This year I was fortunate to arrive in Kona 10 days out from race day which I had hoped would help me acclimate to the hot and humid conditions. But, who am I kidding, the environment here does not suit me, and however many days I spend in advance sweating my ass off, I still feel like I'm going to keel over whenever I run. Completing a marathon in these conditions seems unfathomable... until of course, you get off the bike after 112 miles and it's suddenly your reality.
The Saturday prior to the race I participated in the Ho'ala swim for the first time... essentially, a practice swim that takes in the full Ironman course. I was in two minds whether to do the race since I didn't want a *preview* of my swim time the following week but coach, Matt Dixon, encouraged me to do it and gave me a 5,000 yard swim workout the day before to ensure I was fully tired! It ended up being a great idea for me to race, mostly for the mental practice of the 2.4 mile swim. I *cheated* and wore the Roka SIM shorts as my back had been giving me some trouble for the last few weeks and I was trying to spare it as much as possible. I finished the swim in 1:12:59 (4,214 yards) and felt like I swam it fairly easily, though I must admit that I was bummed with the time. However, it was a healthy reminder that swells and conditions in Kona can result in highly variable times.
Ironman Hawaii: swim --> 1:10:30 (PR for the course, Garmin 4,193 yards)
Fast forward a week and I was stoked for having done the Ho'ala swim and having a better sense of what it feels like to swim out to the far turnaround. It was also useful to experience another mass swim start, though, the Ironman race with 700 or so women was a much rougher start! I was pulled and clawed a few times to the point where my watch strap loosened so I stopped at the far turnaround point to reposition it and glance at the time. I hit the second turn buoy at 33:50 which was similar pacing to the week prior, however, in contrast to that swim, I was feeling fresher and more effortless in the water. There were people around me the entire time, including lots of men from the prior wave to swim through. I saw 1:10 on my watch and I knew immediately that it must have been a fast swim but I also had a mantra for the race of *not judging myself*... which meant in this case, don't read anything into the swim time. However, a PR always helps the mindset!
In 2005, I swam 1:24:23 here so you could say that my swim has come a long way in the past several years. Take a look below at the evolution...
2005 --> 1:24:23
2009 --> 1:20:17
2010 --> 1:18:21
2013 --> 1:11:12
2016 --> 1:10:30
The consistent improvement in my swim times have stemmed from some simple things in the last few years:
- swimming more --> I now average 12-15k per week of swimming whereas in the past it was less than 10k
- swimming with a group --> I swim 3x a week with a group of people that kick my butt in the pool
- swimming with a pull buoy --> I swim about 80% of the time with a pull buoy. I feel better, it protects my back and it makes me enjoy swimming more.
|Taking my own sweet time out of the swim|
Someone asked me pre-race what my bike split might be and I answered +/- 5hrs and 30mins. With the exception of 2009 (when I had crashed my bike badly a couple of weeks out from the race), I seem to bike around the 5:30 mark!
2005 --> 5:30:37
2009 --> 6:11:27
2010 --> 5:35:21
2013 --> 5:28:19
2016 --> 5:39:56
Out of the swim, I got to work on the bike in a calm as fashion as is possible when you're riding through town and there are people screaming your name everywhere! On the climb up to Hawi, I passed a friend, Erin, and was promptly passed by another friend who is a super biker, Jana. I actually picked up the pace and stuck with Jana to the top of Kuakini as the power felt okay but perhaps a tad aggressive for how I wanted to start. I let Jana go on the downhill and settled back into my personal race plan! I was all smiles on the bike... I really was having fun and trying to enjoy the day... there's even photo evidence! Thanks to a great family friend, Alex Wassman, my bike was tuned to perfection. He assisted me in choosing wheels (Zipp NSW 404/808 combination), tires, tubes and sealants for the race, as well as dialing in the shifting pre-race. It was a joy to be on a perfectly tuned machine. Mahalo Alex!
I felt super comfortable but the headwinds on the way out to Kawaihae were making themselves known so I knew it could well be a slower year on the bike. I passed a fellow W45-49 competitor, Angela Bancroft, near Puako and tried to yell hello but not sure she heard me! On the road to Hawi, the winds were modest, even during the last 6 miles when a block headwind can make it a real grinder. Don't get me wrong, we had some headwinds (unlike 2013 when it was a tailwind) but it wasn't harsh and there weren't many challenging sidewinds to contend with. The turnaround at Hawi was still a welcome relief and this is where I caught up with some AG women that I know - Mary Knott, Becky Paige, Erica McClurg and Julie Dunkle. All of those women were, in my mind, 1 hour swimmers, so it was a nice indication that I was making progress on the course. I even allowed myself to think that I might be riding well!
|Still smiling on the road back from Hawi|
|Riding on the bullhorns is not aero!|
|Slipping out of the bike shoes - excited to run|
I got off the bike and I could barely move as I tried to navigate my way through T2 as my back was completely locked up. I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to run a single step. However, I hustled as best I could to the change tent and put on my run gear, hoping that run shoes would feel better than barefoot and that I would be fine.
I clicked off the first mile at sub 8 pace (dumb!), trying to ignore the lower back issues but that didn't last long and by the 1.5 mile mark I was ready to be done. I told myself I would run until I saw Blanco... but I missed seeing him on Ali'i Drive so suddenly I was 5 miles out and had to run back to town before I could quit... yes, the mental battles had started already!
|Ali'i Drive running|
By the time I got to the top of Palani, a 16 mile run out to the energy lab and back didn't seem like a big deal so I committed myself to finishing and stopped the negative, "I should quit" talk. However, walking aid stations and a couple of porta potty stops forced my pace to be around the 10 min/mi mark. 9 min/mi pace should come much more easily but I find the process of cooling and getting nutrition in costs me 30-40secs per mile in the back half of hot races. It's something I need to keep working on.
The run was a little bit of a disappointment and I fell from 3rd of the bike to 16th in my AG by the time I crossed the finish line. However, that was by far my best AG performance at Hawaii, having never finished in the top 20 in the past so I'm thrilled with the result. Perhaps, if I can avoid slowing down over the next 5 years, I can dream of a podium finish here one day :)
2005 --> 4:06:35
2009 --> 4:46:17
2010 --> 4:15:51
2013 --> 4:07:24
2016 --> 4:15:47
Ironman Hawaii: total time --> 11:15:52 and 16th in my AG
Below are my past times for comparison and this was my 3rd best time on what appeared to be a more challenging day given the winds and warm conditions during the run... especially compared to 2013 which was very favorable.
2005 --> 11:11:10
2009 --> 12:55:28
2010 --> 11:19:39
2013 --> 10:58:19
2016 --> 11:15:52
|Glad that's over!|
|Supporting #50womentokona and TriEqual|
|My Supportive Dude!|
I also couldn't look this good while racing without the support of Kristin Mayer of Betty Designs. Her World Champion kit and Kona 16 kits were some of her best ever designs and I was stoked to be wearing it.
|Pia and I ready for the Underpants Run|
|The Ab Show with friends from all over the country|