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Dienstag, 31. Oktober 2017

Race Report Kona 2017 - by Robert Kenneth

Race Report Kona 2017 - by Robert Kenneth - posted on FB

Warning it is a long one.

I entered my first Ironman back in 2005 after supporting a number of friends at Ironman Switzerland. I could not swim, I did not own a bike. The first race was Ironman European Championships (Frankfurt) in 2006. Then the races just kept on coming Austria, France, Switzerland, Frankfurt (again), Regensburg, Switzerland (again), France (again), Austria (again), Lake Tahoe, Switzerland (yet again) and Mallorca… and that was 12… and entered for Ironman Hamburg in 2017. I entered the Legacy Draw, and thought that was that… Fast forwards to 28th February 18:00 CET, I was at home, off work, ill, and I started updating my email inbox continuously for 10 minutes. No email. So I thought it is not for this year.

Then at 18:13 a new email arrived it was marked:
From Ironman
Subject: Congratulations
Message: Aloha Robert….

I tried to read it but I had tears in my eyes. I really could not read the whole message. But I had the gist of it… I was going to Kona.
So my objective had changed. I now had a new "A" race for the year.
Time flew by and all too soon I was in the final countdown for Kona. At Hamburg I set a new PB but I knew I had to be ready for Kona very quickly afterwards. I was please to get out running again just a week after Hamburg and swimming and biking during the following week.
Before I knew where I was it was the 1st October and our departure date was on Friday. Time to pack the bike sort out the race kit, holiday cloths and get ready to travel.
6th October at the office was an easy morning. I had put up my out of office information the day before, so I could fly low in the office on the Friday and concentrate on the essentials before my trip.

The first stage of the travel was to London from Geneva, and all went well. This is where we met Little Sis who was going along.
7th October and a quick trip into London before flying to LAX
Arrival at LAX was fine in under an hour I had all the baggage and was waiting for the shuttle but to the hotel.

The stopover in LAX gave us the chance to see friends their before getting back to the airport and checking in for the flight to Kona. We had seen a few people in Ironman gear on the flight from London to Los Angeles, and on the flight to Kona, the concentration of Ironman merchandise was a lot higher.
Arrival at Kona was smooth with the bike arriving safely and all the baggage. We were met by Chris from Nirvana, who had a shuttle to take us to our hotel, King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. The official race hotel, right on the pier.
Race week
Monday I put the bike together to ensure all was ok after the travel. I planned and easy day, but wanted to drive the bike course and try to get some landmarks in my head for Saturday.
I took the bike out for a spin and all was running well, and I dipped my toe in the water. We also went to visit the Kilauea volcano

I did a little more swimming and a little more biking. In the evening Ironman had organised a reception for the Legacy Athletes, and I had the chance to meet and talk to Ironman legends Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Julie Moss.

Another swim and a little run along Ali’I Drive


Race Day
OMG it was here I was going to do this. As I went to get body marked I had tears in my eyes again. Actually all week I had been tearing up at various points. I was one of the first through body marking so I then when on to check the bike, pump up the tires, put the nutrition on my bike and try to keep calm.
After all this I went back to the hotel room, and tried to chill out again. 6:00 am I headed down to the start and just hung about as the pros when to swim and then it was our change to head down onto the beach. It all looks so much bigger on the television. I got myself onto the beach and just waited there were some who swam out to the start line and would treading water for nearly 30 minutes. That was just going to be a waste of energy from me so I held back at the far end of the beach just taking it all in. About 15 minute before the start I started to get myself in the water, and at 10 minutes to go I set off. I got to one of the buoys which marked the swim exclusion zone during training and held on to it for a couple of minutes and then I headed to the start line. I wanted to hold back but slowly drifted forwards, but I was comfortable with my position. I could see down the line of buoys to the turn around.

Then the gun went the race was on.
I was quickly into my stroke, and enjoying the swim. I had nothing in my mind other than the voice of my swim teacher from the summer, keep relaxed, don’t cross the arms in front of my head, pull with the forearms. It was working, I was keeping up, I was picking off the buoys one by one, and in 31 minutes was at the first turn-a-round buoy. I was pleased I felt good. Next buoy was rounded and it was a straight line back to the pier. Just before the pier I got caught in a nasty chop which was rolling me all over the place. I think it was due to the waves reflecting off the pier. It actually made me feel quite sick. I just had to man up and get over it. Next thing I knew I was swimming along the pier towards the beach and the step.
Swim over 1:20:19 my fastest non-wetsuit swim by over 18 minutes.

