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Kona – IM World Champs 2022 by Becky Kirvan-Rodgers

The Ironman World Champs in Kona – how exactly this happened and I qualified to come here, I’m still not quite sure! From taking up triathlon 4 years ago, this was never something I even dreamed of being capable of, but it just goes to show, that if you choose to challenge yourself, you put in the work, you believe in yourself, and most importantly your most special people around you believe in you, then you can achieve AMAZING things!


And I certainly feel that I did that this week!


Super-sadly my family couldn’t come with me on this trip ☹ so they were there with me virtually this time and they were there in my heart the entire time, pushing me through – this race was 100% for Tim, Isaac and Darcy. I did however get to experience this whole thing with my wing-woman and brilliant friend Mel – I count myself so lucky that we got to do this together.


So here goes my race report!


The run up to the race was not uneventful! Our trip across entailed two flights, and sadly, my bike didn’t quite make it onto the second flight, so we arrived in Kona to find my bike was still in LA!

Luckily Mel had lent me an air tag so we could at least see exactly where it was, and even better, knew when it had caught up with us and arrived in Hawaii, which luckily was the following day.


The delay in the bike arriving did give us an excuse to go exploring the island (seeing as we couldn’t do any training!) so we set off in our hire car and had a fab day seeing other parts of the Big Island and even got to go on a boat trip where we saw Whales AND Dolphins! Utterly breath-taking they were too – we were so lucky to see them!

After that however, it was all about the race prep. We were staying in a town called Waikaloa which was around 20 miles north of Kona so we spent wayyyy too much time driving up and down Queen’s K Highway in the days running up to the race, for various things like registration, briefings, welcome banquet, bike check in etc etc. It was such a boring road – great scenery but the exact same scenery the whole way – lava fields and the sea!

To add to the drama of my bike not arriving, both Mel and I experienced a front wheel puncture in the run up to the race – however mine only made itself known as we were about to set off to check in our bikes the day before the race! Que panic-mode!!! Panic-mode was then quicky averted by Mel and her level head (thank you Mel!) – I run tubeless on my Cervelo and luckily it looked like the sealant inside had worked – it had sealed and seemed to be holding pressure, but we put in a quick consultation call to Mr Hinch for some advice as I wasn’t sure how long it would hold for (thank you Dave!). We still had to get to bike check-in by the deadling though so we packed all our gear and headed down to the local bike shop which was on route and we had visited earlier in the week when Mel got her puncture. Bike Works in Waikaloa were brilliant and jumped straight on my bike to

check it over. They confirmed the tyre was all good and would be fine for the race. They didn’t have a like-for-like tyre to replace it so I decided to believe in them and stick with my original tyre, which was otherwise in good condition and relatively new. The mech also tightened up my tri bars which had somehow come loose and had dipped down, so with those fixed up, I was all good to go.


The rest of the day went smoothly, we checked in our bikes and bags and took in the magic

atmosphere of Kona town which was entirely engulfed in all things Ironman! It was more like an athletes town than an athletes village!

Race Day! The alarm went off at 3:15am (sorry Mel!!) and I sprang out of bed, filled with adrenaline, anticipation, nerves, fear and excitement!

All went to plan that morning, we got to our bikes in transition in good time to organise our nutrition and pump up tyres. Some athletes who had pumped their tyres up prior to racking, arrived to find their tyres had exploded in the heat, so I was extremely glad Mel and I had averted that by doing the opposite and letting some air out overnight.

We were good to go….Mel suggested I just turn my pedals to double check all was well, and as I did so, my chain came clean off!! Thank God Mel suggested I do that! Que panic mode again! Que Mel’s level head to help me sort it! Obviously putting the chain back on is an easy fix but with the mass of nerves I was feeling, nothing felt simple! Lol!

Finally we were in the start pen for the swim - in plenty of time so I felt a bit more calm and got to appreciate the atmosphere and excited tension we were all feeling! The Quatar Airways camera kept flying over us on a mini aeroplane which was super cool – and we were right next to the sea where the pro’s were about to set off.

