Months of training, weeks of preparation, days of planning, minutes from the start… I’m waiting in the start pen. I can feel my heart pounding as if it’s going to jump out of my chest. I can feel the adrenaline flowing in my body. A short polite talk with the athlete standing next to me. She tells me she is an ex-pro triathlete from the USA… Our eyes meet…. Part of me is saying I wish you good luck, we are all in this together. The other part of me is saying I’ll overtake you on the bike:)
The pro men exit the water as we are entering the water…. A quick swim to the water start line….. BOOM the gun goes off…. This is THE time!
The little fire inside is burning strong… Game on, our wave has started… We are tackling the 2.4 mile swim in the Pacific Ocean. The battle is tough from the start with fierce competition all around. I get swam over multiple time in the first hundred metres…. I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I’m swimming in a washing machine trying to avoid all these other bodies. The swell is big and I can’t sight the course buoys. I focus on finding feet in front of me… they are either too fast or too slow… Finally I get into a rhythm….I know the swim is by far my weakest of the three disciplines, so my aim is just to get round the course as efficiently as possible. It’s all a blur. I’m focusing on my stroke and my breathing, and I become oblivious of my environment and the hundreds of athletes around me. I reach the half way point and on the return leg I can feel I’m fighting against the current, the tide and a bigger wake. I’m now more composed though and focusing on the task at hand. I finally make it to the arch at the end of the swim. A quick glance at my watch as I exit the water and I see my time of 1h17. I’m massively disappointed, this is soooo slow and way below my expectations. I remind myself the swim is just the warm up and a small portion of this race. I didn’t know it by then, after a slick T1 transition, I was actually 41st in my age group. Time to tackle the bike course.
I feel strong but I hold back for the first 6 miles of the bike course (a total of 112 miles cycling) whilst riding on the roads in the town of Kona. Even riding conservatively, I find myself overtaking lots of athletes. I am so luck to see my family shouting encouragements (best support crew ever) just before I get on the Queen K Highway, a huge boost of energy 🙂
The little fire inside is still burning strong:) As soon as I’m on the infamous Queen K Highway, I hit scorching heat. It feels like riding in an oven thermostat 8 with hot hairdryers blowing on you! After the first hour, I realise my power is lower than I had planned, but I’m still overtaking other competitors. Very few athletes are passing me. I remember watching an interview from pro athlete Jan Frodeno in the lead up to the race, where he explained he adjusts his power by decreasing it 10-15% just to account for the extreme conditions in Kona. This provides me reassurance and I keep on riding steadily at my reduce target power. Maybe I’m not doing that bad after all?! The cross wind is very strong on the climb up to Hawi, and again on the descent from the volcano. I stay tucked in my aero position and lean against the wind. I must be riding at 45 degrees to counter for the wind and deep down inside I feel scared. The wind is pushing me, and the other riders around, and at each gust, we all swerve a couple meters on the road! I’m really concentrating hard as I know a little mistake or a pothole could be disastrous. Finally I reach the return leg on the Queen K. We are now facing a headwind, which feels a lot safer even if a lot slower. The miles seem long and laboured, my power has dropped a bit again. I can’t believe how low it is (compared to a “standard” Ironman)! I’m starting to feel fatigued and the legs are hurting. However I am still overtaking other athletes, just like in a video game, reeling in one rider at a time and then on to the next one 🙂 . Maybe they are feeling worse than I am?! I focus on hydration and nutrition to get my energy levels back up, until I finally make it back to the descent to Kona. As a weak swimmer, I am used to having to claw my way back up the field on the bike. It is such a tiring fight both physically and mentally. Fueled by the little fire inside, everything seems possible. At the end of bike course, I have made it to 19th in my age group (again, I didn’t know it by then).
I start the marathon feeling relieved to get off the bike in on piece! I have this desire deep down to push my body to its limits and see what I have inside. The family is waiting a few miles in on Ali’I drive and it gives me so much energy to see them again 🙂 My ace support crew seem so excited and happy, which makes me even more excited and happy myself! Rob gives me some info on my ranking. This is the first insight I receive on my performance.
I can’t believe I’ve made it top 20 , above my humble expectations. I want this…. really bad…. Perhaps I can get up the ranking further?!… Time to listen to myself and the little fire inside. I dig deep inside in my heart and soul. I run aggressively for the next 10 miles feeling on a high, spurred on by the crowds along Ali’i drive. Again I’m passing lots of other athletes including a great number of men. This gives me a boost of confidence as all the men started in waves prior to the women. And I’m passing a lot of men…. The run continues to go smoothly and I surprisingly don’t feel too affected by the crazy heat! I cool down with ice or cold sponges at each aid station, and I seem to stay on top of potential dehydration or sun stroke. I hit the warmest part of the run, the Energy Lab, with has no wind and heat records, at the hottest part of the day… The stretch feels long but I’m on a mission and my stride is still bouncy.
The going becomes tough at around mile 21. I’m not giving in to the signals from my brain telling my body to stop … I silence the brain and let the little fire inside take the reins instead… I leave myself no other option then to push harder. I find myself running together with an American athlete from miles 21 to 25. She is running well and I’m trying to hang on. I keep thinking that when you ran out the weak (which I have), surely the strong will kick in?!
I see the family strategically waiting around mile 25, and Rob tells me I’m ranking 11th . I can’t believe it!! Of course then, my only thought is to chase top 10… So I pick up my pace again for the last 1.2 miles. I look at my watch, I’m running around 6.30 min per mile pace flying down Palani Hill, on the last mile of an Ironman! The crowds go insane as I fly by, and they are screaming encouragements, spurring me on even more! I end up doing a sprint finish for the last kilometre of the race… completely surreal after 10h35min of racing! I can’t quite catch up the next competitor and cross the finish line 11th in my age group, only 8 seconds from 10th and then only another 6 seconds from 9th! My crazy mind can’t stop thinking if only the run was a bit longer haha!
Months, weeks and hours of training/preparation lead to seconds of utter happiness…
Straight after crossing that special line, I burst into tears. All my emotions are pouring out… all the emotions fueling the little fire inside. Everything I needed was inside me, and it was there all along.
As always, thanks to everyone who has contributed to getting me to the start line! The list is long and this is definitely a team effort! This includes Rob for being my rock and always being there for me through the good, the bad and the crazy (with all the sport, there is definitely a lot of crazy in our lives haha!), our little Bears for teaching me to never give up, our families for the love and support, our friends and everyone who has sent messages of support before, during or after the race! So many kind messages, completely overwhelming! Also thanks to my coaches Pete (track coach) and Ali (strength & conditioning) for teaching me to believe in myself, and Bicycle Jacks for the help with my bike. And finally, last but not least, thanks so much to my sponsors for the generous support and for believing in me: TriUK, CimAlp, Totally Wonderfuel, KITBRIX, Cervelo, Fizik, Muc-Off, Silva and Tacx. I’m so grateful!!
RACE IN NUMBERS:
#nevergiveup #chaseyourdreams #dare2dream #dare2beyourself #dreamBIG