It has been a few months since my husband John finished the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona on October 13, 2012. While it is a little late for a race report, I wanted him to share what he learned with the Running A Life Community. And, I know several of you have asked as well. What follows is his response to our request. Enjoy!
As I exited the water at Dig Me Beach, and shook off the salty Pacific, pieces of my dream fell to the ground and gave way to the reality.
In the water, you could see the cameras on you. They were the witnesses as we lived our dreams. It’s happening.
My journey to the Ironman World Championships at Kailua-Kona was not textbook or easy. All hard things in life require preparation and sacrifice. I learned quite a few valuable lessons during the journey to get there, and throughout the race.
The Mind Matters
We always seem to challenge our minds at the start of endurance events.
Am I ready?
Did I build enough?
Can I compete with all of these studs?
That dude is jacked up; he looks fast!
We may try to erase these thoughts but it’s easier said than done. In reality they are looking at you and thinking the same thing. You are one of them. So, the doubts, the worries are wasted energy.
Be thankful you are able to be there and have the ability to swim, bike and run. So many people want to, but just cannot for various reasons.
Work on the limiters
So let’s back up a year prior. I raced Ironman Lake Placid in 2011 and had a solid race, but came up short for a KQ. 14th place, 10:08. My limiters were the swim and bike durability.
So, what do we do? Keep working on the limiters. For the next few months, in preparation for Ironman Cozumel in November 2011, my bike and I spent a lot of time together, and I started to feel like a cyclist. At the same time, I spent many miles swimming in the tank. It was worth it.
The story of qualifying for Kona at Ironman Cozumel has been told here already. The Kona Q was mine. Now what?
After getting a slot, I lost a bit of my edge and my passion to train as hard as before. I still did the work, but the edge was not as sharp. It was kind of like cutting into a tomato with a dull knife. It does the job, but it’s not pretty.
Then, an injury (to my piriformis) was added to the mix, and my mind started to go negative. My quest for the summit hit a flat section for a few weeks. So, I had to slow down.
I moved forward by doing PT, yoga and strength training. After a few weeks, I was back but cautious. Very cautious.
Then, 6 weeks before Kona, I had a close call with a car. My choices were to let the car hit me, or dump. I jammed my breaks to keep the car from plowing into me (she said she didn’t see me), and I dumped. Hard. I didn’t experience any major problems, but the experience scraped and scared me.
From that point on, I didn’t ride outside for more than 45 minutes, and trained indoors on the trainer. That includes 6 weeks of long rides, ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 hours. This is a great mental training tool – and also helpful for heat acclimation.
It sucked, but it kept me safe for my arrival at the Big Island.
I arrived in Kona on Saturday night, a week before the race. My family would not be there until Thursday, so I had some alone time to collect my thoughts. I enjoyed this time and found it useful to clear my head and spirit. However, Hawaii is so wonderful and beautiful – you want to share it with everyone.
The day before the race, I got stressed out packing my race bags for transition. It was as if I had never done this before.
When my dad and I checked in the bike and the bags, it was one of the best moments for me as an athlete. I was part of this “thing” that was big, and we got to share it. Thanks, Dad!
One more sleep, and it was on.
Race Day – The Experience
My family and friends dropped me off at the start with Maria. A kiss and a fist bump (our ritual) and I was off to live my dream.
I positioned myself two-thirds from the seawall, as I planned, hoping this would keep me somewhat out of the fray. No luck. I got kicked within 5 minutes of the start, and wound up with two black eyes. Not a game ender, but definitely part of the game.
It felt like it took a really long time to get to the first turnaround, as all single loop courses do. I had a decent swim, coming in 1:03. Not my best, but not my worst, and right in keeping with where my fitness was.
Into T1, my priority was sunblock, and then some extra sunblock. The time spent to make sure I was covered was well worth it.
Then, I was off on the velo. It was crazy how fast people were going in town, so I just paid attention and enjoyed the moment. I got out of town fast and started focusing on my hydration as we headed along the Queen K toward the turnaround in the infamous Hawi.
I was 5 bottles deep with fluid (I use the Ironman Perform, from the course) before Hawi, and I had already peed several times. So, I was on target for optimal bike performance in terms of fluid and nutrition.
The Hawi winds are crazy. If you ever race here go out a day or two before the race and feel them. Maria’s coach Vince told me to do that and I did not. I should have. He was right. It’s like nothing you have ever felt. Out of nowhere there are 40mph crosswinds hitting you while you are going 45 mph downhill out of Hawi.
You could not have driven a pin in my asshole with a sledge hammer. It was that scary. Pucker Factor: 10.
Returning back to town was 20 miles of headwind, and there were people drafting all around. But, that is par for the course.
With 112 miles in the saddle complete, it was time for the run.
How did it all end for John? You’ll have to come back for part 2 to find out