Boom! The cannon fired and we saw the women fly off like sharks on a mission! From then on, the pens of age groupers started to move up to the water’s edge, and we got called into the Sea to swim up to the start line. OMG!!! This is really about to happen!!!

Mel and I shouted a last good luck to each other as we were treading water….then the horn went and off we went.

The sea conditions were not as choppy as it had been on our practice swim earlier in the week so I was pleased about that, however there were 200 of us women in our AG so the water was in absolute turmoil! I just hung in there and tried to swim as best I could in the pack without being kicked in the face. I did get kicked a couple of times, my goggles dislodged a little but not enough to cause leakage so phew!

The water was soooo salty – which we had been warned about, but I started to feel a soreness on the back of my neck before we reached the half way turnaround point – salt chaffing! There was nothing I could do about it so I tried to block it out. The turnaround point was marked by a big boat, and as we turned around it, I spotted a diver in the water underneath us – not sure if he was taking photos or there for safety but it was cool to see him all the same.

As we approached the final 500 metres I really felt the water get extra “busy” again and had to once again fight for my space. As we approached the beach, that was the first time I spotted the fish underneath us which was pretty cool!


The volunteers helped us out of the water, up the stairs and even helped us undo our swim skins which was a great help!


A quick dip through the showers to get some of the salt off and it was into T1 – I grabbed my bag, quick change into my bike shoes, grabbed a gel and ate that as I jogged round to my bike.


Running up to the mount line, I somehow tripped and dropped my bike! No huge drama though, Monsieur Cervelo seemed unscathed, we crossed the mount line and my mounting went smoothly.


On to the bike! I’m not going to lie, this course was BORING! We had a bit of a scooch around the outskirts of town to get us up onto Queen’s K highway, but then it was basically 55 miles up to Hawi, around the turnaround point and then 55 miles back down that same highway! A million miles away from the utter beauty of a course that I had experienced in Switzerland at my first Ironman earlier this year.


Having said that, the course was rolling – either going up or down all the time so there was plenty to keep me focused on, whilst also being able to take in the scenery around me. It was 100% a TT bike course with almost zero technical parts. It very soon became apparent though that when the guys at Bike Works had tightened my bars for me the day before in the position I thought they should be….it turned out it wasn’t the right position! It seemed aero for sure, but for me it was too aero and by the latter stages of the course, I found it too hard to hold the TT position for too long as my shoulders were burning!

However, I kept a couple of key phrases in my head to keep me strong. One was from my hubby Tim, from a card he had snuck into my luggage – his words stayed with me ALL the way through and kept me believing, and another from OTCF Uncle Rob, who had told me this was just a training day in paradise. Yes it most certainly was, and that helped keep me in check. Don’t over-cook this Bex, its an Ironman in the worst conditions yet, and there is the not so small matter of a sweltering marathon to follow! Steady as she goes….

As we headed up the highway, I was expecting to see the pro’s come the other way as they made their way back down from the turnaround point – and eventually the came! I recognised Lucy Charles-Barclay immediately with her pink tri suit! I gave a her a shout as she whizzed past!


The climb up to the turnaround point was certainly drawn out but not nearly as steep as I was

expecting. I had made it out of the swim in front of Mel but she caught me up on the bike at around 70-75 miles in. There was her beaming smile which I was so pleased to see as it meant we could have a bit of a chat as she made her pass – we both complained about issues with the salt on our skin, but she was really suffering so said she was going to stop at the medical tent. Maybe we would meet up again on the run in that case? We made a rough plan to do that, although neither of us knew if that would actually work out. Just seeing Mel gave me such a boost though!

On the return towards Kona, I saw the pro’s on their final section of their marathon – I gave Lucy another shout and was only slightly disappointed at her lack of reaction to my shout of

encouragement! Lol!

I completed the bike not nearly as strong as I had started, especially with a nasty head wind for the final stretch, but I was happy. I was not out to set the world on fire today! T2 went smoothly, a quick toilet stop in transition and it was out onto the run.


