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The Road to Hawaii by Steve Grocock

The road to Hawaii

‘………….and from Great Britain Steve Grocock is going to Hawaii’

I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have remembered Paul Kaye’s words if it wasn’t for a 17 second clip from the wife’s Iphone. The ‘Voice of Ironman’ was actually talking to me! It’s still there on Facebook, the handshakes, the lei (the flowery necklace thing) and the wiggle, which I think I’d have got away with if not for the missus’ prompting! If the clip would have made Youtube I’m sure just me, myself and I, would’ve single handily helped it go viral the following day as I played it almost continually trying to separate the reality from the haziness. The whole experience was surreal, a blur, shell shocked, lost for words… all done to death cliches, but genuine stuff.

The lei, garland was proof it did happen.

Now, obviously the day (after the race) started with beer in the morning. It was also given out free-gratis at the Awards. The day naturally continued with more beer as we partied hard which led nicely into the evening and into the early hours where we thought it’s time to let our hair down a bit with,… a few more beers.

Needless to say alcohol could have been quite a contributing factor toward this kafuffled distinction between fact and fiction….

Rewind to 5 weeks previous…………

The Sundowner Half Ironman was done. The race served as an indicator to my form and although I took the Age group win and got 5th overall I knew I was a long way off Ironman fitness. The run was a staggering struggle, which inevitably led to valuable time being lost resulting in the 3rd and 4th placed athletes passing me in the last few miles of the race, and the latter within view of the finish line, a bitter pill to swallow. Barcelona seemed a million miles away! Like I said the race was an indicator so I knew I had to put some serious miles in during the next month. My son Aiden was the obvious solution for my poor run form and although not really constructive toward his own ‘Sprint tri’ plans the lad encouraged me during several of our double figured runs. This was accompanied with some tough 100 mile rides and long swims in the river with my OTCF team mates and (Ironman Barca comrades)  Stenno and Clarky. They too continued to show encouragement and motivation as we’d all benefit from chasing the same Ironman goal. This was crucial if I was to have any chance of a respectful race in Spain.

My two buddies have always been of a similar swim standard to myself. We’ll normally meet up a few weeks before a race and swim together. This is normally my wake-up call as they always seem to be ‘on it’ that little bit more than me. The run up to this event was no different, and maintaining tradition this was definitely the case a fortnight out from Barca, and exactly the arse-kicking I needed. I knew a swim in the Ancholme every other day should address this but boy, it was getting cold!

Rewind two days previous……………….Race day.

My only criticism with stopping in a hotel before a race are the obvious temptations of the lovely food on display. After weeks of dieting I somehow convinced myself that all food is good and I’ll need those extra calories throughout the day. This happened a few times in the previous days and I even found myself out on the pop one night, such was my poor discipline. Was I really serious about this race?? I wasn’t sandbagging but a major shutdown at work had meant 12 hour working for a couple of months so I genuinely didn’t feel I’d done the hard graft on the road this year and deliberately didn’t give myself any goals. I know how a race can go horribly wrong if your goals aren’t looking like being achieved. Clarky kept trying to pin me down for an expected time but I would only commit to a sub 10 hr goal as I’d cast my mind back to Roth 2 years previous and be reminded of the pain I was in trying to chase such.

With tyres inflated and Portaloos visited it’s now 08:45 and the three of us are still chatting on the beach as we watch the first of the rolling starters hit the sea. Within a minute It’s our turn, the timing chip beeps as we leg it over the sand. Rather an unusually well behaved start by Ironman standards and I’m an instant fan of this rolling idea. My goggles are still in tact and I’m swimming with athletes of similar pace that appear to be able to maintain a straight line. Not sure where the other two are but I knew they wouldn’t be far away. Fortunately the sea was relatively calm compared to the previous days and apart from the swell making sighting of the buoys difficult, things were fine and dandy.

I never look too much into the swim part of an ironman as it’s quite a small percentage of your time compared to the other two. My aim is to go under the hour but more importantly relax and keep well within my limits, making sure I never raise my heartrate to much more than the equivalent of a brisk walk. I was rudely awoken from my daydream just after the turnaround buoy when I passed some little chap screaming and gesturing at me. Now this poor guy was wearing Clarky’s hat and distinctive goggles but where was he going? Why was he going backwards on what seemed like the opposite current to me?

Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes…. get in! Did I laugh? The inside of my wetsuit never dried!

Swim done in 57:41

I’d heard a lot about this bike course as it’s very fast but has also received it’s fair share of criticism for having big pelotons. This got even worse this year as the entries increased to a further 300 athletes.

I think karma came back to bite me as Clarky had the last laugh within the first 400m through the twisty streets of Calella. The first speed bump was a reminder that I hadn’t secured my front water bottle and the second bump was a reminder I hadn’t secured my rear water bottle! Some very good Academy Award acting on Coach Clark’s behalf as he appeared deeply concerned whilst biking past (I think the tears were a little over the top though). Two stops in less than a mile wasn’t part of the plan!

