A Huge Win for me Today

Generally I don’t think it’s a good idea to race an A race just three weeks after Kona. But you don’t always have a choice. When I was looking at my race schedule this year, I knew that the weekend of October 30 was going to be a big one. I didn’t really tell many people about this race because I didn’t want to get the “Isn’t it too soon” lectures. I just kept it to myself. Sometimes the pressure to do well can get to me, so if I can help it, I try to keep a few things under wraps. But I’ve been training hard for this one, and Chuckie had set out a plan. We were hoping for an overall female win. We also planned to use this race to see where my speed is at, and how I’m progressing for the year.

Last night I was nervous, I had my typical pre race meal and I got to bed early. I woke up early, had my pre race breakfast and did some light stretching. The drive over went well, uneventful. Troy, Annie and I met up with Chuckie who had decided to come out of some sort of quasi-triathlon retirement for a go at the racing scene. It’s always great to have your coach at your big races, even if they are racing too. On the start line, most racers were in a really jovial mood. Some had dressed up, no doubt because tomorrow is Halloween.

On Team Trakkers we are not allowed to race in our Splish swimsuits. We have these great Trakekrs Uniforms that we usually wear. But the weather was supposed to be quite hot in Denver today, and as you know I’ve really been working on my body composition. So I decided to race in my Trakkers swimsuit. It’s the first race I’ve ever taken the plunge with this sort of thing. I made sure to wear my green Saucony Kinvaras to match the uniform.

Before I know it we are off. I’m running hard and I go out with the lead group. This race had 1100 participants and the last thing you want is to get stuck behind those slower than you. I scan the group I’m with. I try to count what place I’m in. I can’t tell who is a woman and who is a man. It can be hard to tell. I go through mile 1 in 6:47. Oh, also, I forgot to tell you I had a weird dream a couple nights before where I raced with my swim cap on. Although it sounds totally strange, I decided it kinda might be a good idea. I ran it by Chuckie and he said “go for it”.

So, back to the race, we get running onto the bike path and there is a section where it’s very technical. I have a slight altercation with a guy on rollerblades. The race director let the rollerbladers off a few minutes ahead of the runners. I try to pass the roller-man on the narrow windy path without knocking him over. He gives me a little elbow, I give him a little back, and boom, down he goes.

I’m now afraid the roller-guy is going to get up and chase me down so I pick up the pace. I hear him behind me, he’s breathing hard. I’m breathing harder. I look down to see 184 heart rate. Well, it’s my A race, I’ve been training hard for this one, I think I’m the lead woman, but I’m not going to keep the lead if this roller-man catches me and has his revenge.

Luckily I drop him just before an aid station. I panik slightly for a moment as I struggle to get the water for the aid station cup into my mouth. I suddenly felt parched and was freaking about the water, but I got it down and kept running hard. I get through that second mile in 6:40.

I’m starting to feel the effects of the hot day, and the tough racing condiditons. My swim suit feels good, no wardrobe manfunctions as of yet. I start going back and forth with two guys. One is on a scooter and one is on a skateboard. For a moment I’m a little frustrated. I trained so hard for this event and now I’m finding myself racing two guys who started minutes ahead of me and clearly have an “advantage”. But I push on. I pass them on an uphill and they come flying past on a downhill.

I pass them for good on the next hill and I know I’m in the homestretch now. I catch a glance at myself in the window that I’m running past. I can tell my form is holding together, I’m still running strong. The hills of the last mile have made their impact, my pace slowing to just over 7. But I’m so close.

One more glance in the window and I can hardly hold it together. I’m getting almost a little loopy from the effort and I let out a small giggle. I’m going to do it. I’m going to be the first female across the line. I’m just hoping that none of the people ahead of me are women, I don’t think they are.

I come down the homestretch, I’m so happy. I do a little finishline dance that looks like a swimmer, you know, to go with the swim cap theme. Troy is yelling at me to go harder. By the way, the swim cap idea is a great one. If you forget to take yours off in transition during your next triathlon, no worries, they are great to run in!

Before I know it I’m done. The finish line announcer tells me I’m the first woman across. YES! Goal attained. I check my time 21:08. Solid for this course. Solid, Chuckie will be happy with that! I jog back along the course to find Chuckie. He’s clearly forgotten just how hard racing is. I think he’ll be taking a big nap today. He was crazy enough to actually get down and do a few pushups in the middle of his race for show. That guy is such a crowd pleaser!

