WillWorld - Kona Aftermath and thanks

October 11, 2016
In the early 2000s I did a ski season in Courcheval. I had a sticker on the back of my helmet (it was the time when helmets were just coming in) and it said WilWorld. I was slightly different back then but I still feel like I live in my own little world. And the last 10 days or so I have lived in a little bubble in the middle of the pacific ocean. Hawaii has been an absolute blast but I am ready to come home now please. Ready to come home to start a new chapter in my life. Nothing has changed but I have well and truly ticked Kona off. 

So I guess you might be keen to know how the race went. I will do my best to retell the day from my point of view.

The conditions were perfect when we got to the swim start. Calm wind, warm but not too hot. A small swell in the ocean and everything still in place on my bike. I did my swim warm up - a few yoga stretches and breathing exercises and then we (Paul and James and myself) went to the beach. we swam to the start - about 100m from the shore and battled for 20 minutes to hold our place. Treading water wasn't a problem, even though wetsuits are illegal and swim skins tend not to give any buoyancy it is so salty in the water even the most stinky legged man can float! The start was scary. Front line and left of centre the plan was to start hard and swim wide to avoid the biff. For the first 30 strokes I didn't make a single proper stroke. Breathing was a luxury I managed a few times and sighting was a waste of time! But I was still smiling the whole way. I was the furthest left for the majority of the rest of the section out to the turn boat. Following peoples feet meant I didn't need to sight all the time (normally every 6 strokes). The turn meant it all got a bit congested but people were considerate. I felt so much better than a week before and was able to hold feet and overtake quite a few swimmers. As we neared the pier I changed tactics and my line and swam the widest on the right. Didn't want to get this far only to get walloped in the "inappropriates". I exited the water in 57:50 by my watch - over 3 minutes faster than the week before. 

Transition was smooth. I asked someone to put some sun cream on and ran to my bike. 

Onto the bike then and from the start people were overtaking me. I am used to this being a reasonably strong swimmer. But I was being overtaken by people as if I were standing on the side of the road with a coconut and a clapper cheering them on. I looked at my Garmin and it was saying 240 watts. So I just said to myself that this is the world championships and it is expected. You do a little loop round town and then climb up for about 2 miles. The turn point was exactly at the end of our road that we have been staying in. It was all going well and I was ahead of all the chaps I wanted to be ahead of - until they came flying past. The descent into town is a bit of a procession. Then you hang a fast right and head up to the Queen K - a long and rolling dual carriage way that hugs the coastline and is exposed to wind and offers no shelter. The wind if anything was pushing us along. I saw a huge group come past - it was embarrassing to witness. This was the worlds best athletes and they were making no attempt to break up the group. Riding 3 abreast and a meter from the person in front. I pulled over to the hard shoulder and soft pedalled so as to not get caught up in it. Then 4 people went down hard. Wheels must have been clipped as they were riding a straight line. As horrific as the accident was - I couldn't help but feel that if they were riding legally it would not have happened. As we turned towards Waikaloa the wind picked up. A bit of a brutal headwind that dropped the pace right down. It was hot and I was struggling with nutrition. In fact I just didn't feel great. It felt as if everything was a total struggle and much harder than it should have been. I was ignoring the power meter and just riding. Picking up water from aid stations and pouring it over me. I was struggling to keep much liquid down in fact. I was still going reasonably well but it was just tough. As we dropped to start the climb to Hawi I was actually looking forward to the clim. A chance to change position and stand. I still wasn't making up places but I was holding on to some people. Then the pro men came absolutely bombing down the climb. It was so impressive and I couldn't believe the speed they were going. All the big hitters were there and I got goose bumps. Where else does that happen. They truly were showing that they are the athletes we believe them to be. I pushed on and got to the turn point at about 3 hours. With a. Bit of a calculation I worked out I was on for a 5:30 bike split. I wont tell you the words I shouted to myself as there may be children reading. But I was really quite annoyed. I had worked hard on my cycling since Nice and today just wasn't doing it justice. The descent was quite long, as was the rest of the ride. I dug in as much as I could but I was just still going backwards. I actually got into a good rhythm for about 15-20 miles and was enjoying overtaking people thathad overtaken me earlier. But that didn't last. Nutrition was a struggle. I was able to have a slug of gel mix every once in a while and a clif block every 15 minutes. I was taking 3 water bottles and pouring 1 over my head straight away. Eventually I rolled into town happy to be there but I felt as if I had left a part of me out on the Queen K. It was hot by now but I was actually looking forward to running with everyone else. Hearing others footsteps around me and running where so many of the sports legends had run. 

