Monday, October 10, 2011

Kona

Ok grab a cup of coffee because this is probably going to be long. I have a lot to say. ;)

When I crossed the finish line on Saturday I smiled because I was done and let's face it, it's a privilege to get to race in Kona and the day I can't smile there is the day I should retire. That said, I was less than thrilled with my performance and at the time did not think I would write about it at all. And then a couple days passed and I got to witness the very inspiring awards ceremony last night and got home tonight and spent an hour going through all the great pictures people took and well, I'm not so pissy now. Which means you guys will get the race report after all! :)

That said, I'm not sugar coating this at all... it's exactly how it went down as I remember it tonight.

Race morning was fine. I woke up ready to go get my best Ironman. I was confident I was going to have a great day. Mentally I felt calm and collected and I went about my business doing all the normal pre-race stuff. When it was time to get in the water I found Nalani and Scott and we got in together. Nalani's husband had a great spectator spot on the wall and got some great photos. Can you see us? It's like Where's Waldo? (Hint. Scott is wearing red.)


Giving Scott some swim instructions that went something like Best to start on the left of that Ford buoy but stay left rather than cutting over too soon and getting close to the buoys. Just aim for a direct line to the far turn buoy that we can't really see...


So we swam out to the front left and treaded water... listened to the drums beating and the helicopters overhead and tried to keep my heart in my chest. I heard my name and turned around to see Ange so we wished each other well and then finally the cannon went off and we got underway. I don't have a lot to say about the swim other than that I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't get violent for me really at all. I've had way more violent swim starts and I was completely prepared for war but shockingly I had a ton of clear water. (The first 40 miles of the bike totally trumped the swim in the chaos department- stay tuned.) I didn't do a lot of drafting on the way out, mostly b/c I didn't trust the men around me not to slow down... sorry but I was looking for a woman b/c my experience is that strong women swimmers tend to set out at a pace they can maintain, while many men set out at a pace they cannot and therefore slow down and I did not want to get caught behind that. After the turn buoy I did find eventually find a guy who seemed to be swimming a good pace and he was off to the left swimming a little wide on his own so I cruised on his feet and felt like I was having a decent swim for sure. I was happy in the water!

Getting out I saw the clock... 1:01?? Um, ok, that was my slowest Ironman swim ever. That was weird. But then I heard Michelle Ford's name called out and I was running shoulder to shoulder with my friend Erica McClurg into T1 and started the bike with Julie Dunkle so I knew I was in good company. I completely let go of the swim time knowing that it was just long or whatever. Those girls are all strong swimmers so to be in their company was perfect. Indeed, post race I saw the swim times and seemed everyone was ~3' slower than they should have been. Once again, a lesson that swim times in triathlons don't matter for shit.

I started the bike and right away did not feel super. Hmmm. That's okay. My plan was to start slow and ease into things so I tried not to stress about it. It was crowded around me and I just let like 200 people pass in the first mile. Then climbing Kuakini Beth Shutt passed by and I looked up and saw that the 3 people immediately in front of me were Michelle, Beth, and Julie and I thought about how cool the blog world is because without blogs I would not know those girls at all. Instead though I felt like I was in the company of friends. :)


Anyway, another 300 men passed me in the next few miles, some of them very closely (read, scary!). A few women went by too and while I wanted to be able to respond to that I really just felt like I could/should not so I continued to just do my own thing. I was riding without any data at all (I left my watch in my dry clothes bag before the race started so I didn't even know what time it was) which normally would be perfect for me... However... when the only data you have on your performance is your place among your competitors... and you are a decent swimmer at the World Championships and therefore being passed by 100 people per mile... well... I was fairly certain that I was having the shittiest bike ride ever... even though I felt like I was moving along well... it seemed like everyone else was moving along faster.

