Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kona Conquered!

Hey Athletes and Friends!

WOW! What an incredible experience I got to enjoy here at the Ironman World Championships in Kona!

I was determined to enjoy my entire time here both pre race and during the race...and I definitely did just that!

The weeks leading up to this race were really crazy, what with the 2 weeks in Europe and racing in Budapest and feeling like I really wasn't ready for this Ironman here in Kona.

I figured I wasn't gonna set any PRs for myself and just wanted to make sure I didn't hate the sport when I was finished here. So...I tried to take it really easy on the swim and bike and just make sure I didn't fall apart at any point during the day...and I definitely still LOVE this awesome sport of triathlon!

Here is the breakdown for the day.

I actually arrived not just on time, but early for the race. My husband Cade dropped Spencer Woolston and I off at the race by about 4:45 a.m. (Spencer likes to be early to the races so I figured I'd give that novel idea a try). It was great! I had so much fun just hanging out and watching all the other athletes and especially spotting all the pros and checking out what they were doing during their race prep. Guess what...they do the same things we do! Double checking gear, stretching, visiting the port a potty (I actually went into a port potty right after Craig Alexander...I know, you're all jealous that Craig and I shared a loo!)

When it was finally time to begin the swim I made my way to the left front area and just enjoyed the moment. I had about 5 minutes of treading water before the cannon sent us off. Now, not to be too cheesy or anything, but there is really only one word that can describe how I felt (and not at this moment, but really for the entire race)...

Gratitude. I actually got a little teary eyed before I began the swim because I was just so grateful to be experiencing this event in my life. I mean, how many people ever get the opportunity to be doing what I just got to do? I just figured I was very blessed and fortunate to even be participating and I was so happy to there!

I have described the Ironman swim in several different ways before..washing machine, crazy school of fish, intense. This swim was the king crazy of all swims for me. It was like being in a washing maching with rabid pirhanas and a hurricane blowing down on you. It was a really messy swim! Don't get me wrong...I still enjoyed it! But, I definitely got some serious beatings out there....and NO let up during the swim..ever! Except when I did have a moment of space to myself which then made me nervous so I spotted and realized I was heading out to sea! Which would explain why no other rabid piranha triathletes were trying to pummel me to the ocean floor (they were all busy swimming in the right direction!)

Needless to say, not my fastest Ironman swim. Actually my slowest ever. But, that's ok, cause I wasn't here to set any records. I was here to enjoy! And, enjoy I was!

Running out of the ocean and into transition, I quickly grabbed my gear and threw on bike shoes, helmet, bike and off onto the ride I went.

The first 8 or so miles are in town and it was great fun to have so many people cheering me on as I zipped past them. I was super comfortable on my Scott bike and want send a big huge THANKS to PowerTri for helping me get the perfect setup on my bike! Seriously...thanks!! When you are riding 112 miles, it sure is nice to be comfy (or as comfy as you can be for that long) on your bike! It was also really fun to know that there was a great group/party going on at PowerTri as everyone was cheering us on!

This course is very sneaky! There are really NO flats on the entire ride. You are either going up or going down. And, once you are out of town, you are either going up or going down with wind at nearly every point.

Once we got out onto the main highway (known as the Queen K) we just followed that main road for about 30 miles until the turn off that takes you to the quaint little Hawaiian town of Hawi (pronounced Havi). This is where the real biking begins! Between the hills and the winds, it was quite the ride. They aren't lying when they say that Kona is challenging because of winds. I was on pace for a nice little bike time around mile 50, but that last 10 miles until the turnout definitely slowed me up! But, I wasn't worried. After all, I was just grateful and happy to be doing this. I was passed by SO many people on this bike ride. But, I held my heart rate and pace and enjoyed. At the turn around point in Havi (mile 60) I was able to grab my special needs bag and very happily inhaled my apple fritter and replaced my fuel bottle (mix of CarboPro and EFS). That apple fritter was heaven!

My fueling during the ride was very basic. Drink lots of water, take ThermoLytes EVERY hour (which I did religiously), keep dumping water over my head and body at EVERY aid station (which were every 5 miles...NICE!)....and enjoy my mini Snickers bars every 30 minutes with a banana thrown in every hour or so. I was so wet that my toes were pruned during the entire bike ride (and run) and are just now drying out!

