Well..... Kona couldn't have gone more perfectly and so imperfectly at the same time. The entire year we'd had a plan we believed in and a scenario that would allow me to catch my rivals off guard. For just over 6hrs on Saturday it seemed we'd pulled off the ultimate cue but as happens every year to whoever doesn't win the race one man and women stand up tallest in that last 1/4 and Patrick once showed that the smallest man of the men up front would tower over us yet again and take another emphatic win. Fortunately due to the fact I did in essence exactly what i set out to do, the race wont require much analysis on my behalf. However as everyone loves hearing how things played out behind the Camera Screens here's my take on the 40th running of the Iconic Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
For the last 4 weeks or so I've just been chomping at the bit to get onto that starting line at Kona Pier on Oct 13. Ive never ever felt so fit and healthy in my life and the stress of how much work I needed to do during the year to condition the body for a run at the title was replaced by fear of ensuring nothing went wrong in those final days. For the first time in my sporting life i was truly ready to compete at the highest level of a professional sport. Our mantra this year was pretty simple, improve on last year. My coach Tim was confident that we did everything right last year and this year we simply had to do things a little better and we ticked every single box. Most importantly perhaps we finally cracked a bit of a flaw in my swimming when i discovered a shaft two beat kick simply needed enough force to keep my hips high in the water instead of acting like an anchor. I'd always felt if i kicked I'd be too tired to ride my bike but just "faking" a kick as our swim advisor Denis Cottrell calls it requires basically no effort. In fact its easier just keeping them up there and out of the way now that I'm used to it. Anyways this small change was the final dilemma that still lingered after an intense training and racing schedule over the European summer and with that now solved we knew it was the difference between the 54 minute pack and the 50 minute pack.
The rest of that final 4 week period we focused on our mantra, just do it a little better this year. Instead of sleeping at Big Bear Lake Fallon, Olive and i moved the base camp to Running Springs right on the ridge of the range sitting high above Redlands. The altitude difference was merely down to 1900m as opposed to 2000m at big bear but most importantly i was able to drive to the swimming pool in 15minutes as opposed to 60minutes which 12 months earlier meant i skipped quite a few important swim sessions. Not only that but i was able to drop down to the San Bernardino Valley inferno to ride and run easily and it just basically made it much easier to maintain a high quality of work during that period. Fallon was closer to the organic markets which if there is one thing that girl loves its organic grocery stores, if anyone ever wants to take her out on a date just take her to one of them, she just melts and is entertained for hours. Olive had an endless amount of trees littered with squirrels to keep her eyes, ears and nose occupied 24/7 so the whole team was much happier. Again all we had to do was simply do things better. We headed to Kona a few days earlier this time.
The heat was a bit of a shock last time so we landed on the big island a few days earlier. Also following my exploits of 12 months ago there where a few more demands on my time which i was determined to not interfere with what was most important, racing. We Took Olive with us this year, she'd been with us all year long and there was no question of keeping the team together for the Super Bowl. Last year my best mate Timmie looked after her while we where in kona so this year we just brought him with us as well. Timmie Eaton is perhaps the most capable person I've ever met on this planet and nature lay one of his endless lists of talents is a bicycle mechanic so also gave me the peace of mind the New Bolide was in the state my race mechanic Win Allen had prepared it to be in before i left LA. Naturally when you have the best hands in the business on your bike it didn't even have the faintest of glitches on race day, absolutely perfect. Other additions to our retreat in the coffee plantations this year was Fallon's best fried Emily whom just refuses to allow any doom and gloom in any room she's in, shines brighter than a shooting star that girl.
And finally but perhaps most importantly of all, Tim Reed. Tim's my childhood buddy from Lord Howe Island whom happens to also be one of greatest triathletes of this current generation. I was so excited that Tim wanted to join our rolling circus for race week as knew he'd ensure i knew exactly what was going on regarding the race and my rivals at all times. He's the ultimate professional and has race week absolutely down to science. I simply had to follow the leaded, it was awesome. Naturally everything went perfectly on those all important days leading into the race and we ticked another box in the doing everything better category.
