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. :)