Oct 292014
 

864th of 2187 Athletes

172nd of 288 Athletes in M40-44

During the week there had been a lot of pre-race activities that helped build the excitement leading to the race.   The parade of nations, Guinness World Record Attempt for an Underpants run, the banquet, and swimming with dolphins.

There was still plenty of relaxation though spent with Jason Wilkes and his family and Dean Edwards at their super cool pad on Ali’i Drive.   Some of this time was spent watching Kona’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Replace stars in the pavement with the world’s best triathletes in the flesh running down Ali’i Drive.  Rinny, Rachel, Frederik, Crowie, et al.

Going into the race, I was determined to be amongst the top 5 Ironman (IM) athletes in my age group in the world and win an Umeke (aka a wooden fruit bowl) given to the best of the best.  This group make Top Gun look ordinary ; )

Ha ha.  Rewind.  Perhaps I set my sights too low.  In reality, in my first Kona, it was just a privilege to be amongst some truly great athletes.

My goals were:

1. Have a smile on my face all day

2. Sub 10, if not finish in the light, if not finish and get a medal

I came perilously close to not completing one of my previous 6 IM races.  Nothing is ever guaranteed.  This is IM.

So onto the day of the race, I was fully awake by 3am after a decent six hours sleep.  There was loads of time before transition duties even with the 30 minute coastal road to Ali’i Drive so it was an easy and laid back start to the day.

It did not seem long before we were stood on the pier at 6.30 waiting to go down the steps of Dig Me Beach.  The beautifully warm waters awaited and an easy 400m swim to the end of the pier whilst taking in the fish on the bottom of the ocean.

The pier was lined, several deep, with supporters and volunteers alike each trying to get a view of the biggest spectacle in ironman racing, the swim start.  Only this is different.  This is Kona.  This is the World Champs.  Helicopters circled overhead.

And I am part of it.  My teeth were probably visible from a mile, so broad was my smile.  I chat briefly to the guy next to me whilst pinching myself.  Mike Reilly shouts over the microphone, ‘whose going to be an ironman today’. We both shout back, ‘I am’.

And then, BOOM.  Canon goes off.  Propelled forward by the surging masses.  Swim or get swum over.  The fish disturbed by the mass of white surf as we propel ourselves forward.  The Hawaiian drums beating in the background.

Self seeded too far back, it was a bun fight until the turnaround boat.  On the way back, I took a straight line via the buoys rather than stay with the pack which had wandered slightly.  Mostly clear waters.  That was until the final few hundred metres when everyone joined again into a scrum.  A one legged guy gave out more than he was taking as he weaved through the masses.  It made me smile. Go on son, get in there !

Out of the water within a whisker of Deano.  1hr 10.  The slowest swims of our lives.  Non wetsuit. Most consider it long.

T1 and for someone who is normally fairly rapid thorough transition, it appears I must have stopped for tea and biscuits.  That or extra lashings of factor 50!

After the initial 10k around town where everyone is settling down and trying to get some rhythm, the bike course is a classic out and back that demands patience due to the volcano created trade winds.

Out of town,  you hit the coastal road, Queen K.  For large sections of the course, you look out across the lava fields into the ocean.   Advance warning of each windy section is noticeable by the increasing chop in the beautiful turquoise waters.  These invited thoughts of a quick dash and splash rather than facing the fierce headwinds that start to kick-in as you reach Waikoloa.

The next key point is the climb to the halfway point at Hawi.  Ordinarily the climb would be ok.  When the winds kick in though, it quickly feels like you are being dragged back by a 20 stone beer boy!

At the turnaround, it is time to have some fun.  Underworld kicks into my head.  45mph. Lager, lager, lager.   Andrenaline rushes.   There is a god after all.  And he is an adrenaline drunkie!

A little while later the hangover kicks in.  Headwind again.  Yes, again! And there is 30 miles still to go. 10mph.  Give me a break.   Yeah, right.   You wanted this buddy!

Sub 10 was off.   Sub 11.15 or so was needed to finish in the light.  Surely that was never in doubt.

Coming into town, you are treated to the men’s front runners heading towards the Energy Lab.  Already 12 miles into the marathon.  You remind yourself that they started a good 20 minutes beforehand.  You still feel like a snail although are on a buzz witnessing the scene in front of you.

Kienle followed by Van Lierde.   The race was most definitely on.

Meanwhile I was finally getting into town for my slowest ever IM bike of 5.44.  Not overly surprising as my power has been way down since racing IM Boulder.  It was the first time I had felt like a bullet train on a bike though.  40+mph on the flats with ease.  It was also the first time I have done 10mph on a downhill feeling like a moped pulling a caravan.

The latter happened more than once.  The former unfortunately just the once.

As I was recalling my nutrition on the ride (16 gels, 2 bananas, 10 bottles of electrolyte water), Jason went past me without any acknowledgment.  I quickly caught him again to tell him how rude!

As evidenced by the race photos, I felt good in the first 10k on the out and back along Alii Drive.  Deano and I had exchanged high 5’s.  I had resisted the temptation to get in my car and drive off as I passed it sat in Jason’s drive.  My constant ice baths at each aid station were also clearly keeping the hot, humid sauna-esque conditions at bay.

