So. It’s tradition in the Rowe household for me to write a few thoughts, which we publish after David has posted his thoughts on the day.
It seems a long time ago that David qualified for Kona again at Tenby. I think I vomited my way through most of that weekend, suffering terribly from nerves.
When he qualified we both we thinking how amazing it was to have a year for him to prepare, to have the race of his life. Sadly, as you all know by now it was not to be. I cannot even vocalize how gutted I was for him. Many times over this last year I have cried about it. I often say to him, “Imagine how you would perform if you had a coach/did structured training/ate kale smoothies…”. Of course, as soon as I have said it, I know it’s never going to be. He’s not that kind of man. He wants to be the “lone wolf” almost. I know it must be galling for folk to see how well he can perform on what they perceive to be “poor” training. No schedule. Drinks beer. Eats “naughty” food. More kind of, “Lookoutthewindow.com” and decide what to do that day. Then I realize that no matter how much I want him to kick Ironman arse, I want him to be happy for the rest of the year - not just on Ironman weekend.
Anyway, fast forward to Hawaii. We had the most amazing trip. It was different to last time - whereas last trip we were marveling at the things we had watched for years and years on the Kona coverage, this year we already knew these things were real . We had tonnes of fun again. Meeting pros, swimming with dolphins, manta rays and turtles, going on “family outings” with Andy and Emma, lots of tri-geekage. All good. So much fun was had by all.
Before too long it was race morning. We arranged to rendezvous with the Wingates at 4:25am. We walked David to the transition drop-off area and said our goodbyes.
It’s weird though as we aren’t near transition. I love transition on race morning, the quietness, the sun rising, the noise of tyres being pumped up, the occasional word or two between athletes. It’s odd not to be able to start the day in the usual way - standing peering through a mesh fence - but there’s no option. So we did the next best thing and went to find a spot on the wall. Emma went to get some morning beverages, whilst Andy and I found a spot. We found the perfect place - right between giant banners of Scott “The Terminator” Molina (who David spent time with in Canada on Epic Camp last year) and Greg Welch (who David modeled his Kona 2013 finish jump on!). Surely a good omen?
Before too long, there were helicopters, SUP’ers and people falling through the sky (!!).
Soon enough, the pros were off. I even managed not to fall off the wall when the cannon went, “bang!” Men first, then the women. The pro women heading off was the cue for age group men to get into the water. I was scanning the water for David and said to Emma, “Oh, that looks like David’s gammy left arm” - sure enough, it was!
He swam over to us (aided in his spotting by Andy’s awesome Go Go Go Rowebot union flag), we shouted nice things to each other and before I knew it, he was off. We watched the men go, then the girls got into the water…at which point we thought we’d head off up to Hot Corner to do some bike cheering.
We cheered on the pro men as they flew by, then the girls…and then the spotting of the first age groupers began. Wow. They are quick! I just about managed to see Charlie, Paul, Nico, Duncan and Troy…and then we saw David! Yay! He’d done almost exactly the same time on the swim as he did at the Koala practice swim. Nowhere near what he is capable of but exactly as predicted. He was safely out on the bike, hurrah! We went mental when we saw him - on the way out and then on the way back after their little loop. A little shaka or two was forthcoming, too, just in case we didn’t realize it was him.
We cheered on some more folk - it was already getting absolutely scorching hot - and walked up Kuakini to Andy and Emma’s hotel. I went to get some drinks and snacks and we had a few hours to chill out (whilst doing some cyber stalking of folk on the bike course) at the hotel, before heading back to our “usual” spot for the run. All of our stalkees (I just made up a new word there, I think) were doing well. We were trying to judge when to go out into the sunshine again…and soon enough it was time to head to the place we would go for the run cheering. We chose it in 2013 as it was a place we could see people on the run at about one mile and then close to ten miles…and then down to the finish. We cheered on the first pros to come through, all of our, “Breakfast with Bob” favourites were spotted. People around us were impressed with our knowledge and nicknames for the pros. Clearly just tri geeks.
It wasn’t too long before Charlie came flying down the hill with Paul hot on his heels! I was so excited to see Paul so close to Charlie, amazing stuff! Our cyber stalking a short while later told us that Charlie was 9th in his age group. We watched him run up through the field and he eventually finished 2nd, a mere six seconds behind the AG winner. Six seconds! After 140.6 miles. Jeepers. The rest of the usual suspects were spotted, with us going mad when we saw them. All of our pals, the Team Freespeed gang, plus our favourite pros got the, “going nuts” treatment. Everyone else got more sedate cheering ;) Naturally a certain very tall, black and yellow clad chap got the biggest cheer of all. He looked happy enough the first time we saw him - and then on the way back up Hulalai he was walking and chatting away, still strangely happy. At least this year I managed to resist the urge to run/walk alongside him!
