10/23/15

IM Kona RR '15: Post-race


After receiving my medal and swag, I waited and waited around the food area for Karel. 


Karel and I typically don't have a "meet-up" place after an Ironman because by the time Karel crosses the line ahead of me, gets some food/drinks and possibly changes into clean clothes (from his pre-swim bag), he is waiting for me to finish.
But this time around, Karel did his normal post race to-do's.....


Smile for the camera for his sub-10 hour, IM Kona debut performance of 9:55
2.4 mile swim - 1:13:47
T1: 3:36
112 mile bike: 5:06:50
T2: 4:04
26.2 mile run: 3:27:12:29
57th AG (35-39)
252 Male
271 Overall


And almost pass-out.

After Karel waited for over an hour, he heard from a friend that I had DNF'd soon after the energy lab (as that is what it showed on the IM tracker).
Karel became very worried about me and he went to the timing people inside the Queen K to figure out what was going on with me.

The timing people had no answers as to why I DNF'd (at this time, Karel did not know that I was walking and having a rough time on the course) and Karel insisted that he find out where I was - but they were no help as they didn't know what happened to me.

Then Karel went to the medical people to see if I had been pulled off the course. I was not there and Karel became even more worried.

The medical people told him that the athletes who are extremely ill or seriously hurt, go to the hospital and not to the med tent.

Now this worried Karel even more.

Poor Karel - instead of enjoying his accomplishment, he was "running" all around trying to find out what happened to me. He did not have his phone (as he left it in our condo) so he was simply relying on others to find out where I was.

Since almost two hours had passed since Karel crossed the finish line, he went back to our condo as he was going to head to the hospitals to try to find me.

When he got to the condo, he looked at his phone and saw a text from me "I'm in the food area."

Not knowing what happened to me, my finishing time or any other details, he immediately called me, beyond worried, and felt so relieved that I was ok.

I felt so bad about his post-race stress.
He was just happy that I was ok.

He later told me that he knew I would not quit as he knows I like to overcome obstacles and I can be a bit stubborn when it comes to finding a way to cross a finish line, so that was why he was so worried because he knew it had to have been something very serious for me to DNF.

Luckily, it was an error on the IM tracker that showed DNF and it was eventually fixed.
Sorry if I worried everyone!


Once I heard from Karel, I hobbled my way back to the condo. I was greeted by a wonderful sign on our door from Trimarni athlete Cindy and her son Austin (Thank you!)

Karel gave me a big hug and at that point, I was so numb to how the entire race day and post race went down that I headed straight to the couch and just collapsed.


I didn't really want to talk about my race but I really wanted to hear about Karel's race (as I still didn't know what he overall time was or how his foot held up) so I just laid on the couch (with my eyes closed - too much energy to keep them open) and listened to Karel tell me about his day. 
I was so happy for him. I just love exchanging war stories post race and Karel had plenty of them. 


It was nearing 8:30pm when I finally got into the shower and had a little food (milk and leftover pizza - two of my fav things post race) and afterward, I recorded my post-race video.
Around 9 or 9:30pm, we headed back to the transition to pick up our bags and our bikes. 


But before getting our bags, the hunger started to kick-in so we had pizza, ice cream, french fries and sugar-coated doughnut holes. They were all simply amazing.
And some water to wash down everything.



We picked up our bikes and then our gear bags and then stood in a short line for the volunteers to check to make sure all of our numbers matched up and then we slowly headed back to our condo (thank goodness the Kona Plaza is only a block away from the race).


We bumped into a few friends who wanted to know how we did - honestly, this helped to talk about it rather than to keep my feelings inside. Being able to say "I finished" and have a medal to show for it, outweighed the struggles I had on race day.

My chest and neck was still a bit tender but not as bad as before. Looking back, I wonder if I should have just stopped on the side of the road and waited it out for 5-10 minutes to see if the feeling would pass instead of trying to keep moving?
Even as a coach, I have to admit that as an athlete, it's so hard to make good/wise/smart decisions on race day.

It was pretty special to walk around after the race as the spectators make every athlete (even those who don't finish) feel so awesome.

Karel even got a beer from someone who was passing out local brews to the finishers. 


After dropping off our gear in our condo, we laid around until 11pm, reading all of the nice words on social media to us and then headed back to the finish line to cheer on the final finishers. 



I love the last hour of an Ironman but in Kona, it's pretty spectacular to see the crowds and the hundreds and hundreds of people who support those final finishers. It's seriously a huge party!

It was also cool to hear that at IMKY, they were broadcasting the final hour of IM Kona (11:30pm Kona time = 5:30am Kentucky time) in the IMKY transition area. Talk about some instant motivation!



Well, there you have it. A recap of racing 140.6 miles in Kona at the Ironman World Championship. We did it. 
We are 2015 Ironman World Championship finishers. 
Perhaps the #1 goal was accomplished as every Ironman athlete wants to finish, prior to thinking about place or time goals.

I still have unfinished business on that island and I am ok if it's never finished. It's truly a great experience to be there, knowing that qualifying is far from easy these days. 

I learned a lot from this race. Although I felt defeated at times, I am proud of my body for allowing me to cross that finish line - I suppose things could have been a lot worse.
I am proud of my body for staying injury free for over 2.5 years now and without sickness for over 8 years.
I feel lucky that I could share this journey and experience with Karel and extremely lucky to now be a 10x Ironman and 4x Ironman World Championship finisher. 

It's very easy to write a race report when everything goes well.
It's extremely difficult to find the words when the outcome is far from what you, as the athlete, anticipated and trained for.