Everything I’d heard about this ride was true. It was fast! I’d averaged almost 25 mph for the first 25 miles (including the slow 3km section through the town) I’d finally caught up with Clarky who was going like the clappers. The roads were like glass and the towns and coastal cliffs kept the wind from spoiling the fun. There was also packs, as expected. My idea to evade the attention of the motorbike marshals, in hindsight probably wasn’t the best. I found myself constantly overtaking the slower riders and instead of trying to squeeze into a 3-4 metre gap (not that there ever was one) on the inner lane and risk looking like I was wheel hugging I would do big turns at trying to drop the hangers on. This was fine until the very last section of the race where it’s absolutely rammed. The snowballing effect had created a bigger monster and it wasn’t long before I heard the whistles of the draft busters. I could hear the mayhem behind me as guys was getting irate with the officials when being told they’d been penalised.

I’d seen our mate Alex Bradley previously and he’d had to spend 5 minutes in the penalty box, poor lad I’m certain Alex is an honest and strong enough rider not to need the help of others.

Yep you guessed it, I got shown a blue card. I couldn’t even remember what it meant? What the Spanish guy said to me I still have no idea but remonstrating my innocence was only making him shout louder showing me how powerful this man was……………….what a complete jobsworth! I’ve never had much sympathy with people who’ve received drafting penalties in the past but this was now happening to me. An absolute joke!

The penalty boxes were full of Brits all protesting their innocence, surely a coincidence? Although a read on some of the forums makes you wonder when over half of the travelling 11 chaps from one club and half of our quartet got pinged!

I had to take this on the chin and try not to let it ruin my race, but I still feel sick about it. The organisers need to sort it out somehow as it’s a lottery to whether it’s your day or not!

Back into T2 in 4hrs 43 mins with a 5 minute penalty and still averaging over 24 mph was by no means the end of the world.

T2 could have been better if I’d have remembered to put my comfy running shorts in my bag which I hadn’t realised until emptying both Transition bags to find, that there they were,……… not there!

The Run

I’m not sure if I’m a good enough runner to actually have a plan on the run. There’s not really much point in sticking to a pace because I’m not strong enough to execute it. So my runs always start off at low 7 min/miles and try to keep below 7:30m/m pace for as long as I can. This went well for a measly 4 miles! Unfortunately the extra food I’d scoffed the previous night and that morning had taken their toll. I was grateful for those extra calories as I felt strong throughout the race, but now for the first time ever in a race… It was toilet time.

It was a bit disappointing to see the garmin displaying my average pace had dropped to 7:50 when exiting the porta-loo when it was 07:20 before going in. Oh well, at least now the stomach pains had subsided and I was back in the game. I managed to spy Clarky going the other way and could see by his demeanor he was chasing his sub 9 hr dream and running well. I saw Alex flying too and Rich Powell was thoroughly enjoying himself, but no Rick? Hope he hadn’t had a bad one. The 2nd and 3rd lap had me blowing a bit when you seem so far away from the finish. This is when you look forward to the encouragement of your family and friends who are scattered at several strategic points along the palm tree-lined promenade, their happy faces didn’t disappoint. The fourth and final lap was approaching and I wouldn’t say I picked the pace up but I at least got interested again when I worked out I could beat my previous PB of 9:49. Thankfully I saw Rick in the distance, we had a quick chat and he seemed in good spirits. I knew then he’d be called an Ironman in just a few hours’ time.

The finish was now in view and I soaked up that last little bit of red carpet. I got my medal and had to be escorted by two boy scouts to a chair, I felt a bit woozy to say the least. It wasn’t long before the cups of soup had me back in the land of the living. My run time (with toilet was 3:45) so I was pretty pleased with that. My overall finishing time was 9hrs 34 mins 12 seconds a new PB by 15 minutes.

It wasn’t until the next day that I studied my times, and I do this a lot, but instead of being content with what I have achieved I find myself saying….but if only!! Kona, with a bit more luck, could have been a reality. Now, this was beyond my wildest dreams before the race as it’s hard to qualify at such fast courses. But I couldn’t help being frustrated at being so near, yet so far!

A trip to the award ceremony to watch Alex collect his 2nd place AG trophy turned out to be the best thing I did.

It was announced that there were 6 slots in my 45-49 yr age group as it was quite heavily populated. I couldn’t help noticing on the results that if it wasn’t for my 5 minute penalty I would have got an automatic slot for Hawaii…….oh well!

This is why I was so shocked to hear my name called when it rolled down to me. You beauty!

A chance meeting with Harry Wiltshire and Johnny Brownlee in one of Calella’s bars.

Massive thanks and love to my wife for all her support, this could not have been achieved without your support & understanding.  Also big love to my son Aiden Grocock for being the best training partner and also making me laugh.

As always a big thank you to my mate and training partner Coach Clark as your experience and knowledge on anything triathlon is invaluable, appreciated.

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