It’s funny how you look back on something and just think to yourself “it was just meant to be”. So looking back from winning the Ironman in my home town of Taupo on my first attempt, I can’t help but think fate had worked its magic!
From the years of training over that very course as a teenager, to my recent partnering with Specialized bikes, everything began falling into place nicely and I seemed to carry an exuberance and confidence into the event.
I have to admit there were a few nerves ahead of the race, but they were more from stepping into the unknown and fear of making silly mistakes, rather than self‐doubt.
Having grown up in Taupo I’ve always known how magical it can be when the weather is good and it wasn’t far off perfect! The previous year the event had been shortened to a Half Ironman due to bad weather, so the event organizers were more than relieved to finally get a good one.
In the past for an ITU event you’d essentially rock up to the transition 60‐90mins before the start, set your gear up have a quick warm up, hurt yourself for 2 hours and then it’s over! Ironman takes a whole different level of organizational skills and focus. Days before the event you have to start building your nutrition plan, bike setup and even support crew! Organization isn’t really part of my repertoire so the day before the race when I had to rack my bike and hand in my transition bags I was left scratching my head… What do I do! I did manage to BS my way through it, with the odd stupid question to an official or age‐grouper who thought I was just messing round with them.
Race day and I was surprised with how relaxed and calm the mood was, it is so different to be around athletes who want to share this experience with others, as opposed to an ITU event where the whole goal is to hurt the other athletes as much as possible! I found myself sitting down at the start feeling guilty that I hadn’t done a warm‐up but convinced myself that I had at least 8 hours to warm up and so just continued to just enjoy the moment and watch the sun rise.
Another thing that stood out pre race was just how clean and clear the water was. I’ve raced all over the world and unfortunately most swims you struggle to see your hand let alone the bottom! The water in Lake Taupo is just amazing, in fact if you were skilled enough you could swim and drink at the same time….
6:45 and we were off! One of the great things about changing from short course to long course is that I have gone from an average swimmer to a great swimmer! I was lucky to have Marko Albert from Estonia, who set a fantastic pace and I just sat on his feet, within about 200m we had already cleared away from the rest of the field and proceeded to put time on everyone. To be honest I was enjoying the moment so much that the 3.8km swim seemed to pass by just as quickly as any short course swim!
We exited the swim in 45mins and made out way to Transitions one. I threw my helmet and glasses on ready to roll, but only to discover the morning dew had built up on my lenses and I couldn’t see a thing! Rookie mistake #1…
Onto the bike and I settled in a very comfortable pace. It was fantastic having Marko there to gauge how fast to go. To be honest I had no freaking idea, and at the current pace thought we were going to be caught in 20km! However once we started getting regular time checks we seemed to be pulling away, I’ll take that!
After a while I started to become greedy, initially I wanted just a few minutes lead, then maybe 5, then 7, hell lets make it 10! It’s such a new feeling for me and honestly as the km’s ticked by I just felt stronger and stronger, I began to start saying to myself “should I make my move now!” Finally with 40kms to go I knew I could push for home, I put a small effort in and Marko couldn’t react. From then on it was just a matter of staying focused and not pushing too hard.
Over the 180km ride I downed 5 bottles of fluid, 9 gels and 2 cookies! This is the area of the sport that I was worried about and had no idea. By the time I got into T2 I was certainly on a sugar high and ready to run! I was actually a little nervous about how I was going to feel running off a 180km bike ride but to my surprise I was on my toes and settled into a good pace. 10 seconds later my bladder needed to be emptied! With a 3 minute lead over Marko and 11minutes over Cam Brown, I was relaxed enough to take my time.
For the first 30km of the run I settled into a great pace that was familiar to me, with a few time checks saying I was on 2:40 pace and still pulling away from the others. My only concern was that I was struggling to stomach the warm coke I had in my race belt, and the fluids being handed out at aid stations were the same… So I decided to lay off the fluids for a while until I could stomach it. Rookie mistake #2. Within 2km of cutting back my whole world began to cave in around me, and believe me it was not pretty!
Yes I did walk and yes I did bonk! However as soon as I got to the nearest aid station I made sure my belly was full of fluids and within a few km’s I was feeling a 100 times better.
For the final 5km I once again settled into a solid pace, but dared not celebrate too early. I could have easily fallen back into another hole or worse passed out and blown the race. To make matters worse there were reports that I was on record pace, so instead of relaxing I still had to drive on.
Finally with 400m to go I allowed myself to celebrate, this was for all my friends, family and fans, it was also for my critics, moments like this don’t happen very often but this is the reason I love this sport and makes all the hard training worthwhile.
So I am no longer and Iron Virgin and now I can not only call myself an Ironman but an Ironman Champion. I set a new course record of 8:15:35, finishing 10mins clear from Marko Albert and almost 20mins clear of 10 time champion Cameron Brown!
This was the perfect start for my Ironman career, however it was by no means the perfect race, but I guess that’s the exciting thing ‐ I have learnt so much from this event and am already a better athlete because of it.
A huge thanks to the race organizers and volunteers for making this event possible and as always thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped me achieve this result, its all for you and believe me there is more to come!