A report from the other side of the fence having snapped my Flexor Hallucis Longus tendon. I had a plan to meter out my efforts having discovered just how exhausting pootling around on crutches is. Luckily Cliff, the manager at our hotel, offered me a lift down to the swim start. It was amazing how many people watched, they seemed they came out of nowhere as the start approached and there must have been people 3 or 4 deep along the cliff for maybe 500m. It seemed pretty dark and I wondered how the pros would see the first buoy. It was quite surprising how strung the pros got… there were clearly some poor swimmers. The age group start was massive, the noise awesome. I was surprised to see in that huge mass that there were areas with lots of clear water. It made it obvious that there’s a deal of luck as to how rough your swim would be – clearly some swimmers had loads of open water from the start and others would have been getting hammered.
I had to get moving as I needed to get up the road and across the road before everyone got our on their bikes – if I found myself on the wrong side of the road at that point I’d have to wait till they’d all gone through to get across on my crutches.
I soon realised I wouldn’t make it to my planned spot and settled for a smaller hill soon and got my fold out chair out and settled in. Saw all the pros go by and then the fast age groupers – I was seriously envious when i saw the first age group guys, looking at my watch I knew I’d be there with them and they had so much space – it would be great riding with hardly anyone around. The main goal was to count the age group girls. Jo came out 10th about 7 minutes down on lead age grouper and she looked chuffed. It was clearly a good swim for her and it looked like game on.
Now … hobble back to the hotel. Breakfast, got a window seat so I could watch the race go by. Back to my room, update email to my and Jo’s family.
It was now raining, so I put the big plastic bag over my leg and got in my wheelchair. Now the real task – roll myself up the hill. You need to be on a up hill for the bike. I got up the first little bit and decided that was enough. I had an offer to be pushed high but the thought of rolling myself back down rather scared me. I had so many people to cheer on and my little list of numbers soon proved useless as I realised since I’d not committed them to memory I’d have to check every racer against my list. I spotted some including Paulie – a guy I’d met in Christchurch who had been planning on lining up with me at the swim start. He was on fire on the bike right at the cutting edge of the age group field. I screamed as such.
Saw the age group ladies come through. Jo had moved up to 7th but had dropped time on the lead girls. I knew her plan was to try and be patient on the bike so I hoped this was the reason.
Back to the hotel, another update email before heading out on crutches now (I can’t do curbs at all in the wheelchair) aiming to get just beyond the bridge at T2 where I could see people twice in about 15 minutes.
I found a good spot, managed not to fall over trying to open the chair and got myself settled. I saw the lead ladies go through and it seemed pretty clear that Jo Lawn would catch the leader but Gina Ferguson would catch Jo – thats how it panned out. Now the fun really started – cheering everyone on. I try my best to say something more than “keep going” but I want it to be honest. So I had lots of “nice rhythm, keep it like that”. First to come through was Paulie – he got a “you’re on fire” – he was. Then I saw Stephen Thompson – he’d had a great bike and was well up there. He was running faster than anyone around him and I’m thinking he’s gonna be close to 10 hours if he keeps at it like this. He looked so happy. When he came back round I scream “You’re on fire Stephen, you’re a joy to watch” and he was. The lead age group girls came through with the girl in first about 5 minutes up on Jenny and Jo about 11 minutes further back. Knowing Jo’s run is good enough to reel this in a shout to Jo “unleash it now”. I timed her gap through the first 2km and she’d closed a minute on Jenny. At this pace she would catch both of them. Jo was looking strong and going for it. Wonderful to see.
Now Jo was off out on the lap I hobbled along to hang out with Phil’s family abit closer to the finish. I got a good spot there and saw loads of the people I knew coming through. Murray hadn’t heard the news of my injury and virtually stopped to ask what had happened when he heard and saw me on the side line. Mike hadn’t seen me and was the process of starting to walk so I shouted something along the lines of “we don’t want to see that sort of thing” and he started running. Jenny came through to the end of the first lap in first place and looked to be working real hard. Jo was still 11 minutes down so clearly hadn’t stuck at the pace. She’d closed on the lead girl but now Jenny was out front and Jo was not closing in. As Jo came through I told her she was up to 3rd spot but didn’t tell her the split at that point as I’d see her again coming the other way in less than 10 minutes. I looked at my watch and realised that a 1:40 second lap would bring Jo in under 10 hours and would most certainly put her in with a shout of the win. It was not yet beyond her grasp. I shouted her split and said she could still do it.
Finally I could take a break – I headed off for a coffee and some lunch and then straight back just in time to see John heading through at the end of his first lap. He looked to be suffering big time and I felt he must be thinking how he was right next to the finish but had to set out for another lap. I shouted to him, tapped my temple and said “it’s all up here now. Keep that rythmn ” I hoped this would be enough to get him round the finish area and back out on the road – once there he’d get into a groove I was sure and keep going.
I saw Phil come through. I’d trained abit with him in Christchurch and we’d both had the same target of getting sub 9:20. He was running well heading towards sub 9:29. I heard the announcer say he was 3rd in his age group. I hoped he’d be happy with that. Jenny came through still in the lead but looking to be a real bad way with about a km to go. She was looking back and asking her sister who was on a mountain bike if she could see the girl in second. No. About 2 minutes later the 2nd placed girl came by. Seeing how she was I thought if there was someone in the crowd who knew the situation like I did who could shout to her the girl ahead is in a right state then she would probably catch her. I held my tongue but knew if it had been Jo I would have screamed blue murder. As it turned out this girl still managed to finish only 15 seconds behind Jenny ! Jo came in about 15 minutes later for 3rd. I knew she’d not be happy with that but she went for the win, ran at the pace required to haul them in and paid the price. That takes guts and is certainly the sort of attitude required to get some good results in the future.
It was fun to be spectating, especially knowing so many people in the race. It would be nice to be doing this in the future, intentionally and able bodied.