In the first ~15 miles I was being passed by steady streams of men mostly one at a time. Normal for crowded course conditions. Then a group of 4 men passed. Then no one for a while... then another tight group of 6 men would pass... then no one for a while... then another group of 6 men would pass... um, really? Warning: rant coming up. This was not a situation of the course being too crowded. The drafting I saw on the course was flat out blatant wheel sucking cheating. At one point maybe 20-25 miles into the bike I went by an aid station but didn't need anything so I moved left into the center of the lane to stay out of the way of people who were trying to grab bottles. Then I got swallowed up and passed by men on both my right and my left, which freaked me out because that is not normal in a triathlon! So I glanced behind me just to see if I had room to move right or left and, um, there were streams of cyclists coming at me for as far as I could see. I was probably going ~20mph but was being passed like I was going 10. I swear I have never seen anything like this in a triathlon... I had flashbacks to how scared I was at that big bike race on Oahu last month- it was just like that. I screamed out loud as they swallowed me up and pretty much just stopped pedaling because I didn't want to get caught up in it. Eventually they all passed by... all 40-50 of them... and I was left coasting with my jaw dropped open. I saw some women hanging on to the back of that group and that just pissed me off but what was I going to do? Where were the race officials?!? Julie was off the back of that group and commented as she passed by me How do you like that peloton?!? She said that 3 race officials had gone by but had not been able to split up the group. We just watched them ride off into the distance... they must have been going 24+ mph which is not hard when you are in a huge group like that... And sure enough, there was a motorcycle riding next to the group but even then it wasn't being split up at all. Eventually they were out of sight but I had a hard time not continuing to be pissed about that. Julie and I played a very legal game of leap frog for the next 10-15 miles and I swear every time I got close enough to her I bitched out loud about the drafting and then finally was like, I should just let it go already.

Today I saw this picture on Facebook. Unbelievable, no? If some of the bike times seemed outrageously fast on Saturday, this is why.

Anyway, I did really try to keep a positive attitude amongst all that. At one point (after the peloton passed by) my athlete Teri came up next to me in an official race vehicle and cheered me on and got photographic evidence that I was not actually a pissy bitch for the whole ride. ;)

Ok blah blah blah. The bike went on forever. I was fairly certain that all 1800 competitors in the race had passed me in the first 50 miles, but shockingly I saw that there were actually still some behind me after I turned around in Hawi. (Btw, it was very windy on that climb... easily the windiest I've felt while racing up there and between Honu/Kona this was my 8th time racing up that hill. It was a nice tailwind going down though!) Interestingly, not many people passed me on the return trip. Phew. My legs sort of finally came around and I felt more like me after ~mile 75 (love it when it takes 75 miles to warm up?!?). I was mentally prepared for it to be really hard from Waikoloa to home (that section is pretty much all uphill with a headwind) but turns out this was the best part of the whole race for me. I remembered training on this section with Kiet in August and I gained a sense of confidence and I started picking off cyclists ahead of me one by one. I felt a sense of relief that maybe I didn't suck at cycling after all.

Coasting down Palani into T2...


I did not know my bike split which was fine... I knew from how many women I saw pass me in the first 1/2 that I hadn't had the bike I was hoping to have but whatever... it wasn't terrible... and then off the bike jogging through transition I was like UH OH. Quads were starting with twinges of cramping and I wasn't sure what to make of that. I'd followed my nutrition plan exactly, drank what seemed like plenty of water, took e21 every hour just like I always do... but my legs were not happy. Hmmm. Damage control time. I just told myself to relax through T2 and maybe after a minute or so the muscles would relax and I'd be ok... I used the porta-potty in the change tent and actually saw my right quad muscle bunch up... um, that is not good. So I took my time through T2... poured lots of cold water on myself, and eventually got moving.

Looks like I am happy here, doesn't it? I put on a good act for the camera because I swear I don't remember being this happy running up the hill out of T2.

My plan was to jog easy for the first 5ish miles down Ali'i Dr. I really did not feel good at all though and I knew I was going really slow and it was not easy. I was trying to figure out what to do... I didn't think I needed to eat more- I'd taken in as many calories as I'd planned on the bike (which was plenty... and I was taking Vespa too which always reduces my need for calories) and I'd peed twice on the bike and again in T2 so I was not dehydrated. It did feel really hot and the sun was out in full force so I kept drinking water and shoving ice down my top. Nothing was helping though. My quads were just twinging and eventually just full on seized up which stopped me in my tracks completely. ARGH! I HATE THAT. Eventually I adopted this jog/walk routine to keep myself moving forward and pretty much spent the rest of the marathon in damage control mode.

