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James’ Kona Diary – Day 5 (Race Day!)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

kona

(Sorry Day 5 took so long to get posted – I have had really limited net access for a few days as I hopped from hotel to hotel. I have time now thanks to my 43hr trip home… which I am about half-way through. Sigh.)

So today was the big day. Everything I expected? I didn’t know what to expect, so I guess it was.

The day started the same as all race-days start. Early morning wake-up call, eat a breakfast you don’t really feel like, try to go to the toilet (which you also don’t really feel like) gather your stuff and make your way to the race venue. I arrived at the transition area and walked in behind Crowie (Craig Alexander). He’s been here before, so I followed him. We went around the back of the hotel, dropped off special foods bag, and lined up for body-marking. Crowie was right behind me in line, and we chatted and wished each other good luck. He then got chatting to Lisbeth about kids until the TV cameras spotted him and he was fast-tracked through!

I then followed the stream of athletes through to the bike park and set about sorting out my bike. There were TV cameras everywhere with Paula Newby-Fraser darting around interviewing athletes. Normal scene in Kona I guess. Once I was satisfied that all was sorted with my bike I left the bike area and got into my brand new blueseventy PZ3 suit and stood around until it was time to get in the water.

Soon I found myself at the start line of the Ironman World Champs, with Norman Stadler in front of me, Craig Alexander to the left and Cameron Brown to the right, and every other recognisable triathlete within a few meters in either direction! Welcome to the Big Show!

The start was pretty normal with everyone creeping forward, the refs screaming to us to get back and then the gun going off and catching everyone, especially the refs in our way, by surprise. I got swimming and felt pretty good. I had no idea where I was within the field or how my swim was going but I was on someone’s feet and in a rhythm. At the turn around I recognised Bek’s stroke and swam on her feet for a bit, then moved alongside her. I looked ahead to see if we could bridge up to the next pack (ours was not pushing very hard), but there was only open water in front of us! Our group wasn’t in the lead, so that meant we were far back. Damn. Out the water and through transition quickly and uneventfully.

On the bike and out first short out-and-back loop. I was passing a few people, but guys were flying by me regularly too. I mostly thought, ‘See you later, buddy’ and stuck to my pace. Keep the ego in check early so you can catch them later. That was the plan. It doesn’t always work. By the turn-around at Hawi I already knew that the plan was going to change. There would be no increasing the pace in the second half, just trying to keep the pace I had. Seeing the leaders flying back the other direction was both awesome and terrible. Rei was looking good in the first pack of 4 though! Chrissie was still ahead of me too – hopefully I could at least catch her!

Into the final 50km and all bets were off. I was hurting badly. Not sure where the legs went, but they weren’t firing on all cylinders. I kept the effort up, but the pace was slowing. With 30km to go I caught up to Stephen. He said, ‘Where’ve you been? I was waiting for you to catch me!’ I was in the hurt box Stephen. Just like you it seems. Last 30km. Maybe my legs will come back on the run… With 20km to go a Cervelo P4 came flying by us… with a chick on it! Whoa. Go T-Mac! …Sigh.

I got off the bike and the legs didn’t feel as bad as I thought they might. I found a rhythm and was moving forward. But it was hot. And there was a long way to go. I passed T-Mac again and she was looking strong. I was going to cheer her on, but I caught her at the aid station so I stayed out of her way let her get her needed fluid. Little did I know, but I would have another chance to cheer her on later in the run…

Later in the run, out in the Energy Lab (an unfortunate name – it should be the No Energy Lab!) things started to fall apart (more). By now I was way below 60th position overall and aid stations were goals. I saw T-Mac again just after the turn, and then Bek a little further on. They both looked strong. Coming out of the Energy Lab, with the wind at our back, uphill and totally exposed to the sun it really felt like running in a furnace. It must have been well over 40C. T-Mac caught me then and despite my best efforts, she ran away from me too! Over the next few miles we would play a yo-yo game as she ran ahead of me, then I caught her as she slowed through the aid-stations, and then she’d run away again. Erika, going the other way, shouted at me to run with her and encourage her. I would if I could!

