1st - 8:52:51
swim - 54:44 (7th)
bike - 4:48:01 (5th)
run - 3:06:32 (2nd)
So how close was my visualization to the real thing? This is how it all unfolded...
1st - 8:52:51
swim - 54:44 (7th)
bike - 4:48:01 (5th)
run - 3:06:32 (2nd)
I'm not sure how many times I visualized just how my race in Melbourne would pan out but every time it had me crossing the line first with a huge smile on my face. It wasn't just the finish line that I imagined. I went through my entire race section by section. My final visualisations were what I thought would be conservative. In brief, I'd have a decent swim exiting the water around 3min behind the leaders. I'd get off the bike with a 5min deficit. In past races with long bike legs, I've always hammered the first half of the bike to try get to the lead ASAP but this time I really wanted to conserve a little energy to have a good run. And then for the run I had strict instructions from Jared to run no faster than low 4's (4min/km). "4:0- something will be enough" he said.
So how close was my visualization to the real thing? This is how it all unfolded...
Melbourne definitely delivered on the weather side of things. Known for it's 'four seasons in one day' Melbourne actually threw us a pretty decent day. The water was calm in the morning and not too chilly and a beach start was great. The super fast swimmers - Annabel, Laura, Caroline and Bree got away really fast and were out of sight for the entire swim. But the next pack which included Mirinda, Kym and Ashley also got off to a good start putting some distance between me and them (maybe that means I got a bad start. Sounds better in my head if I say they got a good start though). My goggles fogged while standing on the start line so I couldn't see too well and was worried about sighting the whole 3.8km on my own so I put on a surge to catch this group by the first turn buoy at 850m and was content to sit around and let them navigate the swim for me. I felt very in control and didn't push the swim too hard. I exited the water in 7th place but managed to get through T1 and on to my bike in 4th.
I passed Bree to move me into third early into the 180km bike leg leaving only Caroline and Annabel up ahead. This was my first race working with power on the bike. I got my Quarq power meter last August but not knowing much about power I only ever looked at it after sessions and races so that I could get a good idea of how I naturally ride. By March Jared and I were confident of what sort of watts I could hold for 180km. Ironman racing is very different to 70.3. It requires patience and pacing. So for the first hour my eyes were glued to my power meter. It was surprising and a little unnerving to be sitting at the planned watts yet it feeling too easy for the first half of the race. As it turned out, it was a good thing I rode within these limits and not how I would usually attack the bike.
The bike was pretty uneventful for me. I actually thought at times it was like swimming in the pool only instead of staring at a black line I was staring at a white line. It was just me and long straight lonely roads for 180km. The girls up in front were never in sight and the age group men were far enough back to never be in the picture. Out, back, out, back, head wind, tail wind, head wind, tail wind. There was no time that I really had to get out of my saddle but to avoid cramping I danced on my pedals coming out of the turn at the end of each lap. I used my brakes just 3 times in 5hrs including the time to dismount at the end. Like I said.. pretty uneventful. After the first lap I was still about the same distance behind Caroline out front but on the next 'out' section (3rd quarter) into the head wind I had reports that I'd made up some ground. I was told I got within 1:40 of the two lead girls but at 135km (now heading back with the tail wind for the last stretch) I started to fall back. My left VMO (medial quad) started cramping and then my legs turned to jelly. The tail wind made me feel like I was flying but my power was telling me different (again, very interesting to have live power readings telling me what was really going on in my body). Next time I think I'll take a little more nutrition to get me through the last hr of the bike. I didn't panic and thought about my pre race visualization of a 5min deficit off the bike. I won't lose that much time. "Your fine" I told myself. "Work on freeing up the VMO rather than trying to hammer the last 40km".
When I got to T2 my left VMO was far from freed up. It was cramping bad by now! My standard process in T2 is typically to grab my 'most treasured valuables'... race belt, visor, gels... and bolt out of there like the tent is a blazing inferno and we're all gonna die. Today, however my VMO was calling the shots instead of my instincts. I sat down in the nice plastic chair provided and took my time finding everything I needed from my T2 bag, slipped my new Type-A6 Saucony's on and contemplated standing back up again to find the nearest exit. I started walking out of the change tent (yes, I said walking) while actively flexing my knee to stretch out the cramping quad. Once I exited the tent and reappeared to the real world - to all the screaming spectators and blearing speakers I began to run while throwing in some gentle flick back stretches. Kind of like a runner, doing the last couple drills before the race starts. At first it felt like my VMO was gonna rip off the bone but I kept my cool - this HAS happened before. And it DOES free up with running. I was now apparently 4:13 down on the leaders leaving T2. As soon as I got going around the first bend my body clicked straight into pace and the cramp did free up a few k's in. 'Just stay patient and tick off low 4's' I kept repeating in my head.
12km in to the marathon I could feel my feet heating up on the hot bitumen road. At 14km I passed Annabel to move into second. Caroline was still a couple minutes ahead, but I could already see her up the road because the road was sooo long and straight for the first 18km. This helped me feel more comfortable knowing I could see the lead already. At 19km, I took the lead. Not that I knew it at the time. The course had moved onto the windy footpaths and Caroline ducked into the porta loo while I was busy grabbing my special needs bag. The next km I thought to myself "man, Caroline must have seen me coming, she's just thrown down a 3min30 k to get rid of me!". I still thought I was in second. It wasn't until my 'lead cyclist' (they never actually lead the way in this race for some reason) went past me to clear the path up ahead that I saw she had a "1st female" shirt on. By now I could feel my feet blistering under the ball of my foot and it was getting quite sore but I didn't want to acknowledge it. It's happened before in the past so I knew the consequences if it was what I thought it was. I was on a mission to block it from my thoughts so I could get as far as I could before I had to seriously do something about it. Do what?! I was hoping that answer would pop into my head before it was too late.
The inevitable did of course eventually come. I reached my breaking point at about 28k in to the marathon. As much as I wanted the win and the race had gone to plan up till now, I couldn't convince my brain to take anymore steps. If each agonising step would take me only one meter, I had another 1000 searing stabs of pain to endure just to make another 1km. In the past, we've cut holes in the bottom of my shoe or excavated holes through the ball of my foot to relieve the pain. Neither were at all remotely possibile to execute by myself mid race! 28k in, 4min lead at my last time update... but 14k still left to run and I had no miraculous idea for how to continue. I had the lead cyclist behind me, media motor bike a step to my right, police car to their right, police bike up in front and the helicopter over head. I stopped. I rocked back onto my heels gave an audible sigh of relief. It felt like I was slowly pulling out that sharp knife that had been stabbing into my feet. It felt soooo good. All the bikes around me slammed on their brakes and all said out loud in unison "She's stopped!". None of them knew what was going on just yet. One minute I was running ok and looked fine, the next I was standing there, hands on knees, lifting my feet up and down as if I'd been standing on hot coals for the past couple hours. Only I knew it'd been coming on for quite a while. I had concerned spectators yelling at me to take salt tablets and coke "that's all that'll get you through now" they said. "If only!" I thought. I need an idea...
