BANG!! (Start Cannon)
We were off! A reasonably spread out field from the start-line so there was not too much chaos. My first thoughts that this wouldn’t be a ‘fighty swim’ was quickly removed once we reached the first buoy when fists began to start flying and people tried swimming over me. There is nothing worse, no one needs such energy sapping exertion this early on. I would never instigate this behavior but if someone does try then I take full advantage of my size, and of course background in both water polo and rugby to remind them not to take advantage of me again. There has to be some benefits of be an abnormally a big built triathlete.
Each buoy, it was much the same as we all merged. This led me to pushing out a little wider to avoid the fight a couple times. In hindsight not my smartest move, having to work harder instead of sitting on the feet of someone else. Causing me to lose the group I was working with. Once at the turn around point I saw the group I was with was out of reach so settled in but, as I approached the last quarter I realised I was catching them and made a push to link back up with them. Keeping with the pace I used to catch up, I shoot to the front of the group to join another Blueseventy athlete, Claire and worked with them to the swim exit. I learned quickly while swimming around the corner to the new swim exit I should of done a better swim recon, blinded by the sun in my clear goggles lenses I turned in too soon…. Opps! Quickly realising my mistake I jumped on to the feet of Claire into the actual swim exit. Glancing up at the time I see 55 min PERFECT! Just what I predicted and on target! Out the water and began running down the tunnel of people, very unlike myself I was unable to acknowledge people and smile, I found myself keeping my goggles on looking straight ahead to just be able to hold my emotions in check it was such an overwhelming feeling. Ironman NZ has a classically long transition so once at the bottom of the steps I decided to ditch the wetsuit and carry it up freeing my legs up. Running into the transition tent I have never seen such a happy face Jonathan looking at me with the biggest grin, stoked that he beat me out the water I took the seat beside him and had a quick chat before shooting off to the bike.
Off on to the bike the feeling was unreal shooting down the lakefront, maybe getting a little carried away but hey who doesn’t. The climb out of town quickly got me under control and I settled into a comfortable pace. Those who know me know I am not a big fan of hills, they are not my strength being a bigger athlete. Once at the top on the flats it was my time to shine and settle in with a good group. Sadly I had to deal with a few athletes drafting and blocking me in, which resulted in me expending a little more energy than I would of liked having to get back out in front so I didn’t get busted for drafting. This became a regular occurrence for the first lap. Not long after the turnaround I found a foot traffic athlete keen to work together and take turns. We worked well together making some solid ground while the others just drafted off us the whole way not taking a turn. As we hit the hills climbing back into town I fell off the back and quickly realised I may have pushed a little too much and had to wind it back and be smart. This was hard but I knew I was in for a long day.
Soon as you see the crowd all pain just disappears and as I flew back into town at 2:30 I was feeling good, I set out on my second lap in a great position on target. On my way out of town I was keen to grab my special needs but sadly was not ready so I continued on leaving it behind. Now bottle-less, as I had expected to pick up a bottle at special needs, something in hind-sight I realise may have hurt me a little as I had to wait till the next aid station. On top of the hill and back out again onto the flat section, I wasn’t sure if it was me bonking and really struggling or a headwind. Turns out after struggling my whole way back out to the turnaround it was a headwind. I became overly cautious of being done for drafting on the second lap and found myself riding solo into this headwind. Definitely a hard lesson to learn as I wasted so much needed energy. At the turn around everything quickly became a lot easier, I was feeling fast again and continued my solo mission back into town. By this point it all seemed so much easier with over three quarters of the bike done I just had to keep charging and bring it home. On my way back into town my Garmin decided it didn’t want to work any more, making it extremely hard for me to stick to my paces and times. Looks like I will have to finish off by feel. Then it all got even worse, the aero-bar bottle cage that I decided to use last minute had come loose across the ride, I had tried thinking positively and by this point was hoping it would hold as I had so little of the ride left to go. At the 160 km mark it was so loose it flew off and now it is really bouncing around. Keeping a close eye on it I could see it wouldn’t last much longer and made the quick decision to rip it off my garmin and throw it in my tri-suit, it is not like it is working any way….
With my garmin in my trisuit, I shoot back into town with the biggest grin on my face knowing I was two legs down only the run to go! After going off feel for the last segment of the race I checked my watch to see I was on target time for sub 10 hours!!
Into transition tent I decided to do a full kit change, favouring comfort and ditching my tri-suit for a singlet and shorts, the running kit I did all my long runs in. Quickly stopping for a bathroom stop that I had been busting for all ride (the only one I had all day, a little concerning…). I was then off feeling great! Knowing the run had become a strength of mine again I was excited to see what I could do.