For athletes who race and feel as if the outcome does not match the commitment to training, all the training, investments (monetary and emotional), time and focus can feel wasted.
However, that is far from the truth. 

I will not let this race performance doubt my previous training. 
As an athlete and coach, I understand we can't expect for our body to always be at our best or to perform at our best, all the time.
It's important to feel prepared going into a race and to race with a smart plan but the most obvious unknown on race day is how your body will perform in the race day conditions and on the course.
And I think that is one of the best parts of racing in an extreme event like an Ironman.....feeling prepared but having the strength, skills and determination to overcome obstacles. 

By reflecting on this race, through a race report, I now have something to look back on. Great race performances are in my future but I'm sure the not-so-great ones will happen again and I will continue to learn about the sport.

My mission remained the same from the start to the finish -  I never gave up during the race because it was always my #1 intention to get to the start line with a healthy body and to cross the finish line. I never take an Ironman start or finish for granted. 

I will not let one race define my current fitness or override previous racing accomplishments.
I will continue to train with a great passion and dedication as I still have a deep desire to continue to seek personal growth and improvement in my sport that keeps me happy and healthy. 

Thank you for reading. 



10/22/15

IM Kona '15 RR - 26.2 mile run


After transitioning from bike to run, I jogged out of the transition area, started my Garmin 910 (which I powered on in the last mile of the bike - already set on the run function) and was feeling a lot of energy from the crowds.

My plan was to use the first 5 miles or so to find a good rhythm as I had no pace goals for this run. My Garmin was simply there to record data but it was not controlling how I raced my race.

While shuffling my way up Palani, before turning right onto Kuakini Hwy, I tried to not confuse feelings with actions. Even though I didn't feel great coming out of the transition tent and my Ironman swim and bike performance had me feeling as if I was not having a good day, I did everything in my power to not let it get to me. I told myself that I could still put together a great run and amazing things could still happen.

I suppose I had two options at this point - to settle for the day that was far from my best or to convince myself that today was a great race - I went for the later as a little positive self talk during tough moments can  make a world of a difference.

Suddenly, I felt a little better - not great but not bad. My legs still felt super heavy as if the pavement was sucking all of the energy from me but after turning right onto Hualalai and then left onto Ali'i and seeing all of the people, I really had no choice but to keep running as the crowds were giving me a lot of energy.

In my three previous Kona races, I have never really enjoyed the out and back, almost 10 mile section on Ali'i drive. It's really hard for me to get into a rhythm and with all of the people, it's almost like mental overstimulation. But perhaps this is because on the Queen K it is the extreme opposite - it's too quiet with not a spectator around for over 15 miles.

For the first few miles, I focused on drinking my Clif Hydration from my flasks between the aid stations and water at the aid stations. I had extra packets of Clif hydration to refill my flasks as well as some blocks and salt (and TUMS as needed - never needed to use them in Kona this year). 

As usual, I walked through the aid stations and for the first few miles, my walks were short as I was feeling semi-ok. But nearing the turn around, 5 miles down the road, I started to feel a bit tired. Although we were running by the ocean, the lack of cloud cover and almost no breeze made the air super thick. At first I was actually excited for these extreme conditions as I tend to perform well in the heat but on this day, I just felt off from the start and I still wasn't able to bounce back for this run.

I saw a lot of athletes that I knew who were doing amazingly well in front of me, met a few new ones (thanks Jacqui for the 1-mile chat!) and saw a lot of familiar faces behind me. I kept reminding myself of this awesome opportunity to be racing (suffering) in Kona for the Ironman World Championship.

Prior to the turn around, I saw Karel. I don't know what got into me but I moved to the left, gave a big cheer for Karel and stuck out my hand for a high-five. Karel smiled and high-fived me back.
In all of our races that we have done together in the past 3 years, never have I tried to disrupt Karel's race as I know he is always mentally in the zone and doesn't like distractions. But something inside of me felt like I needed to do this and I am so happy that Karel had the energy to high-five me back. 
It totally made my day 10x better. 

As I was running back toward town to finish up the Ali'i drive segment of the marathon, I hit a really low spot around mile 7 or so (I'm guessing). It was hot and my body was tired. Oddly enough, my mind was still fighting hard. I didn't feel bonky or weak, just tired. My legs were trying super hard to get me to walk often but I only walked the aid stations. I was surprised at the pace I was holding which was around 8-8:20 min/miles when I looked at my watch, but this was only thanks to the walk breaks at the aid stations. And as the race went on, the walks got longer and longer to take advantage of the coke, ice, water, more ice and more water. 
It was getting hot!

After running my way toward Palani, I shuffled my way up to the aid station which was waaaaay up the middle of Palani. 
It's amazing how that hill grows on race day.

The crowds were amazing and there was even an announcer with a mic who was cheering for us so I stayed mentally focused until the aid station. At the aid station on Palani, I gave myself permission to walk all the way to the top of Palani in order to reset my brain and mind for the next half of the race (sadly - when we get to the top of Palani, we are "only" at around 10 miles -  not even half way.)

At this point, I had decided to switch to coke, water and ice along with Base Salts but I didn't ditch my Clif packets, blocks or flasks. I was in survival mode and I was just focused on getting my body from one aid station to the next.

The Queen K is nothing more than long rollers. Sounds easy, right?
Well, it's really very long rollers with no shade, squeezed between two lava fields. To say it was/is hot is an understatement. The heat that was felt on race day was indescribable and just by seeing some of the professionals who were walking, jogging or not having good days, this was a sign that being fast on race day was not the magic formula - just be the best at surviving.