The lead cyclist asked if I was ok and I said "blisters! I have blisters... Is there any medical on course?" One of the kind media motos offered a band aid they had on them. It was a nice gesture, but I wished it was the kind of blister you can pop and put a band aid over. I wouldn't be allowed to accept outside assistance anyway so I had to refuse. The lead cyclist radioed ahead to the next aid station and they had band aids. But they were 2km away. I tried to stay positive, that band aids would help but I knew deep down they wouldn't. Under my feet were deep blood blisters under calluses on the balls of my feet about 20-30cm in diameter. They resemble more of a deep bruise or internal bleeding than a blister. Then out of the bushes I heard Jared yell "try Vaseline". So I yelled ahead to my cyclist again "do they have Vaseline at the aid station?". They did! That was my motivation to keep moving ahead in the hope it might do something. I knew a walk would be too slow so I had to start shuffling. I was trying to avoid the balls of my feet so I can totally understand why everyone thought I was cramping. Have you ever tried to run on the outside of your foot before? You look like a waddling duck that's cramping in both hammys and busting to go to the dunny. I also forgot that the cameras were on me the whole time so I'm sure you've all seen the footage.
About 12minutes later I made it to the 30km aid station (yep 2k in 12mins). That was the longest 2km of my life. I ran straight through to the end of the aid station tables, bum on ground, shoes and socks off and smothered my feet with Vaseline. Socks and shoes back on and back up and running. It still hurt. A lot! So I told myself "it'll take a k or so to work". Here I was bribing myself to get through the next 1km. At this point my lead had dwindled down to just under 1min to Caroline. Once at 31km I thought "1 more km and then you're into the last 10, that's nothing". Jared popped up again and told me I was extending my lead again. "As long as you're 'running' you're running faster than the others" he said. That gave me a tiny flicker of confidence that maybe I could still be 'in the race' so long as I did anything but walk or stop. Looking back now, something at around the 30k mark must've helped to reboot the system enough for me to think there's hope of continuing. Whether it was the chance to sit down for a little bit, the vaseline on the feet, or the knowledge that as long as I kept moving forward at any pace (barring walking) I was still in this race. Something refreshed my mental state. Even though the pain kept shooting from the pavement up through my feet like a flare exploding with each step, the 'k-to-go-counter' in my head began working down through the single digits. With the number getting closer and closer to zero I was feeling a little more confident that I might finish. The crowd got thicker and louder with each km and that also started to squash the urge to get off my feet and stop as I got closer.
When I finally saw the Ironman finish line carpet I had a smile on my face from ear to ear. I was absolutely stoked and excited to take the win at the Asia Pacific Champs but the real reason my smile was so big was because I was laughing. I was laughing at the excruciating pain in my feet, laughing at the fact that I dodged a major bullet today and laughing at the thought of anyone "enjoying" this crazy sport. If I didn't laugh I would have cried. I couldn't believe I did it. At 28km I had no idea how it could be remotely possible for me to get to the finish on my own two feet. I was sure it was the end of the line for me. And somehow, even though that was one of the most painful places I've been to in a race...for the longest period of time in a race... it felt so good to have survived it to the end!
I'd like to thank every single person that yelled 'Go Mel!' along the course. Thankfully my race number says "Mel" on it so you all knew what to call out. I heard every single cheer loud and clear. Cheers from the smallest of kiddies, to volunteers, family, friends, past training partners, past coaches, dogs and cats. I heard them all. I might not have looked like I registered on the outside, but I took them all in and I thank you now for them all!
Swim 28:53 (5th)
Bike 2:21:16 (1st)
Run 1:24:37 (1st)
I prefer to race in the heat, humidity, dry roads and calm waters. You can throw all that out the window when you race in Melbourne. It was dark, cold, and raining. The wind was whipping through at 30kph. And the beach looked more like the middle of the ocean during a cyclone. What had I got myself into? I'm half way through the 1.9k swim (or however far I swam) and I feel like Marty and Alex from Madagascar being dumped in the middle of the ocean with no shore in sight. The swell was so big I could only guess which direction to swim in. As I got air off one of the waves I could see a yellow buoy in the distance... But which yellow buoy was it? There were four and I was after 'the third one'. I saw a kayak nearby as I was flying over the next wave so I yelled out "which way?". He pointed me right so I headed for the yellow buoy to my right only to find out half way there that I was actually being sent to the fourth buoy. From there, I had to back track to the third and then return to the fourth.
It's all back to shore from there. I sighted the big TV screen and headed straight for it (or as straight as I can swim when I'm being thrown all over the place). A couple more times I'd lost sight of anything so I'd quickly roll onto my back and do some backstroke while looking for Kayaks to direct me the right way. I swam right into a massive pack of age groupers on my way back. No idea where I was but figuring I must be way too far right (heading back to the start, not the finish) or they were way to far right. I climbed over and under them (sorry to any age groupers I might have head butted) and took a sharp left. I just wanted to get back to shore, wherever I came out I didn't care, I'll run the rest along the beach. It was more like survival out there than racing. I totally forgot I was racing at all. All I wanted to do was get back to shore and tell the news crews about my incredible survival story. Finally I felt the sand and thought "I made it, I'm back, thank god, I'm done!". Before quickly realizing - I'm supposed to be racing. Get a move on, you must be at least 10min behind the leaders by now. Just do the run of shame to your bike, get the sympathy clap and then get to work.
As I got to my bike I didn't even look to see if there was other bikes still there... I just assumed they'd all be gone. I saw Jared and wasn't sure if he'd want to tell me how big the deficit was. Then he said 2:30. WHAT! Instead of hanging my head down trying to not be seen, my eyes lit up. Whoa! Maybe I wasn't the only one that had NO IDEA which way was up out there. I'm was still in the game.
Out onto the wet and windy roads I knew I'd have to get warmed up quick or I'd seize up so I got out of my saddle and danced on my pedals for a bit trying to get some heat into my quads. It was not only raining but really windy so I then got down low and started working hard. By about 40km I'd moved into second with Christie Sym out in front. The bike leg was 3 out and back laps so you could see your competitors but you had to look hard as the age groupers started to fill the course. It wasn't until I was coming back down to complete my second lap that I saw the lead motorcycle riding next to Christie. Once I got safely around the u-turn I took the lead with 30km to go. After the final lap, I returned to T2 with a 1:30 lead over Christie. In transition, I sat down on the soggy carpet next to a bucket full of water. The same bucket that also had my belongings floating in - shoes, socks, cap, gel, race belt etc. I couldn't help but smile while sitting there, ringing them out to put on my shoes and socks. Lovely day to be outside hey!
