We arrived at our home for the next few days ... the KOA !!! Our KOA is run by Ben and Thomas. They welcomed us with that southern charm. People from the south are awesome. The know how to look after you. They also have a very cool drawl when they speak. I think I may use it for a while.
We set up camp and then headed out over the next few days to do countless interviews and some course recognisance. First thing we noticed was how tough the bike course was. Holy smokes someone needs to re write the race guide. Try hills, hills and more hills. Rolling course my ass. At least they got the run description right ....flat.
We got all the serious stuff like interviews out of the way and went to see the kids at the K-Swiss booth. Love those crazy peeps. They were busy selling a truck load of shoes but had a few minutes to have a quick reunion.
Luke and I spent the day before the race setting out our stuff and relaxing. Late in the afternoon we dropped the bikes off and then headed back to camp to get a good nights sleep.
Race morning came so quickly. We both threw down the standard breakfast before donning the Lycra and heading to the race start. There are a few unusual things about IML. The first is the river. MMMM not the cleanest water but at least it was 89 degrees. Warmer in than out. Also a sneaky late entry by my old Timex team mate Viktor Symetzev (Spelling). He had the pro men buzzing as he is a 6 time IM champ with a kick ass bike/run combo. Pre race it was all Luke, Max and Raynard as favourites. Luke and I knew Viktor was a massive danger though and it was going to be an interesting day.
The gun went off and we got underway. I was in a great group early and held onto some fast feet. As we headed around the 5th buoy I was starting to feel the strain. I just was not fast enough to hold on and the girls got away a bit and I was out on my own. This was not too bad as at least I was not pulling the second pack as I find my self so often doing. At about the 3 km mark someone came up on my inside but I was tiring and strangely could not go with. I got out in 1.04 a little outside my 1 hour goal. Mental note to myself.... more pool sessions Memphis.
Not wanting to stick on things I cant change I headed out of T1 with fire in my legs. On the bike I quickly got into it and felt great. All the hard work was paying off and I was riding really well. I passed one or 2 heading into the 30 mile point. I was told the one and only Fernanda Keller was just ahead. She is amazing. She was trying to get her slot to Kona for the 23 straight year in a row. She is a legend and can still mix it with the young girls. Even if she is in her 40's. I rode up to her and told her to snap out of it and get riding because she was not going to get a slot if she rode like she was. She fired up and smiled and said "you are right" She is one hell of a rider and we both got going. We managed to drop last years winner Mariska Kramer pretty quickly and passed a bunch of other girls too. All was going great and we were making good ground until 90 mile and at the bottom of the last climb I got a dam puncture. F*ck!!!!
The worst part was that there is meant to be a gap in the glue directly opposite the valve so that when deflated it pulls off but if the dickhead who glued it on (some random bike shop who did it for me before my last race) does not do that it is impossible to get off. After screaming expletives while on the side of the road for 5 mins my race was saved by some amazing man who stopped and interrupted his day to help me. It turns out this saint was non other that one of Hillary's athletes. God bless him. He is a doll and I can never thank him enough. I still owe him a beer :)
5 more mins and I was back on the road. Tyre fixed and anger pushing the peddles. On the results it said my bike split was 5.35 with the flat but on the clock I rode 5.25 so I was very pleased. My bike legs had decided to show up.
I got done with the last 22 miles and headed into T2 with a marathon to run. I was pumped up and ready to smash myself. Over the last few months I have worked hard on my run. Really hard. I have a bad habit of getting tired and running up and down on the spot. My stride shortens and basically it all goes to crap. My new and improved cadence and forward lean would be put to the real test now out on the hard road. It is on thing to do it up in Bend and another thing entirely to do it after the swim bike.
The first 21 miles we terrific. The next 3 were bad. The last 2 were shocking. However in the past when I fall apart I go over 4 hours. Way over. Not this time. I was just 3 mins short of my personal best. 3.54. Progress is happening. I look back now and see that smashing the final 22 miles on the bike hurt me. I can't believe that I still managed 10.41 and did not loose my shit after the flat. I can get a little rattled with that stuff sometimes. Amateur stuff really.
Anyways enough about me. How about my man Lukey!!! What an incredible race he was out of the water behind super swimmer John Flannagan. He took off after him on the bike, made the pass and spent the rest of the ride solo. He built a massive 7.5 min gap out of T2. As I entered the run course I saw him meters ahead making the turn for his second lap. He looked amazing and ran the race of his life. Viktor Symetzev had to pull out the run of the year to catch him. A 2.43. Viktor caught him at mile 23 and Luke refused to give it up. He picked up to Viktors pace and held onto him for the next 2 miles running side by side, stride for stride. With 1 mile to go the Ukrainian picked up the pace and broke my man :( In the end he took the race over Luke by 30 seconds.
Had Viktor not been a late entry the result would have been very different. However I think that by Viktor being there and pushing Luke so hard it took Luke to a new place. A place that he had not been to yet on the run. I am so frigging proud of him and suspect that in spite of the 2nd place I believe that he learnt more than he ever would have if he had won by 13 mins.
Sometimes the loss in a tight battle makes you a bigger better athlete for the next race.
Now it's time for a little r and r in Vegas.