Sunday, November 17, 2019

Kona 2019 Race Report

It's been a minute since my 2nd trip to the Big Island and as I begin planning my 2020 race season it's definitely time to get this race report out.  The trip started out great, with a quick 30 minute flight over to Kona from Honolulu.  No disrupted sleep, no time change, no tight hip flexors or sore neck muscles.  What a difference that made over the all day journey I took from the east coast in 2017.

The week leading up to the race was great and it flew by.  Andrew and I did the Ho'ala Training Swim on Sunday morning follow by a ride up to Hawi.  I'm so glad I did that ride, my experience on the bike course in 2017 was so uncomfortable and just bad that I needed to have some good rides on the
Queen K and up to Hawi to know that this wasn't anything I wasn't capable of.  There was a lot of swimming from Dig Me Beach, visiting with friends, hitting up other local beaches and taking it all in.  We were lucky enough to have a condo just a couple blocks from the pier which made the logistics of the entire trip so easy (highly recommend staying within walking distance). 

Bike check in and gear drop off day.  The energy is buzzing and at an all time high for the week as amateurs and pros alike rolled there bikes down to the pier.  There were some rain storms predicted for the afternoon so I chose to check in my bike in near the very end of the allotted time.  Bike check in went smoothly, we watched some dolphins play off the end of the pier and I found a stow away Forky in my bento box!  We headed back to our condo to get the final items prepped for the next day and enjoy dinner.    I had left my Garmin bike computer plugged into the charger in the condo since before we left for bike check in. When I unplugged it to pack it for Saturday morning there was an alert "Rear derailleur battery critically low".  You have got to be kidding me -  one of the reasons Andrew and I switched my bike from mechanical to eTap was to decrease the risk of something going wrong with the shifting (I'd been through 3  SRAM Red rear RTC shifters since 2016 with the most recent one failing in July here in Hawaii).  After a slight freak out since at this point transition was closed, I hatched a plan.  I had my charging brick with me, so we'd get to transition around the time it opened on Saturday morning and I'd get the battery charged.  According to my online research I'd have anywhere from 5-9 hours left of shifting once the alert came on, which likely would get me through the entirety of the bike course but figured I'd charge it as much as I could race morning to decrease the chance of losing my shifting.  Once there was a plan in place I was able to calm down and enjoy dinner and visualize my day on Saturday.  We reviewed the race plan and the cheer plan and got to bed pretty early ready for the day to come.

I got onto the pier after the required body marking tattoos and weigh in and promptly got the battery on the charger while I topped off my tires with air, loaded on my nutrition and hydration and check
the brakes.  The charger wasn't indicating much of an improvement after 45 minutes so I doddled around a bit longer to leave it plugged in - but I was starting to need a porto-potty and they moved them all off the pier this year along with the rule once you leave the pier you can't come back on until T1.  One of the ladies racked next to me asked if I was ok and when I responded "oh yeah, I'm just charging my eTap" her response of "Oh Shit" wasn't the most confidence boosting hahaha.  After 60 minutes of charging and communicating with Andrew via text I decided to get on with my day.  Over to the porto line and then some chill time with Andrew before I was herded into the swim start corrals.  This is the first time Ironman has used swim start corrals at Kona due to the implementation of the age group swim start waves. It was a bit crowded and messy getting into the corrals, with some of the later corrals filling up and then having to work your way through all the anxious athletes.  As the first wave a male amateurs hit the water things started to spread out in the corrals and we started making our way toward the stairs.  I realized one thing I wanted to do was not race with my earrings in and of course I realized as I was putting my swim cap on that I had left my earrings in (mind you these are like $12 cubic zirconian studs).  I debated about just throwing them away,  taking them out in T1 or trying to hand them off.  I figured I'd try to hand them off.  As we inched forward I scanned the cheering crowd for mom, Gary, Andrew, Cynthia, Danielle, Ron, Cheyenne - anyone that I knew and it was looking bleak. Then an old DC Tri friend, Christina, appears off to the other side fo the corrals.  I passed off the earrings, telling her I didn't need them back.  Shortly after the pass off we made our way under the arch and down the stairs.  I saw my mom in the grandstands and tried waving and yelling to her but she didn't see me in the crowd of swim skins and purple caps. 

THE SWIM - 1:17:36
The water was a bit choppier than it had been in the week leading up to race day and more so than it was in 2017.  Thankfully it wasn't anything I hadn't dealt with in the open water swims in prep for Kona.  I was able to find feet early and stick on them like glue until we hit the turn at the Body Glove
Boat.  After the final turn to begin making out way back in to the pier I pulled ahead of the feet and tried to draft off of some others.  There were a few areas of currents and a lot of older men that we were having to swim through.  About 2/3 of the way back to the pier my trusty old feet from the first 1/2 of the swim pulled ahead again and towed me into the finish.  I'm not sure who this woman was but she was wonderful to draft off of.  As we neared he tall gatorade bottle marking the end of the pier I thought to myself, "man I'm really like to be done swimming now".  My guess is that was probably around 1:07 (oh how I'd love to consistently swim an unaided 1:07). I was optimistic that on a good day I'd see 1:15:xx for this swim - given the chop and currents I'll take the 1:17.  I exited the water feeling great and ready to get on my bike and roll. 

