I tried to write this blog a few times in my head in the days after Kona IM, sitting in the Hawaiian sun, reflecting on my race performance (beer in hand). Each time I found myself quickly drawn away from reporting on my race, motivated more by sharing my 4 month journey to Hawaii and the most amazing 2 weeks in Kona and of my competitive sports life.
Please enjoy sharing my Kona experience.
I was lucky enough to qualify for Kona in my first IM and I was motivated to learn from mistakes I made at Port Mac and test myself against many other talented athletes. The 4 months of training leading into the race had been fantastic, I enjoyed training with Vince under the guidance of Bruce and Energy Link Coaching and could not have gone to Hawaii in better shape. I made huge improvement in my cycling, was riding with a power meter to monitor my pefforts and was stronger all around. I was positive of an improved result from my first Ironman.
Getting to the island a week prior to the event was ideal, Vince, Robbie and I travelled together and worked well in our first week in Kona to acclimatise as much as possible, eat well and get out on the course to train and familiarise ourselves with the area. We stayed in a great little apartment on the edge of the ocean with Vince's family and the famous Laura Harris of Port Macquarie, and did out best this week to take as many sunset and ocean photos as we could to smash all over the social media (hopefully we still have some friends left)! The time in the lead up to the race was awesome, we had so much fun together riding on the Queen K and up to Hawi, seeing other age group athletes and Pro’s about, swimming in the clearest blue ocean and relaxing in the sun sharing some laughs and thoughts about the race. In the middle of the week the BTC support group arrived which motivated me even more.
It’s in this period leading up to the race we had a lot of free time, I spent a lot of it thinking about everyone who helped get me to Kona, healthy and motivated. Bruce and Energy LinkCoaching have guided my transition into long course since the beginning, kept me healthy and motivated to get the best out of myself each week. Mick and SIS Australia have supported my Ironman journey since before Port Mac and took a chance on me with their amazing nutritional products. Saucony Australia and Orca gave me generously discounted products for training and racing. Our BTC family has provided much needed guidance and support to keep me on track. Training with Vince brought my riding along hugely and gave me the shared motivation to improve on a weekly basis. Dani gave me the biggest motivation, believed in my goals and was there each day to help me bounce back when I was tired and give me a needed a kick up the arse at times. The Fixed Wheel, Square One Physio and Lara (nutrition) also provided me with great advice and their skills throughout the training.
The messages and comments before, during and after race day kept me focussed and motivated – thank you all!
Race day in Kona is like no other event I’ve ever competed in, 2100 people who have qualified or been given the right to compete are all in great shape and ready to lay it on the line for 9-17 hours. I’d not been feeling great the day before the race and didn’t sleep well the night before, but felt ready to get going and make use of all the great preparation I had.
Swim – this is the most frantic, physical, challenging and awe-inspiring part of the day. Imagine 2000 people bobbing up and down, 5-10 rows deep and 100 metres wide waiting, itching to hear the cannon! In a flash you are sprinting, fighting, climbing to find some clear water which never materialised over the 3.8km, WOW! All I kept thinking was wow, this is amazing and testing all at the same time (and I’ve paid to do this). Getting out just over the hour mark was a bit off what I wanted but nevertheless set me up for a good day.
Bike – with a fairly quick transition (I only had glasses and sun sleeves in my transition bag, and had to wait briefly for sunscreen) I was out and onto the bike. The course is gradually undulating but nothing particularly steep at any point. The wind was with us on the way out and although I was down on my power and not feeling to flash at this point I was making good time and was confident in this. I had a quick chat with Vince as he passed by me at 40km and set about heading to the turnaround at Hawi, where we got to catch a quick glimpse of the pro's going the other way. The support from the volunteers at the aid stations on the Queen K was awesome and the race time seemed to pass very quickly, my SIS nutrition hydration plan was working great,I hit the turnaround feeling good and at a solid time, but the conditions were tougher on the way back (as expected). We now had a headwind and I was still below my intended power and my speed on the Queen K was dropping, so I sat in a solid rhythm and kept working with others around me. I still felt ok, but I could feel I was getting hit by the sun pretty bad as my shoulders were beginning to feel sore (they were ready to fry eggs - see the slide show). Despite all this I just kept thinking - I'm in the most Iconic Ironman race in the world, sharing the road with the pro's and the best age groupers, I'm knackered and hungry, but I'm loving every minute of it.
Run – coming out of transition I felt good, I got great cheers from the BTC SWAGS and had time to show them my wings as I headed towards Alii Drive! I was using GPS for the first time and tried to rein myself in over the first 20km. I was feeling good, maybe not as spritely as I’d like after 180km, but no major issues other than burning shoulders. I hit all the aid stations and with a canter up Palani hill (I was the only one running) and onto the Queen K, I was optimistic when I hit the half way point in around 1.26 - BUT as Bruce always says this is where the race starts! The Queen K is not very forgiving and the undulations were talking a toll on most people's pace, although I felt I was still moving well and overtaking a lot of people. As we got towards the Energy Lab I figured that if I could come out of here ok I could try to make a bit of a run for it on the way home and drop the pace a little. This never happened! The gradual incline out of the Energy Lab felt like a mountain, once back on the Queen K I had gone from optimistic to desperately seeking the aid station! I managed to somewhat hold together some of the last 10km but my legs were shot, and my time was slipping so I walked a couple of aid stations to pile things in and try to get moving at a better pace.
Finish – the best part of the Ironman, worth every minute of pain. You forget to do, say, hug, high 5 all the people you want to, but it’s at this moment that you're thinking about them all. It was great to see all the BTC support crew again at the bottom of Palani and with a few high 5’s down the finish chute I grabbed the Welsh flag off Dani and had my 5 seconds of fame as Mike Reilly called me across the line – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Recognition and Reflection
This event was truly was the best sporting experience of my life and I will go back to Kona again, not just for the competition but for the journey and experience. I was pleased with my improved time, but still feel that I have more to give and once I nail the run, I will get closer to the result I want. I thank everyone again who I have mentioned who helped make this experience possible for me. A MASSIVE congratulations to Cam, Vince, Laura, and Robbie for amazing performances out there, you guys were inspiring out there and deserve the success, you kept me honest and I enjoyed the experience being out there with you guys. To everyone who managed to finish the race and celebrate with their friends a family – CHEERS!
Please enjoy the slide show