Nat Gaskin - The Road to the Kona Ironman World Championship

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On 11 October 2014 I will be lining up with 2,000 other athletes to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. My journey towards qualifying for the world championships has been 5 years or so in the making, and on 11 October, I will face the ultimate test of my mental, physical and spiritual toughness.

For those of you who are not familiar with an Ironman, the race consists of a 3.8km swim, a 180k cycle and then to finish a 42.2k run. This short YouTube video encompasses what the day is all about. If I’m having a tough day of training, watching this clip always motivates me again:

My triathlon journey started in the late 2000’s when I decided to enter a couple of local events. I had a running background, but ended up being an “injured runner” more often than being a “runner” so after a few years without a competitive focus I decided that I needed something to challenge myself. After a few years of local events and a couple of half-ironman’s, I decided that I’d make my long course debut in the Taupo Ironman in March 2011. The week leading into the Taupo Ironman was one of the wettest weeks Taupo has ever had. Race day dawned with even more rain and it didn’t stop all day. The race however went pretty well. Physically I got through pretty well, but I was really surprised at how tough the mental side of the race was. There were certainly some dark moments out on the course in the pouring rain. Crossing the finish line to compete my first Ironman was an absolutely amazing experience, thinking about it now still gives me shivers!

I would have to wait 2 more years to compete in my second Ironman. The race in 2012 was converted to a half ironman due to a “weather bomb” (I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to race on a nice day!). My second Ironman in 2013 was thankfully in good conditions. This race however was a bit of a struggle and although I did manage to go faster than my debut in 2013, I didn’t race to my potential. I had unfinished business. Roll on 2014…

My build up for the 2014 Ironman Taupo included a race in Auckland in January. This race was the Asia-Pacific 70.3 (half-ironman) Champs. I’d put together several months of consistent training and in particular knew that my swim and run form were really good, however I hadn’t raced since the end of the last season – so there were some doubts! The Auckland 70.3 is one of my favourite courses. It’s a downtown race with the swim in the Viaduct Harbour, the cycle crosses over the Harbour Bridge and the run takes in the best of the Auckland Waterfront. I got away to an amazing start, and led the amateur field from start to finish and to my surprise bet a number of professional athletes with my 8th overall finish. This result earned me a start at the Ironman World Champs. It really was a dream come true.

I first had the small matter of the Taupo Ironman in March 2014. I had some unfinished business and really wanted a strong performance in this race so that I could build on it for the World Champs. I’d had a good build up, it was now time to put together all my hard work and get the result I knew I was capable of. Taupo Ironman was all about executing a plan. I’d had a couple of disappointing runs at IMNZ and I really wanted to finish the race well. This year I came off the bike and I was on a mission! I ran down a couple of girls who were in my age group and finished up with a 3.29 run. Overall the day was a success for me as I’d taken 27min off my previous best ironman time and came in with a total time of 10.20.

Training for the Hawaii Ironman has been going pretty well. We are now 11 weeks away from the race so the hours are starting to ramp up now. Thanks to Results Room for supporting me along the way.