What a great race. It feels so very great to have WON. This one is going straight to the top of my race resume. It’s not every day that you can score a big win against a stacked field like this. I’ll remember this one for a long time going forward. Thanks to Chuckie, Troy and Annie, and also to my sponsors.

An now for some pictures!

you are going to love them!


The Denver Mountain Gorilla Run is a great race that benefits efforts to keep the endangered Mountain Gorilla alive in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo by fundraising for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. It’s an absolute riot of a race where everyone is given a gorilla suit to race in and to keep. I had an absolute blast and want to send a huge thanks to the race director for a fun, unique and well run event.

The Most Right

I’ve been watching a few videos that have been posted on Kona. I get a smile on my face every time and my heart rate rises. What is it about this race? Going into the race I had heard that the course was rather bland, and that it was just “another” Ironman, like all the others. But I am a people person, and I think that “Kona” could be held on the moon and I would still feel the same way about it. There is a magic in the air there and I’ve been wondering “why” for the last few weeks.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and for me, I think I’ve finally figured it out. As I said, I’m such a people person. I’m an empathetic person, an emotional person, and I tend to key into the vibe and the feeling of my environment. This is how I can best sum it up. At Kona you get to see what it looks like when the best triathletes in the world spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 11+ months a year, doing the right and diligent thing for their racing. There is such large amounts of competition at this race that to see that Macca won means that he dedicated every day to the Kona cause. Every workout, every meal, every nights sleep, this was the predominant decision maker in his life. All those choices were in the name of Kona. The competition is so deep that if these guys and gals don’t go that route, someone will, and that someone will then be ahead of them on race day.

I remember Chuckie saying at one time, if you want to know who is consistently doing the right thing, and training the right way, look at the people who are consistently winning. Winning doesn’t lie. People like Chrissie, and Julie, and Mirinda. They are doing the right things, whatever they are, and whether you agree with their practices, you can’t deny that they have gotten them to the top. The finish line reveals all.

I, like most triathletes have read the articles about Chrissie and why she didn’t race. Chrissy said in an article in Lava (a great read by the way) about Mirinda.

Her performance across the board was phenomenal and she’s a worthy champion. I didn’t get to the start line healthy and she’s the world champion, period.
– Chrissie Wellington

I really like this because Chrissie is recognizing that Mirinda is the World Champion because she did “the most right”. That’s what this race is about, all of these athletes fighting tooth and nail to train the right way, rest the right way, eat the right way, etc etc etc and the one who does the most things right is the one that runs down Ali’i first. Chrissie didn’t get there healthy, and that’s the bottom line.

Another quote in TriEurpoe from Chrissie:

It’s my responsibility to get to the start line healthy and I did not.”
– Chrissie Wellington

The quest to do “the most right” does not stop with the PROs. I don’t know if you have looked over a few of the age grouper times, but they are clearly showing that we age groupers are learning to “do more right” as well, showing up to the big island stronger and faster than ever. On the female side, the fastest amateur of the day in 2010 was 35 year old Belinda Harper who went 9:44 (21st overall woman) breaking Kathleen Calkins Kona amateur world record by two minutes (2009, 13th overall female, 9:46). Kathleen had broken Bree Wee’s 2007 female amateur world record by a little under 2 minutes (2007, 13th overall woman, 9:47). The mens amateur course record went down this year as well with Trevor Delsaut clipping Maximilian Longree’s 2006 record of 8:41:02 down to 8:40:43. We haven’t seen the end of this era of record breaking results either.

I often wonder what is creating this? Is access to good coaching more available? Are we second generation triathletes yielding the benefits of the triathletes 15-20 years ago’s mistakes? Is it just that bikes are faster and we can shift electronically if we so choose to? Is it a thing with numbers? More races, more athletes, more talent? Is the island just “nicer” now? I can’t answer most of these, but I know that whatever it is more and more amateurs are taking Kona very seriously and dedicating their year to doing the right thing day after day, and thus are showing up on the island ready to run down Ali’i first…whether it’s in their age group, or as an overall amateur.

All I can say is I understand the allure, I get it. To make daily decisions year round based on a race that will happen for one day in October, while trying to keep a house running smoothly and your insanity in tact is one heck of a challenge. Beyond that, to choose to do so even though you don’t get paid to do this (quite the opposite), this shows just how much we AG triathletes love that challenge, and love the sport. There is no “bottom line” for the amateurs, we are deep in the negative from a financial perspective. The race is our way to fill the deep financial hole full with life lessons/experiences, personal accomplishment, personal fortitude, a chiseled body, new friends, finishers medals, age group awards, and…well…loads and loads of swim/bike/run gear!

