Naomi Warr's Road to Kona
Naomi Warr - The road to Kona and Ironman Kona World Championships race report 2013
Well where to start! it's been a journey, lots of hard work crammed into a short space of time but well worth it. When I first started triathlon I never thought I would do much better than coming 7th Lady at Blithfield or doing a 1hr 20min derby sprint time (admittedly on a mountain bike!) which I was ecstatic about. I got the tri bug and I couldn't just stop there, over the years I've being slowly but surely planting little seeds in my head of what I think I might be capable of and every year I have surprised myself. I still act like that girl who turned up to Derby sprint with a mountain bike but my body seems to produce things that my mind hasn't quite caught up with yet, not that I'm complaining. In terms of Ironman, I said I only wanted to be able to complete one and then I'd stop and find something else to do, that was back in 2010 when I entered the first Outlaw full distance hoping to do a time of between 12 and 13hrs. I actually managed 11hrs 17mins and came 4th Lady, that was it I was hooked, if I could do that, training myself (and you've all witnessed my self training! unorganised, late, messy, rushed etc no HR monitor, no watch! sometimes no bike shoes!) then I thought maybe I could have a go at this Kona slot thing! So the seed was sewn, although I didn't let on for some time to others. I entered Bolton in 2012, I hoped I might get a slot but I wasn't sure what the competition would be like so I didn't make too big a deal about my thoughts on the slot, self trained again with a bit of help for Hilary (thanks Hilary) with my then be training partner the Grigg whose now traded me in for an older module ha ha (joke Lorna). God did I get a bit of a shook, the Bolton course was way harder than Outlaw, luckily I'd tried the bike out before the race but nothing prepared me for the run which I thought was harsh after such a tough bike ride, but hey it is what it is and I finished it, but not in the time I had hoped, I was slower than I was at Outlaw but that was now no surprise and although pleased with my result as 6th in Age (one of which was Rebecca Romero for goodness sake! why do I always pick races where ex Olympic athletes want to try their hand at triathlon ha ha) but there were only 2 slots up for grabs so it wasn't to be. After the race I was all for stepping away from Ironman for a while at least, Bolton really did test me and I wasn't sure I wanted to do something like that again, so I had a few weeks off and out of the blue I got a phone call from Andy at Bike Science, he told me he had be chatting to a guy from Leicester currently racing for bike science who coached triathletes, he had looked at my results and said 'we can sort that and get her a Kona slot'. I gave Mark a ring and discussed the race and what I was hoping for, he started by saying we need a 5 year plan! I immediately stopped him and said what about a 1 year plan? There was a silence and then a lot of training speak which I didn't understand and then a 'yeah I'll have to chuck everything at you but yes we can work with a year and see where we can get'. Mark has given up a lot of his spare time to train me over the past year for very little in return apart from beer (don't tell him I said that because beer is a definite no no for ironman training apparently!). So we started our journey, the first 8 weeks or so was painful in terms of speed, I had to work at HR 146 or less for 8 weeks running and biking, this meant sometimes having to walk up hills to prevent my HR going over the magic 146, I was getting passed by people who I would usually cruse past, which was making their day but not mine. I questioned whether this would work but I stuck with it and resisted the urge to race, no Cross country, no track...... go slow to go fast. Mark reassured me that it would work, so I kept with it and I slowly got faster going at the same HR over the period. This was all to reset my fat burn apparently. In early December I got tested to see how efficient my fat burning was, it turned out I wasn't too bad and was still burning significant amounts of fat into the 160's HR but there was room for improvement. 3 months later after following Marks plan and the new diet (low carbs, no refined sugar or processed foods) I was tested again and now I was working up to 175 HR and only really burning fat and a bit of sugar. Mark said I'd got the best fat burning profile he'd ever seen, even better than his, wow I thought, that's it I've cracked it! He said 'no this means your engine is great but your body is weak, this means we need to work your body harder i.e. intervals, gym weight etc, my smile turned upside down momentarily but this was good news, I could see we were getting somewhere, all those slow runs and bikes were worth it, now I wanted to see what I could do.
Finally I got to race in February, I did the 15 mile Charnwood hills race which I've never done before and crikey was that hilly! Anyway I was really nervous, this was my first race since derby tri the year before, lots of the running club were there, they knew about my coach, I felt like I had to perform well otherwise they were all going to think I was an idiot! Anyway I was cautious but had a good run, I came 7th Lady in a tough field and felt really strong in the last miles overtaking others and HR was stable throughout (apart form the hills of course!). Next was the Belvoir Challenge (XC marathon), I had done this race before, back in 2008 and said I'd never do it again after having to be spoon feed soup at the end of the race which I completed in just over 4 hours and came 4th. This time I came 1st in 3 hours 49mins and 4 toilet stops (you'll see my dodgy tummy is something that still needs some attention!). Next was Dambuster Duathlon, Marks words were 'go out there and bury yourself!' What! what did that mean exactly! So I did I went out far too hard on the first run but held it together, did a ok bike and didn't drop any spots on the second run which usually happens to me as I pass lots on the bike and then it's a game of cat and mouse, can I hold them off until the finish, well on this occasion I did. I felt confident with my running but was still not convinced about my biking at this stage, was it ever going to improve, this was Pinky's first outing of the year, maybe he was a bit stiff! I actually qualified for the world ITU champs at this race, but knew I couldn't do too much this year with Bolton so didn't take the spot.