The run course was really cool. 3 laps and all terrains. Concrete path along the beach which at times I thought I was gonna get pummeled by a wave. Then a windy dirt trail before a sandy out and back section, a steep up hill then a lap of the grass oval and back along a paved path alongside the cycle course. I couldn't believe all the spectators still out there in the rain and cold. They must have been freezing. I was far from warm and I was moving. I felt pretty good the first two laps of the run but the third started to get tough as the body had had enough of the conditions. It was telling me it was time for a hot chocolate by the fireplace.
Swim 26:01 (19th)
Bike 2:13:04 (5th)
Run 1:20:18 (4th)
The strength and depth of the competition in Bahrain was as strong as any world championship race. I was going to have to be firing at 100% to come out on top against this field. Unfortunately for me, I didn't bring a good enough game to be competitive against the best on the day. But the thing about not winning is you usually spend more time analysing aspects of why you didn't win. This race I'll put down to a great learning experience. Hopefully this will help to make me a better athlete for future races. That said... I think winning without learning lessons is still more enjoyable than losing and learning.
On race day I made my first mistake even before the gun went off when I lost focus on my own race moments before the start. Before the cannon fired, there was one athlete dead set on starting with a significant advantage over the field. It could have either been a tactic to frustrate and psych out the rest of the field or she really did want to get a head start no matter how bad it looked to her peers. As the girls back on the start line became more aggravated with her tactics, some of the more outspoken ones called her to come back without success. This is when I should have been directing all my focus on MY race but instead I got caught up watching and listening to see what the outcome was. I have become familiar with the accepted 'swim-start-creep' rule (still always feel uncomfortable knowingly breaking the start rule), but this one was taking it a bit far. And as embarrassing and cringeworthy as the situation became, I think it ultimately worked in her favour. She got a clean start out in front while the rest of us were caught off guard.
When the cannon fired I took off as fast as I could and was beside some super quick swimmers. When I saw them slightly edge ahead I made my second mistake. I haven't acquired the swim skills to competently swim with my competitors successfully yet. I tried to 'get on someones feet' (figuratively) as they edged away from me, but instead I misjudged and got on their feet (literally) and copped a kick to the face. That'll teach me. It didn't really hurt that much, I was just disappointed at my mistake as it threw me off for a bit and before I knew it I was 20m behind the tail end of the pack. In dead last. I spent the rest of the swim catching back up. I passed a few girls towards the end and caught a small group just before swim exit. I think I need a few more kicks to the head in training to learn how to just brush it off and continue on. Any volunteers?
Out on the bike course, it was an unusual experience to have so many closed-to-traffic lanes available to us. Big, wide, sweeping, 4-lane highways for little me and my Shiv. On the bike I could feel the fatigue in my legs and glutes. I could feel my bum working super hard with every pedal stroke and my left quad was giving painful, jabbing reminders that it wasn't coping with the pace. I passed some girls along the way but it was on the couple of out and back sections I could see I was not making up time on the leaders. By the end of the bike my quads were pretty heavy and drained and my hip flexors were tightening.
I was still about 3:20 down on the leaders by T2. Similar to the time difference I got out of the swim. Not absolutely terrible for me, but I'm always hoping for better. All 5 of the leaders in front were just over 3mins up so it was going to be a long time before seeing anyone if I did. I dragged my legs out of the change tent and felt like I was totally shuffling. Sometimes this happens and then after a couple of km's they free up and I feel good. That wasn't the case today. I dragged them around the lonely 21km loop. There was some interesting wild life out there that I ran past (and some ran past me) like coyotes, ostrich and monkeys. Unfortunately there were no spectators on the course (because we were running through a wild life park) and I didn't ever see any competitors. It seemed at times I was out on a training run with me and the wilderness. Looking back on it now, I can't stop thinking, "could I have done more on the run?". I felt flat and fatigued but I never really felt like I was racing on the run. My legs copped a beating just 6 days prior in Challenge Phuket Half Ironman, in the heat, humidity and the crazy steep hills, throw in the travel between the two and I wonder... is this what 'Ironman legs' feel like? They can keep going, but not fast.
There's no sugar coating it... I was not happy with my performance. I wanted and expected so much more out of my body. The feeling of being tired at the finish, but still able to continue if I had to was frustrating because it made me keep asking myself "why didn't I go faster?". Many lessons were learnt and it has not deterred me from coming back again. The race itself was an amazing show! From airport pick-up, hotel check-in, hotel buffets, to finisher jackets and fireworks. We were treated exceptionally well. A massive thank you to Victoria and Lisa for the invite and help with everything along the way. And a big thank you to Felix and Macca from Challenge and to Prince Nasser of Bahrain for making it all happen.
Swim 28:20 (6th)
Bike 2:29:31 (1st)
Run 1:27:06 (1st)
This is my 5th time racing the half in Phuket yet I've only been doing this sport for 4 years and 3 months. What the! It took us a while to comprehend that I'd really done this race 5 years in a row. My first race was in Sep 2010, a low key Olympic distance race just down the road to 'get a feel' for putting it all together before my first real race the following weekend - the Gold Coast Half Ironman. At that point I wasn't that keen to ever do it again. I wanted to go back to my running career where my race lasted only 9minutes. I knew my body was still too fragile to run too much though so I kept swimming and biking. December of 2010 rolled around and Phuket Half Ironman (Asia Pacific Champs) was suggested.
I must have forgotten how LONG and mentally painful a half ironman was because I agreed. I hopped on a plane all by myself and headed to a foreign country all by myself (in running I always travelled with the team or at least my manger/coach). Just days before I was to leave I begged Jared to come with me. He couldn't take time off work but decided to leave straight after work Friday, fly overnight to arrive Saturday morning and then leave immediately after the race Sunday, back overnight and straight to work Monday morning.
Jared had printed a tonne of maps and directions to everything that I could possibly need while in Phuket. I found my way to my hotel and got all set up. I checked in for the race a few days prior and went along on the group ride that was organized. I was riding next to this girl and we got talking. She asked if I'd ever done this race before and I said I hadn't, that it was only my third triathlon. She was very nice and gave me lots of tips and advice. She then asked me "What age group are you in?" "Ahhh, Pro..." I said. She looked me up and down and saw my road bike with clip on aero bars and no fancy equipment and politely said "The pro's don't usually do these rides". I made note of that - not cool to do pre race ride! Got it. She was very helpful.
Fast forward to 2014 and I feel like Phuket is my second home. I love this race. I love the people, the place, the race organizers, the course and of course the baby elephant! So that is why I keep going back year after year. Roman is still the race director, Whit is still the commentator and Belinda Granger is still on the start line with me (this was her 84th year straight... or something like that). Since my second year I've stayed at the beautiful Banyan Tree Resort with many of the staff still the same including the friendly little Thai man that helps us cross the road to the beach ANYTIME of the day. Candy the baby elephant still drops by our hotel daily to eat our fruit and make some funny faces. If you have not participated in this race yet, it's time to put it on your bucket list!