So come next October, I can predict that there will be amateur guys and gals on the big island that have been doing the right thing all year long, that have been eating right, listening to their coaches (who are all great coaches), getting their sleep, putting in the hours, balancing training with families, and jobs, and these women and men will descend on that lava laden island and will swim, bike, and run their hearts out to chase Belinda Harpers and Trevor Delsauts amateur records. It’s the way of the times now, and if you are thinking about chasing those records, the race to do the right thing started 18 days ago.

Sticker Chart

Changing bad habits is HARD!

I’m still learning, every day.

When I was training for IMCDA under Chuckie it was my first IM with him. Chuckie has a lot of “advice” and I would get these emails reminding me what all the right things to do are going into an IM. Things like drink more water, eat great food (not just good food), put your feet up on the wall, administer self massage, get lots of sleep, stop eating after 7pm. Wait, what? What was that last one….stop eating after 7pm? Wow, that’s harsh, seriously?

So I tried it. I did OK, not great, I would grade my effort with a C. So, kinda 50/50, which I guess was way better than before. I think before he told me this the number of times I had not eaten after 7pm in my life was….zero. Yup, zero. I eat after dinner. Sometimes good stuff like fruit, yogurt, popcorn with the air popper. Sometimes bad stuff like chips, Nutella, popcorn made on the stovetop with oil.

But the nice thing about getting into Kona was I knew that Chuckie’s advice was going to come around again, and I had another “chance” to get a better grade. Before IMCDA Chuckie sprung the no eating after 7pm concept on me about 3 weeks before the IM. So I was expecting the same with Kona. Well, I was wrong, this time he sprung it on me with about 10 weeks to go.

I tried so hard. I ate only really good food if I ate anything after 7pm, but there were nights where I just wanted food, and I ate food. I would give myself a B+ for the Kona build. I got the concept, I followed it for the most part, but when deep self restraint was required…I caved. I still made some great body composition strides, stepping on the line at Kona about 7 pounds under what I raced at CDA. I was leaner and meaner, but still very much healthy and strong, and it showed on race day.

Well I KNEW it was coming for IMAZ. I think it came about 8 days after Kona. The advice to once again curb the evening consumption. I was both full of dread and excited at the same time. It’s another chance to do a good job, but also another task in self restraint.

It is generally accepted that positive reinforcement is the most effective form of behavior modification. Even within the realm of positive reinforcement there are things you can do to hasten your desired change. I recently read this article on motivating preventive behaviors and learned that not all positive reinforcement schedules are created equal. Here is a quote from the article:

The most powerful positive reinforcement schedule is called the variable ratio schedule where rewards are given after a random number of responses (meaning a rat will get food after pressing a bar once, then five times, then seven times, then three times, then eight times, etc.). The weakest positive reinforcement schedule is called the fixed interval schedule where rewards are given only at certain time intervals after the desired response (e.g., a rat will get food after pressing a bar only if 10 seconds have passed since the last reward was given).

Before I read this article I was putting together yet another sticker chart for Annie. Do you use sticker charts for your kids? After we go on vacation where Annie sleeps in the same bed with us it’s very hard to get her to sleep in her own bed when we get back home. So I make a sticker chart and wha-lah, she’s back in her own bed lickity-split. A sticker chart works for Annie every time. We draw a certain number of circles and then we pick a reward, this time it was going to get a pumpkin for Halloween. She’s almost there:

When I was putting the chart together Troy suggested I put together a sticker chart for myself for not eating after 7pm. I said “What’s my treat”? I was thinking something along the lines of a Hawaiian vacation, new car, summer home in the mountains. Seriously, that’s how hard it is for me to not eat after 7pm. He said that if I didn’t eat after 7pm for 30 days, he would buy me a new outfit. Humm, it’s not a car…but, being that every single outfit I have bought in the last 4 years has been from the thrift store, this was actually sounding like a pretty big treat. I don’t even know what the inside of Old Navy and the Gap look like any more. Do you think that my only options for jeans are the skinny ones, because I’m just not ready to go there?

Now granted, after reading the above referenced article, I’m not sure that the sticker chart with one big reward at the end is the most effective positive reinforcement schedule. But then again, I don’t think Troy can afford to give me random awards, and also…I’m not a rat clicking a button.

So, what the hay, if I don’t eat after 7pm for 30 days, that will only leave me 3 days until IMAZ, and I will land myself straight into the A, A+ range for the first time this year….for this “task” at least. I’ve still got a few others that need work as well, but another generally accepted concept of behavior modification is to work on one thing at a time.