Then I was due to do an over load weekend with Stanford Duathlon on the Saturday followed by a half marathon of the Sunday but the snow came, which meant I got out of the races but meant something much worse 3hrs on the turbo and then a brick run! Due to the snow the next race I did was Ashbourne Duathlon which I was pleased about as I've done it every year for the past 4 years and it's a good shook to the system, lets you know whether you're training is going ok or not. I was glad as Mark had originally said no to this race as I already had a lot in the diary. However, when race day came I was not feeling energised I'd had a really hard week at work doing 3-4 hrs driving a day and teaching in-between, but I had a good race despite this, got a PB and managed to hang on and put in a reasonable ride although I felt no power in my legs which is not good for this course. Was still worried about the biking at this stage. Next, some biking sportives in the black country and Northamptonshire, these proved positive, I out rode Griggy on the 92 miler only to be overtaken by him because I got so cocky I went the wrong way and ended up doing an extra 8 miles! Then I had to do an hour run afterwards, Griggy had a sleep in the car (slacker!). The second sportive was a 78 miler, lovely day and I did it with coach Mark and another one of his althletes ( a bloke!), great I thought there's no way I'll keep up with these two, I'm going to look like a right wolly! So I said to Mark 'just go off together I'll be fine on my own', little did I know he'd planned the whole ride for my benefit so he could watch how I rode, how well I could concentrate etc. We rode all the way round together I had to work really hard but I was well chuffed, especially when I felt great on our 45 minute run afterwards and Mark kept telling me to slow down. One thing I do remember from this ride was Marks comment at the second feed station, he didn't want to stop unless required so shouted 'do we need to stop' I said 'yes I'm out of water' so they stopped briefly for me to fill my bottles but I did manage to pick up 3 pieces of flapjack on the way past before carrying on. Marks comments were, 'they don't have flapjack stops at Bolton you know!' I said 'well I saw you shove 3 in your mouth at the last feed station'. He laughed and muttered something about the trouble with girls on bike rides is ....eating blah blah... talking etc etc. I had the flapjack because he'd banned me from refined sugar apart from in races so I had to take advantage when I could!
Next was time trialling. This was something very very new to me and I was very nervous being a rookie and all. The most experience I've had is the Derby TT and let's face it I'm never organised for that, no warm up, flat tyres etc. What a shook I got when Mark said I needed to do a 20 minute interval warm up for a 25 mile ride! I thought I'd be knackered before I started at this rate, anyway I did as I was told. I also found out that Hilary was doing the event so was even more nervous, I thought if she beats me into a pulp that's not going to be good for me as I knew she's quick at these TTs. It was also on the dual carriageway and it was extremely windy that day - great. When I turned up it was great to see a friendly face, Hilary of course and to my surprise the competitors were very helpful (I always thought cyclists hated us triathletes with a passion). Everyone was there on their turbo trainers next to the cars warming up, I just found a quiet road and did my 20 mins. Then I was up. OMG was that tough, I went out far too fast, I thought it was flat but actually it had a gradual incline into the wind for at least 12 miles of the 25 miles plus the odd side gust which made me a bit twitchy and 2 lanes of traffic ahhhhhhhh! anyway I did it and managed to just pip Hilary but not by much, it was probably because I was heavier and didn't get blown in the wind ha ha. I did the usual run afterwards, then the cyclists pipe up, 'you can't have biked hard enough if you can run afterwards' (I knew it - see they don't like us ha ha). I found it really tough but again this was all helping with my concentration on the bike, no longer was I day dreaming, looking at the scenery I was in the zone as they say. Following on from this we had the Shropshire 50 miler TT where I pulled a 2hr 15 min ride out the bag on a not so flat course and then a Shropshire 100miler TT (twice the 50 miler and my last long ride before Bolton) which I was amazed at my 4hr 41 min time especially since I had to take all my 5 bottles of high 5 with me as Tim couldn't come to be my bottle assistant. This gave me so much confidence for Bolton and I was really starting to enjoy these long rides and concentrate for over 30 minutes at a time - brilliant. I also did a short sharp sprint in May a few weeks before the Outlaw half to get the muscles firing, it was a shook to the system and despite a 2 minute T1 transition as I could not for the life of me get my helmet to fasten even though it's got a god damn magnet in it to make it easy I came 5th overall female, first in my age group and qualified for the European championships at the sprint distance, astonishing when I'd spent so long going long and slow in comparison. Outlaw half gave me incredible confidence, no major hiccups, I got stuck in on the swim, no wimping out, really pushed the bike and ran a negative split (take note Thornton, did you ever think you'd see the day!) half marathon at the end in 1 hr 31mins and 49 secs only a couple of minutes off my personnel best just for a 1/2 marathon. Bring on Bolton, I felt ready but I still had a couple of months to go! I went to Spain on Hols in June to have a bit of a rest but was putting some longer interval runs in over there in the heat which I truly believe helped me for Kona although I didn't obviously realise that at the time. I was starting to get nervous now, I'd told everyone what I was training to do and now I wished I hadn't as it had put tremendous pressure on me to get that qualification slot. I worried that everyone would think me a failure if I didn't get it. The waiting and then the tapering and waiting was killing me, I couldn't concentrate, I was a mess the week before Bolton and just hoped I could do it. You've probably read the report so I won't repeat it in any great detail, but to cut a long story short, despite the small matter of a drafting penalty and a another dodgy stomach episode I got my spot and felt a huge relief. I amazed myself on the bike once again but was disappointed with the later stages of run and the dodgy stomach, this was something that needed greater attention I thought.