To minimise wasting time I opted to carry a bottle, allowing me to avoid aid stations and slowing me down. Running down the main strip was such an awesome feeling, I found a group holding 4:50-5:00 min pace (my target pace) and settled in. However, 3 kms in I was struggling normally I have to really force myself to slow down off the bike to achieve race goal pace, this time it happened quickly and I thought ‘this can’t be good’…. Sure enough it was not and I quickly realized this run was not going to go to plan, I was already contemplating walking a segment at the 5 km mark. What was going on?? As I did the calculations in my head I came to the realisation sub 10 was not happening today, DAMN!! Oh well that means I just get the ability to soak up everything and enjoy the remainder of my race. I did just that, high fiving all the little kids and talking to anyone who would listen (Yup! I am that annoying bubbly guy while racing). At the turn around point of the first lap I had Claire who I swam with charge past me, there was no way I was holding her pace and let her go as I knew she had the same goal of sub 10 hours in mind. Telling her she has to do it for both of us because I had bonked. Not long after this I had Nicola pass me with a similar pace and in same fashion I said ‘you got this keep charging’ and let her go. However on the way back into town I guess I had a little bit of a second wind and was able to bridge the gap back to Nicola and settled in with her onto the completion of lap 1. After losing her at the final aid station of the lap 1 I continued back out on my own and by this point I was really feeling the heat and was completely sapped of energy. I decided to conserve energy and walk all the hills but run the flats. It is funny how at the end of an Ironman how you perceive hills or should I say mountains, the smallest rises became brutal climbs….. Where on a normal day I wouldn’t even recognise it as a hill. I decided I no longer needed to carry my bottle to save time so I was keen to ditch it. Trying to find a spot to ditch it took me a solid lap to figure out but at least kept mind busy.
The support I received on course was unbelievable from strangers to an unbelievable amount of friends and clients down supporting me. Every lap into and out of town was always so exciting, I struggle to find words to describe the awesome vibe of running through an endless crowd of people yelling out “Go Luke” then getting to run past all my friends and clients. Some who were tempting me with ice cold beers every time I ran past hahaha. I was lucky enough to have friends and clients out on bikes who joined me for a good yarn as worked my way through my first ever marathon. Did I mention that? Yea this is my first ever Marathon…. The end of an Ironman seems like a logical time to tick this off right?
While making my way back in on my second lap, I see the crowd spike up, this can’t be for me, sure enough it wasn’t. The pro leader Terrenzo Bazzone was heading in for a convincing win and a course record!! Wow he made me feel like I wasn’t moving. Into the Last lap I had a solid stitch but knew I had to take water on, it became a careful balancing act of taking on fluid while trying to not over do it at each aid station. My calfs began to cramp and I became extremely thankful I found some cramp stop spray the day before which helped keep it at bay, mostly. By this point I could feel the end I knew there wasn’t far to go excitement began to build. The final time heading into town was unreal as I high fived everyone knowing I had done it, as I continued on straight at the turnaround point towards the finishing shoot all the choking up previously was not even close to the emotions I was now feeling, I have done it! I have proven my model and surpassed so many expectations. I was extremely thankful to be wearing my sunglasses to hide the emotions. Then there it is the finishing shoot, the red carpet! As I fly down there I spot friends and family and high five my way down to the finish line while I hear the iconic voice of Mike Reilly “Luke Taylor from Hamilton, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” The four words I had worked so long an hard for.
Into the athletes tent and onto the scales to find I lost 6 kgs while racing! Opps!! Definitely a sign of under nutrition and dehydration. The medical staff wanted to assess me but I managed to convince them I was fine. In hindsight I should of jumped on the drip I would felt a million bucks after that. Instead I collapsed onto a table for a massage, to help release my cramping calf and hamstrings. Such a good feeling post race! Then off to the table to refuel I just sat in front of the water and threw back cup after cup in an attempt to re-hydrate. Then off to the food table, I was gutted to see all I could eat was fruit, being gluten and dairy free is not the easiest when you are an athlete in the recovery tent.
After catching up with a number of clients and friends in the athlete lounge it was time to head out and thank my supporters. They couldn’t stop commenting on how thin I looked and wow they weren’t wrong when I saw the photo, there wasn’t much left on me. Time to refuel and where better than my favorite Burger Fuel!
- Food ✔
- Shower ✔
Now the trick is to stay awake to head back to the finish line to watch some my friends finish and the real warriors of Ironman charging in just before midnight! 17 hours of pain!!! It is really tear jerking stuff, majority of them with such inspiring stories. If you have never been to a Ironman finish line at midnight you need to check one out, it is just one big party! Thankfully I was still buzzing and went back and supported from 9:30 till after 12. You would think once home I would of been out for the count but I was still flying high and buzzing, my mind was wired unable to switch off till 3am.
The Morning After
Laying in bed scared to move….
Once I had finally worked up the courage to move I jumped up slowly, WOW sooo heavy and tight bending over. However, once again I proved my model as I was injury and even niggle free. I just felt like I had done the most killer abb workout possible with only sore core and glutes, I was over the moon! That means my body was well balanced and fired the right muscles. SUCCESS!!!!!!!
Ironman Reflection / What Next?