”DINO PJANIC – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN,” yells the sports announcer at the finish line.
I did it.
I’m an Ironman Kona World Championship finisher.
I’m happy with my result but want to reflect on the raceday itself.
All the stats show that Ironman WC 2014 was one of the toughest races over the last 5-10 years according to officials. So eventhough I am happy with my result, Ironman WC 2014 was my worst race ever. I had my worst swim, bike and run split during very same race. It has never happend to me before that I have not been able to maintain good pace in any of three legs. I mean it can happen that you lose the pace for a while from time to time. It is just because you are tired and that is it. And then after a while you get back up and rock on. But last Saturday, I just could not find that feeling.
There is an expression for this state namely: ”flat race”–those days when you ”just don’t have it” even though you’re fit.
On the race morning we had to be down by the pier at 4:45 for body marking and it sort of felt like we were weighing in like boxers :). This part past smoothly. Once I was done, I went to my bike mounted the bottles and did some last preparation before the swim.
In the crowd I met Javier Gomez, Half IM world champion 2014 and 4 times ITU world champion. He was not competing in IM distance but I’m sure he considers himself as a ”candidate” and many IM PROs would be afraid of him.
At 06:30 the first start shoot went off for the PROs and 06:50 for the male age groupers. I was bit worried about the mass start, but this one was easy and the athletes were calm and respectful towards each other. When I started I had a good arm pull and felt strong but somewhere after a quarter of the distance I felt like the ocean was getting choppy. The waves were uncooperative and the elevated the swimmers up and down. Swimming is not my strong leg, and so this did not benefit me. After the race I heard the swim was actually tough that particular morning because of the currents and waves. So even PROs had lost minutes and exited the water in scattered groups.
However I passed the control point at 1:25:22 which is just by a minute better than my worst swim split to be more precise. That is about 30 minutes behind the best ones in my age group.
At this point best ones were already heading north on their bikes towards turning point in Hawi and had passed first 17-20 km.
Ok positive thoughts…
I took my time to change clothes because proper protection from sun was as important as well as hydration in this race. So I put on my long sleeve jacket which is not easy when you are wet and then hit the road on my bike. After some 10 km in downtown Kona we were redirected to north on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway.
This epic road is usually subject to havy winds and heat spots. I felt strong but my plan was already set to be more controlled and moderate on bike just to ensure I will have enough ”dynamite” in my legs in order to maintain good pace during marathon (~4:30-4-35).
Somewhere after 50km a first blast of famous Hawaii wind hit us. BOOOOOOM (Un)expected headwind at approximately 12-15m/s and very hot. We are talking hair dryer hot…
Living in Skåne and training outside for many hours, these winds are not a surprise which was obvious problem for people from Australia and New Zealand for instance. People get scared and think they might be blown away which is hardly possible unless a hurricane hits you from the side. Still the race didn’t progress that fast anymore and my average speed dropped to some 31-32km/h from usual 36-38km/h. The heat was of course a problem and frequent hydration was necessary together with salt tablets.
This was about 40km before turning point and that was actually where my race entered a negative spiral. The time behind others was just increasing so once we reached turning point it was a bit too late to catch up. Suddenly the winds changed directions and turned into headwinds again 1 hour after turning point.
My total time on bike 5:47:31.
My worst bike split ever.
I changed quickly and ran down on Alii’s drive for some 15km before we turned back to Kona downtown and up to Palani RD. After some 18km we reached the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. We had light overcast which definitly made it easier for us to run.I started getting tired and was walking on almost every aid station for a couple of minutes. Mental break down…
Sometimes it happens, and you recover from this state but this time I was just empty after almost 6 hours on bike. If this was not WC in Kona I would probably have quit it. Thrown in the towel and gone swimming with dolphins. But I didn’t.
The volounteers were cheering and encouraging me but I couldn’t find anything that would help to restart me. Water, ice water spounges, coke, Iso star even chicken broth was available but nothing worked. It just gave a short energy kick but I was too empty on both energy and the ability to pick myself up mentally again.
Last 5 kilometers I found strength to run again and when I saw the traffic sign with Palani RD on it, I knew I was close. Down on Alii’s drive the last 500m the crowds were crazy: yelling, cheering and screaming. Everyone wanted to high-five you. I forgot about all the suffering and pain from the last hours and the only thing I heard was the: ”You are an Ironman” when I crossed the finish line… YES…it was over. It is just nice to have that finish line behind me for this time…
My run time was 4:01:36 – the worst marathon ever, even outside of IM. But I didn’t care. With a total of time 11:25:18 I was happy I had completed it the race. The worst ever, but I did it. I crossed the finish line at a tough race that challenged me on all levels.
As old saying goes: ”You don’t win a triathlon by being first out of the water, but you can loose it by swimming too bad”
I think this is valid for the race in Kona this year. The winds that were so dominant during the bike leg actually decided pretty much the outcome of the race. For those who started bike leg earlier were saved from the bad wind conditions for longer time which gave them a sustainable advantage throughout the entire race including the run leg.
The later the bike leg starts the earlier the wind starts slowing down the speed and for many this makes it a long bike ride with subsequent poor running.
2 Ironman races within a short period of eight weeks is not optimal. In order to recover, start training again and taper down on time for the next race, it is too little time. People who perform well in Kona usually qualify early during the winter/spring time. This gives enough time to recover and build up for next race.
Qualifying for World Championship was the hardest part for me and it took me three years (races) to get here.Being in Kona before and after IM WC has been an experience and I’m proud I was part of it.
Will I be back ?
I hope so.
I will make an attempt to go sub 9 hours in a Ironman Copenhagen 2015. There is only 37 Swedes who have made it so far.
But before IM Copenhagen, I look forward to participate in World Championship in Nice distance (4, 20, 30 km) where I’m selected for Swedish AG national team. Sweden is the host and this will be held in Motala at end of June 2015.
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