T1 - 5:13
I made my way up the stairs and under the fresh water shower, which felt amazing.  I took my time in T1 to get my aero jersey on, dry my feet and put on my socks and bike shoes.  I rarely wear socks with my bike shoes (especially during races) but the burning and blisters from 2017  were not something I wanted to experience again.

THE BIKE - 5:31:51
I used the short galavant around town at the start of the bike to settle in, hydrate and get comfortable.  By the time I hit the Queen K to head toward Hawi I was feeling great.  I saw Andrew, Liz, my mom, Gary, Christina and others all cheering along Kuakini and Palani.  I felt confident in my nutrition, hydration and pacing plan given the training I was lucky enough to do on Oahu in prep for this race.  Unfortunately it was evident that my Quarq power meter wasn't quite working, likely due to the downpour Kona got hit with shortly after bike check in had ended on Friday.  No big deal, I can ride by HR and feel quite well.  About 20 miles in I kept hearing a rubbing sound coming from what sounded like my front tire, I quickly pulled to the side the check for a flat.  All was good, not sure what the sound was, but it didn't come back after the quick stop.  I continued on, eating, drinking and taking it all in.  The lead males started coming by on their way back to Kona on the other side of the Queen K.  At about mile 45 I ran over a wad of electrical tape that someone had dropped.  It stuck to my front tire.  I knew I'd be stopped around mile 63 to grab my special needs bag so I didn't want to
stop an extra time to pull this tape off.  So up to Hawi I went carrying this wad of tape up along on my front tire.  Yes it made an annoying sound the entire way up.  I hit the turn around in Hawi, restocked my nutrition and hydration and settled in for the ride back to Kona.  The descent from Hawi was the first time in the day where the winds and heat were extremely noticeable.  The breeze was no longer cool, rather more like a hot oven directly on your face.  The winds made things difficult, I watched as people in front of me were blown sideways - more than once almost causing a bad accident amongst cyclists.  I knew that when I was going to pass these people, to do it with authority, since I didn't want any wind gusts blowing them into me.  From my pre rides and from race day I will hands down say the most difficult part of this ride is the short section from the bottom of the descent back up to the Queen K.  It is slightly uphill, often hot and and into a head wind.  Mentally you just want to be back on your way on the Queen K but you're not quite there yet. Once back on the Queen K I took some Coke in a sport top bottle and kept myself cool with cold water at aid stations.  I was feeling pretty good, just working into some wind at points and managing the elements.  My plan was to leave whatever I had left on the bike out the course once I hit the airport.  Well, let me tell you riding back to town from the airport with no wind is far different than riding back to town from the airport with a headwind.  I did what I could on that last section and was feeling pretty good, despite hot as I rolled back into transition.

T2 - 4:39
Long time DC friend Pam promptly came over to assist me once I was in the change tent.  I didn't want to rush this change, I wanted to cool down a bit, make sure my socks and shoes were on properly and hit the run course as comfortable as possible.  Pam helped me achieve that and made sure all my things made it back into my gear bag once I took off.

