This is the conclusion to the trilogy and hopefully, like the Matrix, it comes across as the love story and gives you a little bit of an insight into why people keep coming back year after year. Having had a fantastic dip in the lake in the swim (read part one here) and a dark soul searching bike ride (read part two here) it was time to get into a marathon. There are many people who have run a marathon and I myself have run the Legend Marathon once before but never has it followed a 3.8km swim and 180km on the bike.
After grabbing my run bag and finding my helper I was ushered to a seat where I quickly sat down, dizziness again. As quickly as I sat I stood again, CRAMP! The guy (I wish I had asked his name) who was looking after me told me to take a seat on the floor and stretch my legs while he emptied my stuff on the floor and started organizing it for me.
Off with my cycling socks, dry my feet and on with my running socks and shoes. Empty my pockets and refill with nutrition. 2 straws stuffed into the watch strap expecting to be able to run well. (Good to be optimistic).
Getting a hand up from the helper and a hug to see me on my way I started to head out passing a guy with Vaseline on a stick (for chafing), an aid station, where oranges and water were consumed, and a dowsing with sunscreen sprayed liberally by another lovely helper.
“Ease into the run” were the words of the experienced hugging helper in the tent and as he had completed 4 ironmans I thought it best to listen. I started to run at about 5.45 pace as I had planned and this pace lasted about 500m before cramp in the legs and the stomach took hold and it just so happened that 500m from leaving transition is right in front of the biggest crowds. This was devastating and let me explain why.
Only ever having competed in standard distance triathlons and half ironman I had not seen a lot of walking in triathlon so to stop and walk in front of so many people I thought I was letting myself down. Little did I realize that even the big dogs walk, Bevan Docherty who won the day in course record time had to walk for a bit in the race.
About 1km into the run I jogged passed Ben and Craig (coach and Physio) who were down to support “looking good Alan, how you feeling?” Shouted Ben. All I could do was grimace and point to my stomach. “Having gut problems?” He asked. I replied with a nod. 2 minutes later, I was walking on the waterfront again.
Obviously the run was not going to be much better than the bike so I was just going to have to get through it. Through the first 14km lap I came to a few realizations.
1. Lots of people were walking so nothing to be embarrassed about.
2. I was not going to be running much today
3. There was no point pushing hard any more as finish was the only goal
4. The support in Taupo is freakin amazing.
Half way out was the Waitakere TRI club tent and I was lucky to be running at the time I went passed. Nina came running out to the road side as she heard Phil shouting “and here comes Alan Parry” with a hose in hand spraying everyone as they passed. Along with Nina was Isaac who had driven from Auckland in the to support me. “You got first in the swim baby” Nina shouted as I passed.
I smiled as she said it and just out of earshot I said “fat lot of good that’s doing me now”. I was still pretty dark in my mood but was slowly lifting out of it as the run progressed.
I really was blown away by the support out on the streets, I wish I had taken a camera with me because there were loads of groups of people stationed around the whole course clapping hands, drinking, cheering, dancing, encouraging, taking the mick and keeping us all going. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed being in so much pain before but the crowd made that run for me.
At each aid station I tried to take on a bit of fluid and some sort of nutrition but the stomach wasn’t the happiest for doing so.
My second lap I started feeling a lot brighter. Catching up to a few people I knew, I walked along chatting about the day and how things were going.
- Charmaine had taken the swim record for her age group today and had completed the bike with plenty of time to spare for her marathon. This was awesome to hear as Charmaine had entered and started 2 previous ironman events but had not completed. “Today Charmaine, you will be an ironman”
- Jim Goodwin, who had completed many New Zealand ironman before and was excited to catch up with his supporters on different parts of the course. He had done the event so many times that he had certain people that he would talk to on the course every year.
- A guy who had completed 2 ironman events before but this was his first in New Zealand. ‘Tough day in the office’ was the verdict.
- Mike Ramsay on his way to 29 Ironman New Zealand Finishes after being fixed up by Craig (my physio) the day before.
- iRonman Skelton who has competed at Race Across America and has completed 25 Ironman New Zealand races and has the classic Ironman Shuffle down to a fine art.
- Glenn Farnham (Verna Jackson’s son) completing the race for Tony Jackson who completed 28 Ironman New Zealand and in 2008 came back from brain surgery to remove a brain tumour to compete. He could not be here this year due to health issues and Ironman New Zealand retired the #28 for the number of Ironman New Zealand completed by Tony.
