Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ironman New Zealand 2009

Going into this years Ironman New Zealand I was joking that I was going to test the theory that it is better to be 10% under trained than 1% over trained. My preparation had been seriously compromised by a knee injury that kept me from doing any running at all for 2 weeks at the end of January. Were it not for the great team of Health Care Practitioners (at Synergy Health; Massage Therapist Attila Apt, Naturopath Dr. Todd Levins and Physiotherapists Sandy Stewart and Tim Dewailly. Not at Synergy but part of my team; Chiropractors Dr. Michael Buna and Dr. Marie Bozek as well as Doctor Of Chinese Medicine Bonnie Robinson) I never would have made such a quick recovery.

Although there were a few moments where I thought I might have to call this race off I tried to remain positive and kept faith in the fact that I had a lot of experience to draw on. I also reminded myself (and was reminded by Randy as well) that my last Ironman wasn’t that long ago so I still had a lot of fitness in me.

Coming down here my goals were pretty simple. To race fast is obvious, but I also wanted to secure a spot for Kona so that I could build the rest of my season around coaching my athletes at HPR and be fresh in October. Coming to Ironman New Zealand presented a great opportunity to qualify since there are 7 spots for pro men and 2 of the top seeds already had a position locked up.

One of the things very different about this race was my taper. I guess it is hard to call it a taper when you haven’t done much volume leading into it, but the main difference was that I spent it coaching a camp in Kona. I think a lot of the athletes at the camp thought I was crazy and wondered how I could be ready for a race only a week later, but I can honestly say that being around athletes who are stoked about training and racing and being in Kona actually kept me from worrying about the lack of preparation on my part. Also, training in the wind that we experienced in Kona that week ensured that any conditions on race day would seem easy in comparison.

The Race.

The Swim; one thing that I have definitely learned is that for me to swim well, I need to swim a lot. The two weeks before this one saw me in the pool only once with all my other swims in open water. I did my first swim of the year in my wetsuit two days before the race. In hindsight this was just plain dumb. I know that the swim is where I need to be at the top of my game if I hope to be anywhere near the leaders out of the water and once again I came out of the water almost 6 minutes down on the lead group and playing catch up. I simply can’t do that and expect to get on the podium at these races. Lesson learned, AGAIN! The good news is that with a ton of swimming (like I did in December) I can swim with them, I just have to find the balance that will allow me to do all three sports and have time for the other things in my life.

The Bike; I knew that the swim had not set me up well, but I jumped on the bike and tried to find a rhythm right away. The good news was that my legs felt great immediately. I was already catching and passing guys within the first few km. It was at about 5km into the bike that I took a right hand turn with a little too much speed on wet pavement (chip seal actually) and I went down. Initially, I thought that was it, day over, but I managed to get back up and get moving again. The bike was fine other than the fact I couldn’t use my top gear all day. My right side took a pretty good scraping, but the adrenaline gave me a good boost and I was able to re-find my rhythm. Before I knew it I was passing people again and looking forward to my special needs bag where I had some ibuprofen stashed away. The worst pain was in my right forearm that had a few stones stuck in it right where I rested it on the pads of my aero bars. The rest of the bike was just a matter of managing my nutrition and effort. There was a period of time where we had a good group of about 6 of us together (legally of course) but I was actually able to pull away from this group in the final 20km to give me a clear advantage and a gap coming out of transition.

The Run; initially my hip felt so bad starting out on the run that I thought for sure my day was over. I ran out and the crowds were crazy which gave me a lift and kept me going until another couple of ibuprofen started to kick in. At this point I thought of how far I had come in the race and how I was right where I wanted and needed to be to achieve my objectives on the day. I also thought of all the athletes that I have coached and worked with and have fought through injury’s. One athlete in particular who had crashed at a race in Victoria years ago and stuck it out with half the skin gone from her backside. I knew that if they could show this kind of toughness, than so could I. Eventually the hip pain subsided and it was replaced by the usual pain of a marathon at the end of an Ironman. Add to this the fact that my “long run” was actually a pair of one hour runs in one day about 3 weeks ago and the aching really started to set in with about 10km to go. I saw that I had made up ground on the Stephen Bayliss at the turnaround, but in spite of trying, I was unable to lift my pace. The last few kilometers at this race are lined with people cheering you home so the final 12 minutes actually went by quickly. The finish line here in Taupo was great as I was met by my homestay (and the finish line director of the race); Janice Braddock. This was a nice way to end my Ironman New Zealand journey.

The Aftermath; I have spent the last few days here in Taupo nursing my bumps and bruises. I have done a lot of walking to keep things loose and I have enjoyed a few Steinlager’s every evening. Tonight I will be flying back to Victoria for an entire day before heading down to Tucson to coach another HPR training camp. I am looking forward to seeing everyone back home, especially my biggest supporters; Rach, Rex, Kona and Murphy.

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