As I racked my bike and took off my helmet a sense of relief hit me. I was finally off the bike and now it was down to me and my body alone. There were no wetsuits, goggles, currents, aerodynamic helmets or expensive bikes. It was me and my Vibram's for the next 21.1km and that was it. I slipped on one foot at a time and surprisingly it went on with relevant ease. I made a quick adjustment for my toes before putting on the second shoe. I grabbed my hat and my gels and my homemade gel bottle before heading out to the run exit. Only problem was, I had no idea where it was. I asked a volunteer in transition who told me where to go and I was away. Initially the legs felt very tight which was matching my back but as I ran out of transition and around 200 metres down the road, everything loosened up. I always go for a run after a ride, even though it may only be for 1km just to get my body prepared for a run after a bike leg. This preparation had paid off as I was feeling good and the run had not even started. As I started the run I ran past my mum and partner and waved. At the end of the street was a turn to the right and the first drink station for the run. I did not feel like anything at this stage and continued on but saw my wife and son which gave me a boost. I waved to them as I continued on. Once I had rounded the bend it was as straight run parallel to the beach for around 4km. It was hot, the road was scorching and I was tired but I was in a good rhythm already and feeling good.
My feet felt like they did on any other run in the Vibram's, absolutely fantastic! I was beginning to pass people. Something I never felt that I would be doing on a run. Once on the straight road, I was starting to see the faces of people who where ahead of me that had already hit the turnaround further down the road and were heading back along the road to finish their first lap. There were faces of pain on most of them, nobody seemed to be enjoying the run however I felt different to that. I was enjoying the run so much so that I picked up the pace. It was good seeing the other people coming back at you as you finally got a chance to see if there was anyone that you knew that you could give some encouragement too. I could not see anyone I knew but in terms of encouragement I was getting plenty from the crowds lining the streets. You have your name underneath your race number so that people know your name and to hear random strangers yelling "Go Nathan" is a little weird but encouraging nonetheless. As I was running I saw a mates wife and daughter sitting on the road and said hello to them as I walked past. They cheered me on and I think I said something like it hurts.
I came over a slight rise and could see a flag in the distance. Based on my time I knew that it would be the turnaround point for the run before I doubled back on the same course. I was still feeling comfortable, still passing people and still feeling good. I decided to have one of my GU gels as I knew I would be coming up to an aid station to wash it down. I came to the aid station and grabbed two cups of water. I had a sip from one and poured the other over my head. At the end of the aid station was a cup of coke which I drank/spilt as I kept running. I was running to the turnaround flag now and rounded it before beginning my run back the way I had just come. I again came to the same aid station that I had just been too and this time grabbed a Leppin drink as well as a cup of water that I poured over my head. I began my run back knowing I had around 4km of straight road followed by a run around Mount Maunganui which would be around 3km and then I would be doing it all again for the second lap.
I could not believe how good I was feeling on the run. My feet were not hurting, my legs were feeling good and my rhythm was good. The other day I went for a run and got into a circular motion with my arms which maintained a good pace. I focussed on this circular motion with my arms and again my pace picked up. I came up to the spot where Olivier's wife and daughter were sitting and they cheered me on as I carried on up the road. I was now starting to see people suffer. Some people where already on their second lap and some people were less than 4km into their run. There was all types of faces coming my way. I continued to overtake people and again was feeling good. I came to another aid station and took 2 cups of water, a sip from one and then poured both over my head whilst I grabbed a flat coke cup and tried to drink the contents as I continued to run. I was now beginning to feel the heat and would use the aid stations to ensure that I was constantly pouring water over my head and drinking a sip of coke or Leppin as well. I was now going to be running around the Mount and had no idea what I was in for.
There is an undulating dirt track that goes around the whole of Mount Maunganui and that was the course. I was still feeling really good especially running on the flats and up the slight incline sections of the track. I was not as comfortable running down the hills though. This is something I have noticed several times when running down hill in Vibram's. If there is one place that you will be slow when running with them on, it will be the down hill's. I would catch people on the flat or up hills but they would catch up to me on the downhill. Even so, I was pulling away from people and continuing my journey to the end of the first lap. The track seemed to go on for ages. Every time you went around a bend you were hoping that you were on the other side but it kept on going on for what seemed forever. Eventually I came around and could see the cruise ship that was parked near the start/finish line and new I was close to the turnaround point. I continued up a slope before coming down to the main road and running the straight to the turnaround point. I say my wife and son and mum and her partner and gave them a wave as I continued down the straight. Mixed emotion hit me though as there was the finish line and I was being ushered to it, I had to tell them that I needed to do a second lap and I was sent around the witches hats and back onto the course. Again I got to see my family and continued up the road to the drink aid station.
Again I grabbed two cups of water and took a sip and poured them over my head. I grabbed a cup of coke, took a big sip and continued on. I continued on down the straight road again constantly seeing people on their last lap and the desperation in their faces, I hoped that I didn't look like that. My right foot was starting to hurt a little just underneath my little toe but nothing major. I came up to the point where Olivier's wife and daughter were and they cheered me on. I said to them "it hurts" as I ran past. It was starting to hurt a little now. The legs were feeling really good but the feet was hurting and the energy levels were starting to go. I could see the turnaround flag now and knew I had 7km to go and the race was over. I turned around and starting running back to Mount Maunganui for the last time. As I was about 2km from the turnaround I saw Olivier running towards me. We saw each other for the first time in the race, said hello and gave each other a high five. I was now coming up to the point of where his family was and for the last time they cheered me on as I went past them. I opened a GU and finished it. I knew I had one aid station to go before rounding the Mount and would take a sip of water to wash the GU down. I hit the aid station and a runner was next to me, we both went for the water and missed. There was no time to stop and turnaround so I kept on running with a throat full of GU. 'Who cares', I said to myself. I have 3km to go and I am sure that I can do that without a drink. My arms were pumping now. My body was screaming for me to slow down but I just concentrated on the arm rotation and the legs followed.
My right foot was now quite sore almost a type of cramp rather than a blister or rubbing. It hurt mostly on the downhills and I was just about to go through the undulating part of the course. I started on the dirt track and my lap of Mount Maunganui. Again the track seemed to go on forever. Eventually the most amazing sight appeared. The cruise ship that was parked near the finish line, I could see it. I only had maybe 1km to go. The start finish straight appeared, the road to the finish straight appeared and eventually the hill that led down to the road that led to the finish straight appeared. There was one last aid station here which I ran past. My arms were flying now. I saw my mum and partner and waved to them as they cheered me on and then I saw the finish. As I ran towards the finishing shute I made sure to enjoy the ambiance. I was not going to win my age group, far from it, and was not breaking any records so why sprint. I have often been told to enjoy the atmosphere as you run towards the finish line and I made sure I did. I was still running at a good pace but acknowledging the crowd that was screaming my name. I ran towards the line and saw my wife and son as they yelled "Go Daddy". I crossed the line, my arms raised and it was over. I had completed the run in 1 hour 54 minutes 50 seconds. Total time for the race was 5 hours 25 minutes. I had achieved my goal of 5 hours 30 minutes and completed my first Half Ironman in a pair of Vibram's.