It was really cool to see the professionals and age groupers who were having great days as this was a great dose of motivation. I remember hearing Luke McKenzie cheer for Beth G, Matt Dixon cheer for Sarah P and seeing Rachel Joyce and Heather Jackson having amazing performances. 

As I was running on the Queen K, I could feel my legs starting to feel a little better. Somewhere between mile 11-13 (can't remember)  I needed to go to the bathroom - although it felt really good to just sit and of course it felt like an eternity in there. But, I was in and out rather quick. I did have to take off my race belt and hydration belt and pull down my tri suit but I much prefer racing in a tri suit than having an elastic band around my waist when I run. 

The miles were ticking away...but very slowly. I stayed as mentally strong as I could, still only walking the aid stations.

It wasn't too long on the Queen K that I spotted Karel. My first thought was "he is so lucky that he is only a few miles from the finish". I was, maybe, half way through the run (we typically are between 45-60 minutes apart in Ironman races).
My second thought was "wow, he is running with really good form considering his previous foot injury (partial plantar fascia tear back in May) and I can't believe he is still running so well in the heat" (Karel does not like racing in the heat).

And my third thought was - go give him a high-five!

There I went again and ran over to the left side of the cones and reached out my hand for another high-five. Karel responded back and smiled.
One of my favorite memories of the race as he was just a few miles from finishing his first Ironman World Championship. 

Well, the great feeling didn't last long as a few more miles down the road, it started to really get hard to move my legs forward. My mind was still "racing" but my body wanted to stop - very badly. But I found strength to keep moving. 

The 6 miles to the energy lab on the Queen K are long......but I had mentally convinced myself that if I can get to the energy lab, I only have 4 miles in the energy lab and then I am on the way back to the finish.
I can do this!!

I saw a lot of people walking and it looked like everyone was suffering. Sure, there were athletes who were having a great day but I could tell that everyone was extremely focused. Although the Ironman does require a lot of mental strength, it seemed as if this year in Kona, every athlete was trying to handle the mind games that were happening during the race due to the heat. The body wants to keep going, the mind says no. The mind says keep going, the body says no.
It's so exhausting to have to race like this rather than just getting the body into a rhythm but in order to get to any finish line, the mind has to be stronger than the body....
BUT, then again, the body has to be able to respond. 

I welcomed the slight decline in the road for the first mile in the energy lab and at that point in the race, I really couldn't tell if it was any hotter in the lab than on the Queen K. I do recall feeling a little breeze but it was far from the breeze that would cool me off.

When I approached the run special needs at mile 18, I decided to not pick up my extra flasks with Clif Hydration. Perhaps I should have (now looking back) but then again, I was really struggling making good decisions as I was so focused on getting to the finish line.

Although I didn't think about while I was running, I look back and all I can think is all of the poor decisions that I made on race day on the run. Maybe the outcome would not have been any different but it was almost as if my body and my head were in two different places and did a very poor job of communicating with one another during the race. 

As I moved my body, one foot in front of the other as quick as possible up the 1 mile steady climb back to the Queen K, I was approaching mile 20 and I gave myself permission to have one more long walk before the last 10K home. While I was running close to the energy lab and inside the energy lab, I counted all of the age group females ahead of me.

As I was exiting the lab, I guessed that I was somewhere between 50-60th. I was actually quite surprised and this gave me an extra push to keep going to the finish. I was in a world of hurt at this point, not knowing if my next step would be my last step but I just kept fighting. 

For the next two miles, I could feel an ache in the left side of my neck. It felt like someone was pinching me and every time I ran, it felt a bit tighter and more painful. I didn't think too much of it as it was just annoying more than anything so for the next two aid stations, I tried to stretch out my back/neck as much as possible (my back issues from August were on my right side).

When I got to mile 22 or so, I noticed that Professional Meredith Kessler was walking - as she did for most of the marathon. We both shared a sigh that this was a hard day but I told her how amazing she was for not quitting. After a brief chat with her, I had an even bigger fight to get to the finish. She is so inspiring. 

It was only a few minutes later that with every step, I was having trouble breathing. The neck pain that I was feeling had moved to my chest and it was becoming extremely painful. I was willing to push through it but my body thought otherwise.

With every running step forward, I was unable to breath. The longer I tried to run, I found myself gasping for air.
I stopped immediately and put my hands on top of my head as I was trying to catch my breath.
At this point, I was frustrated. I saw athletes passing me and I wanted so bad to be with them. Not to beat them or to compete with them but I had worked so hard mentally to get to and out of the energy lab and now my body was not letting me fight any longer. 

I tried to run again and to adjust my arm position while running, tilt my head, hunch over - do anything possible to run but I couldn't run without losing my breath. I could handle the pain - hey, it's an Ironman, it's going to be tough -  but physically there was nothing I could do for the next 4 miles as every time I tried to run, I was gasping for air. 

I've never walked more than an aid station (or a short walk as needed) in a marathon of an Ironman and here I was, walking mile 22, mile 23, mile 24, mile 25.
Surprisingly, the miles went by rather quickly as I just kept focused on the next aid station.

I must add - the volunteers were amazing all day but especially on the run. They would say my name (from my bib number), "Marni - you are doing amazing." I couldn't help but smile but inside, I was sad. 

I spotted my athlete Colleen near the Base tent who was full of cheers all day. I was actually so happy to see her as it lonely walking by myself on the Queen K (no spectators are allowed past the first/last 1/2 mile or so on the Queen K).

I tried to tell her what I was going on but it was hard to talk. I asked her to text Karel that I was having a hard time and that I was at mile 22 but that I would finish.

