The week before Ironman New Zealand I had come down with a cold and sinus infection but thankfully four days prior to departure I was on the up-swing and decided to go ahead with the trip. I was so elated to be there after the long journey, Tampa to North Carolina to Los Angeles to Aukland New Zealand then finally Taupo. Taupo is a beautiful destination, I am so thankful for this job as it allows me to travel and New Zealand is truly an amazing Country, I only wish I had more time here.
I arrived tired and safe but without my bike (gulp!!) - they had no idea where it was so the Airline 1-800 number became my new best friend. Day two still no bike and it wasn’t looking promising since in their computer they had it listed as a set of ski’s and poles (now I started to worry). Thankfully my husband was coming and plan “B” of bringing a second bike was in full swing. The next day I awoke to good news - it was located and being delivered!!
One thing checked off the worry list, unfortunately my cold was returning. The woman who worked at the local pharmacy and I became very close over the next few days as I loaded up on nasal spray, Echinacea tea, Vicks Vapor Drops, sore throat gargle - The Works!!! Thursday I was not feeling well at all and stayed in my room until the mandatory media interviews. I was a struggle to stay positive which is a huge part of my racing and any Ironman! How do you stay up when you feel like garbage and question whether or not you should even hit the start line?
Any athlete knows that what you think about the day before race day affects how you feel and perform. Training your mind is as important as training your body. Both were ready and I was determined to not let a cold ruin that. I decided that it would be all positive thoughts from here on in. I gave myself permission to detach myself from any outcome goals, knowing I would be more relaxed and ultimately perform better.
I had done everything I could up to this point and need to trust in my training and let my body do what it knows from the miles I had invested (commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed - Proverbs 6:3).
Race day was clear and slightly warmer which I was psyched about; after all I am consistently spoiled by the Florida weather. From a health standpoint I had been praying I would wake up feeling 100% but I was still plugged up. I got up extra early to have some warm tea and let my sinus’s have time to drain (early mornings and evenings are always the worst for a cold).
I knew the swim would be tough without the ability to breath out of my nose. I got a good start and was right with Jo Lawn but fell off the pace after a few minutes. I felt lethargic and contemplated stopping after a ½ mile into the swim. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw an orange cap fly by. I thought it must be Hillary Biscay, I wanted to stay with her but she was quickly gone - again thoughts of dropping out plagued my mind. Mentally this was the most challenging swim I had ever done - I had to keep telling myself “Come on Heather - think Positive Thoughts!!” - the day before the race I was talking to Marc my Mental Sport Coach and we discussed plan B and C in depth. My goals had to change being sick - there were three Hawaii spots and I knew that Jo and Hillary already had one so that spot needed to be my main goal today.
Thankfully several amateur men kept passing me on the swim and I was usually able to get on their feet for a while but the concentration and intensity was not at the level it usually is. Another athlete and I were fighting for a draft and I just let him have it and backed off. I was disappointed and off my game plan already. I wanted to exit the swim with Jo. I knew that if she was in my sight sit would be easier to push the bike. I exited the water with a great time in fourth but already a few minutes off Jo, Hillary and Gina Ferguson’s pace.
Once on the bike I felt better - my nose was running like a faucet but I could breathe and it wasn’t taking every once of energy like the swim. I kept it very moderate the first twenty miles and as my mind and body realized I would be able to do this and go the distance I was able to pick up the pace. I caught Gina at about the forty mile mark and Hillary at 50, Hillary rode strong and stayed right behind me. In the meantime Jo Lawn had taken off like the shot out of a cannon, she was a rock star from the get go on the bike and already had twelve plus minutes on us. She really knows this course and how to push the bike.
The bike seemed long and I was starting to feel myself loose focus. Hillary passed me back and pulled ahead. Thankfully the position we ride in had allowed my sinus’s to drain during the last five hours and I was looking forward to the run.
I got off the bike feeling like a new person, legs fresh and ready to run. Jo was already eighteen minutes into the run and Hillary was forty seconds ahead and Kim Loeffler was a little over five minutes back. I know that Kim is a super runner so I took the run out fast but in control, (Hillary was doing the same). I caught her at about the three mile mark and forged ahead. I could see Jo’s lead shrinking each time we passed but she had a fairly strong lead and would have to falter in order for me to catch her. I instead focused on myself and my run stride. My lead grew on the field behind me as I finished elated that God enabled me to continue on a day that I was not feeling one-hundred percent. When all was said and done I had set a new Ironman (9:28) and Marathon (3:11) PR for myself - WOW - What a day!!
I want to congratulate Jo on an outstanding win and to the rest of the field for pushing me to new PR. Also to my husband, my greatest support and to my many sponsors highlighted below. A very special thank you to a very good friend Ed Levins and Village Bikes of Sarasota Florida who committed his time to building a second bike for me if the event that mine had not arrived. It is this type of support that I am so appreciative for - thank you Ed you are a great friend!!
Additionally I would like to thank the following sponsors for your continued support. The Luna Team and all those at Clif Bar, Orbea Bikes - one of the best products on the market, Chris and Wigwam Socks, Ed Levins and my friends at Village Bikes, Guy and the crew at Blue Seventy Wetsuits, as well as my massage therapist William Muhlstadt, Marc Strickland and the rest of my support team.