I had 2 weeks off after Bolton and then I was back to 2 weeks of low heart rate stuff as it actually takes over a month to recover fully from an Ironman did you know, therefore most of us go back into hard training far too fast and disadvantage ourselves later (take note fellow Ironmen, sensible training plus rest = a better ironman). 3 weeks after Bolton it was the club relays and this year Bike science ladies had a team, I was starting to worry about agreeing to do the relays as all the other girls had qualified for the London sprint or olympic races and were in tip top shape and speedy, I just hoped I wouldn't let them down with my iron legs. Thankfully I didn't disgrace, my swim was ok, bike was second fastest in the group and I managed a 20 minute 5 K so not too bad. Next week was the aquathon in which I think I had a pretty good swim and felt like a steam train on the run, really strong, Mark had said I needed to give the body a bit of a shook once a week for the next few weeks so the relays and the aquathon were perfectly timed. For the next 2 weeks I felt invincible and really enjoyed my training, I was finding my 4 - 5 hour brick session easy! I couldn't understand it. I got told off by Mark because I was running too fast off the bike in these brick sessions, I didn't mean to, but I was just amazed at what my body seemed to be doing and I felt ok! Apparently it's something called super compensation, if you give your body the correct amount of rest and work following a really hard effort, be it an ironman, marathon race or really hard training period, the body over compensates and comes back even stronger than it was before, it feels great, I've never experienced this felling before which just shows you that I probably never trained properly before! Unfortunately the feeling doesn't last forever and then your back to the training regime. I now had only 6 weeks of hard training until the start of my taper for Kona. Needless to say I was now worried, what had I done entering this event in a really hot place with a load of really good athletes, was I going to come last! I spent the next 6 weeks training once a week for a few hours in the climate chamber at perform in St Georges Park (thanks Nigel Elson for helping to sort this out for me and DTC for helping with the cost). The chamber was set to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity with no air flow. Needless to say the first 2 hr session was hell, I basically felt terrible on the second hour, speed and power dramatically dropping, I'd gone out to hard and although Mark wanted me to stay under 154 HR, 154 for me is actually working quite hard on the bike even though I'm not anaerobic at this point. For those of you that are interested you will find that your HR on the bike is a lot lower than it will be when running, only professional athletes usually achieve a matching bike and run HR profile so remember when working with HRs you may need to have 2 sets, one for the run and one for the bike. Anyway to cut a long story short I got better at the chamber sessions I was going further with more power pretty much week on week. All my other running and cycling training was completed in full winter gear which consisted of a fleece ear warmer with a buff on top, running vest, thermal top (long sleeved) and a t shirt over the top (to soak up the sweat), gillet and thermal / waterproof jacket with buff around the neck, gloves, full running tights and thermal socks. I got some funny looks from fellow cyclists and runners. One group on one particular Sunday morning were particularly rude when I caught them and asked me if I was cold with a snigger and if I was thirsty (as I was carrying 3 bottles of high five), I couldn't be bothered to try to explain so I just cycled past and put the foot down, went over my 154 HR for a few minutes (sorry Mark!) and thought ha, that I'll teach you! I'd lost them, but then I also realised I'd lost my friend Claire who came along for the ride because I was doing intervals, she was catching up with me on my rest period but I'd gone out so hard on this interval I'd lost her as well! Opps she was ok about it thank goodness and finished her ride on her own and we had a good laugh about it later. My swimming consisted of a lot of pyramids (I hate these!) and 100m sets without any buoyancy aids which was really strange as Mark has had me swimming in the pool in Buoyancy shorts for the past 9 months to assimilate wearing a wet suit but Kona is a none wet suit swim. So I thought great, no more funny looks in the pool as I don't have to wear my buoyancy shorts (they look like some bad sort of bondage attire!)but when I started to swim, oh the difference and my big bum and legs were heavy. It took a couple of weeks but I started to get faster again, when training for Bolton I was down to 132-135 per hundred, I was now back at 142 per hundred without the shorts and the time off! It came back down to the 135's after a few weeks and I felt more comfortable. Then I got my speed suit from Huub (Thanks Deano for your help), or shark suit as some call it (my mum actually said 'why is it called a shark suit, will there be sharks when you swim in Hawaii!' and I thought I made stupid comments, well at least I know where I get it from now ha ha). So much for not looking stupid, now I had to wear the shark suit in the pool, funny looks started again!
