Racing in Paradise: 2012 Kona Race Report

Go Time
October 13, 2012
A Look Back and a Step Forward
October 28, 2012

Racing in Paradise: 2012 Kona Race Report

Well, since my jetlag is in full effect, I figure I’ll take advantage and eek out a race report here! More to come on the festivities in Hawaii later….

Race morning came and since I was still quasi on east coast time, the early wake up at 4 for breakfast was easy enough. I had everything all set to go so I walked down to town and met Julie. It was such a blessing to have her show me the ropes throughout the week, especially on race morning when my nerves were getting pretty serious. We got body-marked, weighed in, and tried to stay close behind Caroline Steffen as she did everything as well since we realized that may be the only time we get on the TV coverage 🙂 Then we said our goodbyes and good lucks and I went my own way to get my bike all set. Happy to find nothing out of the ordinary, I pumped up my tires, then went and sat to soak in all the pre-race vibes. The energy is there, but it is eerily quiet for before a race in transition as well. I also found Meredith Kessler and got a pre-race hug which was super awesome and helped me stay calm and ready.

The sun came up, the pros were sent off, and I was in the water before I knew it. As Dawn and I stepped in, the waves and pull of the ocean felt stronger than it had the whole week. Between that, and seeing the flags all over blowing around, I knew I was going to be in for quite a day. I swam out to the front left of the pack and tried to position myself around as many pink caps as I could. In my pre-race prep with Hillary and others, I had retained some of the lessons they shared: this was known to be a slow swim, start on the left, and be prepared to have that “washing machine”crazy start experience for the entire swim. They were right! Usually in an IM I am able to find some space after about 300 meters and settle into a rhythm. But since most everyone who qualified to come to Kona probably swam about an hour, that meant I was swimming in a huge crazy pack the entire time! It was exhausting, and I was actually really happy to see a 1:08 on my watch as I was getting out of the water – that was much faster than I was expecting given the circumstances. I think that was a very strong time for me with no wetsuit and a tough ocean swim!

T1 was INSANE. It was so busy at the point I got out of the water, I ended up grabbing my bag and getting everything done myself in the corner of the tent. Since I really only had to throw bike shoes on though that wasn’t a problem. Out the door and onto the bike where it was another crazy cluster of people mounting. So much energy! For the first leg of the bike out through town and then even out on the Queen K I was feeling awesome. I saw Hillary at the start of the climb to Hawi and she yelled some encouragement. However, as she yelled, she also looked like at any second she was going to blow away. The winds – which usually don’t get too bad before the climb – were already strong out on the highway. That was definitely a precursor to what was to come. As we climbed, the winds got stronger and stronger. At one point a man passed me, then promptly sat up and took a drink, slowing down. As I closed in on him and prepared to pass him back, a referee pulled up and handed me a drafting penalty red card. Was I furious? Absolutely. But, I also understand that arguing my point would waste some precious energy, so I grit my teeth and pedaled on. At the top of the climb it literally felt like I was in the tornado scene of the Wizard of Oz. It may sound dramatic, but we do not have winds like that in Baltimore. I made the turn and then penalty tent was right there, so I opted to stop and get it over with. I did feel like I lost some momentum here, but that’s all part of the game and ultimately it is up to me to do better here. But, I’ll let you form your own opinion on drafting with this picture.

The way back in to town on the Queen K was slow, but I was feeling pretty good still and even with losing 4 minutes I was happy with the ride being under 5:50. I concentrated on getting as much water as I could down, but as soon as I put the water in my aero bottle it became lukewarm so that wasn’t the most pleasant. I came in to T2, which ended up being much quieter than T1. I had 3 amazing volunteers help me out and I changed into my Oiselle Stride Shorts and Pearl Izumi tank for the run (both ended up being great picks with the heat). After a half mile, something happened and my quads just felt dead. I struggled to even run downhill. Fear rose in me, and I began having thoughts of last year’s Louisville run creep into my mind. It was truly a mental game here and for the next few miles it was mind over matter to run as much as I could. At each aid station I got fluids, calories, ice, sponges – the whole 9 yards. I wasn’t sure where I had gone wrong, so I was going to hit everything to try to turn this around. Slowly, but surely, I began to get my legs back a little bit. As I headed out to the energy lab I was able to relax more and just do my thing to get through the miles. The sun slowly began to go down, the temperature began to drop, and I began to feel like I was going to make it. All of these combined help me put together a perfectly evenly split marathon, and, while it was about 30 minutes slower than what I think I can be running off the bike, I am proud that I fought for it. I kept my head and gutted it out, and on some days that alone is the win.

I was able to make some passes in the final few miles, and before I knew it I was turning onto Ali’i Drive. There I was, running down the finishing chute that I have dreamed about for years. I crossed the line in 11:06, with a wonderful greeting by Mike Reilly. More tired than I have been in awhile after a race, I spent some time in a ball on the grass as I waited for coachie and the other girls.

So….my post race thoughts. I keep coming back to what Julie said to me in the beginning of the trip. She told me to make it about the week, about the whole experience, and not just the race. I made it a point to do this and I’m glad I did. Because, to be honest, I don’t feel like it was the race itself which was the most poignant moment of the trip. It was a dream come true to get to race – don’t get me wrong. But, so much of that dream was invested into the process. My goal was to become a triathlete that qualified for the World Championships, and that happened over the past 18 months – it didn’t happen on October 13th alone. Now my goal is to use the experience of racing the best of the best and take that as a stepping stone towards racing at a higher level. I absolutely want to go back to Kona and take some revenge on the course. But, I do want to say that for everyone out there who is still dreaming of their race in Kona, to enjoy the moment that you’re in right now. Because to be honest, Kona doesn’t change you. I am not a different athlete, let alone a different person, than I was before the race. I am a different athlete, however, than I was before I began the process of getting to Kona. That as a whole has shaped me – not this one race. Don’t be fooled by the allure of the NBC coverage. I have realized that the magic isn’t in Kona. The magic is in the hearts and the energy of the athletes – the same ones training beside you at the pool, and on your roads at home. So whether or not you ever get to Kona to race, it’s okay, just take some time to enjoy that magic that is out there in plenty of other places along your way.