When I got into triathlon 5 years ago, I read about Ironman and the Kona qualification system. Pretty soon, it became a long-term ambition of mine to qualify for Kona. With a little background research on the typical race times required to qualify and with a large dose of optimistic thinking, I was sure that it would be possible if I worked hard enough for it.
Just 48 hours ago, I raced Ironman UK; my 4th long-distance triathlon and 2nd Ironman branded event (after Ironman Wales last September). The race went well. It wasn’t perfect; with such a long day of racing it’s very unlikely that everything will go precisely to plan.
I finished the challenging Ironman UK course in joint 4th in the M30-34 age group with a time of 9:48.00 (with exactly the same time – to the second – as a Belgian chap). Seeing the results shortly after finishing, I thought that I had probably done enough to qualify (in part because Brian Fogarty, who won the age group, also smashed IM Lanzarote in May and therefore likely accepted his Kona slot in Lanzarote). However, I wasn’t certain and didn’t know whether the M30-34 age group at Ironman UK would be allocated 4 Kona slots again this year (as was the case in 2016).
Lydia and my parents were as superb as ever post-race, providing food, drink and ferrying me back to our accommodation. Lee (a friend and fellow Windmiler club member) was also competing and soon also finished the race with a cracking time. In the evening Lydia, Lee and I went for a few pints to celebrate. I only slept for 4 hours the night after the race which seems to be a recurring theme after each of the long-distance races that I’ve completed!
Monday morning meant that it was time for the post-race Ironman UK awards ceremony to find out if I had done enough to qualify for Kona. Eventually the waiting was over; it was confirmed that there were 4 automatic Kona slots available in M30-34 and Brian Fogarty already had his Kona slot from Ironman Lanzarote. I’m not sure what would’ve happened in the event that Brian Fogarty had required a Kona slot (with me coming joint 4th and with 4 slots available); I guess that Ironman Corporation would’ve probably offered slots to us both (I can’t imagine that they would likely turn-down the opportunity to bag another $999 entry fee for the World Championship!).
When my name was called at the ceremony, I was awarded my floral lei, handed a bottle of Kona Brewing Co. beer and a Kona qualifier’s medal along with the World Championship slot. All for the bargain price of only $999 (!!!). Happy days.
I must say a special thanks to those who have assisted me so much to achieve the slightly arbitrary goal of Kona qualification, which many triathletes have. Those who I couldn’t have done it without include:
• Lydia – who has supported me so much over the past 4.5 years and put up with my spells of tiredness and grumpiness from days of over-exertion. Not many partners would allow the second bedroom of their flat to be turned into a “bike room”.
• My parents – for coming along and supporting at so many of my races. For feeding me and ferrying me and my bike around so frequently (often before sunrise at middle and long-distance events!).
• Matt – for the Ironman UK course recce weekend a few weeks ago.
• The Windmiler club coaches and members who I’ve had good discussions / advice / laugh over pints with since joining the club 3 years ago.
• The authors of the various invaluable sources of information on triathlon training and racing that are out there.
I also bagged a Challenge Roth 2018 entry yesterday (thanks to Matt again) so my next two long distance races should be pretty special!