World Ironman Championship
Where do I even start? I think it’s safe to say I’ve had the best time away in Kona. It is a magical place full of character like no other.
My training leading up to the big dance was on point. I had an encouraging season showing that my form was improving and my latest result at The Sundowner gave me confidence that I could hit the numbers without tapering.
My main block focusing on the Ironman was straight after The Sundowner where I was hitting big 6-7 hour sessions on the weekends. I’m not going to lie, I had a lot of low points in training where I didn’t feel I could hit the numbers and every part of my body hurt. My mood wasn’t great after the 4 week block because I was drained and exhausted. Some strong words of encouragement from my coach, Billy, at Tri Force Endurance helped keep me on track.
Part of being a triathlete is to believe in the system and push through the hard sessions as that’s where you make the greatest gains. I really had to test my self belief in the lead up but knew it would all pay off.
My family and I planned to go to Hawaii two weeks prior to the race so I could acclimatise to the heat and conditions. It was definitely worth it because on my first training run my heart rate was through the roof. I hadn’t experienced any conditions like it before. I was sweating so much but the humidity and little breeze just kept it there.
After a few more sessions, I slowly started to get used to the heat and made sure I was drinking plenty during training and the day as a whole. After a heavy few weeks prior to flying out, I was slowly starting to freshen up ready for the big dance.
Ho'ala Ironman Training Swim
For those that don't know, one week before the World Ironman Championship, there is a practice swim which is almost identical to the swim on race day. It is a great opportunity to understand the course and get some practice knowing what to sight as well as drafting other people.
My aim for this swim was to treat it exactly like an Ironman swim; a strong effort for the first 50ish strokes then find my rhythm and some fast feet to draft off. Hard but comfortable effort throughout I was thinking.
My amazing sponsors at Zone3 provided me with some awesome kit along with the Kona edition swimskin. The practice swim allowed me the opportunity to test the swimskin out prior to race day and it excelled in every way.
In the end, I managed a 1:00:33 swim for the Ho'ala Ironman Training Swim which I was happy with considering it was a non-wetsuit swim. The big takeaway for me was the direction of the current (strong on the way out but then with me on the way back in).
In terms of training, race week was normal for me; training a little everyday with some pickups then one day off a couple of days prior to race day. I tried to expose myself to the heat as much as possible so my body could get used to it. However, on the Thursday and Friday before I stayed in comforts of our condo with the air con blasting away.
The build up to race day was like nothing else. Everything from registering to the athlete's banquet to the athlete race briefing all ran smoothly and efficiently. There were loads of stalls handing out free products or offering support. If you're ever stuck for bike maintenance during race week then there's nothing to stress about because there are so many mechanics out there who will help you.
The morning of the race was like normal for me. I wanted to keep it that way so everything was as expected. I ensured I drank loads of water too as I knew it was going to be a hot day. I arrived at transition at 5am which allowed me plenty of time to sort out body marking and setting up my bike.
The tension was building and nerves were flying. The sound of the cannon from the start of both the male and female pros just sent chills running through me as this was the day I had been building up to. Then, before I knew it, I was in the water.
Swim (2.4 miles/3.8 km)
I've never been at a swim start that is so crowded! Everyone is fighting for space and there is no chance you can even attempt to float so you're in a good position to start.
BOOM! As the cannon goes off everyone smashes it to fight for a good place. Arms flailing everywhere - no wonder everyone says it's like a washing machine!
The swim for me is my least favourite aspect. I just want it over with so I can get on my bike. However, I had to stick to my plan and focus on my technique. It wasn't hard to find someone to draft with the amount of athletes in the water.
The swim as a whole was nothing out of the ordinary which I was glad about. Obviously you expect the odd kick in the face here and there but that's expected with the number of athletes. The biggest concern for me was that I lost my swim cap - I wanted it as a souvenir!
Swim = 1:01:31
Bike (112 miles/180 km)
I knew the bike was going to be my place to shine. I was pleased with my swim and felt like I was in a comfortable position to work my way through the field.
I hear everyone smashes the first 10km through the town which everyone ultimately pays for later on so I remained calm and stuck to my power. I felt so refreshed to begin with, almost as if I could push more watts. At the time quite a few people were passing me up the short inclines but it's a long race after all.
Once I got out onto the Queen K, I knew it was going to be a fast day. There was very little wind around and I felt incredible.
