03/25/2011 - Sam Warriner
I can't tell you just how happy, satisfied, proud, ecstatic, and a hundred other emotions I've felt since Saturday - winning The Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Ironman New Zealand.
Since December the 1st I really have committed 100% to Ironman NZ. Anybody that has followed my preparation will know that I had career saving heart surgery back on December 1st.
The decision to ‘go under the knife’ really wasn’t an easy one. I’ve had a great career so far; I’ve won 7 ITU World Cups and 14 podiums culminating in taking the ITU World Cup overall in 2008. I’ve also been to 2 Olympics, won a medal at The Commonwealth Games and World Championships too. So I could have quite easily decided that my time was up back in November when I learned of my heart condition.
The thought of heart surgery scared the crap out of me to be honest – but I just felt instinctively that I had more in me – maybe that’s what all us ‘old pro’s’ think – after all I will be 40 later this year…hardly a spring chicken!
On December 1st I underwent surgery for SVT (Super ventricular tachycardia). The surgery was 100% successful, my heart is the same as anyone else’s now and I have as much chance as any healthy person of it re-occurring.
Three days after the surgery I began light training and within a week I’d made my mind up that I wanted to take on Ironman and one day race in Kona.
My preparation for any race has always been meticulous. To be honest I’m known within ITU circles as the athlete that ALWAYS crosses my T’s and dots my I’s. If there’s an advantage to be had – I’ll hunt it out. And this race was no different – our whole NZ summer has been dedicated to one race – Ironman NZ.
My Computrainer has played a big part in that preparation – we’ve had some terrible flooding and winds here in NZ this summer – so I’ve spent some time riding ’dry’ inside! I’ve even ridden Kona a few times…lol
In the past I’ve raced quite a bit over the NZ summer as my season usually doesn’t kick off until at least March, so I love just going to races and having fun. But not so this year, I’ve not raced all summer, it’s been totally dedicated to Taupo and getting everything right for last Saturday.
The bike section of the race played a big part in my win; we knew that was going to be the case right back in December. From day 1 of the build up I’ve been doing regular ‘test sets’ on the Computrainer to keep an eye on my form and make sure it was going forwards not backwards.
Jon is a big believer in the theory you either beat Ironman – or it beats you. And the best way to beat it is to have a thorough, robust plan…and stick to it!
So we’ve spent all summer working out wattages and run speeds that I could sustain. I’ve never had this ‘scientific’ approach before and it really was an ‘eye opener’.
We’d do ‘test sets’ on the Taupo course, and each time my speeds would increase at the same wattage. What I found most interesting though was when we’d add new things to the bike – obviously when I first started the first one back in December it was just on training wheels and as we’ve got closer to the event we’ve slowly experimented with wheels until finally deciding on a disc and deep section front.
It’s all well and good having all this flash equipment…but a girl needs flash clothes AND shoes too – I was so happy with how my Sidi T2.6 went – and they look GREAT too!!!
That’s the great thing with the approach Jon had me take, every time we did a new test set I could see exactly where the improvements had been made. I’m still not 100% happy with my position on the bike but if I continue to swim as fast as I did Saturday I should have a healthy buffer coming into T1 this year?!
Unfortunately at my age – flexibility is the big limiting factor….and I hate stretching! But I’ve decided to start having two stretch sessions per week with my masseur from here on in, with the distinct goal of increasing my flexibility to get me lower at the front end of the bike.
Anyway, to the race, how did it all fit together for me?
I had a great swim, exiting about 2 mins 30 secs up on World Champion Mirinda Carfrae and a further handful of seconds over 8 time IMNZ winner Jo Lawn of New Zealand.
Onto the Trek and I managed to increase my lead to around 6 minutes at 45 km’s and after the first lap of two (90 km’s) I was just under 10 minutes up – the bike was going really well for me. The great thing about the weather (or atleast this is what I told myself to stay mentally strong) is that it was a headwind on the way out (downhill) and tail wind on the way back (up hill) which made for really fast conditions and the disc just made it even faster!
Onto the second lap and my only goal was to keep the same average wattage as I’d ridden at for the first 90 km’s. I did this until 45km’s to go when I realised I was about 18 – 19 minutes up and my first mistake followed.
The other girls were in quite a pack at this point and seeing this I upped my wattage by about 15 watts, I got lazy with my gears though and started pushing quite big gears decreasing my cadence at the same time.
Coming off the bike my legs really paid for that final 45 km’s and it was the slowest run / shuffle I’ve ever done!
That run was agony. Someone asked me today the worst part of the run, and I'd have to say the 1st KM – as I knew right then that it wasn't to be a run but more of a shuffle!
However, I’m proud that I struggled through. I really didn't hear any splits even though the crowd were screaming them at me! You get an idea of the gap when you see your competition at the turnarounds. I knew, even though I was running terribly, that they'd have to produce something truly amazing to catch me - And truly amazing is what Rinny did on the run.
I have a huge amount of respect for Rinny; she not only performs consistently on race day, but also in training – day in day out.
Looking back on the race now, with the benefit of hindsight and Jon's splits too, I’m proud that I forced the World Champion to react. Rinny was making gradual inroads into my lead throughout the race, but at the 33km mark she took 1 minute per KM out of me for 3 km's and that's what cost her, she reacted to me and then slowed from 36km to the finish – thank god! That's the biggest thing I've learned under Jon – you’re not racing other people, you're racing Ironman.
From 33 to 38 km’s of the run was a whole new place for me – somewhere I can honestly say I've never been before. It almost feels like your body is shutting down and you need to be sooo mentally tough to get through – gotta admit I loved it and hated it at the same time.
Jon had told me if I could make it to 39km’s in the lead – I'd be fine. As apparently the crowd 'sucks you' into the finish from then and by the 40km mark Jon showed the first signs of emotion all day – and I think it's then that I knew the race was mine.
I can’t thank Computrainer and all my supporters enough for getting me to the finish line. Back in December when I had to tell my sponsors that I had a heart condition – I really did expect to be on my own…but no so. Everybody has been so supportive and I feel in some small way I’ve repaid that faith now.
Next for me is a 10 day break before I start preparing for my next race. I’ve got Texas on my mind as I know Rinny is racing there too. I’d really like to put myself up against her at the half distance and see where I’m at when I can ‘open up’ my run stride and bring back a little of that ITU speed I used to have! Hopefully she won’t puncture this time so we can have a good fair battle too!
All the best for whatever race it is you’re preparing for, if you’re reading this blog on the Computrainer website the chances are you already race with the best cycling equipment in the world…or you’re at least thinking about it – so it should be a great next event for you!