So I was as ready as I could be, I knew I might be at a disadvantage to many in the race because they had either qualified earlier in the year or the previous year and had lots of time to train for the conditions. Fortunately we had a really hot summer which I think really helped as a lot of my long training sessions were done in the heat of the day in the summer with a lot of my long runs in Spain so I was probably more prepared than I thought.
Organising the trip was a mission in its self and fortunately for me my husband loves doing this so he set about booking accommodation, flights, hire cars etc for our trip. The day came for us to travel and I think it took us the best part of a few days to pack everything. Trying to pack everything for a race day 2 weeks before the race is really weird. After leaving our house at 4pm on Monday we finally got to our apartment in Kona at 9pm Tuesday night (which was actually Wednesday morning UK time!). We'd seen a few Ironman competitors on the flight, one who decided he just had to do sit ups and triceps dips in the waiting area, idiot! I always go dressed in non lycra, normal clothes as I personally can't stand the 'look at me look at me I'm an Ironman mentality', with their compression gear on every possible area of their little bodies, hardest race ever done t shirt, green tea drinking .. sorry rant over. God was I in for a treat when I got to Kona but I didn't know it yet (although Mark, Owen (another of Marks qualified athletes) Ian and Judith Hughes had given me the ins and outs of fellow competitor habits on the island - thanks for the chats, it really helped). We went straight to bed and woke at 6am, dozed for a while and then headed off to the supermarket to stock up on Ironman supplies. I headed down to swim to check it out, Mark had been kind for the next 3 days as he knew I'd be suffering with jet lag so all I had to do was a 30 minute swim, a bit of cycling and a short run over the next few days then it was back to the tapering plan. This involved a couple of 2hr rides at various points of the bike course, one being the Hawi climb at the turn around point to get used to the cross winds and god did they nearly knock me off the bike and this was an ok day! I hoped it wouldn't be any worse on race day! I did an important interval run down in the energy lab (run turn around at 16 miles) to get used to the heat down there and mentally try to understand how I was going to feel in here on race day, it was hot and took effort, I just hoped I was still running at this point in the race. I have to say I found the pre race experience quite intimidating and stayed away form a lot of the hype like the underpants run, swimming after 7am in the morning at the pier etc as there were a high number of competitors who paraded around for most of the day in their tri gear just to get the ridiculous tri tan I'm sure! to show off their ridiculously skinny and chiselled bodies, super bikes etc etc and a lot were so arrogant and rude! Some of the locals even divulged that they had petitioned to get the race stopped here because they found so many of the athletes to be very disrespectful to the locals i.e. peeing, not speaking, not moving out of the way etc etc (not sure how true this was but interesting!). If there's one thing I don't like, that's arrogant people and I really did find it hard to enjoy some training sessions and parts of the race due to some of these arrogant athletes but hey rant over, please don't ever get like this as athletes, it doesn't matter how good you get, how colour coordinated you are (Hayden), how much your bike cost, you are human beings, there will always be someone somewhere who is better than you, either at triathlon, wealth, job etc etc be nice to each other!!!! rant really over... sorry.
I received some good luck baloons from my mate back home a couple of days before the race (thanks Kirsty) but they did make me blub! For those of you that have met Kirtsy she has been incredibly supportive of my triathlon over the last 10 years and has personally come along to probably 80% of my races over this period and dragged her poor husband Mark (not Mark the coach) along to many of them. He always asks me how far the swim, bike and run is as he can never remember and he always sucks in large amounts of air every time I tell him, which must be about 15 times now.
The day before was spent staying out of the sun, watching a lot of American telly about trucking which I found very addictive! and mandatory carb loading which consists of lots of high 5 and some pretty bland food chosen on the basis of not inducing toilet trips the next day i.e. no fibre, no fruit etc.
All the gear was racked and hung the day before and Pinky (not me) got a lot of attention as usual especially from the Japanese this time, they wanted his photo and even moved me and my husband out of the way to get a clear shot of Pinky ha ha. One girl actually shouted my name out and said can I have a photo! how did she know my name, had she been extra speedy and looked my race number up? impressive!
