Thursday, 13 October 2016

October 8th 2016 Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii

3.8km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 34oF

Swim 1:07:46 - T1 04:37 - Bike 05:23:59 - T2 06:06 – Run 03:41:50 Total Time 10:24:18

33rd 50 - 54 Age Group, 712th Overall

Whilst I hadn’t raced as much as I would have liked this year, I have been injury free and pretty consistent week in week out with my training bar the usual stuff life chucks at you. With multiple years of training for Kona under my belt I have a pretty good feel, along with a good slug of data, to understand if I am in the right sort of shape to be competitive. I have always prepared well for this event and this year was no different, I was confident arriving on the Big Island that I was capable of racing hard and challenging for the top places.

I quickly slipped into the rhythm of the island, crow-barring my body clock into the eleven-hour time difference and working out in the heat of the day to accelerate the required acclimation to the brutal conditions that mark this race out from all others. There is always a huge amount of chatter about how exceptionally hot, humid and windy it is in any one year; it’s Kona, it’s not meant to be and never is easy and that’s what keeps drawing me and many others back to try and crack the code.

The days rolled by and I ticked off the plan as race day approached. There is a fine line between being relaxed and being complacent. I am not sure I always get the right side of that but I find a solid, tried and tested routine a huge help in dealing with the near hysterical vibe that surrounds Alii Drive as Saturday rushes head long at us.

Thursday is Under Pants Run day – don’t ask, just look it up. A thousand A type individuals given an excuse to show off and strut their lean, lycra clad stuff. For me it’s an opportunity to have a swim from Digme Beach whilst the masses are distracted. Wednesday night I had the start of a sore throat but brushed it off as the body wrestling with the time zone, conditions and absorbing the huge physical work load of preparing for the event. Thursday morning it hadn’t faded, it had become worse and I was feeling lethargic. Now it’s not unusual to feel a little lethargic as you taper but this was more than that. I got the swim and run session done early and retreated back to then hotel to get my feet up. Friday morning, I woke up with a proper sore throat and feeling really washed out. It’s a day to eat to fuel for the next day but I had little appetite. I just stayed at the hotel resting, apart from racking my bike, and prayed the rest would turn my body round.

Saturday morning, I was in race mode, ticking off the military routine as I prepared for the start line. My throat seemed better and the adrenaline was kicking in. I was hopeful my body had come round in the nick of time.

Body marking, check; prep bike, check; pre swim coffee, check; swim out to the start line, check; focus on the gun…. come on, focus for the fight…checkish. The cannon boomed and I sauntered off to a solid start, establishing a rhythm and sustainable pace. By the second half of the swim I found myself almost going through the motions, no fight, no holding my ground in the moments of close contact, just swimming the thing out.

I had a really well structured plan for the bike race and I was excited to execute it and make a discernible step up in my performance in this element of the race.
As the 180k unfolded I felt increasingly flat, that’s the only way I can describe it. Yes, I felt
nauseous but that happens in this type of racing and I have strategies to deal with that but just the lack of spark was different. I am a natural racer and spark is something I have plenty of and I believe, a key ingredient of my success at the distance. Under normal conditions this a cue from your body to get some caffeine in to refocus; I reached for coke but it had virtually no impact. Like the swim, I just ground it out as best I could, every time I lifted my energy and focus it just as quickly waned. My legs, when I focussed, felt strong but my heart wasn’t in it and the one thing this race demands is mental and emotional commitment.

Although I had managed to ram the required calories down me on the bike, I started the run still wrestling with the stomach issues. There have been times in other races where I have set off on   I still don’t know quite how I managed to run/walk myself to the end of the race. Just water and some coke for 26.2 miles, mentally and emotionally already in the locker room but I did get to the end and that is a huge achievement for me to save to the hard drive.
the marathon mentally out of shape but with strategies for cracking on and seeing what my legs bring me. This was different, I was setting out with the knowledge my body was weak from the virus I had picked up and you can’t fake the marathon.

Post race I had a real sense of not wanting to give those that asked, excuses on why I had not performed to expectations. This race is hard and time after time I hear athletes bleat about this or that problem without which they would have had a stellar performance. I feel an athlete needs to take responsibility for their performance no matter what it’s like. I have been really lucky to race in the Big Island eight times and I should have taken more care to do the simple infection management protocols right and not be complacent.

I love this race and would love to come back and immerse myself again in the whole vibe of the island and the sport’s blue ribbon event. I’ve been very lucky and will work hard to stay lucky!


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