So I made the sticker chart, hung it up on our closet door and last night was my 7th night in a row. See, this is an all or nothing kind of deal so I can not mess up even one night or the outfit deal is off. Troy deserves a new outfit for putting up with my whining as my body screams for food in the evenings, not because I’m hungry, but because I’m addicted to eating after 7pm.

There has been a great side effect from all this. Another “problem” I have had through the years is eating a good solid breakfast. Well not any more, don’t eat after 7pm and the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning is FEED ME. So, it’s been like hitting two birds with one stone.

I know you all want to see the sticker chart….it’s why you’ve made it this far down in the post. Each morning after I weigh I put a happy face sticker on there, and then I write what the scale said that morning. weight/body fat/hydration.

As much as sometimes I wish I was a little more concerned, or anal about the number on the scale, I’ve just never been too much like that. I find it interesting to watch how my weight fluctuates with my training. Some mornings I wake up and the scale says I’m 2 pounds heavier from the day before. I toss a few cuss words at the scale, threaten to fire it for incompetence, and a few days later it’s telling me I’m two pounds lighter. The thing (or maybe me) just fluctuates. What I do like to see is a downward trend, but a slow steady one.

From losing 7 pounds between IMCDA and Kona I noticed that it actually comes in fits and spurts. If I keep up my good strong training, eat good food, and quit the post 7pm eating, then whatever body I end up with from all of that is the one I’m happy to be residing in. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

The Arizona Decision

One year ago could I have predicted this? No!

In November of 2009 I signed up for IM Arizona. I knew it would sell out within 1 hour and registration for all Ironman events open one year in advance. PIC Michelle signed up too. I thought that IMAZ would be my next Ironman.

When I finished IM Canada in August 2009 one of my main thoughts afterwards was “I want to do that again”. I didn’t have too much time to think in that direction because I headed off to Australia to race ITU Worlds which was two weeks after IM Cananda. Then one week after ITU worlds in Australia I ran the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler in Steamboat Springs, and then I launched into training for Clearwater 70.3 World Championships.

When the dust finally settled I knew I wanted to do more Ironman distance racing. I started towards that goal by signing up for IMAZ. I had also put my name in for the Western States lottery. After finding out I didn’t get into Western States, and having hired Chuckie who has oodles of IM experience, I knew I wanted MORE IRONMAN, and was hoping for a side of KONA.

Most of you know how the year went: charity slot into IMCDA ($1100 = youch), which resulted in a Kona slot, which resulted in a fabulous experience and a huge PR of 10:17. So after Kona here I sit…with an entry to IM Arizona, which just happens to be 4.5 weeks away.

Going into Kona, Chuckie and I talked about AZ and we both agreed to wait until after Kona to make a decision. The day after Kona I told Chuckie that I would love to do AZ. He said to wait a week and then decide.

It was imperative that we see how my recovery goes. If I hurt something, or I’m lacking motivation, it would be a sign that my body is pretty taxed and that it’s time for a big rest.

One thing Chuckie talks about in reference to Ironman is that you must be willing to “go to the well” during an IM. If you aren’t ready to see what’s at the bottom of the well, then you aren’t ready to race. That was the biggest decision factor for me. I asked myself, “Are you ready to go to the well in AZ like you did in Cananda, and Coeur d’Alene, and Kona? Because I believe that whatever shape I am in, it won’t matter, if I’m ready for the pain cave, if I’m ready to face the mirror, then I’m ready to race (Ok…not “whatever” shape I’m in…but you get the picture…being “ready” is both a physical and mental endeavor).

11 days of recovery and I’m very pleased with my progression. All of the soreness has been gone for over a week. The chafing turned to scabs and now is in the “itchy scabs falling off” stage (attractive…yes). The 5 purple toenails have stopped hurting and are now preparing to fall of during some imbarassing moment like swimming masters, or getting a massage. I am left the with fatigue that I can not feel but that Chuckie reassures me is still in there. I’m in the bucket whether I can feel it or not.

The desire I had to race IMAZ that I felt one day after Kona has only grown stronger. It’s PIC Michelle’s first IM and I definitely want to be on that starting line with her. I love racing the distance, I really do.

Troy (the hubby) and Chuckie (the coach) are both on board with the decision to race IM AZ, and so, with that, the decision is “YES”.