Urg!!! I immediately felt terrible! My achillies was tight I felt zapped of energy and the heat of the beating sun was immediately intense! However the run started on Ali’I Drive which was the main stretch out south of Kona and it was lined with so many very loud supporters – plus several people with hosepipes outside their homes which were SO welcome! I took as much of it in as I could but I was finding it immediately very hard and I even struggled to smile, which worried me! There was a turnaround point at around mile 4 (ish?) and as I approached it, I saw Mel having just turned it. We weren’t far apart! She called out to ask how I was and I just waved a hand – indicating, not great!!

Bless Mel, she took her time at the approaching feed station and I caught her up. She dunked my visor in the ice bucket, gave me her wrist band to store extra ice and we cracked on together.

Within a few minutes I started to feel slightly better. Just running with Mel was a much needed boost and we were able to chat a bit. With every step, I improved my form and by 10k in, I felt I had finally settled in! My heart rate was lower than I think its ever been in a run, which seemed a miracle but proved that the work Steve has put in to prepare me for this really had worked! My engine was working!


Mel wasn’t feeling quite so good at that point so it was time to pay her back for hanging back for me at the earlier feed station and I did my best to encourage her on and keep her believing. We both knew she had it in her, she just needed to get through that patch, which I had gone through earlier!

And get through it we did! Together! Team mates to the end �� We found a really good rhythm – walking the aid stations but running every step in between, nice and steady, just making sure we were moving forward and keeping each other positive as by this point we were in boring territory again – a lonnnnnng straight road down the Queen K highway, before turning off towards the coast - but all in the middle of nowhere so practically no spectators. But we stayed mentally strong - don’t think, just do! I usually just take sips of drink at the aid stations but on this race, I made sure to drink a full cup of water and a full cup of isotonic drink as hydration was absolutely vital in these conditions. The course was hilly too so that made for an extra challenge compared with previous marathon distances I’d done – which was only one - IM Switzerland and that was a dead flat run course! :D


After around 10 miles of running together, Mel told me to head off as she was struggling with her stomach and had to keep making stops. She assured me she wanted me to carry on, so I did as I was feeling reasonably good. However by the time we got to the energy lab, which was the turnaround point, there she was again! So I hung back and she caught up again – teamies back together! A couple of km later though, she was having to make more stops so we agreed to see each other at the finish – which we both felt confident we would get to!

By this point I was really able to smile again as I felt I was doing pretty okay and felt strong enough to pick up the pace very slightly, and keep it going to the finish in the same rhythm. Smiling really does help so much! The sun was setting and I took in my surroundings as the runners coming towards me were lit up in the orange light of the sun. We headed back up towards the highway and then back down that long long road. There was a lonnnnng hill towards the final mile of the highway though which was a killer – and by this point it was pitch black so it was a struggle to see where the end was – wherever it was, it seems never to be coming!


However, I beat that damn hill though and was rewarded by a lovely down-hill run down back

towards the sea…and most importantly, the FINISH!! One short loop of the town and I found myself on that red Ironman carpet! I rounded the final corner, saw that amazing lit-up archway and knew I had done it!


I made a quick decision to kick up the pace to overtake the guy in front of me as I wanted a clear run through that finish line – I was going to lap it up for alllll its worth!!! Those all important 4 words blared out over the speakers – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!! Yesssssssss!!! I AM AN IRONMAN….IN KONA!!!!! What a feeling!!


And I got to do it all with my Mel right beside me! How many people get to say they have done 2 Ironman races with their wing-woman/man beside them in the way we have raced together this year?!


Crossing that finish line felt like the biggest achievement EVER!! I challenged myself, I worked hard, I believed, my favourite and most special people in the world believed in me, and I really feel I did achieve an amazing thing! I could 100% not have got here without my ultra-supportive and long suffering hubby who has been by my side the entire way – encouraging me, helping me and pushing me forward. My inspirational and supportive friends and OTCF teamies, an awesome Coach in Steve, and my absolute stars which

are my little KR’s. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again…. this race was entirely for Tim, Isaac and Darcy – my absolute world xxx


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