As I was nearing mile 24 and almost at the top of the Queen K, I saw Purple Patch bike expert Paul on his bike and he was giving me a pep talk. Sadly, I still couldn't run.
More than any other race, the IM Kona finish line is extra special and for the last 4+ miles, all I could think about was not being able to run to the finish.
I tried to run again down Palani and just couldn't. It was dark at this point and my only thought was to just get to the finish - I'm never doing another IM again (more on that later). 

I tried to run again on Kuakini, less than a mile from the finish and couldn't.

I tried again on Hualani, less than 1/2 mile and with the help of some very deep exhales, I was able to run. I figured I only had one chance to start, for if I stopped I would be gasping for air. So, I just kept with my heavy exhale breathing tactic and shuffling my feet until I reach the finish line chute.

I tried to embrace the finish but all I wanted to do was to cross the finish line, stop moving and see Karel. 

When I crossed the finish line, I felt so relieved that my 11 hour and 30 minute, 4.30 marathon run/walk, 140.6 mile adventure with my body was over. 

The volunteers put their arms around me and asked if I needed help walking to the finisher area and I said YES!. At that point, several of my friends (who were volunteering) came over and assisted me to the finishing area. 

I kept asking, "Where's Karel?" but no one could tell me where he was at. All I wanted was to see Karel.

I finally felt a bit better (and could breath a bit easier) and I was moving extremely slow but I made my way to pick-up my pre-swim gear bag (with my phone), texted Karel that I was walking over to the food area. I picked up my medal and finisher swag from the volunteers at a tent. I then went over to the food area to sit on the grass and I just laid down, for what felt like forever  - hoping that Karel would find me but little did I know that he was worried, looking for me because he heard from someone that I had DNF'd. 

Stay tuned for my post-race report......

As for Karel's run:

Karel said he felt off from the start but luckily, his foot wasn't bothering him too bad. Karel had to miss/modify a lot of runs due to his foot which was very slow healing so it was a big unknown what would happen on race day.

Because Karel never raced in Kona before, he knew it would be hot (and windy) so he didn't have anything to compare to if 2015 IM Kona was any more hot than other years.
Karel focused on finding his stride, light on his feet with good form for the first few miles. He was unable to find light feet so after a few miles, his only mission was 26 x 1-mile aid stations. Karel's only goal was to get to the next aid station - he said that his race had nothing to do with running a marathon. He kept telling himself "just make it to the next aid station and your race is over." When he got to the next aid station, he then told himself to get to the next one. 

He mostly drank coke and water and his sport nutrition in his fuel belt and he wasn't limited by any GI issues all day.

He took full advantage of everything at the aid stations and stuffed himself with sponges and ice to try to stay cool.

Karel was really happy that he could run without pain and we think that he was dealing with some scar tissue that finally broke up during the marathon. Karel did feel limited by lack of proper run training due to the injury but he was very happy with what he was able to put together on race day with all of the extra variables affecting him like racing in the heat, racing in Kona and overcoming a food injury earlier in the summer.

As Karel was running, he laughed at himself "I can't believe I am signed up for two Ironman's next year - that was so stupid of me! I never want to do another Ironman and I definitely don't want to do Kona EVER again!" (more on that later :)


Thank you Colleen for the pic!


Karel crossed the finish line with a 3:25 run and he was greeted by our friends Lisa and Curt and Susan who all congratulated him.


Thank you Erin K for the pic of Karel finishing the race!


Karel was laying on the grass after the race and a nice volunteer came up to him and handed him his medal and finisher bag. 

It was only a short time before the day caught up to Karel and after eating a pretzel, his head went a bit fuzzy and light and he needed to sit down.






10/21/15

IM Kona '15 RR - 112 mile bike

Thank you Erin  for the pic. 

As I rolled away from the transition area, I noticed that my power meter was not picking up on my Garmin 810 and all I could see was speed (this season, I haven't worn a HR monitor when I race). This is not the first time that this has happened as sometimes power meters just don't pick up and I have to restart my computer.

I made the mistake of trying to get the power to show in the most "technical" part of the course - the first 8-10  miles in town. I should have just waited until I was on the Queen K hwy with no distractions instead of trying 3-4 times to turn it on, wait, turn it off, turn it on, wait, turn it off...

Although several athletes were "racing" right from the start, Karel and I both used this first section to find our legs. I tried to avoid the thoughts of "how am I going to feel on the bike" while swimming so instead, I used this first section to wake up my legs. I kept the effort easy and light on the pedals and despite a lot of athletes around, I didn't let anyone affect what I was doing. I changed my position several times in this town-section (from the start of the bike to the climb to the Queen K, to the climb to Palani, to the downhill on Palani to the climb on Kuakini to the downhill on Kuakini after the turn around and then on the climb on Palani to the Queen K) from aero, sitting and standing to not only wake-up my legs but to also move my pelvis around to get comfortable for the rest of the ride. 

After I (safely) got through town, I hit lap on my computer as I wanted to focus on only 20-25 minutes at a time to help with better pacing. I continued to hit lap about every 20-25 minutes.
However, with my power never showing up, I just forgot about it as if it was meant to be to not focus on power and I just rode by feel (which isn't hard since that is how we do a lot of riding here in Greenville because of our terrain). And because power meters love to fail on race day, Karel gave me the tip of having an interval screen that did not have power on it so I set it up to only show lap speed, current cadence, lap time. This way, I didn't have to look at an empty screen with no power showing up.

Prior to the race, I changed my screens on my Garmin so that I had 3 screens as to what I wanted to see on my Garmin (if I had power I was going to look at normalized lap power, 3 sec power, current cadence, lap time, lap speed). This made it easy to scroll the pages so that I wasn't looking at data that was not useful (like elevation gained, calories burned, average speed, distance covered or total time - these things don't help me pace better or race smarter). 

