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Ironman Australia - mission Kona

Ironman Australia - mission Kona

After finishing 2nd age grouper overall at IM Taupo and narrowly missing out on Kona qualification, I was determined and motivated to race again. So, without much contemplation, I entered Ironman Australia. With not much downtime before picking up the training, I was back in full swing.

This race bought a change of coach, Bevan McKinnon who is a well-known coach in New Zealand. It was a tough decision to make, as Philip Hatzis, Tri Training Harder had got me so far, taught me a lot and ultimately we had worked well together; but being opposite sides of the world has its difficulties.

Leading up to race day I was fighting off the NZ flu but feeling ready to go again. I always get excited about racing, alongside the usual pre-race nerves, doubts and image complex…all the normal things!

We arrived in Australia with a couple of days to spare and time to realise that the bike course I thought was flat, and made ‘Taupo look hilly’ was really not. The bike course started with a hilly 10km that would be a heart and wattage spiker, something I knew I needed to control and be patient with.

Race day started with the 70.3 race followed by a rolling swim start 45mins later. The swim start appeared leisurely compared to a mass Taupo start, which allowed a good opportunity to find my rhythm and pace it well. The crossing of a weir mid-way through the swim was new to me, it felt more like an adventure race, but it was a nice opportunity to focus and get back into it. A PB swim by a minute and I was feeling ready to get on the bike.

The bike course, two laps out and back, with the first 10km somewhat undulating then flat/rolling hills. A great course to warm up the legs then get your head down and stick to the race plan numbers. Coming back into Port Macquaire with the infamous ‘heartbreak hill’ a short sharp climb that gets the lungs going and the realisation of fatigue in the legs. At this point I realised that the race plan may have gone out the window, with my HR sky high and my watts…well, nearly double what I should have held at sometimes. I ‘burnt some valuable matches here’ and knowing this was only the first lap I tried to bring it back and just settle in.

I always wonder where those 5 or so hours go on the bike and looking back I’m not sure where they did go. With my head down, the sun burning on my back and keeping focus on a good rhythm the time flies by, and soon enough I’m back at heartbreak hill thinking ‘ooo that was a quad burner’. Back into town with the amazing crowd support, bike racked and I’m putting on my runners.

Running through transition was the first sign I knew this was going to be a hard slog of a marathon. Usually within the first few miles of the marathon I’m skipping away going far too fast and trying to be strict with my pacing, but this one was very different, my legs were already tired and heavy.

The run was a 4 lap course (4 cheeky 10kms…that’s all), a nice little climb at the beginning of each lap but mostly flat along the waters edge.  Within the first lap I could feel the sunburn on my back and my energy levels low, this required a toilet stop: for me to have a word with myself and remind me why I was here. I knew from half way I had an 8minute lead on second place in my AG and the look of Liz’s face when she told me appeared to say ‘hurry up she’s catching you’. At half way I tried to pick the pace up and go for it, but with all the will and determination it didn’t equate to much, I just held on in there.

The last cheeky 10km is usually a mental boost for me ‘its nearly over’ but again I just battled on with the pace just staying as it was (at one point I thought my watch was broken, giving me incorrect paces…it really wasn’t!...Damn, it was worth a shot though).

I crossed the line with my usual celebration knowing I had qualified, achieving the goal I had set out to achieve. Again, I should be happy. I gave it all I could have on the day, I pushed as hard as I could for as long as I could, but in hindsight another learning lesson that I’m still learning the hard way… Be patient! My lack of patience here was shown significantly by my run time. Lesson learned.

Now rest and recover, as my coach says…. Or…. probably more likely, Crossfit and learning how to surf!!

Another huge thanks to Raceskin, EdcoWheels UK, Threo, KiwiMultisport, my current coach Bevan McKinnon and lastly Philip Hatzis, Tri Training Harder (thank you so much, it’s taking me a while longer to learn this patience malarkey).


Ali Wilson