October 20th, 2016 by Will
…and that’s 2016 done. It feels strange because normally I get to this part of the season and I’m completely dead and purely hanging for my break but this time we really paced the season well under the guidance of Luc Van Lierde and I got to World Champs feeling relatively fresh and pretty motivated but it didn’t quite work out this time.
Coming off Copenhagen I was definitely riding high. I was super happy with my 2nd place and sub 8hr performance and getting my qualification sorted for World Champs in Kona. I also knew that we had gone into that race at 85% giving us room to move up to 100% for Kona. We did a bit of training post race in Copenhagen to aid recovery as we didn’t have time on our side preparing for Kona. I had two blocks planned, one in Lanzarote and then I travelled to San Diego to spend time with Juliano Truel, team mate Ronnie and Fabio to finish my last preparations.
Both blocks went quite well considering and I had high hopes for the race. I didn’t focus too much on how I felt, I just tried to do everything on the plan to the best of my ability. I needed the work in the legs. There were complications though, I got sick directly after Copenhagen, but not really sick. Just athlete sick… which was enough for my energy to be a little too low at times and carry a cough right the way through to race day in Kona. After every Ironman I’ve finished so far I’ve picked up something afterwards, if you look at Ironman on paper, it’s not surprising really. It’s a pretty mental day out.
For most people racing 4 Ironman races in one year sets off alarm bells but I had no choice. Kona is the pinnacle of the sport, of course it would have been nice to have been able to take an easier path to arrive in Hawaii but in the end we had to qualify for Kona even if it meant that I’d be a little over cooked. I wanted to experience this iconic race and get experience about what’s required to be successful here but also it was very important for my team BMC Etixx for me to be there as we launched our new bike this year and this is essentially the biggest trade show we have in our sport!
Race day finally came round after a nice week in Hawaii and I wasn’t good from the beginning. I had a bad swim and lost the group at the first buoy and the front guys put quite a bit of time into us. On the bike I was still in the game for a top result but only just and as soon as I started peddling I realised that I didn’t have power in the legs. I rode with a big group of around 20 riders but the pace was very up and down and it caused a concertina effect in the group and it was very hard to keep the distance steady at 10 meters gap and at one point everyone sat up and I drifted to 8m’s and that was it, I got carded and given a 5min penalty. Game over…
I knew I was screwed from the beginning so I wasn’t actually too pissed about my penalty, when I got to the sin bin 9 people had already visited which shows that the Rambo the ref was on a true rampage. I got out about 30 seconds after Bertrand Billard and Callum Milward. I worked hard to catch these guys so I had at least some company and then we rode together till the turn around. On the way home our group of 5 started to get stretched again and with 50k to go I had to let them go and then I just grovelled to the finish line working hard with what I had left in the legs.
When my feet hit the transition after 50mins swimming and close to 5hrs riding my legs felt horrendous. Like not being able to even run 10k easy horrendous. However once I put on my shoes I started to feel a bit lighter in the legs and I ran out reasonably well. The crowds are fantastic for the first 2k through town and it was a good buzz but then it fizzles out and you’re on your own. Any chance of a top 15 was out of the question now. I was pretty disappointed so my ambition was now very low. I caught up with Joe Skipper who was also struggling and we ran together for the first 6k (actually quite well) before I had to take a toilet stop and from then it all went south again. I had about a 6k stretch where I stopped and walked and jogged again and my main ambition was to make it back to town to pack up and go home. I decided I’d run to where Clare was standing and then I’d stop and we’d walk home together.
I finally saw Clare at around 16k and was really excited to finally sit down and go get a Burger King. She saw me coming and ran up to me and generally told me what I really didn’t want to hear. “You are going to finish this!”, “Common you are not going to pull out”, “don’t be a pussy” and Clare is a very enthusiastic supporter so imagine this at full volume! I sat down and rejected her efforts but I had rested in the wrong place and the aid station volunteers were onto me hard! The encouragement amazing, they also shouted at me, “You got this!”, “Just keep going”! I got about 5kg of ice poured over me, about 8 cups of coke placed in front of me, offered around 6 bananas, gels and bars – not forgetting the pretzels. After 5mins of that I realised what Ironman is about. It’s about finding a way to get round, doing whatever it takes, never giving up on the journey. Not just about the top 10, prize money, points, contracts…
16 miles when you’re completely dead mentally and physically out and back along a highway was a hell of a chunk to bite off but I made a decision that I was going to finish today and fortunately when I got around the first corner Joe was about 5 seconds away from getting a car and going home himself so I grabbed him and we made a verbal contract and decided that we’d get round together running the whole way but walking every aid stations and that is my advice to anyone who is struggling to finish an Ironman.
Breaking it down like that worked wonders and finally Joe and I got to get our moneys worth and cross that iconic finish line! I’m really proud that we decided to take the difficult option. Like every Age Grouper on the course does! Congrats to everyone that finished!
So much appreciation for Clare and my the rest of my family for their endless support, my friends and fans, my amazing and loyal team BMC Etixx and other sponsors, coach Luc Van Lierde and the rest of my support team I’ve worked with. I learnt a lot to come back with next year to attack Kona again properly.
Congrats to Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf for their wins, Seb Kienle for his podium and my close friend Patrick Lange for his amazing 3rd place and Kona run record of 2:39! I hope I can challenge you guys one day soon!