Monday, June 2, 2014

Honu 2014... What Would Peepers Do?

Trying to figure out where to start. This might be a long one so grab a cup of coffee. :)

Honu weekend felt different to me this year. It was my 8th trip over there and I think possibly my favorite one. When I found out- back in March- that my registration had gotten screwed up, I spent ~2 weeks thinking maybe I wasn't going to get to race this year. That was an interesting turning point for me because it made me realize how much I LOVE this race and how much I REALLY wanted to do it. And while part of that desire has to do with the race itself, most of what I thought about missing was the social aspect of the weekend. Having lived in Hawaii for 9+ years now, I feel like I have some deep connections and friendships within this triathlon community and Honu is our weekend. So while I went into the race with some questions about my fitness- specifically my run fitness- It was all fine because hey, I get to race!!

The social fun started early- like in the airport- as a ton of friends happened to all be on the same flight over to Kona. The coolest part was that we probably could have gotten on any given flight all day and found friends all around. Fun for Moana too because everywhere she looked there was another Auntie waving and smiling at her. :) This was Moana's 6th trip to Honu!

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. It was a beautiful day to race. It was hot, and windy, but not hotter (nor windier) than it's been in the past. I'd call it standard Hawaii conditions.

I would challenge anyone to find a swim venue better than Hapuna Beach. Water was perfect temperature with perfect visibility and hardly any chop. I have been swimming pretty well recently so I put myself right on the front line and sprinted hard when I heard the cannon. Karlyn Pipes took this great picture...

Once again the women started 7' behind the men. We started catching them before the first buoy. Last year I allowed myself to get flustered and frustrated by that but this year I was better mentally prepped and just accepted it for what it was. I stayed pretty much on the inside of the loop all the way around... hit every turn buoy right on my shoulder (dove under/around them!) and always had a few other pink caps in my sights. I felt like I was moving well through the water and as I was approaching the finish of the swim I had the thought that I was bummed the swim was over. I really would have enjoyed doing that all day!

But instead we ran through some deep sand and up a hill that seemed longer and steeper than I remember... Got to my bike and without wasting too much time, I got on it and started pedaling uphill.

The beginning of the bike is more mayhem now that we start 7' back from the men... because while we pass a ton of them in the water, there are also a ton already up the road and it just seems/feels really crowded. And it's crazy because there are all levels of athletes too- so I'm passing some but some men who I passed in the water were then passing me back... so it just forced me to stay really ALERT... riding enough left to pass but not so far left that I'm blocking the men who wanted to pass me... Eventually it sort of settled. I held back a bit to start the bike- more than other years I think- but hard to tell exactly because I'm race by feel not watching power or HR or even splits. (I took my watch off before the race started.)

And as always, a little note about drafting! BUT in great news, I can say I hardly saw any drafting. The race appeared to be exceptionally clean to me this year. There were times where the road was crowded and riders were jostling for position or whatever but there were not packs forming and I saw very few of what looked like blatant efforts at cheating. Yay!

Anyway, I rode steady all the way up Hawi, noted that my legs felt pretty good, and just generally felt pretty happy. One of my goals for this race was to ride bravely on the downhills, so when I got to Hawi, I made the u-turn then told myself this is it stay aero and pedal pedal pedal!! I was ripping it and it was FUN! 

My friend Leigh and I have recently had thing this where when we want/need to be brave, we channel Peepers, my little chicken who finally decided that- even though she was not as big as the other chickens- she belonged in the coop with the big girls... At first they pecked at her, but she was brave! And interestingly, once she decided that she belonged in there, she started acting like she belonged in there... the other chickens accepted that she was there to stay and the pecking ended. So our little joke became What Would Peepers Do?? And riding down Hawi I was thinking to myself, Peepers would stay aero and pedal right through these crosswinds!! And that's what I did. :)

I was ripping it down that mountain and looking over at the beautiful blue ocean down below and singing the most appropriate song in my head... I couldn't have been a whole lot happier.

Eventually, just like the swim, the bike ended earlier than I wish it would have. I got to T2 all smiles and racked my bike on a mostly empty rack. One of my goals for the day had been to actively NOT count women around me... just do my thing best I could at each moment and let it play out however it played out. That said, I had a good feeling that I was doing well because I felt like I'd been moving along pretty well on both swim and bike so if I could just hold my shit together on the run then this was going to be a dream day. The thing was, holding my shit together on this run was going to be a big ask. I cannot remember the last time I'd run 13 miles (November maybe??)... And while I whole heartedly credit Dr Zen for getting me to this start line uninjured, I found him a little too late to be able to fit in all the run training I would have preferred... So I was pretty much just crossing my fingers that my very long history of endurance training would get me through this run.

