Sunday, June 2, 2013

Honu 2013... There Is No Try. Just Do.

So Honu 2013 is in the books! Unbelievably, the conditions were even more challenging than last year!  I felt kinda bad because I promised several of my athletes that last year was the most ridiculously challenging year ever and that no way we'd get a day as hard as that again this year... but I was wrong. ;) It was a different kind of hard though... Anyway. More on that in a bit.

I won't go into much about pre-race day logistics and all that. It was all good and I felt as ready as I could be to attack the day. My motto for the day (I pick a new one each race) was There Is No Try. Just Do. That sort of came about on Tuesday of race week... Nalani and I met for a key swim set that is a ridiculously hard benchmark max effort kind of set and before we started I told her that I didn't feel like I'd mentally prepped myself for the suffering that was about to happen. But then I talked myself into it by somehow convincing myself that my prior experience with suffering through this set would be enough to help me through, and sure enough I posted all-time bests for every piece and just kept telling myself, There is no try. Just do. And I did. So that worked. It became my race day mantra.

Race morning I said to Nalani, I'd ask you how you feel, but it doesn't matter. We're just going to DO THIS. Don't think about it. Just do it. We know how to do this.

We hopped in the water early to get in a decent warm up. Neither of us swim well until we're very well warmed up, so we swam most of the length of the bay as warm-up. A few minutes in, Nalani pointed out a giant Honu swimming right under us. Perfect. It was simply a perfect start to the day. Good sign, we were sure! We jogged back along the length of the beach as the National Anthem was being sung. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Started on the front line, went HARD at the sound of the canon and didn't even get touched. A minute or so in, I see Nalani come up on my right so I eased up for a second and hopped right on her feet. This is pretty standard routine and typically I last on her feet for another few minutes then I blow up and she's gone. But on this day, I was hanging. Holy crap! All the way across the bay to the first turn buoy I was right on Nalani's feet! And it was just the two of us... I didn't look around for anyone else- it felt like just a super hard ocean swim that the two of us were doing together with no one else. My happy place! We got to the first buoy and it was crowded with lots of men (who started 7' ahead of us) and I assumed I'd lose Nalani there, but I did not. OMG. I was still right on her feet. Holy crap! This was the longest I'd ever been able to stay on her feet. Around the second buoy again I assumed I'd lose her in the confusion of all the people, but again, I did not! On the way back across the bay, she took a hard inside line and we swam pretty far to the inside of the marker buoys in an attempt to get clear water and it totally worked. I did not sight at all because I just trusted that Nalani would not guide us wrong and I kept mentally pinching myself thinking is this really happening? Race Day Magic Lucky 7 all of that was going through my head... The effort was hard for sure but I reminded myself There is no try. Just do. So I stayed right there on her feet. This was going down as the best swim I've ever had!

Then we hit the last turn buoy and all hell broke loose. Turn at the buoy, swim straight into pretty good wind chop (which really, was fine), straight into glaring blinding sun, which would have been fine except for the WALL of men that somehow seemed to spread as far as I could see (which admittedly was not very far- read previous comment about blinding sun). So there you go. Lost Nalani in the mayhem. Damn! I stopped a few times trying to figure out where I was... swam left trying to avoid men but could not... so cut across and swam right trying to avoid men but could not... so cut back across left again and finally got some clear water. I lost 40" to Nalani in the last (short) leg so that was a bit frustrating but it is what it is. The fact that I had the physical and mental capacity to swim with her for so long was a huge confidence boost and I was (still am!) stoked. :)

Somehow I found Michelle Ford as I was running up the ramp.... Mahalo to my friend Mike for the pic!

We look super serious in this pic but in my memory we were chatting the whole run up to our bikes. Someone told us we were 6-7th women out? Or maybe 5-6th? I can't remember. Something like that. I never saw a clock so didn't know the split. It didn't matter.

Quick T1 and I was on my bike and OMG the WALL of men continued. This was a new dynamic for me and honestly it was the biggest (negative) issue for me with starting 7' behind the 1000+ men. The first 30' or so of the bike was so incredibly crowded... men everywhere riding 4 across on the shoulder, etc. You know how many men swim ~35-37' for a 70.3 swim?? LIKE ALL OF THEM. So this was a pain. I was diligent about making sure I was staying legal but found myself pretty much just riding down the middle of the road passing passing passing then the random strong guy would go flying by on my left so I wanted to scoot over but the whole shoulder was full of men I'd have to just go left again to pass... I don't want a call for blocking but it was just so crowded... Anyway. I did the very best I could here and eventually it thinned out. By the time we started climbing toward Hawi there were fewer men around and for the most part it was fine. I only encountered one asshole- an older guy I passed while climbing. I made the pass but rather than dropping back he surged to match me... As you know I'm quite outspoken when someone pisses me off while I'm on the bike so I told the guy I passed you- You have to drop back! Those are the rules, no?? But he did not- He proceeded to surge and re-pass me on the right. I called him a shithead (loud enough so he could hear) and he rode off, putting a huge gap on me. Whatever. I passed him back later on the descent and never saw him again. Good job blowing your race trying to not get chicked. Shithead. Lol. Sorry. #notreally