This year in Phuket was one of the warmest I've done. The temperature was 42deg and the humidity was in the high 90's. I'd just come from very similar weather at home so I was in my element. But this year, I also had an important race only 6 days later in Bahrain. In past years, Phuket has typically been the last race for the year. So I had to try and conserve as much energy as possible. And that meant not spending every day in the lead up at the beach where the water temp was similar to a balmy spa.
Race day! After setting up in a dark and wet transition - we still don't even know if it rained the night before or our bikes were drenched from the humidity in the air - we hopped on the Laguna ferry to take us to race start. The pro men took off first and as soon as they hit the water and started swimming we saw the current immediately dragged them left. The benefits of not starting first! I had a good swim exiting the water 1:25 down on Radka who as usual destroyed us all in the water. At 13km on the bike I took the lead and kept pushing hard to 40km where we hit the first real steep climb. Just a casual 22% climb! I caught a couple pro men here as well as a couple caught me (that I must have passed in the swim) and we all hit the hill together. The drafting penalty is non existent on these extreme climbs - when you see the climb you'll know why. Garmins all beep to pause as we zig zag up the crazy steep, moss covered, windy hill. On the other side is a yellow flag to indicate there is a race neutral zone where the speed limit is 20kph and there is no passing allowed. My hands were all sweaty and were slipping and sliding on my bars. Scary! I had a decent lead at this stage so my aim was to stay upright and start to think about conserving energy. Radka was also racing Bahrain next weekend so I knew she too would not be smashing it. I rode fairly solid for the rest of the bike leg but tried to avoid red lining it - which can be difficult when at 70km there is another stack of 20+% hills to tackle. This bike course really is one of a kind. And I love it.
When I reached T2 I took my time racking and then putting my socks and Compressport calf sleeves on. I got up and walked a little adjusting my visor and placing my GU in my pocket. The real reason for dawdling was I waiting for my Garmin to load up its satellites as I forgot to press it at the end of the bike leg. Once it was good to go I began running. I didn't know what sort of a lead I had so I ran solid for the first 10km. The run is two laps winding around the Laguna village so I never actually even saw any of my competitors so I relied on feedback from the crowd. The average consensus seemed to be around 10min on second so I backed it off. But with the heat increasing, my plan to 'jog' the second lap felt a lot tougher than a 'jog'. At times I thought I'd be better off picking up the pace and getting into the ice bucket at the finish line sooner but I kept it in control and made sure I took on everything at the aid stations - water in the mouth, water over the head, coke in the mouth, sponge over the head, water in the mouth! That was the drill! For the following 500m after each aid station the water would slowly run down my top then my pants then out the bottom and down my legs. The water didn't take long to heat up either so it felt like... Well I think you get the idea. But once the next aid station was upon me I HAD to do it again. Cold water never felt and tasted so good.
The finish line of any race is always exciting but this race tops the lot. I hit the red carpet and Candy the baby elephant jumps in along side me. We ran down to the finish tape and I beat her to grab it - well I did do the whole race and she only ran the last 100m. She then grabbed my arm and gave it a tug then stole my winners banner to hold up herself. Cheeky elephant!
1:58:58 (5th) Olympic Distance non-drafting
swim 19:30 (24th)
bike 1:01:42 (4th)
run 35:09 (2nd)
It's 9pm, the night before HyVee 5150 Triathlon, the largest paying triathlon. I have everything organised and in its place for the 4am alarm in the morning. The Shiv is shiny and ready to roll. Dinner eaten, emailing done, teeth cleaned...been to the toilet...ready for bed. And then a call on the hotel phone from USADA saying they are down in the lobby to see me for a random drug test. Not ideal timing. I guess there's never really a convenient time for a 'random', but that's there job and they're always super friendly about it (I guess to make up for the fact that most athletes aren't overly excited to see them at the front door). But the timing of this one felt a bit cruel. I knew it was going to take me a while till I'd be ready to pee again. But I didn't want to start chugging water that would keep me up all night. And of course my mind kept reminding me that this time right now has been ear-marked for sleep time for months in advance. But after spending a good hour with them, they were nice people. A friendly elderly couple from a few hrs drive away doing this testing job part-time. We shared stories and got to know each other. Some of us peed while others watched and we became old friends by the end of the night. T-minus 9hrs till race start...
4am alarm went off. Race morning is finally here. It's a bit like waking on Christmas day as a kid...except I get about 14 Christmas days each year. I have my usual breakfast of oats with a banana and honey. I forgot to find a bowl and spoon the night before but I manage with what I could find in my room. A small paper cup and a coffee stirring stick. 5:15am, I take my little bag of race-day goodies (goggles, cap, race flats, speeds suit etc) with me, jump on my Shiv, and ride down to transition to get ready. The weather is good. The sun is still not up yet, but the breeze is mild and the sky looks pretty clear. Stark contrast to the cyclonic conditions on race morning last year. The good weather is great news for everyone because Des Moines had flooding rain the past few days and so the race director had to make some last minute adjustments to the bike course to allow us to race. The original 40km, single-loop bike course was now under water in sections, so the course was changed to a 4-lap out and back course. A big thank you and congratulations to the race director, Bill Burke and the Des Moines city council for creating a solution and keeping the race alive under such circumstances.
After a warm up swim, the national anthem, and some fireworks, the 30 men are individually introduced, set, and on their way. About 4 minutes later the 28 females are introduced one by one to the start line (somehow I managed to be ranked 24th for the race even though my 5150 ranking was 5th - I'm not sure what happened there but it didn't effect anything). The swim in this race is so much more important than most of my other races. They are all so quick over the 1500m and then they go flat-out on the bike and there's not much time to catch back up. A good swim might help get me up onto the podium by the end if I'm lucky. But a bad swim could leave me with too much to do on the roads...and not enough time to do it. The finish line comes way too quickly in this race. Today, I had the later. A swim that left me 3.30mins behind the leaders. Jared said after 3mins, T1 was dead quiet and empty and he was starting to worry that I was hurt out in the water, being rescued by one of the kayaks. I've only done a small handful of Olympic Distance races, but every one of them I somehow manage to cop a serious beating in the swim. I was bashed, dunked, pushed and pulled like there was some sort of under-water mixed-martial arts tournament going on or something. It gets really scary out there. I eventually got myself into some clear water about a third of the way through and started finding some rhythm. I passed a couple girls in the last stretch and came out of the water in 24th.
