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World 70.3 2011

Alec Riddle Ironman 70.3

Alec Riddle Ironman 70.3

Firstly thanks so much for the overwhelming support….. what a tough day/race it was, but I suppose I knew it was never going to be easy, just had no idea it would be as tough as that.

Race week commenced with a few final tune up sessions in Boulder and a few Good Byes, before transferring Wednesday to Las Vegas…checking out the course, getting everything prepped, etc. I had checked out the opposition and knew I was in for a torrid time, as the field was so much stronger than last year’s World Champs, but I it was amazing I was at peace with that and deep down was relishing the challenge and one guy in particular I was looking to measure myself against was the 2010 Hawaii Champion, Michael Blue. I slept brilliantly Friday evening (8 hrs), napped Saturday (too long I thought) and still managed to sleep right through Saturday night, always a good sign and indicator for me. I rose at 03h30 for breakfast and was feeling excited and amazingly not very nervous…..I was ready to go to war!


Getting to the race start (and the final bits and pieces) went better than expected and then the Pros were off (06h30) and ten minutes later it would be time (we were wave 4), time to test myself, to test my mind as I really believed I was ready physically… it was a wet water start and I had started in a good spot and got a good start, I remember swimming water polo style after 3-400m to see how I was doing and I was lying about 4th on some good feet and I was pushing really hard. At about 800m my first challenge surfaced, as I went into oxygen debt and realised I had started too fast(probably misjudged my ability without the wetsuit)… it’s the worst feeling ever, you are less than 15 minutes into a World Championships and you have just ‘blown’, you’ve lost the feet, are in no man’s land and faced with split second decisions… well mine was firstly to ban all negative thoughts/emotions and to try and think rationally/positively and not to panic, so decided to swim breastroke (yes about a dozen strokes as I was hyperventilating) and to wait for the small group about 60m back, in the meantime I had to recover before they caught me. Well I never recovered in that swim, so it was tough hanging onto the next group but I just had to if I was going to salvage something and when I hit land in about 32 odd minutes it dawned on me that I had just had the worst swim of my entire life (worse than last year with the broken collar bone), not a great start. There was a 400m run to ‘Trab=nsition’ 1 and I was labouring, this was not going according to plan, but all the while I was trying to remain positive.


Onto the bike and what a tough start, uphill all the way out of Lake Las Vegas and I had no idea where I was lying, I imagined top 10, max top 15 so knew there was lots of work to be done, but I had to calm myself down, as I knew this was a demanding bike route, very hilly indeed and more than likely hot, with a tough run looming. Had discussed tactics with Raynard on a training ride Friday and he said I could not afford to ride too hard as the run will kill you…. so set about a strong, steady pace but was a little demoralised as was not catching anybody other than a few ladies who started one wave ahead of us. I refused to look at my computer, for fear of disappointment, so focussed on eating and drinking, a saviour for later in the day. I tried not to push the uphills too hard, but was hammering the downhills, something I had learnt from Raynard and a Powermeter.

I got a huge lift when I saw Raynard leading the Pro field, but was dismayed for him when I saw a group of 20 Pro riders working hard to chase him down about 200m back.

I also got a much needed lift when I made the turn and realised I was in the top ten and only about two minutes back…. I realised I must have been riding well and looked at my computer, 36,9km and it was mostly uphill to the turn, so suddenly I realised I was still in the mix and made the turn… so I maintained my pace/effort and went through 60km in 1h37min and eventually I started catching a few riders, which helps your mind as riding on your own in the desert can play tricks on your mind. The problem with this course is when you get back to Lake Las Vegas, you still have 20km to Transition 2 and much of it is uphill, but fortunately I had ‘recceed’ this with Ray, so knew what to expect and it’s not that it is steep, it’s just it comes 2 hrs into the ride and your legs are fatigued. Going up the hill out of the National Park (or the Desert), my quads were showing signs of fatigue and shortly thereafter my hamstring started getting tight, so I decided to back off a little over the final 20km to ensure I had legs for the run. It was at this point 2010 Hawaii Champion Michael Blue came past at a rate of knots and I knew he was a good runner, so had to change tact and decided to keep him in my sights. Within no time he was some 200m down the road, but I gradually cut back the deficit to about 50m going into transition and imagined myself duelling this guy for the title. Yes, at this stage I still believed I could do it!


Into transition, on with the shoes and onto the run route… I was dismayed to hear five minutes down, as that’s a mighty big gap, fortunately that was a miscalculation, but it does play on your mind. Once again I had to force myself to hold back on the run and at the first turnaround (the run was 3 laps, but you could say 6 laps as midway thru each lap we passed the finish area to do second half of lap) it seemed I may be about 2 min30 secs down. After the turn and it was a solid 3km+ uphill (about 200m flat per 7km lap, otherwise up or down but not steep…. just a little steeper than Admiralty way but it was hot), so I started working and the gap started coming down and I was feeling comfortable and confident as I knew I had my running legs back, based on my training in Boulder. At 10,5km (halfway), Michelle and the kids told me I was 3rd one minute down and in my mind I knew I had it, if things did not go wrong Note: Thanks to the Gill family for updating and sending over all the time splits to Michelle from South Africa (on your birthday Kimmie…Happy Birthday) and the nice thing is we are allowed to get splits at the World Championships!

