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Mel does her first IM Worlds Events - Kona 2022

In the run up to the race there was so much going on in Kona it kept us busy. We watched the Parade of Nations. Participated in the Underpants Run (name says it all). Attended the Athletes Banquet. Visited the merchandise tents several times for new stock & bought most of the range! Registered for the event. Racked our bike & bags. Attended the athletes briefing. And finally went to a Women For Tri Brunch the morning after the event where we met the Chrissie the winner. We had a lot going on! Ironman literally takes over the town but it’s clear the locals appreciate the tourism. I have never met such a friendly nation of people. Aloha and Mahalo my two new favourite words! It wasn’t all Ironman for us when out there. We did a self-drive jungle tour visiting waterfalls (Hawaii is so diverse!) and a snorkel trip that had the added bonus of seeing 20+ Pilot Whales and 15 Bottle Nose dolphins doing their thing. Simply amazing, never mind the turtles we swam with on multiple occasions.
We also went to a Luau show and party (after the race). Hawaii has it all and is a US state I’d love to visit again, just not to do an Ironman! If you get the opportunity to go, just do it and don’t miss out. Much like Becky and I. On the flight out we both watched Top Gun Maverick. In the film Tom Cruise advises his pilots to “don’t think, just do”. I lost count of the number of times I used that on the course!! Sadly no Tom Cruise out there but a good representation of how to survive the Kona World Championships race. The race (or “event” as I prefer to call it!) exceeded my expectations and more. It was a privilege to wear the new OTCF Kona kit.
Prior to competing (“taking part” in my head) I’d been warned about the swell in the sea, the winds on the bike course that can blow you over at worst, and at best feel like you’re riding into a hot hair dryer. Never mind the blistering heat on the run where your body boils and gives up if you get your nutrition wrong. Mentally I prepared myself for a very very tough, hot and challenging day! One that takes no prisoners as Coach Clark said. In the days leading up the race we drank and we drank and we drank, also doing our best to stay out of the sun. Hard to do when you’re in paradise in Hawaii but needs must. We couldn’t afford to ruin our “event” which was the reason we was there after all. I’m feeling blessed to say that things didn’t feel that bad on the day!! Phew. Don’t get me wrong there were low points but the highs exceeded them by far and I am super pleased with my sub 13 hour time running a 4:46 marathon in 35oC heat at it’s peak! Either way the mental (not to be underestimated) and physical preparation ensured I was ready to complete the course. I just needed to stick to the plan. Keep the heart rate low, take on plenty of fluids and I’d be just fine. I was under no illusion about how I’d place, I was in an event against the best of the best so it was time to do my thing and just focus on getting myself round. Something many did not do. The medial tent at the finish was carnage with so many people hooked up to drips totally out of it. A very sad sight to see. Heartbreaking. The sea for the swim was calm and despite there being 198 others in my age category and wave I managed to find a comfortable rhythm and some space. We was in an earlier wave which meant faster swimmers were coming through all the time but somehow they negotiated me well and I have no war stories to share. Swimming isn’t my strength and I was apprehensive as no wetsuits were allowed but I did feel comfortable and got the job done. I couldn’t find any feet to sit on but loved the buoyant salt water. What I didn’t like about the salt water was the amount of armpit chafing it caused. Ouch!! I went onto the bike knowing I needed to address that somehow before the run. One way to distract the mind on what’s a relatively boring out & back course I guess.
