This year both Chrissie and Crowie looked completely spent on crossing the line at Kona. Stories abounded of pro’s hardly able to walk the following day and certainly many of my friends suffered from “cankles” the next day. For me I was walking freely but that hid the truth of my day where I’d had the most extreme emotions of any Ironman I’ve completed.
My day started with the usual tension at the start. There is nothing like this anywhere else I’ve been on the Ironman circuit. Over the years I’ve learnt how to deal with it, a big part of which is being on the start line with friends. This year I had two with me and made the best start and the strongest swim I’ve had. I can’t remember enjoying a swim so much. I even looked at the fish at one point.
My frame of mind leaving T1 was perfect, I felt confident, in control and that I’d hardly exerted myself during the swim. Control and confidence continued through the bike to the Hawi turnaround at which point I was ready to pick it up when back on the Queen K. It didn’t happen, the engine room just didn’t have it. Despite knowing from bitter experience what the last 40km is like if you’ve nothing in reserve I’d gone and done it again. By the time I was approaching T2 I didn’t want to run. A bad sign.
Transitions at Kona feel wired. This was no different so I focused on not rushing to ensure I got my Vibrams on correctly. I drank lots of water and made sure my arm coolers were soaked before heading up Palani and on to Ali’I Drive.
It was hot. My heart was racing but my pace wasn’t in line. This can be common but I felt hot and decided I must cool myself down. It meant walking through aid stations getting water and ice to put on my arms and legs. Each aid station I felt better and between the stations my running improved. The Ali’i section is good fun as it’s scenic, well supported and you get to cheer all your friends out on the course.
On The Queen K I continued to feel better but still walked aid stations. I saw the lead ladies coming in and gave all the Brits a big shout, three in the top five with Rachel looking able to close in on fourth. Next come the top age groupers hardly looking different from the Pros. After that it’s my first friends and a chance to give a cheer. I’m still running well so they’ll expect me back not too late.
Coming out of the Energy Lab and back on to the Queen K with about 7 miles I felt confident I could push for home but when I tried I ground to a hault. Even now I can’t pin point exactly why. I had no cramp, my feet weren’t sore, I didn’t feel out of fuel I just couldn’t keep running. My legs ached so much and the only thing that stopped the ache was stopping. I stopped a few times. Slowly my brain would click in “you’ll never finish if you don’t move forward”. Off I go again. 15 min / KM … so that’s nearly 2 hours despite the volunteers screaming “nearly there”. I try running. It feels easier, why don’t I do this. Funning faster seems even easier. Then 500m later I’m walking again. It didn’t even feel like a conscious decision, just my body started walking.
This was hard, very hard and emotional. For several aid stations I had my cap down, head down in tears. Not sure why but it felt better to let it out. It only happened when people were around so I feel was due to the kindness of everyone. Saying how great you look, even though you don’t and encouraging in just the right way. I still had no idea whether I could finish this. Even with 2 miles to go I wasn’t sure I could complete the distance. Any other day I would have called someone to come pick me up.
I dropped down Palani, and within a mile am walking again. For some reason I start to think about my dad and wondering if he’s watching. I feel sad he never saw me race and wonder what he’s have thought of it all. It’s cap down, head down, sobbing my eyes out. It felt very special. An enormous release and I felt so close to my dad. Once on Ali’i drive I remember to take it all in, I look up, start to smile, take in the crowds. This is amazing. I want to come back for more.