‘This is Sarah’s final blog-her post race analysis. Although a brilliant recount of her race, anyone who has completed an Ironman, or who has had an overwhelming moment in their lives, will understand, words will never fully cover it. A large piece of the heart of the story, will always remain unspoken, and will always remain, between the experience, and them.
Thank you Sarah, for sharing this very personal aspect of your Ironman Journey with us.’
Finishing in an incredible time of 10:47:01, Sarah Thomas achieved a placing of 20th out of 73 in her age-group in only her 3rd Ironman ever attempted-The Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i. Her marathon was her best leg, smashing it in 3:37, a huge 6th fastest in her age-group.
But it wasn’t all cream cakes and roses.
This post race analysis will knock your socks off.
“I was chewed up and spat out”
The analogy everyone is throwing around over here right now is perfect. I feel it fits the description of my race experience here in Kona to a tee-“I have been chewed up and spat out” by the Big Island of Hawaii.
Before the race even began there was a physical battle to find a bit of personal space in the deep water swim start. I felt I was fighting to stay afloat-a result of being pushed and kicked or even pulled under, as the swarm of female age-groupers around me tried to tread water in their own efforts to stay afloat.
I found a familiar Cairns local face in the crowd (Rachel Matthews) and we retreated backwards-away from the rows of female competitors in an attempt to re-claim some space. When the starting gun finally fired, we waited for what seemed like forever to begin turning our arms over. Eventually I managed to find some rhythm. I noticed the crystal clear water swarming with marine life and lovely coral-something we had become familiar with on our training swims.
“But the crowds never cleared!”
For the duration of the 3.8k swim I had people to either side of me. Frequently, I had an accidental kick or elbow to the body, and I often found myself wedged between two or more swimmers, with no ability to move past. However, by far the worst and most challenging section of the swim leg, was the exit. As we approached the pier, everyone was desperate to exit the water and make it into T1. I would even go as far as describing this desperation in some cases, as being intentionally violent towards their fellow competitors.
Passing steadily through T1, still surrounded by other people, I had a quick freshwater rinse, ripped my swimskin off, lathered up with sunscreen, and grabbed my bike helmet and sunnies.
“There was no gentle introduction to the next leg of the race, the ride.”
The climbing to get out to the Queen K began immediately, and the sun was already fierce and strong. About 50ks into the ride a solid headwind hit us. I tried to stay comfortable and not push too hard too soon, knowing the long steady climb to Hawi was up ahead-This is where the strong gusts of crosswinds really began.
On the descent after the turnaround however, they were second to none. Saying I was terrified is an understatement, as the gusts would force me all the way across the lane so I was fighting not to be pushed across the midline into oncoming bike traffic.
“Every so often, my front wheel would be pushed with such force, I was convinced I was going to be thrown from the bike!”
But seeing the other athletes around me continue undeterred, encouraged me to keep pushing the pedals.I reached a point on the way back when I started feeling sick from the sugary gels and electrolyte drinks, and was so uncomfortable on the bike that I sat upright and just cruised for a while, hoping that soon those feelings would pass.-Eventually that happened. With only about 20km to go, and I managed to finish the very last part of the bike course comfortably strong.
“As I started to run through T2 I honestly questioned if my legs were capable of carrying me through a marathon…”
-I was in a lot of pain!
But miraculously the small climb out of T2 at the start of the run course seemed to sort me out, and I found a comfortable stride. Sooner than I imagined I started passing a few of the people that had earlier zoomed past me on the bike when I was struggling, and I quickly found myself at the base of Palani, a fairly steep climb up to the Queen K.
Everyone I could see around me was walking up, but I was scared that if I stopped to walk I wouldn’t be able to start running again! So I chipped away at the hill, and eventually made it out on the highway.
“But there was no relief after the climb ended and the road leveled out-That first part on the Queen K was, for me, the toughest part of the run.”
The sun was beating down, there was no breeze, and the deadly silence seemed to engulf me. All I could hear, was the dull pounding of feet on the bitumen and the occasional grunts and groans from someone struggling.All I could see, was a long stretch of never ending undulating highway up ahead, and lava fields on either side.
The plod continued, and the pace slowed.
Finally, after a very testing stretch of road, I reached the natural energy lab-the turnaround point of the run. Knowing I only had 12km left to run somehow gave me a boost, and I suddenly started feeling great! My pace increased, and again I started passing people on the way back in to town.
“With 3km to go, and one last gentle climb before turning off the highway, I was overcome with emotion and just wanted to cry.”
I chose not to focus on that though, and instead put my energies into finishing strong.I sprinted the rest of the way home as fast as I possibly could-Along the final stretch of the run on Ali’i drive, and all the way along the red carpet to the finish line.I don’t even remember Mike Reilly announcing-
“Sarah Thomas, You are an Ironman”
because I was just so relieved that it was over!
Chewed up and spat out…but survived… and finished strong.