It’s exciting to think that AZ could be the start of my 2011 season. If I recover well enough and race smart enough I may have a chance at another Kona slot. That would be really really really exciting. I so badly would like to go back to the island and race again (like tomorrow, I would really like to go back tomorrow).

So there you have it, the decision has been made, the flights/hotel/car have been booked. I’m headed to AZ for another dose of swim/bike/run and I couldn’t be more jazzed. I think one of the most exciting things about racing AZ (besides watching PIC go through her first IM experience) is that PunkRockRunner is coming out to cheer for me! The reunion of he and I is nothin’ but trouble. Not to mention Chuckie V and Mighty Mouse will be there too. Throw in PIC, Sidekick Annie, and Troy (who I call Boo) and you’ve got a bunch of triathlon junkie goofballs!

I sometimes lay awake at night, twitching under the covers, wondering when the motivation will dip. I don’t know, right now I can say that training for these races brings a certain sparkle to my eyes, and racing these races fills me with joy.


I gotta find a way to get back to that island!

Hilo Side

I am still very upset that I had to come back from Hawaii. It’s been a rough transition back to warm clothes, cold pool water, and zero humidity. My heart is still in Kona.

The Tuesday after the race we drove over to the Hilo side of the island to hunt for waterfalls. Everything I heard about Hilo was that it was the wet side of the island and looked like what you would expect of Hawaii (no Lava).

We packed up the convertible, put the top down and started out towards Akaka Falls State Park. The drive over started dry and lava like and there were cattle ranches along the way. Then near Waimea we noticed there was some green grass. We pulled over and Grandma Marla treated Annie to a new hat and sunglasses. Shortly after Waimea HAWAII hit. It was green, lush, and we were starting to ooh and ahh.

We found Akaka falls easily and headed out on the short path that visited the falls. We walked at a grand speed of 1 mile per two hours. Seriously, there were so many things to look at that we took our time!

Check out the cute little lizard on this flower. He was so tiny, this is soo Hawaii.

As we were walking up the path there were all these little yellow fruits on the ground. Most of them were smashed, but they looked rather edible to me. So I started hunting around for one. They were the size of golf balls, little yellow golf balls. I broke one opened and tasted it. mmm, sweet. Probably won’t kill me right? So I ate one. Then another, then another. I had no clue what they were but they were so good, I couldn’t stop. We turned the corner and there was Akaka Falls.

I still wasn’t dying from the little yellow fruits so I had Annie tried one, she loved it too!

After driving out of Akaka falls we saw a sign for a fruit stand and I am a compulsive fruit stand stopper. I can not physically pass one. I think its from growing up in California. There really aren’t any fruit stands in CO, so you can believe I made Troy stop. this fruit stand had Coconuts, Rambutan, and Passion Fruit. Umm, I’ll have lots of all three please.

Passion Fruit (below) is MIGHTY tasty. Not so much when it’s a bit tart (under ripe I think), but unbelievably good when ripe and sweet. Rambutan is a red spiky looking thing, and I’m pretty sure it’s also called Lychee? These were the big hit of the day, positively delightful and I could have eaten 300 of them. Annie and I tried! I asked the fruit stand guy what the little yellow fruit was that I had been eating copious amounts of, he said it was Guava. Oh good, whew!

We then headed to Hilo for a really nice lunch, a little bit of farmers market shopping, and then a side trip to Ribbon Falls and Boiling Pots. Ribbon Falls is right in the heart of town.

By Boiling Pots we were all pretty much ready to take a nap. We were waterfalled out and headed back towards Kona, with the top down of course. Until it started raining…which is why everything is so green. So up the top went for the rest of the trip.

Annie fell asleep with her sunglasses on, which was super cute. She had so much fun running around all day. It was just such a relaxing day, full of new experiences and good times. You can see why I didn’t want to come home.

We tried to leave a few things on the island to do in future trips. We didn’t visit the volcano because we heard that most the roads were closed due to high sulfur levels. Not much to see there, no access to flowing lava. So that was saved. I didn’t see any turtles, Annie and Troy did, but I didn’t. So, there are many reasons to go back.

It Takes A Village

Getting to the starting line of the Ironman World Championships is no small feat and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of many people. When I look back on the experience my mind always gravitates back to the friends and family that helped me get there. It really takes a village to raise and Ironman and I would like to highlight my village.

