I don’t usually do detailed race summaries but I think I am going to make an exception in this case. Racing in Kona, and completing my first Ironman, has been the experience of a lifetime and one that I will want to look back on…
I woke up Saturday morning (at 4.20am!) feeling unbelievably excited, I couldn’t wait to get to the race start and soak up the atmosphere. I remembered the advice given at the NZ team morning tea which was that the day would go really fast so take time to enjoy the moment. After body marking, vasoline and sunscreen it was down to check on my bike. It was a very eerie feeling being in darkness amongst thousands of bikes, hearing the waves hitting the pier. Then it was off to meet Hayden, Mum and Dad to say the final goodbyes for what was going to be a long, and at that time, unknown day.
Into the water and bring on the first tears of the day, I couldn’t believe I was already so emotional and we hadn’t even started yet! It was a surreal feeling though floating in the water with 1800 other athletes, looking back and seeing thousands of supporters and just hearing Hawaiian drums and the conch shells being blown. Then before I knew it the gun had gone and we were off. To be honest the swim is the only part of the day I didn’t love. It was an absolute bun fight for the entire 3.8km swim and after getting elbowed in the cheek and punched in the eye I was really looking forward to getting on my bike!! The volunteers in transition were absolutely awesome and I had about 3 people slathering sunscreen on me while another helped with my shoes. The start of the bike course was great, so much support around “hot corner” (the crossroads of Palani and Kuakina where all the supporters gather) and I saw my parents out there in their bright green supporters T-shirts…tried to wave but then thought better of it as I definitely didn’t want to crash out of the race in the first 5km!!
So the bike course on paper looks pretty easy, a little dog leg in town and then out to Hawi and back (well as ‘easy’ as 180km can be I guess!). The problem is though that when you get out onto the lava fields you are greeted with a headwind that then turns around and hits you on the way back, even more verociously. For almost all of the ride I was getting passed, and for anyone that knows me it too SO much self restraint not to up the pace to get back in front. What was going through my head though was some words of advice from Erin Baker (thanks again for that bday pressie Indy!) which were that 10mins slower on the bike will equal 30-60mins faster on the run. So I memorised the people passing me and just repeated the mantra “see you on the run mate”. Nearing the end of the cycle I started to get pretty concerned about my capacity to run a marathon. After cycling into headwinds constantly for the last 2hrs of the bike my legs were seriously aching. This was evidenced when I jumped off the bike in transition and my legs buckled under me… Uh oh!
Into the transition tents again where I got more sunscreen applied, water poured over my head (we were up to 35deg now) and downed my bottle of ensure – the drink given to those with malnutrition, or trying to complete an ironman, haha! By then my legs had recovered and the start of the marathon was SPECTACULAR! There were people screaming everywhere! I got into my pace and headed off to where I knew my parents and Hayden would be supporting, couldn’t wait to see them. Unlike other races where I have a complete game face on and barely acknowledge my supporters as I am so ‘in-the-zone’, this race was different. I had made an agreement with myself that it was my first Ironman, I would never do this for the first time again, and for me it was more important to acknowledge my supporters and enjoy the race than it was to have a ‘smash-it’ mentality. I’m sure there will be many more ironmen to come to have that mentality. Hayden, Mum and Dad played a huge role in getting me to the finish line. They each had crucial things to yell at me:
Hayden: eat, drink, pace yourself
Mum: focus, pacing, strength
Dad: dig it in
Some photos from what I coined “mum and dad hill”:
I had the hugest smile on my face for almost the entire run, so many moments of inspiration, but a few listed below:
- a guy dressed in a bikini playing eye of the tiger on loop while dancing around supporting
- Chrissy Wellington cheering me on by saying “go smiley girl”!
- every aid station being a party zone
- seeing all the fellow kiwis out there
- every timing mat I went over I pictured all the people I knew were tracking online, thanks all of you, it made a huge difference knowing you were supporting from afar!
And then before I knew it I was running down Palani drive for my final mile…started crying again! My last mile was my quickest of the day and it was down to the crowds, the cheers were deafening. I ran down the finishing chute with tears down my face, desperately trying to find my mum to give her a big hug before I crossed the line. Luckily I spotted her and we had a massive hug… A few years ago mum had me promise I would never do one of those crazy Ironmen races, but as she has seen the journey unfold she has definitely been one of my biggest supporters. As I heard my name get called out as an ironman I found the energy to do an impromptu cartwheel, and didn’t even fall flat on my face!!! After heading to the food tent for deep fried donuts, pizza, ice cream and chocolate milk I went off in search of the team of best supporters in the world…
What a day guys and thanks for making it so special…like I’ve said, one of the best of my life and won’t be forgotten for quite a while
“I ulu no ka lala i ke kumu” – the reach of a trees branches depends on its trunk