Jumping on my bike I heard the split. 3.30. Not what I wanted to hear. It meant I had A LOT of work to do. The bike course was 4 laps out and back on a 3lane road. Heaps of room to move and just a flat drag-race for 5k till each 180degree turn. Very different style of racing to have so many stop-starts. I found it was very hard work to make up any time to the others ahead of me. They were all flying back and forth so fast. I worked my butt off to gradually move up through the field. I got back into T2 with the 4th fastest bike split and started the run in 16th. Still a lot of work to do yet!
"10km is all you have to work with today...time to get moving!" - I was thinking running out of transition. It's not very often I'm hoping the run is long and I've done this race two times before so I know it's an accurate 10km but I'm still hoping it might be mis-measured this time around. I take off and start chasing down the girls in front. My legs are feeling great but my heart is pounding out of my chest. The higher intensity is a shock to me. Usually it's my legs that give in first but not today. I sound like a train. The run is a very flat out and back. The weather is now perfect. Clear blue skies and a little warm. As I pass more girls I lose track of my position but I just keep pushing on looking up the road for the next one ahead. The whole thing is over in a flash. I get to the finish and it is all done for another year. I found out I got up into 5th so that was good to know I got another top 5. I also thought at that point, at least I don't have to hang around for drug testing today (because we had a tight schedule with a 1:30 flight straight after the race).
30seconds later a nice USADA lady comes and introduces herself to me and lets me know I'm the lucky winner of a random drug test. I went down to the testing tent and caught up with the other nice lady from last night, got in and out as quick as possible. The paper work takes quite a while. Then I was back on my Shiv for a quick ride back to the hotel, quick breakfast, quickly pack the bike, back to the airport, and back home to Boulder for a late lunch. Even though the race didn't go completely how I would've loved it to, it was perfect to get a good hard hit-out a week before 70.3 Worlds. No soreness and no problems from the race. What better way to fit in 1 last hard training session than with 27 of the worlds best short course non-drafting girls! Thanks girls...couldn't have done it without you. Really...I couldn't have! And finally, huge congrats to Helle Frederiksen for the win. She was super strong, dominating from start to finish. Congrats too, to Alicia Kaye and Jodie Swallow for their great racing out front to earn 2nd and 3rd. Finally, thank you to HyVee and the many other sponsors involved in this race, the race director, officials, volunteers, the city of Des Moines and all the cheering fans out there. I hope this race continues for many years to come.
Swim 7th 26:41
Bike 1st 2:21:02
Run 1st 1:22:39
I kept up with Amanda Stevens in the water! That was until I started swimming. We started in waist deep water so when the gun went off I took advantage of dolphin diving through the shallow. Right beside me was Amanda already swimming - AS FAST AS ME DIVING! After that, the usual happened - I probably don't need to spell it out AGAIN so in short - pack gets away. Mel gets spat out back. Mel swims solo until first turn buoy where she eventually gets back in contact with a couple of others. From there Linsey Corbin and I swam side by side just in the draft of another athlete the whole way. We both ran out of the water together in 7th & 8th position only 2:30 down on the leader but we sure took our time to have a cuppa in T1. I actually opted for socks again on the bike hence the longer T1 time. By the time I finally left T1 I realised Linsey had taken just as long. That was nice of her to wait around and keep me company while everyone else ran off, I like Linsey.
Soon after we mount, it's straight up hill. A nice long gradual up. I like these kinda hills and immediately got into a good rhythm. I passed a few athletes (men as well) so wasn't sure what position I was now in but I figured Amanda was my target up the front of the race. Such a speedy swimmer I assumed she was in the lead. So I got to work trying to reel her in.
I saw Jared at about the 8k mark on the bike where he yelled out '30 seconds'. Sweet! I thought to myself as I guessed he meant I was only 30 seconds from the lead at this point. I felt good and kept ticking off the k's, but still hadn't seen Amanda yet. Later in the bike, on the way back to T2 I could see 3 athletes in the distance but they all looked like men. But I was convincing myself that one of them HAS TO BE Amanda. But nope, still no Amanda. I'm not making anymore ground on her! Towards the end of the bike leg with 8k to go, Jared was at the same point again and this time it sounded like he yelled out "3mins". What! I'm now loosing time to the lead. And why such a specific time. And far out, how fit is Amanda at the moment...she's getting faster the further we get into this ride. She's smashing it!
As I roll down the final hill and turn into T2 the crowd was amazing. Cheering so loudly. The commentator was all enthusiastic and making it sound like I'd had this amazing bike leg. Meanwhile I'm thinking "how much time has she put into me by now?". I racked my bike, slipped on my shoes and was outa there. I had work to do! As I ran past the crowd and out onto the run course I heard Jared yell from the crowd "three minutes". Omg! Are you serious. That HAS to be wrong, maybe that wasn't Jared yelling. Maybe it was someone that had majorly mis-timed the gap. Either way, I had to get going - Amanda was up ahead and she was on fire.
The crowd continued to cheer loudly as I ran past and the aid station volunteers were amazing. One spectator yelled "you've got this". It's so nice how they have so much confidence in me but I'm bloody THREE minutes down! It wasn't until I was approaching an aid station almost a quarter of the way through the run that I realized something was up. I surged slightly ahead of my lead cyclist and then turned back to have a look at the sign on the front of his bike. 1st PLACE FEMALE it read. I let out a little chuckle at the same time as telling myself I was a bit of a doosey. When I passed Jared not too far into my second of two run laps he said "you've got over 4 1/2 minutes to Linsey. Apparently all along, all the times I was hearing was the lead I had on second place (which changed a bit along he way) not the time I was down on Amanda. Silly me!
My second lap on the run I was still feeling really good but just before 10mile I thought I better suck on a little bit of my gel to keep me feeling good - don't wanna run out of energy and ruin it now. I've never been real good digesting gels on the run (bike - no problems but run... not sure if it's the extra intensity or what!). I ripped off the top and had the smallest amount (maybe not even one fifth). My stomach automatically churned. "I'm ok! Just back off the pace for a second. Ok, I'm good. Back into it". At mile 11 I attempted a bit more but this time it was not good. The porter potty was only 20 meters away, I could see it right there, but could I make it? I bolted across the road and jumped into the moulded-plastic stink house. I jumped out, still re-adjusting my pants as my lead cyclist and I had a little laugh "sorry about that" I said to him. "We're ok, we've got plenty of time" he reassured me.
The rest of the run was good! No more toilet stops and I extended my lead to over 7 minutes. Linsey finished 2nd with Valentino Carvello coming in 3rd and Amanda 4th. I let Amanda know after the race that she had managed to push me for most of the race...she just didn't know about it.
A special thank you goes to our wonderful home-stay hosts, Paul and Moira and their 2 dogs, 1 cat, 3 birds, 1 fish and a tortoise. Yep...a tortoise. This was the most well-mannered menagerie we've ever come across. Paul and Moira took us in and helped us sail through the weekend without a hitch. Also, a big congratulations to Paul who raced Timberman 70.3 and managed a massive half hr PR! Impressive. Another half hr next year?