So, after the turn around at Havi and having battled through the winds climbing into Havi, I was hopeful that the return ride would ease up. Not to be! Apparantly the winds shifted and I got to battle the winds ALL the way back to town as well! Head winds for just about the entire 52 mile return! Never fear...I am just SO happy to be here! Really. I didn't have any major troubles or mental breakdowns (like I did in New Zealand). I just figured I'd keep pedaling and eventually I'd have to make it back to the Kailua Pier where I could finally get running! This course was so great! I just kept thinking of St. George and how very similar they felt to me. Lava rock everywhere, sands, winds, hills. I love it! And...the bonus of a gorgeous ocean view to the side of me was great!

If I had entered this race with a specific goal of finishing at a specific time or place I would have been miserable! I would have felt so much internal pressure and stress and especially been frustrated with the winds and my lack of tremendous speed. But, I know how I work and I know that I don't respond well to that kind of approach to a race. So, I am really grateful that I've got that part of me figured out, cause with no personal pressure applied to this, I was able to really just relax and came off the bike feeling great.

Here's the deal on the run. I NEVER look at an Ironman run as a marathon. It's not. It's just 26 one mile repeats with awesome support thrown in at every mile break! I plan on taking advantage of those aid stations and make sure I walk pretty much every one of them to ensure I don't miss out on any of the fun! Here's how the course breaks down. As you leave transition you immediately run up a hill and begin running south. You then run down a short hill and start the real run on Ali'i Drive. This is the road that goes right along the ocean heading out of Kona. This is also the road that you see everyone running on during the week before the race. It is really gorgeous with the ocean right next to you and shade trees lining the road. It is also NOT flat. So, you get to climb lots of hills and then descend. So, we pretty much ran 5 miles out on Ali'i Drive and then turned around and ran 5 miles back into town. At about mile 6 I caught up to a guy that looked like we were holding about the same pace and pretty much forced him to run with me for almost the rest of the run. I have figured out the approach to the run that I have to take. It is called "Manic girl talking non-stop and being irritatingly cheerful as she yaps her way through the run!" So, my victim for this run is named Chris. He is from Australia/Singapore/Hong Kong and is 41 years old and his back is bugging him. He has 2 children and one wife. Nice guy. I find every topic in the book to talk about and pretty much yip my way with him all the way to mile 22. We have walked every aid station (coke, oranges, water, ice, sponges and a little more water pretty much every time). When we are running we are able to hold about an 8 min. to an 8:30 min pace which isn't bad. I'm feeling good. I'm still taking my ThermoLytes every hour and my Sport Legs every 2 hours...just like on the bike and they are magic! Thanks Heath for the ThermoLytes...I'm sold! I remember taking inventory at about mile 8 and asking myself how I felt. Besides just the regular fatigue, I was feeling quite good. Not too hot with the ice and water and no cramping whatsoever. Good stuff!

At mile 10 on the run we turn right off Ali'i Drive and head up Palani which is a very steep one mile climb our of town that then spits you back out on to the Queen K Highway. Decided to save my legs and walked the steep hill. Good idea cause the climb out on the Queen K Highway was still a good leg burner and we definitely didn't walk that. Plus, my awesome husband Cade was right at the top of that hill and I was able to give him a huge (sweaty, drenched) hug and kiss before I headed out to the real heat.

Once we were on the Queen K we had about 5 miles until we reached the turn off to the Natural Energy Lab. So, the Natural Energy Lab is just a somewhat industrial area off the highway down by the ocean that is very hot with no shade and has a good hill when you climb back out. I never knew what it was and figured it was something that Ironman had just put together for a certain stretch of the race. Nope. It is an actual area that is a business area that apparantly does research on creating natural energy. Now you know!

