The tapering finishing touches..
On Thursday morning I went for a 1hr open water swim @ 7am to feel what it will be like on the day (along with a few hundred other people who had same idea as me..). I was also checking where the sun rises (right in face during first leg FYI), feel the cold after an hour in the lake, plan some landmarks for spotting and get the body moving again after traveling the day before. I followed this up with a short bike out on the first 15kms of the course, then a wee 20min jog on the streets all with a few fast efforts to fire up the muscles a bit. All felt to be running okay at this stage.
Friday was a day dedicated to a short 45min loosener train (swim 15, bike 20, run 10mins) just to keep the body moving. The remainder of the day was all about rest and carbohydrate loading and hydrating as much as possible. I was aiming for 10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight for the day (usual diet is approx 7g) as well as 5L of fluid minimum, in which I think I got over 6L in the end with a majority of it being electrolyte drinks, CHIA drinks and orange juice. It was all about having the tanks completely full pre-start.
So what actually happened?
Race day alarm went off @ 4:20am for breakfast. I shot down to the kitchen and had 2 pieces of white bread toast with honey (yes, boring I know, but easiest and lightest on the stomach), a long black coffee and two boiled eggs. A fairly light breakfast for me, but enough to satisfy the hunger without being so much that nerves hinder digestion. Back for a shower to warm up, then off to transition @ 5:30am for final gear setup. During this time, I consumed one more bottle of electrolyte drink for a final top up of electrolytes and water, making sure I finished it by 6am to give bowels time to empty before race start.
By 6am bike was ready, my bathroom visits complete, so off to lakes edge to watch the elites before I was to start along with 1700 other age groupers. It was cold with air temp around 5-7deg so I stayed fully dressed until 6:30am in which I promptly got my wetsuit on so not to loose heat. Sky was clear, lake was smooth, air was a fresh 6deg, but nothing more to be done now, but start. I was in the water by 6:50am ready to get this long day started. I started approx 3 rows back from the front, but out wide near the shoreline hoping for a little more space.
BOOM, the cannon went and we were off @ 7am sharp. I started at a moderate pace and settled quickly into a breathing pattern and a group nearer the shore. The wash was no worse than a Nelson Thursday night sea-swim, but it never really eased for the first long leg of 1.9km. Sometimes I would find some space and relax, which alternated with the occasional swimming over me by a big group. The first 30mins went by quick, I felt okay and was happy to navigate around the end 2 buoys. The way home dragged on a bit, or maybe it was more because the groups were disintegrating and I was finding it harder to swim with others and battling the chopper water more on my own. This did tighten me up around the shoulders more and I felt like I really lost some easy momentum coming home, but I was relieved to exit that water and tick that 'swim done' box now. I came out in 68mins which was right where I thought I'd be, a little disappointed that I couldn't find some faster feet and gain some time through the flow of faster people like I expected I would, but I cant complain as it was not a bad swim either.
The long uphill run (approx 400-500m) too the bike transition I passed dozens of people and felt a good spring in my step. Unfortunately I did need to toilet in transition but I made it quick and shot off to the bike. It was cold, but I started well, so I was trying not to push the effort and spun my legs to get some blood flow to them. I settled quick, began eating and drinking in first 30mins and paced myself for the first slightly downhill leg to Reporoa, while keeping an eye out for familiar faces, in which I passed two Nelson boys (Mark then Alan) on the first 45km leg.
I felt really comfortable and well on track for a good time hitting the turn at around 73minutes, which considering the slight downhill and wind should see me on target for my 5hr 10-20mins for the bike leg. However, not long after the turnaround, I heard a PING from my bike and it suddenly felt unstable. I began checking around my bike as it now had a mostly consistent clicking/pinging noise but I couldn't see or really feel anything wrong so continued on. It was a long drag back to town and although I still felt good, my legs felt like they were loosing power faster than I felt they should be and it became increasingly hard to hold the wheels around me. So halfway back I stopped to check my bike to discover I had a broken spoke on the front wheel. It was a carbon rim with only 18 spokes so it did have a noticeable buckle now which was rubbing on my brake pad intermittently. I briefly considered bending the spoke around some other spokes to prevent it from slapping around them whilst at speed making this horrible noise which was very irritating. But I feared that if it came out and it was now bent, that this would increase my chances of it catching my fork or brake and consequently flipping me off the bike. So I left it as it was, as it was only able to flop sideways between it's neighbouring two spokes, as it was actually safer in this way. I flared the front brake as far apart as possible but it still rubbed.. I did consider undoing it completely but the brakes are average at best on this bike and felt I actually needed it to control things on the fast downhills, particularly back into town.