One of my stand-out memories from the day was the first time we saw Meredith Kessler. I really like Meredith, I have heard/seen her be interviewed a few times and really warm to her. She came running down Hulalai and was looking like things were not going well. I called out to her (you don’t have to be very loud, the athletes are very close to you), “Head up Meredith, be strong, you can do it”. She looked up at me and a smile lit up her face. She had a nightmare of a day. We later watched her finishing in the dark in 12:26. I have the utmost respect for a pro to finish when things are not going her way - it must be so tempting to just step off the course.
The day was whizzing by. We were still in our shady spot when the winner, Jan Frodeno, came running down the hill and turned right onto Ali’I for the run to the finish. We watched a few pros finish, including Daniela Ryf who won the ladies race by a country mile, then decided to head to our spot on the wall, just before the finish chute. Emma and I opted to get a shave ice, whilst Andy went for a quick freshen up…on the way, we waved the Union Flag at Rachel Joyce (who was second). I’m sure she liked it
Watching this race is nuts. The standard of AG athlete is phenomenal - this year it didn’t seem like it did in 2013, there wasn’t quite the concentration of sub-9 athletes. However, I was over the moon to cheer Paul on and leapt out into the road for a little high-five (sorry Paul! I was too excited to see you do so well, after tears of sadness at Tenby, there were leaky eyes of happiness for you) as he finished just over 9:30.
We knew from the stalking that David was having a tough time out there. On the way down to the start this morning, I’d said to him that an 11 minute miling average marathon is 4:48. I didn’t quite expect him to take that on board and nearly do it! Fortunately, he did a 4:36 - so still managed to kick my marathon arse, even after I had trained so well. Ha! It was starting to get dark. People were streaming into the finish. We could see on the tracker that David was heading towards us. I asked Emma about every 30 seconds where he was. Sorry Em. I know I’m a pain in the bum. Suddenly Andy shouted, “Here he is!”. I leapt out into the road again and it was obvious he couldn’t see me. So I jumped up and down like a mad woman and suddenly he saw me. Hurrah! David came over for a kiss. He hasn’t stopped for a kiss since his first Ironman. This was his tenth and I knew it might happen as he wasn’t racing at his full speed. Off he went to the finish line and finally I relaxed.
Some more cheering on, our now traditional, “Fizz on the Wall” and David found his way back to us. Off to put the bike in the car, a quick shower for him and then we all headed back to the finish line stands for the party. It’s such a cool place to be. We love it. Unless there was something seriously wrong, there’s no way you would stop us being on that finish line, we’ve been there for every single Ironman. Some with the Pirate contingent at “Championship” races, sometimes on our own. But always there cheering in the final finishers. Kona is a very special finish line, Mike Reilly brings you, “home” and there are lots of tears on that finish chute.
So. The day. I knew it would be different because David wasn’t race fit. I can’t say I liked it much. I never do - but at least if he’s fit it’s over sooner. I was less stressed in terms of worrying about something happening to him but as the minutes ticked by and when at one points his run splits were a little slow, it did worry me. I did know though, that he would do whatever he could to get that medal (and what a medal!) - so it was a very different experience than normal for me.
As I’ve been reading David’s blogs, I am currently feeling like this is it. This tenth Ironman is the final one. Like the Ironman journey is over for us. I hope not. I know that until David has finished, I hate race day. I know I am a total pain in the arse to be with. I know I am nearly sick on my shoes. I can’t eat. I can barely drink. I take crappy out of focus photos of him because I am so excited to see him in one piece. I also know that doing this makes him happy. And because of that, I don’t want it to end. I want David to be happy, more than anything. Why would you not want the person you love with all of your heart to be happy? We have met some amazing people, we’ve made proper friends because of our Ironman exploits. We have been to places that people dream of going to and had adventures that make me smile so much when I think about them. We’ve had the best days ever - days where I have cried with joy - and I almost forget the stress and losing my breakfast down the loo ;) That feeling of watching him stand on stage with his first place AG trophy at IMUK in 2013 will never leave me. I will remember it always - and if there is one day in my life I could have again, it would be that race day.
So. David. For all of this I thank you. And Stuart. I thank you, too, for saying to David at Bushy Park Time Trial one morning, “Have you ever thought about doing a triathlon?”. He hadn’t….but he has now.
Hopefully see you all again at some point but for now, this is TriWife/Sherpa Mrs Funkin signing off.