Kit Member Jeremy Tiley shares his thoughts of qualifying and competing in The Ironman World Championships in Kona October 2022

Only 8 weeks ago I was racing in Copenhagen, with all thoughts of that being my last long distance Triathlon, and now here I am, just arrived home, after racing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii! ……how crazy is that?
It was an amazing experience, and one that I never thought in my wildest dreams would ever happen to me, and it is one that I will never forget.

It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in Kona, but the whole town is taken over by Ironman fever and you are surrounded by 5000 other like-minded athletes, all nervous and excited about what lies ahead. This year there was the added spectacle of two races, so not only do you get the chance to compete, but you also get the chance to spectate and cheer on the athletes in the other race.

Making this possible are the 1000’s of volunteers who help you, direct you, feed you and cheer you on, and even catch you when you cross the finishing line, without whom neither of the races could be run.

What also made it extra special for me was being able to share the experience with Shaun and Stu, and our amazing support crew of my wife Mel, and Shaun’s wife Ann-Marie.

There has been a lot of recent discussion and concerns raised in the media about the amount it costs to race in Kona, and don’t get me wrong it is very expensive (especially if you only qualify 7 weeks out from the race), and I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to be in the position to be able to afford it – and don’t regret it one single bit (although still haven’t seen the final credit card bill !).

If you are interested, the following is my race report……..

Swim – the atmosphere whilst queuing to get into the water was a mixture of nervous anticipation and excitement….then suddenly there was a rush to get into the water and swim approx.100m to the start line before the starting hooter was blown. There were around 600 competitors in our wave and I made it with just seconds to go – there were still some people getting into the water as the starter blew. The start was fast and furious, and although my plan was to stick to the quieter left hand side, I somehow ended up on the racing line battling for position and being swam over by the young guns in the wave behind! After about a third of the way it settled down and I was able to maintain a smooth rhythm. All was going well until about 300 metres to the finish when the dreaded calf cramp struck (this is something I have been suffering with all year on long swims, and had it at Copenhagen as well) – the only option is to roll onto my back and wait for it to pass. 3 or 4 minutes later I was able to continue and was soon walking on the sand of Kona beach and up the steps into transition.

Bike – the plan for the bike was always to ride within myself, not to push too hard and to ensure that I had something left for the run…for me, racing Kona was all about finishing and I had no real ambition about fast times. You ride off into the waiting crowds and the atmosphere is electric. A small loop south then up onto the infamous Queen K highway and into the lava fields. The temperature is somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees with high humidity, so your main thought is to keep drinking, then drink again, making sure you refill at every feed station. The course itself is not over challenging, just constant rolling roads, then a long climb up to Hawi at the halfway point. The biggest obstacle is the heat, and if you don’t respect that, then you can be in real trouble!

Back past the airport and you start to see athletes on the run course so you know there is not far to go, and are soon back amongst the cheering crowds and into T2.

Run – I have been plagued most of this year by a knee injury which has hampered my run training, limiting training to just slow and steady (often painful) runs, and no bric training. This had a big impact when I got off the bike at Copenhagen, but I had learnt from that and was confident that I could manage it better this time. Thankfully the legs seemed OK and I was able to get into and maintain a steady rhythm. The crowds and support in the first few miles were amazing ….. all you hear is “go Jeremy”, “go 2133”, “you got this”, “good job” (imagine it in a US accent 😁). Ice at the feed stations was a godsend…some down the front, some under the hat and some down the back…. although that is an interesting experience as it goes down the back of your shorts 😂.

The main part of the run course takes you back out onto the Queen K and then around the energy labs where you battle the high temperatures and the repressive humidity. It is also relatively quiet as there are very few spectators up there, and by the time I got there it was getting dark – although this does not offer any respite from the heat! Then I hit the 20 mile point….10K to go “you got this” I am telling myself, I’ve run 10K hundreds of times, the legs are still moving ok and I am only walking the feed stations… thoughts are now drifting towards that finishing carpet.

1 mile to go, and as I said earlier, this is all about finishing for me and I want to make sure I soak up the atmosphere in the finish straight and get a damn good picture as I cross the line. This means finding a gap between runners so no-one is too close either in front or behind me…it sounds silly but this is a once in a lifetime experience and I want the memories to be perfect. So I accelerated a bit and found my gap (luckily the field has thinned out by now). Then I hit the finish carpet, slow down, smile and start high-fiving the crowd, which is still many layers deep!
Cross the line, stop under the finish gantry and listen to Mike Reilly announce…
Jeremy Tiley you are an Ironman

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