Anyway finally the race, well to say I was nervous was an understatement but the night of the race I seemed to be fairly calm and I got some sleep. The morning of the race we headed down to the start, I got body marked and weighed! (this was worrying, I'd never been weighed before a race before), put my bottles on the bike, had a pep talk with Pinky etc etc. Did my warm up (yes a warm up for an ironman, I still find that weird!), then waiting! Tim applied my sun block and did his best to calm me down but by this time I was struggling not to cry I was so nervous. I left him and stood in the swim area to try to get my head straight and watched as the gun went off for the male and female professionals, all I could hear was this Hawaiian music which to me sounded like something you'd play at an Hawaiian funeral (sorry Hawaii, it's probably the national anthem or something!) and helicopters buzzing above, either 2 of those sounds will haunt me for the rest of my life, my husband often gets utube up for the race start just to see the look of horror on my face! I got in the water with 5 mins to go. Owen had told me not to go in too early as you tread water frantically and then you're exhausted for the race or worse still you get cramp! I didn't really know where to start, the organisers had said if you're not a confident swimmer start on the far left, if you are, start on the far right! I was tempted with the left but it seemed such a long way away from the right and I wondered would I be at a disadvantage and have to swim further out there, in hind sight I think the swell probably brings you in from the left meaning that there's probably not much in it either way but anyway I wasn't thinking straight and plumbed for the middle and told myself to man up even though there were tears welling up in my eyes and I was seriously concerned about my well being. I remembered what my parents had said on the phone the night before, mum had said stay safe, don't damage yourself, dad, who usually doesn't offer any words of wisdom until afterwards was actually emotional also telling me not to push myself so hard that I .... well basically did more than hurt myself! OMG so I'm on the start line actually thinking there is a strong possibility that I might die in this race and no one would know until the 2.5 hrs was up and I hadn't come out and by that time it would be too late!!!!! Stop it, stop it I thought, then the gun went off and I actually managed to start my watch before the barrage of abuse came my way from every angle onto nearly every part of my body. I wasn't swimming I felt like one of those drowning rats clambering for some space trying to stay afloat, this was the worst open water start I'd ever experienced in my life. I'm not the greatest fan of swimming in normal conditions but surely this would put me off for life! Approximately a few minutes in I was thinking I can't do this, every time I came up to sight or breathe, all I could see was elbows millimetres from my face and then I looked up again and saw a woman in front turn her head to the side for a breath and saw that it was covered in blood! Panic attack followed and breast stroke was all I could manage for the next couple of minutes, although it was a pretty fast breast stroke to minimise the amount of people coming from behind flattening me. I remember turning my head to look behind me for a split second and thinking I can't do this I need to go back but I couldn't see through all the people behind me and realised that if I failed to go forwards I would get flattened and even drowned by them. I looked to the left and though that maybe that was where I should of started but I couldn't see how I could get all the way over there now without again being drowned in the process. I looked to the right and although still lots of people I could see the marshals on the paddle boards forming the swim line, keeping us all on track, if I could get to the paddle boards and swim up the side of them then I would only be battered on one side of my body and worst case I could push against the boards for safety. So that was it I did a 90 degree turn clambered across all the bodies like a drowning rat and got to the paddle boards, it wasn't much better but at least I could now swim and I did get periods of some space and rest bite which was just enough to keep me going. At this point I realised it was getting more difficult to see out of my left eye which had started to close and this was because I'd been swimming with sea water in my goggles for most of the swim but hadn't noticed until now, I must have had my goggles knocked at some point as they had moved on my head so a took a moment to empty and re-adjust, my left eye was still blurred and half closed but it was better. I was now swimming aggressively because it seemed to be the only way to get through it and, where I could, I tried to catch up with other women to swim next to or behind them as they seemed to be less brutal with their blows and considerate swimmers than the male of the species. It seemed to take forever to get to the Body glove boat, the turnaround point and I managed to get around it on the inside without too much trouble but the battering started again once I was round the other side. I worked out you could actually swim under the buoys as they were just big floating inflatables, this prevented some battering at subsequent buoys (boowee's as the yanks call them, ridiculous). As I passed the boat I suddenly got a sick feeling in my stomach and was worried I was now going to vomit and have to swim through that as well. I hadn't even thought about sea sickness before the race and I do suffer with sea and travel sickness, I though you idiot! and I remembered Griggy gets sea sick at Blithfield which was a strange thing to suddenly remember! Anyway I tried to just shake that possible problem out of my head