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“ADE” Kona Report
CBD Cycles - 19/10/2011
Race report: Hawaii Ironman World Championships, 2011.
Adrian Finlayson “ADE”
The Summary: A (very) hard day out, an incredible experience, and a real honour.
Overall time – 10:22:55. Swim – 1:10:41 Bike – 5:10:14 Run – 3:55:19
71st place 45-49 category (out of 202 starters).
Pre-race: Had a great week and a half, holidaying with the family, and trying my best not to let the race get into my head, and spoil our holiday. Hawaii, is quite simply, paradise. We stayed in Haleiwa (North Shore) courtesy of my friend and colleague Richard Char and family (thank you again Richard!) in their beautiful condo, on the beach. This sleepy, historic and beautiful town allowed us to spend quality time together as a family – much needed! After a few ‘Shave Ice’s’ (check them out!), we headed off to Kona.
Arriving into Kona and, wow! It is just Ironman, Ironman, Ironman, with 1800 of the fittest athletes in the world strutting their stuff on the bike and run course. Certainly enough to intimidate under-done newcomers like me! At the end of the day, I realised I had to just remain focussed on me, and my build-up. I knew I was under-done: work and other commitments, torn calf muscles and 2 bouts of sickness, had meant that I could only manage a smidgeon over 10 hours of training, for the last 15 weeks – not nearly enough respect being paid to Hawaii (as I would rudely find out).
Race morning came; usual nervous energy; frantic dash to find loos that weren’t overcrowded; go over race plan for the last time; make way to water; swim to the start line; wait; watch; jostle for position; think about day ahead; need toilet, too late; …
Swim: Wow. That cannon goes off, and you are suddenly in the middle of a rugby scrum, except under water, fighting for position, to stroke, to breath (you can’t pause for a breath – nobody is going to waste their breath going around you since it’s much quicker, and more buoyant for them, to go over you!) And, it doesn’t end either – nope. Not for 3.86km or, in my case, 1 hour and 10 minutes. And, we had to contend with a swell (which made me a little seasick) and some chop (I didn’t see any of the coral or fish that the Hawaii swim is famous for – the water was too rough). Coming out of the water, I was a little disappointed with my time, but on reflection, it was a very slow swim – even for the pros – so not too bad a result.
Training Notes: get the kids and every one of their mates to jump on me from the boat, while trying to swim. Learn from that.
Bike: Transition 1 (T1) went as well as I could have anticipated, given that the scrum in the water had moved to the scrum in the Transition tent – it was mayhem! I was queasy from all the sea water I drank; so much so that after mounting my bike, I twice crashed into the railing/protection barriers – people must have thought I had been drinking other stuff. Fortunately I managed to stay upright, and headed out. After the first 20-30k’s, things did settle down, although after swallowing so much sea water, it was a real struggle to get nutrition in.
After 70k’s or so, we began the climb up to Hawi, and the legendary Northerly winds hit; this made for the most unbelievable 20-30k’s I have spent on a bike. Palm trees on the side of the road were horizontal! Watching the world’s fittest Ironman athletes moving at walking speed on their time-trial bikes was a new experience. But, after turning in Hawi with the tail wind, I was punching out 75km’s per hour, without trying! Hang on, and hope like hell you don’t fall.
The bike in an Ironman is a long way. But in Hawaii, it’s longer than that! Despite trying to tap out an easy rhythm, the last 60 or so k’s hit me, my arms, shoulders, and legs (and other bits)! The side/head winds make for a tough day out. And, despite tapping back on the heart rate for the last 50k’s, my legs weren’t happy campers hitting T2.
Run: OK, here’s where the men are sorted from the boys (clearly, I am still in the latter category). It was hot. Really hot. Bloody hot. *%#ing hot. And that’s just exiting Transition!
Hitting Ali’I Drive (1km out of T2) I could feel that I wasn’t in good shape, and that the day was now about damage control. I focused on maintaining a steady pace with good cadence, and walked each aid station, putting ice sponges into my tri suit and pouring ice water over my arm coolers and tri suit (Damien, thanks for the advice on arm coolers – if it wasn’t for those, I would still be out on the course now!) I never really did get into any sort of rhythm, struggling through the first 20 km’s. Seeing the family twice in that period helped heaps (as it always does) but other than that, it was just a very serious mind game! Walk. No, run. No, walk. No, run. OK, run to the aid station, then walk. Yip, that’s a deal. OK, aid station has gone. So run. Can’t. Run you bastard. Make me.
At the half way point I knew I was clocking around 5-1:15 minute k’s, plus walking time at aid stations, which was acceptable. And for the first time in the race, I hit a decent rhythm, with good cadence. And I felt quite solid running down into the energy lab (this is the furthest point out on the run, where the heat radiates off the black lava, making it seriously hot). I went to the bathroom (first time in an Ironman – gotta learn how not to do that again!), picked up my special needs (warm, flat coke mixed with Red Bull – nice!), and headed for home – 12 k’s to go! Good rhythm, albeit very tired of course.
Heading back out of the energy lab (up the hill), I re-tore my left calf muscle (I hadn’t run since tearing it 3 weeks before the race)! Talk about damage control! I knew then that there was much (more) pain to come, and managed to run/walk the last 12 km’s in 1 hour and 9 minutes – a challenge to say the least (and possibly my slowest 12k’s in 4 years)!
Coming home into town, though, was a great feeling. I could feel a bunch of my toenails peeling off, and I was suffering, but I knew it would soon come to an end. And the relief of crossing the finish line! I won’t even try to put that down in words.
So, there it is. A very tough event, but an unbelievable experience, truly. Something that very, very few people ever get to experience, and I felt honoured the whole way.
Thanks: To my family, for their support, their patience, their love. Especially Ardina, who had put up with my training, and my grumpy moods before and after big sessions. To those who have helped with advice and training – Damien, Mitch, Stevo, Dave K and others– thanks!
I will never forget my experience and thanks for your interest, texts, emails, and support.