My Coach: Chuckie
I can’t even begin to explain how valuable Chuckie has been. If this Ironman was a game, Chuck would be getting some large trophy for Most Valuable Player. He took on the intense, and goal oriented girl that I am and he did one of the things that he does best…coach. He didn’t shy away from coaching me on the mental side of the sport, or the emotional side, or the lifestyle side, or the gearing side, or the recovery side. He was in one word, my “advisor”. From training, to tires, to flu shots, I asked his advice on everything and I always received a knowledgable, well thought out response on the issues I brought to him. He went several steps beyond that and rode hundreds of miles with me, and drove support or rode his mountain bike while I ran numerous times. He sat at the track for hours talking to me every lap while I ran circles. He gave me bottles when I forgot mine, and let (insisted) me use his shower about 100 times so I didn’t have to drive home smelly. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him this year, and I will be very sad when he and Angela depart for warmer weather in Arizona in a few weeks. I pray to the triathlon gods that he will agree to continue coaching me for years to come.

My Husband: Troy
Few people have a significant other in their lives that respects and accepts them 100%. I have that in Troy. He not only supports the triathlon lifestyle, but he considers himself an active part of my training. The word “support” doesn’t really even hit the mark, he is so much more. He helps me balance the triathlon budget in a stress free way. He watches Annie at a moments notice when I’ve missed a training session and need to make it up, or I have so many training sessions that I’m not even sure how to get them all in logistically. He appreciates my need for tons of pricy gear. He plans trips, he schleps luggage, he builds bikes, he changes tires, he washes oddles and oddles of laundry. When I am exhausted he tucks me into bed at night, he makes meals, he drives with me while I ride or run. He’s simply “there” for me in every way you can imagine, and it’s all with a smile and an “I love you hun”. All he asks, is that I’m happy and fulfilled.

My Training Partners: PIC Michelle, Angela, Tyler
My training was very focused this year and there were times when I trained a fair amount on my own. PIC Michelle has been my shoulder to cry on, and a fast wheel to hang onto when I needed it. She’s one of the only people that I know that I can be myself 100% with. She gets me and is my sister in many ways. I love traveling to races with her and I’m so excited for her Ironman debut in a few weeks. Angela, while she is so fast that sometimes I barely see her, has been such a bright light in my life this year. She’s a triathlon goddess that I look up to. She continues to amaze me, and has been nothing but too sweet all year to me. My friend Tyler went above and beyond this year to hook up with me during my easy sessions to make sure that I was still having fun. He constantly checked in with me during the big weeks to make sure my head was above water.

My Kid Watchers: Sandy, Debbie, and Hilary
Sandy deserves my Ironman medal. I would not have been able to do this without her. She would pick up Annie from preschool along with her daughter, run across town to pick up her son and then watch all three of them until Troy or I could pick her up. She did it every week and all the while her husband Richard was training for Kona as well (Richard did great, and came in just over 15 hours). Annie would cry when we would pick her up because she didn’t want to leave. Annie just loves Sandy, I don’t know how I’ll ever repay her. Debbie lets me call her at a moments notice and Hillary was sweet to offer her house to Annie when I was headed in the Boulder direction.

My Family: Helen, Eric, Roger, Marla, Norm, Grace, T, Kyle
My parents have supported me this year in so many ways. They have traveled to races, hosted my impromptu solo training camps complete with day care (for one), been my official photographers, helped me purchase gear, rented condos, sent Troy chinese food, and called endlessly to check on me. Troys parents have supported me as well this year traveling all the way to Kona, watching Annie in a pinch, and letting Troy and I crash their house for training weekends away from home. Norm, Grace, T and Kyle made the trip from Oahu to Kona to cheer for me and the trip would not have been complete without them.

My Sponsors: Trakkers, Goal0, Saucony, Mix1, Justin’s Nut butter, Nathan, NUUN, and TriSwim, First Endurance, and the Punk Rock Racing Team
Charlie and Carole with Trakkers have really made my year epic. They shower support on me with emails, texts, and offers of help. Goal0 congratulated me on my Kona slot with support that helped me pay that steep entry fee. I eat A LOT of Justin’s Nut Butter and Mix1 and both of them deliver all I can eat right to my doorstep every month. When I send out email updates they always write back immediately with uplifting responses. They have helped me this year more than they know. Saucony has been divine as well. I have gone through more shoes than the average triathlete this season with multiple Ironmans and a 100 mile run race. They have made sure my feet stayed happy along the way. Richard at First Endurance has answered all my nutritional questions and I can say that this year I have had outstanding nutritional success in all my races with their products. NUUN is in my everyday water glass and hangs out for most all rides. Nathan made sure I was taken care of, and they just make the most bomb proof products for toting around your nutrition! Lastly, and they aren’t really even a “sponsor”, more just me mooching, but I have to give a huge shout out to Punk Rock Racing. Ron has been so thoughtful and he’s one of the best things that happened to me this year. When me found out I was dressing warm for Kona, he sent over sweatshirts and hats. I love him!