Photo Courtesy of Gillian Krzanich
As we passed the Tri Club tent on the second lap I got another surprise as my nephew Noah came running after me on the coarse. My mother in law Alice had managed to make it down to support and brought him along. He was a great little supporter too.My next little heart beat raiser was seeing Tiare lund. She seemed to be running well. When I saw her my mind started to run the maths like a madman. ‘She was on her first lap but was running 6.15 kilometers. If she kept going and I could only walk, she might catch me before the finish’. I wouldn’t really have minded being beaten by her, she is a legend!
Through the beginning of my last lap I came past the other three coaching athletes on their way to the finish. Bryan was running strong and living in the Hurtbox so didn’t manage to get his attention. Andrew seemed to be coming out of the Hurtbox and looked like he was enjoying his last lap and Vin looked like he had a tough day in the office but was finishing strong. Stephen, who I had seen hobbling a little earlier on had come out of the other side of that and was enjoying his finale in front of the crowd ‘this is a whole lot easier than what you will have to put up with when a baby comes along’ he said as we embraced. (no homo). The guy that really gave me a boost was Karl.
Karl started his triathlon journey with a challenge to compete in a try-a-tri a couple of years ago. He had quite a bit of weight on at the time and managed to get himself slimmed down and in fighting shape to compete in IronMauri. After a short break he decided to jump back into triathlon in the biggest way, Ironman. Seeing him finish his first Ironman and still running, looking so strong was a real buzz for me. Well done bro!!
My last lap became a lap of fun and I wanted to thank all the volunteers and supporters for getting me through it. I caught up with a gentleman with a big beard and as I neared him I heard him say to the volunteer “all the orcs are leaving the course” in his Canadian accent. Turned out he was here for the race alone and had enjoyed his day a lot more than I had enjoyed mine.
It was about 10 minutes after this I met Ian. Ian was in the 50-55 age group and had flown out from London 7 days previous, just to race ironman. His target time was under 12 hours but a stubbed toe and travelling had put an end to that for him. We spent the last 8km walking and chatting about anything and everything. What a walk in.
The last 3km was something else. People had tried to explain it as I will try to write it but there is no way you can understand until you actually walk or jog that chute yourself.
It’s like every person in New Zealand squeezed into Taupo either side of the chute just for you. The encouragement is phenomenal and the people are amazing. It was dark and most of them had been there since early morning but they were still there and screaming just as much as if they had just got out of bed. The finish chute itself is the loudest with people lining either side with banners and clappers in hand. We decided to slow jog the last 150 meters and as we did we congratulated each other and waved our arms in the air trying to rev up the crowd a little more.
About 10 meters before the finish Nina and Isaac were hanging over the barrier screaming their lungs out. Thanks guys and thanks for being out there all day for me.
As soon as we crossed the line someone was waiting with a towel and our medal, then we were ushered into the recovery tent.
This was like the 4th discipline of the day, but a really relaxing, comfortable almost luxurious discipline. After being weighed, losing 3kg for the day, I was ushered over to a buffet table where there was hot soup, rolls, sandwiches, curry and other delectable delights. Chicken soup for me then over to the queue for a massage.
15 minutes later I had a lovely lady playing with my legs and working out all of the lactic acid. Being so excited to have finished I started to tell her about my day. When telling her about having trouble straight out of the water and how I couldn’t eat and had no energy she straight away told me that it was the heat.
I had to ask for explanation as I couldn’t quite get it.
My core temperature had risen so much that it shocked my brain into concentrating all the body’s efforts into cooling the core. With all this focus the rest of the bodily functions took a back seat. Including digestion, muscle function and energy transfer hence the reason for dead legs, rejection of food and cramp.
More investigation needed but it all made sense to me.
About 45 minutes after finishing I made my way out of the competitor zone to see the family. A big thank you to my mother in law who stayed even though she had to be in Tauranga. Noah handed some presents from both of them. An ironman cap and hoodie. Thanks heaps, I love them !
We headed back to where the TRI club tent to see some of the back markers come past and to thank the supporters there too.
It was amazing to see the guys coming in who had been out for 16.5 hours and were still pushing hard to get that medal . If you finish after midnight there is no medal and no call out that you are an ironman.
My day didn’t go to plan but there was a reason for it which I will find out more about. The race was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world. Now that I have experienced the bad I know what to expect.
I have also been allowed to do it again. Nina has agreed to be an ironwidow once more but not until 2015: there is a baby on it’s way after all!!!