Now this is a very special bike race. It starts with a swim warm-up and ends with a jog to the finish. And it's a World Championship race.
On 8th October this year, the cannon will fire on the pier at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and I will be off, racing in the Ironman World Championships.
Over the next few weeks, the lovely guys at Bike Hub have offered to post some of my experiences. For the moment, this piece will be about my journey to Kona, and the first impressions.
Firstly – getting to Kona has been a long dream of mine, but one of those that you think will probably never happen. Probably a little worried about failure - I had never fully committed to getting to Kona, although I knew I had a reasonable chance. This season I returned from a triathlon hiatus and posted some fairly average results. I was left a bit dejected and confused about whether I had truly reached middle age.
Some honest discussions with my coach, Lucie Zelenkova, about my goals and my form in January left me in with a decision. Work very hard to get an outside chance of being close to maybe getting a slot, or do something else. Ironman South Africa was about 10 weeks away. Clearly I chose to go for it, and you can find out about my race here if you want.
In summary - It was hard.
To have a good Ironman, it's more than just hours and dedication. You will also need a sound strategy, good execution and to keep your head when everyone else may be losing theirs. Finally, the uncontrollable: punctures, illnesses, equipment malfunctions happen every race, and you just hope it's not your unlucky day.
My Kona dream started when I saw some highlights on Gillete World Sport Special (before Macgyver on a Friday night). This was a way out there event, for the way out there super freaky 1%. It was a meeting with the Captain in 2007 that got my fire going. He was a real Kona qualifier who cycled a 450km round trip to join us for a weekend away. He wasn't a super human athlete, nor could he run a 3min kilometer. He was an honest Aussie, who put his mind to something, believed in it and achieved it.
Our friendship also afforded him chances to teach me about setting up heat chambers in London flats, the Dirty Capitano (caffeine:sugar:water ratio about 2:2:1) and how to ride around Richmond Park with a broken collarbone and a concussion! But there's a whole book for those stories!!
More importantly, he showed me that Kona was attainable.
If you are reading this and saying 'cool - but not me'. I also said that a few years ago. I went out and did a few tri's, found a group that challenged me, and a coach that understood me. I then multiplied that by a lot of hard work, got support from those around me and committed.
I have never run a 3 min kilometer and I don't race Vets A. My swimming is still as fluent as my Mandarin. My wife is still grumpy when I wake her up at 5am on a Wednesday. Yet, I will be racing with the best endurance athletes in the world in two weeks time...
I arrived two days ago after a JHB-LHR-SFR-KOA (Kona) marathon of flying. Quite a flight, and some great views of Iceland, Greenland, Canada and north-western USA. Those paled into comparison with the awesomeness of this place. My first morning, I was having breakfast on Ali’I Drive, whilst watching dolphins chasing huge fish about 100m offshore.
I’ll go into more detail about each of the following, but in quick summary:
- 36 hours travel and 12 hour time difference: tough
- Lava fields: special
- Kona/Hawaii: Beautiful
- Weather: brutal
- World champs: Swam next to one in the pool, and casually passed one on the bike (he was running).
- Other athletes: I’m the fattest here…
So that’s about all for me today. Feet up and watching some GridIron. Hope you enjoy the posts, and if there is anything specific you would like me to address about the Kona experience, please post a comment or get in touch on Twitter @rob_hth.