Ironman World Championship, Kona 2007

10:00:47 332nd, 66th M35-39
1:00:02 – Swim
0:03:03 – T1
5:16:55 – Bike
0:03:43 – T2
3:37:04 – Run

We were in the perfect hotel for this race – just across from the race start / finish. It meant a not too early start. Slept well with my alarm waking me at 3.45pm. Great pre-race breakie – usual peanut / banana mix with nuts and beef jerkie. We went and got body marked, checked out bikes then came back to our room for a 30 minute snooze. After the body marking we saw Chrissie Wellington sat on the grass. I pointed her out to Jo and we considered going over and wishing her luck but decided she’d probably prefer to be left on her own. Looking at her subsequent result perhaps we did the right thing as we may have put the kybosh on her.

My plan for the swim was to get upfront and aim for a  fast start, get on some quick feet and if they proved too quick wait for the next pack until I was sitting in an appropriately paced pack. It was quite a  log jam getting into the water and despite heading to the start earlier than last time I still felt I was gonna be one of the last in the water so I threw courtesy aside and forced my way through and then swam quickly right to the front line about a quarter in from the left. I picked out the biggest bloke on the front line in this area and placed myself behind him. My thinking was he’d create a lot of room initially and if he was quick I’d get clear (ish) water quickly … he looked quick.

As usual I decided to start my watch a couple of minutes before the start. Not only to have one less thing to worry about at the start but also it provides a little mental arithmetic throughout the race to estimate my overall time. No sooner had I started it and the canon went.

White water everywhere. I just reacted and sprinted as hard as I could. Immediately I had clear water in front and could take proper strokes. Kept sprinting hard and was keeping with the group I was in. Fear stopped me easing off – there must be so many people behind me ready to swim over me should I slow down. No need to sight most of the time. People close both sides but the pack is working well. Looking to my right as I breath I can see we are up with the leading swimmers over there. We converge over to the buoys and form a large pack. I sight every so often and keep seeing I am in the leading pack. I’m totally buzzing. Working hard but not overly so but I can feel we are motoring. The water is clear and I can see the strokes of swimmers to my left and right under the water. They look so strong I start feeling slightly amazed I am matching their pace. Most of the time the swimming was close but with enough room. I aimed to stay in the middle of the pack and be pulled along. Every so often the space would be squeezed and there’d be argie bargie but this really doesn’t bother me that much anymore as I’ve convinced myself a give at least as good as I get.

The turn around came quick and I was still in the lead group which meant for sure I was on for low 50 minutes. My goggles were really starting to give me a headache. This had happened in training the previous week and it had resulted in my feeling really ill. This was a concern as I had at least twice as far to swim than that time. Pondering this I lost my focus and trailed off the back of the group – I had to work massively hard to get back on.  The headache was getting really bad and I was starting to feel ill. Would stopping and moving the goggles help – probably not. Despite this I soon stopped and adjusted them. I tried my hardest to get back onto the group even jumping on the feet of another guy trying to do the same but after a minute I was making no inroads – looking back there were several packs with gaps between them so I eased off and settled into the next pack. I was progressively feeling more ill. I tried to stick in there but had to stop again and again had to drop back a pack. Now I was starting to feel not all there … almost like I was observing myself. I had no concept of how fast I was going… my arms felt almost pins and needles like. I considered stopping and resting by a surfboard. I thought about stopping and calling it a day. Visualising post race with Jo and John made me realise that was not an option. I had to stop again and now drifted back to the main group of swimmers. I swam in with them … I felt so bad I reckoned I could just keel over as I exited. I took it easy climbing the steps, stumbled on the first, ambled to the top, looked at my watch – 1 hour !! Unbelievable – 3 mins quicker than last time despite the second half being completely pants.

I eased through transition, no focus on speed purely focusing on trying to feel better. Despite this I was out on the bike in 3 minutes.

On the bike I aimed to keep it controlled through town and not really push till the Queen K (6 miles in) – hopefully I’d feel better by then. There were loads of people around, one guy cut me up – I had to swerve to avoid his rear wheel clipping my front. The early turnaround allowed me to spot John and it was clear he’d had a great swim as he was only minutes back.

