So on that basis, my training sessions were as specific as I could make them. On average 10 hours a week (at Aidan’s suggestion) -The 10 Hour Ironman Plan! I had no formal training plan written down believe it or not (life is unpredictable), just a 4-6 hour Saturday long bike session (5am-midday or so) blocked out on the calendar on the fridge. In addition to two swims a week (one long and one short), two bike trainer sessions a week (one at high rpms/cadence and the other generally slower and heavier gears as a hill/ headwind simulation) and 2-3 runs a week with a long run (15kms+ every 2-3 weeks). At the end of the day this was about finishing not qualifying for Kona!!
Moving up to IM distance, I knew the bike work would be my greatest struggle. I figured if I could get through a few 4-6 hour training rides and still have the energy to chase the kids afterwards, I would be okay. I was never going to clock anywhere near 160-180kms pre-race day and was not worried about that. I also knew I had enough mileage in my legs from running (all those 5am 20-30km runs from home to work in the Docklands!!) PLUS having managed a 4:17 at Melb Marathon in October (with only having done one 30km run prior) to deal with the run at IM. I didn’t have cramping or “jelly legs” after the long sessions, so must have been doing something right!
The lead up to IMNZ wavered a little early on when all the Sufferfest events were rescheduled – basically leaving me with no half IM under my belt for 12 months! But as my late Grandfather would say “just box on” and so I did.
I did most of my training on my own (which didn’t worry me); one club ride and a few rides with my mate Simon from work. For the most part I decided to do it on my own as, after all, who else would be mad enough to want to be get up at 5am on a Saturday! And whilst I would have support on Race Day, I knew that for however long I was plugging away in Taupo, it would be just me (and my thoughts).
Leading up to Race Day, I had a longer taper than expected as I started to get quite tired 4-6 weeks out so figured it was better to pull back the training a bit and stay fresh.
We spent three quiet days in St Heliers, Auckland (where I grew up) before going to Taupo, which overlooked the old IMNZ HQ and transition area. This was where I first drew inspiration 30 years earlier and I needed to harness some of those old memories.
We got to Taupo on the Wednesday and it was a busy few days; wetsuit dipping, bike servicing, checking out the transition area and expo, first timer seminars, transition tours, race briefings and welcome dinner.
The Welcome Dinner was fantastic and I was so glad I went. Got a little emotional at times & I listened to the words of Geoff Rameka – Ngati Tuwharetoa “Welcome to our Moana or Roto – our sea or lake – she will look after you… as long as you keep her clean”.
I didn’t cycle in Taupo but instead drove the bike course out to Reporoa – about 45kms out of town – the turnaround point. The course is described as undulating and rolling hills but the chip on the road looked big and unforgiving! I wondered how the rough surface would impact my body!
The day before Race Day, my eldest, Georgina competed in the Iron Kids fun run and I ended up running most of it with her (whilst carrying Abigail under one arm!). It was great for her to be able to run down the IM
finishing chute and give Mike Reilly (the voice of IM) a high five! Very proud moment as she has enthusiastically shared my journey – even joining me for a couple of runs ‘off-the-bike’ during training. I got the chance to have a pic with Mike Reilly, tell him my story and that I would see him (probably after it was dark) at the finishing line tomorrow!
It was of course an early start on Race Day after a restless sleep. Bron, the girls and I headed in early to experience the Maori welcome and Haka. The water on the Great Lake was like glass and so still with 1200 or so competitors about to disturb its peace – a vast comparison from the tidal waves of last year. With the sky clear and full moon out, it was almost dreamlike.
In the build up to Race Day, I had wondered how emotional I would be on the day – at the swim start and then out on course and at the finishing line. I had visions of being a complete mess!
The cannons sounded for the Pros to go and by this point poor Georgina was in tears (from the noise) and saying “Daddy please don’t go. I don’t want you to do it!” Choking up a bit I hugged Bron (who reminded me #quittingisnotanoption!), Abigail and Georgina and told them I would see them soon. 90 mins was the swim time I had estimated. I was surprisingly calm as I entered the water for the mass start and found a place, shoreside close to the start line markers, took a couple of deep breaths (as per Bron’s instruction) and BANG we were off!
