This time I make no apologies for a long post because I need to let it all out and if you read on you will not only find out why but also relieve me of some of my anguish
First off –
- I want to say thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this ‘campaign’. I have put together some of those thanks below but I know that I may have missed someone (I always miss something) but please know I am eternally grateful for all the help I have received!
- I want to let you know that I am still in two minds whether I will be taking part in Ironman again, (so you might not have to put yourself through another one of these, but then again?)
- Please believe me when I say I am not a drama queen and I don’t believe I have made any of this up to try make it sound harder than it was.
- You need to know that the day of Ironman is amazing and well worth going to see at least once and maybe one day, doing it yourself
Let’s start with the night before the day before shall we, where I left off from my last update.
Thursday night I started to feel a little tickle in the throat and blocked, stuffy head. Tell tale signs of a little cold coming on. I had put it down to the body playing tricks on me as it tends to do the week of a big race but when I woke on Friday morning with the same heavy head I was in two minds on whether to join the boys for a morning dip in the lake. The final minute before they headed to the waters edge I remembered I had a new pair of goggles that I hadn’t tried out yet. “Nothing new on race day” words to live by. The swim had to happen but I knew it would be a quick one.
After racking the bike with rubbish bags covering the saddle and helmet due to forecast bad weather overnight, I headed out for coffee with Andrew, still feeling the sniffles and looking forward to those movies back in bed in the afternoon. We managed to get a table right outside Body Fuel across the road from the expo center which is a great spot to catch up with so many other people on their final preparations for the big day ahead. We had a quick chat with Mel Burke, ranked 3rd in the pro woman’s race, who was hoping for a 3hour 10 marathon after a 5hr10 bike ride, jealous much?
Getting back to the accommodation it was time to head to the room and just chill out for the rest of the afternoon. I lasted about 1.5 cheesy films before I had to get out and mix with people again.
In that time Rae had arrived home from a hunt around pharmacies to find me some sniffle juice, that’s the actual name, a homeopathic cough remedy that really seemed to hit the spot. Over the next couple of hours we all helped out with some home made spaghetti bolognase, my dad arrived from Auckland surprising me with an early arrival and thankfully Andrew was happy for him to stay in one of the spare rooms overnight so no need to sleep it rough in the back of his van with prepared sleeping mat et al.
Nina and Isabel arrived around 9.30pm which completed my night perfectly and after final preparations for the support crew’s day it was time to hit the hay.
4.30am I woke to the alarm, gingerly lifting my head off the pillow hoping for a clear head…. Sniffle juice is good people!
Time to be awesome!
Coffee, muesli, toast, attach morning bag to bike pump then make sure the family are up and ready to roll.
In transition by 6am. Drop off special needs bags. (I hadn’t trained with on course nutrition so my SIS stash was going to be picked up at dedicated spots on bike and run) pump tyres, visit Dylan in the Shimano tent before standing in the long cue for a toilet stop. This time I decided to head down to the waters edge much earlier so it didn’t feel like I was rushing to the front of the start line before the gun went off but I needn’t have worried as they held everyone back until the pros were started. I always said I wanted to see the Haka before the start but I only managed to hear it this time which still gave me little goosebumps, the challenge had been laid!
Once we were allowed into the swim start area we were filtered over the timing mat where I said my last goodbyes to Nina and Isabel before a quick warm up and settle the nerves I was expecting. I must have been well prepared because the nerves never came, just excitement. With 1 minute to go the crowd, in the water, started to cheer, 30 seconds to go and all started to go quiet again, 15 seco.. And BOOM! The cannon went, we were off before I could even think about.
I took off like a rocket and luckily there were only a couple of slower swimmers in front of me which seem to part quite easily as I swam through so no need to swim over anyone this time. With the coach Ben in my mind I quickly settled into my pace perching on a good set of feet to save energy and sighting intermittently to make sure the feet I was on were heading in the right direction. The mind wonders in the water but not for long and never strays far away from the task in hand and before I knew it I was waving to the divers at the bottom of the lake at the turn around point.
This time all the way back I checked the watch to make sure I wasn’t pushing myself too hard and the body felt comfortable all the way. Pulling the neck of my suit to allow cold water in every 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t over heat and (don’t tell anyone but) taking a few gulps of water to try keep the temperature in check.
