The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
This is how our next athlete described her race at the 2022 World Championship Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. Anna has been kind enough to give us an in-depth review of her race, as well as a reflection of how she has processed it.
I previously described my race in Kona as the good, the bad and the ugly. This reflected the sequence of my race day!
Unfortunately my race resulted in a DNF late in the run leg due to medical reasons. Something I can honestly say I never expected to experience especially in the race of my dream. The race I trained hard for 15 years to qualify for. The race I had prepared for with discipline like no other. Despite being mental and physically prepared and in great shape I discovered that sometimes what happens on race day is out of your control.
My race commenced with an amazing swim (my weakest leg of the three). After the practice swim on the full course the Sunday prior to our Thursday race I went into the swim feeling quietly confident. I was greeted with beautiful clear warm water, lots of fish and a lovely pair of feet to sit on for most of the swim course. It was truly magnificent and I felt so grateful to be at the Ironman world championship. I could have pinched myself! I excited the swim course grinning ear to ear.
The bike (my favourite leg) did not grant me any favours. Aside for the heat and strong winds I felt unwell from 5km in. No matter what I did; changed position, dropped to any easier gear, ate, drank, said my motivational words, thought about my race plan; I just couldn’t find my legs. I stayed positive and tried to ride well below my normal race speed and enjoy the scenery. By the turn around at Hawi I felt very ill and stopped to rest at the special needs aids station. I was eating and drinking as per my race plan and felt weak, lethargic disorientated. After 20 minutes I got back on my bike resolved, determined, committed and focused to ride to my race plan. The kms were pacing slowly and I couldn’t get my self to feel any better. In fact I felt worse. I feel like I may pass out or vomit any minute and looking back now I am stupider I didn’t. I don’t know whether I had food poisoning, was dehydrated from the swim, or had picked up a virus or possibly a combination of all three, but something was not right with my health beyond being halfway into the bike or an Ironman. Yet my fitness, grit and determination got me back to T2. I ride back in smiling because I had successfully completed the bike course and because I was grateful.
I took my time through transition to focus on the run. I had just over 8.5 hours and knew I could run a sub 5 hour marathon even on a bad day. Unfortunately this was not to be. Only 2.5km into the run I felt my core temp rise and found myself hunched over on the ground violently vomiting. It was like an outer body experience. After laying down for 15 minutes at the first aid station tent I continued but walking. This didn’t last long and i found myself vomiting again. I climbed up and went on walking and vomiting for about 6 hours. There were times when I smiled and though it’s all going to be okay, you’ll feel better soon, you have got this! A few times I tried to jog slowly but I would vomit instantly. If I tried to eat or drink the same thing happened. I attempted to suck on ice and take very small dribbles of water. Eventually I started to lose balance with my right ear blocking and popping and my vision blurry. I stopped in the energy lap. I sat down and tried to slowly drink some broth. I knew I had to look after myself it I wanted to finish. I had around 16km to go and 2 hours 40 minutes from my partners calculation to my 17 hour cut off time. I could make it. If only I could feel a tiny bit better. I tried to drink some Luke warm broth thinking the salt would improve my hydration level. As soon as the broth hit my stomach I started vomiting so aggressively my rib cage, back and diaphragm started cramping into spasms. Next my arms and eggs cramped and I collapsed. I was assisted by amazing volunteers who called for ambulance. My partner who been riding up and down on a hire bike concerned for my safety came over to me. He picked me up and held me and I started to sob. I was shaking and cold and the volunteers wrapped me in their own personal jumpers. I knew my race was over. I was physically unwell and i knew it was dangerous to try and continue. I had to fight against my own will and determination knowing my health was at risk. It was the toughest athletic moment of my life. I felt heart broken, disappointed and remorseful. I though of my 12 and 9 year old children home in Australia and how much I wanted to hug them in my arms.
The medical tent was a bit of a blur and so was the rest of the evening. I was given fluids and I woke up the next day very unwell. It took three days before I could eat normally and go to the bathroom.
I talked my race over with other athletics including the famous professional athletes Dave Scott and Mirinda Carfrae. I was congratulated on stopping. I was told how proud I should be of myself to make it to Kona and that I deserved every accolade for my commitment and strength. I was reminded how many professional athletes don’t finish events when they are unwell or injured. How crazy that is age groupers expect we should all of a sudden be the ones who finish no matter what. I had to ponder the anything is possible logo. Should that come before our health. It took me the rest of our week away in Hawaii and another week at home to process all of this. I eventually realise they were right. It shouldn’t. Not finishing due to health reasons is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact because of it I live to race another day. Over the last month I have spent time with friends, family and my children. I have attended my childrens sporting events, watched them race Noosa Superkidz Tri, attending my sons year 6 leavers dinner and my daughter end of year dance concerned. I DNF’d to live my life for myself and my children and I do not regret it one bit. I am blessed and grateful and I am proud of me. It takes courage and strength to do endurance sports especially Ironman just like it does to know when to stop. I was born with a drive to push myself hard to reach for my limits. On that day like others I found them. The outcome was different. On that one day my limit was reached before the finish line. I don’t have anything to prove. Not to myself or anyone else. I have done 15 Ironman, I finish 14. In sport and life I have achieved a lot. I qualified for Kona and I gave it my all on a day that wasn’t my best day. I hope one day I get to go back and race the world championship again with my children watching me. If I don’t I will not be disappointed. I am grateful to be alive and living my best life everyday just being me. And that is enough.
Anna, thank you for sharing your story.