Well thats number 7 done and dusted.. And although it is not the result I was hoping for, I am still taking a lot more positives out of this than negative!
The build up to this race really could not have went any better, and I arrived on the Big Island feeling great, while not over confident.. I knew I was in great shape to achieve my main goal for the year.. A top 5 in Kona
I arrived on the island 2 weeks pre race as last year it worked really well. I really love the relaxed atmosphere for the first week. No Rambos running around with there chests sticking out. Training went smooth, and I settled into the time zone very quick. One thing that stood out to me straight away was that, although it was hot.. not the blistering heat of last year.. The sea seemed pretty calm and the winds were pretty normal when out on the bike. I am thinking this is to good to be true.. No way will this last until race day!
Time seems to go very slow on the island. I think this is down to the pretty laid back way of life here.. But race day was coming along, and for me could not come quick enough.
I was very pleased when I was registering that I was selected for drugs testing.. On the way up to give the blood the lady said to me ” You must be good” This made me happy:) Fairly straight forward procedure and I was happy to see the amount of athletes being tested.. some co operating, some not! I think now IM is stepping in the right direction of testing AG athletes, I think now any top/elite AG athletes that will race Kona stand a pretty good chance of getting tested now.. So all good there!
The day before the race I had some very minor bike problems, I got them sorted and racked bike. Back to the condo pretty early to rest up and enjoy a lovely cooked meal. Normally i struggle to get food down even the day before.. Tonight was different.. salmon and coconut rice went down a treat.. Slight nerves… but in general in a very positive mindset.. bed at 8pm an watched some comedy on tv ( Trump/Clinton debate) I fell asleep and slept to 2am, back to sleep and woke by the alarm.. again relaxed and could not wait to get to the start!
The atmosphere on the pier race morning is quite electric, with all the different emotions of the world going on.. you get the sense that someone is winding up a big generator, getting ready to release all that energy in one big bang! Usually I get quite nervous.. And this morning was no different, but instead of it being a negative nervousness it was a positive one.. I was full of excitement! Then them bloody helicopter’s circle increasing the tension.. I can tell you.. If you could just bottle all the emotions of the athletes it would be powerful stuff.
I made my way to the water shortly after the F pros started.. but this time i was moving forward with confidence.. Why you may ask.. maybe i am mad.. but it all came down to a swim i had done 3 or 4 days earlier.. I was swimming on my own quite a bit out from the pier, I stopped to turn, cleared my goggles only to see I was being swam around a 20/30 dolphins.. This for some reason filled me with positive power, I felt blessed to be in such a special place.. I just got the feeling these guys were there to protect me. Walking toward the water race morning all I could think of was those dolphins. Normally I am quite apprehensive about the race start.. I believed the water would open up for me, my buddies would let no harm come to me.
I lined up far left as normal, but by the time the gun went I was dead centre.. BOOM the cannon went, and that raw explosion of every athletes fear/excitement is realised in a second! enough energy to power a bloody city! A bit of boxing but not much.. fairly soon I found some feet and decided to settle in.. Normally during these races people try and push you off feet.. I usually give in, just to have a safe swim, nope not today.. I have to admit I administered a few elbows and the odd hip flick.. It just seemed every bunch of swimmers we came to.. this guy just went straight through them, with me on his feet.. like I said earlier, the water just seemed to open up.. Half way back to shore though i sensed my buddy was beginning to tire.. and in hindsight I stayed behind him for to long as when i did put my nose out i swam away from him.. maybe a couple of min lost there, but for the most I had a fight free swim. I was quite happy on exit to see 1.04 on my watch. This made what is normally a bigger boxing match than the swim ( T1 tent) a very relaxed affair.
Onto the bike… Running out of T1 with bike in hand, again soaking up the very special atmosphere really looking forward to my second strongest discipline. This year my biking improved and the biggest task for me would be to hold back! Going back again 3/4 days on a training ride on the Queen K, I never cut a session short. But this day I did.. Simply because I knew I was on it! Power was coming very easy and I just knew I was prepared!