Letting you into my brain at this point is tough... I was pissy for sure because I knew I was not having the day I had planned on... then I'd get pissy because I was not following my plan of being Relentlessly Positive... so then I'd try to perk up and think about something good but I was completely incapable of interacting with anyone including my friends who were passing me. Ange was so nice- she ran by like mile 5 or 6 and was asking if I needed anything and she was trying to be so encouraging and I just totally couldn't respond other than to tell her to just keep running. And while I was happy for everyone doing so well, the rate at which I was being passed made me certain that I was the only person out there having a bad day and I was trying to talk myself through that and be positive but then those positive thoughts would last like 10 seconds and then I would go back to wondering why I suck at this so badly. I remembered writing in my race plan that I was not going to cave... Was I caving? It seemed like I was and that's what pissed me off most. But my muscles were cramping. So is that caving? Could I will myself not to cramp? I didn't think I could. But maybe that's why I couldn't? I don't know. And that bugs me.

After I got up onto the Queen K the clouds rolled in and the temps dropped like 50 degrees and I saw Chris Lieto jogging at a snails pace and I swear that was the most inspiring thing I'd seen all day. Not that I was glad he was having a shitty day or anything, but it was a good reminder that what we do when things aren't going well is defining of our character... The fact that he was hanging in there when clearly he was not having his day was exactly the thing I needed to see. (I had already seen 5 pro women run by toward the finish, including Rinny who was absolutely hauling ass down Palani- I swear I've never seen anyone run so hard with such a determined look- it was incredible!)

So I trudged on... doing this little walk/jog thing that seemed to be the only thing that would prevent the full on cramping seizures. I drank Coke at most aid stations, took e21 every so often, and backed off the water b/c my hands were looking bloated. Finally I got to the Energy Lab for my special needs bag, grabbed Moana's little blue shovel (it was time to dig) and carried it with me to the end. Teri took this picture ~20-22 miles into the marathon... you can kinda see the shovel stuck in my bra. And again, I swear I do not remember smiling but photographic evidence shows otherwise. (Thankfully this picture does not show my feet because they were most certainly both on the ground.)

In the last couple miles I remembered what my coach told me and my mantra became just freaking WILL your legs to run... just freaking WILL your legs to run... just freaking WILL your legs to run... just freaking WILL your legs to run... I swear that is the only thing I thought to myself for I don't know like maybe 20 straight minutes? I should have thought of that earlier because it worked. Running down Palani I grabbed the shovel out of my bra and held onto it tight and actually started smiling for real.

I finished in 11:04. I know I should not bitch about that at all because it was faster than I've previously gone in Kona, but it was just not a day that felt reflective of the training I have done. Which just leaves me more determined than ever to freaking figure out how to run a marathon off the bike.

In good news, my athletes Nalani (10:58 new PR by 13'!) and Scott (13:15 first IM finish!) both did really well and finished happy. :)

And my husband and my daughter and my mom looked cuter than ever out there supporting me all day!

So I hope this doesn't come off as too much complaining... I just wanted to keep it real. It is a privilege to race in Kona and I do not take that for granted. And even on a day that didn't come together as I'd hoped, I would way rather be out there racing than watching (lesson learned form last year!) Attending the awards last night was awesome and a good reminder of how incredible this race really is. And this morning I flopped around in the ocean and looked at the fish and just swam super easy by myself and that was a good reminder of the fact that I do actually truly love this sport. Especially in Kona. :)

34 comments:

mtanner said...

I'm glad you still love it! And really you are still a rockstar :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Hey Michelle, This is a great RR, real and honest! You know, as well as all your friends, that your marathon was not what you worked so hard for. I will say that athlete's perspectives on the courses are usually off of the real placements. YOU came off the bike in the top 5 or something like that in the AG. (I may be off a tad from following everyone)...so all those people that passed you on the bike were men or packs and probably few women. (I am sorry the drafting was horrible, I heard from many about that).

But, you do great at the IM distance and you have another PR! YOU will figure out the cramping/run off the bike, I have no doubt. Rest up and enjoy some downtime! Congrats on your race ! I am proud of you for getting it done when you were not feeling your best!

Kim said...

way to dig deep michelle!!! and holy shit about the drafting - that is absurd. congratulations on yet another fantastic finish!

mmmonyka said...

You are smiling in all pictures, so you were probably always smiling without realizing it:)

This Ironman stuff is hard. You train for couple months for an event and then because it is sooooo long like zillion things can go wrong and you almost never know what will end up happening eventhough training has been going great and you are confident. And because it is so long you cannot try again next month. It is nuts.
I am glad you wrote the report. It is always like that, immediately after a race that did not go as planned people are disappointed but it gets better and better as time passes and it just makes you want to do better next time.