Into T2 and I sat down. So pleased to be in the shade. I probably took a bit /lot longer than I would have liked but the cool tent was so nice. Off I went and the legs were feeling ok. I have been running with a power meter and had decided to run with that rather than pace. I hoped it would be able to control me a bit more and it was working quite nicely. I was either running past people or holding pace with them. Some were already walking. I tried not to feel too smug as I knew that at this distance you can be feeling fine at one moment and 10 seconds later you are gone and reduced to walking or sitting. Aid stations were regular and most welcome. I settled in to a routine of stopping to fill my hat up with ice, take some water, more ice to crunch, coke and then get running again. It was a smooth transition and I wasn't losing any time to those around me. The turn point at Ali'i Drive felt like a long way however, the run back to town went quite quickly and I started to feel like I was getting into a good groove. I decided that I wanted to run up Palani Road. It isn't too long or steep but at about 8 and a half hours after starting it was long and steep enough, At the top Craig "Crowie" Alexander was handing out a nutrition supplement for those suffering with cramping. I gave him a high 5 as I tend not to suffer from cramps - quick plug for the guys at Precision Hydration. I had run this stretch of the course out of town along the Queen K Highway. It is deceptively long and the rolling hills certainly mix up the muscles used. 

After Switzerland I had spotted a trend that I faded between 20 and 30km before picking it back up and so I adapted training to include more long runs to stop this from happening. And between half way and exiting the Natural Energy Lab at 33 km I was on for a 3:15/3:16 - perfect pacing and I was feeling great. And then the wind disappeared. My head started to tell me it was all too hard and I should walk. My body said that was ok. I was taking longer at each aid station, spending time with my head in an ice bucket, stretching my legs and even just standing still/swaying. Mark and Dave (Allen and Scott - made famous at the IronWar) came and I walk/jogged up it. I didn't know what time of the day it was  and I asked my mate "Crowie" what time of the day it was. I though he said 4:44 - 11 minutes to get home for a sub 10 hour day at Kona - perfect.11 minutes to do 2 km. Easy....ish. I picked up the pace and did my best to run down Palani which was pretty hard on the quads. Left at the bottom and the pace picked up again. Sub 10 was mine. Down the finish chute and I "airoplaned" my way down, overtaking people the whole way. I was a bit confused why they weren't legging it - until I got near the finish line. and saw on the digital display - McCormack, Walter USA 10:03:56.......eugh. I lifted my arms up in the vain attempt to look happy. I turned around to look down the finish chute and take it in. Again the triathlon fan in me made me do it. I have seen that view on tv100s of times and I wanted that for myself. A mental image that I can recall at any time when I close my eyes.

The organisation at the finish is impeccable. 2 people to catch you and walk you to the post race area. I took a short detour to the med tent because my fingers did their funky thing and they were a bit worried about that. I was weighed (I lost 8 pounds from the morning) and told to lie down upside down and drink chicken soup. All I really wanted was to find out who won the races (Frodo and Ryf doubled up) and how Paul did (he smashed it) and have (more) beer, pizza and hear about all the other stories from the day.

So that was my race. In a lot less words - great swim, tough bike....legs didn't turn up and great run until 33km. 

I will in the next few days write a bit more of a report of my time and a review of Hawaii as a venue/race/experience itself. 

I must thank a few people.

Newton, Precision Hydration, Zone 3 and XEndurance for their support with kit this year. It is so important to have kit that you trust and for me these are the best in the business.
To Paul, James and Clio. We definitely won the "who had the best race week" prize and so glad Paul had a great race and was a privilege to pop my Kona cherry with James.  
To Richard and Maria from Cristofoli International and everyone who donated to the Just Giving page and to Colin Scott for organising it.
To my Family - my sister Jo became a bit of a superstar out there, unfortunately mum couldn't make it due to ESTA issues (she too was quite famous on the island despite not being anywhere near there). My other sisters couldn't be there this time but I am sure when/if I go back again they will be first in line! And of course my best buddy Oscar. 
To all my training partners who dragged me up and down the pool or round the forest. Couldn't have done it without you. I am so fortunate to have access to so many amazing and inspirational athletes. Two of whom stand out - Sarah Barrett and Richard Iles. I look up to both and try to emulate all their attributes. Both had some very wise words for me before I left. Sarah's was try not to get too bored and Richard said work out how you want to feel at the finish line and do everything you can to get there in that state. I definitely achieved both. 
And finally to Claire - who I would have loved to have had at my side on the day. Everyone needs someone like her on their side to make things like this possible. She picked me up when it got too hard and kept me grounded when I got a bit carried away with being a tri-geek! 