Coming to the end of the swim I slowed down, even more, making sure I wasn’t too far ahead of the goal pace (Ben might have had a heart attack if he had seen me come out of the water in the time I was heading for) and I am glad I did because that 400m run into transition felt like a walk in the park this time.
4th in age group out of the water and body feeling good, time 53.19 same as last time, job done!
Onto the bike after a little banter with Stephen Morris (aiming for a sub 10hour race time) “common Alan, stop being a woos!” (He wasn’t quite as polite) and the aim was to get the heart rate down in the first 5-7km. Through the swim all blood flow is needed in the upper body because that’s where all the oxygen is being utilized so when you stand up, run 400m finishing in a staircase to get changed then jump on a bike and ride through a bazillion people your heart is just doing everything it can to cope, that means beating a hell of a lot quicker than I would like at this stage in the day!
I managed to get down to the target HR zone by about 10km and settled into eating, drinking and pedaling for the rest of the morning. All was going well, food was settling nicely, I had only been passed by a few gun bikers and there was a little rain in the air which kept me cool, I couldn’t have asked for better, until, PFST, ssst, sst, sst,sst, on every wheel revolution, the dreaded sound of a substantial puncture.
33km into the ride
A split second of “I don’t need this s#%*” then an ultra calm feeling came over me. ‘Take your time, check your tyre, put the pit stop in and spin the wheel’ pump the rest of the canister in to inflate the tyre fully then get back on the bike and ride to the plan’ 5 minutes later and I was back on the bike and into work again.
The first Reparoa turn around, my first checkpoint on the schedule set by Ben and I was only 3 minutes behind. STOKED! My body still felt like it was on a Sunday cruise so exactly where I needed to be. STICK to the plan!
55km in and “mate, your back tyre looks like it’s got a flattie” as a speedster rolled past me. ‘Faaaaaarrrrk, not again’ but again only a split second and I pulled over next safe place to pop the last of the pit stop in. That didn’t work so I tried a little CO2 knowing it might not work. Sure enough it just blasted through the previous puncture so it was time to put the spare on.
Again, I was really calm, especially considering this was my first chance to change a tubular tyre. Following the instructions given on my last day in the shop I managed to change the tub and get back on the road within 10minutes but my mind was a bit frassled so I couldn’t really work out where I was on the schedule. Deciding to just stick the the plan of “everything is geared towards feeling good 7km into the run” I set off in the planned heart rate zone and kept on with eating, drinking and pedalling.
Heading back into town lifted the spirits with so many people lining the streets and me riding through on a super steed feeling like a rockstar! Trying not to draft was the biggest concern as everyone seemed to bunch up heading through town. That and the fact I couldn’t see Nina, Dad and Isabel on the side of the road all the way through. “What a bad daddy I am for not spotting my baby girl cheering for me on the side of the road.” Ran through the mind! I needn’t have worried as they were waiting for me just before I hit the Broadlands road section of the course with cowbells at the ready,
“tell Ben there’s nothing wrong with me, I just had punctures” I shouted, just to make sure he didn’t have a heart attack about how long I was taking on the bike.
Just before seeing them I picked up my special feed bag and Jarrod, supporting this year after competing last year, helped me with my rubbish et al and let me know “Brian Chapman is only 2 minutes ahead of you” “ah, nice one” says me “I’ll catch him on the way out to Reparoa”. HAMMER Down, ‘not too much though but a bit of time in Zone 4 won’t hurt, will it?’ my mind bargained!
Close to an hour later I was idling up next to Bryan for a quick chat. He was suffering after an extremely quick first lap and was just trying to salvage his legs for the run. A few minutes later I was back into it, eating, drinking and pedaling.
It was only a few kms down the road, whilst stuffing my face leaning on the aerobars with my mind on nothing else but FOOD that I heard a motorbike idling up next to me. Lifting my head to see the bike in front was probably not quite the 10m away there was nothing I could do except hope that the draft buster understood there was no way I could slow up whilst choking down on the aerobars. Alas, no! “5 minute penalty, you were drafting all the way down this section”. Fair cop, I wasn’t really concentrating so I may have drifted into the draft zone and not realized it. I still thought I was only JUST inside the zone but rules are rules. “Stop at the next penalty box to serve your time”
5 minutes later I was ‘in the box’ with 2 others and quickly joined by 5 more, including my host Andrew, who had been doing Ironman for years and this was first time in the penalty box. After much discussion we all concluded that this particular official may have been on a mission when he was going passed as he hadn’t made enough tickets for the day. Due to there being so many people in at the same time there was a bit of confusion when releasing people so I watched 2 people who arrived after me leave before me and it was on noticing the second one that I realised the mistake. Quickly bringing it to their attention I was off and riding, back into eating (concentrating this time) drinking and pedaling!
