Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hawaii Ironman World Championships: pre-race and swim

Blanco and I arrived in Hawaii a week prior to race day and were staying at a friends house within the grounds of the Four Seasons resort. It's a fantastic place to stay, away from the bustle of Ali'i Drive... though the driving back and forth to town did start to weigh on me a little in the few days pre-race.
Four Seasons resort at Hualalai
Blanco and I registered at the earliest opportunity and reminded ourselves that we are very fortunate to be able to participate and race in this sport together at a high level. As an AGer, it takes ability, dedication and a fair amount of luck to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, so we take nothing for granted.

Hand in hand with my honey

A few weeks earlier, Kristin Mayer of Betty Designs had invited Blanco and I to be on Team Betty for the famous Kona Underpants Run (UPR) which takes place in town two days prior to the race. I was a little horrified at the idea of jaunting around town in a skimpy string bikini but it did add a little extra motivation for me to stick with the pre-race nutrition plan! I've been pretty conscientious about my diet this summer and managed to lose ~5lbs so that race weight was 126-127lbs, rather than the usual 131-132lbs. I know that weight is just a number but I was hoping that a leaner body would help me in the heat.

Blanco is on the far left. I am the white chick... next time I spray tan!
In the days leading up to the race, Rich and I tried to be as chill as possible, eating and cooking at home and trying our best to limit time on our feet. But, we also wanted to make the most of being in the land of "Everything Triathlon" where sponsors are handing out lots of schwag and demo'ing their latest products. Our favorite new products are the BOA shoe closure system, Saucony custom Kona shoes and Smith Optics sunnies.


Race day: the swim
My personal mantra for my 4th Ironman Hawaii race was: "it's not a race". I know that seems weird since it is clearly a race, but for me, I am realistic that I am not competing for top 5 in my AG so it's more a celebratory race. Thrilled to be racing on the same stage as the world's best! I knew that I wanted to feel comfortable all day, that I did not want to get sunburned and that I wanted to go under 11 hours, if the weather permitted. Race times are hard to predict in Kona but in my mind I thought a 1:15 swim, a 5:30 bike and 4:00 marathon would get me my sub 11 hour finish... a time that would have me crossing the finish line before sunset and give me a PR for the course.

Pre-race selfie with Blanco in transition
In previous years, I have lined up for the swim start near the pier (right hand side) and have been beaten up, swum over to the point of being frightened of the mass swim start. This year, having consulted with several friends, I lined up much further left. I got in the water relatively quickly after the pro women started (6:35am) and treaded water for a long time. Just before the start, a guy turned around and said to me and another woman, you ladies better be planning on swimming sub-1 hour. I laughed and then commented: "either that or we are stupid!".

When the canon fired, it was a frenzied start and I was hit, kicked, swum over, legs grabbed, goggles knocked askew, and I did think to myself that my positioning on the second row might have been a tad aggressive. Thankfully, the rough and tumble swimming calmed down after a couple of minutes and I found myself being sucked along amid a stream of white bubbles, following feet. I barely did any buoy sighting, and definitely no admiring of the underwater world. I was focused on maintaining a solid turnover, strong pull and light kick... while following feet. We seemed to make quick progress to the Body Glove turnaround boat and I allowed myself a quick peek of the watch. 30:34... I was astonished. I knew from practice swims this week that the outbound journey would be quicker but I was expecting something around 35mins at this point, especially considering my previous 3 Hawaii swims have been 1:24, 1:19 and 1:18. That little boost helped me remain focused on the return leg... though I did wonder at one point whether someone had knocked my watch and it had stopped since 30mins to the turnaround was fast for me. I continued to be surrounded by swimmers for the entire return leg as I swam right on the buoy line. For the most part, I was right on the feet of others, switching feet from time to time as folks sped up or slowed down. On exiting the water and glancing at my watch, I was overjoyed to see 1:11. This was a massive 7 minute PR for me on the Hawaii course. I hope this was not a fluke but rather testament to the hard work of the last several years. My pool swimming has improved, as have my race times, with the help of Matt Dixon of PurplePatch Fitness. The highlight of my swim training has been to swim consistently on the feet of some fantastic training partners: Monica Moreno, Ariane Buser and Danielle Hauptman, pushing each other and working very hard to survive Matt's tough swim sessions.

Bike, Run and Post-race to follow...


  1. Yeah! enjoying this.....next! :)
    Congrats on your swim PR - that is great!

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