I the last 5 miles both Stephen and Hiro, both running a lot better than me, went by. Good run Hiro! And well done to Stephen for toughing it out – he looked better in the last miles than he did in the first! Eventually the finish line was in sight and the agony was over. Of 9h25, over 5hrs were sheer torture!

I came here to see what Kona was all about, learn the course, the challenges and the competition. I was hoping to be dicing with the best triathletes in the world. I was. Only it was the best FEMALE triathletes! But I got what I needed out of the race, learn some good (and tough) lessons and rather than being despondent, I am more motivated than ever. 52 weeks to go, and I can’t wait!

***

After the race I got a great massage (the best post race massage I ever had!), had some pizza and hung out with Alex, Yong Feng and Steve as we caught up with all of TeamTBB’s war stories. There were plenty. Tough day.

I got my bike and took a slow ride home, had a shower and phoned home. Bek then picked me up and we headed back to the finish line. I popped into Burger King (my appetite was returning) and then went to find Bek. She was nowhere to be seen. Turns out she had some drama to take care of and was with Alex. I hung out with her to support her, but there was little I could do and thankfully she had her family with her.

I headed back to the finish line to watch the last finishers come in and soak up the atmosphere. I missed having Alexa there. It is a special finish line and I enjoyed it, even though I was enjoying it on my own. I stayed all the way until the end, and even a bit after (the guy from Biggest Loser USA came in 7mins after the cut-off, guess he’s earned his title for real now ;) ). I am an Ironman. And I am an Ironman Fan! What an incredible event.

James’ Kona Diary – Day 4 (The day before…)

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

kona09-052

Just a short diary entry today – I must get to bed soon!

Today was the day before THE day. It was pretty relaxed, as is usually the case if you are well-prepared and have planned well. I started the day with a short brick session. Wow, but there were a lot of athletes on the road this morning! It looked like the race was under way already I wasn’t told!

Home for some breakfast and then a quick ride to the expo to grab some last-minute nutrition goodies (and some Red Bulls) for the race.

Home again and ready my stuff for bike check-in. Actually it was all ready already, as you saw yesterday, so I just lay on my bed reading (thanks for the book Bek, but its finished already!).

I hopped on my bike around lunchtime and cruised to the transition. Check-in was a really smooth process. You walked past a bunch of bike-industry guys checking out what bike and parts you were riding. I was chatting to Bek, so not sure they got everything – hope they were concentrating! THen you had an escort who walked the whole way with you and made sure everything was in the right place, and then you were done. Easy.

I walked back to Lava Java and had some lunch there with Bek and her family. Thanks Bek! Then they gave me a ride home ad I spent the afternoon with my feet up.

Pretty uneventful day, but I think tomorrow will generate some more interesting stories for my diary…

T-minus 10:15 to race start…

Good luck to all my team mates and everyone else out on the lava tomorrow. Go out and smash it!

James’ Kona Diary – Day 3 (Thurs)

Saturday, October 10th, 2009
So ends another day in Kona...

So ends another day in Kona...

So Day 3 here has come and gone… It was a busy one! And hot!

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. Jet lag and excitement and too much on my mind I guess… too bad. Its only sleep – Doc says it is over-rated anyway.

So got up and went for a short ride to check the bike out and sort out any issues. There were none. Thanks goodness.

Popped into the expo on the way home to see who was there. Bek was signing autographs and I didn’t want to steal her lime-light, so I left… ;)

At midday I went to register which was very efficient and easy, then hung around for the Pro race briefing. It was kinda weird sitting there with every face you have seen in the tri magazines sitting around you. Doc said I must show none of the big names any respect in Kona though, so I didn’t shake their hands… ( ;) Okay, not really. He meant when racing…)

After that it was straight off to the Avia booth for a signing session. It was cool to hang out and meet people, although not many people knew me. Most just wanted the cool Avia visors we were signing!