Overall though I'd say the ride seemed pretty clean and fair to me. I felt like I was riding well- and felt better and better as the race went on. Really, the hardest part of the bike for me was the first 10 miles and much of that was probably just the frantic nature of having so many people around. Once it thinned out and I could just ride, I felt like myself. Strong and steady and solid and in my own little bubble. I encountered a few women along the way... didn't know exactly where I was but knew I was toward the pointy end of the race. At one point toward the end, I came up on a woman (just before climbing out of Kawaihae n the way back) and, um, she was a pro. Yikes. Clearly having a hard day given that they started 10' up on us. Found another pro woman before the end of the bike so this was confirmation to me that I was riding well... No watch needed but I was trying to guess my bike split just for fun... given how awesome I felt I thought *maybe* I was cracking 2:30 this year?? (Looking back at everyone's splits afterward this is hysterical but at the time it's what was going through my mind!) It was windy and all but it was a headwind vs a crosswind so while it was hard/slow at times, it wasn't scary like last year. Plus, after my experience being a complete pussy in those crosswinds last year, I was determined to be brave and stay aero no matter what this year.
How cool is this? My athlete Monika sent me this custom head cap last week so this is what I looked at while I was riding. Perfect.

Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention to wind, but I never had a low spot during the ride so I kinda thought I was killin' it. I had no idea how slow it actually was! Good thing too b/c I prob would have been quite frustrated! Instead I just stayed super positive in my head, telling myself all sorts of positive stuff about how I was nailing this, Lucky 7 and Race Day Magic and I'm totally going BSC on this course today and all that. It was all sunshine and roses folks. Puppies were like shitting rainbows and stuff.

So funny b/c after the race I look back at my split and see I avg 15.2 mph for the last 8 miles?!? HA! I seriously had no idea it was that slow! None. The thing is, it was faster than most of the other gals so in reality it was fine, but that's how strong the headwind was. I have to say though, toward the end I got passed by a woman who was 45-49. Yes. 45-49 and she was hauling ass. It was beautiful to watch! I actually tried to stay with her, and I felt strong, but I could not! Funny thing though- I was not the least bit frustrated by this. Instead, I was just completely inspired. She was amazing! (Found out later she was 2nd in her age group in Kona last October). Just sort of made me believe my best days are still ahead of me. So that was cool.

Happy at end of bike...

T2 was probably the lowest part of my day. I arrive to rack my bike and, um, where is my T2 bag?? (T2 is different from T1 at Honu so you turn your run bag in the day prior at registration and trust that the volunteers will place it in your numbered spot for you). Um, WHERE IS MY RUN BAG???? It was not in my bike rack spot. I stood there, dumbfounded, like what am I supposed to do? I think I was like like 4th woman at this point and I'm standing there without run shoes. You know what's good about that? NOTHING. Some of the spectators were rather horrified as well. One woman who was watching asked me if I wanted her shoes. My reply- what size are they? 7.5 Too small- no can- but mahalo for the offer. The their credit, several volunteers mobilized and scrambled and eventually someone came running to me with my bag. I was feeling pretty frantic at this point. Got my shoes and socks on as fast as I could but prob lost ~1' there. At the end of the day this 60" was a non-factor but I will say, had it been, I would have been pretty pissed.

Moving on.

I should set the stage here by noting that this was my 10th time racing on the Big Island (3x Kona and 7x Honu) and the 9 times prior I have been stopped dead in my tracks with debilitating cramps on the run. Yes. I was 9 for 9 in cramping here. So, race week I tried a new strategy- loading with quinine- in a last ditch desperate effort to try to avoid repeating this scenario. I'd read that quinine can prevent muscle cramps, and quinine is in tonic water... So I drank ~1/2 liter of tonic water each day for 5 days in a row, including the night before the race. Didn't have any on race day. Figured it would be my own little experiment of one and I'd just see if it might work? Guess what? I was running. And not cramping. It was surreal.

