Grant Harding Ironman Life #26

By GRANT HARDING IRONMAN LIFE

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Grant Harding, who will be participating in Ironman New Zealand 2013, having completed the event in 2010, shares his Ironman life.


The alarm went at 4am on Saturday and I got up 15 minutes later.

Ironmaori, the fourth edition of the local half-ironman, was hitting the water in two hours.

For some reason I only ate two pieces of toast for breakfast - probably my first mistake of the day.

After checking my gear, I got my daughter, Ashley, out of bed and stressed to her the importance of checking that she had all of hers.

Just after 5am we made the short drive to Ahuriri, where upon arrival the teenager discovered that her cycle helmet was missing. So back home she went while I battled down to the start with all our gear.


 


She had already thrown me a curve ball on Friday night by telling me that she didn't need me as a minder. A massive shift in mindset was suddenly required.

At Pandora Pond there was enough time to lay out cycle and running gear, pull on the wetsuit, talk to a few competitors, and still nerves. Then it was down to the water. It's a strange feeling - you're about to get wet, at a time when most people are still asleep.

Ashley was in the third wave of swimmers, I was in the sixth.

This swim was important to me. After two meltdowns last summer, I had to get my head down and swim. Speed wasn't important, but mental strength was.

When I emerged 2km later I was pleased, having handled the difficulties created by congestion in Pandora Pond.

My transition though, was awful. I struggled to get my wetsuit off, and it went from there.

As I mounted my cycle, Ironmaori organiser Heather Skipworth announced that my daughter was five minutes ahead of me. Very funny!

Once cycling I was immediately uncomfortable. On Poraiti Hill I struggled to stand up. Last weekend's Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, I surmised. No worries, that's what these few weeks are about. Working under pressure.


 


I passed Ashley before Puketapu. She was cruising along, and looked in control of her day. Although she hesitated, before turning down my offer to stay with her.

There are enough hills, enough exposed country to make the 90km cycle a decent challenge, and on the way home I was feeling it more than usual in my hips and hamstrings. I wondered how I was going to run.

But somehow you do. I was solid as a rock for two laps, and on course for a time of more or less six hours. I only knew this by asking people the time, because I didn't have a watch on. Earlier, I hadn't even set my bike speedometer to gauge average speed.

In hindsight it was all a bit casual. Possibly because I had visualised a different effort until Friday night.

With 10km to go I could feel the energy draining from my body in the blazing Hawke's Bay sunshine. I had nothing to fix the problem. My remaining Leppin gel sat forlornly on the other side of the transition fence as I ran by.

Halfway through my third lap of four I came across Ashley walking her first lap. It was an out for my ailing body. That said, it was great to share one lap with her.

In her 18th year, she didn't have the mental hardness to push herself on the run. The physical ability was there, she just didn't know it. Eventually I got running again, and finished a solid workout inside six and a half hours.

For many hours I considered the Peak Trail Blazer followed by the cycle challenge the culprit. But early yesterday morning I pieced it together. Hydration and nutrition - I'd got it wrong again.

Just over 750ml of water and Raiseys (I'm a convert) on the bike, one Leppin gel, 2/3 of a banana, a few nibbles of a protein bar (because I hadn't pre-opened it wide enough to easily get it out). Useless! It's too late when you're feeling thirsty and hungry. The horse has bolted and will take some time to get back to the stable.


 


But it's only from doing that you learn. And I took many positives and work-ons from the day.

Ironmaori, however, is much more than one's own effort. It's about the movement, the kaupapa of supporting one another - whanau.

You don't finish and pack up. You stay and support others. You don't wake up the next morning and forget that you're an Ironmaori - as Heather so eloquently told us at that night's prizegiving.

Ashley's journey included a friend, a squash club coach, and her boyfriend walking with her. You don't get that anywhere else but Ironmaori.

A new word needs to be invented to describe the support for the more than 2000 athletes, a new record high. "Inspirational" doesn't encapsulate the full magic in the air.

I joined my eldest daughter for the last 500 metres, then cut across the village to greet her at the finish line which she reached somewhere past the 8 hour mark. We hugged. There were no tears. Just quiet satisfaction.

Later in the night as we celebrated with pizza and a beverage, she told me that she'd fallen off her bike, almost in despair. She'd cried inside with the exertion required. It only made me more proud of her.


 


All over Hawke's Bay others would have been telling similar stories from their day in the Bay sun at this wonderful community event.

There were some fantastic triathletes present - the Gaskins who won both the men's and women's events in record times, the province's own Mike Bond and Linda Exeter-Grant who were age-group winners, to name a few.

But as two-time winner and Ironmaori ambassador Kevin Nicholson said, after shrugging aside the disappointment of an injury which reduced him to a walk, the people at the front are missing the party at the back. You might have to accept the line that was on league legend Ruben Wiki's cycle shorts, "pain is just weakness leaving the body", to join that party however.

I'm a New Zealand pakeha, and proud of it. My daughter is descended from Ngai Tahu and the local iwi, Ngati Kahungunu. Together, forever we are proud Ironmaori, and have the medals to prove it.

In association with Hawke's Bay Today.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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