I qualified to race the ‘big dance’ at IM Arizona back in November 2009 and excitedly returned to the big island for the third year in a row to improve on my category 18th in 2008 and 7th 2009. With almost a full year of consistent training under my belt and a European title I was all set for the big day. In the week leading up to the race the tension becomes palpable as the leading athletes from around the world converge on the island to compete, in the savage heat and lava fields that is Kona, for the ultimate prize in triathlon.
My preparations in the last few weeks had been near perfect and as race day approached i was just anxious to get in the water and go to work. Two days before the event disaster struck, i picked up some sort of bug and needed to take some medication to stabilise my system. I mentally shrugged it off and focussed on what i needed to do on Saturday.
We lined up in the water, 1800 bodies cheek and jowl in the water, jostling for position before the cannon fires. We are off and the first dozen strokes are pulling at bodies not water but within 400m I find clear water and power ahead. I exit the water in a time similar to last year but calm and relaxed. A fast transition and on the bike to the heat and winds of the Queen K. Novice Kona athletes are out of the saddle burning precious energy for what will be a long day in the field and will surely been seen walking early in the marathon.
I hit the 90k half way mark in 2.5hours, bang on target but the temperatures are soaring now, tipping over 100oF as you start to fight the gusting winds that blow you across the road at times. ER are starting to patch up riders that been unable to hold the bike upright and have torn holes in their skin on the black top.
Through the turnaround and i am on my way home, doing my best to control my core temperature as i start having difficulty drinking the energy drink i have carefully prepared to optimally fuel me though the race. Early signs of dehydration start to set in and my temperature rises as my blood starts to thicken and become less efficient at cooling me. Kona is unforgiving, once you get behind the optimal fuel and hydration curve your descent into heat exhaustion accelerates. I could sense i was in trouble but the numbers were still good. I hit the bike to run transition 10 minutes ahead of last year and a course PR. If i can hold things together and crack out as reasonable marathon i can grab a podium spot.
I set off on the marathon averaging 7minutes per mile for the first 6 miles but unable to eat or drink anything, this was going to get ugly. By mile 10 i was doubled up at the side of the road with the stomach cramps leaving me breathless – the bug had come back and taken hold at a time when my body was suffering. I ran when i could, drank coke for some hydration - simple sugar and caffeine i felt was my best option as nothing else would agree with me. The next 10 miles were a series of surges then recovery at aid stations. The final turnaround on the marathon is at the Energy Lab and temperatures here were in excess of 110oC. I was in big trouble and by now was completely immersing my head in cold water every mile in a vain attempt to lower my temperature. 10k to go i decided to tough it out and figured that if i could stay upright and focussed then 45minutes later i would be across the line.
I crossed the line in a time of 09:50, completing the marathon in 03:25. A respectable time but way off what i felt capable of delivering prior to the race.
In Ironman racing there are always reasons for disappointing performances but the only thing that counts are results. I will be back next year to get the result!