This is the BIG one! Kona, Ironaman World Championships..
I’d read about it, watched it, Dreamed it…. Now I was in it!.
Before I get onto the nitty gritty of the race let me first tell you how well this race is ‘run’ like ‘precision’ I can honestly say we were treated like Royalty.. There were 5000+ volunteers which equals more than 2 per athlete, from the get go the support team & volunteers made sure you were well looked after, right from registration there was someone chaperoning you and helping in anyway possible. When it came to bike racking and bag drop off a member of the support team guided you through the whole process (one 2 one service), they’d walk you through the swim exit, changing tent, finding your bike etc etc and they carried your bags!! After the race there were TWO volunteers to carry you to the athlete village and provide drinks, food, towels and anything you might need.. Real Royalty treatment.
So the swim.. simple really! 1.2miles swim out into the ocean, turn around the boats and swim back 1.2miles! the only problem is there’s 1,200 crazy athletes pumped up to to thrash themselves around the course with you! The start was signalled with a cannon fire ‘BOOM’!
The first 400/500mtrs were chaos, arms flying, legs kicks and the water turned pure white! But I loved it.. I settled into the swim and focussed on keeping calm and relaxed. It did seem to take forever to get to the turn around and when we did the water felt rougher and the current was pulling you around, I was definately tiring on the last 400mtrs, the finish for the swim couldn’t come soon enough for me
With a clean transition I was soon on my bike and ready to push the pedals.. I couldn’t wait to ride the Queen K Highway a famous road through the heat of the lava fields. For about the first 30miles I was averaging 24mph+ but then the infamous trade winds kicked in and the climb the Hawi, this is a long gradual climb but with a 50mph head and cross wind! my speed was now showing 10mph at times and less! But I was overtaking loads of athletes who were finding it tougher, this section certainly broke away the drafters (Drafting!! yep it was happening but there were lots of referee’s giving out penalties and the it was pleasing to see the penatly tents full). So the climb takes you to Hawi, this is the turn around point. The drop from Hawi is FAST and dangerous, some athletes struggled with the crosswinds, there was no way I was gonna slow down after the tough climb, I wanted to claw some time back!.. I passed loads downhill my top speed must of been 45mph+ at least! The speedy downhill section didn’t last long though and the crosswinds and head winds on the flat sections soon slowed you down again. I remember looking at my garmin at about the 70 mile point and thinking WOW I’m hot, my feet are burning, my heading is pounding and I’ve still got 42miles to go!
70 miles in and the race was truly beginning.. It’s important to keep to the plan, Hydration, Nutrition and Motivation! Yep all still working ok, I went through in total 8 500ml bottles on the bike course, at least 10 bottles of water were thrown over my head & body in an attempt to stay cool. I consumed, two snickers (melted!) a jackoat.com bar, two gels, 3 nuun tabs, 2 bonk bars and 2 banana’s!
Good news I wasn’t slowing down or feeling ill, in fact I felt I was just getting into my rhythm! before I knew it I was near the airport, only 5/6 miles to go! this is time to take stock.. go through the next section in your head and remind yourself of the survival plan for the run sections coming up!
Boom! me and the Planet X were back in transition zone, I hoped off the bike and quickly changed! and ready to run., No! I’d lost my race number! the volunteers tried to sort a new one but in the end they said just run it’s ok (I only probably lost 2mins at most, but as most triathletes will tell you it felt like an hour!)
Just crack on with the run, my time to ‘take it home’! I was looking forward to Alii Drive and following in the footsteps of the Greats! But the heat and the humidity was crazy! There was no way I was gonna let the elements play with my mind! I had a plan.. stick to it! (I’d decided to use my fuel belt with 2 nuun tabs.. couldn’t afford to let my salts drop in these conditions)
The aid stations were brilliant, water, energy drinks, gels, snacks, coke, ice, cold sponges and even chicken soup in the last 1/2 of the run!
This was pretty much my routine through the aid stations:- 2 cold sponges stuffed down my tri top, 2 waters – drink one, throw one over the head, 1 energy drink, 1 gel, 2 cups of ice (thrown down my shorts, and down my top).. and finally 2 more waters to throw over the body! and sip my double strength nuun drink every 30mins
The crowds on Alii Drive were amazing and motivating but I was feeling slow, but the Garmin was telling me ‘OK’ on target! and no one was running past me, so just keep going!
Onto Palani! another famous road in Kona.. uphill, Bloody hell this 5omtr section was a killer, most were walking.. Then onto the Queen K Highway again, one long road, I’d got about 16miles still to go and I was still feeling good, ! In fact it wasn’t until mile 22 when I began to suffer! Talk about Talk to yourself! I was having a right old rant to myself.. Come on Hold it together!, just keep moving the legs! the final 2-3 miles to go I could see I wasn’t on my own in the suffer world, it was carnage! people pulling up with cramp, stopping & sitting down, throwing up etc..
Talking to yourself works! well it did for me! and with 1 mile to go I was back in the race, back on Palani (downhill) the crowds here were absolutely amazing, typical USA style motivation ‘wow man you’re looking awesome’! ‘hey go get that finish line’ it made me smile and pick up the pace, then onto the final 400mtrs I turned back onto Alii drive and soaked up the atmosphere ‘high 5’s all round’ but still time to chase down 2 athletes in front on me! I sprinted the last 100mtrs (not like me at all) and jumped through the finish line ‘COME ON’! 9hr 49mins the toughest, hottest race day I’ve been in!
Kona is the place to be if you’re a triathlete, it’s a beautiful (and moody at times) Island, with amazing views & beaches.. This was my once in a lifetime race and it DID live up to my expectations, my dream race, my best race ever (so far) and at the Worlds best triathlon event with Best of the Best from around the World,…. I’ll be back!
Huge thanks to my supporters and Sponsors, Ironman racing is made much easier with these guys!
Final thanks to my wife Deb! fully supporting me again!, putting up with my training moods swings, my intense obsession for anything I do! Yes you need a bit of talent and lots of drive, determination and perseverance, But if there isn’t that ONE person by your side throughout the good and bad times of racing then you’ll never get to KONA!
What a race eh Deb! Love you loads xxxx