Ok, so doing a Half Ironman may not be considered quite as insane as doing a full one, which of course means you are completely certifiable, but it certainly carries with it connotations of madness. Particularly, I think, according to the bulk of the couch population.
But, deciding one week beforehand to fly to Middle Earth to go and do what has to be the toughest race of its kind on the planet, in Lord of the Rings country, that is, even by my standards, admittedly crazy. But then I never did claim to be sane.
Literally one week beforehand, I had an epiphany and decided I needed a race. It’s been a while since my Ironman 70.3 “adventures” at Yeppoon in August last year, so I felt all fired up and hey, as for that minor detail - training – well, I have a fitness base as big as Western Australia… Or so I thought… But flying in to Queenstown and seeing the snow on the mountaintops – the same mountains through which I would be doing a 90km ride the next day. I think I finally knew how Frodo felt when he first gazed upon the hostile land of Mordor.
Anyhow, as my dearly beloved boyfie gently pointed out to me when I started wining, “You wanted to do this!” So I simply had to suck it up princess and get on with it. Off I went like an intrepid traveller on the morning of the race ready to face my demons. First point of total unpreparedness - everyone was wearing neoprene caps and booties for the swim. My mild amusement at this was soon to vanish as I found out why. Nine degrees air temperature (mid-summer!!!) translates into f&%#n freezing in mountain lake terms. Not to mention that the lake was all chopped up from the wind and with all those people in it looked like my washing machine in full-blown action. Needless to say, my brand new goggles washed clean off my face not even half way to the first buoy. At which point that niggling inner voice went from a constant annoying whisper to a loud bleating, telling me that I was going to freeze to death for sure and drown in this lake, hopefully to be found one day along with the Ring, and at least contribute to science and be examined for antiquity.
But, somehow I got through it and after the longest swim in history, crawled out of the water hoping to thaw in this lifetime. It is testimony to how cold it was, that I took a whopping eight minutes in transition – trying to get the fingers to work. So off I set on the bike, looking forward to the next leg of my journey if only to warm up some. A strange euphoria set in – probably to do with the overdose of caffeine gels which I was consuming by this stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the first … err … 10 kilometres of the ride. Reality soon set in along with tough headwinds, which turned into a blizzard at one stage with spear-like raindrops stinging my face. I started to seriously wonder if my toes would need to be removed after the race. Fuelled with visions of a gangrenous future, I pedalled my heart out, only to keep dropping the chain of my fancy schmancy bike going up and down all those mighty hills. Oh what a nightmare! But, I prevailed against these odds, and by now sky-high on caffeine gels, I flew into T2 to set yet another record for longest transition in history – trying to get the frozen toes into the running shoes, you know?
Ok, so the next bit is not funny. Seriously! If you’ve ever had diarrhea you’d understand. And getting diarrhea “on the run” is NOT funny and there is definitely NO pun intended. Because 21.5 km is a very long way to go between toilets. I guess, on the positive side, I did at least get to meet a lot of the friendly locals that way. You have to give it to the Kiwis - they seemed quite ok with letting a strange woman in sweaty lycra use their toilets – and they didn’t seem too perturbed by that wild look in my eyes.
Somehow, I managed to finish the race but I assure you it was not pretty. Of course, it would not be a good story without some added drama. I aim to please, and yes, I did have a little dehydration collapse once I finished together with only just a minor asthma attack, and a very small drip inserted during the briefest sojourn to the hospital, but as I keep telling my kids, it was nothing. All good!
At least I know to stay away from those bloody caffeine gels in future! As for my results? Let’s not let the facts spoil a perfectly good story. I never did say I was built for speed, and certainly I did set a new record for myself - slowest time ever! So will I do it again next year? ABSOLUTELY!! I might just need to adjust a few minor details around training and nutrition. See you there!
Yours in racing,