You know what's funny? I thought I was killing this run. Seriously. No watch so I didn't actually know but for whatever reason, I just felt like I was running really strong. Maybe since I wasn't doubled over on the side of the path watching my quads seize up? I don't know. I wasn't taking any splits but I was playing out this scenario in my head where I would have sworn I was on my way to a PR run split! Ha!  Maybe that quinine I drank made me completely delusional? (No- I didn't add gin.) Lol. Anyway, this is like at mile 1-2 or somewhere around there and Moana and Ashleigh (Patrick and Leigh's daughter who is now Moana's BFF) were screaming for me and I was so so so happy to see them. :)

Up at the top of another little biter of a hill... Funny it doesn't look nearly as hard as it felt...

So I don't know. Not a lot more to say about the run. It was hot as hell but I was telling myself all sorts of positive stuff, even when I was being passed by girls who were absolutely flying. I still thought I was doing really well. I'd been caught by 3 girls in my age group but I didn't spend a bunch of time dwelling on that. I didn't take any splits on the out/back sections or really look to see who was behind me and I definitely didn't play the How much longer til they catch me game. (This was a HUGE win for me normally I play that game and it is baaaad mentally to do that.) I pretty much just stayed in my own little focused bubble all day long and in that way I think I got the absolute most out of myself. The last 3 miles I was pushing absolutely as hard as I've pushed in any 70.3 in recent memory- for the first time maybe ever I absolutely did not fold and give up on myself... I was trying to hold on for 4th in my age group and I just envisioned that scene at Boulder 70.3 last summer where I got caught/passed in the last 100M so I was crushing myself to make sure I did everything in my power to not let that happen again (in hindsight I didn't need to do this but I refused to look back so I just envisioned that the next gal was right on my ass because she very well could have been!) I have to say, I impressed myself with that effort mostly because my longest run in the last couple months has been 10 miles so 13 off a hard ride was pushing my current fitness envelope for sure.

I looked at the clock as I crossed the line and was very confused. I was pretty sure that I'd put in more like a 4:50 effort... trying to do math when you're that tired and calculate 5:25 minus 10' for the pro start was an impossible task... because no way I went 5:15... no way. Checked my watch for the first time all day it said 12:15... wait... what time did we start? 7? Shouldn't it be, like, not even noon yet?? But there you go. It was a slow day!

Looking at results afterward and hearing everyone's war stories helped me put the disappointing finish time in perspective. Most everyone had a story about being slower than last year and many said 20-25' off their PR. Only 6 women broke 5 hours on that course on Saturday. Ok then! So it was my slowest swim, slowest bike, and slowest run in several years. BUT, it was a super strong effort all around and for the first time ever, I didn't cramp. And I never told myself stuff like You suck at this why do you even bother?? Progress! I think avoiding wearing a watch was the best decision I made on Saturday because that is what allowed me to race without being distracted by splits. I just raced.

I landed as high on on the podium (4th) as I've ever landed in this crazy competitive race field. And I finally got to wear the awesome podium dress Mary sent me for my birthday. :) And I ended up with a spot to Vegas! (Kona spot ended up rolling to third so I missed that by one! Argh! But Mahalo to Nell for passing the Vegas spot off to me!)

Anyway. It's been a while since I've felt this satisfied with a race. I can look back with no regrets and say I did the best I could with what I had that day. And then we all got drunk. :)


Damie said...

thanks for giving me something to read during my insomnia...and congrats on a strong race. super proud of ya!!!!!!!

Beth said...

Awesome work Michelle! Sounds like a super hard day -- the perfect day NOT to wear a watch. :) Congrats on your Vegas slot!!

Run Gunn Run said...

Love the mantra! I may steal it this weekend! Congrats on a great day!!!! :)

Shevaun said...

Great race. Great report. Who's the woman on the podium next to you in the jeans shorts? I wish I had her legs.

Mary IronMatron said...

You look super pretty in the red dress! :)
Congrats on the race. Your bike split was tres impressive....!!

Ange said...

this was a great RR MIchelle!! You crushed this... for all the reasons you said. You were a mentally tough badass who did go BSC! Love it. This was inspiring. I hope you love Vegas!!!! Hills, wind and heat! You have all that to prep on out in HI! wooot!!!!

JC said...

Woohoo - SUPER CONGRATS! You are such a SUPERSTAR! AND VEGAS! woop woop!

Matt said...

Killer day! Way to push and put it out there!!

mtanner said...

So proud! Love the dress! You wear it well! The Mantra=classic!

Anonymous said...

Man, I totally would have worn a watch and gone nuts about it. Slow days are hard, because you never know if they're just slow for you or everybody. Nice job!

Katie said...


amy p said...

Congrats on a great race! I love how candid you are!

Katie said...

AWESOME! Congrats on the Vegas slot - and hey, maybe you should race watchless more often :)

Kiet said...

Amen. You forgot to mention one other most in this post, most funny I've read. Looks like you and me both found a race we weren't like, oh that was an underwhelming effort. Nice work Mama Simmons!