Helen’s Ironman Experience

Being my first NZ Ironman event my plan was to arrive in Taupo with time for checking out both the bike and run courses, while having time to “relax” and soak up the vibe of what this event is like.

I’m really pleased I did.  It was good to find out before I started that the bike was going to be 90kms of pretty good and 90kms of gentle (and not so gentle) climbing. I’d already scoped out the swim course and gotten a feeling of the sneaky current that comes off the river, but having time to swim around some of the bouys to get a better judge of landmarks for sighting turned out to be so much more beneficial. The run course was pretty straight forward, but getting a clearer idea of where I was heading was also good.

Check-in on the Thursday was pretty easy.  From here I started to get the excitement and vibe as I bumped into a number of others from Wellington whom I knew.

The pasta party (Opening Ceremony) was a hum of athletes getting pumped for Saturday,  meeting others they’d met on previous IM journeys and of course the hype from the Ironman crew itself.

On Friday I missed the First Timers seminar, as this had changed from the original plan, but I got my bike racked and bags checked in without any hitches.  I spent a nice quiet afternoon/evening trying not to worry about what Saturday would bring and instead focusing on what I was going to do.

Ironman
Helen getting ready for the swim leg

Race morning

I left home base on time, but then had to turn back as I forgot some of the food I’d prepared for the bike. I sorted my drinks and computer on the bike (with the food) to then miss my partner on the way down to the lake start.  This caused some panic as he was to finish doing my wetsuit up. Luckily I bumped into Di Chesmar who gave him a call to let him know where I was, and also managed to get the zip sorted.

Swim

I hadn’t worried about what the lake would be like.  I knew the wind was going to there on the bike, but certainly hadn’t expected the swells that we faced on the swim course. It was one thing to get beaten up for the first 1500m just coping with the shear numbers and everyone struggling with the water conditions. I then suddenly figured that it was more like an open water swim and altered my stroke, which seemed to help (along with going a bit off course and getting away from the melee). I wasn’t all that happy with my swim time, but after hearing the fate of others was pretty proud I made it through.

Ironman NZ
Helen heading off to T1 at Ironman

T1

This went well, almost to plan,  but alas I forgot my second bag of food.  Going back to get it delayed my bike start for a few more minutes.

Bike

I started the bike feeling not too bad, but after a short time heading out lost a piece of my power meter, so I stopped getting those readings and had to try and work on cadence and feel, which when going downhill or climbing is not such an easy thing to do. I also had a headache and nausea started to kick in.   I believe this was the effects of the swim, whether from the motion, drinking too much lake water or both, who knows. By the time I’d made 100kms I was struggling to force myself to eat, when my plan had been to eat everything I had, plus more from the aid stations. I also started to think I may not make the last turn around cut off, but after a short battle in my head decided if I wasn’t going to make it, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. In the end I made it back to transition with about 15 minutes to spare.

Helen striding out on the first lap of the run

T2

T2 went well and to plan.  I took my time and went through my process without panic.  I headed out on the run feeling confident that I could get the rest done.

Run

The run started really well  and I headed out on target and on plan. Unfortunately by the time I got to around 8km the nausea was affecting my ability to eat so I was having coke and water and trying to eat a shot block or a mouthful of chippies.

I bumped into Andrea Cowlam who was on a run aid station and she tried to help my through this. I was trying to keep an eye on my pace, trying to keep it in the ball park, but knowing I was getting into trouble. The second lap was slower, but the mental darkness hadn’t taken over yet.  It helped that I was still in touch with some people I knew who were  at the same stage as me.

The third lap was awful. I could barely stomach the coke and water and couldn’t get myself to move any faster. I lost sight of the people I’d been trying to keep with and in the dark lost my support people for a short time and the belief of making it. The fear that I would again be taken off course and not allowed to finish came crushing back and I nearly gave up, but kept trying to move forward hoping it would be enough.

All the marshalls and support people were amazing at this point and so valuable.  Everyone of them kept telling me to keep going, that I could finish.  These were random strangers in the dark, not my own family and friends. By this stage, I really didn’t want to go on, but then Gerrard came out of the darkness, saying they’d been looking for me, how was I doing? Then Sean (my partner) came through and pretty much gave me the hard word and told me I wasn’t stopping, and that if I had enough energy to cry (I told him I’d wanted to cos I didn’t believe I was going to make it) then I’d have enough energy to get there. And so I continued on, “running” even though the pace was such that the others in my support team were able to walk beside me, Nadine and Andrea especially.  Di and George popping up in surprising places.

The last 6kms felt like an entire marathon.  To be so close and yet so far away. I was even telling myself “left foot  right foot left foot” to try and keep some momentum.  Around this point I’d also said that it would be really nice to get so far and still cross that finish line, so between them they made it happen, and kept telling me it was there waiting for me. They even dragged the poor firefighters across the road to give me some cheer. I even ended up with a film camera following what was possible the longest 500m to 1km up to the finish turn.  I think it was the fastest I’d moved in 90minutes. The guys who’d started breaking down the fencing even stopped to keep clear and give me a cheer. Then the final push and people departing the pubs and those leaving the recovery area were also clapping me in.

Challenge Wanaka
Nearly Home

I finished.  I crossed that line some time around 12.20am on Sunday morning. I got to shake Mike Reileys hand and thank him for being there even though I didn’t get to hear him call me an “Ironman”.

Thanks to Coach Ray I not only got to the start line, but I had the confidence and ability to finish.

For someone who didn’t believe the NZ Ironman hype and hadn’t considered ever doing one, until I thought it would be a beneficial “training day” I totally get why people go back again and again.

Would I do it again?  You bet I will.

– Helen Majorhazi

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