and a few minutes later I burped and luckily no vomit, I think I'd just swallowed a lot of seawater and it hadn't agreed with my pre race gel and high five mix! Finally I could see the small beach at the exit point and I knew that was the worst bit nearly over, I told myself not to loose concentration now and get an elbow in the face as there were still lots of people around me and lots of them were putting in a sprint to the exit, why, I don't know but I can only think they were as desperate as me to get out of this hell hole! Once out I wondered if I should look at what time I'd done on the Garmin and decided to take a look, my left eye was still half closed and what I managed to see on my Garmin was 124, I thought oh crap my swim was awful, I knew I would be slower due to the number of people, swell and it being a none wetsuit swim but this was nearly 10 minutes slower than I had predicted and this was based on my worst case scenario swim! I was later to find out that his was not my time at all, I'd actually done it in 1 hr 12 mins (I'll expand later!). Needless to say the head went down for the next 15 minutes or so, I dragged myself through transition, fumbled with my helmet again despite it being really easy to fasten with a magnet etc....(you know this already!) and off I went on the bike in the worst mood possible and to top it off there were lots of idiots on the bikes drafting, cutting people up, overtaking on no pass areas etc which really annoyed me, play fair people! So I spent the first couple of miles through the town trying not to draft as I was paranoid about this from Bolton and feeling sorry for myself about the swim. It was at this point when I though, get a grip, you're in Hawaii you've qualified for this race that most people only ever dream about, stop whinging and get something out of it! So I decided I was going to try to do a 5.30 bike which I'd mentioned to Mark before the race, he thought 5.40 was more realistic but to hell with that I was going to go for it! So as I got onto the highway my mood changed into one of concentration and determination, I wanted this to be a good experience but I needed to work hard now. The bike can only be described as biking into a giant hairdryer, there is air movement but it's hot air! My chamber sessions had actually been worse than this as there is no air flow in the chamber so these hair dryer conditions although not ideal were actually better than what I was used to. I had a slight wobble when I realised that the drink stations were handing out water in just box standard plastic bottles with drink caps on the top. I thought that's not going to stay in my bike cage at the back of the seat so I made a decision to squirt these straight into the profile bottle on the front of the bike and chuck what I didn't need or use it to cool my body. This actually worked quite well because the bottles were actually much easier to squeeze that normal bike drinks bottles and so saved me some time. I then just topped the high five concentration up with my Syrup bottle, easy peasy lemon squeezy. I have to say the bottle stations where great, you got so much opportunity to get what you needed, excellent planning and organisation and they were every 7 miles which is more than enough. Once everyone had gone through the first 2 feed stations, these station areas were not quite as hazardous as everyone knew how they worked and how much time they had. I avoided the first two stations for this reason and took an extra pre mixed bottle on the bike to get me through. By now I was going faster than I thought I should on the way out to the turnaround but was conscious of all my advice (Mark, Owen and Ian) about the cross winds on the way up and down from Hawi and the head wind coming back to Kona. I used my HR to guide me on effort and could see I was still only at between 145-150, I know I can go all day at this HR so I knew I wasn't pushing too hard and turned it up a notch. The climb up to Hawi I found surprisingly easy in comparison to my training effort a week previous and I was passing people all the time which was giving me oodles of confidence. The winds were kind to us that day at Hawi and we experienced very little cross wind, certainly nothing like my training session the week before. I thanked my lucky stars because I was really worried about being blown off! but this I could handle and kept the bike firmly on the road. Back down the climb was a bit of a rest bite but I found myself getting annoyed with other competitors who were blatantly drafting and working together on the bike.. play fair. I remember a lady I passed shouting at other competitors to drop back etc etc, I giggled, it reminded me of myself.. temper tantrums, dollies out of pram etc. Off the climb and back on the highway making my way back I was suddenly hit by some pretty forceful head winds which made me feel like I was standing still, it was 40 odd miles back into town this was going to be tough and my average MPH was dropping but I knew it could drop to 20.5 before I would miss my 5hr 30min aim so I kept battling with the speedometer, HR was starting to go up but it was still ok. Then I overtook a guy whilst looking on the hard should at another guy who was changing his inner tube. I thought, thank goodness that hasn't happened to me and then pop...... oh no I thought my tub has exploded! I looked down but I was still going...strange, then I looked at the guy I'd pasted who was also looking at the poor guy in the hard shoulder when his tub exploded, it was his tyre. Phew I thought, if I could just get back without a puncture it was only my body that could fail me then and I was not going to let that happen without a tremendous fight. I battled the head winds which got slightly easily the closer you got to town and finished in 5hrs 32mins, brilliant I thought now to get this run over with.
