So stoked to be back in Kona! , I arrived 7 days out from the race feeling alot more prepared than I was a year ago, after the good season of racing in Europe. I was staying with a local guy that I met last year 30mins out of Kona in Waikoloa. It was nice and relaxing to be away from all the action of race week , and just being able to pop into Kona for the registration and race briefing/dinner etc. And a bonus that I had my own room with a new king size bed and a view of the ocean!
There were a few dramas on the trip over, the airline ‘misplaced’ my bike and gear and I missed one of my flights waiting for airport staff to try and locate my luggage.. My bike and gear finally arrived 4 days before the race and I got a few good sessions in on the course. I didn’t have any hard sessions planned as I had raced the Half Ironman, Aix en Provence 70.3 in France 10 days earlier as a good last hit out. The body was feeling quite fresh after a real easy week of short sessions, the only niggle was a blister on my right heel that was still hanging around from the previous race.
Swim – Race day came around quite quickly and before I knew it I was stepping into the water at Kona with the other 1800 age group athletes. I decided to start further to the left this year after getting smashed in the chaos of the swim start last year. The swim started pretty casually and I just got into a pack of around 20-30 people. the pace was a bit slow but I decided to stay in the group as it was going to be a long day! There was a bit of swell and current so I was happy to come out of the water after a comfortable swim in 1:04.
Bike – The pace on the bike explodes straight way as everyone is keen to get out on the ‘Queen K’ highway. We had a slight tailwind on the way out to the turn around at Hawi so I decide to push the pace. I was steadily passing groups of cyclists, even though so many athletes were drafting! It was good to see the draft busters being alot more aggressive than usual and handing out penalties to most of the culprits. I was feeling really good (apart from a wasp sting on my quad!) as alot of people were struggling with the intense cross winds out at Hawi, I had ridden up to a group of 10 solid athletes to pace off on the way back to town so I kept the intensity up. The average speed slowed a bit but the effort was still near maximum as we battled the headwind for the last 40km. I kept the power on as much as I could and entered the second transition with a Bike split of 4:59.
Run – I ran out of transition and my legs felt great, I was holding 4:07/km till the first turn around at 8km, the heat was intense as the wind on this part of the course was light. I was craving water and ice and grabbed as much as I could without slowing through the aid stations. The next section from town out to the ‘energy lab’ is slightly up hill and coupled with a headwind my energy was starting to fade. It is hard to keep the pace up when people all around are starting to walk, you have to keep the mind strong and remind yourself to run your own race. I kept fuelling the body and using the ice and sponges to try and cool my body down, but he heat was taking its toll over the last 10km. My legs and lungs were screaming but relatively comfortable compared to the extreme heat that was cooking me! I was still on for a good marathon time and managed to keep my average pace under 4:30/km for a personal best of 3:09.
I was really happy with how the day went and had a solid placing, 2nd New Zealander home and 12th in the 25-29 age group in the world with a time of 9:18.
I nearly didn’t race this event as I had entered it before qualifying for Hawaii, and it was less than 2 weeks before the Ironman in Kona. My build up had been going well and I thought a good ‘hit out’ just before the World Championships would work well as I had gone well in Ironman France having raced a half Ironman 2 weeks prior.
We were lucky to have a couple of weeks training on the course before race day so got to know the challenging bike course pretty well. The weather has been so dry and hot.. Central France has just had a heat wave for a few weeks and we had some days well over 40 degrees!
The course included a simple 2km lake swim, a very hilly challenging bike course with awesome scenery, passing through 9 small villages (with some interesting cobbled sections) and a fast 3 loop run course through Aix en Provence town centre and local park.
The Pros lead off and age groupers were supposed to start 5 mins behind. A large group of age groupers false started which was unable to be controlled so the rest of the field had no choice but to get swimming! I managed not to be too far back and worked my way into a small pack of swimmers who were in clear water out to the left, I exited the swim with one of my fastest swim splits in 23:56
Once out on the bike it felt like I was losing time all day as the flying French men were super fast up the climbs, I settled in and kept pushing hard through the tough flat sections and screamed past alot on the long technical descents. I came into T2 clocking a 2:35 split for the bike.
The run felt great straight away and I started making up for lost time on the bike, passing alot of athletes who were fading after the tough ride. I wanted to push hard all the way as this was going to be a good test before the big race in 2 weeks, I ended up with the quickest run for the age group and a P.B of 1:14.
I finished in 4:19 which was good enough for 4th in age, but the main thing was that I was feeling good and strong to attack the Hawaii course.
This was one of my favourite races so far.. Challenge really look after the athletes and put on a great event!
Lake Walschee was perfect conditions for race morning and the swim went well after a physical deep water start.
Swim – 27:05
The 2 loop bike course was fairly quick even tho there was over 900m of climbing, it helped that there were alot of strong German cyclists to pace off. The route went through steep farm land and narrow private lanes which stretched the groups out. It was a crystal clear day and the temperature was a bit cold for the start of the bike, needing arm warmers especially on the descents. By T2 the sun was out and the temperature was up close to 30 degrees for the run.
Bike – 2:23
Onto the run, 3 loops around the scenic lake side trail. Lots to look at and a very vocal crowd helps the run fly by and before I knew it I was coming down the big Challenge finish area with the long red carpet
The South coast of France is so impressive, Crystal clear waters, hot sunny weather and lots of steep mountains! The perfect setting for an awesome Ironman course. The France Ironman in Nice is known as one of the hardest courses on the circuit. With the biggest field of over 2700 athletes, all competitors start the swim at once (beach start diving in off the rocky shore), the cycle has over 2500m of vertical ascending and the dead flat 4 loop run course is a scorching 35+ degrees with no shelter or shade!
The Swim start is a chaotic place to be in any race let alone starting with 2700 athletes all at once off a beach of boulders, my swim was OK but didn’t feel as good as I was hoping, my shoulder was still recovering from a pinched nerve and wasn’t comfortable when I pushed too hard. I was pleased to exit the water in 1:00 and head out onto the bike. The scenery was incredible and helped to keep your mind off the pain of all the climbs. The biggest climb was 21km long and windy, it was hard to watch as my average speed was diminishing , but I was still passing alot of cyclists and an awesome descent making the most of the closed roads and came into T2 after a bike split of 5:22 in 11th place in age. The run was hotter than anything I had experienced before so I was very careful with keeping the fluids and nutrition up. athletes were collapsing and sitting down all over the place and I was worried that maybe I was setting out too fast for the conditions.. I felt good the whole way and managed to press on and win my age group. My marathon time of 3:10 was over 10mins quicker than 2nd place.
I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did in this race and ended up winning my age group by over 18 minutes in 9:40, and qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
This Half Ironman was the inaugural event for Italy, situated at the Adriatic seaside in small town called Pescara. The Italians know how to do the ‘Pasta Parties’ really well with fresh local produce, it was the tastiest one ive ever experienced!
The Ocean swim was inside a break water and was a 1km ‘out and back’ along the shore. It was a wave start so was quite hard to tell who was ahead of who once we got out onto the bike. Quite a hilly course through the Abruzzo county side and finishing with a 3 lap beach front run along the promenade in the stifling heat.
I had a solid swim exiting in 26 minutes and was able to get into a good group of cyclists to pace off. I only took my TT bike away and it was soon clear why most of the field had chosen to race on road bikes.. Some steep inclines early on split up the field but I was able to regain some lost time coming into a nice strong head wind on the last flatter part of the loop.
The run quickly became congested as everyone converged on the 3 lap course, I was happy with my 1:21 half marathon in the 32+degree heat after the challenging bike. This was enough to earn 2nd in age group and fastest run split.