Monday, October 13, 2008

Ironman Kona

Aloha folks!

Carmen had a fantastic day finishing in 13hr 35mins after sticking to the tough job at hand with grit and determination that is epitomized by the Ironman spirit. She has done us all proud. Relaxed and tired after the ordeal of a tough Ironman course, Carmen wants to thank all her friends and family for supporting her throughout her training and preparation for the race. This meant a lot to Carmen. Today is the morning after the race and Carmen has the appetite of a horse and she is up for a mega breakfast. Before we head off, here is a brief run down of the big day yesterday.

We had a premature wake-up call at 3am when Simon sent us a well-wishing sms message. To be honest, we could not sleep very well feeling anxious and nervous ahead of the big day. After a light breakfast, we headed down to Kona village where the race organisation was already in full swing. It is difficult to comprehend the number of volunteers at this race but they are in their thousands and every one of them is so helpful. After body marking, Carmen disappeared into the transition area and that is the last I saw of her until she came out from the swim. The swim start is an amazing sight with close to 1800 athletes treading water and edging forward to try and get that extra advantage of clear water for the swim. The whole scene is noisy with a tv helicopter hovering overhead and a military transporter aeroplane doing fly-pasts. In fact, three Navy Seals jumped out from the back of the plane and parachuted down to the start area where they jettisoned their gear and joined the race in their fatigues. I found a precarious spot to watch the start from a narrow breakwater crowded with spectators. It was a good spot and I could see a sea of green hats (men) with a sprinkling of orange caps (women) stretched across the start line. I knew that Carmen was anxious about the mass swim start and was probably behind the main pack. She later confirmed that she was some 50m or so behind the main pack at the start. The announcer warned that there is no countdown to the start but there was no mistaking start of the race, a huge 'boom' could be heard as a cannon was fired. And off they went. Carmen's anxiety in the swim was short-lived when over 200 volunteers on long-boards appeared from around the pier and paddled over to chaperon the swimmers all the way around the course. Luckily, Carmen was not bothered by someone kicking her of swimming over her and she managed to get into her stroke quite quickly. She could see the sea bottom for most of the course and even a scuba diver that was taking photos of the swimmers! They think of everything.... Carmen found the water a bit choppy on the way out and easier on the way back. Nevertheless, she finished the swim in a longer than normal split time of 1.43 but was happy and relaxed knowing that she could look forward to the bike and run courses.

The bike course proved to far more difficult than Carmen had imagined. It was windy and undulating and with one big hill. Simon had warned us about the wind and sure enough, it arrived. The worst part was the side wind and not the head wind. Carmen found herself gripping the handlebars tightly to avoid the front wheel from shaking and from getting out of control. I knew something was not right when her split time for the bike went over six and half hours. In the end, she appeared at bike-to-run transition after a bike split of close to 7hrs. As she got off the bike, I could see that her lower back was giving her some discomfort after so long in the aero position. Nevertheless and after a few minutes in transition, she reappeared wearing a different top and lovely smile on her face. I knew then that she would finish come what may.

Carmen did what she normally does on the run, she kept to nice and steady pace and gradually ate up the miles. After the Alii Drive out-and-back (14km), she looked comfortable and strong but she told me that she had been suffering from diarrhea after taking too many gels. All she needed to do now was the remaining out-and-back to the National Energy Lab in the dark. I figured she was running at 4hr30min pace and sure enough, she emerged out from the darkness at just before 8.30pm where I joined her to pass her the Malaysian flag. I rushed to the finish line to catch her coming across the finishing line holding the flag aloft and with a huge smile on her face. Great job Carmen, you have done it again!

After relaxing for a while in the post-race recovery area, Carmen and I went back to soak up the atmoshpere at the finishing line. The atmoshpere is absolutely amazing and with announcers like Wit Raymond pumping up the crowd, you could not help but be caught up in the excitement. As we stood there cheering other competitors crossing the finishing line including a 75 year old man that finished in 15 hours (what an inspiration), our very own Chrissie Wellington came by to join the festivities and threw some of her race gear into the crowd as a memento of the day. Carmen put her hand out to catch Chrissie's race goggles but they bounced off her hand and someone next to her picked them up. Drat! Anyway and by now, Carmen was tired and hungry so we left the party at around 10.30pm and headed for home.

So, what a fantastic day and what a fantastic job Carmen did for us all.


Nicki & Hugh in the UK said...

Well done Carmen.

With best wishes from Sam's friends in the UK, Nicki & Hugh

Denis Oakley said...

Wow! Well done Carmen