But,  it was like a split second later, disaster struck and I thought my race was over…..

My dreaded calf went into spasm, it was like a knife ripping into my calf the spasm was so severe and I can recall thinking why did I try and save 15 seconds and not put on my compression socks at the swim/bike transition…. shows how my mind was warped after my bad swim…. so I hobbled to the next aid station, stopped for ice and tried to ice it and suddenly the gap was out to 2 minutes again and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run, if I would finish (sorry finishing would definitely happen, but wasn’t sure if could finish racing)…. so this incident was going to define my race and so many things went through my mind, prayer, the sacrifices, family, my late Dad, Reece the catalyst to my getting back into shape and I used each and every one to try and keep me going. Then this dude with 51 on his calf came past with about 8km to go and now it was him and I for the bronze and I recall two things so clearly….. #1 The saying Burn the Boats…. I had burnt the boats, there would be no surrender, no turning back, no quitting, no slowing down and #2 Change your running style…. I’ve no idea where that came from, but in a split second I thought if I keep on running as I normally do, the calf will plague me to the end, so I decided to switch to the Alan Robb shuffle and see if that would work.

So it was me and this dude in red/black who looked so fresh, so strong… but I used an imaginary piece of cotton, attached it to his back and I was locked in, I managed to block everything else out, yes the pain was still there and it was burning but I kept on saying Hospital or Podium, there was no other alternative….. and then we passed Michelle, Natalie and the kids and the gap was coming down again and there was light…. But still 7km to go, the calf was tight, pain etched all over my face and I dare not take painkillers, in case I’m tested…anyway I was hanging on to this dude and he was pulling me along. I remember thinking how fresh I was compared to Knysna Half, so I knew I had it, but the big question was, would the calf hold out, as it was on the brink?

At 5km to go, I started dreaming of the win again… the gap was under a minute now and we had passed the 2nd placed guy. The turnaround had come and gone now it was a 3km climb, before the final mile downhill….. Jamie was on side of road shouting my favourite saying… “Dad, you can, you will, you want to!” and what a lift that was. I was starting to lose ground on this dude with 51 on his calf, only 20m but it was starting to get significant….the pain in my calf was excruciating and I knew I would have to gamble in Las Vegas, but it was a matter of when….. and then we were midway through the final lap and Michelle and Camryn were there like an oasis in the desert, shouting that he is just ahead and I was lifted once more, but I was unsure if they meant the dude with the 51 on calf or the guy who had been leading all day. And then we were all together, three of us shoulder to shoulder, less than 3km to go and it’s amazing how our minds work, as many, many years ago I had dreamt of such a scenario and in my dream I attacked when it hurt most…..and as we turned left for the final climb, I didn’t think twice, I just went as hard as I could and only then did I think to myself what are you doing….it was too late to change tact now, I was committed and I had to make this work, I had to try and break them up the hill…. I pushed and even forgot to drink at the aid station, but just stayed focussed, thinking of my Dad, Reece, Michelle, the kids and some very special friends….and at the turnaround I saw I had 30m and was just hoping the calf would hold out down the hill. I sneaked a look back and the dude with 51 on his calf was holding the gap, I was running scared now…I wasn’t going to lose, if I could help it, from this position… I thought imagine living life knowing you led a World Championship with 500m to go and you lost it…. So I closed my eyes and just ran as hard as I could those final few hundred meters. To be honest I don’t even remember crossing the line, as I sort of collapsed and was whisked into the Medical Tent… the treatment and concern was great, but I needed out of there, I wanted to be with my family, to share the moment, to double check had I won and after about 15 minutes I was discharged and the celebrations began… I had finally realised my dream. (The irony was that the dude with 51 on his calf who pulled me for 8km was a lap behind me, but I was blissfully unaware… no wonder he looked so fresh when he came past me, he had just started running…. Anyway thanks dude you were a great guide sent to help me)

This morning I woke up at 5am and stumbled or hobbled into the lounge to check if there was a trophy, because I thought it was a dream… fortunately it was there and it was a dream come true.

Thanks to my family, my friends, my sponsors in particular Isuzu and also to Cytomax, Orca, Oakley and to Online Innovations. Also a big thanks to Acsis for their support in years gone by and to my colleagues at Consolidated Financial Planning. Also, thanks to the Lord for my talent and giving me the strength to believe that our best days are not necessarily behind us.

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