1st 4:11:51 (course record)
Swim 28:05 (5th)
Bike 2:20:08 (1st)
Run 1:20:04 (1st) (run course record)
When I dived into Lake Michigan for my warm up I lasted about 10 strokes before I had to roll over onto my back to defrost my face. It was like slamming into a concrete wall. So cold! Once the cannon fired though I was fine, adrenalin fixes everything!
As usual I was a bit slow off at the start and pretty quickly spat out the back of the women's field. By the first buoy I had got into my rhythm and started chasing down the two girls I could still see in front of me. I eventually caught them about half way through the swim and then practiced 'staying on feet' for the rest of the swim. I'm still not good at all. I came out of the water in 5th place, close behind the 2 I'd been trying to 'sit on'. After exiting the water there is a long beach run to get off the beach and then a long run on concrete to weave into transition. This meant that by the time I got to my bike and out of T1 I was into 3rd place already. Malaika Homo was 1:20 ahead at this point with Helle Frederiksen putting a good 2 1/2 min into me.
I immediately cranked up the pace and by 55km I had finally caught Helle. I took a couple minutes to get in some nutrition, water and then went past to take the lead. I kept pushing hard off the front but Helle was holding on. I tried putting on surges but no matter how hard I tried I could not shake her. With 7km to go we hit a super bumpy section on cracked up concrete road that would last right until transition. Like riding over continuous speed ripples for the next 10mins, I knew there was no dropping her through this rodeo section so I backed off and cruised the rest of the way safely into T2. I unstrapped the shoes and coasted down the last short hill to T2 with Helle close behind. We got off and racked our bikes together. It was exciting to be back under the blaring loudspeakers, in such a tight battle for the lead, with the crowd cheering all around.
I had made the decision earlier in the race, when getting out of the water that I would put socks on for the bike instead of putting them on just for the run leg. My feet were cold and numb from the water and the run to the bikes on the hard concrete wasn't that comfortable on them. Added to that I still had big blisters under my feet from last weekends race. This allowed me to have a faster second transition than normal. I slipped my shoes on, grabbed my Salty Yeti GU gel (which I lost about a mile later when he jumped out of my pocket to begin his own little adventure to where ever he was going. Salty always has fun adventures where ever he goes. GU gels were offered at the aid station anyway, so lucky me) and Zipp visor and was out of there quick, keen to get a little head start.
As soon as I started running I hit my Garmin to start the clock but instead of starting to tick over it was busy 'loading satellites'. Damn! I forgot to load them up in the last few kms on the bike. Every km or so I'd check if they'd loaded up but still nothing. I have no idea which satellites they were trying to load, but they never loaded them, so I was without a watch for the rest of the day. The run was two out and back laps so I got my first indication of the lead at the first turn-around about 5k 's in where Helle was about 1min30 back. The first 10km I felt really strong and fast. The next 5 I still felt really good but I was starting to feel the big blister under my left foot filling with blood. The pressure wasn't bad enough to effect my pace or foot strike YET but I was well aware it was quietly taking a beating down there.
Thoughts started running through my head... "6km to go, I've got a good lead, should I slow down a little and reduce the pounding to the foot? OR should I pick it up (if I can) and try to get home quicker?". I was trying to work out which would make sure not to repeat the pain of last weekend. I think the blister decided for me as I kept up the same pace until it started affecting the way I was landing then I think my pace might've dropped from then on. Every now and then I'd grit my teeth and put in a surge then I'd back it off and try to land anywhere but on the blister. I was very happy to see the finish chute at the end. For the 2nd weekend in a row, I couldn't wait to kick off my shoes after the finish tape. At least this time, they were not as bad. A few minutes later Helle came through to take 2nd and Lauren Barnett (with energy to spare) for 3rd.
Jared and I were so lucky once again to be hosted by such a wonderful family for race weekend. Kristine, Daryl and the family showed us how good Midwest hospitality can be. They were 'homestay professionals' in managing to comfortably accommodate 3 of us athletes (yes 3!), help us with airport transfers, pre-race and post-race commitments, meals etc... and all in a welcoming homely environment. They made our trip seamless. Thanks again. Can't wait to return.
2nd - 4:14:13
Swim 27:24 (11th)
Bike 2:21:37 (3rd)
Run 1:21:31 (1st)
Wearing my super fast ROKA Maverick wetsuit, I was confident I could come out closer to the front in the swim but as I sculled on the start line I looked across at the two super fish athletes Laura Bennett and Meredith Kessler only to see they were both wearing the same suit as me! Damn. I exited the water in 11th place but within contact of the main pack with Rachel McBride 40 seconds ahead and Meredith & Laura 2:38 up the road.
I moved into 7th place soon after mounting my bike as I took advantage of running my bike to the top of the steep hill instead of mounting at the bottom. My new bike was in tip top shape thanks to Alex at SRAM who came to see me as soon as I arrived in the States from Australia. He went over the bike with a fine-toothed comb and provided me with a selection of shiny new Zipp wheels with custom World Champ decals. With my bike firing I hoped my body would too after the travel half way round the globe from Australia.
Not long into the bike I passed Melanie McQuaid and Emma Kate Lidbury to move into 5th. Throughout the bike the three of us would shuffle around with Melanie dropping me on the last long downhill - this girl is a demon on descents.
As I was approaching T2 I was warned there was a sharp turn before a quick dismount but I guess I underestimated how quick it would be after the turn. Before I knew it the dismount line was right in front of me and I was still in my bike shoes, I hadn't even loosened them so I had to jump off with my shoes still on. Not a big deal usually but the run to rack my bike was quite long and all on concrete. I looked like a waddling amateur trying to quickly run into T2.
I started the run in 4th place, and with a rather slow transition I was told I was now 3:30 behind Meredith but Rachel and Melanie were in sight. A couple of km in I moved into 2nd place, slowly making up time on the leader but by 7km I was in pain. Not a usual racing pain, I could feel the balls of my feet pounding and ripping to pieces. They were starting to feel like I was running bare feet on the hot bitumen. By 10km it felt like I was running on knives so when I got into the nice gravel loop around the Vineyard I stopped and had a bit of a look to see if I could find out why and maybe fix the problem. Everything appeared normal, the tread was still on the bottom of the shoes and there were no big rocks stuck in my shoes. So I continued on and pleaded with my feet to wait another 11k or so and then I'll stop and pamper you as much as you like.
When I got to a small out and back section I saw I was still a long way behind and I tried to convince myself that if I ran faster, not only may I be able to make up time faster, but more importantly I'd be in pain for less time so I tried to pick up the pace. Every step was a jabbing knife and the faster the pace the harder it hit me.
