First some back ground….
The weeks leading up to Kona were not as I had envisaged; not only was I prematurely bankrupt before even leaving the country, I had begun to feel what I can only describe as nothing.
Looking back there must have been a gradual transition from excitement and terror to flat, nothingness, I was just unaware of it happening.
I began to feel very tired, unable to hit the heart rates or speeds/paces I could usually, but assumed that this is what happened when you were doing two ironman races so close together. I always reach a stage were I get really fatigued, and then it usually passes and I feel great again. So I continued with my training and I waited for the good feelings to arrive. I waited another week, then another. I then began to feel totally ambivalent about Kona, I could have literally taken it or left it. This brought with it some feelings of guilt – I was the luckiest person on earth, how could I not be excited? Was I really this ungrateful about my life?
I noticed that I was finding it difficult to fall asleep, my heart was racing – typically when I wanted it to be calm and yet when I tried to push myself during training it would not respond. I dug in deeper and berated myself for not trying, I pushed and I pushed until I was thoroughly miserable and despondent. I was irritable and moody ( yes, me, unbelievably…) I cried. A lot. Mostly I was tired and I did not want to get on my bike, swim or run. I wanted it over.
I suspected that my body was on the cusp of a disagreement with my plans and mind, then realised that my mind didn’t care either way. I was not feeling confident about getting to the start line. I took some extra rest days and the sessions that I completed in between were a bit easier. My faith would be renewed, but it was short lived as following the longer sessions I would be exhausted and tearful once more. One weekend in particular stands out – I had a 75 mile TT to ride in 25 mile loops. To say that I struggled with this is a massive understatement I felt completely broken, both physically and mentally. Ironically I took a huge positive from the fact that I had not given up, but carried on and finished. Of course this had no physical benefit- in that I was not effectively completing the session, but I at least I knew I was not a quitter.
At this point I would like to advise that you take a break from reading and go and take some motion sickness pills – all the shaking of the head that you’re likely doing will be making you feel a bit dizzy! Yes. I know….its obvious to me now as well, I should have stopped pushing myself, I should have recovered, I should have recognised the warning signs. After all its not the first time that I have found myself here. A little over stretched.
With two weeks to go and the realisation that I was possibly looking at a very very long day in Kona I rested completely for almost a week and began to feel a lot better, I began to feel excited again, I did a couple of short sessions and felt good. My faith and confidence was renewed and I concentrated on all the mental planning and visualisation work. I knew I was still going to have a long day but I was hopeful that I would feel good, or as good as you can feel when doing an Ironman!
So my goals for Kona were to simply enjoy the experience. As long as I finished I didn’t care about the time. I wanted to have a calm and enjoyable swim, a strong bike and to run all the marathon apart from the hill up Palani and some of the aid stations. Little did I know how hard it would be to achieve these.
Getting to Kona
we were up early and to the airport, only for me to realise that I had left my race kit, wallet and keys in a bag on the doorstep. Fail. Luckily after some frantic phone calls my friends managed to get my bag to me and my secret plan to buy a whole new race kit in Kona evaporated. Never a dull moment when you travel with the Doherty’s ( the return leg was to prove as eventful!).
At the gate I spied Chrissie Wellington on her phone “There’s Chrissie” mum, said my 10 yr old son. I must admit I did stare – and my thoughts were that she is a very pretty, petite, delicate woman and then I thought about how paradoxical this was.
Arriving in LA and slightly unsure of where to reclaim my bike box my children simply asked “ why don’t we just follow Chrissie mum? She will know where to go!” This made me smile, not because it was true and children are always so pragmatic, but because I had never stalked a pro triathlete before.
Arriving in Kona 2 things struck me, that it was indeed humid and my bike box – my 12 yo wheeled it into my shin. I waited at the baggage carousel with the very proud mother of Daniel Hawksworth. She asked me what time I expected to finish in and her face was priceless when I told her that I had no idea as I hadn’t ever been to Kona before and that I would just be pleased to finish.
