Ironman debut - Richard Lawrie

2016 Full Ironman was the year that finally did it for me. Living in Port Elizabeth my whole life, I have been fortunate enough to watch the race year in and year out. Starting the sport 6 years ago I had the intention of getting a few years of racing experience before taking it on. After watching the race last year I decided that it was time for me to commit for 2017.
Looking back now I can say that I am truly happy with my decision to wait it out. My goal was always to be as well prepared as possible for my first full and to train towards hopefully achieving a good result on the day.
Post-race, I looked back on my build up and realized just how much effort it actually took. I think when you in the hustle and bustle of all the training, work and general life commitments you don’t quite realize just how hectic things get. You just get in the zone as you know you have set a goal and you are keen to achieve it.
The race snuck up so fast as usual and before I could think twice it was race week.  In the build up to race day I was feeling more relaxed than ever. I was confident that I had done the work and trusted in Coach Kent’s program. Now I could only pray that it was the Lord's will for me to have a great day of racing. He blessed us with perfect weather and I knew that us athletes were in for a fast day of racing with an incredible vibe and crazy support.
I woke up on race morning feeling great and very excited. Got down to transition nice and early and got all my ducks in a row before heading over to my friends and family for some prayer time and good lucks wishes. I then rushed off to the swim start and managed to get myself close to the front in the 13th or 14th row. I had a good chat to Mauritz Erasmus prior to the race and we decided to work hard together and keep each other company while we suffer it out for the 3.8km swim. I felt good in the water and got into a nice rhythm. The plan was to swim a good effort & keep it steady throughout. Exiting the water in 57 minutes I was very happy with my swim time and now it was onto my most favorable discipline of the 3.
After working hard in T1 it was time to take on my first 180km ride at 75% FTP and besides the fact that I had never run a marathon before this was probably the area of my race that I was most unsure about. I knew 180km’s is such a long way and if you are not careful you can destroy your race and all the months of hard training within the first 90km’s. Mentally I had prepared myself well to listen to my coach and stick to what I was given. This is exactly what I did and I feel that it paid off perfectly on the day. I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt on the bike and I just wanted to scream at Kent and tell him how he nailed my taper. Fortunately for me I was going a little too fast to do that every time I passed the crazy MTD supporters crew. There were a few times when I had to hold back on the bike. This happened especially in the 2nd loop when I felt stronger and started catching loads of amateurs up front. Turns out I managed to bike myself from 7th out the water into 1st 25 – 29. I had no idea where I was at this stage as there were so many unfamiliar faces (Internationals) out on the road and they seemed mighty strong. I realized on the bike that us SAFA’s were in for an even more competitive race than we expected.

Approaching the crowded beach front area I started preparing myself mentally to take on my first marathon. I knew it was going to be critical to keep my paces steady and to not get carried away by the atmosphere and amazing crowd support. I was very happy with the outcome of my bike and gave huge praise for the fact that I had experienced no mechanical issues etc.  The support was crazy when going through the crowd and I was feeling strong and excited but nervous for the run.
The legs hit the ground going into T2 and they didn’t feel all that bad. I can recall feeling a lot worse at this stage when racing some 70.3 events in the past. T2 went very smooth and now it was time to pull the handbrake up and not get carried away as I still had a Full marathon to go in some fairly hot temperatures. I knew from watching this race so many times in the past that this is where it usually falls apart if you have either biked to hard or you start you run to hard. Leaving T2 the legs felt amazing and they wanted to go badly. I kept reminding myself that I needed to start easy and knew that my coach would bite my head off if I didn’t. Even though I made a huge effort to slow down I still found myself running a bit too fast but fortunately not too fast.  Over the first 5km I managed to bring the speed down gradually and then my focus was on holding my pace at around 4:35min with the hope that I would have a little left in the tank to give it horns for the last couple of km’s. I felt amazing with absolutely no pain in the legs up until about 22km’s. This was when the mental battles began for me. I could feel the legs were beginning to take a beating and my left quad started to stiffen up with each stride. I adjusted my running style slightly and shortened my strides a little more which alleviated the pain ever so slightly. It was at this stage that I knew I was in for a tough 18 – 20km’s. Fortunately I was able to keep my pace up so it didn’t demotivate me too much. It was around this stage also that Kent and JD informed me that an international athlete from Norway was running like a beast to catch me and he was closing in on me fast. It actually got to the point where he passed me on the run but I was still leading as I had started the swim further back. I noticed him when he passed and I knew then that I needed to make a call to either go with him (easily 4:10min/km or faster) or to stick to my plan with around 14km to go. I realized quickly that 14km’s is still a blimming far way after having already having swum 3.8km, biked 180km and ran 28km. I decided to stick to the plan and it paid off.  On passing Kent and JD again I was told that I had opened a 5 minute lead with about 4km’s to go. It was then that I started to relax a little more but I still stayed focused as I knew anything could still happen.  
Running through the crowd for the last time and approaching the red carpet I knew that I had put together my perfect race. I have never felt that ecstatic and relieved when finishing a race and knowing that I had achieved my ultimate goal. I crossed the line 30th overall in 9:03:40 & 1st 25 – 29 
To me Ironman is definitely a different ball game compared to your Sprint, Olympic and Ironman 70.3 events.  It was more of a mental game than a physical one. Intensity in training drops slightly compared to that of the shorter races but there is an increase in volume. I found that my body wasn’t quite as sore all the time but I really needed to stay mentally strong especially during the last few weeks.
I am extremely pleased with the outcome of my race & I will now be enjoying a couple of weeks off structured training before starting my next journey to my 2nd Ironman start line. It will then be off the sandy beaches of Hawaii Kona on 14 October 

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