Ironman World Championship 2011

Time: 11:11:24
Swim: 56:56
T1: 2:55
Bike: 5:13:25
T2: 4:34
Run: 4:53:34

Race Analysis here

For once I had a decent nights sleep before the race. I didn’t sleep right through but I had a couple of spells of over 2 hours. Breakfast was banana mashed with peanut butter, some toffee waffles and  a couple of cups of coffee. Headed to body marking at 4:45pm. This is one of those special things about this race. It’s so well organised, loads of volunteers so you hardly queue, two people do you number to make sure they get it right and they use this proper ink press numbers to ensure absolute consistency. Quickly through there, got weighed, checked bike, pumped tyres (again volunteers just wandering around with track pumps and they help you do it) put nutrition on and came back to my room to relax.

Headed down to the pier at 6:20am to get on the beach ready but this year they held us on the pier. It slowly got absolutely rammed and the tension was incredible. Wish I’d gone down later. On the beach our little group all managed to find each other but I couldn’t find Petro.

I resisted getting in the water till 6:40am but by then so many were in I couldn’t risk waiting longer. As planned I headed to the left of the float with the car on top and found Petro. Initially we felt the spot was great but as more people got in it got more and more congested. The pre start here is hard work. Treading water for 20 minutes fighting to hold your position on the front line. It’s definitely easy if you’re with a friend I think largely because by talking to each other those around you get to know you’re a decent swimmer and don’t try and push in front.

The moment of the gun going is always a surprise. There was no count down we could here so we were reliant on our watches for an indication. I had an awesome start, my first strokes were in clear water and moved me to the front where I had clear water the whole way. It didn’t take long to merge across and I swam just to the left of the main field breathing to my right. I kept my swimming very controlled. There was a solid chop making the swim tough which is reflected in the times … looks like the pros were a minute or two off last year. After the turn around I got right in the middle of a nice pack and started to focus on my stroke strength. I found myself moving through the pack, then on then on the front and then I swam off the front. It felt controlled and was really good fun. I picked off some stragglers from the next pack and closed in on that not quite catching it.

I exited in just under 57 minutes having done probably my easiest swim here. Ranks, in my eyes, as my best performance. At that point I was hugely excited about how the race would go.

On the bike I was pleased that I managed to keep a cap on my efforts though the town section and out on to the Queen K. I was determined to be strong at the end of the ride. Based on my 248 average watts at Wales for 5H50 I reckoned that aiming to average low 240s to the Hawi would be good since at Wales I’d gone out hard averaging over 260 for the first half if I remember correctly. Thus low 240s on a shorter (in time) course would be conservative.

I ended up in a pace line with my housemate from Christchurch, Rob Creasy. Nice having a familiar face there. The ride out to the Hawi climb felt easy. Simple plan at each aid station – water at start an ended, gussled a load and put a load on my arm coolers. I kept checking my power but in the paceline it was easy to keep it in check. At the bottom of the climb I was bang on 240 and by the top it had creeped up to 244. Perfect

The conditions were pretty good without any gusting cross winds. Came down the decent pretty quick but decided not to crank out big watts purely to gain a few kph. I was all ready to crank it on the final Queen K section, looking forward to picking people off. Unfortunately I just didn’t have any extra power at that point, I suffered and slowly my average dropped to 235. I showed all the usual signs of having over cooked it with getting out of the saddle on sections where strong riders stayed aero.

Still, I finished the bike in under 5:15 which had been the benchmark for being happy. However, it was an easy day for the bike and it’s a far cry from my bike split in 2009, on a tougher day, which had me right up the field.

On the run it was immediately obvious I was in trouble. Finishing the bike I’d had the first indications since I didn’t want to run. In my better races I look forward to the run. On the run course my heart was racing despite a conservative pace. I felt hot and reckoned it was unlikely to be unrelated. At the first aid station I walked through, got loads of ice, sponges, cold water. Drank and tried to cool myself down. I walked beyond the aid station rubbing big blocks of ice onto my quads. I remember being rather surprised about how quickly they melted. I did this for the first couple of aids stations and started to feel better. I was getting quite optimistic as I was sunning 4:45 km/h between the stations. I was getting food in, I could see my HR coming down, I felt good running and started to get quite optimistic. I’d fallen in to run / walk but my running was feeling stronger between the aid stations as I approached the energy lab. I was planning on a push once I got back on the Queen K and was chuffed I’d finally run strong at the end.

Nope. I didn’t ! Once on the Queen K it fell apart completely. Suddenly I just couldn’t run. We’re not talking cramp or blisters just straight forward leg ache. Walking was horrible. In fact, at times I just had to stop whilst my mind slowly reminded me I won’t finish if I don’t move. The discomfort was like the intense ache when laid in bed after a hard race but notched up a little. This was more uncomfortable than when I’ve run my fastest marathons but unfortunately there’s no way out of it other than stopping. You most definitely discover yourself in these moments, self talk to keep going. Never have I felt like this, not even when I fell apart running in the Fisherfield fells when we were miles (12+?) from the nearest road. I got very emotional and found my self cap down, looking at the road crying my eyes out through a couple of aid stations. I saw people walking the other way and wondered if their legs felt the same because if they did I am utterly in awe of their determination. The discomfort walking forces me to run which for a while is less uncomfortable especially if I run at a decent pace. I can’t manage it for more than about 1/2km before walking again.  With 5 miles to go it seems insurmountable 15 min per KM means 2 more hours ! For some reason I keep walking.

With 2 miles to go I still was not convinced I could finish. It was that bad. I look back and can sense that the majority of the field is head of me. As you fade through the field you see a lot of suffering and I remember thinking how virtually everyone I see walking and falling apart has had to come top 10 or better in an Ironman to get here. These are good athletes but whatever the conditions this course is brutal.

Luckily up Mark and Dave hill there is pockets of excellent support. Amazing how people manage to say the right thing. It gets me running again and next thing I know there’s Scott and Julie from Oomph! Giving me a cheer. They’re trying to find the camera, Julie jokes “Can you slow down whilst we find the camera”  – little does she know how much I want to. Down Palani  run with Scott running ahead to get photos. I tell him how good the swim skin was … shame I couldn’t do the kit justice on the run .. one day. At the bottom of Palani I decide I need to walk but just as I’m about to there’s Scott with the camera again so I keep going.

Then I’m on my own walking and for some reason I start to think about my dad and wondering if he’s watching. I feel sad he never saw me race and wonder what he’d have thought of it all. It was cap down, head down sobbing my eyes out moment again. It may sound awful but it felt very very special indeed. I felt close to my dad like I have never before. Pushing your physical limits is addictive and I wonder whether some of these emotions are part of it.

Turning down towards Ali’i drive and I decide to run. It’s slow, I’ve got nothing for a fast finish, I’m still upset but on Ali’i drive I decide I need to look around and absorb it. It’s been tough getting here and it is an amazing experience. Across the line I don’t believe I showed much happiness but I was. The poor catchers had me crying as they walked me through “Yes I’m alright” I said.

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