(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.