Long time friend and contributor of TriReview Hollie Cradduck has written a book about her journey to the Ironman World champs in Kona.
Most of us get pre-race nerves but this amazing extract gives an insight into what it’s like to line up at the start of the biggest race in the world and the biggest race of Hollie’s life.
(If you’d like to meet Hollie, she’s also just confirmed that she’ll have a stand at The Triathlon Show at the London Excel this Sunday!)
The morning of the race…
“I quickly sorted my bike out and headed to find my supporters again. My composure didn’t last long however. As I walked over to my gang the American National Anthem was sung. The gravity of where I was and what I was doing came flooding through me. I flashed back and remembered being stood on the beach alone, but surrounded by so many aspiring Ironmen in Tenby 2013 as Land of my Fathers was played.
I had strategically put my googles on then to cover the tears that automatically fell. Without realising it in Kona I had welled up and tears were rolling down my cheeks, however this time I did not try and hide it. I had the sympathy smiles from other spectators as they saw my emotions. I reached my group who were the only ones who understood exactly why I was crying. It was one hell of a journey and this was the final chapter. This was for Rosie.
I accepted all the good lucks from my friends but I just wanted my mum. I broke down and cried hard in her arms. I can’t remember how long for but remembered mum saying to take care. I felt my dads’ hand on my back and I turned to hug him where he said how proud he was of me and that all I had to do was get round. Nathan then appeared flustered holding coffee which he quickly put down to give me a hug and told me to do my thing.
My tears turned to shallow blubs and I sucked the rest of my emotions way. I tried to focus on getting myself ready for the day ahead. The male professional gun sounded at 6.30am and the 2015 Ironman World Championship had begun.
I had half an hour until it was my time to shine. I squeezed my swimskin on and then was nodded by an anxious Aled that we had to go. The next time I would hug my parents properly would be when it was all finally over. The nervous energy of two thousand athletes in the swim area was best described as eerie. As on the videos I had seen there were men sat on the ground with their heads bowed trying to either ‘get in the zone’ or hold back the tears. What was felt all around from the atmosphere and from the looks on peoples’ faces was that everyone had a story. Everyone had sacrificed something to be there and it was an honour to be sharing this moment with so many inspirational people even if it was impossible to read anyone’s’ story by their face. We all had a connection more so than in any Ironman. For many this was their time to prove themselves athletically, for others like myself it was in memory of another.
One thing I am almost sure of is that in those moments, regardless of your speed and time aspirations, you are not thinking solely about yourself. Those quiet moments where you are surrounded but so alone are a time of reflection on life. I always think of my ‘For Rosie’ on the back of my tri suit and in that moment I thought of her and our memories and smiled as opposed to being angry or upset.
However, I also thought about my beautiful family, my Nathan, my friends and how blessed I am with what I do have. Even those who are not there directly due to another will always think of someone else. Those anxious moments resurfaces emotions, it is one of the most thought provoking times for everyone and those thoughts although personal are outwardly shown on faces. I had a quick paddle in the warm up swim area and looked around me. Even at this point with 20 minutes until I was swimming I was still telling myself “I am actually here”. Before the tears started again I said out loud “We got this Rosie”.