Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kona Take 5

Kohala Coast
On the flight over from the Bay Area, I asked Mark if I was crazy I won't tell you what he said, or if everyone going to Kona feels the same way about the Big Island as I do.  If you've not gotten the opportunity to go to Kona for the World Championships, you may think I'm crazy, but there is something about this place that awakens almost a primal feeling in me.  I get overly excited when we land (every.single.year) and for about the first hour or so, I keep exclaiming, "don't you just LOVE it here?!!", "OHHHH, look at the lava", "gee whiz I LOVE the heat"... and so on.  I can't wait to get into the ocean and visit with the fish, feel that first gust of wind and say hello to Madame Pele and thank her.  And after we leave Kona, throughout the year,  I will find Kona in my dreams.  Not necessarily the race, but the views of the Kohala range, the top of Mauna Kea, the beautiful honu and the feelings of being with my closest friends and family.

This year was no different.  This was our 5th (consecutive) trip to the Big Island to race Kona and I could not have asked for a better week.  I was the only one racing in our house, and we kept joking that truly the only reason I do Ironman is so that I can be waited on, hand and foot, by friends and family.  It was so bad, that at one point, Jess scolded me and told me to sit my rear down and she would get me what I needed.  #yesmommy

For those not interested in the nitty gritty, I ended up 5th in the women's 30-34 age group, and 13th amateur overall.  Netting me my very first umeke bowl and a shiny new marathon PR of 3:30:59...subtract one port o' potty stop in the Energy Lab and I'm gonna call it 3:29:59 :)

Saucony shoe pickup
We arrived on Saturday the 4th, one week ahead and spent the first few days up North with some friends before heading into town for Tuesday- race day.  Time always flies when you're having fun, but before you knew it, it was Thursday and it was time to prance and preen for all to see in the infamous Underpants Run.  We had an awesome team uniform for our Coeur gals and Reg was the heart of it all, and took one for the team by wearing what I can only imagine was a HOT heart costume.

Coeur gals have HEART!
After the UPR, the team headed to Puako to hang with good friends and do a little pre-race R&R.  If you've not been, Puako is about 4 miles from Kawaihae, which is the turn that leads you up Hawi.  Puako has phenomenal views of the Kohala's and is pretty far removed from the beaten path, so is incredibly relaxing.  It was good to know that on race day, I'd be seeing these guys along the Queen K, as by the time you get to Puako via bike, you are ready to see some spectators cheering your name to pump you up for the climb to Hawi.

Friday was as calm as it's ever been.  Jess and I went for a quick swim, grabbed a latte and then I and by I, I mean Mark made sure the bike was ready and we headed down to check in and dropped my bike and gear bags off.  It was time to go home, have some dinner (that I so thankfully did not cook) and hit the hay.  I had a minor case of nerves on Thursday, but Friday was remarkably calm and I even slept straight thru from 9-3:30AM...and then from 3:30-4:45 when It was time to get up, I tossed and turned.  I took that as a WIN!  I was up, had my hair braided, ate, got all of my food together and then Mark dropped me at transition so I could do the final prep for the day ahead. 

I found Mark and Jenny before the start and knew that the rest of my friends and family were watching the start and that I'd see them as I headed out on the bike.  The start of Kona is amazing and the energy in the air will overwhelm you with emotion.  I almost always well up with some tears before the start, and this year was no different.  A year of hard work is about to be put to test and the fact that you can only control so much of the day means that until you get the day under way, you're bound to be a bit nervous.

Pre-swim nutrition: Osmo Pre-Load the night before and morning of, one bottle of Osmo active to sip throughout the morning, 2 eggs with rice, a whole milk latte and then a banana about 30 minutes before the gun went off.  ~870kcals

Roka Swim: 1:05:11 good for 8th in the AG
Pre-swim Smiles
This would be the first year that the amateur women would have a separate start from the amateur men and I can't tell you how happy this made me.  Not only were we only 1/4 of the field with 675 of us, but starting with ONLY women, I knew that this swim would be different from every other Ironman I had ever done.  And it was.  I started on the very front line and from the get go, had clear water, never got run over and never got hit, kicked or punched.  See guys, it's really not necessary to be that agro at the start.  People had talked about the fact that we would have some bigger swells a la 2012 and they were correct.  This doesn't bother me, it just means you will go slower.  And everyone did, including the pros...about 3 minutes on average from what I heard.  I rounded the boat at the half way point and did a quick glance at the watch and saw 29:xx and thought, that's not bad...this feels very cruisy, but the way back is always slower and this year it was quite a bit slower.  I found a few pair of feet through out the swim, but think that I was feet for others mostly.  This would be the only thing where it's nice to have the guys with you, as there are more people swimming your speed that you can latch on to.  I had thought about this before the race though, so again, not worried about it, but knew that it could also affect the swim times.  I got out of the water, headed for my gear and got out onto the bike ASAP.

Coeur Bike Nutrition: 14x salty balls, 9 bottles of mango active, 1bottle of coke ~1950kcals over 5.5 hours so about 350kcals/hour which is spot on for me.

Argon18/Enve Bike: 5:34:05 which got me off of the bike in 4th position
Going onto the bike was a mix of the slower swimming men who were now in an aggressive pursuit to catch up to their faster peers and the first 50 or so women out of the swim. The first 10 miles along the Kuakini were still crowded but not as bad thanks to the separation of the amateur starts.  I feel like I was too conservative here due to being around so many (nervous) athletes and I did not want my day to end before it even got going by being too pushy here.  Once out onto the Queen K, the next 20 miles went by quickly enough, but the drafting along this section was not avoidable.  There are so many people on the road just trying to sort themselves out and of course some of them are quite happy to just sit in and enjoy the energy savings and see if they won't get busted.  It is ALWAYS frustrating to see other women drafting, especially towards the front of the race as you know that this is your direct competition and that even if they get busted for drafting, a 4 minute penalty is likely worth the energy and time savings that drafting will give them. The thing is, you can do nothing about it and it's best to just focus on what you can control, and that is YOU.  So that is what I did.  I focused on eating and drinking as it was extremely clear in the morning and it got HOT, fast.

