“you spend far too much time training and racing for it only to be about win or lose”
I’m not big on race reports, unlike my husband who seems to have a way with words and blogs his heart out regularly. Two weeks ago I finished the Hawaii Ironman for the first time, I took my sweet time and finished in nearly 11 and a half hours, not the type of race I would expect to write a race report on. But with my husband as my coach and knowing it’s the races where things don’t go to plan that you can learn the most from and grow from, I have been convinced to take a trip down memory lane. Its not too long of a story below, but if you hate reading words I have attached a few photos that tell my ironman story, enjoy!
SWIM 1hour 4minutes
Its Saturday 8th October, around 7am, I have just said goodbye to my husband who is racing as well, surrounded by about 700 other females, here I am standing on the Kailua pier ready to start the 3.8km swim to kick off the Ironman world championships for 2016. I am standing next to a lady, more like a machine, by the name of Karen McPherson. Karen is 61 years old and was the first person EVER from Alice Springs Australia to qualify for this race (my husband and myself were lucky enough to follow in her footsteps and qualify in busso and Cairns). I give her a hug and then walk down the steps onto Dig Me beach and swim over to the start line
the view from the pier on the morning of the race
on the lava fields out by the energy lab on a training run Tuesday before the race. All so proud to be representing the Northern Territory and Alice Springs for the very first time in History!
The swim start is like no other race in the world. You spend what seems like hours treading water waiting, waiting and waiting for the canon to go off…. On the surface its like chaos with people packed in like sardines everywhere but below the water its such a different story, so peaceful and calm with crystal clear blue water and marine life everywhere. Once the gun goes off the chaos above continues, for nearly the whole swim. For much of the whole 3.8km swim I find myself constantly banging the arms, heads, feet and torsos of swimmers all around me, unable to find any clear water or space to relax in and find any rhythm. At times I could feel myself starting to panic and stress out but I only had to look down into that into that crystal blue water and see the beautiful fish to remind myself that I’m swimming in the world champs at Kona, so suck it up princess!! I exited the water and glanced at my garmin, the constant banging of arms had frozen the screen so I have no idea what I had swum, but I didn’t actually mind, it was time to ride!
BIKE 5hours 52minutes
The bike leg of this race is also like no other on earth. Its starts at Kailua bay Kona and soon takes you along the coast on the Queen K highway for about 100km though lava fields to the town of Hawi and then back into Kona. Sounds simple…. add in some heat (average 37, top of 42 this day), humidity (60-70%), wind and hills and you have a ride that so easily breaks you down both physically and mentally.
As I rode out of Kona I reset my garmin for the bike leg but soon realised I wasn’t picking up my heart rate. I had made the decision to use HR as my main guide for the bike and run and my power as just a guide. With a number of previous 5 hour training rides through the desert roads of Alice Springs I knew I was comfortable with holding around 190NP but Alice Springs is not Kona, and even thinking that 10-20watts lower for this race would be achievable, half way through the ride I knew I had really disrespected this race. After fumbling around for 10minutes trying to rescan and sync my heart rate to my garmin, nothing worked, so I set my goal to ride ‘how I feel’ and use the only other objective measure I had – power, as a guide. Everyone feels fine in the first few hours of an ironman bike leg and the kona virgin in me somehow forgot this. For the first 100km I was passing a lot of people, pushing up the hills and thinking ‘this isn’t too bad’. I made the turn at Hawi, coasted down the hill and as I was making the climb out of Kawaihae, the Hawaiian Goddess Madame Pele decided it was time to put me in my place. My head started spinning, I suddenly felt like my skin was on fire and my stomach started churning. A few big mouthfuls of water but I couldn’t stop it, and for the first time in 8 ironmans, I started to spew up my nutrition, but thankfully kept peddling and even more thankfully not onto anyone behind me! I started to panic and worry if I could even get through this race. I looked at my power which had dropped to 130-140NP and my speed was like a turtle. I started to get so negative and angry at myself, people were passing me like I was standing still. But then my mind started to wander, I need to be grateful for being here I thought to myself, you are riding along the Queen K highway, in the Hawaii ironman! I thought back to a few weeks ago when I had had a routine pelvic ultrasound in preparation for some varicose vein surgery next year and incidentally found an ovarian cyst that my GP had to then investigate to rule out cancer. Nothing like walking into a pathology unit to have bloods taken to rule out ovarian, pancreatic and breast cancer two weeks before doing kona to put life into perspective! Thankfully the blood work was all normal and strange enough it was this thought on the Queen K highway after emptying my stomach contents that made me smile and push on. Onto the next few aid stations and onto the magic coke and this was enough to get me back to kona in good spirits.
Riding along the Queen K Highway in the lava fields
Coach Sydney there in spirit!
Run 4hours 15minutes
Quick toilet stop in transition then onto the marathon! From the get go so many people of so many ages were passing me and running sub 5min/km pace, I was in awe. I tried to settle into my planned pace of around 5:15min/km to try and achieve a 3hour 45min marathon but my legs already felt tired. My back was tight and I was getting referred pain all down my right thigh, each step and I would get a knife like shock through my quads. It was hot, I was tired, I started to get all negative and angry again at my body for feeling like this. Then I saw Kev’s parents, my mum and sister and then all of Karen’s support crew in the space of 10minutes and that was enough to keep me running and happy again. 7km into the run and the pain in my thigh disappeared and I found some rhythm, kept running all along Ali’i drive and up Palani hill for the first 16km.
Running along Ali’i Drive
Up onto the Queen K highway and I was feeling good, taking in salt, nutrition and coke every 20minutes as planned and keeping it down! Two hours into the marathon though and I suddenly started to slow, my cadence dropped and I just couldn’t get my pace any faster than around 6min/km. I knew I had gone out too hard on the bike too early and my body was just turning to survival mode – just keep plodding became the motto! Half way along the Queen K I hear someone shout ‘that’s my wife’, I look up and its my husband, Kevin, on his way back into town. He gives me a huge hug but all I can say to him is “this is so hard!”. I would see him again in a few hours at the finish line where he would wait for over an hour after he had finished to hug me again. I plodded through the energy lab and back along the Queen K Highway into town. At this stage the sun was setting on the ocean behind me, I looked back and got goosebumps, knowing I would remember and cherish this memory forever. Back down Palani, high fiving the amazing Pete Murray, mum and Jacinta, and through the finish chute on Ali’i Drive as darkness set in.
Done 11hours 28minutes!!
The Hawaii ironman is a beast and in my opinion cannot even be compared to any other ironman. You must be in your very best physical and mental state to conquer this beast, if not it will expose these weaknesses to a level that can break you down like no other race. There is so much more I need to do both mentally and physically to first get back to this race and then to try and be competitive in this race. But like they say, anything is possible, and I will be doing everything I can to hopefully get back one day and race this beast at my best.
So proud of you Fiona! Great report. I hope to coach you back to Kona again! I love you.
Thanks for writing this Fiona-glad I’m reading it today and not knowing what you were going through on the day-stress enough.but without a race report no one would know what you are going through- the pain and agony(mental.emotional and physical)you must have dug so deep but continued to smile.i am so proud of what you do.follow your dreams.
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