The organisers had added a new cut off 15 minutes in Transition just to add a little more spice to things. So I was conscious of time in transition for once. I just got on with my stuff, swimskin off, towel myself, lashings of suncream on, helmet on, glasses on, number on, gloves on socks, on, shoes on, GO.
Time 6:36

Here we go the bike; Palani, Kuakini, Makala, Queen K, Waikoloa, Hawi, these were all names I had been living and breathing for weeks. I was not going to find out how bad they could be. All week there had been clouds in the sky but today not a cloud in sight. This was going to be hot. Then there was the wind.
The first bit of the bike course was good I got settled and go water onboard as well as some food. The bike was going well and I was comfortable. As I turned left onto Kuakini for the first time I had an ARGH from Paul Kaye and saw my great support crew. The bit around town was good and quick, and then it was out onto the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. It is long and featureless with black lava fields, but I was doing it, this was my year at Kona. I kept my head down was going well. Looking at my bike splits from the Garmin I did the 5km from 40-45 in 6:55 which is way faster than I have ever done before. Yes there was the wind, a nice head wind as we passed Waikoloa Village, but I just kept at it. Once off the Queen K, it took a long time to climb to Hawi, and the wind started as a strong crosswind which as we turn the corner and climbed became a strong headwind. I just kept grinding out the miles. I had made it I was in Hawi and swinging round the turn-a-round and now heading back to Kona. I quickly stopped and collected my special needs nutrition, topped up the bento box which I had filled with a nut and raison mix, a cereal bar, and some Cliff Blocks of my preferred flavour.
Now was the tricky bit, downhill fast with the tailwind was fine, but as the road turned to the coast the tail wind became a very strong cross wind again… I had plenty of time so no need to be a hero. "Keep it safe" was my motto. Soon I was back onto the Queen K and the long drag back to Kona. The head wind we had had earlier going to Hawi, had swung round and was now a head wind back to Kona. This was just sapping the energy, the whole way. I felt my speed dropping, but I still had plenty of time. It just kept pedalling. Eventually I started to see my landmarks from earlier in the week. The Veterans’ Cemetery, the Airport, the Energy Lab. This was where I saw Daniella Ryf, with about 10 km to go. Then the last turns to Bike dismount. When I stopped I had great difficulty standing upright. I knew I had put it all out there on the bike.
I had given it my all. 6:34:41 my 5th fastest bike.

Heading round the bike park I saw that Little Sis, who was volunteering on T2 bags, was waiting at the bag racks. The other volunteers made sure she gave me my bike to run bag. And a hug. I had done the bike I had time, but it was hot.
Helmet off, gloves off, change socks shoes on, cap on, more suncream and a cereal bar. The volunteers in the tent tried to cool me down with a cold towel, but it was too much too quickly.
Time 7:39

Well let’s be honest walk, it was 3:14:15 pm and I was heading out on the marathon. I felt beat up. The bike had taken a lot out of me but with the 00:05 cut off I had 8:50:45 to do the marathon. As my mother said later there is one thing I know how to do… grind out a marathon.
I started with a little trot and jog up Palani, but that was about it. I quickly settled into a power walk mode which became walk mode.
I was happy with the speed I was maintaining with this and just kept at it. The miles and kilometres kept on ticking by I was not going fast but I was going. I was walking with my head held up, I was doing this. Nothing was going to stop me, I was focusing on finishing. It was going to be amazing to run, walk or crawl up the magic carpet on Ali’i drive. I had that one thought in my head.
On my walk back from the turn-a-around at St Peter’s Church, a shout of “Go on Team GB” got my attention. It was Chrissie Wellington, a hug and kiss on my cheek and I was on my way again, strength restored.
I saw my amazing support crew as I snaked up from Ali’i Drive to the Queen K Highway again from the long walk to the Natural Energy Lab and back. I was feeling good I was going to walk this home.
Once on the Queen K and having left town night fell very soon. It was very dark out there. This gave me the toughest mind game of the day. Racing Ironman in the summer in Europe, darkness falls properly at about 10:00 pm which is just an hour or 2 from cut off. This was 7 pm and I still had 5 hours. I had to believe my watch and keep plugging away at it. I could do this I had time. But I had to work and convincing myself this was the case all the time.
I was glad I had slipped a small head torch in my Bike to Run bag and I had it in my pocket. Just to switch on when I needed it. It was very dark. Soon I was turning into the Energy Lab, another iconic part of the course achieved. Just keep walking and this is the last turning point of the course. 13.5 km to go. I kept drinking water and coke and taking fruit. Then I was at the top of Palani Road for the last time 2 km to go. OMG I was here. This was it downhill left turn right turn then the last right turn onto Ali’I Drive. The number of supporters kept growing. The encouragement grew more and more vocal, and then I was there, I was on the carpet, swinging from side to side, hi-fiving as many people as I could. The energy, I felt like a star. I had won. It was worth every single penny it has cost me to get there. All the training, all the previous races, all the sleepless nights. It all made perfect sense it was all for this one moment, there on the carpet on Ali’i drive. And then I was over the line. I had finished I really was an Ironman.
Run time 6:34:01
Total Race time 14:43:16

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years, my family, my friends. It has been one amazing journey, and it continues. I want to go back to Kona. I don’t know how, I don’t know when. But there really is a pot of human gold on that finish line.

N.B. Thank you Robert, for allowing me to post your story :-)

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