Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference" - Ironman NZ Race Report

In keeping with my IMNZ tradition I have borrowed the words of Winston Churchill (not to be confused with WinstonDog Stafford) as the title for my race report.

Three days ago I finished my fourth IMNZ which was my sixth Ironman/iron distance finish out of seven starts.
Anyone who has read my Auckland 70.3 race report would have noticed that I was pretty down on myself.  Confidence levels were pretty low and I was a bit apprehensive about how IMNZ would go.  I had a great race there in 2009 but have struggled to have a good Ironman since then and was starting to think that that result was a bit of a fluke.  After a brief stint in the pro ranks where I realized that I was nowhere even close to being good enough to race there I switched back down to age group for this years race hoping to qualify for Kona to go back and finish my race from 2009 which was ended 9km from the finish with a fractured tibia.  After the 70.3 went so badly for no apparent reason I tried to forget about Kona and just focused on having a good race.
Anyway this is how it went.

We were pretty organised this year and got to the swim start in plenty of time as Davo was racing Pro and leaving 15 minutes ahead of us.  We wetsuited up and Jared and I watched the Pros start before doing a little warm up.  I started a bit to the left and 2nd row back and hoped not to get trampled on when the gun went off.  I was pretty nervous before the start and my stomach had clammed up partway through my breakfast but as soon as I stepped into the water my nerves settled - I guess by that stage there was no going back so no need to be nervous anymore.
The gun went off and it was surprisingly roomie where I was, I got a couple of smacks and a bit of touching here and there but overall not too bad.
Nice morning for a swim with 1400 other people
Not much to say about the swim, I just swam... I was a bit tired by the turn around so hoped that meant that I was swimming hard and wasn't just feeling bad.  There were feet to swim on most of the way, a couple of times I found myself alone but it didn't take long to bump into someone (literally...).
As I got closer to the finish the big question was my time... As usual I felt like I had swum ok but how I feel isn't often an accurate reflection of my time.  I had thought I would swim between 65-70 minutes with my best swim time being just under 65 in 2009.  I swam as close to the shore as I could, stood up and waded up to the red carpet before I looked up.  I saw the clock and felt like I was in a dream - 1.03:xx HOLY CRAP!!!!!!! I was so happy.  The timing mat must have been a bit further up because my official time was 1.04:19 which is still a PB anyway.  It was such a relief to have swum well, there is nothing worse than getting off to a bad start and I knew that whatever happened in the rest of the day that I'd had a good swim.
I saw Team Lawson just after I saw my time and had a bit of a crazy person moment throwing my arms up in the air yelling "I swam 1:03!!!!" I think they could tell I was pretty happy.
Happy camper
I jogged the 400m up to T1 passing lots of people along the way who were running at snail's pace.
T1 went by pretty smoothly, I had decided to wear a super light cycle top to A) prevent sunburn and B) carry my nutrition in the pockets, so I had loaded the pockets up beforehand so there was no pissing around.


The last 2 times I have done IMNZ I have ridden 5.39 so this time I wanted to ride faster and with a supposedly faster bike and wheels this should have been easy...  The weather was absolutely perfect - blue skies and little to no wind.  The first 10-15km I got passed by a lot of men which was fine and I passed a few girls which was great.  I then settled in and made an effort to watch my power.  A couple of times I found myself in little groups but they never seemed to last that long, either they would drop me or I would drop them.  The draft zone had been extended to 10m so I was super paranoid about being too close and getting a penalty.  I don't think the bunches were as big as previous years, there were a couple of big bunches in front of me and a few behind but I don't think they stayed together the whole way.  A couple of times I found myself on my own - cue 'On my own' from Les Mis, a nice song but quite annoying if they are the only words that you know.
I came back through town and hit the 90km mark in 2hrs42 and of course had to count my chickens and estimated a 5hr24 ride if I maintained that pace - holy schnitzel!

Of course the second lap was slower and a bit of a headwind picked up on the way back.  I hit a bit of a wall at the 150km mark, all of a sudden it got very, very hard and I sat up and wondered how I was going to make it back.  Luckily my brain still worked ok so I thought back to my extensive reading of "The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training".  They said things would get difficult and now they had, so now I had to troubleshoot to get myself out of it - this all sounds really geeky but having some kind of thought process happening actually helped.  So I figured I would get some Coke at the next aid station and remained positive that I would get through this low point, and guess what? I did! 10km later I was feeling way better and was feeling rather smug with myself for toughing it out.
The last 20km took quite a while and I think I still had about 10km to go when I saw my projected time of 5hrs24 go by...  I finally rolled in to T2 with a bike time of 5hrs37 - a whole 2 minutes faster than my previous best...