I felt so calm, despite the many limbs moving everywhere around me. The water temp was good, clear and fresh and I went to work on my plan – just keep swimming and no stopping unless I had to. Sighting on the way down the course was easy – look for the apex where the hill meets the land was the advice I had been given. The new goggles filled with water a bit and the newish wetsuit started to dig into top of my neck, but I hit the turn and felt fine. Advice for sighting on the way back was look for the three trees on the horizon – I found them and kept going. Towards the end of the swim my forehead was killing me – from the cold and goggle pressure – the zipper was rubbing/cutting into the back of my neck. I was desperate to get to the final turn and into Waikato River channel (a first for this year’s IM – as its normally illegal to swim there but special permission had been granted for race day). Soon enough I found my feet on the boat ramp and exited the swim in around 1:29 – bang on time! I saw Bron and the girls, mum, dad, brothers and their wives/ partners and kids and then got a huge shock to see Al “Clarky” Lang chasing alongside me as I made it up the hill to transition! Turns out he was there to support his old school mate from the UK, Ali doing IMNZ for the first time too. Ali and I exited the swim together and introduced ourselves!
T1 was slow like I expected. I got assistance out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear knowing I wouldn’t be setting race records, so made sure I was comfortable! My old white BONT shoes were on their last legs, so the girls had “bedazzled” them for me!! They received a lot of compliments.
I took the first 45kms of the bike out to Reporoa slowly (maybe too slowly) and stuck to my nutrition plan (2 bars and 2 shot bloks an hour), banana at 45-50kms and then mix with water and some Produrance. The road was pretty much closed to the public but there were a lot of supporters. I made it to turnaround and it was good to feel a slight tail wind (its normally a headwind) on the way back to Taupo. I had to keep reminding myself about the drafting rules every now and then. The Pro Men finally caught me at about 85kms, just before Taupo – I remember thinking ‘What took you so long – you do this for a living!’ but got a boost as I headed into town where Clarky was shouting at me and saw Bron, the girls and the rest of the family. Then back out of town again and to special needs. I stopped to pick up my stuff… ah yes.. Pickle Juice – the first of five I would swallow during the race!! It worked! I caught up with Clarky’s mate Ali there… who was “avin’ a picnic” as he put it!! I was through 90kms in over 3.5hrs which was within my plan, so figured I would pick up the pace on the last 90kms.
That was not to be! Having just gone through the roughest section of the bike course (and uphill) I was picking up pace on a downhill when I fell forward and left over the bars. Somehow I managed to maintain my balance and gain control…WTF just happened! I quickly realised my left TT arm rest had fallen off! (No idea where it went!) But as I had stayed on the bike, I continued on with no TT/Aero position for the last 70kms (35ks into a headwind!), a big slowdown in bike speed and fears of bigger problems or gear failure.
Onwards to Reporoa and another big lift there when I saw Bron, the girls, my parents and Clarky. I pulled over and showed Clarky and Bron the bike issue and I think I mentioned I was certainly getting “bang for my buck” on the bike course given my time!!
About 145-150kms in, I was struggling, the bike was rattling and my feet were sore and burning.. despite my sparkly shoes! I needed something to give me a boost. I thought of an old school mate Stefan, who recently died after a second bout of cancer (brain this time). I often thought of him when I cycled. Over the years he would flick me a message after completing a Half IM and when he didn’t reply to a message late last year, I knew things weren’t good. He passed away not long after his birthday earlier this year.. a good man gone way too soon.
It worked and Stefan got me through to the next station where I stopped/stretched, had a banana, chatted to the volunteers – most as young as I was when I worked the event in St Heliers. I thanked them all and away I went – Stefan still on my mind – what he would give to be out on his bike now. ‘Suck it up. Scott suck it up!’
I finally got to the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park and then it was downhill or flat from there. I’m still riding slow, praying the bloody bike would hold it together .. and no punctures!
The sense of relief as I dismounted at T2 was immense! No cramping.. thanks to the second bottle of Pickle Juice and in one piece! Time check – 7:47 ! Horrendous but no surprise given I was averaging 20km/h for the last 70ks.