Anyways - back to the race.

I instantly felt strong on the bike. With almost 30 miles or so before our next turn, it was time to get into a rhythm. I stayed on top of my liquid calories with 300-ish calories and 1 scoop salt in each 24 ounce (throw-away) bottle. I chomped on a few Clif blocks here and there and doused myself with water at every aid station and also drank about 1/2 bottle of water at each aid station. Every time I finished a bottle on my bike, I tossed it at an aid station.
Karel had a similar nutrition strategy although he also consumed gels (Power Gels and Enervite cheerpack) and a power bar (he can tolerate almost anything, except he doesn't prefer Gatorade, on the bike)

I was quite confused by the weather which is no surprise in Kona - although the temperature may not change on paper, the winds are another story.

It felt as if I was getting a little bit of a push but it wasn't true tailwind - it almost felt like crosswind that was not necessarily helping us go faster but not too crazy difficult to ride in. Historically for IM Kona, the wind direction is tailwind going out and headwind coming back, except for last year (from what I can recall) when athletes had headwind going out and tailwind coming back (but crazy winds in Hawi in both directions).

The winds in Kona are what make this race so unique in that it is nearly impossible to pace yourself - why?

Because the winds are constantly changing as they did for us/me this year.

And to make things a bit more difficult, my swim time was not fast enough to put me with a pack of fast cyclists so there was a lot of passing/being passed going on. 

Now this isn't to say that I need a fast group to draft off but competitive endurance triathletes know that you can gain so much by being "pushed" by a faster group - and this can happen by riding alone and constantly passing people (as weak swimmers/strong cyclists experience) or drafting legally with a strong group/rider in front of you to set the pace (in Kona we can use the road reflectors to distinguish what is legal drafting - between two road reflectors on the ground).
When you have to slow down, every time you or passed or make the decision of "do I have the energy to pass this person?" and this happens for miles and miles, it is really hard to get a good rhythm. This is why many athletes prefer riding alone in a race (at the front) so that they can race their own race. In my case, when I come out of the water in a fast time (typically in an hour in my wetsuit swims), as a less-strong cyclist (although I am improving), I am motivated to push because of the other athletes in front of me.
I tried to not let it affect my race but I felt I was spending more time pulling back or passing people than just riding my own race.
For Karel, he is doing a lot of passing at his IM races but in Kona, he didn't get stuck on power or anyone around him and he didn't get upset if anyone passed him - he just focused on how he felt and really focused on not taking risks. 

The miles just passed by and before I knew it, I was making a left turn at Kawaihae to start an 18-mile adventure up to the town of Hawi.

Weeeee. Wow - now that was a nice push of wind from behind for a mile!

We made a slight right turn to officially start the 18-mile climb toward Hawi and it was nice to see the professional  men (and eventually women) making their way back to town. This was a nice boost as the Queen K is very limited in crowd support (aside from a few cheers from people outside their resorts along the Queen K).

After miles and miles of only the ocean, lava fields, a few palm trees and mountains in the distance keeping me company, it was really exciting to see the professionals.

Back to the race - 

When I started my climb toward Hawi, I noticed that there were no white caps to indicate strong winds. This gave me comfort but then again, when Karel and I rode last Saturday in Hawi (1 week before the race), we said the same thing and then nearly got blown off our bikes a few miles later.

With several rollers on the road along a steady, not significant, climb toward Hawi, I finally felt in my element. And thanks to Paul Buick who gave me some excellent bike handling tips in my private bike session on the Thurs before the race, I felt extremely comfortably on my bike, handling my bike really well while climbing with a few manageable gusts of wind in the last 7 miles.

I continued to stay up on my nutrition and kept a good mindset. I felt as if I had executed the first part of the ride really well as I still felt really strong and fresh.

As I was riding along, I spotted Karel making his descend in his aero bars and my first thought was to cheer for Karel "Go Karel!!!!!" He smiled.

My next thought was "it doesn't look too bad on the descend" which gave me a lot of confidence for what was to come after the turn around in Hawi. 

I did notice that Karel flipped his Giro attack shield up on his helmet (magnets) and then I questioned why he was riding without his shield???

Well, a mile later I figured it out as I was being cooled by drops of rain from the sky. 

And those drops turned into a downpour with a few gusts of winds making this bike ride very eventful. The rain was welcomed but it certainly affected my confidence as I was a little scared to descend (especially if we were to get crosswinds) in the rain. 

After the turn around, I switched into a lighter gear to stop at special needs (bottom of a little incline).  I rolled up to my bag as a volunteer was already standing there with it. The volunteer who helped me with my bag was awesome and boy, was he quick! I stopped, straddled my bike and asked him to put my bottles into my 3 empty cages. Done!
And off I went.
We could not do this without the amazing volunteers!
(Karel stopped at Special Needs too)

On the way back, the rain was still coming down but it slowly stopped. And before I knew it, I was hot and dry again. However, I do think that the rain helped because my body did not feel toasted like it had in previous years. Little did I know that this rain shower was the last time I would feel "cool" before the race was over. 

I felt very comfortable during the next 18-miles and actually rode most of it in my aero bars (aside from getting out of the saddle for a few short climbs). At this point on the course, I felt alone with very few athletes around.

I didn't really worry too much about having to ride the last 30 miles or so alone (mentally that is tough) as I was anticipating tailwind going home (based on the wind direction going out) so I figured it would be an "easy" and fast ride home.

Ha. So wrong. Thanks Madame Pele.