I hope you figure out how to run a strong marathon after a bike! I am sure you will, you are a tough, very determined cookie and you will not let it go:)

Molly said...

You had a super tough day out there. But you made the best of it and that's what counts! I was very proud and happy to see you out there all day and get to cheer for you!

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

I feel like I could have written this post (ok, different location & different times), but same feelings, same frustrations and your attitude was definitely better! For sure, hands down shows the kinda person you are & i think it's more impressive then a 10hr IM.

One question… would you go without a watch again?

cherelli said...

Hey Michelle, congratulations on a Kona PB! It sounds like a really tough race, but I guess that is part of the Kona experience- even when all the preparation seems spot on. It was an excellent RR, I would have trouble letting go of the anger over the peloton too, grrr. Good on you for getting through that run, loved the shovel idea, awesome! contests to your athletes too, a nice reflection on your coaching skills. Now go and enjoy your recovery with all your friends!!!

Angela and David said...

Oh Michelle, I can relate to this post so completely (well except for the not feeling like you got the crap beat out of you on the swim). Last year I experienced the same frustration with the drafting on the bike and just did not have the race I'd trained for. I know exactly how frustrating it can be to be out on the run and to feel like you are the only one having a bad day. I have no doubt you'll be back for redemption on that course. Hold onto Moana's shovel!

thepumpkinsdiary said...

Michelle CONGRATS on your race! I know it wasn't the day you had trained so hard for - that's the damn allure of Ironman, isn't it?! Your report didn't seem like a bunch of complaining, if I thought it was I would tell ya. :) Now go chill so you can come back stronger next year!!

Jennifer said...

SO glad you posted a race report... I really wanted to read it. I'd been tracking you online and when I saw your run splits I thought, "uh oh, Michelle's not having the kind of day she expected." I was a bit worried about you! But at the end of the day... WOW. A less than stellar day still resulted in a PR at Kona, and that says a LOT about your fitness level!! Can't wait to see what you pull out next year. Totally on track for a podium spot if you can figure out the leg cramp issue! Congrats on an amazing season.

Kiet said...

I know this race report all too well. In fact, I could copy and paste this to be at least two of my ironman race reports. Running with the shovel was awesome, that needs to be your profile pic because that totally embodies what it's all about, digging deep. Since I'm bailing on the distance for a bit, I'm determined to help you get there, let's figure this out.

Alicia said...

Thank you for the RR! You are amazing! You truly are!

Di Tri-ing said...

Thanks for posting your race report after all. I like reading about the great races, but the tough ones are the most inspiring. Congrats!

Shevaun said...

Great job of recovering from a less than desired run. The pictures at the end look like you finally found your stride. Also, thanks for sharing the ups and downs of your race.

Rebecca DeWire said...

Running with a shovel is hilarious. You will get your redemption on that course next year. Way to tough it out.

Damie said...

Awesome...you just competed at the world champs. I am envious and proud of you. I think you rock!!! Nice RR...and this will just keep getting better for you.

rr said...

That photo of you running out of T2 should go on your fridge as the I LOVE MARATHONS off the bike photo! You look amazing. And I wasn't BS-ing you. I knew when I saw you on Alii you weren't having the day you had trained for. But when I saw you coming into the E-Lab, you looked like you were running strong and I was really happy for you! Your form was solid. You looked good. Maybe you were being relentlessly positive ;)

I felt shitty about my day for a little bit too, then had that same turn around. We are so fortunate we get to do this! And practically at home. Congratulations!

rr

Aimee said...

I'm sorry you didn't have the race you wanted, but you did AWESOME!!! Seriously, you are amazing and should be so proud of how you did!

I LOVE the fact that you carried your daughter's shovel with you...love it!!

Beth said...

First of all, the shovel is awesome!!!

Sorry you didn't have have the race you trained for. That is always such a hard pill to swallow. I know how hard you work!! But I am a firm believer in the fact that hard work never goes unrewarded and although you didn't see it in this race it WILL show up on a race at some point.

Great seeing you out there (although I totally missed seeing you at the start if the bike...). Now I can't wait to see you crush your marathon!! :-)

MaineSport said...

Been there, done that. Well, not there, but that. Great and honest RR. They obviously don't all go as planned. It makes bouncing back even sweeter.

Regina said...

