On Saturday, I learned how strong my mind can be even when my body does not cooperate.
I also reminded myself why Kona is the sight of the Ironman World Championship - racing here is a a humbling experience to race with the best athletes in the world on a very challenging race course.
IM Kona can crush dreams or can make dreams come true.
Over the past 9 years, I have had great races where I could do what I love to do on race day - race with only my mind as my only limiter on race day and perform with a healthy and strong body.
But then I've had races where my body didn't perform well.
No matter the race, I have found myself crossing the finish line and wanting to do better.
Just last year, I qualified for the Ironman World Championship.
In 2010 and 2014, I qualified for the 2011 and 2015 IM World Championship at the same race - Ironman Wisconsin.
In 2010 and 2011 - Karel watched me race in Wisconsin and Kona.
In 2014 and 2015 - Karel raced with me in Wisconsin and Kona.
It was a challenge to say the least but I managed to cross my 2nd IM Kona finish line.
With almost exactly the same scenario but nothing significant to blame (not nutrition, previous training or race day pacing) - I just felt off all day in Kona.
Now that I have had a few days to reflect, recover and think about my 4th Ironman World Championship finish, I can confidently say that I would not have done anything differently with my training leading up to the race or how I raced this race. I honestly did the best I could and funny enough, I felt really strong (endurance wise) on the swim and the bike but my times were not what I had anticipated. I didn't have any significant low moments on the swim or the bike (well - the last 32 miles of headwind on the bike was a big mental battle) and even while feeling off on the run, I was still able to run from aid station to aid station with a fairly relative good pace in the very hot temps.
I wasn't out to chase times but then again, how I perceived the effort didn't match with how I perceived my times.
On Ironman race day, the performance counts. For 140.6 miles, you are faced with challenges to overcome and many mind/body arguments. There are no guarantees for race day.
But as I said before, I've been in this position before. And with being presented with this scenario just a few years ago, I know my choices.
I won't let one Ironman race to define me as an athlete. It wasn't about my IM Kona finish time but the hardest take-away for me is that my body won over my mind.
I will not forget the great season that I have had this year as well as my many accomplishments, wins, PR's and Kona qualifications over the past three years.
I will not give up on wanting to better myself on race day.
Last time I found myself in this position in 2011, I had my best season the following year. I was training and racing faster than ever all thanks to a mental and physical break from the Ironman distance. I was able to race more and I worked on many weaknesses. After 2012, despite a hiatus from running due to another hip/back injury, I have done some amazing things with my body over the past 3 years including 5 Ironman finishes (and 2 IM World Championship finishes, a 10:17 IM PR at IM Austria with a 3:39 IM run), winning the amateur female title at 3 half IM events and training/racing injury free.
When you are walking with several miles to go and it is impossible to run, a bicycle, car or moped looks very inviting. I'd be lying if the thought didn't cross my mind that there was an "easier" way to get to the finish area - however, that way would mean not crossing the finish line and not receiving a finisher medal.
And even though things were not going my way throughout the day, I never convinced myself during the race that I was having a bad day. It was only when I could no longer race with my mind in the last 7 miles of the run, that I felt defeated.
As I leave the island today knowing that on race day, I could not have done anything different for a different result, I will eventually find closure in my IM Kona performance.
And with a few Campy kisses tomorrow and the excitement for a well needed off-season, I will move on knowing that this is not my life but my lifestyle.
Life is still awesome and I still love triathlon racing.
I love the highs, the lows and everything in between and the many life lessons that I learn with racing long distance triathlons.
I am incredibly grateful to my body for allowing me to compete in this extreme endurance triathlon sport, I feel so lucky for all that I have accomplished in the past and I love being able to share this awesome lifestyle with Karel.
Thank you for your support and for letting me be honest and candid with my racing experiences.
My IM Kona race recaps will be coming soon....