I stayed composed about this and continued my food and drink plan well knowing that regardless of my bike speed, my aim was not to smash myself for the run so I somewhat let go of a good bike time and performance and really focused on not using more energy against the extra resistance through the wheel rubbing and the wheel no longer running true (Ie. loosing its aero benefit).
I was getting increasingly frustrated by the noise and wheel rubbing as it felt worse, so near the 160km mark I made the very unusual move for me and stopped again, this time near a potaloo and aid station to check the wheel again and made sure brakes were at maximal width and I confess, I did actually sneak a toilet stop whist there.
Back on and into town for the final 20kms, I began psyching myself up for the run and visualising my transition so not to miss anything. I unstrapped from my shoes and bounced off my bike onto bare-feet and actually felt some spring in my step, I was excited to run. Socks, shoes, visor, running belt, wrist band, gone..
I got out quick and got into my stride feeling good to be doing something different, albeit with a very sore back to start with after being cooped up for so long. I really controlled myself with pace and effort for the first trip out to the turnaround as most people go off flying and suffer later. I got two gels down with water during the first 3 aid stations and some electrolyte drink at the others while I really focused on staying in a relaxed controlled running rhythm and was feeling really good cruising around 4:40-4:55mins/km. I did all my long runs at this pace well knowing I couldn't expect anything more competitive during this marathon run and felt totally at ease at this pace. Back into town I was starting to pass people who were already in the hurt box but stayed focused on my own effort and energy plan. I tried another gel but this one wasn't so nice and made me a little queasy, so the next aid station went with a banana half, a piece of orange, an em's power bite and electrolyte drink.
Lap one done in 68mins with ease, my mindset was now on holding this pace for the next lap and not getting carried away as I was feeling good and had increasing confidence that I was going to run a good marathon. So sticking with my plan, maintaining leg turnover so not to over-stride like long legged buggars like me tend to do (and over stress my very sensitive knees) while mentally preparing myself for the world of hurt I was going to be in during the hard graft bringing it home in the final lap.
Just as I hit the turnaround on the second lap I noticed my weak and problematic knee starting to really tighten up and feel weak. Not that I would call them hills but there are definitely more undulations out of town and my knee was not happy on them, I pushed on for a bit, but on my way down a little grassy downhill it nearly gave way, so I had to walk. I was over half way but still had 18kms to go, so this was very disappointing. I had to walk basically the next 5kms as the quad had became very tight, I think partly due to fatigue, tiredness and dehydration. Some encouraging words from some sideline friends and other competitiors I managed to shuffle walk very painfully the final lap but it had slowed me by roughly 50mins and I finished the marathon in over 4hrs completing the day in 11hrs 21. During this very long last lap I had plenty of time to cheer and encourage others who were struggling much worse than me.
I had, had a mental skills session with a colleague before the ironman and her common reminder was, 'at the end of the day we do these things for enjoyment, so if the day doesn't go to performance plan and this is your only ironman, just let go of the time and enjoy the atmosphere and just make it to the finish with satisfaction of achievement'. So this is what I did. I was never really in energy or fatigue trouble throughout the whole day, and I have also never competed in an event this large or so community supported, so I just lapped it up, smiling, cheering, high fiving and laughing with some spectators and other competitiors. I did manage to run the final 2kms down the finish shoot so to really enjoy the crowd and absolutely loved completing this event and actually feeling good doing it regardless of my performance.
So I am an IRONMAN!!!
Thank you al all my supporters, Lauren, family, training partners, friends, Denis Cooper for improving my swim efficiency, CHIA drinks, Migym, Dawn Chalmers my physio and Penny Olsen my massage therapist for helping me through and manage all my little niggles.