Hi Blog Followers and welcome to Blog # 34. A HARD DAY OUT!
Well I did it. The 2 of 2 from my 3+2+1=Charity is now complete, having finished the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand two weeks after completing the Challenge Wanaka Ironman distance.
Of course this was after completing the three Half Ironman events over three consecutive weekends in December, being the IronMaori Half Ironman in Napier, followed by the New Zealand 70.3 in Taupo, followed by the Rotorua Half Ironman.
This leaves the 1 of the 3+2+1=Charity to go, which is Ultraman Australia in May.
Well what a hard day in the office the Ironman New Zealand was. In the days leading up to the event the weather was great. It was shaping up to be a great event with smooth water for the 3.8 km swim and limited wind for the 180 km bike. Wind on the 42.2 km run doesn’t bother me too much.
However, I woke at 0200 on race morning to the sound of the wind building. I couldn’t believe it. To top this off a headache had been brewing so I knew it was going to be a tough day out. A couple of Panadol and water on board wasn’t having the desired effect.
I arrived to check-in at 0500 hrs with my mother as my loyal supporter. I sorted my bike, got into my wetsuit and headed to the lake to watch the Maori Challenge from the Waka with Haka. I found my own space to get into my own zone, but I couldn’t help be distracted by the waves crashing on the lake. I knew it was going to be fun and games for the swim.
After the professional athletes got underway we were allowed in the water. After a few warm up short swims I moved to where I wanted to start from. The three starting lights flashed down from three minutes to go, reducing to two lights for two minutes to go and lastly one light for one minute to go.
I had started up my Garmin and just the same as at Challenge it locked again. What the hell ! I had checked it the day before. Coach Ray had mentioned to push the power off button for 10-30 seconds then restart it, which fortunately Qwik Kiwi’s Helen reminded me of when we had lunch the day before. Garmin reset and it was off.
I soon realised it wasn’t going to be an enjoyable swim. I was thrown around like a rag doll in the swells and making slow progress. I dry-wretched once with sea sickness like effects which left a burning taste in my mouth, but the next wave downed cold water into my throat.
The return leg was worse as I couldn’t see the buoys to navigate. I normally count to 30 strokes then check for navigation. This time I did it every 15 strokes and each time I found the waves and swells had thrown me off course. I must have been zig-zagging up the lake.
Eventually I exited the lake and was glad to see the back of it. I heard later people were pulled from the lake and a few threw the towel in as it was too dangerous for them. An excellent decision to know your limits.
I ran the green carpet to transition where an ex-army colleague volunteering spotted and assisted me.
The bike to Reporoa was fast and I loved it, but I knew what that meant. The return leg was slow and hard work with the wind a killer. My speedo was reading my speed in the teens not the late 20’s or 30’s that I was accustomed to and dropped even lower with climbing Heart-Break Hill with an ugly head wind.
Once back in Taupo I knew I had to repeat it all over again with the second lap. The muscle fatigue from Challenge Wanaka coupled with the winds let me know where I was. This was definitely becoming a tough day out. By the time I completed the 180 kilometres I was definitely over the bike seat and still had a marathon run to go.
Through transition again and my Army mate came to my aid again. My Garmin told me that as I headed out of town on the first lap I was running at my usual run pace of 5:00 to 5:30 minutes per kilometre. Maybe too fast or maybe the results of my 2nd Ironman in two weeks as on the second lap my legs didn’t like me anymore. On the third lap my legs were telling me they hated me as my pace had slowed right down and the pain was etched in my face.
The finish line. Once you reach the corner where all the bars are with supporters drinking the day away and head down the straight into the finish lane, which leads into the finish chute, you can’t beat the hype and excitement as you hit the crowds. Everyone has hands out to high-five you and Mike Reilly is booming out across the microphone “John Humphries… You Are An Ironman”.
You simply forget the pain and have a smile which can’t be removed from your face. My slower time was 13 hours 30 minutes, which I was really happy with considering the conditions and the fact I had backed it up after an Iron distance from two weeks before.
Talking to others later, many athletes said the swim and bike legs were the hardest event they had been in. Even some of the professional athletes said as much.
Challenge Wanaka is a harder course, but with the environmental conditions, coupled with muscle fatigue I found this Ironman harder than Challenge.
Many thanks to Coach Ray for his guidance and phone call the night before, followed by his morale boosting text in the morning before the event started. The support of Army Colleagues who went out of their way to come and watch, Derrick McMillan and his family who traveled from Palmerston North for the day, and Jon and Kath Spence who were in Taupo for the weekend who had a blast watching. All of which gave me encouragement and high fives as I saw them, along with the Defence Athletes competing.