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Heather and 2nd Place Sarah Fien at the awards party

Paula and the Japanese contingent

How can you have a bad day with a cheering section back home like this!!

Paula - happy to cross the finish line!!!


Ironman Japan 2006 Final Update

Ironman Japan is now in the record books – Heather’s race report.

Race day arrived and we awoke to clear skies but very, very windy conditions. Luckily the wind was the opposite of what it had been and the swim was going to be able to happen. Even though the swim is the least enjoyable part for me, when you travel thousands of miles to do and Ironman – you want to do an Ironman.

I had not been nervous at all during the week, and wasn’t even that nervous in the morning. I guess excitement was more how I would describe things – I wanted to get our “racing experiment” underway. The way you could really tell that we were not nervous was by how easily we ate our breakfast – toast, boiled eggs, yogurt, energy bar, no problem. This is quite a departure from the Paula of ol’-we used to call her the chipmunk. She always had great difficulty eating breakfast the morning of the race – she would put the food in her mouth and just let it sit there. Huddle would say – “Newby, you’re cheeking”. Eventually she would get something down.

We made our way to the swim start which was about 20 miles outside town. The wind continued to howl as we got ready for the race – it was going to be an interesting day. Not only is the course tough, you add in the wind and it was going to make for a very difficult day. We found out after the fact from Chris Lieto who had an altimeter on his bike that the bike course had 7000ft of climbing – that’s a lot of climbing!!

Before I new it, the gun went off, and we were on our way. All looked good for the swim until you got out past the breakwater and then it was like being in a washing machine. I was certain (and hopeful at that point) that when we came around on the first lap, they were going tell us that the swim would have to be shortened to 1 loop. No such luck!! We were going to have to go through it all again on the second lap. I was really happy when the swim was done. I came out of the water in my usual position – a ways back from the leaders, and a couple of minutes down from Paula.

Off on the bike we headed into the windy, hilly conditions. I always have trouble getting going in the early parts of the race and this was no different. I just kept telling myself – just pretend you are on a training ride and keep going. It helped when I saw Paula after about 30km or so, just like training!!! I started to get rolling after about 40 miles or so. The bike course is awesome – you don’t get bored one bit. It really is my type of course with very few flat sections. The blessing also is that because it is hilly, a lot of the time you were sheltered from the crazy wind. Not to say that there weren’t many points where I was cursing the wind, but it could have been much worse. The rain held off for most of the bike course – except of course when we were on the most technical descent of the course – go figure!!! By the end of the bike, I had caught back up to Aussie Angela Milne (she had passed me early on in the bike) and only had Sarah Fien ahead. Sarah was quite a ways ahead however – 10 minutes or so.

After the disastrous run in Hawaii last year, I must say I was a little anxious about the run. Would my old form return??? I started the run, and my legs felt incredible – had I really just swam 2.4 miles and rode 112??? It was a great feeling. Now I just had to focus ahead and try and catch Sarah. I just plugged away and at about 12-13km I caught her. I continued to run strong and get a bit of a cushion. A marathon is a long way, and you just never know what is going to happen so I needed to get as much distance as possible between myself and Sarah. There really was no way of knowing just how far ahead I was, so I tried to maintain a decent pace the whole way, without going out of my comfort zone. My legs started to tire a little the last 10km or so, so I just did what I could do to minimize the damage. I made my way into town towards the finish line. It was a great feeling – I was going to win my 15th Ironman title. I just never know whether I will win another IM race or not, so it is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying feeling to win!!!! Sarah Fien came in second and Angela Milne 3rd. Paula held strong and had the 2nd fastest run to move into 4th place. We both had numerous comments made to us after the race, that people had never seen us smile so much during a race. We both thoroughly enjoyed the whole process!!

Well our “racing experiment” was successful. You really can get yourself ready for an Ironman in 5 weeks!!!! Now it is time to get recovered – I have a feeling that this will be the downside of the experiment, the recovery may take a little longer.