I then had a little laugh inwardly when she asked me what time I had done IMUK in and she replied with a sympathetic expression, “ Oh, well never mind, just enjoy it. And don’t forget the P40!” Clearly I was not going to be competition to her son.
I had entered the training swim “race” the next morning – the full 3,8k swim course and so was up at 5am to get to the pier and register. I was once again star struck when Paula Newby Fraser handed me my swim pack!
It was busy, even at 6 am in town and this would be the pattern for the next week. There were a few hundred people entered for the swim practice and we all made our way into the water in a fairly relaxed manner. I had expected nice water but it surpassed my expectations ; warm,clear, blue, teeming with fish. Absolutely wonderful. And it was as still as a mill pond.
I had a great, relaxed swim in 1:22 and got out feeling great ( apart from my neck which was sporting a nice friction burn because I had forgotten to lube and my swim skin had rubbed- lesson learned!). I was confident that I could push the swim on race day and hopefully come in a minute quicker.. Oh how I laugh now.
During ironman week kona is literally buzzing with excitement, nerves and unspoken expectancy.
There are some very serious athletes, most of whom are lovely. A few who seem to think that they are above a few others, which is amusing but also disappointing because its not nice to watch people trying to be friendly to someone who is being rude. There were people who are so ripped that that they look like exhibits from a Gunther Von Hagens collection, some women have somehow achieved this look and a size EE cup…. must be lots of chest pressing. There were athletes constantly training, discussing training, asking about training, discussing kit, weather, nutrition. Everyone looked fast and like they belonged. Then there was me.
For the most part I spent my time hovering above the circus observing and feeling as though I was having an out of body experience. I quickly ascertained that those who said they were absolutely the worst swimmers ever usually swam an IM course in about 1:10, those who claimed to be rubbish usually swam it in around 1:05 and the plain old slow swimmers in around an hour. I clearly needed arm bands and a propeller, but I wasn’t able to find either at the expo.
During the week I completed a couple of very short rides – one up to Hawi, where I had been warned about cross winds and a head wind on the return to T2. However, typically, it was as still as death and I was lulled into a false sense of security by Paka’s ( The God of wind).
I spent most of the week, drinking coffee, snorkelling and looking at and swimming with turtles.
It was during one of these mornings at Kahalu’u beach (or turtle beach as its known, no idea why…) that my son must have scuppered my race by angering the island Gods when he broke a Kapu ( a traditional Hawaiian law) and touched a turtle as we swam. Thats my theory anyway!
The expo was great, and I had soon remortgaged our house, met Macca and bored our kids to tears – but not before they had made me a poster and video message:
Registration on Tuesday was a slick,well oiled affair and was the first time I felt a few nerves. My wrist was quickly and efficiently encased in a band identifying me as athlete and I was presented with a huge rucksack that could double as a sleeping or body bag depending upon my mood.
Pre race week is filled with activities to ramp up the excitement and the parade of nations involved us Brits congregating with the rest of the world in the King Kam car park ready to parade down Ali’i drive sporting our specially designed Kona T shirts, thanks to Fusion and Blade printing, and the highly organised Paul Deen for organising them.
Thursday was my A race, yes the under pant run. Unfortunately I had obviously peaked too soon as the 1,5 k jogg left me feeling rubbish and thinking this could be my last ever run in a pair of custom made knickers. I didn’t even place in the top 10! unbelievable.
Thursdays race briefing was straight forwards and there was a mention of “traditional winds, heat and unforgiving conditions” which looked like they would make an appearance after all on race day. The weather forecaster took great delight on Friday morning day, grinning out of the TV and reporting that he was soooo pleased that the trade winds would be making a return on Saturday with gusts of up to 60 mph. What a load of hot air. Literally.
I was fairly relaxed and after a visit to Bike Works to make a last minute adjustment to my bike I was as ready as I could be for race day. There was nothing I could do now.