Age-grouper Amy Kilpin takes some time off training and allows herself to be introspective and inspired for the coming year.
It’s that time of the year when we look back, wondering if we got the best out of ourselves, achieved our goals and managed to set new PBs. We also start to look towards next year with new objectives, new frontiers to venture into and new times to target.
This reflection time is really important. It allows us to review what we have done, how well we did it and what potential we have for next time. But it also enables us to pinpoint any areas of improvement and to outline the main goals for next year and beyond, as well as to work out how we are going to get there. Six weeks off training at the end of my race season has enabled me to do just that.
Yes, I lost a bit of fitness, which is important in order to be able to build it back up again, but I had more thinking time too. What’s more, during my end-of-season break, I went to Kona, Hawaii. Not to race (yet), just to spectate at the iconic Ironman World Championships.
Words cannot do justice to this incredible race. A diminutive speck of an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, Kona carries more significance in the world of triathlon than any other place. It is the holy grail of Ironman. It is the history, it is the future; it is the dream of thousands.
Kona is to be revered, respected and never ever underestimated.
From watching the build-up in the days leading up to the race, the spectacular expo and being adorned with free stuff to the athletes who all look like they’ve just stepped off the front cover of a fitness magazine – it was incredible.
Strolling into a café for breakfast and being able to select off the special menu exactly what Jodie Swallow or Sebastian Kienle eat before racing was a bit surreal. Then seeing those very athletes at adjacent tables even more so.
On race morning, the familiar sounds of race announcer Paul Kaye were coming out of the loudspeaker as the athletes busied themselves with their pre-race preparations and rituals. Every cliché rang true: You could smell the tension in the air; you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. I could feel the nerves building inside me and I wasn’t even racing.
The darkness faded and the sun came up, casting an eerie stage-like effect on the shoreline as the cannon went off. Helicopters were buzzing above. The athletes propelled through the water. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my skin was covered in goose-bumps. It was such as sight to behold.
The Ironman World Championships really is like no other race I have ever seen. Hours later, when we were positioned on one of the best spots on the run course, conveniently located right next to one of the best coffee places in town, I felt a bit high. Perhaps it was because I was mainlining caffeine or maybe it was because this was the stuff dreams are made of.
Every year I sit and watch the live stream on television before my resilience subsides and I fall asleep. Here I was, watching some of the greatest athletes on the planet; heroes, heroines, friends and a wealth of inspiration. I felt emotional all day.
It hit me really hard because this race cannot fail to stir your soul. I was glad to not be racing this year, because being there made me realise I am not ready for a race of this calibre, and it would take a good few years before I would feel prepared. I would want to do it justice. I wouldn’t want to go and simply struggle through.
No, Kona deserves more respect than that. If I went to Kona unprepared, it would haunt me for the rest of my life. And so begins my renewed focus. Kona.
Who knows when that will be, but this is my long-term plan. I don’t even know if I am mentally ready for another Ironman yet, so it might take a few years before I even make my first attempt at qualification.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. As long as the goal is set, then all I can do is keep moving closer and closer towards it.