“Many of life’s failures are by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison
This quote holds true for many of us as we chase our dreams. For me, I have been dreaming about qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman for the past 10 years. The seed was planted when I was a kid, and the Hawaii Ironman was on TV. I was captivated by the strength and determination of the athletes. Even then, I could relate. I understood their language.
I was a competitor from birth…I was always trying to out run, out push up, out last everyone. There is a good chance that I still hold the mile record at Deer Run Elementary SchoolJ I was never stellar at any one sport, but I always loved the water and I REALLY loved to run.
I toyed with cross country in high school, but I was mid pack. I found myself struggling just to make the last spot on the varsity team. But, I kept on running and eventually signed up for my first triathlon the summer after my senior year in college. My first race was the Eagle Creek Sprint Triathlon. I am fairly certain that I was mid pack and ran 8 something minute miles. I raced all summer and then signed up for the 2003 Great Floridian Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). It was not an official Ironman, but it was the same distance and it kicked my ass. I did not finish in the 17 hour cut off, but I finished. I don’t remember much about that “marathon”, but I do remember the drive I had to attempt this again. I might have failed this feat, but I was not a failure. I couldn’t wait to do another one and accomplish this outlandish distance in the time limit. In 2004, I did Ironman Florida (Panama City Beach) in 11:54 minutes.
Since then, I have completed multiple Ironmans, but did not qualify for the Hawaii Ironman until this year (2013). In order to qualify for this race, an athlete has to fight for 1 of 50 spots allotted to top finishers in a race of about 2000 people. For me, I had to be in the top 3 at Ironman Coeur D’ Alene (June 2013). I finished 3rd with a time of 10:27. FINALLY! But now what? Once qualified, the athlete has to pay a $750 entry fee and then organize/pay for accommodations and flight. Sounds like a bargain! Oh, and you get to train for another Ironman!
So, that brings everyone up to date on how I got to the start line!
Pre Kona –
With the generosity of friends and clients, I was able to focus more on training, then making extra money to pay for the trip. I am forever grateful for everything and this was made possible by your contributions. Thank you!
I will not lie; it was a beast to train for a second ironman in one year. It probably wouldn’t be too bad if I didn’t own my own business, but that is life and I have responsibilities to uphold (don’t we all!). In order to fit in workouts, I was squeezing swim/bike/runs in between clients. I changed bikes in September, so that was a HUGE task trying to get everything in order before leaving for Kona.
Chad and a few of my clients threw me and Patrick a “send off” party at 3Wisemen (a local brewery). I had such a great time and it was very clear how many amazing people support and surround me! Here is a picture of the Fitness Lab Kona Shirt that my friend Pat made for everybody.
Triathlon, as in any hobby, is a selfish sport. It requires sacrifice by all, but yields a great return. However, sometimes we are driven by someone or something that is much bigger than us. For me, that someone is Angelo Deogracias. I met Angelo 3 years ago, when I started my business. There has always been something special about Angelo. He is driven and has a special fight that is seeded deep in his soul. Little did we all know that he would need that fight for an epic battle against cancer. Angelo was diagnosed with cancer in December 2012 and has been fighting ever since. There is no amount of suffering that an athlete can experience compared to what he has been dealing with. I knew that I would need to remember this if “shit hit in the fan” in my race. At the end of the day, my suffering was only temporary. My pain…it is self inflicted. When the winds bites and the heat melts, I knew that I could fight through because in Angelo’s world, my pain was a gift. I wrote his name on my hand in bright red marker so that I would constantly be reminded of this during the race.
We arrived in Kona on Tuesday night. First thing was first, and we hit up the Kona Brewery on our way to the hotel. I discovered if you put coconut or coffee in a beer, then I actually like it! We stayed at the Sheraton, which I would highly recommend. It was a great hotel and far enough away from the action that once you left the strip, you could relax without being surrounded by athletes swimming, biking and running everywhere.
I was really nervous for my first practice swim at Dig Me Beach (I have a small phobia of sharks), but once I started swimming, I was captivated by the beauty of the marine life and the crystal clear waters. I swam out to the coffee boat every day! I would say that the practice swims, were my favorite part race week.
We spent every morning at Lava Java, and we all fell in love with the coconut pancakes. The best part of Lava Java was that you could sit there all morning, staring at all of the athletes running/biking by with such focus. It was kind of humorous to me how some of these athletes run down All’I Drive, dressed to impress, super focused like that day was race day. I guess I just don’t take myself that serious. I prefer to do my workouts away from everyone else so that I don’t get stressed out because I am not as fast or lean as the girl that just flew by meJ
My mom, Chad and I all went to the pre race ceremony on Thursday night. I am not a big fan of these ceremonies, but since this was my first race in Kona, I wasn’t about to miss the hula and fire dancer show! So, we made it for the luau part of the ceremony and headed on out to get some sleep. The excitement of the race ran thick in the air as we walked out of the banquet.
Bike and gear check in was pretty seamless. Everything was perfectly placed and they made you feel like you were walking down a red carpet. There were cameras everywhere and every bike was cleaned to perfection and sparkling in the Hawaiian sun. I put my bike into transition and felt a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders. The only thing left to do was race.
We drove to transition and there was a huge check in process. First, you line up for body marking where they tattoo your race number onto your arms. Then, you make your way to your bike to pump up tires and drop off food/water. I didn’t spend much time in transition, and then headed to find Chad and my mom.
