ultimately win out.
I focussed on hydrating well to keep my core temperature under control and steadily trickling in a manageable flow of calories to slow the inevitable growing energy deficit. By the top of Hawi (95k) I was in good shape and looking forward to nailing a good bike time. The next 30k is a 60kph downhill section to Kawaihae with vicious cross winds but not today, the winds were very light making it possible to stay aero and maximise on the gradient. With the heat and humidity starting to soar, I rode up onto the Queen K again for the final 55k and into the morale sapping head wind where energy and concentration can start to ebb away but I stayed on task, completing my best bike leg ever in this race.
I felt strong running through T2, in good shape to tackle the marathon. The first mile clicked by, 06:23, too fast, slow down. Mile 2, 06:40, still too fast calm down and settle I told myself. I slowed to the next aid station, took an energy gel, ice and some water and continued to the turnaround at the end of Alii Drive, 7 mins per mile coming consistently now. Back into town and up the infamous Palani Hill. I walked the aid station to ensure I took in what I needed then out onto the burning blacktop of the Queen K. This is the toughest part of the run course for me as you are still not half way and the road stretches into the distance as you leave the crowds of the town behind you. My pace dropped as the fatigue started to eat away at my resolve to run strong. My plan was to run sub 03:15 but it would be a battle now. I had given up some of my earlier time gains as I fought my way along the highway, finally arriving at the Energy Lab and the turn for home. The sun was directly above now, 100oC burning down but only 10k to the finish line with my PB target tantalisingly within my grasp if I held it together.
Ice, water, coke, water, ice, run one mile, repeat, easy when you say it slowly but I needed to stay focussed and moving. I fought the nagging voices off and kept moving to the line, finally charging down Alii Drive and the huge finish chute to record the PB I had been chasing for just under nine and three quarter hours. I was thrilled and emotional, the culmination of many weeks and months of hard training and hard dreaming!

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