Updated: May 9
As I past the woman in my age group who was previously in 1st place I thought to myself “I can’t believe it! I’m in 1st place! Can I maintain this for the rest of the marathon?” It was only 8km into the marathon part of the Ironman and I was feeling on top of the world. However, my supporters were telling me that I was in 2nd place…and then a woman in my age group past me. Sorry, she flew past me. I was left wondering what I was going to do? Had my Kona dream just crash landed back down to earth?
The day had started out so well. I was rested, confident and ready to race.
I had sussed out my sighting on the way out on the swim course and I was going to nail the swim this year. I made my way to the front of the swim group and held my position. I was so early into the water I thought the cannon was never going to go off…and then it did and chaos ensued. I got beaten up and dunked under the water. Chivalry is dead in an IM swim and it is every person for themselves. I puffed myself up and tried to make myself bigger and use my shoulders to my advantage and eventually I found space. However, I think this also meant that I had missed a good draft.
I made really good time to the half way mark and was confident I was swimming straight for once. However, when I turned around to come back it hit me that I had no idea where I was actually meant to look. The buoys were red but so were the sails on a yacht in the distance. There were no distinctive landmarks that I could make out and to make matters worse I had this funny feeling that I was swimming wide and crooked. When I went back and looked at my swim lines I was actually swimming straight, if perhaps a little wide. I felt fast and strong while swimming and came out of the water in 63mins. This was slightly faster than last year, but I think last year I must have gotten lucky with drafting of some better swimmers. Still, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would catch everyone on the bike and run so I was not too concerned.
I sprinted up the road and into T1. This year I remembered to take my swim cap and googles off and had a speedy transition onto the bike.
I started cycling and got comfortable, no need to push things just yet. I made the mistake of pushing too hard up the first hill at Ironman 70.3 and I was not keen to experience those consequences again! The weather was great for cycling, hardly any wind and there was still cloud cover. I got into a steady pace and focused on getting out to Reparoa. The voices in my head were telling me I needed to make up time from the swim and catch everyone. My other voice of reason reminded myself to stick to my race plan and that if I didn’t I would be one of those people bonking on the run. I needed to believe in my abilities on the bike and run and know that I would catch the leaders in my age group through sticking to the plan. I also needed to remember to stick to my food plan. This race I carried all my food with me and had it pre-cut into 10min sized portions. I then just had to pick up water to keep my front drink bottle topped up which I then alternated with filling with OSMO sachets. They were fiddly to get into drink bottle but they did the trick.
Sure enough, after 45km I was back in a good position and still making my way up the field. The weather conditions continued to be favourable but the clouds were disappearing and all I could see was blue sky. I’m sure the spectators were rejoicing, but I was already thinking about ice and sunburn. Again, I pushed those thoughts aside and concentrated on the bike. Some people don’t like thinking of triathlon as three individual sports. But I find on race day breaking it down into the three components is a good mental strategy.
This was also the first time that I was able to put the power information that I had been collecting to use. I was still a little unsure about what wattage I should be pushing but decided that doing the fartlek sections of my bike around 180W or 3W/kg would be about right. I could then use the information from the race to build a more concrete picture of my ability. I had also been warned about pushing my power wattage too high.
I found some good space in the second lap of the course and was coming across fewer women to pass. Could I now be near the front of the group? The only thing I now had to contend with were over confident men who didn’t like being “chicked”. If you are ever in a race with me do not pass me and then slow down! Do you not know I’m going for a Kona spot? I have a blog and everything about it.
I had made such good time on the bike leg that I was going to come into T2 in under 5:30 hours (bike time was 5:26:07). I just hoped that I hadn’t actually pushed the bike too hard. I even cruised into transition because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to lift my leg over my bike and then some camera would get some awesome footage for how not to dismount. While, I didn’t fall off my bike, the run to T2 was more of a shuffle while the legs remembered what they were now meant to be doing. However, once I got those Altra running shoes on (I made sure I had a new pair for race day) I felt fantastic.
I ran out onto the course and my supporters told me I was first..shortly followed by the announcer saying I was in second place! Still, I was elated, I didn’t think I had made up that much ground on the bike. My Kona dream was coming true! That fact probably made me feel even more amazing and I had to consciously rein myself in. I felt like I was easily running 4:45min/km pace and I genuinely thought I was going to maintain it for the whole marathon. I finished the first lap faster than I had planned and then reality hit in the form of a stitch. Those who run with me know that the side stitch is the baine of my running existence. I instantly regretted not remembering to do my diaphragm stretching and massage every night the week before. In the nights before the race I often remembered while trying to sleep that I hadn’t done them but thought “she’ll be right”. Wrong!
I had also trained on eating a Clif Shot Blok every 20mins and this had worked well in training. But because the day had gotten so hot I decided on the course to eat one at every aid station every 2.5km so that I could drink some water at the same time. It was only taking me around 12 mins to run between each aid station at that stage. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the best decision but it was just so hot that I needed to drink more as well anyway.
I needed to slow down and I was extremely conscious of the fact that there was a women in my age group who was not too far behind. I managed to almost another lap in 1st place (or 2nd depending on who you listened to) before she sprinted past me. I was dismayed thinking that I was now in 3rd spot and knowing that there probably were only two Kona spots like last year. My stitch had almost gone but I couldn’t match her speed. My coach told me it was now a mental game and I tried to dig it in – after all, who knows how this other mystery woman is fairing. I kept moving, kept drinking coke and kept pouring ice water all over me to keep cool. I just needed to hold off the others for a little while longer.
I reached the water front for the third and last time and still had not caught up to that other woman. Oh well, at least I will still get a trophy, but I may have to change my Twitter handle. I hit the finishing shute and got one last fright when I thought another woman was sprinting up behind me. While that turned out to be just my imagination, it did make me push to finish in 10:17:59 (run time was 3:41:47). No matter what the my placing was going to be I was truly happy with my time and I knew that I had raced the best that I could. I had after all improved on all three disciplines from last year and so had a new PB. However, that did not stop me from checking the results while getting a post-race massage and then finding out that I had indeed come 2nd! I almost cried, almost.
It is such a great feeling when a goal is met and you achieve something that you set out to do. It is never easy but it is rewarding. Again, there are many people who have helped me to achieve this. My coach – Sarah Coales – for another successful year and guidance, Ko Paranihi at Results Room Gym for keeping me strong, Nat Gaskin for passing on her knowledge (and proof reading skills), Tricia Sloan for making me run fast every Wednesday, Tash at Sporting Hands for the excellent massages, and mine and Scott’s parents for their support on race day.
Next time I’m going to look for the land marks on the return leg of the swim before the race and not just focus on the start!
Sticking to my race plan and food plan works. I had an amazing bike because of doing so.
To stick to my food plan for the run. I don’t know if this is what gave me the stitch but I don’t think it helped.
Never give up – no one really knows what the result will be until you cross that finish line.
It will be too hot in Kona!
But for now I’m going to enjoy a break from triathlon and embrace some chocolate.