I was under strict instructions to run the first couple of kms very very easy and then settle into 4.50ish pace.  I ran what I thought was slower than what I could ever run and still did 4.37 for the first km, opps.  It took a couple of km's to settle down and then I was running pretty comfortably a bit under 5mins/km.  One of the girls in my AG (all of which I had extensively google stalked) came out of T2 just behind me and then passed me after about 1km (which I let her do, "The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training" has taught me to be patient) but ran into the first toilet and I never saw her again.  I mean I'm sure the toilet didn't open up and swallow her but she never ran back past me.
So I just tootled along and tried not to run too fast.  As rude as it sounds I tried to ignore the spectators as I realized I needed to focus on what I was doing and constantly smiling/waving/talking to spectators isn't a good way to focus.  And when your name is written on your race number and everyone is yelling your name it is hard to separate friends from random people so best just to ignore everyone.
Tiny running fists of fury
It had gotten pretty hot by this stage but heaps of people had hoses out and the aid stations had ice so overheating wasn't really a problem.
Some of my physio friends had hired a house at the back end of the course so it was good seeing them (and their hose) where there weren't many spectators.
Top supporters
I made a couple of toilet stops which were pretty quick and just basically kept moving.  I started walking the aid stations on the second lap more out of necessity to get enough fluid and electrolytes in and also because of the way that the aid stations were laid out it became a walking bus as everyone was walking through them.
I started to get an intermittent  flicking sensation in both calves after about 23km which I think was an early sign of cramp.  I did my little troubleshooting exercise and started taking more electrolytes at the aid station which seemed to keep it under control.
My fans
The last 12km was tough, my quads had seized up and starting to run after each aid station was tough.  I was pretty good at keeping on though and never walked more than beyond the final rubbish bin for each aid station.  I crossed paths with Jared at about 31km where he had about 5km to go, he said Davo was not much in front of me (remember he started 15mins ahead...) and a couple of km's later he appeared in the distance.  We have often joked about what would happen if I caught either of them in a race and we came into the finish together - would we run down holding hands or would they sprint me for it? I ran up to him and said "I have dreamt of this moment", he didn't appear to be surprized to see me and given the last time we crossed paths he was walking I guess he knew it was coming.  I thought maybe he was waiting for me but it seemed my 5min10 pace was too much so I ran away from him.
I was loosely keeping tabs on the other girls in my AG and I thought I was either in 3rd or 4th place since I had passed a couple on the 2nd lap of the run (one being my new American friend Amanda who was having a rough time in the run) but I had no idea where I was overall in the girls race.
I finally crossed the finish line in 10hrs30 - 7 minutes off my best time from 2009 and 4th in my AG, 12th female and 6th AG'er.  I was pretty happy.
Tongue sticking out = happiness
Jared had a great race until about 24km where it started to get a bit hurty and he was on and off the walking bus but still managed to to pull out 9hrs45 and 2nd in his AG, and the fact that I passed Davo says it all about his race.
I think the biggest success for me was beating back the negative thoughts in my head and being able to embrace the pain not give in to it.

The next big question was would I qualify for Kona? I knew there would be 2 or maybe 3 spots in my AG and (due to my extensive google stalking) one of the girls ahead of me had already qualified which meant it would roll down to 3rd at least.  Turns out there were only 2 automatic qualifiers so I had a bit of a nervous wait and went to the roll down ceremony.  It was my first roll down experience and was quite exciting.  My AG was up pretty quick and as soon as Mike Reilly said there were two spots in this age group, and neither one was taken I knew I was in.  I was very giddy and excited but not quite as much as the girl next to me who was shaking so much that she couldn't even fill the form in.
Special thanks to J-Rad and his titanium Mastercard which saved me from sitting up there and having to shift money around with my online banking app which would have been embarrassing   Jared had already taken his spot earlier in the day so the card had taken a bit of a hammering.

So for once my triathlon story has a happy ending.  I have had more exciting news today which is yet to be confirmed but it seems that my life is starting to come together, yay!

Thanks must go out to all of my friends and family who came down to Taupo to support me, Jared, Team Lawson and the Cambridge Bowden's (especially Coach Poo for getting me to the start in one piece and improving my bike time - 2 minutes is still 2 minutes...) and all the other spectators who spurred me on and made me smile when I was deep in the hurtbox.
A little bit of recovery is on the cards now and then Kona training WOOO!!


  1. Love it Jo! Well done and you are an inspiration. Hope to see you race sometime soon:-)

  2. Great read Jo. Good luck for Kona

  3. Great work Jo,
    was good seeing you throughout the race always running so well. I was worried you might have been creeping up on my shoulder too at a few stages.
    Will be good to be alongside you in Kona knowing what you went through last time you were there - Don't let that happen again eh.
    Enjoy the winter.

  4. Awesome report, congratulations!