A day of wildly contrasting emotions: Kyle Smith on his IMWC experience

The IRONMAN World Championship can turn you into ‘a shell of human being’, says a happy and proud Kyle Smith

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Kyle Smith
New Zealander Kyle Smith is making his mark in the world of middle and full distance racing and led the IRONMAN World Championship into the run at St George in May. He’s also the training partner of Jan Frodeno and will be writing blogs here on TRI247 throughout the season.

In only his second career IRONMAN start, New Zealand’s Kyle Smith led the IRONMAN World Championship in St George on Saturday through the opening 6km of the run. One of the young guns who excelled in Utah, not everything went to plan – including #sockgate! Kyle has checked-in with his post-race report


In sickness and in health

The IRONMAN World Championship lived up to the expectations of the St George course. Brutal conditions, perfectly coupled with a course that was lumpier than spoiled milk.

All week I didn’t feel great, so making the start line was half of the battle and I wasn’t going to back down. I feel like I’m married to the game so I’m, ‘in sickness and in health’ and all that. I convinced myself I’d be fine, and in the grand scheme of things I wasn’t a wreck, just not 100%. I was 100% going to send it regardless. 

Race morning came around with a very rude 3:00am alarm. I headed into town and boarded the school bus to the swim start, feeling more like we were being shipped off to war than racing. I guess it’s not far off. The tension on the bus is cut only by the quiet buzz of country music coming over the speakers. Appropriate hype music at 4:00am for sure.

Comfortable swim

I was excited before the race. I couldn’t wait to race the biggest race of my life. The wait was horrible but it soon flew by. The gun sounded and with my first stride of the day I slipped on some aptly placed plastic wrapping on the start. I dove into about a foot of water and had to move round the outside to the front of the race. Got there, but wasn’t feeling great – “only another eight hours of this to go”.

ST GEORGE, UTAH - MAY 07: Athletes make their way into the water for the men's pro swim start during the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships on May 07, 2022 in St George, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN

I’m going to finish come what may, so may as well shut up and get on with it. You get this opportunity once a year, just crack on. I came around in the swim and came out of the water third and sitting comfy in the group. 

A perfect bike

The bike started with each of the five of us flexing our strength. I think we all knew how strong we all were and massively respected each other. It was perfect. After 30k of hard riding, I rode up to Braden for a chat. I knew it would take a massive ride to even put time into us, let alone close the gap. Sure enough, our first time split confirmed we had put time into the chasers and the rest of the ride was most of the same. Solid pedal pushing.

I felt fine, but definitely flat. I just didn’t have “those” legs – everyone knows the ones. But it was okay. I led off the bike which was a cool experience. The roar from the crowd was deafening. Unreal. 

ST GEORGE, UTAH - MAY 07: Kyle Smith of Australia competes on the bike during the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships on May 07, 2022 in St George, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN]

Where’s my sock?!

Now where the fun starts. In T2 in the pitch black changing tent I lost one of my socks. Nowhere to be found. If anyone finds it, there’s a reward. I left donning one sock. Absolute loser.

It was amazing to lead the first 5k of the world champs. Me and Braden had a little chat, “Bro, we are leading the world champs”. After 10k and 5k of it running downhill, my feet, or sorry my foot, was wrecked. Proper dog attack kind of wrecked. I stopped at the aid station and asked for tape. Grabbed a roll of duct tape and went to town wrapping it up. To be honest it saved my day, as much as it could. I’m still bleeding from my feet while writing this however.

I felt great for the first 21k. Came back at the group and then got dropped quicker than a stone. All the power went out of my legs like someone flicked a switch. From race mode to survival mode.

‘A shell of a human being’

The last 10k was the worst experience of my life. I thought I would be climbing that hill for the rest of my life. I was passed for 10th place with a kilometre to go. Gutted, but equally there was nothing I could do. I crossed the line a shell of a human being. 11th place. Kona slot ticked. First world champs done.

I was utterly disappointed after the race. I really felt like I was in podium shape, but on reflection on the day I had; first off the bike, led the race for a lot of the race, when I felt like – and there’s no way to sugar coat it – s**t. I was happy and proud with how I raced and that’s something I can take away. 

Onto the next one. See you in Kona.

Kyle Smith / Ryzon
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