My Team: Trakkers
What would I do without my teamies? These guys and gals single handedly keep the comment count on my blog high. They send me notes, emails, comments, tweets of support daily, literally daily. When we race together they are my family away from home. Without this team my triathlon experience would not be nearly as rewarding.

My Friends
Where do I even start here? So many of you constantly take interest in my journey, and that my friends, is what makes my journey so sweet. The notes and emails of encouragement I get from you all is out of this world. It’s never ending. If I’m down, you pick me up, if I’m up, you pat me on the back. My triathlon good luck angels: Keith, Adam, Bree. My tell it to me like it is pumpkin carver Hillary. My inspiration Amy. I love you all and hope I can impact your lives as much as you enhance mine.

With my first Ironman World Championship under my belt some of you are asking “What’s Next”? Well, first off I need to talk to Chuckie. That’s goal number one. However, about 24 hours after being in Kona Troy said “I hope we do this again next year”. After I finished, all I could think was “I want to do that again”. So, it will be a goal of mine to get back to that island. 15th in my age group is awesome, but with just one year of Chuckie coaching under my belt, I think there is more in me. I think he can get more out of me with more time, and I would love to have that opportunity again. Some have asked if I will turn PRO. That’s a definite “no” for now. If any of you know of Tim Hola, I consider his journey to be one I would enjoy.

I am signed up for Ironman Arizona in about 4 weeks. We’ll continue to watch my recovery and then we’ll make a decision on that race soon, but you can guess which way I’m leaning. I really enjoy the Ironman distance, and I look forward to many years of racing to come.

And now, my Kona Video, enjoy it! Let me know what you think!

Kona – The Run

Heading in off the bike they have you run all the way around transition to the back side of the pier, in a way reversing your steps from T1. It’s quite a run so you get a taste of how your legs are going to feel. Mine were basically saying “What on earth have you done to us”? They were pretty heavy. I grabbed my bag, ran into the change tent, which seemed rather busy and dumped my bag out on the ground. I had two volunteers helping me and although it was a bit crazy, I got through the entire T2 in about 3 minutes.

I hit lap on my watch coming out of T2 and it said “Delete History, Active Memory Full”. Grrrrr. It does this to me in training and the only thing to do is shut it down, turn it back on, delete all history, and restart the watch. But that would mean I would loose all my ride data. I remembered my watts, 169 average. But I was sad about losing the data. I ran that first mile going “think Sonja, think, what to do”? I thought maybe I could steal a watch off someone else. No, that’s not a good idea. Maybe I could delete some old training sessions and see if it would let me hit lap. I tried that…which was a pain in the butt to be clicking buttons while running. It didn’t work. Back to the drawing board.

After running a bit longer and “thinking” I finally decided to delete everything and start new. So I cleared the history, restarted the watch, turned it to run mode, and hit start somewhere just after mile 1 of the run. It was a good decision. It would have been fun to look back at my ride data, but, it was more important to have access to my watch during the marathon!

I gotta admit, I wasn’t all too sure where exactly the run course went. For some reason I thought you spent a lot of time on the Queen K, and very little time on Ali’i drive. I had driven the Queen K portion, I had run the Energy lab, but I had not scoped any of Ali’i drive. Some surprises are needed.

After the watch incident I got going onto Ali’i drive and my legs were turning over very nice. I saw Bree Wee and we tried to slap hands, but we completely missed each other. It was so kind of her to give me some Aloha out there. At mile 2 I started wondering when we were going to turn around.

I need to talk about the aid stations here on Ali’i because they are worthy of their own post. The stations were phenomenal, there was so much aid to be had. Sometimes I think they took up 0.1 of a mile, with multiple opportunities to access the goods. I had on my new Nathan waist pack (which I love) and a Nathan 10oz hand bottle in my hand. I barely needed them. The stations had me covered. It was a bit hot so I was taking full advantage of the fluids on the course. I even had a few gels on Ali’i drive.

I saw my family coming directly out of transition, and then I saw Chuckie, Michelle and Angela around mile 2. That was awesome, lots of booming cheers from them, I totally loved it! Chuckie told me to find someone and work together with them. Great idea. A lady had just gone past me at a good clip so I tried to get her back. But she wasn’t the working together sort, so I was still “dating”.

