Raynard Tissink Triathlon Coach
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Ironman Kona 2005

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What a race!! Never have I been to an Ironman event that felt like I was doing at Olympic distance speed, AND falling further and further behind the leaders.

The Pro's got underway at around 6:45am, the athletes so anxious to get going, they didn't even wait for the start cannon. Luckily I was aware enough to realize that they weren't going to call the false starters back, and got off to a pretty good start myself. I managed to hang in the back of the front bunch longer than ever before, probably about 1km and felt quite comfortable. But as usual, a couple of gaps open up at the back, and trying to get around them is impossible, so once the leaders got away with the turn around in sight, all I could do was hope the second group would not loose too much time. But they did. Nobody really wanted to take up the pace, and the large third group caught up from behind, which meant we were going really slow.

After exiting the water 2.5 minutes down on the main bunch, I figured the chase would be on right from the start, especially since we had 2004 Champ and Uberbiker Normann Stadler with us in the bunch. Normally I would consider myself quite a strong biker, but today I was just one of the crowd, at times really struggling to stay with the group. Every time I looked down at my SRM Powermeter it was well into the 300 Watt range even going well over 400 Watts on the up hills. Considering I only averaged 235 Watts at Ironman Austria, I knew the pace was too hot for me to handle and ended up letting the bunch go, knowing or hoping they would come back to me later on.

So as I watched them disappear into the distance, I started my long, lonley day wondering if this was the day that all the good fortune and great races I've had over the last 3 years had finally come to an end. Every athlete has a bad day, was this going to be mine. Although I felt fine, I just couldn't keep up, despite averaging around 43km/h for the first 40km. But all my doubts about my abilities soon disappeared when one by one, guys started coming back to me, then two or three at a time, and at about 80km I caught back up to the second group. I felt a lot more confident after catching them, I was in the company of  super triathlete Chris McCormack, Luke Bell, and Tomas Hellreigel, but that confidence was soon shattered at the turn-around in Hawi when I saw the 4 lone leaders and then a massive bunch of about 20 guys more that 4 minutes ahead of us.

I decided after that to go to the front of the group and do my own race. Over the last few kilometers it felt like the group was slowing on every little climb, so one by one I worked my way to the front, trying to keep the pace steady and never looking back. Once back onto the Queen K highway I noticed a few stragglers that had been dropped from the front bunch. Luc van Lierde (world record holder), Simon Lessing (6 time world champion), Stefan Vuckovic ( 2000 Olympic siver medalist). Each time I passed one of the biggest names in the sport, a renewed confidence would build in me. In the last 40km of the ride I must have past about 8 to 10 guys, and I felt awesome.

I finished the bike in 16th position and knew I had to have the run of my life to get back into the top 10. Normally you can count on a few guys quitting on the run, the problem was all the guys that normally quit were already behind me, all the tough cookies were up ahead, I had my work cut out for me.

Tim Deboom (2x world champ) was first, obviously he wasn't having a great day, he's run a 2:45 marathon to win here in 2001. Then slowly I started reeling them in, when I felt good, I went for it. When I started struggling a little I'd shorten my stride but try keeping the cadence the same. By 8km I was up into 12th, but there was a 2 minute gap to the next guy. In the meantime, Finnish athlete, Tom Soderdahl had caught up to me, and we were now see-sawing from 12th to 13th for quite a few kilometers. Once out of town and out into the lava fields things usually start happening, I still felt good and I was counting on it. At 25km Tom and I passed one of the early bike leaders Chris Leito for 10th and 11th position. That top 10 was so nearly in my grasp, but there was no letting up. We still had some fast runners not too far behind, McCormack and Vokovic, both sub 30 minute 10k'ers.

It was McCormack who eventually caught and past us and went on to have the fastest run of the day, 2:49 in scortching conditions to finish in 6th position. Tom and I continued our see-saw battle as we passed bike leader and new bike course record holder Torbjorn Sindballeat about 30km, who would go on to finish in around 70th position (there's a lesson for all Ironman novices, don't spend all your energy on the bike, it's all about the last 10km on the run). At 35km we past one more of the early leaders and found ourselves in 7th and 8th, but I was really starting to suffer in the heat. At 39km we started up the last climb and Tom started opening up a gap on me. By the top of the hill it must have stretched to around 15 seconds, and memories of last year came rushing back to me, where I was about the same distance behind 10th position starting the descent into town. The difference then was I was catching up, not getting dropped.

I gave everything I had left anyway, and caught back up by the bottom of the hill, but had no energy to go past. I just focused in on his back and made sure I stayed there. The pace got faster and faster and faster, I was hurting so badly that I just couldn't take it anymore; 200m from the line I went past and gave everything I didn't have. I quickly got a 20 meter lead and ran the next 100m looking over my shoulder to make sure he wasn't coming back at me. There's nothing like sprinting down the finish line on Alii drive in front of thousands of spectators in the greatest Ironman in the world to finish in 7th position (well, obviously coming down in first would be better).

October 15th was a day where I gave everything I had to give. It was a day where everybody came to Kona with there best game, and they wanted to race hard. I don't think I could have placed better if things went 100% my way. So how do I improve from here? Well, after 14 years of coaching myself, I think I've gone as far as I can with myself. It's time to let the old coach go and seek help else where. I truly know now that I have what it takes to compete with the best there is when they're at their best. I don't know if I'll ever have what it will take to win this race, a top 3 I think is possible, but  Huge improvements need to be made.

Thanks to all my sponsors (GU, Virgin Active, Powercranks,) for all their support, and affording me the opportunity of becoming the best that I can be. Hopefully one day it will be better.

Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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