Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think

I have run out of appropriate Winston Churchill quotes so have used the words from one of my favourite authors, A.A.Milne, as the title for my Ironman New Zealand race report.  I think it is applicable because among other things, a successful Ironman takes courage, strength and intelligence. And the ability to make yourself hurt like you have never hurt before...

Taupo threw everything it had to us on Saturday - sun, wind, heat, rain, tailwind, headwind, gale force winds... I tend to get quite psyched out by bad weather so was a bit stressed in the days leading up to the race but as race day approached it seemed that the weather would be fine until later in the afternoon which is pretty much exactly how it turned out.

I started the swim about 3 rows back near the middle and almost drowned in the first 200m.  It was the most aggresive swim start I have been in for a while, even 1000m down the road I would have the occasional person pushing me under.  The lake was flat and a perfect temperature so good conditions for fast swimming.  Sometimes when I am swimming I look around me and am surrounded by people with terrible technique who look like they can't even swim properly - this is quite disheartening.  This time however it seemed my fellow swimmers looked like they knew how to swim which gave me hope for a good time. My standard Taupo time is 1.04 so I was expecting something in the 1.04-1.06 range.  When I finally got back to shore I looked at the clock it said 1:00.00 - OH MY GOD! And then I saw the man on the ladder fiddling with it, and then it jumped to 1:05.00 - hmmmm, I checked my watch which just showed the time of day and assuming we had started at 7am I had swum 1.03 - a new PB!
Prepare to be dunked
Running up to T1 I felt like a rock star with so many people cheering me on.  I even got a compliment on my hair which made my day.  Ironman is not a glamorous sport - at least if one aspect of me can look nice then I am doing well.

It started to drizzle after about 5km on the bike and by 15km I was deeply regretting not using my In Case of Emergency warm clothes options in my T1 bag.  Lucky for me after about 25km the sun was trying to bust through the clouds and soon the cold wasn't a problem anymore.  I had used a lot of energy keeping warm in the first hour and hadn't been looking at my power and as a result it was way too high so I tried to back off and used the tailwind on the first return leg to bring it down.
Thanks T the P for the photo

There was a lot of people around me on the road with a lot of people passing me and me passing a lot of people.  There were also a lot of drafting marshalls and I saw a few penalties being given out but also a lot of people getting away with things they shouldn't.  Ironically it was when there weren't many people on the course at about 110km mark that I was given a drafting penalty.  There was only one guy ahead of me and I was keeping what I thought was a legal distance but I guess the drafting marshall disagreed.  What happened next then made me question whether the drafting marshall knew what he was doing though... While he was telling me I had a penalty I had approached the start of an aid station and the bottle drop zone.  I chucked my empty bottle while the motorbike was still next to me and he said "Go back and pick that up", I was like "Huh?!" - this time he said it as if I was a three year old - "GO BACK AND PICK IT UP!". I was very confused now.  I stopped and unclipped and looked back at my bottle in front of the drop zone banner with all the other discarded bottles on the ground and a volunteer picking them up.  I think I stood there for a few seconds not sure what to do. Are you not allowed to discard bottles when you have a drafting penalty? Is this some rule I don't know about? The marshall then realized he was wrong and said I could carry on - is that time going to come off my penalty?!
The next penalty box was about 15km away so I rode hard until then knowing I would get a 5 minute rest.  There was one guy there when I got there and three more pulled up after me so at least I wasn't alone.  I didn't let the penalty get to me - just saw it as a five minute rest before I tackled the last 10km or so into the wind.  As I saw written on the back of a tourist camper van the other day - 'put it in the fuck it bucket and move on'.  Maybe the worst part was seeing Jared going the other way while I was at the penalty tent - oh the shame.
Getting my aero on
I made it back into town without further incident about 10 minutes slower than my goal time. My plan for the run was to run 4.45-4.50min/km for the first 30km, then hang on for the last 12km. This would give me 3.22-3.25 and I desperately wanted to run under 3hrs30.  This plan was questioned early in the week but I decided that I knew my legs better than anyone else so I stuck with my plan.  It was a big tailwind for the first 7km so I made the decision to roll with it knowing I would be slower on the way back.  I was averaging 4.35's- 4.40's but feeling fine so decided I had made the right call.  I had been passed by so many girls in my AG on the bike that didn't even think I would be in the top 10 so just focused on running well.  I started to suffer a bit at 25km which was when I first hit 5min/km but perked up a bit once I got the tailwind again. By 32km my quads were shot but I only had 10km to go so soldiered on.
Come on leggies we can do this
The Lawson's were out supporting us on their bikes and were providing excellent encouragement.  I knew a lot of people out on the course but mainly put my blinders on and focused on the task but was grateful for all the support that I received. The last 5km into the headwind were miserable as the wind had picked up significantly and it had started to rain. I was struggling to hold under 5mins20 along the path next to the lake and kept getting blown sideways.  I received word that Jared was finished and had run 3hrs27 so I knew what I had to do. The last couple of km's through town were amazing as always and hearing Mike Reilly's voice getting closer made it all so real.  I got to the finish with a 2 minute overall PB and a 3hr25 run and 4th in my age group which amazed me - I honestly thought I would have been in about 7th or 8th. My legs were pretty munted by the end and I couldn't have run a step further if you paid me.  I gave it my all though and am proud to say that I didn't walk a single step of the marathon, I jogged through every aid station but never walked.
Being broadcasted on the line
I wonder what the outcome would have been if I hadn't of got the penalty - 5 minutes off my time puts me almost even with 2nd place in my age group, but did I run better because of that 5 minute rest? We'll never know and it's pretty disrespectful to the other girls to say 'I would have come XXX'.
I ended up missing out on a Kona spot by one place but wasn't at the ceremony because I didn't want to take it but still felt put out that I hadn't qualified.  I would have loved to have been on the podium for my age group but with my fastest time ever I can't be upset that the other girls were faster. The 30-34 age group is ridiculously fast and next time I do Ironman I will have moved up an age group so will have to race before these other girls move up too...
Jared had a good race despite some mechanical issues on the bike and was my 4th place male counterpart in the M30-34 age group - such symmetry!
We even had matching race numbers
Thanks to everyone who supported me in the weekend and urged my little legs to keep pushing and to anyone who is still reading :) Oh and thanks to all the people I stole photos off.

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