On the Queen K the race started to settle and it was possible to settle into a pace. Through the first feed station and a group of girls started screaming like The Beatles had arrived. Just at this moment an American went by. I said “They took a shine to you” he said “They were definitely screaming at you!”. It was windier than my last race here but I trusted to all the training I’d done and despite not feeling great felt my legs would kick in once I pushed them. I’d ridden the Queen K so many times in the previous 2 weeks I knew it like the back of my hand. I tried to eat some of my marzipan but I really couldn’t stomach it. Tried again later in the ride but still not. By the last feed station I chucked it having eaten a mere mouthful or two. I pushed along on the bike but there was no zip in my legs and more people were passing me than I’d want and despite my efforts I just couldn’t raise my average to where I wanted it to be. “Ja Ja” passed my on the way up to Hawi – not a good sign – He’d taken 175km to catch me at Switzerland and now it took less than 100km. Coming back from Hawi I’d decided I was gonna just tough it out on the Tri Bars despite the cross winds. Doing this I passed loads of guys including one with the death wobbles, most were up on the bull horns. Finally I felt good but this was just due to spinning out my gear. I saw Jo coming up to Hawi and gave her a big shout. She was going very well … even taking account of my not so stellar feeling she was really quite close and looked to be riding well. I’d certainly not seen a huge number of women ahead.

Back onto the Queen K I knew I had about 90 minutes of riding. Still going ok and feeling ok but without any real kick. Martin Yelling went by me at this point. Again not a great sign – he shouldn’t be passing me till the run if at all. He gave me a great yell ;o)

I’d still not managed to stomach any of my food so had survived on water and a couple of bottles of Gatorade – didn’t take much mental arithmetic to realise this ain’t many calories.  As I passed all the run feed stations riding in I stayed down on the tri bars and waved the Hawaiian greeting (clenched fist with thumb and little finger pointing) – got massive shouts from all the helpers. What a buzz.

Off the bike and legs of lead as I ran round transition. Ducked into the loo thinking better in T2 than losing rhythm on the run. Legs felt a lot better out on the run and I felt I was running well. I took Gatorade at every feed station as I knew I could be running on empty if I didn’t get some fuel in. Consciously held back on my run along Alii drive – two years ago I’d flown along Alii drive only to start suffering after 10 miles. Slower pace this time not knowing that this would mean the suffering would start later and be much greater.

After two miles I saw mum, Dianne and Lotte – they gave a great cheer and said I was looking good. Perhaps I was but I didn’t believe them. Still felt comfortable and kept passing and being passed by a guy adopting a run walk strategy – he walked through every feed station. Hit the turnaround and was looking forward to seeing the others. Julian looked good and was closer than I’d expected (within 6 mins), John looked pretty ok, finally saw Jo and she looked awesome and running with a real purpose. I yelled as much. Back past mum, Dianne and Lotte and along and up Palani. I was ready for this hill and just settled in. On the Queen K I focused on getting a rhythm. My run / walk mate cramped up and I gave him some words of encouragement and continued on. Checking my watch I was running well and 9 minute miles would see me under 10 hours. Based on how it had gone so far this would be satisfactory. Entering the energy lab and the down hill section – I felt pretty ok. Excited about running this spot again and also knowing I’d be running for home. As I approached the exit of the energy lab Ironman shuffle hit me big time. I had absolute determination to run the whole run and this kept me going. Out on the Queen K I was running well again just in time to see Jo. She was well up there and was flying. I shouted that there was a lady only a minute up the road.

Now the suffering started. I took a gel at each aid station which seemed to help me about halfway to the next when I would suffer again. Grabbing a café latte gel did not help – it was horrible. My run / walk mate finally re caught me and gave me some encouragement. He cramped again, I offered verbal support – he started running again, went by and I never saw him again. A group of 3 went by and one bloke waved me to join in – I managed to summon the extra energy tucked in and managed to stay with them for about a mile. Looking at my watch I could tell I would be pretty close to bang on 10 hours. I really couldn’t muster any extra pace and to be honest I wasn’t that bothered. I kept telling myself how proud I was that the only Ironman I’d done over 10 hours was my first… this did not spur me on. I just did not have anymore juice. I guess I just knew that no proper run training throughout the summer (since IM Lanza) was kicking in now. There was nothing I could do about it other than to resolve to get it better next time. I enjoyed running the final bit of the Queen K – determined to enjoy the moment I’d worked so hard for. It didn’t matter that I’d done my worst IM performance of my career. On the day I’d done absolutely my best. I could be disappointed about preparation not going as well as I’d liked but I couldn’t be disappointed about the day – it was an awesome experience and in some weird way this suffering made past good performances and any future good performances here all the better.

Down Palani just ripped my quads apart. Still shouts of you can make sub 10 hours – I knew I couldn’t. I looked around down Alii Drive to make sure I could lap up the atmosphere and get a solitary finishers shot. Across the line there wasn’t a smile just relief and as ever huge emotion. When my mum gave me a great big hug in the family area I burst into tears.

I found my friend Rafael almost immediately – he’d managed to win his age group and 39th overall. From being 3 minutes ahead of me at Lanza he was now 55 minutes ahead – he’d had an awesome race. Not much later I saw Jo – she was on cloud nine and quite rightly so. First season of Ironman and 5th in her age group ! Both inspirational performances. Roll on my next attempt.

This entry was posted in 2007, Kona, Race Report and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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