Smiles in Puako
Mark and I had talked about the wind the night before and where I was likely to encounter what type of winds.  Every time the wind smacked me in the face, I was prepared for it and just went slowly and avoided looking at the Garmin.  At times, I was going 9 mile an hour on a flat section of the Queen K.  No biggie, if I am going slow, so is everybody else.  As long as I wasn't getting overtaken by other women, I knew I was still riding strong. I got to see friends about 4 miles from Puako and then saw Mark and Eddie at the turn to Kawaihae.  Then it was time to go up to Hawi and see what the winds were going to bring.  Bring it they did...after the race, the reports were that these were the worst the winds had been in 15 years.  I was incredibly thankful to have been here before as the only thing to do in the winds is to keep in your aero bars, pedal as hard as you can and thank Pele for the day.  The first half of the climb to Hawi was fast and then the cross winds started and up the road, I kept seeing large men get blown from one side of the road to the other.  I seemed to fare pretty well here and I think that the wheels I chose for the day could not have been better (rode the Enve SES 8.9 rear wheel and the uber shallow SES 3.4 in the front). It allowed me to be stable and not ever get out of aero in Hawi.  We hit the turn around and I grabbed my special needs bag and my frozen bottle (wrapped in foil) was still slushy.  There is nothing better than an ICE cold beverage at that point in the race.  I ditched the bag and got back to business.  Remember those cross winds on the 2nd half of the climb?  Well now they were still there but helping to push us down the 40mph.  It was so fun to be bombing down the hill.  You truly have to take advantage of any wind at your back in this race, as the next headwind is bound to be lurking just around the corner. 

Once you make the turn back onto the Queen K, you've got just over 30 miles to go and this is where you typically find a low spot.  Thankfully, I was fueled and we had a massive tail wind, so miles 80-90 literally flew by.  20 miles to go and my back was still feeling great and I did not hate my bike.  This is good, I think I'm ready to run my butt off.   Coming back into town, the energy rises again and you see all of your friends and family.  I did a flying dismount and thankfully my legs were working and I didn't fall ;)

Muscle Milk Run nutrition: 2 bags of Cytomax energy chews, glucose tabs for the last 10k (like a pixie stick in tab form), water, and COKE! ~250kcals/hour

Smith Optics Run: 3:30:59
I hit the run, ready to RUN.  I have been working SO hard on my run over this last build and KNEW that I was capable of running sub 3:30 (see porta potty story at top of page).  I also knew that if I wasn't in too much pain coming off of the bike, that I would be able to run well from the start and be able to fight for the bowl that I had been dreaming about during workouts. 

I saw Mark and he let me know that I was in 4th position but that 5th and 6th were VERY close and we would need to do some major work to keep on the podium.  The first 10 miles along Ali'i typically are really rough for me (at least the first 4) but this year, I was running comfortably at a 7:30-7:45 pace.  My mantra was: wait, maybe that's just what Mark was yelling at me: eat, drink, ice and keep time to day dream, stay in the moment, it only has to hurt for a few more hours and then you can rest.  I would see Mark along the way and he always reminds me to eat and drink and to keep as cool as possible.  Ice under the hat is key for me every year.  We were lucky to get some cloud cover during the run, but once onto the Queen K, the sun came back out.  I got passed for 4th here, but stayed in contact and re-passed around mile 13.  Into the energy lab we went, sun a blazin'. My tummy started to get a bit angry and at mile 19, I had to stop and see if I could feel better.  No dice.  Time to get back to running.  While in the loo, I got passed by the gal who got off the bike in 6th and she was now 4th and I was 5th.  I came out of the energy lab and knew that there were only 6 miles to go.  That is only 1.5 loops of the run that we've been doing every Thursday.  I can do that any day of the week, right?  Time to start popping glucose tabs and focusing on getting to the finish and maintaining 5th position.  Kebby and Mark were telling me to keep pushing, and I was dying to know how much time there was to 6th.  Mark didn't want to tell me for fear that I would quit working hard, but thankfully Kebby let me know I was in a safe spot (unless I completely shit the bed with 3 miles to go- which is possible...I like to tell myself it ain't over until I cross that line).  This made me so happy and with 2 miles to go, Mark told me to enjoy the last few miles, to soak up Ali'i, that I had done an amazing job.
Happy girl with shaka's!

Was it really true?  Was I going to end up in bowl position (we watch F1...can you tell?).  I always smile when I run down Ali'i, as each completed Ironman is a victory in and of itself, but last Saturday, the smiles were even bigger than usual.  I crossed the line in 10:16, good enough for 5th in the fastest women's AG and 13th amateur female.  A podium finish at the World Championships AND that bowl!!! That was worth all of the vino abstaining, early nights and workouts that didn't finish themselves!

I remember thinking during the race, that I wasn't ready for it to be over.  By this time every year, I am typically in a place that I can't WAIT for the race to be over and for the off-season to begin.  Now, it's 4 days post race and I'm already missing my bike.   Don't worry though, I'm sure I'll find my off-season groove, filled with more wine than necessary, later nights and whatever workouts I want.

Coach Finally Relaxes
Sonja and I with our bowls
I am incredibly grateful and really know that racing without the support that I have would be much more difficult.  I am lucky that all I have to do, is focus on the race.  My family, friends and sponsors make sure that the rest is taken care of.  For that, I don't know that I can give enough mahalo's, but I'll try.

Love my girls!