What a super weekend! Honu is absolutely an amazing event... Really... The only thing I am bummed about is that we have to wait until next year to do it again. :)
Like I said in my pre-race post, my plan was to get after it from the start and see what happened... I knew my age group was stacked with amazing runners and while I did not realistically think I could win it, I sure was gonna try anyway! The way coach and I saw it, I had nothing to lose by jamming on the bike and then just trying to hang on for the run...
Without going into boring pre-race details, I'll just say it was all perfect.
Logistically everything was taken care of and my head was in the right place. I jogged a little pre-race warm up down the beach where I was completely alone, I looked out into the vast beautiful ocean and smiled. I reminded myself how much I love this, how blessed I am to get to do this today... then I dove into the water and swam a very relaxed easy warm up back to the start buoy. I was in my happy place. The swim at Hapuna Beach is without a doubt one of the best in the world.
1400 people in a mass start situation was good practice for CdA.
Heading out on my bike I thought I heard someone tell me I was the 4th woman?? That surprised me. (Last year there were way more fast fish in the field b/c I think I was more like 10th heading out onto the bike.) I think maybe a few more gals swam faster than me yesterday but I got them in transition or something. Regardless, that was good by me. In reality, I was actually 5th heading out on the bike, but whatever. It was good. I passed two women right away in the first ~5 minutes then settled into again what I felt like was a strong but sustainable effort.
My plan was to not wear a watch- just race by feel- but in the end I decided to start my watch. I made this decision based on the fact that it was not nearly as windy as I thought it might be, which made me think the bike wouldn't be super slow or anything so I could see the time and not get irritated.
Anyway, la la la... I was riding fast. Too fast? Didn't feel like it. It didn't feel hard. But it felt fast. And I was riding (legally) with some guys I know and I knew they were fast. I questioned myself- should I be doing this? Check again Michelle... full system check... legs were fine. Check. Breathing was fine. Check. Everything was fine. Check. All systems go. I gave myself permission to keep doing what I was doing.
Part way up the climb to Hawi I saw a long ponytail on the rider in front of me. Um, now what do I do? It didn't really feel right to me to pass Bree. Oh my. Maybe I was being a complete idiot. But riding at what felt like a very sustainable effort I was right up in her draft zone so I had no choice. I rode by. She's such a class act and gave out a whooping holler cheer Go Mama! And I gave her a thumbs up and continued on my way. I saw another pro woman flying down the hill as I was still climbing and at the turn around in Hawi I was told I was second. Excuse my language here but, um, HOLY SHIT.
I flew down that hill. The winds were kinda gusty at that point but nothing out of the ordinary and honestly it felt like I had a tailwind all day. I really do think the winds were in our favor because looking at the results after the race, just about everyone rode several minutes faster than what they had done in the past... I will say this though... I came through mile 50 and glanced at my watch and saw 2:15 or something ridiculous like that... Did another full system body system check and decided I was just fine and would be able to run and then without even thinking I let out a whooping YEE HAW!!! Yes. I yelped that out loud. There was no one around to hear me so you'll just have to take my word for it. But I swear that is true. :)
One other thing I'm happy to mention here... Somewhere like mile 45ish I saw the draft marshall go by me again... same gal who had gone by on the back of a motorcycle probably 7x through this bike ride... and she smiled at me and gave me a big thumbs up. I took that as a sign that she was telling me that she saw that I rode legally the whole time. Anyone who tells you it is impossible to not get caught up drafting during a mass start race is bullshitting. It is completely possible.
My final bike split was 2:30, which is 8 min faster than I've ever ridden here before. I came into T2 and was just absolutely all smiles and everyone was cheering and it was just surreal. Too bad the race didn't end right there. :) Unfortunately we all still had to run 13.1 miles, much of which was on soft spongy golf course grass... up and down short steep rolling hills... The plan was to chill out and jog an easy first mile then build into it... Well, the first mile was slow but I wouldn't have actually called it easy. Yikes. This might hurt.
I was feeling little twinges of cramping coming on... I've never gotten through this Honu run without major cramping issues... but I've also never raced here with e21 before either. I took them regularly yesterday on the bike and then had more for the run... took 2 right away and the twinges subsided. Phew. That stuff is magic for cramps. Anyway, I found my stride in mile 2 and just once again tried to settle into a strong but manageable pace. I knew the runners were coming after me and that I was being hunted but that is all part of the game and I just kept playing.
Bree passed me back somewhere around mile 2... another pro gal went by not too long thereafter... I had a ton of teammates out there cheering me on which was awesome... lots of out and back sections on this run... Somewhere like mile 3-4 on an out-and-back I saw like 6 women who were within a few minutes of me and most of them had numbers similar to mine- indicating they were in my age group... yikes... here they come... hang on Michelle... just keep doing your thing... drinking Coke... taking e21... dumping ice down my suit... one foot in front of the other... It got hot. And it got hard. Duh.
I did the best I could in this situation I think. I got passed by 8 women total on that run, 3 of whom were pro and 4 of whom were in my age group (I know, right? Those girls are amazing runners.) I ended up running 1:49 which is 3 min faster than I've ever run on this course before. Could I have run faster had I held back more on the bike? Probably. BUT, I bet I wouldn't have run more than 3-5 minutes faster yesterday no matter what my bike effort was so in the end I think my total finishing time would have been right around the same even with a more conservative bike. So I'm happy with how I played the game. In fact, another local coach approached me after the race to say congratulations... He said he liked how I raced... and that he respected how gutsy I was out there on that bike ride. I thought that was cool of him to say.
As always, I crossed the finish line with my hands up in the air and the most genuine smile you've ever seen.
Prior to the race I was hoping I might have a super day and break 5 hours... I told Nalani that I thought my dream day would be 4:58 and 5th in my age group. I ended up 4:53(!!!) and 5th in my age group. I can't really find the words to adequately describe how I felt (still feel!) about this race but I do know that none of this would have been even remotely possible without the guidance of Lucho. I mean, really. That guy taught me how to do this.
Now let's go do an Ironman.