I saw Doug Gordon about a mile ahead of me and he was doing great! We gave each other a big hug and he kept running his way and I mine. Once out of the lab and back onto the highway I only had about 5 miles to go til the finish. I was feeling really good, but my new friend Chris was feeling a bit less...chipper. So, we hung with each other for about another mile and he said he needed to hang back. I told him thanks for the pleasure of running with him and picked up my pace. At this point, I knew that if I pushed it I could finish under 11:30 hours and felt that was a decent time for me. So, I started really trying to push it a bit. I stopped at the next aid station (mile 23) and walked as I got more fuel and then I just charged on to the finish line. My legs were feeling a bit like heavy lead at this point, but I just told myself that it was just a short little 5k and I would be done. I'll never forget watching the sun as it was setting over the ocean at about mile 23 for me. I told myself to remember that moment, cause even the next day when I watched the sunset, I would always be able to remember that magical moment when I was running the last few beautiful miles and marking that sunset. It's moments like this that stick with you and remind you that it was real and you were there! They are the moments that count.

I hadn't really hurt at all during this race and figured a little pain might be good at this point. So, I pushed it. But, I made sure I was still able to smile and be happy cause that totaly works for me. I had a total blast running down Ali'i to the finish line! I saw Sean and MIchelle Warren about 50 yards before the finish line and stopped and gave them a big hug. It was so great to see them there! I also saw them during the bike to run transition. Very cool!

As I was high fiving my way down the finish line I saw Doug Gordon right in front of me! That was so awesome! He crossed the line and kissed the ground and as soon as he got up I had crossed and gave him a big ol' congratulations swat right on the butt! It was great cause I don't think people knew that I knew him! Yep, Doug was the guy with the mohawk! We had been together all week as he helped me get more familiar with the course and was an all around total stud for helping me out all week! I was SO super proud of him and excited that he had such a wonderful race! He deserved it!

The euphoria of not only being able to participate in such an awesome event, but to also finish and have such a great experience is hard to describe! I think the biggest thing is just how grateful and happy I was to be really living and involved in something so much bigger than me. It was just about seeing what I can do and to be there with so many other amazing people was even better.

My husband Cade was right there after the finish and was so terrific to be such a great support. He helped me in so many ways to be able to do this. I definitely owe him BIG time for being such a total stud (and patient saint!)

I guess the main thing is that we are so lucky to be living such good lives. A lot of it is our own choices. But, it is also just flat out blessings. I am super grateful for all of you and for how much you ran through my mind and kept me not just going, but happy! I knew that you were cheering me on and that meant so much to me! I wanted to be able to send you a great race report and make you well as let you know that you can do anything you set your minds to! Whether it is an Ironman or something more personal that you want to do to make your life better.

Thanks for being such great friends. I want you guys to know how grateful and blessed I am for having you all in my life!

So, two World Championships down (Olympic distance in Budapest and Ironman in Kona)....just one to go! I'll be heading to Clearwater, Florida next month for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships! Yahoo!

Then....lots of indentured servitude to my ever wonderful, loving and supportive husband for putting up with such a crazy wife!

And...cheering all of you on as you work for and reach all of your goals! It's gonna be awesome!

Happy Training!



Friday, October 8, 2010

Keena in Kona!

