Forewarning: this is a long one, without pics (sorry!) and as raw, real time as I could muster. This will be considered my “race report” so that I can look back on this in a year and say “i took the lessons i learned on that smokin’ hot Oct 13th in 2012 and came back a stronger soul!”.
Here are a few interesting numbers if you don’t feel like reading any further:
+ 2nd Canadian amateur woman across the line #whaaaaat!
+ 19th in my AG
+ 81/ 549 amateur women (cracked top 100, I’ll take it!)
+ 40min faster than IMCdA and 4min faster than IMC, with a marathon pb!
I woke up at 5:07AM after getting a fairly solid nights sleep feeling exceptionally rested, peaceful and at ease. My butterflies had in fact almost all stopped flying – this was it. If anything, I was overwhelmed while making my oatmeal with a chubby banana(Hawaii’s finest!) with the number of new friends and old friends who reached out to give me their cheer before the big day. A year ago, I was married and IM wasn’t on the horizon. I’ve lost a last name, lovers and friends during this journey so to wake up in peace made me feel like this was going to be the start of something very very special… With that, JHull + Bro drove me down to the start line and I was off to get ink’d, drop bags, pump tires, load food, lubricate and jump around! (It might have taken me 29 years, but I finally know how to show up with buffer time – instead of always late! – to transition. It certainly makes for a much more peaceful start to the day.)
My goggles broke in the morning, so I used my back up pair which happened to not be tinted. C’est la vie! It made for beautiful clarity in seeing the fish, yet blinding in the sunshine making spotting nearly impossible. I started on the center left, about 2 or 3 rows back. We heard a GO…and just like that, the masses took off. I followed the pack of dudes ahead of me, trying desperately to find fresh water. I’m used to getting trampled but usually only for the first 200-500m. Not in Kona. I was deep in a pack, of men, fighting for my spot in the ocean. Needless to say, I didn’t have a great swim – I didn’t feel fast, I felt like survival. However, on the way out, survival was the name of the game, on the way back, I was grateful to be getting beat up in Hawaii because what I knew for sure was that this wasn’t the only time that day I was going to feel like I was getting beat up. I kept my head in the game and while my time was slow, I can say with confidence that I fought for that swim! There were swells, lots of dudes and I have room to improve. ’nuff said.(Perhaps I need to take swim practices a lil more seriously instead of just floating off the back all the time!)
Transition is quite big in Kona! And you are required to run the full length both thru the bike and the run. I left T1 perhaps the most prepared I’ve ever been for a 180km bike ride – including my new compression arms to protect me from a wild burn! (My girl SusG would have been proud – I’m never so prepared and she always brings extras for me!)
Running outta transition in a pack, just like that, we were off! I was feeling quite good until oh, 7min in on the first loop where I hit the climb… I hadn’t rode this loop before and didn’t realize it was a false flat. All I was experiencing was getting passed like I was standing still. Alright Universe, you wanted to remind me that Comparison Kills – got it. And it was only moments later when I saw the IronCrew- they were sporting bright outfits and rad signs. They were the loudest and it was only 10min into the bike – I knew I had an epic cheer squad to bring me along! I also realized in the first descent that my front brake didn’t really work so well so I said “no braking!” for the rest of the day. #whoooops Before I knew it, I was heading out on the infamous QueenK…that stretch of highway I said I would never ride again, with the hot sun blazing on my back and a lil Justin Bieber “never say never” on repeat. The aid stations were frequent and ahhhmazing. I took two bottles of water at nearly every one – one to spray on my body and one to shove in my bike. The volunteers were outta this world! I ate every 15-20min, like clock work and consumed almost all of the calories I brought with me. #bigwin!! The winds picked up very early in the day and we all went from hammering in our aerobars to getting thrown around across the highway. I tried to engage my core and stay relaxed, thinking if I was gonna go down, better to hit softly yet desperately wanting to stay upright! By mile 40, I started getting passed less and was catching the crew who has all passed me right outta the water. It was a small boost of confidence as I was merely spinning, without a bike computer or a heart rate monitor, as i do. I hit the turn around and saw Pops with a big Canadian Flag – couldn’t have been more appropro! It was about at the turn around where I looked down to see that while I was spraying water all over my body, it was causing my shoes to fill with water creating beautiful friction for feet o’blisters. Ohhhh HotDamn! I had bloody beasts and they were starting to get sore. I had this feeling once before with socks during IMC, but this was raw skin on shoe rub. Oh well. The ride home ended up being a small group of girls, not drafting, yet pushing each other and I was reminded how cool it feels to be a chic in this sport. Those girls have guts! With less than 10miles to go on the bike, shattered feet yet otherwise feeling pretty fresh and really strong – which was exactly what I was going for!!, I rode right into the IronTribe on the side of the road. I gave them a fist pump from afar, a shaka as I rode by and my chubby lil heart exploded. I knew it wasn’t easy for them to get out to the highway, I imagined they had been waiting for quite some time, I was so happy to see them! I told Bro, in secrecy, that I wanted to be off the bike in less than 6hrs, yet really, I wanted to be onto the run by 2pm which meant a definite sub 6hr ride after my sub-awesome swim! And a sub6hr ride it was indeed.