Naturally Tim had race morning schedule all mapped out and i just did what I'd done the previous 10 days and followed the leader. Dropped off the all imported run bottles, loaded the bike up with the war food and for the first time ever had a solid hour to relax with Fallon and Olive before the start whilst i got dressed for the race. Finally 20minutes before the race start Fallon zipped me into my swim skin, it was go time. I can honestly say the entire year I haven't felt any nerves or jitters when i thought about the race but merely excitement and optimism. Well walking away from Fallon and Olive toward the swim start that after all the sacrifices, camps, product development, training, suffering it was now me, my race suit, swim skin over the top, Swim Cap and goggles and a timing chip. It was now just me who could effect the outcome of all that everybody had put into me walking barefooted to the swim start and i tell you what that made me so dam excited. I just couldn't wait to get in the water and get stuck into it.
I lined up surrounded by the known strong swimmers knowing i was ready to box on with them. I'd done a 1000 standing starts in training and rehearsed the sound of the cannon. Its a sound i can here more vividly than just about anything else. When it went off i went off right with it and immediately led the field away. I could see Dave McNamee over to my right and just decided to keep him an arm length behind me until the chaos settled down and i was certain i was in the front pack. Sure enough after around 400m the argy bargy settled down and I allowed Dave to lead our pack that had formed on the right over toward to faster guys who's taken off on the left. From there i looked for a solid set of feet to follow and trust for the remaining 3k. I knew it was going to be a great day as of all people i spotted the Professor Himself Tim Reed and beside him my hero Sebastian Kienle whom was also having a much improved swim. I wedged myself between these two and enjoyed the most peaceful tow around the swim course I could've ever dreamed off. I felt like I'd really hit the Jackpot. When we exited the water i had the biggest grin on my face and it was such a surprise for everyone except myself that I've never seen so many concerned faces as i bolted past them to get to my bolide in the first few and really pile on the pressure. My transition was flawless just as I'd visualised it would and thanks to my tri specific Pinarello Bolide which is 1 Inch lower to the ground than the bolide i used last year i launched onto that thing and was outa there! Was time to go win this thing.
I knew there was a group of strong swimmers up the rd and my plan was to get to them and leave Kienle behind. I needed him chasing and causing panic in the running group as there was no way they could let him disappear up the road. I knew Sebi was behind me so i just went for it to ensure he stayed there. Sadly i had no idea of the mechanical issues he would face in those first few miles which really ruined his day. He'll be back with a vengeance in 12 months time that's for certain. I galloped across the gap to the front within 20km and was finally in complete control of the race. I scooped up starky and Josh and went to work on gaining time. I felt sensational, could keep my heart rate under control and could use the power spikes where I needed to to keep the speed where i felt it needed to be to give myself a shot at the title. Timmie had ensured my food would make it further than mile 3 this year so was nice to actually have something to eat this time around. Not only that my hydration was spot on aswell. The way i was plucking the bottles out of the hands of the volunteers at the aid stations would've made Bill Bilacheck want to through me into the Patriots lineup as a wide receiver. The gap back to Patrick continued to grow and all the way out to Hawi just couldn't believe how on earth everything was a going so perfectly.
When we finally saw the running group after the turn around something caught my attention. Andy Dreitz was dressed the same as Patrick and it could tell he was riding the perfect pace to pace Patrick so long as some others provided some extra protection and didn't realise what was going on. Sure enough Patrick was sitting around 4-5 spots behind and barely looked as cool as a cucumber, he was in complete control. I couldn't help but admire what they had managed to do, it was really really clever. Keep the fastest runner on your team as close to the front as possible and let him loose. The Brownlee's mastered this tactic in London, i just never thought I'd see it happen in an Ironman. Well gloves where off, it was just as i imagined it would be, me v's the german's. To be honest I wasn't overly worried about there tactic at that point as i knew nobody could hide once those ferocious trade winds starting blowing from Tasmania across the pacific. I simply went to work on lifting the pace and blowing things apart on the way back to town.
As the miles ticked down i noticed the gaps weren't blowing out as they usually would with how quickly i was going. At this point, around 20 miles to go, it dawned on me that there was no wind. The running group wasn't blowing apart the way it had every single year since the races inception. No, instead they where back there happily rolling along behind Patrick's domestic delux, lets call him handy Andy, and where happy as pigs in mud. I had to make an important decision. Go all in and just get as bigger lead as possible. Or, cool the jets and accept if i want to win this thing I'm going to have to run faster than I've ever run before. There was really no decision to make, i was here to win so i eased up and started to prepare for the run, i had to go for it. Last year it was pretty exciting entering T2 all alone, a dream in fact. This year was all business with the nostalgia replaced by a determination to nail transition and finish this thing off. I rocketed through transition and headed out in my fancy red Nike's determined to get as much real estate between myself and Patrick before he starts running.