After passing by the gas station and only a mile or so before the right turn onto the Queen K hwy for our 31 miles or so back to town, I climbed the steepest and longest climb of our bike course (also the hottest part of the island on our course)  and felt really good. Karel took this climb very casually and although I planned to do the same, I just couldn't help but get out of my saddle and do my normal "climbing-style" which is most comfortable for me.

There was a small crowd at the corner of 270 and 19 which was welcomed and brought a smile to my face.

After making the turn and soft pedaling to stretch out, I noticed a flag in the distance that was waving in my direction....and not the other direction.

Oh Madame Pele.....seriously, headwind....again?

For the next 28 miles - I experienced headwind. Just like on the way out - not a single push behind me but maybe a few pushes from the side (which didn't really help me).

Whereas in 2013, I experienced the same thing and felt absolutely exhausted, this year I felt strong. All of my hill training in Greenville was paying off. I managed to pass athletes (mostly on the incline sections) and I never mentally or physically felt extremely tired.
Sure, it was frustrating at times but I didn't feel like the wind was winning over me.

Not knowing what my average speed or total time was, I just embraced the elements and focused on checking off destinations. I made it a point to just get to the next destination - I focused on one resort to another, one aid station to another. Soon enough, I spotted the airport. When I passed the airport, this was an exciting time- only 7 more miles to go! At this time, I switched my mind into run mode and focused on easing up on the pedals and not overdoing it before the run.

I could feel my body getting a little tighter and I was getting a little more uncomfortable on the bike but I still managed to stay focused. I stood up out of my saddle a few extra times to stretch and finished off my last bottle to start the run properly hydrated and fueled (the best that I could).

When I made the right turn off the Queen K onto Makala blvd, I was looking forward to being off the bike. Because I didn't have the entire bike ride on my computer, I didn't know my total bike time or average pace so I could not make any assumptions as to how my ride went based on metrics.  But in terms of how I felt, my endurance allowed me to bike strong and I felt it was a really great ride.

After looking at the time of the day on my computer, I did a little math and knew that I didn't have the ride that I wanted to have (on paper). I ended up biking 5:44.08 (14 minutes slower than IM Kona '13).

But in racing an Ironman, it's a long day and anything can happen - good or bad. The race is not over until you cross the finish line.

As I was nearing the transition area, I could see a few top age group girls that I know starting the run. This actually gave me confidence that I was still "in the mix" (whatever that meant to me- I didn't know - but I was trying to stay confident and not let my swim/bike times get to me).

I dismounted my bike, removed my shoes (and carried them) and with the first few steps, I felt shaky in my legs. I knew this feeling wouldn't last long (or I hoped) so I just focused on collecting myself before the run.
I really needed to pee (I only had one good pee on the bike) so I stopped in the potty in the transition area before grabbing my run bag. Oh - it felt so good to sit and not move.

I then jogged to my run bag and into the women's changing tent.

My volunteer was great and she helped me with my hydration belt, hat and run shoes and I asked her to spray my Coola sunscreen (which I had in my bag since I like spray, not rub-on, sunscreen) on my back and shoulders.
OUCH!!
Oh boy - did I ever chaff in the water on my back and neck!

I thanked the volunteer, had a few sips of water for my mouth (and a few cups to cool myself on my back) and off I went for the most mentally and physically difficult runs of my life.

As for Karel, he was really happy with his bike. 5:06.50.
Typically he can push hard and recover quickly on the bike and he has enough bike experience to take a few risks but he had great respect to the race elements and didn't try to take any extra risks that would elevate his HR or body temperature. Even though Karel comes from a cycling background, he has managed to excel in Ironman racing simply from being smart with his pacing on the bike to have a great run.
He focused on short segments on the bike and managed each segment the best he could. Rather than thinking about it as out and back, he just focused on a smart execution within each segment. He didn't focus on his power or any metrics, it was all by feel.

On the way back with the wind, he said there were many guys who completely blew up so as he was passing them, he knew he paced it well. The only thing he complained about was once he got off the bike, the pier was soooooo long to run around (every athlete has to run all the way around it, the same distance).
Stay tuned for my 26.2 mile run race recap. 

10/20/15

IM Kona '15 RR - Pre-race + 1.2 mile swim




It was a very restless night of sleep for me. Oddly enough, I tend to sleep very well on the night before my races but this pre-race sleep (or lack thereof) was unusual. Karel, on the other hand, slept amazingly well.
As I watched the clock, which seemed like every hour, go from 1am, 2am, 3am...it was finally time to wake-up at 3:45am. 

Karel started the coffee and we both ate our pre-race meals and started to get hydrated. The overall mood in our condo was positive as we were both ready to get this 140.6 mile party started. 

After getting dressed in our race gear, filling my powder-filled bike and run bottles with cold water (Karel froze his special needs bike and all of his run bottles - which didn't help as they both were warm when he got to them) and double checking that we had everything, we walked out of our condo (Kona Plaza) and to the race venue, just a few minutes away. 


It is very motivating to see the finish line (aka final destination) at an Ironman as you are walking to the race start.

I didn't overlook the spectacle that we were about to be part of as spectators were already claiming spots by sitting on the wall to watch the swim start at 5:15am.
The crowds of volunteers, athletes and spectators were building and I could feel a lot of positive energy. 

Even though I checked the weather before the race (primarily wind direction as the temperature rarely changes on paper), it's always a question as to what the course conditions will bring to each athlete. 


The pre-race to-do's moved very quickly and the volunteers were great. First we handed off our bike and run special needs bags to the volunteers in each truck and then walked to our right to the body marking tent.
It was so wonderful to see Linsey Corbin welcoming us into the body marking tent.

Karel and I grabbed our numbers and then we went to the same volunteer to apply our bib number tattoos. 