What a terrific week I have enjoyed here in Kona!  I fear I have enjoyed myself way too much cause I have really just enjoyed a  nice vacation with the the Ironman and all the fun that goes with it as a bonus!  I have just been mostly chillin with some nice Ironman activities thrown in.  Determined not to get sucked into the adrenaline and craziness that this event is known for.
And...I've never felt so out of shape ever!  This place is crawling with the most FIT people in the world!  I am amazed at how many people of all ages are just absolutely amazing looking!
BUT...can they bring it when it REALLY counts...out on the course??  We'll see!
As long as they  look good, right?
So, here is the breakdown for my last 5 days (really?  5 days already?  how fast they have flown by!)
Got in late Sunday that doesn't count.  But, Doug Gordon was SO awesome and came and picked us up from the airport and brought us straight to our really great hotel right on Alii Drive.  So cool!
Monday morning we swam the entire 2.4 mile swim course at 7 a.m.   Great swim!  Loved it!  If only I could always swim in a crystal blue, clear, gorgeous ocean with the sun rising on a tropical island!  Sorry AF, don't hold a candle to this!
After the swim we went back to the hotel for breakfast (great buffet here) and got settled in.
I also went for a nice 45 minute jog in the afternoon.
Tuesday we swam again on the course at 7 a.m. or so.  Then Doug and I went and drove the ENTIRE bike course.  It was great to see the course and get a little better sense of what to expect. 
It is MUCH hillier than I was expecting.  But, the wind is really going to be the unknown.  Even driving, we could feel the wind on the ride out to Hawi pushing our car around.  But, what I really LOVE is that this ride really reminds me of being down in St. George.  The lava fields, red dirt, hot somewhat desolate landscape.  Even winds.  We have those down in St. George.  And, I love riding down there! 
So, my game plan is to pretend that I am down in St. George riding with all my awesome friends and having the best day of  my life!  Can't wait!
Wednesday was another swim in the morning and then registration.  I got lucky and missed the crowds, so I just walked right in got my stuff and went out with no problems.  I LOVE the weather here!  It is WARM and humid and feels awesome!  I know...the humidity might be an issue during the race...but, I am going to just focus on how much I LOVE it! 
Thursday was another swim and the well known underpants run!  I got lucky cause just when I was getting out of the water from my swim, i noticed all these people running in a group towards the pier.  Then, I noticed the lack of formal clothing and knew I had lucked right into the middle of the annual underpants run!  So, I grabbed my camera and started documenting!  Doug Gordon was RIGHT in the front having the time of his life in a pair of bandanas knotted together to cover his delicates!  Documented!
So, Friday has been a good day.  I got on my bike and made sure everything was working well.  I ran into trouble on Wednesday with one of my wheels and was going to have to rent a replacement, but I got lucky and ran into a friend (literally) on Alii drive who said I could borrow his wheel cause he wasn't racing.  Cool!  So, I had the bike worked over by the local bike shop here (I had some brake cable and front derailleur problems as well and hadn't been able to ride the bike since Tuesday), put the wheels on and had a great (short) ride today just to make sure everything was working well. 
At 2:00 today Spencer and Megan and Cade and I drove to the bike check in and Spencer and I got all our gear checked in and headed to lunch.  It was crazy checking everything in cause as you walk through the chute where you check in the gear there are just people lined up checking you and all your gear out.  Talk about feeling self conscious!  Especially when everyone is so freaky fit!  You just have to keep in your own head and not worry about anyone else!  I had a great time just enjoying the energy and magic of the whole experience!
Oh...last night (thursday) was also the pre-race banquet.  It was terrible food...but, it was great to be there with all the other athletes enjoying a pretty cool show and then getting familiarized with the course, rules, etc.  They also announced that the Ironman 70.3 World Championships will be moved to Lake Las Vegas for the next 5 years!  Cool!  Actually,....HOT!  September!  Yikes!, YES...I had peanut butter and chocolate ice cream for dinner from Baskin Robbins!  Cade and I also went and watched "The Social Network" tonight.  It was pretty good!  Made me glad to be kind of stupid and happy (and definitely NOT rich!).  I wouldn't want to have his life...I'm happy with mine!
So, here is my game plan for tomorrow's race:
Take it somewhat easy on the swim ....draft every stroke possible, and enjoy the time in the cool water.  I plan on staying somewhere in the middle of the pack for the most part.  Hopefully under 1:10 (my swim has been very weak lately).
Go easy on the bike for the first 40 miles.  Think of it as a nice warm up and don't let anyone else affect my pace or effort.  I am wearing my heart rate monitor and plan on staying in the mid to high 150s and let it drift into the low 160s during hill climbs or heavy winds.    Keep the cadence high and mental attitude even higher.  Songs are gonna be flying as I ride!  Who knows which songs yet...but, they will be keeping me company (and perhaps my fellow riders as well).
Run is going to hopefully be a social experience.  I LOVED my run in SG IM and would like to try and simulate that same wonderful experience.  Get a couple of great people, talk and motivate each other and remember how great it is to be doing this.  I plan on walking most aid stations and staying happy!
My time could be anywhere from 11 or so hours up to 16 hours and 59 minutes!  (Hopefully closer to the former rather than the latter...)
But, mostly...I just want to LOVE every minute of my day (yep...every minute...even the really miserable ones...cause they will be there)
I have had a terrific time with Cade and he has been a really great support during all of this!  That is a BIG bonus and I am really glad we got to spend time together!
OK...guess I need to go to bed cause the night is getting late and I need to get up at 3:45 a.m.!
Happy Racing!!