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IMWI Race Report - Awards and Kona slot distribution

My dad had this incredible way of making the best of every situation. I really looked up to my dad because he lived a very positive life despite the many obstacles that he had overcome in all years of his life. He was always happy and smiling. He taught me that no matter how hard something may be in life, nothing feels better than finishing something that you start.

I commend my dad for never giving up on his 10 month fight with cancer. My dad was incredibly fit and healthy but he had an amazing new amount of strength since his first day of being diagnosed with an incurable type of cancer. I wish so badly that my dad could have crossed his finish line to be a cancer survivor and more so, to live life with me today.
But I know he really gave a strong effort despite all the obstacles that he faced from June 2013 until May 28th, 2014.

It’s very bitter sweet that our 2014 triathlon season ended on a high note because our past year was not without adversity. The soreness, aches and pains of racing in an Ironman eventually subside but there are moments in life that are extremely difficult to overcome and stay with you forever.

It never crossed my mind to stop training for triathlons in the past year, even after my dad passed away just three days before my 32nd birthday. I was never raised to give up when the going gets tough and I was also taught that life is not easy so I never have expected an easy way. 

However, as a human being, there are many emotions to be experienced when you lose a loved one which makes it incredibly difficult to give 100%, 100% of the time. So even if you are not a quitter, it’s sometimes very difficult to find the “why” to continue.

On Sept 7th, Karel and I gave it our 100% for 140.6 miles. We both did not have an easy day and the fight was a difficult one. But in honor of my dad, the effort was worth it. There were so many times during the race when we could have given up but we worked way too hard to surrender during our own temporary hardship.

Karel passed 500 athletes from the time he exited the water, until he crossed the finish line. Karel was 89th in his age group after he swam 2.4 miles and finished 3rd age group. Although he did not know this while he was racing, Karel’s ability to never settle and to believe there is a chance, paid off greatly at IMWI. Karel did not feel fresh on the run but his two choices were to dig deep and not give up or give up and settle. 
I found myself as 2nd amateur from around mile 35-45 of the bike until around mile 10 of the run. 87 miles to question if I was doing enough, if I was pushing too much and if this was all worth it. I found myself in survival mode only to realize that  if there is a will, there is a way. 

After a restless night of sleep on Sunday (and a 4am snack of 7-up, Chobani strawberry yogurt, granola and banana for me), Karel and I had a small meal around 8am and chatted with our homestay Ed at the kitchen table.

The congrats messages were still coming in via Facebook, texting and email and Karel and I were still in disbelief as to what we did yesterday with our bodies. I had dreamed about what it would feel like for both of us to qualify for Kona at the same race but due to waves of complete exhaustion and satisfaction, it really didn’t feel like we were in the present moment. With quads that barely worked in a body that was completely exhausted and depleted, it was hard enough to think about how I would get my body to the award ceremony, let alone think about racing in Kona next October. 

It was an extremely challenging race that was not textbook perfect in terms of execution. As Karel, Ed and I made our way to the Terrace for the awards on Monday morning around 9:30am, I thought about the similarities of Ironman racing and life.

Never does an Ironman race need to be perfect to be termed successful. The real results are told by the athlete and not by times on a piece of paper. There are many moments when you want to give up but somehow you find the inner strength to continue on. Life is not perfect, it’s easy to give up and the best moments in life are when you find yourself doing what you once thought was not possible. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

The awards were preceded by a free breakfast (for athletes) and the food selection included muffins, fruit, yogurt and egg and cheese sandwiches (meat options as well) on English muffins. We were not super hungry and a few hours later we were going to enjoy a real meal at the Great Dane brewery and pub. 

As we waited for the awards to start, I spotted the Kona slot allocation sheet.

I first looked at Male 35-39. 4 slots. Awesome for Karel who placed 3rd!

Then my eyes scrolled down the page to Women 30-34. 
I thought 2 slots for sure but in the past, three slots have also been awarded for the 30-34 age group. 
What? Only 2 slots!!!

Oh no…what if Suzie changes her mind and takes her 2nd place slot which leaves me as the first athlete to not receive a Kona slot in our age group.

I’m typically a patient person when it comes to triathlon training and racing but I was filled with nerves and anticipation. Although I had 100% made up my mind that I would not chase a Kona slot in 2015 and that I would be taking a break from Ironman racing for at least 1 ½ years if I didn’t Kona qualify, it was incredible painful to wait until 11am for the Kona slot distribution (and roll down) to see if fate was on our side.

I went back to Karel and told him that he was 100% in for Kona but there were only two slots in my age group. I could tell that Karel was a bit bummed for it was our goal to race Kona together.

After Mike Reilly showed two inspirational videos (volunteer and athlete), I started to get back to reality in that it was not life or death if I didn’t qualify. I gave my absolute best and there was really nothing more I could have done on race day. I almost gave up during the race so just finishing was a huge accomplishment! I was confident that I prepared the best that I could and I would not have done anything different leading up to the race or during the race.

