Almost six months ago now I lined up in Kona for my first shot at the Hawaii ironman. My lead up to the race could not have been any better, I had a full one year injury free period, plenty of races under my belt and a great three month pre Hawaii training camp in Leysin, Switzerland with Team TBB. Most athletes who eventually perform well in Hawaii generally have a few tough experiences before they work the race out but with such a great preparation I had high hopes before the race of finishing up at the pointy end of the field on debut.
I arrived in Kona two weeks early to adjust to the heat and humidity and get a good look over the course. I was pretty excited when I arrived in Kona because the place is hallowed ground for any triathlete, it’s the Wembley stadium, Lang Park or Yankee stadium of triathlon. Some of the best battles in triathlon history have taken place in Kona and the first thing I did when I got there is drive out to the Energy Lab, the Pier and the lava fields and just took the place in. My whole family had travelled from all over the world to watch me race so that was a massive boost for me as well.
The build up to Hawaii is pretty full on. Every triathlon journalist is there, every sponsor wants to have a presence there and on top of that there’s 2000 of the fittest people in the world strutting around the place which just adds to the atmosphere. The fortnight before the race flew by and before I knew it I was in the water waiting for the start cannon to go off.
A lot of people say the swim in Kona is extra tough but it isn’t, like all long course races it makes up less than 10% of the race, it’s pretty slow and a non-event really. In the early stages of the bike a large group of 20 odd formed out on the Queen K. I was sitting about mid pack and feeling pretty comfortable. Hawaii is famous for the wind but in the two weeks in the lead up to the race I hadn’t experienced anything more than a light breeze, race day was a different story. By the 40km mark on the ride the wind was really gusting across the Queen K and is probably the strongest wind I’ve ever ridden in. Michael Raelert’s one of the lighter blokes in the field but at one point I was riding behind him and watching him get blown from one side of the road to the other.
By the time we turned to ride up to Hawi the large group had disintegrated and by the turn around at Hawi I was totally isolated in about 15th position. I kept boxing on but riding in no-mans land definitely wasn’t part of my race plan. Over the next hour or so I picked up a few athletes who were really struggling, they were obviously paying the price for the pace set on the bike up to Hawi. After 130km I was caught by Andreas Raelert and Timo Bracht and I hung onto them until T2. I was expecting to have lost major time to the front pack but it turned out to only be five minutes so I was confident I could run down a few blokes and be right up there after the marathon.
I had ridden a lot harder than I had planned so I decided to run the first 21km conservatively and then really try and bring it home over the final 21km. Despite going out conservatively I was still catching another athlete every couple of km’s. By the time I did the out and back section on Alii Drive, ran up Palani hill and was out onto the Queen K I was in 7th with Andreas Raelert just in front of me and Faris another 200m up the road. I was really excited at this point because I was feeling good and poised to start picking off the blokes up the road. I don’t know what happened over the next 400m but I went from thinking podium to just try and finish. I really hit the wall badly which I put down to having to ride so hard for the full 180km, the majority of my riding before Kona had been up and down climbs in Switzerland but time trialling on the flat with cross winds is a different kettle of fish all together. I kept trying my best but I was really creeping over the second half of the run. I got past by several blokes towards the finish who were barley moving themselves but I just could not respond because I was just in get to the finish line mode. I finished up in 9th.
Lots of people said to me you should be so happy with a top ten at Kona on debut but to be honest I was really disappointed with the result because I know I was in better form than a 9th which is probably why it’s taken me six months to write this blog. I learnt a hell of a lot at Kona last year and I will use that experience for Kona 2013. Basically Kona is the only race I care about now and it’s all I think about in every training session or just when I’m day dreaming.
I was going to requalify for Kona this year at ironman Melbourne but unfortunately I picked up a minor hip injury before the race and had to give it a miss, I’ll qualify at another ironman later on in the year now but Kona will be the sole focus.
All the best.