Things moved fairly quickly and before I knew it the pros were off and they were lining us up to get in the water. I didn’t have any clue as to where to place myself, but I stayed left and towards the back. I met a fellow cyclocross racer while waiting for the swim start. We talked for about 10 minutes and then BOOM, the cannon went off and I prayed that my hips would stay happy.
My main objective for the swim was to avoid my hips/psoas from cramping up. When this happens, it leads to a terrible chain of events. I focused on swimming with my head down and I sighted off of the pack to my right. I had fairly clear water in front of me for most of the race. My left hip started tightening up around a mile, but then eased up. I thought I was in the clear, but it moved to my right hip with about ½ mile to go and I fought it the whole way back to the beach.
I spent a few extra minutes in T1 with an active release therapist. She did some magic and I was able to avoid the reaction of my tight psoas (thus a locked up paraformis). This is an issue that has haunted me for about 10 years now. It is getting worse as the years goes on, but I must admit that I didn’t really understand what was happening physiologically until this year. So, my plan moving forwards is to lengthen my psoas muscles and strengthen my glutes. In addition, I am going to spend a lot of time working on my body positioning in the pool.
I was super stoked that my glutes didn’t lock up, but I had NO idea what was in store for the last half of my bike ride. First of all, let me apologize for scaring everyone who was tracking! I know the bike splits looked like a roller coaster and that was becasue I was upside down on one. I spent the first 50 miles at my goal wattage and felt like I was feeling stronger as the day went on. We started off with a tail wind, and I was fairly certain that I would end up with a 5:30ish bike split once I hit the head wind on the way back. BUT…the Kona heat got to me around mile 60 and I felt crampy and weak. I was on track with my nutrition but something was off. I still have no idea what I did wrong, but I spent a good deal of time on the side of the road trying to keep myself together so that I could finish the race. Aparently, something was NOT on track with my nutrition. I was on damage control. I threw up 3 times on the bike but after the last time (mile 95); I started to get my mojo back. During that last stop, I was so weak I wanted to just lie in the grass. There was no grass. I was surrounded by lava rock and asphalt. Oh, and a herd of goats. I set my bike down on the pavement. I threw up one last time, looked down at the red ink on my hand and dredged forward. Unfortunately, the winds picked up the longer I was out there and I found myself creeping into T2. I was so discouraged, but so happy to be off of my bike at the same time. So, here I was…getting ready to run a marathon in the Kona sun with ZERO nutrition left in my body.
I started running and was easily able to keep my pace between a 7:45-8:00 mile. But I knew that I was running on empty and I could only really hold that pace for 10-13 miles. By this point, my stomach was settled, but I was in a huge caloric deficit. I could feel it. So, at mile 11 or 12, I started walking through some of the aid stations to get in more than a few sips of cola and sports drink. I hate walking through aid stations. It kills your time! But, I knew that I was not getting in the right amount of fluid to fluid by running through them.
I remember things starting to hurt around mile 14. It was a familiar fatigue…and it was because I lacked the nutrition from the bike. By running an 8-8:15 mile and then walking a bit in the aid stations, I was able to survive the marathon in a much faster time than I thought (based on my epically disasterous bike ride). I kept thinking about the stories of competitors that I know, who have passed out in the last miles of the marathon because they ignored their internal warning signs. Yes, my bike experience sucked, but the only thing that would suck more is not finishing my first Kona. So, I ran smart and kept it together. I started getting light headed in the last mile. I was a bit dizzy and I was completely freaked out because I didn’t want to pass out in front of all of those people on All’I Drive! That would be a sure fire way to make it on to the NBC recap! The next thing I knew, I was running down the finishing shoot and it was the best finish line I have experienced! When I crossed the finish line, I was surprised to see an 11:13 on the clock. I had no idea that I was on pace to run a 3:42 marathon. So, even though I wanted a 10:30-10:45 race, I was quite relieved to see that I was in the low 11hour range with all that went wrong.
Post Race Thoughts:
Getting to Kona was a bucket list item for me, but I know I am capable of so much more than just finishing the race. There is nothing better than executing a solid race, empty of major nutritional chalenges and cramps! I am coming into the 2014 season with my battle wings on. I am ready to work harder across the board and the next time I see Kona, I will be prepared to race at the front. Until then, I will struggle my way through some cyclocross races and toe the line at a few running races. As much as I would love to be competitive at CX this year, I think that will have to wait until a non Kona year! P.S. I am editing this blog the night after my first cx race back and DAMN…did I ever struggle! I am going to feel that tomorrow!
Thank you to everyone for following me on race day and supporting me on my Kona journey. It has been the 2nd most amazing life event to date (#1 is getting married!). I feel like Chad and I were blessed with the honeymoon we never had on our post race trip to Kauai. We did a lot of hiking and explored the entire island. What an amazing place! If you are thinking of going to Kauai, get in touch with me and I can tell you everything you need to know! My favorite day was an 8 mile rugged hike to a waterfall on the Hanakapi’ai trail. Words cannot describe the epic nature of this hike. I would like to do a separate post on our Kawai experience, because it was that awesome!
I would also like to extend a very special THANK YOU to the following people who lent out an extra bit of help making this race happen:
Chad Burdzilauskas (my husband)
Kim Diggs (my mom(
Sandi Perlman and Blue Ridge Design
The Mossler Family
Cathy and Herb Treen
The Runners Forum
Nebo Ridge Bicycles
And a few others who wish to remain anonymous!
I love you all!