Rather than list everything we did before the race, I just wanted to cover a few memorable moments:
- went snorkelling at a beach about a mile from our hotel on the Friday (day before the race). While stepping over some rocks to get in, I literally nearly walked into a sea turtle having a snack on some algae on the rocks. I guess for people in Hawaii turtles are not that exciting, as no one was really very excited, but I thought it was awesome!
- did a double-take when Gordon Ramsay stepped out of an Escalade near transition right next to me on the Friday (bike racking). I said hello, good luck etc. He seemed like a nice guy, happily chatting to various randoms and having his photo taken with them. He must be a good actor on TV, or can change quickly.
- picked up my rented bike on the Wednesday and then got the wheels changed to some nice Zipps at the Expo. Alex got the bus back to the hotel and I cycled back. Within one mile I started feeling that dreaded soft tyre sensation and had a puncture. Alex went past on the bus and called me to check I was OK - she thought I'd crashed! Luckily it was a slow one and with a couple of CO2 top-ups I still beat the bus back to the hotel. I then had to learn how valve extenders work....
- went for a quick spin on the bike a couple of times before the race. Cycling down Ali'i Drive is amazing, with hundreds of people out on their TT bikes, all the nutrition companies giving out freebies etc. I overtook one guy on a nice P5 and then realised it was Freddie van Lierde. I absolutely smashed him on that short easy ride. It must have motivated him as he had a pretty good race!
- we went for a swim in the bay where the race would take place. I literally can't think of any aspect of the location that could be improved for swimming, loved it.
I actually slept pretty well but as usual woke up before the alarm at about 3:20am. The hotel wasn't laying on an early breakfast (rubbish), so we bought some cereal, bread etc. from the supermarket and I'd "stolen" some cutlery from breakfast the day before.
We shared a taxi down to the race start with a couple of very nice Americans, then I went through body marking, pumping up tyres etc. They weighed everyone at body-marking - 188lbs, what a beast! I think that's about 10lbs heavier than I was in the summer (I very rarely weigh myself), so not sure what had happened there.
Got through everything really quickly so was done by about 5:30am (7am start). I even went back into transition to go to the loo and was still back with Alex around 6am. Alex and I watched the pro start from the seawall at 6:30am and they were then ushering the AGers into the water. At that point the spectators around me kept saying "Don't you think you should be over there?" I didn't really want to be treading water for 30 mins so reluctantly got into the water at about 6:40am. Most people were treading water by the start line, but I swam over towards the seawall - I knew where Alex had been standing so swam there and managed to find her.
At about 6:50am I thought I'd better get nearer the line so I went that way and clung onto a boat for a bit.
|Swim start - not sure if I'm in this, probably out of shot to the left!|
Eventually I saw the boat coming into view at the turn point. Somehow whilst turning around I'd managed to go from the outside to the middle of the pack, so the swim back was actually less pleasant - basically I had to just swim at the pace of everyone around me, and occasionally give someone a "nudge" when I could see I was about to get squashed by people closing in on both sides. I had absolutely no idea what sort of time I was on for, so checked my watch once I reached the shore and saw 1:03:xx. I was fairly happy with that for a non-wetsuit swim - about 5 mins down on my usual wetsuit times seemed to be in line with others and I'd not done much swim training.
Official time 1:03:56 (91st in AG out of 177)
Not much to say other than it was way busier than in other IMs, which is not surprising as I was middle of the pack rather than being fairly near the front, due to the higher standard. I think I sat on the floor to put my socks on as there were no seats.
I didn't realise at the time, but I didn't see anyone putting sunscreen on us. Given we weren't allowed to put any on before the swim, you can imagine what was about to happen....
Offical time 3:38
I jumped on the bike and set off on the first bit around town and the short out-and-back. Amazingly I found I was actually overtaking more people than were overtaking me! I saw Alex on the way up the drag and waved - I didn't see her on the way down, and she didn't see me either, so apparently was very worried and thought I'd crashed (you can see a pattern here...).
I was on a rented bike (Cannondale Slice), so there were always bound to be some minor issues at some point. The first was that there was only one bottle cage (and only one mounting), so I just had one bottle which contains some gels dissolved in water. I hadn't really formalised my plan for holding other drinks! At the first aid station I grabbed a water bottle and tried to tuck it into the top of my trisuit. For some reason it wouldn't stay and was causing the zip to come undone. After about 3 mins of fiddling I gave up and just held it in my hands on the aerobars, kind of like one of those aero-bottle mounted on the bars, but a more basic version! Later in the ride I did manage to tuck it into my trisuit, but it still wasn't ideal.
The other issue was I had no way of knowing how fast I was going. I've done this before though so I wasn't too bothered about just going on feel. I had a stopwatch to see how long I'd been going for. Anyway, it felt like I was going pretty fast for not a lot of effort, just trying not to draft but still getting some gains by being around so many other people. There was a sign saying 40km - I looked at my watch and worked out that had taken me about 1:01. Really?! I was absolutely loving the course - smooth rolling roads, a nice bike and wheels, no wind. I was pretty hot but bearable at 9-10am.
Next sign came up - 80km in 2:03! Still just cruising and we weren't too far from the turn at Hawi. We saw the pros go past the other way - looked like Starky was trying to make a go of it on the bike, but I saw FvL was pretty close and knew he'd have a good run.
It was very warm (no cloud at all) and I was conscious that I had no sunscreen on! Luckily I'm reasonably dark skinned naturally and had a bit of colour from the 3 days before. The rubbing around my shoulder also felt sore, and I discovered that putting the cold water bottle against it was very nice! Turns out there was actually quite an abrasion, but I couldn't see it until I got back to the hotel, and I had other things to worry about at the time.