THE RUN - 3:59:04
I hit the run course feeling good.  Legs were ready to run, body and mind were ready to go.  Up over and down to Ali'i and oh man the energy on Ali'i was great. I saw all the people and some people that I didn't have a clue who they were but they knew me and were cheering for me by name.  Great chalk art from Christina, cheers from Whitney and Liz and others from DC and Hawaii and everywhere in between.  I hit the turn around on Ali'i still feeling good and running strong - this was already a huge win over 2017 when my feet felt like they were raw and bloody by this point in the race.  As I headed back toward Palani I saw all the familiar faces including Andrew, mom and Gary cheering before I came through the hot corner and made my way up Palani.  Close to the top I looked to my left and
saw Crowie cheering me on.  My response was "is that Crowie?" to which he said something along the lines of "yes, now get on your way".  Shortly after making the turn onto the Queen K you run by the Base tent, alway a pick me up and I was looking forward to getting a fresh tube of salt.  Matt spotted my quickly and ran alongside me with the camera before passing off some Rocket Fuel as well.  It took me another 5 minutes to process what he'd likely do with that video, but I figured he'd send it to my crew back on the east coast, which he most certainly. did.   I could feel the fatigue of the day and the undulating and never endingness of the Queen K getting to me.  My pace started to slow and I took a quick stop in a porto for comfort's sake.  I was running well for the most part and staying consistent.  I made the left hand turn into the beginning of the energy lab and knew exactly what to expect thanks to having run it earlier in the week.  It was in the energy lab that I finally let myself take some caffeinated gels - I definitely should have taken these earlier.  If I could change one thing I did that day, it would be taking one on my way up Palani and consistently every 45 or so minutes after that.   I grabbed some Osmo at special needs after the turn around in the Energy Lab and let the energy of some of my dear friends carry me back to the Queen K. With the caffeine in me and the words my dear friend Ellen told me repeating in my head as I exited the Energy Lab I was ready to to rock the last bit of this marathon.  I was able to pull my pace back to sub 9, and run down a lot of people during the final 10k or so.   My legs felt good, my body felt as good as it could, things were going well as long as I kept fueling properly.  With a couple miles to go I saw Andrew over on the other side of the Queen K running along and cheering me on.  I kept wanting to try and drop him, apparently my tired legs weren't quite up to the task.  I took in every step of those final few miles on the Queen K.  The energy at the Aid Stations, the volunteers dancing, screaming and cheering as they blared Livin' On A Prayer.  My day had gone almost as well as it could have, sure maybe we left 20 minutes or so on the table with slightly better (perfect) execution but on this day for this race I gave everything I had and left it all in the lava fields of the Big Island.  The final turn onto Palani and one last time through the hot corner, I smiled and was grateful for every step, every cheer and the support from everyone over the past years.  I'm not sure when I'll be back to race Kona again, it's not likely in the next couple of years (though I won't turn it down if the opportunity arises).   More on that to come on the blog in the near future.  The final run down Ali'i was unforgettable, lined with people, friends both new and old, the energy and lighting (golden hour) was perfect.  I made 1 last pass before hitting the red carpet and slowing to let us all have our own moment.  I raised my hands and enjoyed that finish line arch for one last time in my DC Tri Club kit, one last time in the 30-34 age group, and completely satisfied with the day I put together on the Big Island.  I got to cross the finish line into my DC friend AJ's arms and into my mom's arms who then gave me my lei.  What a memory and what day!

FINISH TIME - 10:58:23
Yes, I said above there were maybe 20 minutes left on the table with more perfect race execution.  That being said I historically don't do well in hot, humid environments like Kona usually blesses us with. I have a high sweat sweat rate, I lose a lot of sodium in my sweat and I couldn't be more thankful for the recommendation from Michelle to try The Right Stuff.  I started training with it about 5 weeks out from race day, it was a game changer and helped me come off the bike during training and on race day not feeling depleted.  I had said in a post in the days leading into Kona that this race
would be a bit of swan song for me - I'll still be racing, just not sure if/when I'll race in Kona again.  It was also my last race as part of the DC Tri Club Elite Team - this club and this team have truly helped me develop both as an athlete and as a person since 2012.  I was lucky enough to spend 6 years as a member of the Elite Team, meeting new friends and training partners.  Always having someone there to push me, encourage me and support me.   Alas, with a move to Hawaii and no longer being local to DC it's time to let the team environment help raise up another athlete.  So thank you, DC Tri Club for helping me figure out this whole Ironman thing, for taking a chance on me on the Elite Team in 2014 and for all the support since the beginning.  Happy to have you all out to Hawaii for training camp in 2020!

Thank you to my #1 squeeze, Andrew.  He biked with me on long runs as an aid station and moral support, he made sure my bike was ready to go for training and racing and he supported me every step of the way to get back to Kona.  He was out there ALL day on race day, cheering, smiling and giving me high fives (and information at all my other races).  His support and belief in me help make doing this at a high level possible.  Now we're and the throws of wedding planning which is kind of worse than overload for Ironman, but the end is near and we can't wait to celebrate in just 1 month.

Thank you to my family for being supportive and coming out to cheer me on in person.  A big thank you to my momma, who hasn't missed a full Ironman race!  They all wore matching shirts this year with my picture on it, cheering from near and far.  Thank you to my dear friends - those of you from the DC area, my friends back in Michigan and my new friends in Hawaii.  Your cheers and your support do not go unnoticed.   My dear friend Erin for the pre race pep talk before race day, my friend Ellen for giving me some mental tricks as I came out of the Energy lab.  To my girls Heather and Shannon for always believing in me - what a difference it makes knowing your friends and training partners want the absolute best for you.  To all the TriGirls in DC and all of those who helped me learn some training routes in Hawaii a sincere and big thank you.

And of course, thank you to coach Kim Schwabenbauer.  We've been on this journey since February of 2014 and we're not done yet.  The gains of made not only physically but mentally are in no small part to Kim's coaching, prep work, and own experience racing Ironman.  I

Thank you to all my wonderful sponsors including Alt-Red, Osmo, Gu, Louis Garneau, Rudy Project,  Xterra, Zealios and Boca.  You help make training and racing consistently possible and fun. 

If you're still reading keep an eye on this space in the near future for a look at my 2020 plans!

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