When I got into transition off the bike and started to put on my trainers I felt incredibly dizzy, I'd not felt like this at Bolton and thought I must have worked hard on the bike and even though my HR was ok, you have to take into account the effect of that heat, it really does zap you of your energy. I knew I'd had more than enough to drink and eat on the bike so I thought come on just keep going. I wrapped my toes in the cotton pads. Mark thinks this is hilarious and I could save time but I've got it down to 20 secs now, I wrap 4 toes up in total and then pull on my socks, I have to do this because I suffer from terrible blisters especially on my little toes because of how my feet fall, the best trainers I've found that have minimised this as far as possible are newtons which I love but some people can't get on with the hump in the middle of the sole, I find this lifts the left hand side of my foot off the ground minimising the impact and therefore the blisters, simples! But for long stuff I need the extra help from the cotton pads. I need to find another option for future to reduce T2 time but for Kona I just did what I normally do, it wasn't worth the risk of not doing it believe me! So off I went as per the run spilt times me and mark had worked out. First mile dead slow 8.30, then progressively faster until we get to 8min miles and then hold resulting in a 3.30 marathon. Mark thinks I'm capable of a 3.30 marathon off the bike but I think part of the problem is I don't think I'm capable, we need to work on this. In my mind I was going to follow the plan as long as possible. What I believed I could do was 3.40-3.45 which is what I believed I would of got at Bolton if it weren't for my dodgy stomach. Oh yeah and my dodgy stomach I believe, even the worry of that prevents me from getting what I'm capable of on the run but hey ho, it was what it was and off I trotted. I did the first mile a little fast 8.06 so slowed down on the subsequent to make up the difference. About 15 women came past me in the first 2 miles. This annoyed me but I remembered what Mark had said 'stick to the plan they will come back to you at 8 miles'. One girl I particularly remember, she looked so good in a pink swimming costume with a little white pleated running skirt over the top, perfect figure, attractive, gorgeous in fact! Cow I thought. I looked down at myself I though who are you kidding, look at you, your boobs have disappeared because you've lost so much weight but you bum and thighs are still massive, you look like a bloke, you've peed yourself, you stink..... self confidence and belief is a big issue I need to overcome as you've probably gathered. Anyway guess what, at 8 miles she did come back to me and I said to her on the way past 'nice skirt!' she wasn't happy. I caught most of those people that went past me early in the run but I was now up to 10 miles and I hadn't really managed to pick the pace up to that 8 min mile pace consistently, I picked up at 10 miles up the hill onto the highway but soon felt heavy and a bit zapped and the stomach started to stir again. For whatever reason my legs just didn't feel like they could continue at 8 min mile pace for the whole marathon and I really wanted to finish this race in reasonable time without walking, stomach issues stopping me in my tracks or even worse, collapsing so I decided to run the remaining 15 miles by feel. I knew worst case I could do around a 4 hour marathon or just over and that would still give me a respectable time and a good experience. I wanted to remember this day, not want to forget it, it's not every day you get to compete in Kona for goodness sake. So the plan was adapted. I think the plan paid off as my stomach continued to stir but it didn't do anything as bad as what happened at Bolton and I resisted the urge to empty in the portaloo for fear of opening the flood gates for want of a better expression (sorry too much information!) and the stirring came and went leaving me in not too much discomfort. One of my other aims (which Mark had told me off about) was that I wanted to beat the 2 ladies that passed me in the later stages of the run at Bolton as I wanted to prove to myself that I could have been possibly 1st, definitely 2nd amateur after the pros at Bolton without my drafting penalty. Mark said you race against yourself and what you plan to achieve not anyone else, don't put too much pressure on yourself. But it was still there implanted on my brain, I hadn't seen the Swedish lady that came first in my age group at Bolton and suspected that she may have beaten me as her run was strong. However, I did see the other GB girl who passed me, she was in the age group below me at Bolton and also a strong runner. I saw her at the first turn around point on Alii drive at about 5 miles and thought she'll definitely catch me. I was now at 17 miles at the second turn around point and I saw her again, she still hadn't caught me and she looked in a bad way, if I could just keep plodding away I thought I might hold her off. Out of the energy lab road there were 7 miles to go, back onto the never ending highway. This run was tougher than I thought, it wasn't as flat as I first thought, more like big rollers, it was definitely hot but the sun had been kind and the haze had drifted in so no direct sunlight at this stage but unfortunately this means increases in humidity in the afternoon. The run is the most mentally tough run I've ever done, I always said I hate loops but I would have done anything for a loops run at Kona, I need that mental aim 1 down 3 to go spirit. My only mental game now was get to the next feed station as they were every mile. The feed stations were great, they had 2 stalls of everything, coke, gels, energy drink, water, ice, sponges, again excellent organisation, none of the stands ran out of anything and the water was always cold and sometimes the coke was flat ha ha! The support on the course was great, Americans are so positive and I'll never forget the hundreds of 'great jobs', 'looking good' when clearly I wasn't 'you go girl', 'rocking it', 'awesome' shout outs we got through out and after the race.