The drag up to Hawi was good as it gave me a chance to sit up for a bit, and it wasn't really much of a hill at all. At this point I started thinking a 4:50 or so was on, which would just be ridiculous for me. However, I was slightly concerned that we must have had a massive tailwind all the way, as that was the only explanation for the speed so far, but it genuinely seemed to be still. Turned at Hawi, and no, there didn't really seem to be a headwind, still calm. So I got to 120km in about 3:10, thinking "just another 60km and even at 30kph that would be 5:10, which is still good for me, 32kph would be about 5 hours!" Turns out it wasn't much quicker than 30kph all the way back! At around 130km suddenly the wind started - a cross-head off the sea. At first it was just a bit annoying, then it got worse and worse until it was really hard to stay on the aerobars. At one point I had to put it in the small ring for the first time, and it was barely even uphill.
There was a 10M stretch where I really was not enjoying it. At the point I needed to be most aero, the bike was getting really uncomfortable (hardly surprising with about 60 mins practice on it before the race). So I sat up and just ground it out. I went from 105th in my AG to 119th in the section from 90M to the end of the bike, but didn't want to completely destroy myself before the run, and wanted to actually try to enjoy the run a bit, considering I had no real targets for the race. The wind eased off in the last 10km but I decided to keep taking it easy. By the time I got to transition I was starting to feel a bit more positive.
Official time 5:06:14 (now 119th in AG)
I got off the bike and my positive attitude quickly disappeared as my legs felt terrible. I've never struggled to run off the bike before, but I was really not moving well as I went around the pier. My plan was to do a quick T2, but as I entered the change tent, the floor was soaking wet, so that forced me to change socks (luckily I had a spare pair in my T2 bag). So that added about a minute, but I couldn't start the run in wet socks.
Official time 3:59
My usual plan in IM runs is to run the whole way, including aid stations. But I wanted to take this conservatively, partly as I wanted to enjoy it, and also I was feeling absolutely screwed at the start of the run. So I was very relieved to see the first aid station appear and I walked for some water (on my body and in my mouth). I didn't know the course really so was pleased to see there were mile markers. The first one suggested I had done about 6:40 I think, which didn't seem likely! But then the next were in the 7min region, so I guess it was the usual thing where it feels like you're barely moving but actually running OK. The support along Ali'i Drive was fantastic - 10M (5M each way) of continous cheering, although I did feel like stopping at some of the houses for a beer with the supporters who seemed to be having more fun than I was!
I saw Alex at about 2M and stopped for a chat. She asked how I was - I think my answer was "tired", I wasn't in a particularly verbose state. As the miles ticked by I wasn't feeling much better, but also wasn't feeling any worse, and I was in a nice rhythm of running at a reasonable pace between the aid stations, with 15s walking through them, and ticking off the miles at around 7:15s. Once we got back to town at around 10M I started to feel a bit more positive and thought I might be able to sustain what I was doing. There's a steep climb out of town, and continuing my conservative plan I walked up it - some people ran up and passed me, but I passed them all back within about 400m of the top! I was consistently passing people, and I think only one person passed me (results say I moved up from 119th in my AG at the start of the run to 97th by halfway).
|About to throw away visor, which was annoying me for some reason|
The road to the Energy Lab seemed to go on forever, but luckily there were some pros coming back to provide some entertainment. FvL was well ahead but for some reason he didn't say thanks to me for my motiviational destruction of him on the bike a few days earlier. Through the Energy Lab section I really started to pass people more quickly, just by maintaining pace. Looking at my watch I started thinking sub10 was basically a given, and I worked out 9:40 would be about 8 min/mile (my first IM time was 9:47 so wanted to beat that), giving me some scope for slowing/enjoyment. But I kept looking and realising I was making time up against that target, and rather than easing back I couldn't help myself. I was passing loads of people now (compared to 22 places made up in my AG in the first half of the run, I made up 37 in the 2nd half) and realised I could get close to 9:30. With a couple of miles to go I knew it was all flat or downhill and started to enjoy it. I think it was 9:21:xx at 25M so I thought sub-9:30 was possible, and that would probably beat my Nice time as well.
The run down Ali'i Drive was amazing, high-fiving people and stopping to give Alex a kiss. As I saw the clock it was just ticking to 9:29, so under 9:30 with a bit to spare.
|About 50m to go - awesome atmosphere on Ali'i Drive|
Official time 3:11:20, finish time 9:29:07 (60th in AG)
The stuff at the finish was great - the biggest medal ever, a decent t-shirt, pizza, burgers, ice-cream, chocolate milk etc. Plus, there was a small bit of beach which couldn't be accessed from anywhere else, so I went for a wade to cool the legs off. I found Alex and went straight up to a bar over Ali'i Drive for a beer and to watch the finishers come it - awesome!
|Enjoyed this beer, and had a good view of the finish area|
Overall, my time was better than I was expecting, although that is partly down to the decent conditions we had. The whole experience was amazing, and I enjoyed the race more than the 3 IMs I've done before, particularly the swim, first 80M of the bike and start and end of the run.
On removing my trisuit I discovered that I had definitely satisfied Rule No 7. I am putting in an application for membership of the Extreme Tanlines Club - chairman Matt Hann.
I won't go into the details of the rest of our holiday, other than to say it was amazing with the particularly highlights being:
- Maui, of all the places in the world I've been to, this is probably the one I most want to go back to.
- Big Sur, unbelievable scenery
- Las Vegas, just ridiculous!
|The beach at the hotel in Maui - not bad!|
|View during a jog we did in Big Sur|
If you've made it this far, well done.