IM Kona '15: Day 4

When Karel and I qualified for Kona last September (2014) at IMWI, we had a lot of time to plan our trip out to Kona. We decided that it would be great to spend a little bit of time on the island before race week so that we could explore and really enjoy our vacation  - before the race week madness begins. 

With us being on the island 5 full days before race week, we also wanted to take advantage of as much race-day prep as possible. Any opportunity we had to see or be on the course, would be extremely beneficial.

Everyone is different when it comes to getting to know the race course. For many athletes, seeing or training on the course can be comforting and may provide some confidence. But for other athletes, there can be great concern, worry and anxiety about the course, especially when viewing it from the car or by training on the course. 

Karel and I knew that we wanted to take advantage of the Ho'ala 2.4 mile Ironman training swim which was taking place 1 week out from race day.
We didn't need to validate our fitness or readiness for race day but rather just for experience to swim 2.4 miles in the ocean (without a wetsuit). This would be Karel's second time swimming this long in the ocean (first time was a Jacksonville open water swim event) so for him, it was almost necessary for him to use it as a confidence booster to reduce any nerves of hyperventilating or anxiety when swimming with so many other athletes.  

We woke up around 5am (which has been our normal no-alarm wake-up with us typically going to bed around 8:30pm) and had a large pre-workout snack, similar to race day (our swim was not our only workout of the day) and around 6am, we walked to the pier. 

We picked up our packet since we pre-registered, checked in our gear bags and got ready for the swim. 

With over 400 participants, there were a lot more people there than we had anticipated.
With  no pressure for Karel and I, this was a great way to get out some pre-race jitters. 

Unlike the race day swim, the practice swim had us finishing on the other side of the pier. 

The swim went great. Karel and I were both surprised that we managed to swim 31 minutes and 30 minutes (respectively) to the 2nd turn buoy. There was a lot of chop coming home and it was hard to stay on course (with only kayaks being our "buoys" on the way back) which made it a little more tiring to swim back home. But nevertheless, we both felt good endurance-wise and I was really happy that my upper right back didn't bother me as it has been affecting my swim training for the past 1.5 months (if it began to hurt, I was going to take it really really easy). 

Karel and I didn't swim together but it was really fun to share this practice swim together. I am just so proud of Karel to see how he is swimming these days (with his fitness) but also to see how much more comfortable he is in the open water, especially around other swimmers. I know race day will be a different experience for him but this practice swim was exactly what he (and I) needed. 

We all received medals at the finish and had a nice selection of fresh fruit to enjoy post race.
Per the Garmin, the swim was 2.63 miles and I swam it in 1:06.37 (chip time), 8th place AG (30-34) and 26th female and Karel finished in 1:10:26 (which he was so happy about), 19th AG (35-39) and 126th male.
There were a few professional triathletes at the event too - full results HERE. 

Karel had been in touch with a fellow Czech triathlete (also racing in Kona) who was putting together a personalized order of Czech t-shirts for the Parade of Nations and Karel bumped into him post race and they shared a conversation in Czech together. 

Being at a World Championship event is extra special for anyone who is from another country but lives in the US. In just a few days, I think Karel has spoken more Czech in Kona than he has in several months (aside from talking to his parents who live in Czech, via Skype). 

After the swim, Karel and I walked back to our condo, had a quick change and then packed up our bags to make the drive to Mauna Lani resort to start our bike.
Oh - one more thing about the swim - I wore exactly what I would be wearing on race day as I wanted to experience what it would feel like. My goggles got extra tight on my face around 40 minutes so I need to loosen them a little. Also, I chaffed a little around my neck so I need more body glide for race day. All good things to experience pre-race and not on race day!

Just like on race day, it is hard to predict what the winds will be like on race day or how hot it will feel out there on the black pavement, surrounded by lava fields. 

It's funny how even after 3 times racing Kona, it's easy to forget what racing in Kona feels like.
This was my first time training on the course, so far from town and thank goodness I had Karel there with me as he is my safety net when I need him (but then again - most of our "fights" happen on the bike with me freaking out and getting emotional and Karel trying to calm me down). 

I drafted behind Karel until we started our 18-mile climb to Hawi. We both said "the winds are so calm today"......a bit too soon. 

Karel said he has never ridden on a course with the gusty winds that he felt while riding up to Hawi.
Thankfully, wheel choice is critical and I am so happy that Karel put on 44 mm wheels on my bike for Kona. It was still a challenge to feel comfortable with the winds but with my wheels, I at least found it easier to ride in a straight line. Riding in the Hawi winds is something else - but I am glad that we experienced it before the race as it can be scary but after a few gusts you begin to learn how to better hold yourself in the wind.
Karel has 70mm in the front and 90mm in the back but Karel said next time, he will put lower profile wheels in the front. Even for Karel, he said the gusts were a bit too strong on his front wheel for him to be comfortable on the bike. 

Here is a video that I took in a "calm" section of Hawi. I actually ended up getting a flat tire in my rear wheel with about 6 miles left to the turn around in Hawi so I decided that I would take a video while on the side of the road and then wait for Karel to change my tubular tire.

But then I thought about it and told myself "Silly Marni - Karel is not going to change it for you on race day!"

So then I brought myself back to reality that I can't depend on my awesome bike mechanic/hubby for everything so I changed it myself.

Karel has taught me well about changing tubular tires and even without a tire lever, I had a quick change of the rear tubular tire (Karel is a master when it comes to gluing tires so that they are safe to ride but also come off easily) and then pumped it up with my CO2. I then kept climbing until I saw Karel and then turned around.
And for anyone wondering - I ride 700 wheels (not 650).

The ride down from Hawi started off ok as I was flying down over 30 mph and not even pushing on my pedals. But then the cross winds hit and it was a bit more scary and I was not going to take any risks pre-race (nor will I on race day in Hawi) so I just focused on not getting blown away. 

I was so happy to be back on the Queen K again and even more happy to put my feet on the ground after my 2:42/48 mile ride.

Riding down from Hawi. This is a rare moment that I was aero and not holding on to my base bars. 

After the ride, it was nearing 1:30pm and time for a quick 15 minute transition run. 

So how hot is it? Well, when you are running by lava, you know it's hotter than hot.
I always say that my body likes racing in the heat but let's be honest, it is not the most ideal temperature (and humidity) to race in when it comes to making sure all systems are go - digestive tract, muscles and the mind. 

After our last long workout, it was time to refuel, rehydrate and relax.

I had made pancakes the night prior which meant that they would be ready when we returned home from our workout. It's like fast food but in your own kitchen!

Thanks to Aunt Jemima, I had a stack of pancakes to devour (I added oats to make them a Trimarni creation) topped with syrup, butter and a side of fresh fruit.   

Karel and I went to Bike Works so that he could get some tubular glue (he brought several extra tires for me) and we ran a few more errands around town. By 6:30pm, it was time for dinner and a little work on the computer and then another early night as we were passed out  by 8:30pm.

So excited - it's almost IM Kona race week!!!