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IM Kona '19: Quick recap

The Ironman distance is a beast of a race. Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles is no easy feat for the body. There is no right, best or perfect way to prepare as every journey to the start line is different. Every athlete has his/her own path, which is either straight forward and smooth or filled with bumps, detours and maybe even a few road closed signs.

Some athletes make extreme sacrifices and investments to get to the starting line. Some athletes have a team of supporters and professionals to assist in the journey. Regardless of who helps you get to the start line, it is ultimately up to you - the athlete - to get yourself to the finish line.

For the majority of athletes participating in the Ironman World Championship, they represent the best of the best from around the world. Qualifying is not easy as it requires great fitness, preparation and a whole lot of luck. Interestingly, when the best of the best all arrive to the Ironman World Championship, it's easy to compare yourself to others and feel a tremendous amount of pressure to give a best ever performance. With great expectations to perform better than ever before, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a World Championship event and to confuse best effort with best ever. You see, to feel satisfied, accomplished and joyful at the Ironman World Championship, you have to race smart. With this comes gratitude, respect and having a sensible or practical idea of what can be achieved. Although competing on the world stage can bring out world class performances, many athletes experience great disappointment and sadness that something special didn't happen on race day or that the race didn't showcase a current level of fitness. When this happens, a once passionate, excited and fit athlete can question ambitions, self-worth and future capabilities.

On Saturday October 12th, 2019, I completed my 17th Ironman. Going into this event, I didn't see myself getting to the start line due to 10 weeks of no running and another 2 weeks of only indoor treadmill running. It wasn't until I set foot on the island that I did my first outdoor run - appropriately in the energy lab. While I was confident in my swim and bike fitness, I was unsure of how the day would go as I covered 26.2 miles. With a hodgepodge of emotions - ranging from excited, confident and worried - I focused on facts, not assumptions. The reality was that I removed outside pressure, focused what was within my control, relied on past experience (and muscle memory) and I never lost sight of the gratitude I had to compete at my 5th Ironman World Championship.

As for the race itself, I had a 7-minute swim course PR and my first time breaking an hour in a non-wetsuit Ironman swim (not counting Ironman Chattanooga). I also had a 3-minute bike PR. I found myself strong and resilient as I raced the swim and the bike. This allowed me to finish the bike in 5th place in my age group. Never in my wildest dreams would have imagined I would have been in a podium position off the bike! As for the run, I am in no way disappointed. If anything, I am extremely satisfied. You see, I didn't need a PR/strong/fast run to feel accomplished with my IM Kona performance. Knowing that my run fitness was not where it needed to be to compete with the many fast ladies in my age group, I set mini goals to achieve throughout the run. I only walked the aid stations, I kept my mind positive, I worked through mental demons that tried to get me to stop and walk more than I did, I nailed my nutrition (on the bike and run), I didn't experience any GI issues throughout the entire race and I felt like I put together my best effort on the day from start to finish. I had a smile on my face for all 140.6 miles and I crossed the finish line feeling extremely proud of my body.

I believe experience, failure, overcoming setbacks and keeping a level-head allowed me to put together an incredible race performance - in my own standards - at the Ironman World Championship. Far too many race with extreme pressure. They race for glory or an end result (time/place). While there are those who want you to succeed, there are those who want you to fail. When racing for 140.6 miles, you can't be worried about what other people will think of you. Training for and racing an Ironman is a journey that only you and your mind share. Despite dealing with many obstacles this summer, I am happy that I could end on a high note - feeling thankful, satisfied and accomplished with my race day performance.

As for Karel, he had a PR swim but struggled with hip/leg/back/glute pain for most of the ride. This is nothing new for him as it's always a limiter when he trains and races. Because it's easy to let ego get in the way all in an effort to protect self-worth and self-image, Karel powered through the pain and accepted that it would take him much longer than he ever had anticipated to cover 112 miles. With wobbly legs through T2, Karel ignored the "shitty committee" in his head (thanks coach Cait for that saying!) and powered through the marathon. Although slower than what he trained for, he found the strength to get to the finish line. It's certainly hard to finish a race knowing that your body was a limiter but that's Ironman for you. And in Kona, every little weakness on the day is magnified due to the competition, coure and outside elements of mother nature.

Thank you for your support, cheers and encouragement. More to come with the rest of my Ironman Kona race recap.

Marni Sumbal 
2.4 mile swim: 59.36
T1: 4:13
112 mile bike: 5:27.49
T2: 3:48
26.2 mile run: 4:12.38
Total: 10:48.02

Karel Sumbal
2.4 mile swim: 1:03.14
T1: 2:41
112 mile bike: 5:23.11
T2: 5:03
26.2 mile run: 3:15.05
Total: 9:49.12

A big thank you to our coach Cait Snow for guiding us through this season. Despite many obstacles over the summer, she never gave up on us. Also a big thank you to the Trimarni team affiliates and supporters. We are grateful for your continued support! 

Congrats to everyone who raced at the Ironman World Championship. Be proud of yourself and don't forget to thank your body.