Another long transition and change of kit. The new 2XU Nuna suit made its debut – which poor Dom had to move heaven and earth to have couriered to me in Auckland, after 2XU dropped the ball! I got a volunteer to apply “a little bit” of sunscreen – completely unaware (until I saw photos) she lathered it like I was about to set off to cross the Sahara in the blazing sun!!
I took off feeling okay and was so f*cking glad I was off the bike! 2kms in, along the Taupo lakefront, I was beaming from ear to ear and chuckling to myself! “This is it. I’m going to do this! I feel strong and know I will be getting my Finishers medal – barring being struck by lightening or blowing an Achilles – it’s just a matter of time. I am in my element!”, were my thoughts.
The run is the best leg in Taupo. It’s three loops along the lakefront, out of town and back. Music was blaring, people were cheering and kids were offering high fives. My support crew were split across the run course. With brother Matt and his partner Debs on the outskirts of town with Clarky in about the same spot. Bron and the girls were a bit further down at the top of the driveway to the house we had hired, and Mum and Dad, and my other brother Brent and his family were a bit further down again. I got a huge lift seeing Bron and the girls and at some point I did a dance for them to the music that’s blaring from someone’s house. And so this continued for the next few hours. Day turned into night but support and encouragement from complete strangers continued. Back into Taupo, the crowds got bigger and the music and announcing from the finishing line enticed us.
By 21 kms, I was done with gels/shot bloks and all that stuff… Wrobel was right… so I made a big call and switched to chips and Coke. We were friends for the last half of the run. I got my special needs bag and washed it down with another Pickle Juice!
As I head out of Taupo, at about 30kms, another stranger offered some words of support – “Keep going Scott you got this bud.” Had it not been for the American accent I wouldn’t have paid too much attention. I turned to realise it’s Ken Glah – twice winner of IMNZ – who also competed 30 straight years in Kona!! I am awestruck and stopped and talked to him. He was staggered when I told him I remembered watching him in St Heliers in 1990 in the closest finish ever in IM, when Pauli Kiuri pipped him on the line. I told him I used to work in transition back then and my old man ran the media side of things. Ken and I parted ways and his final words spurred me on. “Pleasure to meet you Scott – now finish this!” I told Dad about this exchange the next day and he was beside himself.
I headed off for the final lap (in complete darkness in same places due to street lights being out!). I saw my parents for the last time, told them I would be done in an hour and then around the corner was Bron who told me she will see me at the finish line!
I pass about 20-30 people in the last 7 kms. They were cooked and some were running slower than I was walking. 2kms from the finish, I began to worry if I would lose it! The crowd picked me up and I picked up the pace. I somehow timed it perfectly – I would have daylight between me and the next finisher so I could soak up the finish.
I entered the chute and it was a blur of lights, music and people. I missed seeing Bron, the girls, my brothers and sister in law screaming at me, as the finishing line came into sight. As I approached, Mike Reilly called me home and said, “You should have done it 20 years ago – but that’s okay Scott, cos you have done it today. You are an Ironman!” I high fived him home! It was 10.38pm! Terenzo Bozzone – who won the race hours earlier (in less than 8 hours!) gave me my medal. I congratulated him and we had a bit of a chat.
I then finally spotted Bron, my girls and the rest of the family and embraced them all. What a support crew! There were no tears from me. I was calm and composed at the finish as I was at the swim start – surreal and a huge sense of relief. I could see Mum and Dad were emotional. Dad tried to speak but the look in his eye said it all… Well done son!
A mate of Dad’s who ran the media side of things grabbed Dad’s phone and got a pic of Terenzo and I. Priceless! In the tent, the medics checked me and then I was free to go. No cramping – thanks to Pickle Juice! And only 1kg lighter!
So that’s it… yep if you are still reading this well done! It’s as long and drawn out as my time for IMNZ!!
If you are looking to do an IM, I would implore you to give IMNZ a crack…. Being a kiwi, I may be biased but I cannot rave about the event enough and the support you get from the Taupo locals and the volunteers is just amazing!