I took my feet outta my shoes and jumped off my bike, only to run on bare (blistered!) feet into the change tent. Again, the world’s best volunteers took care of me. I had cold towels on both feet while I was trading my helmet for a Newton visor and my wrist band in exchange for my sleeves. My transition times were not fast, yet I’m not sure how to get much faster here as I certainly wasn’t diddly boppin’ thru the change tent…
The other secret that I told Bro the night before the race was that I was ready to have a great run off the bike! After IMC, my mantra every day was “I am a Runner – do as runners do.” Specifically, I wanted to break 4hrs and run a marathon pb – ambitious was an understatement! So I knew I needed to fuel properly and ride conservatively as hammering a bike ride is perhaps one of my favorite things to do yet does not serve to produce a ‘fast’ run. I left transition on a mission – to run like I’ve never run before. I only stopped to pee once on the run (vs. my 4 portloo breaks in IMC!), I drank, iced, fueled at every picnic stop, I didn’t have any tummy troubles (hoooorrray!) and I never let myself get ahead of the mile I was running. The theme song was Metallica – Nothing Else Matters…nothing else, other than that one mile, mattered in that moment in time. And did it hurt, heck yah! I told my crew at mile 16 that even suffering in Hawaii hurts….and then I saw them again at mile 19 and told them I was in the HURT locker. I threw them my drugs so I wouldn’t take any more , they cheered and ran along side – Asher was prancing, frolicking, on the side of the road…I wasn’t sure how fast I was moving then?! They promised to see me at the finish line…..cause half of them had a plane to catch back to Maui! I knew if I kept moving, with 7miles to go I could finish before the sun set but crackin’ 11hrs was feeling far gone. It was with 4miles to go, that I knew I needed to dig deeper – really deep – my miles were getting slower, I had a hill to climb and could see the sun getting ready to set…..nooooooooo! There were more timing mats to run over so I knew people at home could see me slowing down…..for a second I thought, “just finish” yet that was a fleeting thought because I knew darn well that I wanted to finish under 11hrs. It was time to run! I started plucking people off…..and with 4km to go, I just let my legs soar…whatever they were willing to do, I let them! On the final out and back, I saw the IronTribe again – I blew them a kiss of abundant gratitude and just kept givin’ ‘er. As you read about, you hit Ali’i Drive and experience something magical. For me, it felt like the stories that accompany your Impossible dreams were swept away, out to sea, and Possible became really really real.
And when I heard my name, I got choked up. This was it. I looked up and saw 10:54 on the clock. This was the finish line – both literally and proverbially of a really epic year. The power of heart beats and friends; family and loved ones; the power of chasing your dreams even when you don’t know how on earth they could possibly come true. I was lei’d, medal’d, towel’d and stopped on the pier – laid my head in my hands and burst into tears. There are just no words for that feeling.