The bike is always going to be my strongest leg but on race day I knew I couldn’t ride at my usual power or I’d literally be cooked for the run. I kept the heart rate super low, barely moving out of the green zone 2 and comfortably got round. I caught Becky at around 70 miles and we had a good old chat for a few minutes, planned how I’d get my chafing sorted and to then meet up on the run. Perfect! I then rode on as we was technically draughting and didn’t want to get us into trouble! We saw lots of people getting five minute penalties. Not long after leaving I flagged down a medial car and got them to dress my “wounds”. I mean who does that in a race?! Me as I’m wasn’t racing was I! Sorry coach! The last 40 miles were into a headwind. I was smart and pleased with how I worked with it rather than fought it. Mentally that phase of the bike is tough too but I enjoyed the challenge overtaking riders who hadn’t saved enough energy. Felt good and got a mental boost before T2. When in transition I realised the plasters on my chafing wounds had moved due to the water I’d been pouring over myself to stay cool so knew I couldn’t run in my top. I asked multiple volunteers if they’d give me their t shirts but none had a change. I could feel myself getting emotional as knew I just couldn’t run in the top. A lovely competitor in the T2 tent gave me her beautiful (clean!) Castelli cycling jersey. She risked not getting it back to help me, how amazing!! (I’m a good guy and made sure she got it back)
I felt hot but comfortable on the run. I knew I couldn’t run fast or would burn up and burn out like I did at IM Switzerland so again, kept the heart rate low and gently tapped it out. The first part is an out & back through Kona town. Locals lined the route, many with hose pipes spraying you. A much needed boost on a very very hot run. At this point of the day my Garmin said it was 35oC! With being an out & back I saw Becky. I could also see she’d looked better and made the decision to wait at the next feed station so we could run together as planned. We always said we’re in it together and I wasn’t going to break that so early on. This was around mile 5 and it was clear she was overheating. I supported her giving her cooling tips (I’d literally just learned from other athletes) and gave her one of my wrist sweat bands that someone recommended I wear to hold ice cubes behind.
Each feed station we dipped our caps and wrists in iced water and drank and poured as much water over ourselves as we could. I managed to pick up a water carrier someone had dropped, filling that at each feed, sipping and spraying water over Becky and myself throughout. A god send to try keep the heat at bay! Around mile 9 there’s an ascent on a long stretch of the Queen K that literally goes on FOREVER, like 6+ miles straight with zero support. I started to struggle so it was Becky’s turn to support me and give me a shoulder to sit on as she’d livened up as was super spritely by this point. Gotta love her! We got up, but that was certainly one of the “dig deep” sections of the run course for me. It hurt! Next was a descent into the energy lab which was pumping giving us a much needed boost. At this point my stomach was getting quite upset with itself and I didn’t want to hold a strong Becky up. To her disgust I made her run on and leave me to it! At one point I thought I was going to be able to run with her again but my stomach was having none of it! Gutting. It literally is Switzerland all over again except this time we were both consistently and constantly running and moving, huge improvement. This is something we’re pleased about as demonstrates we’ve learned! With far too many loo stops to count I managed to settle my stomach and with 10k to go I realised I had an hour to get a sub 13 hour time overall… time to “race”. Not part of my original plan. I found strength that I knew was there but knew would take some serious mental toughness to tap into. I counted to eight for each footstep replaying the mantra “pain is temporary, pride if forever” to get me through that hour, somehow finding the strength to push and better the required pace. It took what felt a long time coming but all of a sudden I was on the road parallel to the finish chute and the final leg. Yes!!!
The finish chute is buzzing and soooo long. What a feeling running on the spongy carpet. I crossed the line in a time of 12.56.16… sub 13 hours. Whooo. I am a World Championships Ironman. Wow that sounds pretty cool and somethings “normal” people like me don’t get to say. Think I’m going to have to keep pinching myself. It’s been a massive financial and personal commitment to race in Kona but worth everything I’ve sacrificed and more. I do literally believe I will be proud forever for this one. Bragging rights now and also when I’m sat in a nursing home one day!
Don’t get me wrong I’m ready to put my feet up after a busy few weeks racing in Bilbao and Kona but I need the strong mind and body in Utah later this month for the 70.3 World Championships. Once that’s done I will achieve, what to me is the most perfect year of racing but more to come on that in what’ll be the final 2022 race report I guess! As always thank you to the OTCF team mates who have been super supportive and encouraging. I was unable to keep up with the messages of support. I think I replied to each message on the flight home but if I missed yours I apologise. You guys literally are the best and amazing! As always thanks to Steve for the preparation and giving me the extra confidence boost that I could do it. Also to Rob, my poor boyfriend who probably suffers the most seems I treat the our home as a dinner, bed & breakfast most of the time! Love you all lots and forever in your debt.

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