By Paul O’Doherty It has been 2 years since my last Ironman in Hawaii and for some crazy reason I had that desire again to go and feel like ‘death in a pair of running shoes’ for the last hour of an Ironman yet again.
My build up went really well with no injuries. A huge thanks to all the guys for making me get out of bed to go training through the winter. It was always better to get out of bed than have to deal with the barrage of abuse all day on email for staying in bed. I did a few races with some solid results which was finished off with a great taper. I took alot of abuse during my ‘taper’ form Hilly and TOJ both assuming I wasn’t training but I decided to get extra sleep in the mornings and train later in the day! I was ready so off to I Busso went.
On Saturday morning I went for a little spin on the bike. I had borrowed a Zipp 808 front wheel (thanks Danny) and had some new super fast tubs on and my bike which felt really quick. I did a few efforts out on the bike course and couldn’t believe how fast and fresh I felt – bring it on, lets race today!
In the afternoon I walked the swim course! Yes, with the swim being 1.9km an out and back around the jetty this was a bit of a novelty to walk it the day before. It was a long walk and really brought home how far the swim is in Ironman.
I got down to the race site and the first concern was how cold it was. I had gone to WA expecting great weather so shorts and a light top wasn’t really enough for the 9 degree temperature. Decided the best option to sort everything for the race and then go and do a warm up. I warmed up with Scott which consisted of sitting in the car with the heating on. I know that Lance has done this in his younger days!!!!
SWIM – Target 52-54min, actual 53min
I love the IM swim so lined up on the front row ready for the punch up that was would happen when the gun went off. Bang, we are off, I take a solid kick to the left goggle and wonder where that guy came from as I was at the front. This was followed about 30sec later by a kick to the right jaw and then a bigger one to the left side again – not happy but these things happen. Once I got some clear water I just settled into my stroke and felt petty good. The pace to the turn was solid but comfortable. Once around the turn at half way it seemed that there was an injection of pace at the front and speed went up. I went with the faster pace for a few hundred meters thinking it would ease but it didn’t. I didn’t want to blow my race in the first hour by swimming too hard so I let the group go and swam the last 1500m on my own. I exited the water in 53min and with swift transition and I was out onto the bike in 55min which was exactly on target.
BIKE – Target 4hr 50min, actual 4hr49min
From the start my HR was pretty low which gave me confidence that I hadn’t pushed the swim too hard. A few people came past me in the first 10km but I just let them go and I needed to stick to the plan and start getting my nutrition in early. After 30min my HR had dropped lower and I figured it was time to get on with it. I was with a few guys who were riding a solid pace so I figured I would hang tight. Good solid pace and my average speed was exactly where I wanted it to be so I decided that a 4hr 50min was what I was looking for and didn’t need to ride a 4hr 45min. Save the energy for the run. The bike was pretty uneventful until the last lap when I got swallowed up by a group of what seemed like 20 people. I didn’t want to get mixed up with them so sat up and let them ride past. I then hung 10m or so off the back as there was no way I was getting done for drafting. A few of the guys in the group got done but it was annoying more than anything as it was disruptive to the rythm and pace from earlier. Rolled into the end of the bike and my splits for each of the laps had been within 1min of each other – perfect. Bike 4hr49min – right on plan. Again, no time to waste so a speedy transition and I was out of there on the run with a bike + T2 time of 4hr51min
RUN – Target 3hr 05min, actual 3hr21min
Toward the end of the bike I was feeling really good. I figured that I had ridden the time I wanted but at a lower HR than planned so there was additional energy left in the tank which I could use on the run. Leaving T2 my legs felt really good which surprised me. Straight into a good pace and although it felt fast it felt comfortable. There wasn’t a distance marker until 2km so I was hoping that I wasn’t on suicide pace. Hit the 2km mark – 7min 55sec. Dam, that is too quick. Decision time!!!!! I need to slow down but by how much. I feel great, (HR a little high but there could be a number of factors causing that and I was below LT) believe I can run a 3.05 from my training runs so what is the right decision………. GO FOR IT. I decided that I was here to give it 100% and leave nothing on the course. Being 100% committed now I just set about knocking off the kms. I hit the half way mark in 89min and was still feeling good. I knew that things would get tough soon but I was so focused that I felt no pain and was looking at a 8hr50min if I could hold things together. Through 28km in 2hrs and out on to my final 14km lap. I passed Elaine and Enda who were standing at the Goose. They were shouting great encouragement but I wanted to swap places as I figured they probably had cold bottles of Corona in their hands. Then it happened! About 29-30km I started to get a twinge in my hamstring and then that was swiftly followed by a cramp. I stopped and stretched and then got going again. Over the next km I stretched several times and I now realise that this is where things fell apart. Enda reported seeing a large mushroom cloud in the distance and that was me! The break in concentration led me to realise how smashed I actually was. Welcome to HURTSVILLE. I couldn’t get back into my pace again and I had 12km to go. I tried and tried but the body just didn’t want to play. From then home it was a walk/run affair. I was by Kristian who won the AG so I figure I must have been leading the AG at that time. I had no idea and at that point I didn’t care. I wasn’t having fun. The only motivator was Mr John Hill. There was no way I could let this old dog beat me. I had taken too much abuse from him in the lead up to the race and I knew I had a solid lead on him so I had time in the bank so I just had to bring it home. I was getting great words of encouragement from the other BRAT’s on the course so it was time to get on with it.
I made it to the last Km where I had Enda shouting to me to bring it home strong – kind of made me laugh – I could only think to myself ‘Strong, you are taking the piss there is nothing strong left in this body!’. Anyway into the finish shoot and had the commentator call, ‘Here comes Paul O’Doherty from Randwick…………….oh, we have our first cramper of the day.’ Yip, in the finish straight 50m from the line and it was now out across the world on Ironmanlive. I had a text as soon as I crossed the line from my parents in Ireland about ‘the cramp’! I had a choice, stop and stretch hamstring (again) or hobble across the line. I had to stop and stretch and with people cheering this wasn’t the way I wanted to finish my day. Hamstring sorted it was time to high 5 the cheerleaders leading up to the finish line.
The Result – Target Sub 9, actual 9.08, 32nd Overall, 2nd AG and 15th non professional.
I had done it, 9.08 and a new Irish Record. I hadn’t achieved my goal of sub 9hrs but I certainly tried. I then found out that I was 2nd in my AG and had qualified for Kona – at that moment in time I said those words that are often said, ‘I am done with IM, I never want to hurt like that again.’ I decided to forgo my Hawaii spot as I had already ticked that goal off and have no desire to go back there. I decided it was unfair to take the spot being 99% sure I wouldn’t go so I let it roll down and give someone else the change. That guy still owes me some beers!
What is next? A week on a alot of wine and beers later it is great looking back. Doing an Ironman is a big commitment of time and I have challenged my personal life as well as my athleticism. You have to make alot of sacrifices and be pretty selfish which at the time you know you shouldn’t be doing but it is all about the goal. There are so many people that I need to catch up with as I simply didn’t have the time or energy over the last few months. Above all I need to thank Elaine. She encouraged me to go get the record back but I think every day she regretted giving me the green light as it was all consuming. Doing the race is one thing but having to get up early every morning for training is a pain and especially when it interferes with everything to do with your life…….thanks again Elaine and lets make up for those missed beers.
Although I said never again that is probably not true. I love the challenge of Ironman as it is a real strategy game and I know I can break 9hrs. When will this be? I honestly don’t know but it won’t be anytime soon.