Well thats 2016 done and dusted… No more crazy early starts, but more importantly time to give this body a rest!
After Kona I was pretty keen to get back training. I actually was back on the bike the Monday after just spinning my legs. I was very excited about going back to Arizona, I like this race. I love the location and the course really suits me. My first task was get my Kona slot.. Second was to shoot for a really good time ( conditions permitting) I felt this year I recovered a lot quicker post Kona. My HRV numbers ( Heart Rate Variability) looked better than last year and in general I just felt better. My plan in the weeks leading into the race was to go and race hard, and be willing to hit the F I switch ( Fuck it).
Everything then changed when 2 days before flying one of my very good friends passed away.. I owed so much to Gerry. He entered and paid for my very first triathlon. This man swung my life round in a very positive direction. We both done our very first IM together and continued for years after that to flog each other on the race course. Just an absolute legend!! My first thought was not to race, as I was simply heart broken. Then I thought “What would Gerry do” I thought it would be a complete disservice to his memory not to go. As for all of you who knew him knows he would be the first man on the plane.. So with a very heavy heart of I went to AZ. RIP MY FRIEND..
I was very thankful to have Peter and Adrian for company on the plane, all doing the best for each other to keep our minds as positive as can be given the situation.
The weather was a whole lot better than at home and we set about getting our last min prep done.. As this was my 4th time racing here knowing the roads was good. I was telling the lads about 2 crazy dogs that chased me on previous years at a certain house.. We made it past it a few times and no sign. That was until one day spinning back having a friendly chat and all of a sudden out they came.. I’d forgotten how bloody big they were. HR 180 for us all.. new 1000w 1 min power record.. If anyone had have seen us they would have thought we were track sprinters doing a standing start practice! That was the only drama in the lead in, everything went great and I just think we all wanted to get it started and get on with the job.
As mentioned earlier my plan was to give this a really good go.. But my confidence was as low as I have ever being I was struggling to stay positive. Race morning could not come quick enough.. The night before the race I slept very well.. 6 hrs straight. It was great having raced here before as I almost felt robotic in my morning prep.. No problem getting breakfast down and down to race start. Everything went smooth and in no time Mike Reilly was calling us to line up. I knew it would be crowded and I wanted to be up with the very first to enter the water.. The clock hit 6.50 and it was time to shine!
The cannon went and thankfully they learned from last year and done a great job at making a funnel into the water where really only 4 athletes could only go through at once.. I was maybe 20th/30th into the water and got off to a good start.. A small bit of bumping but in general smooth enough.. I was swimming in a fairly straight line as I was hitting each buoy bang on. Maybe 400/500m in a dude grabbed my shoulder and pulled.. then again he done it.. I have learned not to strike out in situations like this.. As the guy/girl is just probably struggling.. And I believe its very bad karma to lash out if it is not totally necessary. Also I think you actually stand a big chance of hurting yourself by kicking out. The only thing I did notice was I was starting to get cold, could not figure out why.. I felt good swimming and believed I was swimming at a good pace. As always I was happy to be getting out of the water, then I found out why I was so cold.. The guy had pulled my suit zip down and only the velcro was holding it closed.. The good thing was it was full of water and really easy to get off:)
T1… I am sure people in T1 were wondering what the hell I was at… I had my 2 bike Biestmilch in my bag.. I had the packets cut nice and neat and folded lovely.. trouble was now they were stuck in my bike shoes. How many fecking places can there be in a bike shoe for something to get stuck?? I am sure John Littlewood who happened to sit down beside me was wondering why the hell I was banging the shit out of my shoes!! It took what seemed forever to get going! But going I got.
