OK, so having had a week to recover I am finally able to put fingers to keyboard….although the hangover might mean that I am slightly less coherent than usual! I am living by the motto – work hard and play hard!!!
I really can’t believe that a whole year has passed since I was posting my first
I have worn the crown with tremendous pride, and rather than weighing heavy on my head of fluffy hair it has been as light as a feather. In fact, it has actually been the wind beneath my wings. I have loved and truly treasured every minute of being World Ironman Champion, and I knew that not matter what happened on 11 October nobody could take that first victory away from me.
My life has changed immeasurably over the past 12 months, in so many incredibly wonderful and very positive ways. Yes, I now have a host of wonderful sponsors, my very own website, nice new clothes, sunglasses that cost more than £20, and yes, there are no more cries of ‘Chrissie Who’?! But in some ways on a day to day basis nothing has changed at all. I still wake up, swim, bike run, eat and sleep. 7 days a week. I still wear that very non aero helmet, I still ride the P2. Despite have a bit more cash I am still in debt to my dad, which was about $70 at the last count. Which he hasn’t forgotten about…! And yes, I still don’t wear a hat or a visor – although I do now have sponsors that give me more hats and visors than I know what to do with, so email me if you can give some quality, unused head gear a good home!
So, the race…..wow….where do I start?! I went into this race feeling strong, but I certainly wasn’t taking anything for granted. The huge amount of amazing, record breaking performances at races this year have shown just how deep and strong the women’s ironman field is. And also, in
I wasn’t that nervous before the start, and was just really excited about racing. Last years swim was more like a complete drown, and I think I spent more time looking at the fish than I did concentrating on going forwards. So this year, there was less deep sea diving and more arm and leg action. Normally the swim start is a bit like a Friday night pub brawl, but aside from a few token punches this one was pretty sedate, and I found myself in a good position and felt good. I don’t know if I had ‘sting me’ written all over my body though, but it seemed like every jellyfish in the pacific ocean had made a bee-line for my body, and despite wearing an all over swim skin I still managed to get stung about ten times. The little buggers.
Anyway, I came out of the water in 56 minutes, and jumped aboard the P2. Normally it takes me about 40km to get into my rhythm on the bike but for some reason I seemed to have beans right from the start, and found myself in the lead at around the 30km mark. Everything was going rather well, until about 80km when I found myself bumping around a bit more than normal. Rather than continuing to enjoy the rumble strip vibrations I decided to stop and look down. Yes, rim had hit tarmac. I had a flat. Quite a few thoughts went through my head. Oh dear was one of them. Bugger was another, and the rest shouldn’t be repeated in public. As all the tri geeks know, I ride clinchers. So I whipped the tyre off and took the inner tube out, checked for any offending sharp particles, put in a new tube and on went the tyre. I was quite impressed with the speed of my rubber changeover…. that was until I tried to use the two CO2 cartridges. Unfortunately I didn’t remember to press down hard on the tyre, so the air went everywhere except for into the valve. Bugger i thought again. What happened next deserves a very special mention. Long story short, one of my competitors, the 2006 Australian IM Champion Bek Keat, gave me her CO2 cartridge. This encapsulates everything that is truly great about Ironman. Without her help I would probably still be walking back from Hawi. I am truly grateful to Bek for this amazing demonstration of sportsmanship. Bek, if you are reading this. The beers are on me. And then some.
People have asked me how I managed to stay so calm with the time ticking away and everyone whizzing past. To me this is what racing is. It is about taking the rough with the smooth. The highs and the deep lows. I always try to remain positive, and to meet every fear or challenge with a smile. It also adds some spice to the race and i understand that Ironmanlive and NBC got some great coverage of me going to the toilet in the bushes – which I am sure has made great family viewing! But all joking aside. I am not a quitter. I would have stood there for an hour or more if it meant I could get back on my bike and complete the race. As the old saying goes, it ain’t over til its over. Never give up. Ever.
Anyway, back on my bike I started hammering away. I climbed the rest of the way to Hawi, and then came the long descent. As most people know, I am normally a grandma when it comes to descending. But on that day it felt like I had a firework up my posterior. I didn’t care about the side winds that were blowing at what seemed like 100miles an hour, I didn’t care about the rumble strips, or the downhill gradient. I just held on for dear life, and my little legs have never spun round so fast! I managed to catch the lead girls in about the same place as last year, at the Kawaihai intersection. And from then on I didn’t look back. The winds were in our faces, gusting from the side and, thankfully, up our backsides in the last stretch home. I came into T2 feeling good, deafened by the noise of the crowds but not knowing how my legs would be, having worked hard to make up for lost flat tyre time/CO2 incompetence.
Onto the run I felt strong, but definitely not as comfortable as last year, the heat seemed more intense, I was constantly thirsty and the inclines seemed steeper and the downhills were over far too quickly. I swear someone added a few extra miles along the Queen K, as the drag to the energy – or no energy – lab seemed to go on forever. I guess the key for me is to stay positive, to have faith in myself and my training and most of all to smile. So that’s what I did. However, it was only in the final 5miles that I knew that my body and mind would hold out and I could relax and really enjoy the home stretch. And if I learnt anything from last year, it is that the finish line is not at the end of palani! They tease you with that extra sightseeing tour around town. But what a final kilometre it was. And to cross that line as World Champion for the second time, on the 30th birthday of the Iroman……deep satisfaction, immeasurable joy and overwhelming happiness – none of them really come close to describing how I felt. It is a memory I will treasure forever and ever. And to be able to share that moment, with my wonderful parents made all my dreams come true.
I appreciate now, more than ever, the magnitude of what I have achieved. I am so incredibly honoured to have my name on the same page as some of the legends in this sport, Paula, Erin, Natasha and others. And despite my disliking for statistics and times, to have taken the pace of the great, talented Lori Bowden with the fastest Kona run split in Hawaii, is an achievement that I am immensely, immensely proud of.
Being World Champion has meant so much more than just winning a race. I have been granted an amazing opportunity to make a difference, albeit small, to the lives of others. And to me, that is what being a professional sportsperson is all about. Yes, this is our job, our way to make a few bucks, but my job and my passion goes so much further than that. As I said last year, I have an amazing opportunity to bring about change and be the role model and ambassador for the sport that I would want to see. And the small steps that I have taken this year are really only the beginning.
A few shout outs to finish…..First of all to the pros, especially those who joined me on the soggy, wet awards stage; to Belinda, Hillary, Erika, Donna, Bella, Steve, and the rest of my teammates who push me each and every day and, of course, to Brett, who believed in me right from the start. Of course, a special mention again to the wonderful, generous Bek Keat: a true Ironwoman.
I want to thank my sponsors –TYR, Cervelo, Cytosport, Oakley, Blue Seventy, Sigma in
To Ironman and the whole race crew for everything they did for me in race week, and of course to the thousands of volunteers who give up their precious time to help all of us live our dreams. Without them, nothing would be possible.
Finally to each and every athlete who got themselves to the Kona start line. I stood at the finish most of the evening and was in tears seeing the drive determination, perseverance and joy that was so apparent in people’s faces. This continues to inspire me each and every day.
I will wear the beautiful lei with pride, and with a passion that I hope will inspire others to live their dreams and dare to believe that anything truly is possible. As I said before….never ever give up.