I've seen several triathletes heel strike when landing - It can't be that hard I thought! So I tried it (along with all sorts of running gaits to try land anywhere other than my forefoot)...without success. There must be some trick to heel striking because I was running on the spot. And still in pain.
There were many times in the last 10k when I was so close to pulling the pin and tearing my shoes off under a shady tree somewhere. It was a constant battle inside my head trying to decide which would be more painful - running on knives or getting a DNF. While the battle continued in my head, the mile markers thankfully continued to tick over.
When I finally reached the line of spectators I knew I was close to being done. I no longer minded that I wasn't winning. All I could think about was crossing that line and kicking my shoes off. When I got into the finishing chute I think I totally forgot I was in a race and that I should be smiling, happy, I was just about to cross the line in second place. And second to the brilliant Meredith Kessler. But instead of taking it all in I passed through the banner, kicked off my shoes and tried to hobble off. All I wanted was a bucket of icy water to put my feet in and a shady piece of grass to sit on.
A huge congratulations to Meredith for the win. If I had to chose who to come 2nd behind, I would chose her. She was out front doing her own thing all day and none of us could come close till she finally stopped and waited for us all at the finish. Congrats also to Rachael and Melanie, both super strong on the bike and running on to come in 4th and 5th.
The biggest thank you goes to Pat and Barbara for their hospitality during our stay in Santa Rosa. They've been my home stay there 3 times now and it feels like returning to family when we visit. Travelling to Santa Rosa in July has come to be just as much about catching up and spending time with Pat and Barb as it is to be racing Vineman 70.3 on Sunday morning. Can't wait to see you guys next time!
Swim 3rd 50:46
Bike 2nd 5:19:57
Run 2nd 3:13:57
We were created with pain receptors. These pain receptors go off when we are hurt or injured or when we push our bodies to the limit. They are there for a reason, to warn us that something is wrong and you must stop. What a great system. Makes good sense doesn't it. But then there's a small minority of us with our twisted, messed up brains that have discovered we don't have to stop if we don't want. We can keep going as long as we are mentally strong enough to continually tell our brains to "shut up". Why would we want to do this? No idea! For some reason the more we push our bodies the better we feel 'after'. So, some crazy person came up with the idea of an Ironman. Arguably the hardest one day endurance event.
For some reason the Ironman distance is seen as the ultimate goal or the pinnacle of achievements in triathlon. Maybe because it's the longest distance available (in 1 day) or maybe because the legend of the Hawaii Ironman. So 3 weeks ago I decided I'd give it a go. It worked out to be a good time of the year to try it without disrupting anything else in my season. Lucky for me, if I want to compete in Kona later in the year, I didn't have to win, I just had to finish. I just had to 'get through'. That being said, it was still a race, and I'd be crazy if I said I didn't want to win it. So this is how this crazy Ironman thing works.
First we swim 3.8km. That's 76 laps of an Olympic size swimming pool. Booooring! Thankfully we don't swim in a swimming pool though! With the air temp a freezing 5C I wrapped myself up in my ROKA wetty and couldn't wait to get into the 19C water. Half way through the swim leg was a weir we had to climb up and over. This isn't usually part of an IM but added something different and made for some good photos!
After emerging from the water it's time to run through the spectators, listening carefully for vital split times. In the change tent you are treated to an impressive team of helpers that assist in just about anything you need. You just throw yourself on the ground and the strippers pull your wetsuit off and start dressing you for the bike leg. Before you know it your back on your way out the door and into the 'real world' again. The second leg comprises of a ridiculous 180km of cycling. I started the bike leg 1 minute down - I had a great swim!
I'm not sure who upset the weather gods on this day, but they were whipping up some cyclonic winds, up to 50kph. I held on tight as I worked my way through the bike leg. Gritting my teeth till my jaw was cramping and clenching my abs to stay tight on the bike made for a long 5-plus hours of riding. All the while, Lisa was up ahead, ploughing through the dead roads and getting a good lead. By the time I rolled back to T2, I was 8minutes down, hungry, and tired.
Back in the transition tent, this time the volunteers help us get ready for the final leg - an insane and totally unreasonable 42km run. As if 3.8km of swimming and 180km of riding wasn't already enough. I sat there munching on my mars bar wondering how I could get out of doing this marathon. Meanwhile the volunteers already had the green flags up and were ushering me out of the tent. My shoes were on, my visor, run belt and gels nicely laid out. But I didn't wanna leave. It was warm and comfortable in here away from the wind. Can I just stay a little bit longer!
I got up and walked out of the tent...all the way out...I walked till the big sign said 'Run Exit'. That's where I started my loooong shuffle. No extra running for me today thanks! This was the part of the race I was most unsure about. 42k of non-stop running is a long way for me. Added to that I was already pretty worn out from the freezing, windy bike leg meant I would be taking these first couple laps as conservatively as possible. The run course did 4 laps of just over 10km each. One decent hill per lap, the rest flat, cold and...did I say WINDY. As I ran along the rock wall along the river the cross wind was so strong I was sure this could be my ticket out. I'll get blown overboard. But nope, that didn't happen either. I just kept shuffling. After one lap I got to run through the '1st lap' gate to collect a cool IM wrist band. That brightened my day for like a second. Back up the hill again (that seemed to get a little bigger each time). On this lap, the down hill really got me needing the loo. I stopped at the toilet and when I sat down I thought "This is surprisingly nice in here. I could comfortably stay here for quite a while I think. No-one knows I'm in here right". After a bit I thought I better keep trucking on.
At about 24km I shuffled on past poor Lisa who seemed to be having a bit of a rough patch at the time. I wanted to stop and walk with her for a bit...talk about how crazy-windy the bike was...and how long this run is going on for. I had so much to share with her. But as I went passed, she was walking and I was on a small mission to find the the next loo. Another toilet stop later, and I popped out still in the lead and couldn't see Lisa behind. On my way back to completing my third lap I took a nice long walk through an aid station. I'd been told by a number of people beforehand that I should take my time at the aid stations and even walk because that's what a lot of the best do. This seemed like a good time to try it. It was alright. I got to have a chat with a friendly age grouper for a little while. They were all very friendly along the course. I felt bad that I didn't acknowledge a lot of them while my head was down, shuffling along. I was trying to devote most of my mental energy to staying on track, conserving energy, ticking off my 4.30 k's and repeating the advice Belinda Granger had given me and that was "shut up brain, just keep going".
On my last lap my stomach was very angry. It wasn't used to functioning on just gels for this long. Although I'd only got 3 down on the marathon it still wasn't happy and I seemed to spend a lot of time planning my next toilet stop. I took my last toilet stop about 5km from the finish. After this I walked through the whole aid station before I got back into my shuffle. I heard Jared yell, "you've only got 1 minute". In other words "that's enough stopping, go!". From that point I started to feel pretty good again (relatively speaking) for some reason. Maybe the refreshing water at the aid station, maybe it was that I suddenly realised I only have 5k till I'm finished, or maybe it was that my mind just realised I was 'racing' again. Whatever it was, I broke out of my shuffle and I felt like I took off.