If someone had've said I'd have a 7 minute lead last week onto the run I would've taken it. The reason I would've taken it was because i knew for these guys to be that close would mean they'd suffered like hell in the trade winds and would've had the sting taken out of there running legs. Unfortunately for me this was far from the case today but still i had the same self belief that it could be enough as i settled into my rhythm. Along Ali drive i felt great as i churned up pace that i felt would have me losing time but atleast make them have to work hard to take it off me, unlike the way i stared the run last year 12 months prior in this exact position. My focus on the run was simply to get in and out of the energy lab in contention and then see what i could muster up down the stretch. When i saw all my rivals at the first turnaround i felt like i was on track to do just that as i focused on eating and drinking. Just on that if i had $1 for every person during the run that reminds you to eat and drink I'd have enough many to buy Ironman from the Wanda group which is for sale by the way. Might try and set that up for next year!! I hit Palani still with a good lead and passed the legend Jan Frodeno whom gave me the biggest cheer I've ever had from a German in my sporting life! He's another that was sadly missed from the front end of the race this year, be bloody exciting to have a fit Frodeno and Kienle on the line next year.
Once atop Palani all that stood between me and the title was the most feared running out and back in the Ironman world, the infamous Queen K, Energy lab in midday sun combo! Once here assuming i was in the exact position I planned to just get in a good groove and as stupid as it sounds now, try and recover a little for that final 10km. Well probably comes as no surprise that once i mentally shifted to being soft the wheels well and truly fell off. I lost my nice flighty rhythm and was now reduced to a slow heavy grind. The gap to Patrick began to plummet rapidly and around 17km into the race the inevitable occurred and I wasn't going to be the winner on the day. There has been much interest in the infamous fist pump as Patrick ran past. I simply complimented them on there tactics on the bike and said I didn't see that coming. I then encouraged him to make sure he goes on and smashes the record as that's what i dreamed of for the race and the race was perfectly set up for it. It was a nice moment and one I'll cherish but also one that'll drive me going forward to try and avoid it ever happening that way again. I did rally and try to match his pace but when he sensed i was staying there he kicked again and broke my will, i knew I couldn't match him, he was simply too good for me this year.
From there i just focused on getting to the finish as quickly as possible as comfortably as possible. The championship was gone and I'd have to wait 12 months for another shot. I know there wont be many times in your life you can go to the well on that run in that environment and I'm simply not even capable of doing that at the moment. My run has improved out of sight compared to last year but the glaring facts where there for me to see as the next 8 men rolled on by my, they are simply stronger. They just look so bloody strong and know how to suffer on that run, something i just seem incapable off still. It's funny because in the swim and on the bike I take those two disciplines personally, i refuse to not be in the position I believe i should be in, I fight and fight and fight. Once on the run i just can't seem to maintain the same intensity so that has to change, obviously that has to change.
All in all i go back to what i said at the start, the day couldn't have started anymore perfectly than it did. Had the conditions been like they'd been every single other year for sure the dynamic could've been different but the outcome certainly the same. While everyone continues to lift there game Patrick's been able to do it the most. He's raised the bar both physically and tactically which gives us a whole new range of things to plan ahead of next years race. To be apart of the fastest race in history and the only other man to lead other than Patrick on the run is a massive step in the right direction for me. Also entering T2 in a shade over 5hrs was also something i doubt people thought they'd see in Hawaii so I've relished the challenge to move that swim/bike benchmark up a little. Having said that considering my coach is the mastermind behind the last 6 out 7 Tour De France wins and a former Olympic swimming physiologist you'd definitely have to label me uncoachable if I couldn't at the very least be good for that part of the race. At the end of the day we did exactly what we set out to do this year, simply do everything better. Judging by where we've come from and where we have gotten to, i cant see any reason to change too much of what we do, just simply do it better. We may have come up short this time around with 9th place, however, despite losing this battle I'm more determined than ever to keep fighting to ultimately win the war.
P.s. As always my racing files are there for everyone to see on Strava because if it ain't on Strava it didn't happen (unpaid advertising)
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