It was only 20 minutes on that I hit a lump in the road and felt the all telling bump through the saddle that told me the rear tyre was going flat again. My last Co2 canister engaged and up the tyre went, probably 120psi because when I jumped on it felt like my kidneys were being blended for a protein smoothy.
2nd and last time around the Reparoa turn around and I was still feeling good. Sure I had pushed a little harder but was now heading back with the wind behind me and I was still riding like a boss, on a boss as bike!
13km later PFST, psst, psst, psst, psst! ‘COMON! How can this be happening’. Flat tyre and this time there was absolutely nothing I could do except lay the bike down, take the helmet off and sit on the verge! Spares gone, C02 gone, will to carry on almost gone!
“Maybe it’s just not the race for me?” I said to myself feeling beaten
“Do I pull out and wait for the sad wagon or do I wave down the Shimano van next time it goes past?”
A few minutes later the Shimano van was in sight and my rear wheel in my hand being waved in the air! “I must want to carry on”. Kurt, the Shimano mechanic, was awesome. After a slight hiccup trying to fit the wrong size tub to my wheel I had replaced my second Tubular tyre ever and was on my way, 23 minutes gone.
155km done, way behind schedule and starting to feel sorry for myself. (Looking back at the data, I hopped back on the bike at the same time as I was aiming to have the bike finished. )
If the Ironman bike had not given me enough grief for the day the wind actually turned for the final 25km, head wind and loving it. “Living the dream!!!”
An hour later I was off the bike and changing into the much appreciated cushioning of running shoes!
6hrs 28min on the bike and felt hammered from the final 3 hours!
A good solid transition and off I went on my run hoping to keep it really steady all the way through, ‘Run between the aid stations and stop for as long as you like at stations’ was the plan. Looking down at the trusty Garmin I could see I was running at 4:55min pace, only about 1minute 30 per kilometer quicker than I was supposed to be. It took me 15 minutes to slow down to planned pace!
The run at Ironman is amazing, the people lining the streets in support and total strangers spurring you on from wo to go! The volunteers at the aid stations are so smiley and ready to offer any help they can to keep you going, I would never be able to speak highly enough of them.
Managing to keep running right through to the first aid station I realized that hills were not going to be my friend on this day! I made the decision to walk the hills and stop at aid stations, time didn’t matter anymore anyway so getting through it safely was the priority.
My first stop at the second furthest aid station, the double banger, (you run/crawl through it on the way out and coming back for each lap) I met up with Bryan again, on his way back to town on his first lap. “Mate, how you going” “ah shit, but getting through” we both murmered. “What are you fellas doing over here? Aren’t you meant to be racing?” A volunteer asked us as we chatted on the side of the road “we are having a very important Black Sands Triathlon Club meeting!” 5 minutes later, after a good feed, drink and chinwag we were off in our different directions feeling that little bit better than we had a few moments before.
The run ended up being little moments like that which got me through. I really do enjoy running more when others are around, especially when you consider the monumentius task of 42 fekkin kilometres’ so a little interaction with people along the way helps.
Moments for me
- Brian At the turn around
- Bryan Farrell running like a boss whenever I laid eyes on him and “Living the Dream”
- Verna pushing through the sickness I had heard about giving me strength to carry on (if you think my race was hard, read here because you ain’t seen nothing)
- Peter Bosch jogging along side me for a few moments as the rain started to pour again (I may not have appreciated it at the time because it meant I had to run)
- the few hundred meters walking with Mike Smith (who ripped my legs off on our little spin) and Vicki ‘pass on my cold’ Earle 😉
- quick catch up with Big Jim Goodwin on his second iron distance in 2 weeks!
- moving through the aid station when Black Sands crew, including coach Ben, were on hand to pass out drinks, food, hugs and encouragement with a video interview to boot!
- the smile and hug from fellow training buddies on their last laps before heading down the finish chute
- the feeling of Vaseline through my toes on the second lap after the most wonderful aid station volunteer suggested I give it a go to ease my sore feet!
