This year was my second time competing at the Ironman World Championships at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. I always knew this year was going to be memorable for so many reason one of those being that I got to bring my special friend Lauren Parker with me and together with myself, Lauren and Josh I knew we were going to be in for an epic adventure. We arrived on the big island on the Thursday just over a week out from race day and so the adventure began.
My first time in Kona was in 2017 and I felt I didn't fully take the time to soak up the race week atmosphere and appreciate the World Championships for what they were.
Race week presented plenty of opportunities to attend different functions, parties and events and it was a bit of balancing act between doing enough to soak it all up and not too much so I wouldn't end up tired come race day.
I came into this race the fittest I have ever been and everything pre race fell into place perfectly however as we all know this is never a guarantee of a great Ironman race and you need to know how to play your cards right especially in Kona with the extreme conditions. I don't usually set myself time or place goals but I wasn't at the World Championships just to finish. I wanted to have a good crack at the win and I believed the only way to do this was to focus on executing the best race I possibly could.
I went into this race very relaxed which was somewhat unsettling in itself however come Friday when it was time to rack the bike the nerves had started to build.
Race morning in Kona is always a little crazy and starts with body marking at 4.45 am then you go through and set your bike up in transition and then there is a bit of time to settle the nerves before the age group women's race start at 7.20 am. It was nice this year to have Josh and Lauren with me as they helped kept me relaxed and calm. We chatted about the fun week we had in Kona and Josh gave me the usual pre-race pep talk which had me pumped to execute my race plan. It wasn't long before it was time to start and I headed to the swim start line. Earlier this year I met a friend Shannon Proffit at one of the Fitter training camps so it was nice to head to the start line with her and we kept each other distracted by talking on the way down to the water.
The pre-race swim chatter is always "Where are you going to start in the swim?". Last year I started far left at the front of the swim but this year decided to start far right at the front so I could swim directly to the first buoy. My plan was to hit it hard for the first few hundred metres and try to find a pair of feet to swim on. Following feet is a pretty simple formula find someone who swims that bit faster then you, figure out if they sight regularly and swim straight, don't get dropped and fight anyone who may try to steal your set of feet. The cannon sounded and we were off. Almost immediately I found a pair of feet that felt just slightly faster than my comfortable Ironman swim pace. After a few hundred meters I felt confident that this girl was swimming directly to each buoy and sighting regularly so the plan was to just focus on sticking on her feet. Swimming on feet is a skill I only really developed earlier this year but has served me well and played a part in improving my swim times. The first 2 km of the swim went by quickly and I felt like I was swimming strong and in a good rhythm. The turn around boat at the 2 km mark got a little crazy and I had to fight to stay with the girl I was swimming with but made it through with no black eyes and my googles still on my head. Winning! Now we were headed back in towards the shore and I felt the pace had started to lift a little. Shit I thought I don't want to loose this girl so I lifted a couple of times and pushed to stay with her. I managed to hold on for around another 1 km but then dropped off and from then on it was a bit of a scrambled to find anyone to swim with. The last 1 km seemed to go forever and I lost my rhythm a little but I kept focused on the fact that I felt I had swam a great first three quarters of the swim and tried not to loose too much time. Soon the pier was in sight and I started to prepare myself for my favourite part of an Ironman the bike. I was out of the water in a time of 1 hour 5 minutes 48 seconds for the 3.8km swim which was 3 minutes and 1 second faster than last years swim here.
Out onto the 180 km bike and straight away I began to break it down. I love the Kona bike course however I don't like the loads of people crammed on course and the lack of people trying to ride fair which is not entirely their fault. With over 2400 athletes on course my goal was to try and move forward through the riders to get myself some space and hopefully find some stronger age group men to work with. The first two hours were non-eventful and I simply focused on getting nutrition and hydration in and keeping my heart rate just under 150 bpm. The plan was not to focus too much on power but keep an eye on not letting it go over 220 watts. I hit the climb up to Hawi and was feeling pretty good and noticed we practically had no wind. As I hit the turn around I knew it was going to be a fast descent and it was time to focus on staying down on my aero bars and start to push for the way back into town. I was expecting that I may hit a couple of mental tough patches on the way back in but felt good right up until the back end of the ride. I arrived back at T2 with a ride time of 5 hours 8 mins and 10 seconds. A Ironman bike PB and 7 minutes and 56 seconds quicker than last year.
Now it was time to run once I got off the bike the first thing I thought is how am I going to get through this 42.2 km marathon. I quickly set about breaking it down and decided to focus on getting the first 5 km done and then assess were things were at and make my next mental plan.