The first 5 or so mile in round town is always a bit mental, and for me its just a matter of stay safe and stay upright. Let the Tony Martins do there stuff in front of the crowds and then watch them blow up at mile 15.. Normally once onto the QK the packs do break up past the airport, the roads just seemed very crowded. This suited me as i was the one doing the passing.. I was just assuming that with being out of the water 3-4min quicker that this was normal. It was fairly fast until Waikoloa when the really strong head wind kicked in.. this did thin things out a lot and I just was focusing on steady power. I was quite relaxed and enjoying things, mostly riding on my own. Riding into a headwind a pretty weird thing happened.. I felt a warm rush of air from behind.. I was quickly swallowed up by a huge peloton!! All chatting having a great time of it… I was really shocked at the size of the group! I eased of assuming they would just pull away from me.. I am thinking after making up 3-4 min on the swim, the last thing I want is a time penalty! My power dropped well below 200w and I just seemed to be moving slower, so I gave a dig(and a few dirty looks) pushing well above my cap, but did pull clear. Settled back to race pace only to be swallowed right back up again. It really was quite shameful what this bunch was doing… It just reminded me of my Thursday night club race at home.. On my second or third dig ( again with big power) to escape I actually crossed the centre line on the road.. This is an instant DQ!! I rode away right onto the tail end of another group of similar size. I was embarrassed to be in the company of this guys.. I rode in the shoulder knowing it was pointless to try and ride away.. There was only a couple of mile until the decent before the climb to Hawi.. My guess was that once the road went up, the true character of these clowns would become evident. And my guess was right. You can draft all you like.. but if you are a shit cyclist, and depend on others to pull you round a course, you will be found out eventually. After that I didnt really see any big bunches.
I enjoyed the climb up to Hawi and was looking forward to picking up my special needs bag.. Toasted bagel with turkey and jam… Mama Mia that went down a treat! The test for me would come to see if I paced things proper when I got back to the turn for the QK.. This is were in the past I started to struggle, you only have ~35 mile to go at that stage, but if you pace it wrong.. your day is done! I felt strong, gaining in confidence. Time seemed to go pretty quick, because in no time I was back at the airport. Again this is normally were I want to throw the bike in the ditch, walk down and jump on a plane to anywhere cool. Not today…. Life is good!
Back into town, and to one of my favourite bits of the race.. Not the fact I am getting of the bike, but the sight of the IM World Champs in full swing is like someone plugging you into an electric socket.. Here you are on a small island in the middle of nowhere.. and you are the man!!! Blessed:)
Thankfully the T2 tent is a lot less crowded.. again the helpers are amazing! To the guy who put that ice cold wet towel around my shoulders Thank you!!
Out onto the run, my strongest discipline and the true test if I biked to plan! I am very aware its so easy to go out to hard here, the atmosphere is magic. I had a plan and was sticking to it. Guys passed me and it took a lot of will power just to hold back, get the first 10mile done around town and save it for the QK. Those few guys that passed me early on had started to walk by mile 6-7 and i was happy that my patience was paying of. The run up Palani is quite special lots of loud music and crowd support.. But you know once you hit the top of that hill.. Its the death march for a lot of people, the road is straight and support out there is quite thin.. I could feel the top of my right hamstring getting tight..not sore though.. I had to stop and give it a quick stretch and on I went.. running pretty strong and feeling good.. but again it cramped.. I stretched! This was annoying me, but not really costing me much time, that was until i stretched and my left groin muscle went into a quite undescribable pain. It just stopped me dead in my tracks.. It was just like the worst cramp pain ever.. I walked a bit when I could and it did go away.. Still at this point I still had not lost to much time.. I knew the Hot Shot tent was up ahead and i would take a shot.. an problem would be solved.. I took the shot.. Did not work as i was having all over body cramp at this stage.. Another mile or so passed and all was good.. I was at the energy lab and feeling quite good.. In and out feeling great, out onto the QK.. 6 mile back to town.. I did not know were I was in my AG but was running with 2 other guys @ 7min/m pace.. The clouds had rolled in and the head wind back was a blessing.. At 4 mile to go the cramp was starting to come back.. and with 3 mile the groin just locked up.. My only focus then was to just finish the race, every single part of my body just seized up.. It was a long walk/jog back to town.. Feeling pretty gutted that I now knew my main goal was not possible. I had to walk the whole way down Palani as my legs just could not hold my body weight.. I thought when I made that final turn with half a mile to go, the special atmosphere of the finish line would dull the pain.. It didnt! The run up the carpet was just a suffer fest.. So much that I couldnt straighten up to even see what time i had done.
Well that was number 7.. And I feel honoured to have shared the battle with all the other athletes.. Especially the Irish crew out there. I am taking away zero negative thoughts, as a lot was learned. Disappointed not to make that top step.. But now I know one thing for sure.. Its in my grasp to make it happen. And I believe if you give up on your dream just because it did not happen first or second time round, well it was not really your dream to start of with. So the long and lonely continues:)