- seeing my family, the most wonderful support crew, on every single lap, even when they had to hide in the car parked on an angle to keep me in view as I ran up the road in the rain!
- many more that would make this an epic novel series so I may stop now.
Heading back on the final lap people will tell you that your pace quickens, finish line fever kicks in and nothing else matters. That’s true to a certain extent. Your legs go as fast as they will take you, for me that still meant some walking. Your mind starts to think about your celebrations but also ponders on the day that has been and the realization that you are actually about to finish an Ironman! Then the knowledgeable crowd starts spurring you on as they see you heading up the main Road of Taupo with an orange scrunchie on your wrist, you are about to head down the finish chute! “You are almost there”. “Enjoy it mate, you deserve it”. Well done, you legend”. “Keep it going, last stretch” “great effort its your day”. “Don’t trust a fart”
I was really taking it all in this time, enjoying every comment, high five, hand slap and mention of my name! “Go Alan” “Go Leticia”
Leticia Hughes another training buddy had seen my back a few K’s out and was hunting me down, with 150m to go she had me! I turned to see a big grin on her face and with a quick slap on the back she was gone! I thought about chasing her but the way my legs felt I probably would have fallen over and made an arse of myself so let her go.
Chicked! In the true sense of the word!
The finish chute was something else for me this time around, Leticia finished just before I entered the red carpeted pantheon of an Ironman Finish! I enjoyed every single second of it, waving my hands in the air, slapping the hands of people I knew and total strangers alike, jogging across the line with my fists above my head victorious and a screech of excitement followed by a hug from Leticia waiting on the other side! I may have given her a few choice words at the same time 😉
12hours and 50 minutes, I had completed my second Ironman!
I always have to look back to understand what could have been done better. I said before this race that I was only doing it because something went wrong last time, I had unfinished business in Taupo! If I had done 12h50 and that’s just what the body could handle then I would be happy with that and move on. I WOULD! but alas, punctures came a cropper. It’s all well and good to say, ‘you spent about an hour on the side of the road so take an hour off and you are all good’ but alas no! An hour extra on the bike course with a bit of chasing in the mind meant the legs were stuffed for the run so even more time lost there.
I recon that the plan for 11hrs 15 minutes would have been spot on as my first turnaround time was so close to the plan and I felt like I was on a Sunday Cruise!
SO, sorry Nina, that means there is still unfinished business in Taupo!
A massive thanks to
- Andrew and Mike accommodation and advice
- Rae for thinking of me when I had sniffles the day before and sorting out ‘sniffle juice’ then also giving me magic spray for sore legs after
- Bryan Chapman for the ride down and general company throughout the whole training weekend et al.
- Brian Farrell for the laughs on a few runs and over coffee now and again. Along with
- Brian , Lisa and Liam for supporting all the way through
- Jeff, Cat and all the crew at AvantiPlus Waitakere, great riding buddies, advice, keeping my feet on the ground through the big journey
- Department of Cycling and all its members for great training rides, banter and general support throughout
- Jacqui Martin and Jason Fricker. Jacqui for asking and Jason for doing my lawns when I was in the middle of my big block of training. I was lucky enough to only suffer a mild case of “Iron-lawn”
- Black Sands Triathlon Club and all their associates for great training sessions, push when I needed it and support throughout
- My coach Ben who calls me at random to just see how I’m doing, always reads my sessions and knows when to rest me and can push me when I need to be pushed
- Craig, Mereille and the crew at Hobsonville Physio who manage to fix me when I don’t listen to Ben and damage myself
- Isabel for always greeting me with a smile, no matter how long I have been out training and is the only one really willing to give me a hug when I am sweating like a pig
- My dad for making the journey down and willing to sleep in the van just to support on the day and also for letting me know on occasion how good my Uncle Alan was at running;)
- My Uncle Al for running sub 3 hour marathons just to give my dad something to throw at me;)
- Nina, for allowing me to be away from home for so much of the time, looking after the house when I let a lot of things slip, putting up with Iron-brain (forgetfulness, lethargic all the time etc) and for always supporting me when I know this isn’t really your thing, being so organized and getting everyone where they need to be at the right time!
For helping with my entry fee
- Suzaine Greenshields and family
- Claudine Gillies and family
- My mum
- Jeff and Cat Webb and family
- Nina and Isabel (yes money box was raided, all replaced now)