I got back into town at the top of the hill less than a mile to go and it was nearly all over. A paratriathlete whizzed round the corner and didn't shout out, he was millimetres from my feet with his wheels, I jumped and nearly got knocked clean over, I wasn't best pleased but hey I was still up right so couldn't complain and hadn't got energy. As I turned the last corner, bam a massive blister popped up on my left toe, I thought, you took your time! but you're not stopping me now I'm there. I turned the corner onto Alii drive towards the finish and the crowds were roaring, I found some pace from now where and picked up to get to the finish, I'd made it in one piece and to my surprise in 10 hrs 49 mins! How did that happen with the swim time .... run time, then I was grabbed by 2 officials and walked to a seating area where I drank 4 cups of coke and then tried to walk over to the massage tent but couldn't manage a straight line and was scooped up by another official who helped me pick up my medal, flower necklace (sorry Hayden couldn't get it home for you!), T Shirt and some more fluid and dropped me off at the massage area. The official was worried about leaving me as he thought I was possibly in need of medical attention, he started asking me questions like where was I, what had I done, who was I here with etc..' I replied I'm in Hawaii, I've just done an Ironman, I'm not doing another one, I'm here with my husband but we should be at home in the pub with our friends drinking lots of alcohol, this is just silly!' he laughed. I eventually found my wonderful husband who gallantly watched the race all day in the heat and we went back to the apartment to get changed and hopefully return to town after a rest to see some of the late comers finish. I managed to get back into town and the atmosphere was fantastic, it's much better to come in later on as the support is incredible, people where going wild dancing in the street, blowing their whistles, clanging their clangers, I thought one chap was going to have a heart attack he was banging his Gatorade inflatable sticks together so hard. I managed a beer, collected Pinky and went back to the apartment to bed. I lay there for a second just listening to my Husband in the bathroom going arhhh, ouch, ohhh... what's up I said? it turned out that Tim had managed to get more chaffing from walking around the course all day than I had doing the ironman. Tim then said 'you did a good swim time considering' and I said 'what do you mean?', '1hr 12 mins' Tim replied, I said 'I didn't do that I did 1 hr 24 mins', he said 'no you didn't', 'yes I did but if Ironman wanted to tell me I'd done 1 hr 12 mins then I'd take it' I replied. I got my watch to prove to Tim the time. I switched in on, scrolled to the swim and it said 32 mins! weird it must have got knocked in the swim and switched off! but where did I get the 124 from?, just under the total time there is a per 100yd pace figure, this said 1.24. My dodgy eyes had made out this 100 yd split time, not the actual time which hadn't been recorded, if only I'd known I might of got another couple of minutes off my bike time for not sulking! Note to self - no point in having a watch on in the swim you can't look at it whilst you're swimming and it might put you off when you get out. Tim and I made chaffing comparisons and applied healing cream and Tim fell quickly to sleep. I on the other hand was in for the usual dose of awake all night, muscle twitching interrupted by runs to the toilet and feeling hungry but not able to stomach anything other than milk, yogurt and bananas fun fun fun. Why do I do this again? I really need to get this stomach sorted, I'm now doing some self study effects on nutrition and the effects on the stomach during endurance racing to try to fine tune. Hopefully I'll be able to share any improvements with you in the future
Anyway let's get to the point, my official results were as follows:
Total time of 10 hrs 49 mins and 4 secs
Swim in 1 hr 12 mins
T1 4 mins 33 secs (1 minute of which was spent trying to clip helmet, doh!)
Bike in 5hrs 32 mins
T2 5mins 9 secs (approx 1 min spent wrapping toes and applying sun block for the second time!)
Run in 3 hrs 54 mins
Out of 2134 starters (men and women) my position was 1103rd. 565 of the 2134 were women and I came 172nd out of the women. 40th in age out of 83, 2nd Brit of 4 in her age and 7th Brit lady overall all out of 26.
I beat Gordon Ramsey by over 3 hours - yippee!
Most importantly I got a PB and beat those two girls that beat me at Bolton by over 10 minutes - point proved, job done!
After the race Tim and I enjoyed some rest and extended our trip to include a holiday including a few days in Kawaii (another Hawaiian island which I would defiantly recommend, it was gorgeous) and California. Training is now back on the agenda and plans for the future are being contemplated...watch this space, no Ironman for a couple of years though, I need a rest. Another note to self - wear factor 100 as 50 wasn't strong enough and all may skin on my back peeled off 4 days later - nice! at least I haven't got a silly tri top mark on my back now but let's hope I haven't got skin cancer !!!!!
I know I've thanked all these people before or above but I would like to reiterate my thanks to the following people, some of which I would not have been able to do this without (you know who you are....): Tim first and foremost for his continued support, he is the best husband anyone could ever wish for (I'm just a big softy really!), coach Mark White (Ironman triathlete, also a Kona qualifier and competitor), Bike Science Bespoke of Derby (bike tinkering), Perform at St Georges Park for their help and use of the climate chamber, Derby Triathlon Club - help with climate chamber, Huub for their help with swimming attire, and of course my very supportive Mum, Dad and extended family (thanks for help with the trip xx), fellow club members of Derby Triathlon Club, Mark at Team link for helping with trip itinerary, Hatton Darts running club and friends (Kirsty especially x).
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