3.9km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 35oF
Swim 01:09:29 - T1 05:06 - Bike 05:08:40 - T2 06:21 – Run 04:06:57 Total Time 10:36:30
77th 50 - 54 Age Group, 1122nd overall
It was great to touch down on the island again and I always have a tingle of excitement as we drive to the pier in Kailua and along Ali’i drive to our hotel. The warm memories come flooding as the smell of the Banyan trees fill the car and the sounds of the waves crashing against the sea wall grows louder. Familiar faces greet us with aloha at reception and we finally arrive in our usual room, exhausted from the long journey.
This year was never about Kona, that was the icing on an epic year of RAAM and Norseman but once I entered the last four weeks of the build I started to wonder what good might look like. At the outset of my 2018 year the intention was always to work on my biking such that I was capable of a truly competitive bike split at the very highest level, comparable with my running. Throughout the year my run volume was chopped back to half its normal level and swimming parred back by a third. In China I had managed to still swim and run well but I had grave concerns about trying to blag the full distance, never mind compete at the blue ribbon event of the sport whilst being the oldest in the age group.
At the practise swim race 7 days before the main event I had swum conservatively and come out with a respectable time, by my lowly standards. As we lined up shoulder to shoulder in the water, I positioned myself at the back of the racers but close enough to enter the contact zone if my pace was higher than my expectations. I cruised through the swim at a pace that never left me out of breath, catching feet when I could and away from the contact zone at all times. It was a vintage swim for me, plain average in a very not average field of athletes.
A brief photo opportunity as we exited the water then into T2 and a leisurely roll out onto the bike course. This was my test, the element of the race that would signal success or failure of my plans for training in 2018 and the possibilities racing in 2019 might subsequently bring. The goal was to ride 180km at a higher but more even power, controlling the ups and downs despite a rolling terrain and packs of other riders to negotiate; finish as strongly as I started. The first 50km out to Waikaloa went well with light winds and the power coming easily. I then pushed on to the 95km turnaround point at Hawi, which is largely up hill, keeping a lid on the power and passing any packs in a controlled way, albeit above optimal power levels. The last 55km back from Kawaihae to Kailua is where things normally unravel for me as temperatures rise and the fatigue sets in. This was different, I was in control, passing riders at will and having to keep a lid on the power numbers as I maintained a steady power state. Inside I knew my trip to Kona was a success, this is what it feels like to ride strongly but within oneself. The investment over the last year had paid off and I had built the platform I was seeking for that world class bike split, I had not arrived, but I had successfully started the journey.
I hit T2 with a sense of both elation at my best ever bike numbers but also dread at what lay ahead of me next. I know what it takes to run strongly on this course and I know I was woefully short of the required quality training. The front of my brain kept me positive whilst the rear part started to prepare to the battle. I set off down Ali’I drive shooting to run walk at a 5 min/km pace and to my surprise started ticking them off pretty comfortably. I remained extremely cautious as I hit Palani hill at 12km, walking the steepest parts and refuelling/rehydrating religiously. I set off down the desolate Queen K, a black top featureless motorway, with only aid stations to punctuate the landscape, the route peppered with broken athletes. My speed slowed to 5:30 min/km but it felt ok. By 20km, not even half way, my quads turned to concrete and every step became an ordeal. I quickly searched for a reason to continue, 6 min/km would keep me under 4 hours for the marathon but by 30km the quads were screaming louder than the brain. My run/walk rapidly disintegrated into a walk/run, with my legs in agony my only goal was to get to the end whilst it was still light.
This was always going to be the way I crossed the line but some how I had managed to kid myself a miracle might happen and I would run the whole marathon; the power and folly of the human spirit! I hobbled across the line, my legs broken but actually the rest of me never better; hydrated, aerobically sound and straight through the recovery area to meet Mary.
Standing back, whilst one always wants to perform well on the big stage and avoid fumbled excuses for a poor performance, the race has been a success for me. I am excited to keep building the bike performance and start to bring my run form back to its trade mark levels. 2019 will be a big year with a target of racing four middle and long distance world championships in a new age group. Training starts now, mahalo.