Kona has been the most incredible experience of my life. The preparation has been intense, but every stroke, pedal and step of the way made it all worth it. I owe so much of my success to my coach, professional triathlete Zach Ruble. He had crafted a beautiful training plan for me. During my achilles issues where running was impossible he modifed my training until I was healed enough to run again and ensured a smooth transition back. I am incredbily grateful for him. I am also incredibly greatful for Triathlon Lab, Spira, and Rudy Project for sponsoring me.
I arrived in Kona with mixed emotions. I was very nervous, but felt very prepared. The whole week leading up I swam almost every morning parts of the swim course. I biked parts of the queen K and ran Ali'i Drive. Race morning finally arrived and I couldn't believe the day had finaly come.
Treading water before the cannon was not as bad as I expected. I expected getting tired before thestart but we all just floated along waiting for the cannon. Now after the cannon, everything I expected had happened. Kicked, swam over, hit, all of the beauty of a mass swim start happened and it took a good 10 mins for everyone to clear and to get into some sort of rhythm. I felt really good out there. I wore the new TYR elite speed suit and loved it. I felt like I slipped through the water nicely. When I came out of the water I was so suprised at my time because I felt like I swam so much faster. I tried to stay on someones feet at all times but my guess is that the congestion in the beginning and at the turn around is where I lost my time because there were many times I had to slow way down and let the aggressive swimm
ers go by me that were knocking my feet and body.
Getting out of the water was so memorable. I was so greatful to get out of the water and on to my bike. I tried to have a fast transition as well. I felt really strong getting on the bike. When I turned onto the queen K someone had put up posters on the light poles every mile for the first 5 miles about cake which was really funny. Some of the signs said "Cake, the other white meat", "Death, taxes and cake". Really funny. So going out on the bike was great until the winds dramatically picked up on the road to Hawi. Everything you have probably heard about the cross winds to Hawi are so very true. I saw a lady on the side of the road who had obliviously gotten blown off her bike. People were swerving all over the place that didn't know how to handle the winds. On the week prior to the race I had a chance to ride out there and experience the wind. I was given some great advice as to how to handle the wind. Stay calm, dont tighten up, and lean well into the wind. There were points where I was leaning into the wind so much I thought surely my bike should topple over I am angeled so much. Luckiliy the day I rode those winds for the first time was an extemely windy day and it wasn't expected to be that bad, so I had rode in the worst of the worst. I kept telling myself, this isn't as bad as the other day. I remember passing a lot of people through that wind. I finally made it to Hawi and the turn around. It was filled with people cheering and that gave me a burst of energy which I needed. I grabbed my special needs bag extrememly quickly because I knew there were girls in my age group I had passed and I wanted to keep that lead. Going downhill with the winds was even scarier because I was going really fast. It was easier to lose control going downhill.
The wind coming back on queen K was strong. I just put my head down and kept hammering through. Mile 80 came, mile 90, etc I just kept getting closer and closer and it was so exciting to almost be finished with the 2nd leg. I was so excited the get running. In hindsight, before I get talking about the run, I prepared for all scenarios during the bike and my nutrition. I know that sometimes I dont feel like eating solid foods because my jaw gets too tired and chewing takes minutes before swallowing. I packed a lot of gels in case when I got to the time I needed to eat my powerbar and I didn't feel like it I would have gel. Long story short, I didnt have my solid foods like I had done in practice. I had a steady diet of drink and gel all day long on the bike. That may or may not have been the best idea.
Out of transition into the run I felt good. I told myself to take it easy the first half because I had been told it gets really rough out in the energy lab if you are not careful to pace yourself. I looked at my watch for the first 5 miles and noticed I was going a lot slower then I felt I have evergone (Ironman Florida I went a lot faster the first half). I felt the heat. It was horribly hot but I can handle that coming from Florida. What came next were the stomach issues. Around mile 10 I started to feel a sickness in my stomach. I had planned on speeding up around this point but a queasy, nausea feeling really put a damper on that. I caught two ladies around this point who were going pretty well and told me they were walking aid stations. I was interested in running with them for a bit because I felt like I needed some help to take my mind off my discomfort. One of the girls was in my age group but she dropped off shortly after I started running with them. The other lady named Julie was in the 30-34 age group and had done the race before. She was so kind with giving me advice.
She heard my stomach sloshing and said Oh, that means you need salt. I quickly took a salt pill and felt a bit better. She beside me helped me so much. We were running around 8:20 pace but kept walking the aid stations. I am thinking we should have ran through them because it killed my average speed a lot. Around mile 18 in the energy lab my stomach got a lot worse. I started thinking to myself this is what happens when you get your nutrition wrong. At this point I thought whatever, I have to make it to the finish. What worse can happen now? I know there was a girl in my age group behind me and I couldnt bring myself to stop or I would lose my place. I just kept going and my stomach was making me ill. Julie and I made it to mile 25 and I told her I had to take off and make it to the finish as quick as I could. I was being chased by the #5 girl and my stomach was NOT ok. I just wanted to finish. I took off and made it to the downhill on Palani road. The pounding of that downhill really reaggregated my stomach and I felt like I would throw up at that point. I was so close to the finish! Not 50m away when all that sprinting had cooked my legs. My legs nearly gave out on me and I almost fell over. A random kind man who was also finishing came to my side and helped me from falling. I was hunched over 50m from the finish for almost a minute. I looked up at the clock and it said 10:57..tick tick tick. I found something inside say please just break 11 hrs. I gave it one last burst and finished under 11 hrs and held on to 4th place 18-24!! What an expereince. The good, the bad, and the ugly all in once race!! I did my best given the circumstances. I honored my competition by giving it my best. I left it all out there on the course. I am proud. Kona? I only have 4 words for you. I WILL BE BACK!!!! I cannot wait to return and improve my time. I would like to return and run that run course like I know I can!
So in short: qualifying for Hawaii cost 6 months of hard training, placing 4th in my age group at the Ironman world championships cost me a new pair of tri shorts and being recognized as top 5 18-24 in the world on stage = priceless.