Who's that guy?

Who's that guy?!

Then off to the Cervelo booth. Much the same there, although Cervelo did make these cool autograph cards for each of us.

Louis Garneau also gave me a great new helmet to wear for the race. I have decided not to wear an aero helmet due to the heat, and the helmet they gave me is light and full of vents. It also came with its own sticker-set so I was like a kid sticking some TeamTBB pink detail on the helmet.

I headed home after and set about sorting out my race stuff. I like to lay it all out and run through it all in my head. Once it is organised I can relax as I no longer have sudden realizations of things I must still do popping into my head. These flashes of my ‘To Do’ list are what keep me up at night! So it was all laid out in order on my bedroom floor. Everything is there and I am ready to roll… Sleep will be easy tonight.

Organised.

Organised.

And so ends another day in Kona. It ended with another awesome sunset (above), the third such sunset in as many days.

Tomorrow is bike check-in day. The big day draws near!

James’ Kona Diary – Day 2 (Wednesday)

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

I woke up this morning and didn’t know where I was! Slept really well!

Had something to eat and helped Celeste put her bike together. Headed out for a run at about 9am. I was hot already, but not unbearable, at least not on the coast road – apparently the inland Queen K’hawumanu (sp?) highway is a good deal hotter! LOTS of athletes on the road running and riding. Legs felt good.

Back home for some breakfast and then put the Cervelo P3 back together. It survived the trip okay and soon was looking hot with the race wheels on! I did a short test ride, but didn’t want to be out in the midday sun, so didn’t go far.

3pm Bek picked me up for a swim (she was on time – literally to the second on my watch – maybe it’ll snow on Saturday! ;) ). We were gonna go in the sea, but the wind was up and the sea was rough. We went to the pool and did a decent set, then rushed off to schmooze the sponsors at a team meeting. It was more like they were schmoozing us though – it was like Christmas! Soon everyone was juggling gifts from the sponsors.

James’ Kona Diary – Day 1

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Okay, so this is a day late, but yesterday was a little crazy! Over the next few days, I plan to keep you all up-to-date with my Kona experience – I am making no promises though!

Day 1 was a long day! It was 43hrs long actually! Tuesday 6 October dragged on a bit! I crossed the international date line on the flight here from Korea, and went 19hrs back in time! Also got screwed by Delta Airlines on excess baggage. I wish all airlines just had the same policy! On some airlines you’re allowed 1-piece up to 30kg, on others you’re allowed 2-pieces, but they must both be below 23kg – so either you put all your stuff in one bag/box and get shafted by someone, or you take two bags… and get shafted by someone else! It’s lose-lose! F#@%ers!!!! Especially when you encounter both policies in the same trip, as I will on the way home… anyway, worry about that after the race…

I arrived in Kona at sunset – and what a sunset it was! A golden-red ball descending into the sea (I was too tired to get my camera out though – my bad!) Bek Keat picked me up at the airport. She was half-an-hour late – something about a TV interview or something – come on Bek, get your priorities right! ;) She dropped me at my accommodation. I am staying in a really nice place with fellow PE IM-qualified athlete Celeste Swart. (Thanks Celeste!) I considered a run, but it was already dark and I hadn’t eaten in a while. I walked down the beach front about a mile or so to get some dinner and sat at Bongo Ben’s listening to live Hawaiian music and eating a decent dinner. I think right then I fell in love with this place! Good thing, cos I plan to be back at least once a year for many years to come.

I didn’t feel tired and was enjoying the atmosphere, with live music, warm evening and triathletes everywhere coming and going. This is the trap they all warn you about though! I walked home and crashed into bed. I slept like a log, happy to be in Kona, but missing someone special to share it with… next year babe!