This photo was taken during the 1994 IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Kona. I was 40-years-old and after a five-year hiatus from competition, I decided to make a comeback! The buildup for the race went pretty smoothly, but honestly I didn’t have a projection of how I would race after this long of an absence.
My body felt stronger in the 9-month build-up to the event and I was hoping the day would unfold with a renewed spirit to battle the best!
At the start of the swim, I had trouble swimming to clear, unobstructed water. My expectation, like all previous Ironman races was to establish an aggressive tempo over the first 500 meters, then look around for a nice draft. The aggressiveness of the athletes was a bit unexpected and I was caught in a web of about 10 swimmers all vying for the best line and the perfect set of feet to follow. Eventually, I untangled myself from the mass and was able to swim my pace for the remainder of swim.
Every Ironman swim, I never noticed my swim split but heading up Palani Hill at the outset of the bike, my intuition was the swim was solid.
In the early miles of the bike, I felt magnificent. Near the 18-mile mark I was able to close the gap on the leaders and decided that I would take the lead. There were several guys in the lead group including Greg Welch. My lead was quickly matched and I recognized that on the climbs, Greg and I were a bit stronger than the other guys.
As we neared T2, the marathon loomed ahead but my run had always been my strength. As Greg and I started out on the run, he quickly established a short margin of 20 to 23 seconds that remained the same until entering the Energy Lab at the 15-mile mark. This 4-mile, out-and-back section is a unique and challenging segment of the run: Downhill for 2 miles with a typical stifling heat index and then back uphill for the final 2 miles.
After stalking Greg, I felt the time was right to close the gap. This photo shows us 11 seconds apart. My sense during the downhill segment is that Greg knew I was going to up my tempo. He did as well!
When he turned at the 2-mile mark and saw how the gap had narrowed, the psychological element of racing kicked into full gear. I thought that he would falter. Greg maintained his pace on the upward climb and my form started to waiver. As I finished the 4-mile out and back and once again on the Queen K, Greg opened up a 1 minute and 35 second margin with only 6.5 miles to the finish. The “lift” psychologically noting the time differential was a huge boost of confidence for Greg. It was his day.
I finished second overall – at 40 years old – just 4 minutes behind. Although I didn’t win, I knew the Ironman had tested me to my physical and emotional limits. The gratification of this day paralleled my Ironman victories. As I’ve shared numerous times with athletes daunted by the enormity of their upcoming Ironman race, never lose your quiet internal faith in your ability to succeed. We all have this innate skill and overriding our fears allows you to experience the magic of your potential.
All the best,