It’s always harder to write about a disappointing race versus a good one. Eleventh is my lowest placing at Kona, so of course I am disappointed with how race day panned out. However, I’m an optimist – there’s always something positive to be taken from a race and at least there’s plenty of fire in my belly for next year.
I had a pretty rough week leading into the race with an ill timed bout of tonsillitis and bronchitis. I found this out on Monday and as soon as I left the doctors surgery I burst into tears thinking that could be game over. On the Tuesday I felt worst. I could barely get out of bed and felt horrible: I didn’t even have the energy to feel upset about the possibility of not being able to start. I went onto some strong antibiotics and once my fever had broken on Wednesday I was able to contemplate racing…but in the next two days there was quite a mental and physical turnaround required to get my head back into the game. Treading water on the start line I was grateful I was there and hopeful rather than confident that I could put together a good performance
The gun sounded and I felt straight off that I was missing my top end. I think I was close to the back of the pack after 200m but I plugged away and finally made contact with the back of the front pack. Not the best position to be in: my set of feet dropped off the pace and I didn’t have the va va vroom to bridge the gap. I felt good, briefly, close to the turn around and took to the front, but then fatigued so went back to sitting on some feet. I knew Caroline was swimming next to me so I was hopeful I could exit T1 with her and we could bridge the gap to the front pack. Haha! My last spotting of Caroline was of her back disappearing out of T1.
Onto the bike I decided to ride as if I was 100% and see where that got me. I was 2 mins back on the front group and for the first 40-60km the gap grew but not by too much. I still had hope. If I could minimise the gap they got on the bike maybe, just maybe I could pull off a good race. I passed Gina Crawford on the climb to Hawi and, unexpectedly Meredith on the descent (I thought something must have been up with Meredith as the gap came down so quickly. I later learnt she”d been knocked off her bike and was suffering from concussion – she’s one tough nut as she still got back to T2).
“YES!” I thought…maybe this is going to be okay. Cue a monumental blow up. As I turned back onto the Queen K things got ugly. My breathing felt laboured, my chest was tightening and I just felt horrible. That’s the beauty of Ironman. In just a moment I went from feeling optimistic to wondering whether I could make it back to T2. What I did discover on that loooong return trip to Kona is that this sport is full of good people. I received nothing but encouragement from just about everyone who came passed me, asking if I was okay and urging me to go with them. I wished I’d been able to.
My arrival into T2 wasn’t pretty. I dismounted my bike and my legs felt done. I got into the change tent, sat down and thought about staying there. I spent a minute thinking about the marathon. Faced with one of the hardest marathons on the Ironman circuit I quite honestly wasn’t sure I could make it. I decided to switch my thought to other things: focusing on my parents who had made the long trip to Kona to watch me, and the fact I was lucky to be racing in Kona at all.
I’ did have a few wobbles in the first 8 miles. I felt pretty bad, which caused me to feel daunted at the number of miles ahead of me.. BUT, I got my mind to switch…with a little help from Roger, a friend from the UK. When he had found out I’d been ill he messaged me to wish me well, and asked for a smile out on the road. When he saw me on Alii Drive, he got a smile and it kicked my mind back to being positive. I had started this race so I was certainly going to finish: even if I had to walk. So, if I was going to do it I could either be miserable for 20 miles or try and have a good time. The latter seemed preferable! I focused on going as fast as I could (duh, it’s a race!): who knows maybe I could squeeze a top ten position. I also focused on my friends and competitors: cheering and encouraging people who were out there. The cheers and shout backs I got were a massive help so a big thanks to everyone!
So I finished. I confess that there were tears but that’s because this race mattered to me and I was disappointed. A brief stint in medical and then time to catch up with my folks, with Brett who was also racing and some of our other friends. A big congrats to Leanda for taking the win and to Caroline and Mirinda for making it an exciting race. Also, big congrats to Pete Jacobs: he crushed it and is such a good guy I had the pleasure of training with whilst in Abu Dhabi Tri Team.
As always I have a ton of thank you’s. A big thanks to my sponsors who not only provide me with the best kit but who showed a great understanding and were super supportive in race week when I was unable to meet my commitments. Thank you Cervelo, Newton Running, Biestmilch, Louis Garneau, PowerBar Oakley, Shimano, ISM and SRM. To my parents: I’m sure my Mum’s chicken soup had healing qualities! To Brett, who I am sure compromised his own race day in supporting me in what was quite a stressful race week. To Matt, my coach and of course all the volunteers who make these races happen. And finally Kona, Mahalo. Until next year…