What a humbling day. I knew Kona was going to be a gamble. Admittedly, I put all of my eggs in the 70.3 Worlds basket. In the last three months I have done one 4 hour ride, one 25km run, and one 5 hour training day. All acceptable if training for a 70.3, but a bit short if preparing for the full Ironman distance. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would be able to gut it out and go the distance. Though I did gut it out, and was able to complete the distance, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
The week leading into the race was a lot of fun. I had quite a few commitments. I tried to embrace the experience and got to meet a lot of cool people along the way. I was definitely in a good head space leading into the race. I truly did not have any expectations for myself. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the day. If possible, I was hoping to improve upon last year’s performance.
I had a decent swim. I was 8 minutes and 39 seconds down to the leaders out of the water. Last year I was 10 minutes and 20 seconds down out of the water. Not great, but an improvement nonetheless. This time round I was in the second chase pack for about 400 meters, but then got popped out of the back. I will say, it’s nice to have a shot at making the pack, rather than getting dropped immediately and having no shot whatsoever.
Out onto the bike, I knew I needed to be patient. I started off very controlled. It wasn’t until about 40k, when the crosswinds started to pick up, that I really started to push some power. By the turnaround at Hawi I was averaging about 318w. I knew this was ambitious, but I was making up good time on the lead group, so decided to go for it. By the bottom of the decent from Hawi I was starting to reach the ends of my endurance (about 120k in). I had to dig really deep the next 60k to not have a massive blow up. In the end, I averaged 299w (306w NP) for a 4:26 bike. This time round I was a little over 3 minutes off the fastest bike split, whereas last year I was over 10 minutes slower. Another good improvement.
Out onto the run course, I knew immediately it was going to be a long day. I was running just under 4 minutes per kilometer, but it was quite laborious from the beginning. There were a few glimmers of hope early on. I passed a couple guys and got as far as 8th place. But, around 15km the wheels started to fall off. By about 19 kilometers I was already having to walk. My legs were shutting down, and shutting down quite rapidly. It was very difficult to fathom running another 23 kilometers. In all honesty, I was unable to run the remaining 23 kilometers. The best I could do was a combination of walking and shuffling. Every aid station that passed (and there were a lot of them; 15 to be precise), I went through a very long debate with myself about whether or not to drop out. In the end, I decided to finish. I believe you should either come home in the ambulance or you should finish the race. You need to live by your principals.
I will say, my belief has been renewed in the positive spirit of this sport. I got passed by about 21 guys along the way, and many times they slowed down to ask if I was okay and offer a gel or some salt. Sadly, I don’t think the issue was nutritional at all. I was in complete sound mind, and well hydrated. I didn’t even find it very hot. The reality is, I just didn’t have the endurance to go the distance. I thought perhaps I could fake it, but Kona is just far too challenging of a course for that.
This race gives me a better appreciation for just how far an Ironman is. It is absolutely incredible that the human body is able to achieve such a feat. I have massive respect for everyone who was able to finish the race. That is an insane amount of distance to cover, on an insane course, in some insane conditions!
I will do another blog post soon detailing the lessons I have acquired from this race, but I will say, moving forward, I think I will likely put the full Ironman distance on the back burner for a little while. I need to focus on my swim, and get it quite a bit closer to the front. In order to do well in these championship races the swim is a necessity, and mine is just not there yet. I am confident that with a good team, and the use of some good technology, I will be able to get my swim there, but only if I put the majority of my focus on it. So that is what I intend to do.
I greatly appreciate all of the cheers and support leading into this race. I also greatly appreciate all of my sponsors, who without them, I would be unable to pursue this endeavour. Now, as I regain function of my legs, I will enjoy some of the cool things The Big Island has to offer.