After the pros received their awards, we listened to the Female and Male overall winners give speeches. This was super inspiring. They both gave amazing speeches, especially the male winner, Daniel Bretscher who also set a new course record.

Then Mike Reilly called up  all athletes under 40 years of age who placed top 5 in their age groups..
While holding hands, Karel and I walked up to the left of the stage to join our fellow age group competitors. 

I thanked Suzie again (this time in nice clothes and not all sweaty) for helping me out on the run and she said “Did your husband get a Kona slot?” I told her yes. 

She was so happy for him and she replied back “I’m so happy you both will be racing together in Kona!”

Together? Did I just get my 100% confirmation that Suzie was not taking her Kona slot because she wants to race IMWI next year (it’s her favorite race and local for her)? 

I gave her a big hug, just like I have done in the past for my fellow age group competitors, for the last 2 times of Kona qualifying (IMWI 2010, IM Lake Placid 2013) I have received roll down slots 3 out of 4 times of qualifying for Kona (I won my age group 18-24 when I raced my first IM, IMFL). 

I introduced Suzie to Karel and I also met the other girls in my age group. 
Stacey (who was 1st amateur and won our age group) not only had an exception race by placing 5th overall female but she mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she was going to take her Kona slot because she was in a similar position as Karel and me…..she said if her husband qualified for Kona (he was in the 35-39 age group) she would take her slot but since her husband didn’t qualify, she wasn’t sure if she would take her slot (Stacey and I raced Kona together in 2013 so I knew of her and how awesome she is as an athlete). 

Of course, the 4th and 5th place girls were anxiously awaiting if 1st and 2nd place would take their slots and then it all came to me if I would take the roll down slot. But in the end, as we stood on top of the podium, I think we all were so proud of each other for it was close competition that allowed us all to give our best effort on race day.
I'm sure there were a handful of girls not on the podium that gave their absolute best effort as well. 

Karel was just so excited for his first podium, even though you wouldn’t guess it from someone who is always so focused. I was just so proud of him, not only as his wife but as his best friend.
After awards, we had about 30 minutes to wait until Kona slot distribution and roll down. Although I was pretty certain I was going to get a slot from Suzie, I still didn’t want to celebrate and share my Aloha’s too early. 

30-34 age group podium

Me and Suzie

35-39 age group podium

11am came around and it was time. You’d think that all of the stress was on race day but I think that Karel and I were still so nervous about making sure that we were both 100% in. Even though it was almost guaranteed that we both were about to get a slot, we needed proof with our Kona qualifying certificates.


Mike Reilly started with the 18-24 age groups and let me tell you how awesome it is to be in the room when athletes are receiving their Kona slots. It isn’t only exciting when an athlete earns his/her allocated slot but it is even more exciting when the slot rolls down to an athlete that likely, 30 minutes ago, didn’t think he/she would be going to Kona. I have qualified for Kona 4 times and each time, it is the most amazing experience to hear your name be called by Mike Reilly that “You are going to Kona!”

When it came to the female 30-34 age group, there was silence in the room when 1st and 2nd place declined their slots.

“Marni Sumbal…do you want to go to Kona?”


I walked up to the front of the room, received a lei and stood in line to register and pay for Kona (although we planned for this, paying for two World Championships at the same time…I hope our banking account has been tapering for this shock!). 

I gave the 4th place girl a big hug as it was her first time qualifying for Kona and she didn’t even expect it to happen at awards. 

As I waited to the side (Karel had the credit card), Mike Reilly called Karel’s name and followed it by “I love it! Husband and wife going to Kona. Karel, are you going to finish together?”
He was joking as he laughed and smiled at Karel, who then gave him a big high five.

I gave Karel a BIG huge and we both finally could relax...well, our bodies still hurt but at least the work was over. 

We did it. We just cannot believe it and words cannot even begin to describe what that moment felt like when our master plan actually (and finally) paid off. It’s still sinking in. I am so thankful to everyone who followed us (friends, family and Trimarni fans) as well as the companies who we have been able to be proud ambassadors for because we absolutely LOVE their quality gear/products!
Oakley women

We did not make any big sacrifices in life to make our dream a reality. 
I do not believe that we did anything extra-ordinary to execute well at our three key races this year (St. Croix 70.3, IM Austria, IMWI). 
We believe in our approach to training and we maintain a healthy relationship with food by eating for fuel and for health.
We also do not make excuses. It's just not our style. 
We love life so we believe in a balanced approach to training. We simply enjoyed every training journey this year. Above all, we stayed patient and focused on ourselves and not on what our competition was doing.

We waited and waited and when it was time for us to give our best effort this season, that was the time when the dream came true.

What a year, filled with highs and lows. My dad would have been so proud of us.

I stil can't believe it! 
Karel and I will be racing together in the 2015 Ironman World Championship.

2011 Ironman World Championship with my favorite guys.