Wow. Interesting to be a fly on the wall of your brain. I really felt for you while reading this. I'm sorry you didn't have the race you hoped, but I think having a PR is still testament to all your hard training.

I'm sure the biggest frustration is knowing you followed your plan to the letter and yet your legs didn't fulfill their end of the bargain.

From my vantage point, I think you had a stellar race and it was a joy to follow you and see all the great photos posted on FB. That said, I get it when a plan doesn't come together (kind of like my year, ha!)

Jean said...

Sometimes it's not about the destination but about the journey that got you there. You certainly had a blast on the journey for this one.

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Michelle,
I know how it feels to train hard but not have the race that you deserved. I have also learned that all the hard work stays with you and eventually you cash it in. That day will come for you. As far as running of the bike, I would love to figure that one out, too. I am a decent open runner some might say I am even fast, but I can't run off of the bike for the life of me.
Congrats on the course PR!

Wassdoc said...

Great race report, it is truly helpful to read about other triathlete's stories, especially when they sound so familiar. You actually had a very solid swim and bike, and it was a very hot day. There's no way of knowing how the body will react, it is an ironman after all. What is most impressive is that you ultimately trudged along despite the negative thoughts. It also sounds like you tested your limits, which is the best way to get better, and, to me, the best feeling I can have. Even when I have a poor race by timing standards, I always judge myself on whether I felt like I gave it everything I had. My most accounts, I don't think that you could argue that you gave this race everything you had. Maybe it wasn't your day from certain perspectives, but I was inspired by your race report! Keep at it, and keep smiling!!!

Rose said...

I love the shovel! That's fantastic! The photo of you running with it in hand sums up "digging deep". Way to go! Not every race is a good one, but your continual effort to "reset" and keep going is inspiring!

Roz said...

You're always an inspiration because you keep it real! One of my favorite quotes is "Not in the clamor of the crowded street, nor in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves are victory and defeat."

I understand your disappointment after working so hard, but also admire how you keep it all in perspective.

Congrats on another Kona finsih!

idropboys said...

So much like my day.....ugh! I could tell you were not killing it either but here's to hanging tough, digging deep and running down Alii. And for riding our own bike.... that we can got to sleep knowing. Hope to see you again soon.... Enjoy the recovery

Mary IronMatron said...

oh Michelle... I'm sorry it wasn't the day you had trained for and that you deserved! But you held it together, and you are smiling in all of those pictures! :) You did stay positive!
And I was WAY behind you on the bike... so I can attest that there were people behind you! ha! And where I was there was far less drafting. How annoying and upsetting to see that much peloton action going on. How can they hold their heads in the air???
It was awesome to meet you. You are the best. xo

Jill Costantino said...

AMAZING! _ SUPER CONGRATS LADY!

goSonja said...

You know Hun, I think you did the beat you could in the situation. You will figure out the cramping issue and come out better because of it. I can tell you dug deep, you ran with a flippin' shovel after all!!!!

N.D. said...

Well, you look happy in every picture! and you were honest in how you felt throughout. I think it's inspiring and amazing just to BE THERE, especially as a mom. Congratulations, Michelle!

Alicia Parr said...

I'm so sorry you didn't have the race you prepared for. That really does suck and it's totally fine to be disappointed. Why wouldn't you be?

And now I'm going to provide obnoxious unsolicited feedback about your mental game. Relentless positivity isn't really the formula. That's a lot to ask of oneself and then consequently beat oneself up over for falling "short." Letting what other people do (drafting) effect our mental state is a different issue. So they are short-changing themselves from having a legitimate performance. So what? They are dumb-asses with different standards than you focusing on outcome goals instead of process goals. Maybe they're driven by fear of failure. Who knows? Just don't let THEIR stupid actions shortchange YOUR execution. Digestion doesn't work so well when you're stewing. Also, if you are pacing your bike correctly and swim in the leading edge of swim times, then you will be passed by a lot of people early on the bike. That just shows you are doing something right. As strong a cyclist as you are, you should be seeing many of them later so long as you stick to your race plan.

Kelly said...

I loved this race report. As a mid-packer, I sometimes get tired of how people talk about how everything went well, you know? I like to hear about the adversity and it makes it very real! No matter how fast (or slow) you are going, it is a tough day, and you dug deep and got it done. Congrats!!

E.L.F. said...

Congrats on your finish, Michelle. What you wanted or not - crossing the line in Kona is always an amazing thing. It was great to see you out there!