"Crossing the line was my greatest triathlon experience in my life."
by Graham Latta
What an experience.
We arrived in Kona 8 days before the event. It gave me a great opportunity to acclimatise but also a lot of time to over-think the race. You would think after all these years you would be more relaxed but as we got closer and closer to race day I became a big bundle of nerves.
Did a bit of training in the lead up. It funny there were times I felt like I could not run 5km. All these mystery aches and pains seems to appear.
However, there is plenty of activity going on all week to keep you entertained. I was surprised by just how big it was, what with events, stalls, expo, functions, training sessions (complete with aid stations). It is like other Ironman events but on steroids.
Surprisingly, I had a pretty good sleep the night before the race. I got down to the pier and set up with plenty of time. Was in the water for about 20 minutes prior to race start treading water. The canon fired and straight away I felt a bit more relaxed. The waiting was finally over. I did not have a speed suit, just swam in the buggie smugglers. A non-wetsuit swim really impacts on me. I must have the heaviest calf muscles going around.
The swim went well. Beautiful clear water all the way. Reached transition but did not rush as I wanted to make sure I was set up right for the next leg.
Started off on the bike and thought “oh my God”. My legs felt rock solid and I was a little upset in the stomach. I thought how am I going to do 180km. My legs from the swim started to loosen up after about 5km and once I started taking in a bit of food and water my stomach settled down. First part of the course was going o.k. I knew I must have had the wind at my back but could not tell how strong. I was heading up to Hawi for the turnaround and started to struggle a bit with the last bit of the climb and the headwind. I was sure I was nearly at the turnaround when a lady by the side of the road yells out “only 4 mile to go”. I turned at Hawi and started flying back down. I am thinking “all right, how good is this”. Started doing those time adjustments in my head. I should know by now to never get ahead of myself. When I got back onto the Queen K the headwind hit me like a ton of bricks. There were times when I was going downhill and could not get over 20km per hour. The last two hours back to town where probably the hardest two hours of sport I have ever done. Time to rethink my times. By this stage all I could think of was how am I going to run, my legs are shot.
Hit transition, do a super slow change and head out on the run. Got into a rhythm, a slow rhythm after a few hundred metres. Settled into this pace and just kept moving forward. Did the 16 km loop that takes you south of Kona and got back into town, feeling not too bad. I wanted to be at this point before the sun went down. Managed to do this and then set off on the 26km loop that heads off to the north. Tried to keep my rhythm going but had to start walking in bits. Started to feel like crap at about the 24km mark. Felt a bit dizzy. Decided to load up on food and drink (as best you can at this stage of the day). Kept moving forward. When I felt tired I would run two witches caps then walk one. This got me back into rhythm.
The last mile is unbelievable. As tired as I was I felt really good. Coming down the last street before I turned onto Alii drive I did not know whether to be laughing or crying. The final stretch along Alii Drive is about 400 metres and the crowd line the entire distance even late at night when I was coming in. I made sure I was the only one in the finish chute so I could suck up the atmosphere all by myself.
Crossing the line was my greatest triathlon experience in my life.
Congratulations to all the other WTC athletes. Some great efforts out there. Bec, what can I say, what a fantastic performance. Congratulations also to Ian Kennedy, Vince Zofrea, Jacinta Worland, Tony Suters and Iron Mike Smith. Thorso, what can anyone say. You are a true inspiration, not only to finish but to actually make the starting line. Sorry if I have missed someone
This has been a real experience. I am glad I can tick it off my bucket list.