After sorting out a few nutrition issues with the run at a recent race I felt a little more confident going into this marathon and decided it was time to believe that I could achieve what I set out to do and that was execute a good marathon in Kona. The plan was to run Ali'i Drive in a controlled manner and stick to a heart rate of no higher than 150 bpm. I settled in pretty comfortably to just below this and felt great as I ran out to the turn around point on Ali'i Drive. I made sure I was taking in everything I could at each aid station. I knew the real battle would begin once I got out onto the Queen K which is about 16 km into the run. As I turned to head up Palani which is a steep climb out of town that you have to do before you hit the Queen K Highway I knew this was when shit was about to get real. I knew that the whole day came down to the back end of the marathon. Last year I remembering just focusing on getting myself from aid station to aid station which are approximately 1.6 km apart and are also little Oasis's in what seems like a run through hell in souring temperatures of up to 35 degrees and high humidity. Once I got myself out onto the highway there was a weird sense of calm which was somewhat nice and I knew it would just be a game of mental toughness between the mind and body. I kept my head in the game and kept pushing aid station to aid station. The only thing I had on my watch was my heart rate and I simply ran to perceived effort and focused on holding good form and cadence. Even though I was completely spent in the last few kilometers before the finish I still felt mentally strong and somewhat in control.
This year I made sure to soak up the finish line and as I came around the corner down Ali'i Drive the first person I saw was Lauren and I gave her a hi five, I also saw my best friend Hannah gave her a quick wave and spotted Josh at the finish line. I wanted to stop for a kiss but knew I was close to the 10 hour mark. Sorry babe next time :-)
I crossed the finish line in 10 hours and 18 seconds which was 30 minutes 31 seconds quicker than last year and also an overall Ironman PB by 2 minutes and 5 seconds. This time got me an 8th place in my competitive category of 30 - 34 female age group and the fastest Aussie home in my age group. I was also the second overall fastest Aussie female age grouper home as Jane Fardell (another great new friend I had made in Kona) got me in the finisher shoot and looking back I should have tried harder to stick with her I might have got the extra 18 seconds I needed to go sub 10 hours lol.
I am so proud of what I achieved at my second Ironman World Championships. The journey to the start line of an Ironman is what I enjoy most and I never let the result define who I am. For me a good result is always an added bonus. You can't compare yourself to other people and how I gauge my outcome is purely based on whether I am improving, learning and moving forward. I believe I ticked all the boxes heading into Kona and arrived on the Island with a toolbox full of tools to use on race day. I am so grateful for the opportunity to race at the Ironman World Championships and even more grateful that I got share this opportunity with so many amazing people along the way.
A massive thanks goes out to the support around me that makes this all possible. First and foremost to my husband Josh. You know what you do for me and I am forever grateful for that. Secondly my coach Bevan McKinnon since starting working together in early 2017 we have built a strong coaching relationship and I am excited to see what we can achieve moving forward. Thanks again for always believing in me and helping me get the best out of myself. To the rest of the team around me that help make this dream a reality thank you - Aqua shop swim, Tyr Australia, Breakaway Cycles, Liv Cycling, Fusion Team, Smith Optics and Skullcandy Oz.
As some of you may know Kona was my last age group race and I will be taking my professional licence. Turning pro was a goal I set myself after Kona last year. I will still continue to work and balance all the things I do at the moment in my life but will be looking for opportunities to move forward and create a lifestyle where triathlon can become my main focus. My goals will remain the same once I turn pro and those are to simply improve, learn, grow and move forward and also share my journey along the way with the hope that I can inspire people to challenge themselves with what they can achieve. If you had of told me a few years ago what I would achieve in 2018 I would never have believed it so I am excited to see what the next few years will bring.
I am keen to give back to the sport of triathlon and I have recently discovered I have a passion for working with women in triathlon. I have a few things in the pipeline so keep your eyes open for some upcoming announcements.
Going back to the Ironman World Championship was about so many things this year and of course the main goal was to get a great result and I always remained focused on that however for me it was even more so about the journey and allowing myself to grow as a person and develop as an athlete build confidence within myself and push the boundaries of what I believe I can achieve. I also believe in giving back and helping others and one of the reasons I went back to Kona this year was because Lauren encouraged me to have one more attempt at the world championships as an age grouper before turning pro. I agreed but only if she was to come with me so she could face some fears and we could work through the ups and downs together. I am glad that I could be the friend that could support and standby her as she learnt to deal with Kona through a different set of eyes. I always knew this trip wasn't going to be easy for Lauren as it was her first trip back to the big Island since her horrific accident in April 2017 in which she became paralyzed. To see the enjoyment Lauren got from being in Kona this year means more to me than any finishers medal.
What I can say is that I gained so much from the week in Kona, the experiences, the highs and the lows and most of all the amazing people I meet along the way. I left the Island last year not sure whether I would return but the 2018 trip has made me want to return every year and get my hit of the energy that comes from all that is the experience of Kona race week and racing at the Ironman World Championships.
Thanks again everyone for all the support. It honestly means the world to me and I am so grateful for the opportunities this sport has given me and that I can share this journey with you all. Until next year Mahoalo!