Afterward, we walked toward the scales to get weighed and then it was a few more security checks with only our clear pre-swim bags allowed (absolutely no backpacks or other bags were allowed in transition area). 


Everything was very well marked and again, the volunteers were amazing. 


I felt waves of excitement and nerves and I was also tired from not sleeping but I stayed positive and reminded myself that as soon as I got into the water, like usual, I would feel "ready" to race.  


Karel walked with me to my bike to pump-up my tubular tires and double-check my bike and then we said our good luck wishes before we parted ways.

The transition area was packed. It was tight to move around but the volunteers were doing their best to keep everything running smoothly. 

After putting my 3 bottles on my bike, putting on my Garmin 810 on my bike and making sure my helmet would not get knocked off by another athlete after the swim, I walked over to the run bags to put my flasks into my Nathan hydration belt.
Once again, with tight security, a volunteer had to escort me to me bag and watch me put my flasks into my bag. I was not allowed to remove anything from my bag. 


After all my to-do's were complete in transition, I waited in line for the bathroom on the far end of the pier (by my bike) and since I had a lot of time until my wave started at 7;10am, I didn't feel rushed (which was a nice feeling). 


I kept reminding myself how lucky I am to be here and whenever an athlete would ask me if this was my first time, it was very humbling to say "this is my 4th Kona." I know how hard it is to qualify for Kona and I feel so lucky that I have been able to qualify for Kona at 4 Ironman races. 


After the potty break, I walked out of the transition area (away from the swim start) to drop off my pre-swim bag which contained my phone (turned off), sandals, an extra pair of goggles, body glide, sunscreen and my clothing from before the race. Since we were staying just a block from the race start, I didn't put any post-race clothes into my bag.

I kept my goggles, cap and speedsuit and also had a throw away plastic 20-ounce bottle of 120- calories of sport drink to sip on (and a few Clif blocks).

I laid on the grass while hearing the cannon go off for the male professionals at 6:30am. Then it was time for the female professionals at 6:35am and I waited until 6:45am before walking back through the transition area, toward the water. 

As the male age groupers were entering the water before their 7am start, I thought about Karel and what is emotions must be like as this was his first Kona and his first ocean mass start. Treading water for over 10 minutes, getting pushed, kicked and shoved - and that wasn't even the actual swim start!

The following pictures are from Triathlete.com 


Karel was the most nervous about the swim (regarding the entire Ironman in Kona). He told me that once he got the swim over with - he would be able to relax. 


The stairs were in place (only on race day) for the athletes to walk into the water before swimming out to the start line (I'm guessing about 50 yards away).

Karel and I were reminded by Coach Matt Dixon to not overlook our surroundings and to take a moment to soak everything in. The helicopter in the sky, the tens of thousands spectators, the scuba divers with video cameras under the water, the other athletes around us and the 5,000 volunteers.
The beautiful Kona fishes did not show up for race day.

It was a very special moment - never to be forgotten. 

After the guys were off, it was time for the 20% of IM Kona participants who were female to make our way to the swim start.
The female age-groupers had a 7:10am start and I watched the clock to start swimming out at 7am. With a "smaller" wave with just women age groupers (which was great!), I didn't need to be treading water that long to get a spot near the middle/front.
It only took a minute or two to get to the start but it was nice to move the body. I instantly felt better. 


The clock by Mike Riley read 7:03am.....we waited and waited. We had to move over to the left a bit because the male professionals were on their way back which occupied some time.
Finally it was 7:08am and Mike Riley yelled "Ladies are you ready?"
It was a great feeling to hear so many strong, healthy and awesome female athletes cheer "YES".
GIRL POWER!

At 7:09am, the water started to feel a bit more choppy and 5 seconds, 4 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 1 seconds.....
BOOM - we were off!!
Honestly -it just felt SO good to move.

It was hard to find a rhythm as everyone was trying to battle for clean water and to break into groups of similar abilities. Often, this doesn't happen until 1/2 way of an Ironman swim but it does seem to calm down after about 15-20 minutes.
There were lots of buoys on this out and back 2.4 mile course which made sighting in the ocean much easier but the water felt a bit choppy. I found this to be odd because typically for IM Kona, there is more of a push going out and more chop and resistance going back.
I didn't try to think ahead with my thoughts so I just focused on one buoy to the next.

My stroke felt good and with my biggest worry that my back was going to bother me (as it had been for the past 1.5 months), my back wasn't a factor.
I felt strong with both arms in the water!

The turn around boat came quickly and since I didn't turn on my Garmin 910 for the swim (on purpose), I didn't know my time but it felt like I swam to the boat rather quickly. 

After making a right turn around the boat, to the turn buoy, it was time to head straight back to the pier/swim exit. 

The water didn't not calm down and if anything, it felt choppier. It wasn't horrible but little did I know that "hard going out and hard going back" would be a common theme for me during this race.

I caught up with many blue caps and managed to stay with a few pink caps. It was impossible to know where I was positioned in the mix of female age group athletes but based on the number of blue male age group caps that I was passing, I felt as if this was turning out to be a very fast swim for me. 

Unlike years in the past, I never got tired during this IM Kona 2.4 mile swim. Typically, this ocean swim (without a wetsuit) tires me out in the last 400-600 meters or so but I felt strong all the way to the end.
As I was nearing the pier, I didn't try to pick it up as I wanted to exit feeling fresh and ready to bike.

After 1+ hour of swimming in the ocean, I stood up on the stand and jogged my way to the stairs. Excited to see my time, I felt really confident that this swim was a huge improvement from years past. I looked up on the clock and saw 1:08.06. 
Ugh...seriously?

