We’re near the end of the stay here in Hawaii, race day was 3 days ago (it was when I started writing this anyway!) and I’ve had a lot of time to mull over the happenings out there. I’ve got mixed feelings about race day, the time of course disappoints me but not as much as it did on the day. This post will be a lot different to the one you’d have got on the evening of the race or even the day after, or probably even tomorrow.So on the morning of the race there was a plan in my head, a plan that I thought could possibly have me beating my 2010 time and maybe even dipping below that magical 10hr mark. Because of my post crash fitness issues I was fully prepared to ease off the gas on the swim & bike but I believed there was a small chance that might leave me with the legs to get around my run/walk at the pace needed to hit my early goals. I had upper limits too though, I didn’t want to finish in the dark, I didn’t want this to be my slowest Ironman time and I didn’t want to be over 11hrs (DNF’ing was not an option here).
THE SWIM – 1:06:33
My swims during race week had felt more comfortable every day, although they’d been short I’d almost got to the point where there was no pain at all (maybe swimming helps). Because of this temptation had started to get the better of me and initially I got in straight into the melee when I swam out to the start line. Remembering it was a long race and how easy it might be to re-injure myself quickly I saw sense and as promised I swam out to the left until 99.9% of the field were on my right hand side. We were so far away I didn’t even hear the start cannon go off, I just noticed everybody start swimming and joined in. Physically everything went as well as I could possibly have hoped. I started steady and eased myself along looking at the main field to my right to sight rather that the buoys. Occasionally I’d either catch up with a group or find myself leading a group where someone had to climb all over my legs rather than just follow - which I’d have been fine with. Because my pace was so easy though I’d just push on a little if things got messy and scoot off the front of the pack. The turnaround (at 33mins) and return trip were also as trouble free as I could have hoped for and although and as a result I was out of the water in 66mins, comfortably inside the 70mins I was expecting.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the full tale of the swim though and was the first (sort of) of many small novice mistakes that I made during the day. With my previous Ironman stomach issues I’d opted to race wearing a two piece suit, but swimming long it it was something I hadn’t been able to try out since my training took a hit. Within 20mins I could feel the seams cutting into my neck and underarms and for the next 45mins I swam in increasing pain wondering how I was going to get through the bike and more importantly the run if I was getting chaffing issues this early. The chaffing issue had crossed my mind pre race and I’d intended to drop my bike jersey in my T1 bag ‘just in case’, of course I forgot all about it. How I was wishing it was sitting there waiting for me now!T1 – 5:53
I was in no rush to get transition out of the way and walked the full length of the transition area ignoring the carnage around me as people rushed around like lunatics. I grabbed my bag put my shoes on then smothered my swimming friction burns with a couple of handfuls of Vaseline and a marshal smothered me with sunblock. Then I had a steady stroll out and around the transition area to my bike before sauntering out to the mount line.
THE BIKE – 6:06:54
This was where the make or break section. Of course it started with a normal novice error (if you look at the bike pics you might spot it) which thankfully wasn’t ‘too’ huge a problem. Riding 100+ miles was a big unknown after my big training disruption so easy, easy, easy was the rule of the day. A 30mile ride midweek where I’d almost keeled over in the heat was enough to destroy any false confidence I had, this was the way it ‘had’ to be. I cruised around the first section letting all the big bike monsters smash their way up the hill ahead of me. On the way down I noticed another small issue as Vaseline makes for very slippery hands on carbon bars, this was to cause issues descending and changing gears all ride (but none that make any difference). By the time I hit the Queen K I was already aware of a problem, for all my cruising and taking things easy I was struggling with the heat and didn’t feel like there was much more to give – I’d only just started!! All the way out to Hawi I kept spinning the pedals. I ate, I drank, I did anything I could in the hope that my body was just messing with me. I cruised up the climb to Hawi letting more and more people pass me and then something happened, we went downhill! The winds had picked up in impressive fashion as I started the descent from Hawi and lots of people seem to struggle with that. I didn’t really struggle in 2010 (when it was worse) and I didn’t struggle here. For the first time in the race I was the one doing the passing. Infact on the whole Hawi descent only two people passed me and they were both just re-taking a position I’d taken earlier on the windier sections.
I started thinking I was back in the game, maybe now was my time to push on and make up time, on the return trip along the Queen K was where I’d come into my own and my race would start……….. eeerrrrm nope!!! We hit the Queen K and the winds had turned, the last section of it on the way out had been tough into a headwind but now we had a headwind home. ALL the way home. It was dire, draining and depressing, I’d hardly worked all bike ride yet I felt like I’d got nothing left, as if I’d worked really hard and ridden myself to a standstill.
About 30miles from home I saw a stranded cyclist with a flat, I stopped (it gave me an excuse and helped him out with my can of ‘Pit Stop’ and a gas canister. He was from South African and had had 3 months off work to go and train in the USA with the intention of winning his Age Group here. At least my day wasn’t going as bad as his!! The rest of the ride was just a slog as I caught and passed a few folks who’d blown up but got passed by several who were flying. Most people here weren’t here to mess around, they were here to race hard!
T2 – 10:42Finally off the bike and the first sign of my post crash injuries hit home. Not the back muscles I was expecting though, this was the hip I bounced along the road on that swelled to twice it’s normal size. It never caused me any issues when I was moving but hell did it want to straighten up once I was done. Another long steady walk/hobble through Transition was on the cards, along with a few photo stops ;-). I sat down in T2 put socks and shoes on then had an Austin Powers pee (my only toilet stop of the day) before loading myself up with Vaseline and sunblock and heading out again.
THE RUN – 4:22:08
By the time I hit the run my hip pain had disappeared so I set out nice and steady, determined to stick to my predetermined 4:1 run:walk plan. Earlier training in the week had suggested that this was an easily achievable goal whereas I knew I hadn’t got the fitness to ‘run’ very far. My Marathon pb is actually a run/walk so I have no issues getting things done this way and I’m perfectly comfortable with it. The main aim is ‘still’ not to go blazing off to hard though, patience is everything.
After my awful bike split I was wondering if the lack of effort/pace/power might actually have been setting me up for a good final leg and on the way out along Ali’i drive things were looking good. Our apartment was a mile into the run course and when I got there Shelly was outside cheering, she was yards past an Aid Station which I walked though so I stopped for a minute or so to moan about how things were going and bitch about the stupid race day errors I’d made (she’s used to it!!). Then I was off again wondering if I’d regret that stop later if I went on to crush my Marathon section (some hope). By the time I got to the top of Ali’i Drive there were already some desperate sights as people totally imploded, there would be none of that for me today!! And then ‘IT’ happened – BOOM!!! – after cruising through 6miles in 50mins (including 2-3mins with Shelly) I suddenly exploded. I could hardly move my legs, I felt light headed, I suddenly couldn’t even jog my 4mins let alone run it. All of a sudden, from nowhere, I was in big trouble and I’d still got 20miles to go – Ah Hell! I’m pretty sure that I literally stumbled into the next aid station where I grabbed almost everything they were offering, extra gels, pretzels, Powerbar drink, Coke, banana, orange I grabbed some of everything and forced it down my throat – then I went back for more water because the pretzel & gel combo tasted bloody awful. I walked and shuffled then walked and shuffled, a 13min mile at mile 7 = Bad Times!! Here I was again suffering on the run and just wanting to stop, I’d still got to get past Shelly again where it’d be so easy to just walk into the apartment, I’d got to get within 400m of the race HQ where I could just hand my chip in and give it up as a VERY bad job. Obviously Shelly wouldn’t be letting me walk into the apartment easily though!!
Stupid things is that if it wasn’t for damn social media I’d probably have stopped, maybe just maybe the fact it was Kona might have dragged me round but knowing how many folks were probably staying up until silly o’clock or had their alarms set for a stupid early time on a Sunday morning to see how I was getting on meant I couldn’t. Damn you lot and you’re bloody virtual peer pressure :-D. So I plodded on! I saw Shelly again – enthusiastic as ever – told her I felt shite and she was in for a long wait if I didn’t pick up soon. Forget 10hrs, forget 11hrs if I was lucky I might get back inside 12! Shit, I was going to finish in the dark!!!! Then I repeated my previous mobile buffet antics at the aid station next to her before I was stumbling on my way again. I was moving though and moving a little easier then I walked every step of Palani Climb, it seemed to take forever but it was actually in my plan for the run, just 1/3 of a mile but there seemed no point trashing my legs trying to run it when they’d got so much left to do. I took advantage of the walk and again crammed my face full of food at the aid station there. Now I was on the Queen K and I was moving again I was moving slowly but the run/walk plan was back in action and things seemed to be improving a little. I carried on my eat eat eat plan until the Half Marathon mark where I pulled over to the sign retching, I wasn’t sick though so took that as I good sign that I’d eaten enough and a few stations of just water to help things go down were probably advisable. From here it was good patch after bad patch, I kept checking my watch to see how things were going I’d resigned myself to this being my slowest ever Ironman but I badly ‘needed’ to get that time under 12hrs.
I did have a massive low at the turnaround of the Energy Lab (18miles) when I glanced at my watch and it showed my Finish Time from 2010, but that was in the past there was nothing I could do about it, today was very different. Then as I returned to the Queen K I started feeling a little fresher, I kept run/walking & kept drinking, I even started to recognise some people coming back to me that had passed me earlier. I was beginning to get encouraged and as darkness fell the heat lost its edge too I hit 23 miles and thought it’s time to run, it’s only 5k anybody can run 5k, 5k is like a warm up or the little blast at the end of a Sprint Tri, 5k is nothing! Then at 24.5miles I exploded again – idiot!!! I went so bad that I even had to walk down Palani Hill, I thought I was going to end up walking all the way to the Finish Line but I had a serious word with myself and forced myself to at least run that last half a mile just stopping long enough to grab the Devon Flag and Kona Bear off Shelly before doing a little jig over the line.
So that’s it. Game Over. No more Ironman. I’m happy with my lot. It’s a pity the last race was such a poor performance all round but after the crash it’s really what I expected to happen. Sure I hoped that my body would have held on to more fitness than it had and I even held out secret hopes that a more cautious approach to the race might actually pay big dividends and make it my best day ever, it wasn’t to be though. Bring on the Sprint & Olympic season next year.
For now it’s a month of chilling and trying to get this damn back muscle right. There may be a little bit of bike/running if the weather is nice but I’m in no rush to get anything done until the New Year, then I need to remember how to be fast rather than steady. Fingers crossed I’ll do a better job of that.
T1 - 5:53
Bike - 6:06:54
T2 - 10:42
Run - 4:22:08
Total - 11:52:10