I'm all for sharing information to help each other out so here was my nutrition plan for the bike:
9 x Gatorade (31g carbs per 500ml / 4.5L of fluid)
2 x High5 (44g per bottle / 1.25L of fluid [500ml aero bottle/750ml bottle)
Total carbs = 367g ~ 73.4g/hour (5 hours) or ~ 77.3g/hour (4.75 hours)
Total fluid = 5.75L ~ 1.15L/hour (5 hours) or ~ 1.21L/hour (4.75 hours)
I stuck to this plan ensuring I picked up a bottle of Gatorade every other feed station (they're approximately 7 miles apart). I had taken some extra gels just in case I was suffering late on, plus I also like to take a caffeine gel 15 minutes before entering T2 which gets my brain into gear so I'm in and out as fast as possible.
Anyway, I managed to pass 90km in 2:18 which I was buzzing with since I knew the first half was hillier than the second half. Could I negative split this? Or had I burnt my matches too soon? Only time would tell...
On the descent down from Hawi, I just focused on keeping as aero as possible. Thanks to George Fox at MBPC, I knew my aero position was on point, I just had to remember all the little tricks to reduce drag (e.g. shrug shoulders to narrow my shoulder width and tuck my head in like a turtle to keep my head low).
As time went on I was starting to pick off people one by one. The last 40km is usually where I fall apart but this time I still felt strong. It gave me encouragement that I had nailed my carb intake. In the end I was over the moon with my bike split. I had taken off over 17 minutes from my time at The Lakesman back in June!
Bike = 4:33:58
Run (26.2 miles/42.2 km)
After a smooth transition, I was onto the run. I felt comfortable for the first kilometer averaging my target pace of 4:30min/km but as soon as I reached the first feed station I knew something wasn't quite right. I took on as much fluid as I could, however the annoying thing was they were handing out drinks in cups rather than bottles which effected my race strategy.
Here was my nutrition plan on the run:
10 x High5 isogel (1 every 20 minutes) = 69g of carbs every hour
1L of water with High5 zero tabs every hour
In the end, I had to drink at much Gatorade as possible through the feed stations to try and take in as many electrolytes as possible. It wasn't enough!
After an hour the heat was getting to me. I kept telling myself not to walk as it would only make me slower. The encouragement from my family was just what I need going up Palani Road but they knew the pain on my face and knew it wasn't going to be my race.
From around 15km onward I was in agony. Cramp was killing me slowly. I had formulated a strategy to just walk through the feed stations so I could take on as many fluids and electrolytes as possible. I just wanted it to be over with! It was a strange feeling because in my head I wanted to run but my body just wouldn't let me.
Near the end my cramp was unbearable and I pretty much had to walk a lot of the final few kilometers. I honestly don't think I've ever gone so slowly in my life but I wasn't willing to give up. Ironman teaches you a lot about yourself in the final few moments and I knew I wasn't going to quit - I'd crawl if I had to!
The finish line was amazing! I'll never forget the moment of running down the red carpet seeing my family cheering me on and the feeling of crossing the finish line is something else!
Run = 3:57:06
Overall = 9:37:33 (10th 18-24, 467th overall)
Lesson well learnt
After a couple of weeks off training I have had time to reflect on my race and see what went wrong. The biggest thing it came down to was my run. I was 2nd in my age group coming in off the bike so it all went downhill from there. I think I lost far too much water and electrolytes on the run which just killed me off. This will have inevitably caused the cramping.
I am very pleased with my swim and bike but the run clearly let me down. I felt like my lead up to the race was great and I had prepared well, it was just my race nutrition on the run which wasn't ideal. I will be getting a sweat test done as this will provide me valuable information for the future.
Kona was amazing! The race was an incredible day that I won't be forgetting soon. However, I think it's safe to say that I will be back for revenge one day!
Obviously I couldn't do this without the incredible support of my amazing family! They were there encouraging me throughout the race and it meant the world to me that they were there pushing me all the way. I couldn't have done it without them.
The continued support I've had from all my friends both at home and at work has been incredible. It means a lot to me!
This has been my first season working with Billy at Tri Force Endurance and if this season's results are anything to go by then the future looks exciting, so thanks for all those brutal sessions!
Finally, I'd also like to thank my amazing sponsors at Zone3 and Raceskin for providing me with the best race kit a triathlete can get! Feel very privileged to be part of an amazing team!
Anyway, that's it from me, bring on the winter training!