I like the bike course.. You can get up to speed pretty quick and so I did.. Doing the usual passing, until a guy passed me who I recognised ( He won OA AG in the end) I went with him knowing that I would be as much benefit to him as he would me. Shortly after that John Littlewood came by.. Another super strong guy to work with. My watts were higher than intended but I knew eventually this would settle. My only concern was how tight my chest was feeling.. I was getting it hard to breathe.. Just felt like someone was gripping my chest and I was breathing in short sharp bursts rather than long controlled ones. I opened my speed suit.. did not make a difference.. I felt good and although I was in a minor panic as to what was wrong..I just kept to plan. Heading up the climb there was quite a stiff headwind.. This suited me as everyone I passed looked quite defeated, and we were only on the first lap.. I made an effort to pull away from the two guys before the top as I needed to pee. I wanted time to do this and not loose pace with the speedy guys.. Unfortunately it was a loooooonng pee.. and the 2 guys came round me and the effort I would have had to make it back to them would have being to much.. So solo riding for rest of the time. At 2hrs I took one Biestmilch and straight away my chest opened up full.. ( see I told you it was worth the shoe banging) I felt good and the fact it was windy was great! Last time up the hill my power was still above were I wanted it to be.. I eased up a lot on the decent as my mind was now focusing on the run.. Also just like last year the wind done a flip.. what had being a direct tailwind all day back to town, was now a headwind.. Still I eased off quite a bit spinning my legs trying to get the avg power down.. no point having a great bike split and a crap run I was thinking! I knew when getting of the bike things must not have being going too bad because it was only me in the tent. Again the volunteers in AZ are great the guys in the changing tent were friendly and loads of positive encouragement.
Started the run, legs felt good I felt good and pace was good. HR was bang on were I wanted it to be and it was just a matter of being patient and ticking of the miles and being strong at the end.. Getting my gel in every 20min taking fluids from every aid station. There does not be many athletes on course on the first lap and your mind can drift.. I did start to think of Gerry.. physically I was in a good place but mentally I did not want to be there. Thankfully I caught and passed Leanda Cave, she re passed me and that was the company I wanted (needed) Although not speaking I think she was as glad of the company as I was, it just took my mind off things and gave me something else to focus on. I knew I was running very slightly slower than I wanted, but at that stage I did not care. After a while I did pull away. Shortly after that I was starting my 2nd lap and there was loads on course by that stage. It was really nice to receive a message from Leanda after the race with some nice words. Any day a world champ txts you is a good day:) No other problems and I was on plan.. until around mile 20 were that very slight twinge in my hamstring started… My only thought was if this gets as bad as Kona there will be no slot for me today.. So I pulled back the pace and everything was ok.. I knew my goal of a 2.55 run was out, but at least I was moving forward. Around mile 23 or 24 there is a sharp downhill section were you can get quite a pace up. This bit of extra pace just must have being to much for the groin that caused me all the problems in Kona.. It just locked up again. I had to stop and stretch and thankfully unlike in Kona I was able to continue, even though I was now running slower, I was still moving forward.. I hit the 25mi sign and man was I happy. That was until 0.5mile to go.. I was just around the bloody corner from the finish line and the groin just went bang. I just could not move forward.. Thankfully John Littlewood was the only guy to pass me and his words of encouragement were great.. If you can imagine the broadest of welsh accents shouting at you ” Just fucking run Owen” And I did.. The pain was beyond painful but I knew I just could not afford to wait until it went away. Crossed the line.. number 20 done back to Kona for the 8th time in a row.. Something I am extremely proud of.. Myself and John finished seconds apart and I walked( hobbled) over to him.. And again imagine the thick Welsh accent ” What the fuck happened you man! I thought A fucking sniper took you out” Even though I was in pain… this made me laugh my ass of! Congrats to him for getting back to the Big Island once again, I look forward to the battle.. Also a big congrats to my fellow countryman Ivan.. Also having a great race and getting himself back to that magical place.
For me now I am enjoying what I believe is well earned down time.. I am very very aware the toll an IM takes on the body, and although I feel good from a physical point. Mentally I know to just step back. Time to gather my thoughts, re focus and then all roads lead to Kona in 17. I really cannot wait to get back there and achieve what I set out to do this year.. Top 5 is there for me and I will succeed. Thanks for reading