After feeling so good, never feeling tired and passing so many blue caps - I had my first taste of defeat BUT I was not going to let it get to me. Still, with 9+ hours of racing ahead and many more miles to cover with my body, I quickly moved on mentally as there was nothing I could do about it
(Thank goodness I didn't have my watch on as I could only imagine all of the thoughts in my head if I saw my time as I was swimming and focused on that instead of how strong I felt in the water). 

I ran through the hoses to quickly wash off, grabbed my T1 (bike bag) which was in an awesome spot (2nd from the end) and ran into the women's changing tent.

With a tip from Karel, I ran through the changing to the very end so I didn't have to squeeze my way through people after I got my bike gear on. The tent was a  bit crowded but I found a chair and dumped out my bag with the help of an awesome volunteer.
Because I had my chip on my right ankle with a safety pin, I asked her to remove my chip and hold on to it until I put on my compression socks. I put on my right sock and asked her to  put on my chip (with safety pin). She was awesome and so helpful. I then put on my other CEP compression sock, then my cycling shoes and grabbed my new Oakley sunglasses and sport nutrition for my pockets (Clif Blocks and a wafer) and headed out of the tent. I didn't change clothes so I was all set and ran out of transition (my volunteer put  my swim stuff into my bike bag for me).

The carpet in the transition was a little slippery so it was tough to "run" with my cycling shoes on so I was careful to not hurt myself.
Although it really would not have mattered considering how hot it was, I didn't want to carry my shoes because of my socks getting wet on the carpet - looking back, I should have just carried my shoes to my bike which I have done at several other Ironman races (I prefer to mount my bike with my cycling shoes already on my feet). 

I ran to my bike, put on my helmet, readjusted my sunglasses, turned on my bike computer, quickly pinched my front and back wheels to make sure they had good tire pressure from the morning (no leaks) and rolled my way through athletes to make my way out of the transition area.

Another tip from Karel - instead of immediately mounting my bike after the mount line, I ran my bike to the far right (as that is where I was closest to) by the barricade and about 2 bike lengths away from everyone else and then mounted my bike - it provided a much smoother bike mount than trying to do it with so many athletes around right on the mount line.

I clipped in, pressed start on my bike computer and off I went to discover what Madame Pele had planned for us for our 112 mile ride. 

As for Karel.........
It was a wrestling match for him. He said from the start, it was really rough water until the turn around. He was mentally prepared for it but nothing really can prepare you for the madness of a mass start - especially with so many talented and fit athletes in one arena.

Karel would try to find clean water but he said it never lasted long. Sometimes he would  drift off course with a group but then back toward the buoys. When he got to the turn around, he looked at his watch and it said 32 minutes which he was so happy about.
But on the way back, even though the water was a bit more clean for smooth swimming, it was not a fast swim back.
Karel stayed calm but there were a few times when he would accidentally tap a foot in front of him (as there is no way around it) and the athlete would kick obsessively as if he was sending a message "don't touch me!". This was the only thing that bothered Karel and as it kept happening, Karel wanted more and more to be out of the water.

Karel said that people were exiting the water in groups of 8-10 every few seconds so it was another wrestling match just to get out of the water.
Karel looked at his watch (which read 2.69 miles) and read 1:13:47.
Karel was disappointed but he quickly remembered that there was nothing he could do about it and it time to focus on the bike. 

Stay tuned for the 112 mile bike race recap....

10/19/15

IM Kona '15 - writing the race report


After writing many race reports on my blog over the past 9 years, I've learned two things about how valuable it is to write a race report:
1) It is so great to be able to go back to a race report and "re-live" the race experience and to learn from the race after it happens. 
2) It is always better to write a race report soon after the race happens as that is when emotions, thoughts and feelings are most real, raw and true.

Reason number two is why I chose to record a video recap just a few hours after crossing my 10th Ironman and 4th IM World Championship finish line.
But, reason number two is also why I have waited over a week since crossing the 2015 IM Kona finish line to start my series of race reports from the race.

I was filled with a variety of emotions, thoughts and feelings in the 72 hours after the race. 

There were some smiles and some tears as I was on a roller coaster of emotions. 

I'm sure I don't have to describe what I was feeling as I was celebrating my 10th Ironman finish line and the honor of participating in a World Championship event for the 4th time AND for the first time, sharing the event with Karel. 

The entire race week, vacation and experience was amazing and we made so many great memories on the beautiful island of Kona.

But, as you know, my race didn't go as planned and I had to fight for a finish (funny, I didn't really have a plan but all endurance athletes know that we want to be able to race with our mind as our biggest limiter but unfortunately my body did not respond to the strength of my mind).

After we returned home from Kona on Wednesday evening, it was only 5 days since IM Kona that I finally felt like I was able to move on from my race performance and not overlook my accomplishment.
(I have to thank Karel, my family but also the many Trimarni athletes and followers who sent me emails, texts and messages after the race, for helping me out, emotionally, post-race).

Finally, I stopped the reflecting and over-analyzing and decided it was time to start enjoying the off-season and start dreaming big for 2016. 

After I came back to reality that this is a hobby and something "fun" that I love to do with my free time (and disposable income), I also remembered all of the amazing things that I have been able to do with my body over the past 9 years and even on race day. 

I decided that the way that I want to remember this event (through my race recap) is by the experience. 

I learned SO much from this race and I believe it will only help me and my athletes out for seasons to come. 

Without a doubt, this was one of the best race experiences and when I look back at this blog, I don't want to forget what Karel and I "survived" in order to get to the finish line.  


Stay tuned for my 3-part race report - which starts tomorrow!