Over the last 500m or so, the crowd was getting thicker and thicker and louder and louder. I finally made it onto the red finish-chute carpet and took in all the excitement from the crowds. I did it! I conquered this crazy thing called an Ironman. I ticked the box. The bitter-sweet thing is I stamped my spot to Kona. The good thing is now I can decide to go if I want. The down-side is I would have to go through all that again. Seems like a pretty twisted reward to me. But I guess that's why I did it in the first place...my mind is twisted...just like everyone else who finished the race. You're all crazy!
Special thank you to the team at Ironman Asia Pacific for helping guide me through my first Ironman experience.
Race highlight video here.
Swim 44:22 (4th)
Bike 5:12:05 (2nd)
Run 1:23:30 (2nd)
Full race coverage can be found here.
Race highlights can be found here.
I'm sitting here relaxing at the Yas Marina Waterworld - Abu Dhabi's impressive water park, un-naturally positioned in the middle of the dry, sandy desert. It's the morning after the race and most of the top pros are here, recovering/having a good time compliments of the race organisers. Then there's Greg Welch over on the wave machine by himself (because he's the only one good enough for it) like a little kid let loose. He's been back and forth on his boogey board, dominating the ride for hours, having the time of his life. He's good...but he's gonna be sore tomorrow! Just before this I was talked into going on the scariest ride in the park. The something-or-other "drop". You stand in a tight, clear glass capsule, a voice counts down from 3, then the floor drops away and you plummet straight down. Jared had gone down before me and was waiting at the bottom. But I didn't make to the end to greet him with a big thrilled smile. No, I didn't make it to the end at all. The lady at the top calmly says to our photographer "The light ones never make it". Instead of flying around the loop-de-loop section at the bottom, I made it half way round, slowly came to a stop, then slid backwards to a low point in the slide. A couple seconds of slight confusion later, a nice lady kindly opens a little emergency escape door for me and I climbed out of the slide, through a tiny hole in a fake-rock wall, and back to the real world. It was like I was one of the kids at Willy Wonka's chocolate factory that had to be eliminated. Moments later the green flags went back up from the slide operators and everyone continued on like nothing happened.
The water park was fun. The race yesterday...not so much. Yesterday was the toughest race of my career. One in which I think I'll learn greatly from and has given me extra mental strength of knowing just how far my body will go when on empty. I made some nutritional errors on the bike that I paid for. Also, the week of Abu Dhabi I came down with a head cold. I was quick to get onto the garlic and was pretty confident I'd knock it on the head before the race. I arrived late Wednesday night. Thursday and Friday morning I went for a short spin, while my legs felt unusually stiff and tight I put this down to the long flights and tried to forget about it.
The non wetty 3km swim went pretty well and I exited the water in 4th place. I was about 5:30 behind Jodie, but comparing my swim leg to Jodie's freakish abilities in the water is like comparing my swim to the lead mens pack. Michelle and Svetlana were only 2.30 in front. I mounted my Shiv and as soon as I started pedalling, my legs and gluts were really tight, like someone was squeezing them just like Thursday and Fridays rides. I spent the next hour and a half telling myself they're just tight because the longer swim...that's all...they'll come good. I was still making decent time, I was now about 2.30 behind Jodie and 30sec behind Michelle. By the 70k mark the tight feeling became deep painful stabs and full on cramps. At this point I had passed Michelle, while poor Jodie had missed a turn somewhere, putting me in the lead. I was now leading which was great news...but at what cost, my legs were in pain and I couldn't pedal full circles without my left quad feeling like ripping off the bone.
By 100k the cramping faded, but then returned at 130k . To make things worse, at this point I was getting desperately short on nutrition because I had lost my mars bar at 5k and had lost some gels at 60k. I was having a lot of bad luck trying to get any nutrition from aid stations along the way. The media bike blocked one station, age groupers were all over the next. Then I finally managed to get my hands on 'aqualyte' - a drink that contains no calories! I also managed to get a half-filled water bottle. I rationed it to make it last till the next bottle I got. I was like a fat fat kid rationing his last smarty. I could have a lick but not the whole thing.
The last 20k was tough, I had no water, no calories and was dizzy, weak and fading. I saw Jared at T2 and asked how long I had (to 2nd place)? He said "a minute and a half an hour ago". That was not good. As I sat in T2, I didn't want to get up but I was in desperate need of water so I slowly pulled myself to my feet and jogged the 500m or so to the first aid statin where I enjoyed everything they had to offer, twice over. I wanted to stay longer but Jared informed me as I left T2 that I had only a 30sec lead.
Usually with the run my strength any lead I would be happy with, but today I knew this was going to get ugly. The run course had several switchbacks so it wasn't long before I saw Yvonne running me down. There was nothing I could do to pick up the pace if I were to finish this race on my feet. At 7km I could hear Yvonne's footsteps so I slowed a little to prepare for her attack. A couple minutes later she joined me by my side and matched my pace. It was a relief when she didn't try to go straight by and I thought she must be really struggling too. We ran together for a couple km's at a slightly slower pace and I tried to refuel with regular doses of water and coke. I thought if she's content to sit around running this slower pace keeping me in the picture I might still have a chance. At the 10km turnaround I managed to get a small gap coming out of the turn cone. I hadn't planned to make a move here, it just happened as I accelerated out of the turn...so I went with it. I went ahead just enough to get a gap. And any runner knows, you spend a lot of mental energy if you have to try close down a gap that you've already closed down once.
The rest of the run was not pleasant but it was better. It still felt like I was running on fumes from aid station to aid station but my legs loosened and felt a bit springier. I was still nervous the whole way that the body might change it's mind and throw in the towel at any point. I was picturing the old footage of the 2 women crawling to the line at Kona. The long red carpet to the finish felt like it went much longer than previous years. When I finally had the finish line in sight I gave a few weak waves to the crowd and I think I only just made it over the line before my body totally shut up shop.
I promised myself at the 15km mark that if I could escape this close call with a win, I would be allowed to fall to the ground after the finish banner. But if I lost I MUST stay on my feet. This, along with every other little mental trick and bribe I used, is what I was thinking about for that last 5km. And throw myself on the ground is exactly what I did. So, of course Greg Welch sat down, had a little rest himself and joined me for the post-race interview...on the ground.
A massive thank you to Simon for once again inviting me back to Abu Dhabi to race and I'm sorry you once again had to drag me up off the ground. Also thanks to Mark, Nicky & Ryan for all your tremendous work putting on the most glamorous triathlon in the world! Give me a few days to forget about the pain I put myself through yesterday and I'll probably say "see you again next year!"