Up Palani and big shouts from Jason’s family.  All was good as Miranda Carfrae, the eventual women’s winner, went past in the opposite direction like a Duracell bunny hunting down current 1st place Daniella Ryf.  I gave a big cheer although saved more for 3rd place Rachel Joyce….our current ultimate Brit Iron.

Chrissie Wellington followed closely on a bike and gave me a shout of encouragement.  Perhaps she knew what was about to happen!

Then followed the quietness of the energy lab.  This is the only part of the course closed to all but competitors.  There is an eerie silence broken only by running shoes hitting the tarmac.

Coming out of the energy lab, although it was now overcast, I was too cooked to take advantage on the slowing rising uphill section of the next few miles. Despite taking plenty of nutrition on the run (12 gels / packets of chomp chews and lots of fluids), I was low on energy.  It was hard to tell what had gone wrong.

Before I could get down, a guy with a prosthetic leg started his run into the Energy Lab.  Agony on his face, it was a reminder to pull my mind together and suck it up.  Although not able to go quickly, I made sure I was not walking.

Then finally that right turn down Palani.  Time to chat with a New Zealander and rejoice the efforts that had got us there in the first place.  Pulling out the sponges from my top, I can hear Mike Reilly.  I let those few people past me who don’t wish to saviour the moment.  That finish line will be all mine.  A Union Jack flag from Jason’s family and high fiving the spectators.  Finishing does not get better than this.

Anyone would have thought I had won.  Unashamedly lording it at the finish line! Self coached over the last five years, it has been a great journey from overweight smoker and drinker to Ironman Kona.  It was a sweet moment.

It turns out I had finished in 10 hours 50, one minute slower than the fastest IM athlete on the planet, Andreas Raelert.  His day had clearly been way tougher than mine!

Volunteers walk you into the post race amphitheatre to check you do not need the med tent.  It is time to lie on the grass and soak it all in whilst chatting and reminiscing with all the other athletes.  .

I am an Ironman again.  For the 7th time.  This time a Kona Ironman.  It will live with me forever.

That said, I will be back in a few years when the time is right.  It was that good.  I need to make at least one more visit with Vicki when my little girl is old enough to remember.

Oct 292014
 

The inaugural Challenge Paguera-Mallorca played host to the 2014 ETU Middle Distance Championships. Promoted by the organiser (and the BTF) as a ‘fast flat course with PB potential’ meant that all of the 230 strong GBR team were expecting it to be a short day at the office albeit a hot one with a midday start and a weather forecast of 30 degrees.

In the weeks leading up to the event it was clear that, due to the water temperature, it was going to be a non-wetsuit swim. The swim was a simple 1.9km 1 lap out and back with a beach start.  The Pros went off at noon followed by the Age-Groupers shortly after. With a calm sea, crystal clear waters and 900m to the first buoy the swim was actually quite nice and not too chaotic. No doubt the absence of a wetsuit adversely effected most competitors times – especially the ‘sinkers’ like me who need all the buoyancy they can get. I exited the swim in 35 minutes and headed to T1 which was an energy sapping 400m away.

With no wetsuit to wrestle with T1 was a fast transition but it was still about 500m from swim exit to bike mount. My bike mount was perfect until some German guy got his all wrong and took me out! He had disappeared into the distance by the time I’d put my chain back on and re-mounted to start the supposedly fast flat 90km 2 lap course… Yeah right! Shortly after leaving the town of Paguera there was a long climb. The kind of climb requiring a long time out-of-the-saddle in the granny ring pulling on the bars negotiating hairpins. The furthest point of the bike course passed through the ‘picturesque’ town of Magaluf where support for the GB team from beer drinking, burger eating, Union Jack clad supporters was actually very welcome. By the time I passed through Magaluf on the 2nd lap the relentless heat of the Mallorca sun was beginning to take its toll as my attention turned to the imminent run. I sensibly backed off the intensity a bit and got as much fluid inside me as possible whist realising this was going to be about survival not a PB.

T2 was another good transition and I headed out for the, yet again, supposedly fast flat 21km 4 lap course…. Yeah right! Whist there were no big hills it was never really flat. It was a twisty, undulating course with steps and cobbles added to the mix. Basically it had everything possible to break any rhythm you managed to get. The route went down the main street through Paugera and past a chemist with one of those LED signs that alternate between time and temperature. As I passed it on the first lap the temperature was reading 36 degrees! People around me were fading fast and suffering. Respecting the heat I’d been hydrating with electrolytes for 2 days prior and rode a sensible bike leg consuming more electrolytes and I stopped at every feed station on the run. This I believe enabled me to run a solid (not fast) negative split half marathon without ‘bonking’ on the final discipline. I crossed the finish line in 5hr 15min coming 19th out of 57 in my Age Group (10th Brit) and glad that I didn’t end up in hospital on an IV drip due to dehydration as many others did.

I have to agree with the overwhelming opinion from everybody I spoke to afterwards that it was the toughest, and slowest, middle distance race they had ever done…. But would I do it again? Dam right I would!

Duathlon Success

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Oct 252014
 

Congratulations to Rachel Ward who raced at Oulton Park Duathlon on 5th October. She came first in her age group, qualifying for the European Duathlon Championships next year.

Rachel also raced at the British Duathlon Championships on Sunday 12th October. Rachel raced really well to come 3rd in her age group, only 90 seconds behind the winner.

Jason Taylor and Daniel Geisler also raced at the championships. Dan raced very well to finish 18th overall!