At mile 5 we finally turned around. My mile 2-5 splits had been somewhere around 7:45, 7:41, 7:51, 7:52. I spent a fair amount of time those first miles wondering if I had gone too hard on the bike. I was working pretty hard those first miles, but having trouble really telling where my body was at. They weren’t flat miles either, there are some hills on Ali’i drive.

The 5 miles back on Ali’i were pretty uneventful. I saw Brynje who is coached by Chuckie too, and she looked great. I continued to eat a bit too much at the aid stations, but it all tasted so good. Those next 5 miles were 7:58, 8:00, 8:04, 7:57, 8:03. I really was paying very little attention to my watch. Back through town, back through the awesome cheers from everyone.

Then we ran up Palani hill. This is so much harder of a task than it looks like when you watch it on TV. Palani is like a 3 block hill and it’s steep. I knew I shouldn’t spike my heart rate so I tried to take the hill as consistent as possible, but I won’t lie, it hurt. I heard my name being cheered for and tried to smile as much as possible. My friend Jordan was there with his girlfriend Chrissy. Mile 11 with Palani hill was 8:41. That’s a big slow down, but it’s to be expected on the hill and I wasn’t concerned at all.

Now I was on the Queen K, yeah! The infamous Queen K that I’ve been waiting for! Coming down the first hill I mentally noted “big hill…coming up this will suck in 15 more miles”. At the bottom of it Michael Lovato passed me on his way to the finish and he said “Good Job Sonja”. He was wearing an orange kit with orange Kinvaras and the whole look was very cool. Orange is a color more athletes should try. I tried to give him kudos back, and I think I did, hopefully they didn’t come out like “Humph go huh huh michael”. I remember getting goose bumps after he said good job, I was really touched by the gesture. That was very kind of him to give me props out there on the course.

And so it began, the Queen K. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s 1 part hot, 3 parts hilly, and 2 parts relentless. You’re on it for about 6 miles until you turn into the Natural Energy Lab (NEL). So this is where I needed to find my zone, and crank it out. I was trying to find my zone, and I was still looking for someone to work with, but I was feeling a little inconsistent. I was having to give myself little pep talks, lots of them, my zone was being elusive. Miles 12-14 were 8:12, 7:59, 8:12. Somewhere in there Bree Wee and I passed again and this time we were successful in our hand slapping. I wish I had a picture of that.

I have several triathlon “angels” in my life, at least that’s what I call them. They are people whose presence I consider lucky and they always seem to share wisdom with me in a selfless way. Bree is one of them, as is my friend Adam who has raced Kona before. So I felt an extra boost with that high 5 from Bree, and again I got goosebumps.

Mile 15 was my first really big challenge of the day. I had noticed at about mile 12 that my tummy was a bit poochy. I thought to myself “You’re taking in too much, the tummy isn’t digesting”. I had already peed twice on myself during the first 12 miles, and I’m not talking little pees. I was HYDRATED. But during mile 15 I started to get the sloshy tummy. I could hear it thumping and moving. I was hoping it was the guy next to me, but it was me. Towards the end of mile 15 I got the sudden feeling of “OMG I have to poo like pronto”. I was looking for bushes and well…it’s the Queen K…there are none, just LAVA! I saw an aid station soon and knew they would have a potty. I tried to run fast…but not too fast, and with about 50 meters to go, I lost a bit of the battle with my tummy. It was the worst feeling, knowing what I was most likely doing in my shorts.

I finally got to the port-a-pottie and did my business. I tried to clean myself up the best I could. But really, I didn’t give a crap…literally, okay, wait, I guess I did give a crap, but you know what I mean. I just wanted to get back on the course and limit my potty time. The pit stop took exactly 42 seconds and I was back on the road. I made some new “rules” for myself, which were no more eating or drinking for 2 aid stations, and tread lightly while my system recovers. Mile 15 was 8:53 including the potty.

We had some hillage from there and eventually we turned into the NEL. This portion of the course is tough and I’m not exactly sure why. You go down a pretty big hill and all the special needs bags are here. It should be a good place, but I think it’s one of the hottest sections of the course. You can see the runners just ahead of you here and I saw Whitney from Boulder looking very very strong. I saw Wendy Mader as well, can’t miss the Timex kits! Miles 16-18 were 8:10, 7:59, 8:17.

I made the turn and headed back out of the energy lab. I started to drink some fluids again as my stomach seemed to be okay. I tested it bit by bit. I passed up my special needs bag. It was only 8 miles to the finish and I didn’t want anything I had stashed in there. