And so the never ending journey continued… After Kona I took my planned week of, Ideally I believe I should not completely stop all exercise but those who race Kona will know above all other races it takes a big toll on your body. I didnt go mad, just a few beers and some nice treats… after all I’d being in full training from early January!
It didnt take to long until the dreaded 5am alarm went of and it was time to hit the pool and do it all over again.. I am a very motivated guy but I can tell you racing another IM 5 weeks apart is tough! Not so much physically, but mentally. But if you want something bad enough you have to do everything in your power to get it… In short my main goal was to get my Kona slot for 2016. AZ can be a fast course so the bonus of a fast time would be nice, but not a priority! Training went well, most of my bike rides were indoors because of this great Irish weather we have.. 4hr turbo sessions in November is not easy! But I pride myself on doing stuff that others simply will not do… or give up whilst doing it.. I get asked quite often” How do you do it” “how do you keep going” The answer is short… I want it bad enough! If I have a 5hr bike to do.. I will most of the time ride longer.. Why?? Because the guys I race against will stop at 5… maybe even 4! Nothing in this sport of IM comes easy… You can wish/dream all you like but when race day comes around I stand at the start line confident very very few have done more… And I fully believe you will get what you deserve.
Got to AZ whilst not at Kona levels of fitness but in good shape.. The only difference this year was I was sort of nervous.. My first year in AZ went well.. Got Kona and raced better than expected.. I had zero pressure on my shoulders.. 2nd year I thought the first was a fluke and expected nothing.. raced even better than the 1st.. Winning my AG in the process! And now this was my 3rd time here, I knew I could race well and had put a lot of self pressure on myself.. I was full of doubt! Thank god I had Alan to point out obvious facts. I was fitter/stronger than any other time in AZ..
As mentioned the weather at home was crap! It was so nice to be out on the bike training in nice weather.. The week passed pretty quick, Traveling with Endurance Sports Travel is super..always great people for company and I seldom come away without making good friends.. plus the added bonus Bryan was racing also.. So nice to have a familiar face to have a group worry with.. Team Asea would be well represented!
The night before the race is probably the worst time for all IM athletes.. I was in bed at 7.. and turned lights of at 8.. Slept great for 5hrs straight.. This pleased me a lot and when I got up at 3 I really was well rested! Not nervous and I felt good! Short ride from hotel to T1.. As always there does be quite a chill in the air early morning..I learned from previous years and was well wrapped up.. Again having Bryan to chat to was great.. And time passed quickly.. I just wanted to get going.. This year would be a rolling start, and I was curious to see how that worked, as the only other time I done the rolling start was 70.3 BCN.. And that was a disaster!
Everyone who knows me well, knows I am pretty meticulous in my preparation.. So for this race I spoke to the guys at Roka and got goggles that would be ideal for this swim start.. every other year I was swimming into a blinding sun, just rising as the gun went.. So I got a pair of dark mirrored lens.I used Roka for the first time in Kona and highly recommend them.. Problem being this morning the race started 10 mins earlier.. it was not dark.. but not far of it.. plus the fact the sky was full of big black clouds! Here is another example of how IM racing always throws curve balls.. The gun went and it was mayhem… A very narrow ramp into the water, I jumped in and with the water being black.. the sky being black I could not see a bloody thing.. I swam in what I thought was the right direction only to be told 4 times to get back on course by the canoes.. I was doing bloody circles.. Getting a bit annoyed but not getting stressed.. once at the turn round the sun peaked out and swimming back I could see something and swam fairly straight.. A bit of boxing but nothing bad.. Exited at 1.04.. 3min slower than last year.. but fairly confident my day was not over… The wetsuit strippers in AZ are great.. there I was running along to tent.. within 10sec I was on the ground suit of and back on my feet.. efficient or what!!
Out on the bike and I could notice that extra 3min did make a difference.. Last year pretty quickly I was on my own, now I was having to ride through big packs of people.. Not to worry all was good though! Similar to Kona I had a power plan.. and just made my way up the field.. Not one person passed me until the start of 2nd lap.. A guy who I remembered from last year.. A strong biker! Great I thought… company! 2nd time up the hill was a steady head wind.. so even though early in the race I was already thinking of the run.. Sitting behind (legally) was saving me energy.. HR dropped, but so did power.. I was fine with that but my speed was slower.. I made the decision he was riding to slow and went round him, hoping he would comes with me.. He couldnt so a good call on my behalf.. Had I sat there I no doubt would have lost time… Another example of how race plans/strategy change’s during IM racing.
Only 5 week ago I had being racing in 102F heat.. today the weather was great..maybe 60f and cloudy.. Starting the final lap it started to rain.. Class I thought… With about 15 mile to go I started to ease of a bit.. The road was quite slippery, coupled with the fact everyone was getting really twitchy with the wet condition.. The last thing I wanted to do was get taken out.. Coming into T2 I was surprised at how quickly time went by..
Into the T2 tent and again the helpers were great.. 2 people with towels drying me.. and very efficient at getting my run gear on.. Coming to AZ I was a bit doubtful of my running, my confidence took a knock in Kona.. Although my slower than expected run there was not down to anything I could have done anything about, I just had that seed of doubt in my mind.. So out onto the run and I could not believe how damm hard it was raining.. This made me smile!!! A big cheesy smile!! Why you ask?? Well it all comes down to key training sessions, done weeks and weeks before Kona.. but still very fresh in my mind… 2 in particular.. Both in the most horrible wet/cold conditions.. both of those runs I ran close to 28 mile.. And I wanted to stop so bad.. The easy option was to cut it short, or finish the runs on treadmill… Like I said at the start.. I kept going when others would stop… And now on this wet wet day in AZ I had the mental strength to completely block out the rain… Rain harder I wished for!! Right from the off HR and pace were exactly were I wanted.. I had no idea were I was in AG but knew I just had to stick to plan.. Everyone who I was passing was Pro.. Until the unthinkable happened… I got passed at mile 7 or 8 I think.. The guy had 42 on his calf which meant he was in my AG.. Shite I thought.. I was on plan to run my planned 3hr run.. running at 7.00m/mile He passed me quite quick.. I think the less experience athlete would have went with him.. to early in the race for that>>> I’ll get you later I thought.. But still wondering how many more were ahead of me.. I just had to have faith in myself and trust in my plan that when ever I got to 16mile I would increase pace.. I done this and felt very good.. Could I have went faster.. Yes.. would I have blew up.. I do not know! But in my mind not very many at all would run 3hrs.. And if I did my mission would be a success.. I just kept running, getting stronger, watching everyone slowing up.. at mile 19-20 I re-passed the guy.. How easy a mans sole can be destroyed.. When I passed him I gave him “THE LOOK” he broke and started to walk:)
Shortly after that I passed the guy who I know now was in 1st… I didnt then and kept running as if my life depended on it..In the distance I heard Mike Reily and not knowing what the result would be, I was happy I raced to plan! Crossed the line and it was fingers crossed! 1st in AG MISSION COMPLETE!!
KONA 2016 now is my focus.. Looking back on 15 I had a damm good year..
Sportsmans Duathlon 1st
Ballybay long distance Duathlon 2nd
BCN 70.3 Mechanical on bike.. crap race
Tri Limits 70.3 1st
Top of Mournes Olympic 1st
Newry 70.3 2nd
Lost sheep 70.3 2nd
Kona 17th 40-44 (not bad)
AZ 1st 40-44
From joining Team Asea which I owe a great deal of thanks to for there support.. To Alan my coach.. Always the voice of reason and a person who shows great faith in my ability.. Of course my wife Ash without her none of this would be done xx
Looking forward now to a bit of well earned rest.. maybe add a notch or to to my belt:)..
Thank you for reading
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 ~ 2 COMMENTS
IM Logo 15
So my favourite time of year came round again!! Time to pack up and head to the Big Island again, After last year and with a lot of data analysis both Alan and I agreed getting out there early would be of great help. Those who have raced there know about the heat/humidity, and when you add the time it takes to get there, your body (or mine does) takes a while to get back to normal when you arrive.
My build leading into Kona really could not of went any better, I was able to put down a really big training load.. Surprising both me and Alan at how I coped with and recovered from what was tough going at times. This filled me with confidence and I went believing that my main goal could be achieved! Podium was the target, and numbers suggested this was not a crazy idea!.. I can tell you if someone had told me years ago I would have a possible chance of making the top steps in Kona, I would have checked what they were drinking!
Flying into Kona is really special for me.. You get a great view of the island on approach to land, and this year was no different, I felt proud and happy to be once again racing in the the biggest stage of them all. For a change all flights went to plan, bike arrived with me.. and in general everything was going great! And then the plane door opens and BOOM.. The heat just hits you.. This was my 6th time arriving here,and still I be amazed at how hot/humid is does be.. I didnt care I was on the Big Island!
With arriving that bit earlier I was happy that things in general were pretty quiet.. As race day gets closer and the Island fills up with all the athletes, it can get pretty intimidating. so it was head down and focus on the final bits of training… It felt great to be back on the QK! The first few days out on the bike was damm windy.. Travelling outbound @ 15-16mph and back spinning out @ 35:)
After the fierce winds during race day last year I honestly didnt care what conditions would be like.. This was the most relaxed I had ever being. And with Martin arriving at the same time as me, and both of us on similar plan I had company for most rides, which was great! Also Ivan had being on the Island for a while.. So it was an Irish pain train most days on QK..
Most years the closer race days comes, the more quiet (nervous) I get.. Completely normal, this year was different… I think the fact I was not stressing about weather.. And any other outside factor I could not control was making a difference.. Or maybe I was just confident that not very many AG athletes on the Island had my fitness in the bank.. couldnt wait for race day.. And it came, and came quickly!
Its really hard to describe T1 in Kona race day… All the best athletes in the world gathered in one spot.. Everyone nervous! You really can feel the electric tension in the air.. If you could bottle this feeling it would be a best seller! For the most everyone just wants to get started… I was no different.. And then that sound came… the one that means its show time! In the distance you hear the TV choppers coming… flying low and hard.. this is always when for me I can literally feel the adrenal flowing into my veins! both being scared shitless yet feeling like a greyhound behind the traps! Let me at it my body was shouting! And BOOM the canon goes and the pros are off.. And then I think, maybe I will just do it tomorrow:)… You are then funnelled toward swim start, all like men/women walking toward the firing squad! Last year I positioned myself far left, and for the most had a clean swim.. This year it was also my plan, unfortunately everyone else seemed to have the same idea.. So slowly I was getting pushed toward dead centre.. This is were I did not want to be! Luckily as I was swimming into a clearing the cannon fired this gave me the jump on people who were vertical in the water… I got away with just a bit of boxing… A couple of times groups would get to me, I would do 20 fast strokes and swim out of danger… No drama to the turn round, and like I did last year I swam really wide of the boat.. Thus avoiding the MMA fighting than takes place there.. It always amazes me how people want to get in a boxing match instead of fecking swimming! Any way all was good and for the remainder I had a smooth swim… I popped up and a 1.09 swim it was… No more do I get stressed about swim time in Kona… I was happy with that and exited with a smile on my face! Roll on the fun bit!!
A bit of MMA in the T1 tent.. Jesus that place does just be mental… I be amazed at some guys in there, blasting though! Going to win the entire race with being aggressive, pushing and shoving in the tent.. only to huff and puff for the first 5 mile of the bike!… I was really pleased when out on course, I seen some guys who are normally quite a bit further up the road in the early stages, this filled me with confidence! But I had a power plan and was sticking to it.. All was going to plan. I was (as usual) doing all the passing.. The wind seemed to be below average, but it was early and I did expect it to pick up.
One of my race SIMs earlier in the week I couldnt get over how hot it was, and for a 4hr ride I got really dehydrated to combat me not drinking enough I put temperature reading on my Garmin, so I could see how hot it was.. When moving at speed its difficult to really get a gauge on the heat… At the bottom of the climb up to Hawi it was reading 102f Holy Moly I thought.. Still I was feeling really good, and fluid was going in at a big rate.. Legs felt good! About 3-4 mile from the town of Hawi, you would have swore someone drew and line in the road.. dark clouds and the closer I got to the turn round the heavier it rained.. I was thinking all my dreams had come true!.. Really amazing how the air cooled.. Jesus I was praying that it would stay like this until the finish… I didnt get my wish, because when I crossed that imaginary line on the way back.. The heat was just fierce!
As the bike progresses the less and less people there is to pass… About 20 or so mile to go and a re caught one of the Free Speed guys the head wind was beginning to pick up, I decided to ease back a little and work with Stuart, who was riding at a very similar pace to me.. We took our turns (legally) and both I assume had already started to think of the run.. It was hot.. damm hot! I went through roughly 20 bottles.. Some I used to pour over myself to try an cool down.. I was really amazed that every time I poured water over my shoulders I had to check if I was missing… I couldnt feel the water cooling me…
I didnt suffer on the bike, because I mostly rode to plan… wattage was good.. legs were good! I thought back at times to the 6 and 7 hr rides I had done during the year, and was very very confident of not tiring.. If I got fluid/calorie intake correct..The closer you get to T2 you can hear Mike Riley on the PA… More excitement.. Happy to be getting of the bike and looking forward to what I believe is my main strength… Running fast of the bike!
Now normally on the run in Kona the first mile is pretty fast despite a little stinger at the start… Out of T2 and my exact thoughts were ” Holy Jesus Christ its hot” To me it felt hotter than normal.. but I was feeling OK/normal… I thought once I get to the 1st aid station I will pour plenty of water over me, and ice down my back… I did this! But every mile that passed, although legs feeling good my head/face/shoulders just felt like there was heat radiating from them.. HR was slightly higher than should have being.. I was not really concerned as Kona is just a tough race.. stuck to plan and kept running. My plan before the race was to possibly to walk the aid station going up Palani.. Its fairly steep and to be honest the difference in speed would not be much between running and fast walking up it.. This would give me a chance to get in extra calories, for my final push.. My plan was to run steady until mile 10 and then increase pace for final 16mile..Things were changing rapidly as I approached Palani though… Even though I felt unbelievably hot, my body was starting to shiver on the inside… I knew this was not a good sign, and did recognise the symptoms.. Heat Stroke for sure! I knew this because years ago on a holiday the very same thing happened to me… Not finishing the race was certainly not a option.. And despite knowing I was in trouble I remained positive… My only fear was of passing out, thus being taken of course and DNF… Unthinkable! I made the call the to slow.. walk the aid stations and even though I was feeling the shivering inside my body I continued the stuff ice front and back in my suit… After 2 or 3 more mile I was back to just feeling hot… The ice done the trick! I have to admit I did get a bit deflated at that point, I knew earlier in the race if I just ran any where near my potential, I was on the Podium! The chance of that now was very slim indeed… But I was happy in the knowledge that my experience racing IM probably saved my race… By realizing what was happening and slowing down, I now am the proud owner of the 6th Kona Medal… And that my friends aint to shabby!!
I can tell you that for the last 10 mile I was swearing to myself that was me done on the Big Island… I always laugh after the race, how for 9hr+ you spend your time wishing the race was over.. not wanting to do it!! and then spend 11 months trying to get back to do it all over again… Crazy or what!
Overall I was pleased… Pleased in the knowledge that I didnt achieve my main goal only because of something I could not control.. I know now ( not that I didnt before) what It takes in terms of training to get were I want to be.. And with a bit of luck I can achieve this! My plan remains the same TOP STEP IN KONA!
Hope you enjoyed reading.. until the next time!