THE perfectly balance of mental and physical preparation has helped Hollee Simons conquer Kona, with the Bathurst triathlete completing her first Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
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Simons finished 14th in the women's 25-29 years race with a time of 10 hours, 45 minutes and 41 seconds on the back of consistent 3.86 kilometre swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run legs.
Her time was just four minutes and eight seconds behind the mark she produced to win her age category at the Port Macquarie Ironman, which booked her ticket to the World Championships.
When you consider that the windy humid conditions at Kona were far more brutal than the Port event it shows just how much work Simons had put in to her training over the months leading up to the championships.
"I'm really happy with the day. I went better than I expected, and the conditions were worse than I expected - not that I expected it to be easy," Simons said.
"I just tried to stay in the moment with each leg. By my standards, I had a really good swim. I was happy to set the day up positively with that."
Simons' course reconnaissance in the days leading up to the event proved to valuable on a mental level, especially on the bike.
While she wasn't feeling at her best over the initial stages of the bike leg Simons was able to end it strongly and set herself up well for the run home.
"On the bike I had a headwind out, and in the days leading up to the race I knew that the wind would shift around midday, so I'd probably have a headwind home as well," she said.
"I tried to stay positive in the face of that, and sure enough there was a headwind both days. Because I mentally prepared for that it was okay, but it didn't physically make it any easier.
"I was lucky that I decided to feel quite good on the way home on the bike, which was nice because that sets you up positively for a good run. At that point I started the run wanting to forget about any time or place and I just wanted to go as best as I could."
Simons' splits were 1:03:43 for the swim, 5:40:36 for the bike and 3:52:34 on the run.
Her run leg was almost 10 minutes quicker than at Port Macquarie and her swim leg was also two minutes faster at Kona.
The wind during the women's race on the Thursday would ultimately lead to much more challenging conditions than the Saturday event for the men.
Simons battled through all of the challenges Kona dishes out and said she still felt relatively strong towards the end of the run.
It was thanks to the support of everyone around the course that she could find every reserve of energy she had towards the finish.
"I was happy that I mentally prepared for the conditions," she said.
"At the time I thought 'Damn, I wish I had the good day' but looking back now, with the women having the hard day, we can be really proud that we made it through that tough day.
"The atmosphere is absolutely electric. I think I was just about brought to tears a couple of times, especially with about 2km to go where there was a group playing music, and that's when all the pain just goes away.
"There's random strangers cheering you on and letting you know you've done it and I was just welling up."
The Kona experience is a major step for Simons that seemed much further away when she began her triathlon career.
Simons started out as an accomplished cyclist but enjoyed the challenge of triathlons and has never looked back since she ventured into a new sport.
"I didn't think I'd ever be here," she said.
"It was one of those things I knew about and thought that I could one day do it, but I never thought I'd be doing it so soon. To come this far, I'm really proud, especially with how my swim and run have come along.
"I'm definitely driven to go back. I'm not sure what year that will be but for sure I'd like to experience that again."
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