Kona Diaries - Day 4

October 4, 2016
I seem to have a habit of waking up at 3:30. Which is Kind of annoying as I'd like to have 1 good night's sleep but on Saturday I will have to be up at that time anyway - I guess it is quite good that I seem to be functioning quite well at that time, although I had a little snooze in the car at about about 12:30. So with a little bit of matchbox mathematics I will need to take a caffeinated gel at150km on the bike!!

Today was back into training mode. Off to swim in the sea once more and a crac...
Continue reading...

Kona Diary - Day 3

October 3, 2016
Sunday, day 3 and I have a bit of company in the mansions! Picked up Pablo last night from the airport and James and his girlfriend this evening.

Today was going to be a recovery day - in fact recovery day makes it sound too planned. Let's call it a do some fun touristy stuff day. But first we headed to the pool at the Kona aquatics centre. It is a real hive of activity and every time you turn around you see a different Pro. Sebastian Kienle, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Siri Lindley, Luke McKenzie, He...
Continue reading...

Kona Diary - Day 2

October 2, 2016
Today was the Ho'ala practise swim. A chance to swim the whole course with others. Great experience and some useful insights - such as sighting is hard. No real land marks - hoping there will be more buoys on the day as kept drifting right.Had no oomph in my arms at all and came in exactly on 1 hour. Had some lovely fruit after, sitting on the grass watching the athletes finish and soaking up the atmosphere.

After some coffee I decided to run to Energy Lab. Glad I did as it is further than I e...
Continue reading...

Kona - Day 1

October 1, 2016
End of day 1 and it has been amazing. It is most definitely living up to expectations. 

Swam a bit of the swim course and the water is so clear. There are fishes galore. It was very salty - as if I was licking a packet of salted crisps with extra salt! 

After the swim I drove to just past the airport to a place called Donkey Crossing. Apparently it is called that because donkeys cross there.....

The first 3 minutes were ok. I was riding with Jan, a lady who I coach, and we were making nice progr...
Continue reading...

Kona Diaries - round 3

October 1, 2016
My watch says it is 16:24 Thursday Hawaiian time but my body tells me it is 03:25 the day after and I have been dressed for 22 hours and according to the in flight planner thing I still have 3 and a half hours of flying time left and then a car trip to the condo at the end of Ali'i drive. 

I managed to get an emergency exit row on the way to LA and so I had loads of leg room and could come and goals I please. However the flight to Kona is slightly more cramped and I am sitting over the wing, I...

Continue reading...

Kona Countdown Day 2

September 28, 2016
I've just realised it is only 10 days until race day. How has that come so quickly. My usual travel strategy of get to the race a few days before can't be implemented here obviously so I find myself confused and surrounded by bits of bike and clothing and wondering how I am going to get a training session in today. Not going to happen so I'll just have to do laps around Heathrow and LA tomorrow to keep myself sane.

My number for the race is 1723 and the race will be streamed live on Ironman Li...
Continue reading...

Kona Countdown Diaries

September 27, 2016
Here I am. 2 days from flying to Kona. I cannot quite believe still that I am actually going to be boarding a plane in 48 hours to travel to the Big Island and that I will be hanging out (from afar) with some of the Rock Stars of this sport. The plan is to play it cool and act like I belong there but I know that I will stand out like a sore thumb for one very obvious reason - my tan. Or lack of it. I will be doing my very best Caspar the friendly ghost impression.

Over the next 2 weeks I will...
Continue reading...

Kona Diaries Part 4 - rattling away

September 11, 2016
This week has seen a bit of a drop in training. Picked up a head cold and so I am popping the vitamins and drinking lemon and honey like never before. It has affected my training this week - but I think it was needed - I did however manage a rather successful attempt at 4 hours on the indoor trainer on a particularly wet day on Saturday. Hooray for Netflix!

This slightly quieter week has actually come at a good time for me. I am being quite realistic about my goals at Hawaii. Sure I have times...
Continue reading...

Kona Diaries Part 3 - anyone got a ladder?

September 3, 2016
So the last post was all rosy and was I was in quite a positive mood. I can't promise this update will be as upbeat. 

Before you say "oh great, another winging Ironman athlete saying training is hard blah, blah, blah" and close the page I urge you to stay here. You might learn something - not just about me but also what it takes etc etc.

I have never been able to hold a high volume of training without my body rebelling and shutting down. In the last 12 months my biggest month was 73 hours of tr...
Continue reading...