Qualifying for Kona was a dream come true last year, something that I worked really (x’s 1 million) hard for. Getting here two years in a row was luck for someone like me who has very little natural talent. I cannot explain to you the magnitude of amazing athletes racing here. They can swim, bike and run FAST. I have a ways to go until I can be competitive in Kona (especially with swimming). However, I qualified a mere 6 weeks ago and my goal was to nail my nutrition and have fun while executing a solid race plan. After last year’s puke session on the bike, I was ready to show the heat and wind that I could survive it’s wrath.
Pre-Race – I enjoyed every moment of race week in Kona. We arrived Saturday night, giving us plenty of time to swim, bike and run on the course. Somehow we found time for resting and enjoying the island as well! I spent most of my free time chasing dolphins and enjoying the local coffee. I LOVE coffee! My mom, Chad and my best friend Lindsey all joined me for this trip across the Pacific and we had an incredible experience!
I didn’t have too many last minute technical issues, so most of my week was relaxed and stress free. I used Tri-Bike Transport and it proved to be a worthy investment! It took a whole layer of stress away and fortunately everything was fairly seamless. I had a restful Thursday and Friday, and woke up fresh and ready to race on Saturday morning. All systems were go when I woke up and I felt good about the day ahead.
Swim – This year the age group men started 15 minutes before the age group women. I thought this would be great for me because it would open up some clean water. It ended up being more of a challenge because we were all swimming on top of each other in my group. The swim was not hard, but it was slow. There were some swells and currents that caused everyone to be out there about 5-10 minutes longer then we should have. I took note of all the extra salt water ingested and knew that I would need to back off on my salt tablets on the early part of the bike.
I was disappointed when I saw my time, but I figured we all had a slow swim and I quickly put it in the past and moved on. My biggest accomplishment with my swim was that my hip flexor did not cramp up. I cannot explain to you how big of a deal this is for me. Dr. Hoffman has been working hard to keep my glutes firing and I am sure this will be a life-long battle. However, I know that I can prevent it with regular therapy, stretching and strength training. I have done 3 ironmans this year and 1 half ironman and they behaved every single time. I started working with Dr. Hoffman in March. Coincidence….I doubt it. I have been dealing with this since 2005. It has happened at almost every single long course race between 2005 and 2013. Overcoming this obstacle is huge and I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of it, but I feel good moving forward. With happy glutes, I moved as quick as I could through the transition but had no idea what was waiting for us on the Queen K.
Bike – The bike started out positive from the beginning and my legs felt responsive. When I asked for power, they gave me what I wanted. My plan was to race at 78% of my FTP which was about 155 watts. I know I can race at 80-81% but I wanted to go a bit easier so I could compensate for the heat and humidity that I was not adapted to. I had a special tracker on, so a few people got to track my power and heart rate all day. I raced Louisville at about 163-165 watts and felt strong there. I raced the first 1/2 at about 165 watts and then the descent from Havi brought me down to 157, which is where I stayed for the rest of the race. My HR stayed 100% in control the whole time, but what I could not control was the fierce wind that SUCKED!
Last year, we had a tail wind out and then a head wind up Havi and then a headwind back on the Queen K. I thought that was hard until the winds switched directions this year and we had a headwind both out and back. The only tail wind I felt was coming down the hill from Have and then another small stretch somewhere on the way back. And, yes… that tailwind/crosswind was great, except that you can’t take your hands off the bars to drink because you could get blown off the side of the road. I can’t even begin to explain how hard the climb up to Havi is, but it is expected. In my opinion it was makes Kona a beast. It is like that every year and it is rough! Having the headwind back in was a mental disaster. Fortunately I found some girls out there to ride with the last 20 miles and that entertained my mind for the rest of the ride. I got in all of my nutrition and felt incredible coming off of the bike. To tell you the truth, I felt like I had an amazing bike. It was probably the strongest I have EVER felt on the bike in an Ironman. I held back a little, but everything was working as it should. I understand that many of the girls in my age group are capable of riding close to the pro women splits, but I was really upset when I heard that many of the faster swimmers were drafting off of the age group men. It only makes sense, based on some of the splits. It is disappointing, but right now it is not my fight. I don’t expect to be at the top of the bike splits in my age group at a world championship event , but I do not expect to be 50th. Even if some of those girls were riding 180 watts, there were many that weren’t. This will haunt me a bit over the winter, but it also gives me something to work towards. Drafting is NOT going to change in these world championship events. So, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have changed anything (except for being a competitive swimmer in my youth)!
Run – things started out pretty well on the out and back section in the beginning. My run legs were not fast, but I was able to run an 8:15-8:30 pace. Last year, I ran this section at a 7:45-8:00 pace easily. The 8’s lasted until mile 12 and then my splits just started dropping although I felt just fine. I walked a few aid stations to get in some extra calories but it wasn’t helping on the speed front. I had the will and the energy but I was running hard and all I could see was 9:30-9:45 min miles. I can’t even run that pace when I’m trying to run slow. I chalked it up to Louisville fatigue and just made it through the last 1/2 of the race taking in the views and appreciating my blessings. My best friend, Lindsey, flew out to watch me race and road her bike next to me the last 10k. I ran hard the last 7 miles (despite the slow splits) and I was able to absorb the magnificence of the race. I smiled A LOT that last 10k! I saw my mom before I turned down Ali’ i drive and I saw Chad, Tom, Sharon and Mike right about a quarter mile from the finish line. This year, I really took in every single step of Ali’i drive and the crowd was amazing! They make you feel like a celebrity rock star as you make your way to the finish! It is everything that you could imagine it to be, and then better.
I was a little sad when I saw the clock, because I was hoping to break 11 hours, but the conditions and my lack of run legs would not allow it. I executed a great race and had many more things go right then wrong. Last year I had a terrible bike and was miserably nauseous for a good deal of the day. It was a treat to feel good in such harsh conditions.
I love this island and I will do everything in my physical power to get back here again soon. I feel like I won a battle this year with the nutrition, but the war isn’t over. I have not figured out how to race here yet. I have to swim faster, I have to bike faster and I have to run at my potential. That time will come and I will know when it is time to change my perspective on the race.
Until then, it’s all sunshine and dolphins! For me, this race is a symbol of working hard for your dreams and then watching them come true. I am completely aware that many of the age group girls racing Kona are working twice as hard, but you know what…I love the balance in my life right now. I work incredibly hard and don’t skip workouts, but my job and my family are also important. Maybe a Kona podium is years ahead of me, but right now I am doing lots of other awesome things that are helping me become the best “me” possible.
From the bottom of the ocean, I would like to thank all of you who have helped me get here. To those of you who donated to my Kona fund, and those of you who sent good wishes I love you all! I could feel the love and support thousands of miles away! Of course I will do another Ironman next year, and I would love to go back to Kona again soon. The Big Island of Hawaii will always be calling my name. I am just getting started. Special thanks to all of my Hawaii bound friends, family and athletes, thank you for making these past few weeks incredible!
I’m not sure which races I’m going to do next year, but I’m thinking New Orleans 70.3, Ironman Texas or Ironman Couer d Alene. I love the idea of Texas, but it is pretty early for me and I have become a victim of late onset allergies in the spring. None the less, my journey isn’t over yet and despite the fatigue, I am more motivated then I have ever been before.
Cheers to a happy holiday season for everyone and thank you for following my journey!