Ironman World Championships, Kailua-Kona 2009

Time: 11:28:42
Swim: 56:42
T1: 3:04
Bike: 5:08:53
T2: 3:39
Run: 5:16:24

Race analysis here.

Ultra efficient body marking allowed me to be back to my room by 5:15am with plenty of time to try and relax. I felt so nervous for this race. It was like Wisconsin again. I took this as a good sign. For so many races I could eat so much but here I was too nervous to eat but slowly forced some food down.

I got down to the swim start early and soon realised it was going to be messy when even before the pros had started some age groupers were getting in the water and swimming to the start line. This was a full 25 minutes ahead of the start. Last year no one got in till after the Pros had gone.

Jo came and found me on the beach which really cheered me up. There was a cheer when the gun went for the Pros. I wished Jo luck and got in to bully my way to the front. This year it was nigh on impossible to get on the front line. One guy near me was really pushing forward and with the starter repeatedly saying “don’t push forward in the middle” one of the surfers told this guy it was him he was talking to. There is no warning for the gun going off  but I somehow judged pushing forward just right and got myself on the second row. I’d like to think this was intentional but there was a surfer right in front of this guy ! Luckily I saw it and I managed to move to the side.

It was mayhem. Water polo style swimming for the first few minutes. Spray everywhere. I found myself thinking “you really enjoy this. This is completely nuts”. Being in the thick of it clearly pulled me along and before I knew it I saw some clear water and surged in to it. Looking around I could see I was in the first dozen but was going way beyond what I could maintain. With the mass coming behind I couldn’t just slow immediately but eased my pace down allowing some to pass until there were feet that I had to work to stay on.

Then the usual swimming from buoy to buoy started with congestion  everytime we went round them. I naturally sight and could see that the buoys weren’t straight. It was  tricky to decide whether swim shorter on my own or longer in the pack. I tried both on the way out and soon realised I was swimming with the same people all the time. On the way back I decided to sight myself and found myself in lovely clear water till the last 100m or so. I felt I was swimming better than last year but I think the combination of slightly tougher sea and a less well organised pack resulted in my coming out about a minute slower. Turned out it was 5th in my age group.

On the bike I kept it calm and controlled through town and only started to push on the Queen K. It felt windy and was preparing myself for big cross winds later on but they never arrived. Sods law that the bike computer that has worked the whole time we’ve been here decides not to work.  Not really a problem as I race on perceived effort. I could tell very early on this was going better than last year as very few people were passing me and I felt I was passing more. I was also catching a lot of female pros. I focussed on not increasing my effort levels up the hills and making the most of the downhills. At Hawi (60 miles) I was on course for sub 5 hours, I was feeling good and with the long downhill to follow I was optimistic of a good bike split.

The last 40 miles of this route are known to be tough as they generally get a head wind. Today did not disappoint. Race evening there was lots of  talk of being on for a great bike split until the last 30 miles. I managed to maintain my pace pretty well. I felt good as we got on to the Queen K and had thought this was the time to push if I felt I had anything more to give. Along this section I passed Natasha Badman and told her her I was pleased to see her racing. We exchanged positions a few times before I pulled away. For a period I was in front and there was a camera car pointing it’s camera at me for ages up this hill. I felt sure Natasha must be just behind me but didn’t want to look back and ruin the shot so instead focussed on looking like a good cyclist ;o) Never know I may make the DVD !

In the last 20 miles I suffered big time from cramp on the insides of both thighs. I don’t think it impacted my efforts too much but had to spend less time on the aero bars. Having heard how hot it was I’m guessing that was a major cause. I didn’t worry as I’ve had this before and it’s never impacted my run. The feed approach worked well having the gels in the bottle but it showed that you need to test these things in as close to race conditions as possible. During a long ride with a full bottle my aero bars slowly twisted. The left a full 180 degrees and the right through 90 degrees. Made for interesting shifting but since I was in the big chainring the whole time once we’d left Kailua Kona it wasn’t a big issue.

I came in off the bike in 5:08 and knew I was well up there by how few bikes there were and how thin the field was. I felt great and had proved to myself I could swim and bike with the best in my age group. I was 7th in my age group at this point.

I didn’t rush through transition. I wanted to get my compression socks and shoes on right. This run was not going to be the fastest so a few extra seconds in T2 seem irrelevant.

I stuck to my plan of running between aid stations and walking through them and keeping my speed in check early on. The latter wasn’t too difficult as I didn’t feel that good. After a couple of miles and two proper feeds at aid stations I felt a lot better and managed to run pretty decently between. I looked forward to the turn on Ali’i drive as I would get to see my friends coming the other way. Soon after the turn though I started to get twinges of cramp in my calf. Not unsurprising given how little running I’d done. Luckily Phil had said as much and adviced carrying salt tablets. I had 10 with me allowing the prescribed 2 an hour for 5 hours. I started popping these. Pleasingly it took over 8 miles for Roger and Russ to catch me ! They went on to 3:13 and 3:14 run splits – darn impressive in that heat.

Through the aid station at mile 9 and in front of Bongo Bens and Lava Java when BANG massive cramp in my left leg. I fell to the ground in agony and screamed for someone to grab my foot. The first person did the wrong thing and I screamed again then a guy, who must have been a physio or masseur, got me and started working on it. I was crying like a baby. Not only due to the pain but because my race was over. This was Wisconsin all over again but rather than immediately post finish I wasn’t even 10 miles in to the marathon. My brain liked the symettry of that that what happened at the race I qualified at was going to be what stopped me completing the race I qualified for.

The tarmac I was laid on was so hot but the guy kept the foot stretched and massaged it for what felt like 5 or 10 minutes. I said I wasn’t sure how they’d get me on my feet. At the first attempt the quad cramped but on the second with the help of several others they got me on my feet and I started walking. The cramp kept almost coming back but I focussed on getting through the next mile to the aid station on Palani where I could get water to rehydrate and allow me to take more salt. I’ll admit I was close to tears for huge parts of this but this is what it’s all about. Ironman is this addictive because it brings out these emotions. At my lowest point where I’m hardly walking a spectator screamed “you guys are the best athletes in the world’. That made me smile.

I kept walking and kept eating (salty stuff) at each aid station all along the Queen K. Initially I thought I should do this till I need a pee. I was very nervous about trying to run in case it went. During the next hour I had 6 salt tablets (just three times the advised doze), 6 gels and god knows how many pretzels. I walked virtually the length of the Queen K to the energy lab. As I approached a later aid station I tried to run and it wasn’t too bad. Douglas caught me and being with a friend made running easier to risk as he could help me if I cramped up. We ran aok and going down the energy lab I was running well so he let me go. Special needs was down there ! I wish I’d put in two packets of crisps – they were great. Douglas re caught me whilst I ate my peanut butter M&Ms. They were just as I’d hoped. The heat had made the peanut butter super soft so they kind of exploded in your mouth when you cracked the outer.

Back on the Queen K and Douglas and I parted company… well he ran off ! I got back to run walk but slightly adjusted – I walked through every aid station and for a minute or so at each mile marker. In the Energy Lab I realised if I ran at least some of it I could get in under 12 hours and soon 11:30 looked possible.

The sunset along the Queen K was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen here. Not something I normally see. Completing at this sort of pace I saw a lot more grit and determination than I normally see. There were a lot of people battling their personal demons.

I had to walk down Palani but once at the bottom I managed to run. Even a blister (I was unaware of ) popping agonisingly in the finishing shoot couldn’t slow me down. I managed just under 11:30 for my slowest Ironman even so I thoroughly enjoyed it and it ranks as one of my proudest.

This entry was posted in 2009, Kona, Race Report and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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