And interestingly, I started and did not feel as bad as I have in years past. It's at this point that I have to say, Osmo is the bomb. I've been training almost exclusively with Osmo and Bonk Breaker bars this year but I will be honest- I'm an old dog in this game and old habits are hard to break... I've always raced with Infinit and supplemented with gels/water and I was afraid to change that up. Seriously- up until the night before the race I'd gone back and forth about which route I was going to go... It was like The Great Osmo/Bonk Breaker vs Infinit/gel debate in my head. My biggest fear was chewing on the bike... I can chew while I am training but the idea of chewing a bar while racing did NOT seem like something I wanted to do... But I believed what Stacy Sims has been preaching about Hydration is Power and I've heard many other gals saying that it's been a game changer for them so I figured I'd give it a shot and see how it went. I am not an athlete who struggles with stomach upset or GI issues while I'm training or racing so that was not my issue. I do, however, struggle with cramping- severely at times- so I have been drinking the Osmo Pre-load and thought maybe the Active formula would keep me hydrated in a way that might allow my muscles to function better? That was my goal anyway. And you know what? It worked. I did not even have a twinge of a cramp all day on Saturday! And I just felt like wow- my legs are working better than I feel like they should be?!? You know, given how little I ran leading up to this race, my legs should have been a disastrous mess after ~6 miles but they kept functioning for me which was quite a welcome surprise. I drank Pre-load Friday night, Active for Women on the bike (plus BB bars), and had another bottle of Active waiting for me in T2. I downed it in the first mile (that's what's in my hand in this picture) and then for the rest of the run drank water, ice, and Coke. I would not change a thing about the way I hydrated/fueled that race and am now a complete Osmo convert/believer.
Anyway, somewhere around mile 6 I was plugging away and came upon a young gal who had passed me earlier but was now walking... I felt her pain because damn I've been there before (many times!!) so I encouraged her to hang in there. She rallied then and asked me if we could work together. I was happy enough to do that. I found out that she was leading 25-29 age group so it sort of became my mission to help her hang onto that. I had been passed already by a couple gals in my age group so I knew I was not leading mine but I was still trying to hang onto what I had. It was weird though- for some reason I went fully into MamaSimmons Coach mode with this gal... cueing her to relax her breathing, arms up, chin down... we walked up the short/steep hills but ran again right at the top... walked through aid stations just enough to get plenty of water/ice/coke then immediately started running again together... I knew I was helping her but also felt like by doing that I was helping myself. We stayed together for the rest of the race and finished just a few seconds apart. This morning she found me on Facebook and sent me this message, which is apparently what she sent out to her tri team (Ignite Endurance) in DC:

"Hawaii 70.3 - 1st AG, 24th F OA in 5:15. Appreciate this win. At the same time, this was the hardest race I've ever done. Felt strong and relaxed until, I think it was that hot Hawaii sun, I went into total shutdown at mile 5 or 6 of the run. I was walking--walking!--across the golf course until a woman passed me and said, Hang in there, I know how you feel. I asked if she would let pace next to her. This 40 year old mom from Honolulu, Michelle Simmons, talked me up every hill, told me when to walk and when to start running again. I am so grateful to have been able to share this week in Hawaii with my dad. When I said to him, I've never wanted to quit something so bad as I did on that run and Michelle gave me my race--he simply said, But you didn't quit. I keep picking up my 1st place bowl, and just marveling that I did that.

So ya, you can imagine I was pretty much all tearing up after reading that... But that kind of summarizes this whole weekend for me. In the end, I feel like I got the most out of the fitness I had going into that race. I worked as hard as I could have, I kept a positive mind-set, and I showed heart and courage. :) Kebby over at Coeur Sports has been saying all year that her goal is to encourage women in sport and somehow wearing my Coeur kit at that race I felt very strongly that I wanted to represent her mission. 
Coeur is French for heart and the root of the word courage. And that’s what we put into our women's endurance apparel and our sport. As an athlete, you know that athletic performance is about so much more than genetic talent. Its also about heart. Heart is about digging deep and being mentally tough. Heart is what gets you to the finish line when all the body wants to do is lay down.  Heart is at the center of the community and the friendships you find in endurance sports. Heart is what makes you give back to the community that has given you so much. the  Everything we do at Coeur - from our designs to how we play a role in our community - should reflect our values and how we aim to conduct ourselves.

The only thing that  could have made this weekend better would have been if I would have been able to hang onto my third place... Kona rolled to 3rd in my age group this year, so I missed it by 45" and of course that stung. But I have to look back and say that I can't really say here's where I could have found 45"... no excuses here I just didn't have the run fitness I needed to achieve that goal on Saturday. In the end though, I feel really proud of just about every part of this past weekend. I came home with my 4th bowl in as many years and now I'll keep trying to learn how to run. :) Major congrats to my long time friend, Robin, who put together an amazing day taking home the WIN in our age group. I wish it could have been me but if it wasn't me, I'm glad it was her. Also a little shout-out to my friend and training partner, Lectie, who won the OA amateur race. Stoked to see her work pay off like that with such a big win!

So I find myself sitting here on Monday morning, happy and motivated, and feeling like I'm in a good place. I look forward to continuing to work with Marilyn because I know she's got my back and at some point, I'm going to learn how to run! In the meantime, this picture pretty much summarizes the whole weekend.


Ange said...

oh boy, I cried a few times during this read Michelle. So proud of you and so inspired. I'm going to channel your grit and carry it with me to my race on Sunday. Huge Congrats. Well done. So well done. You rock. See you on the course again sometime. :)

Kathy said...

great race report! glad you had a good day. i love it that Ignite has 20 athletes and 4 of us have had you as a coach at one time and then you helped another of ours out. i miss having a coach. being self-coached is not all that fun, i must say!

Roz Selbach said...

I LOVE Honu too! I did not at first because it was my first HIM and for many HIMs there after I trialed and errored on that course big time. BUT, I finally put the pieces together and came to love it! Sufferfest that it is.

Seeing pics of the race this year on FB has been bittersweet. So I completely understand the social aspect of your experience - I MISS being a part of it!! And about the guardian/mama hen/coach for the run - good for your soul, good for the gal you helped and good karma is my opinion =). Stings though about that Kona slot! But me thinks you got another one coming at some point. So keep on with your BSC self. <3

Damie said...

Super proud of you!!!! love this. xo

Angela and David said...

Congrats on a great race and fun weekend! Nice work!

Betsy said...

Love the last picture!

Congrats on a well run race.

It seems weird to see you described as a 40 year old mom. I'd probably just call you a bad ass!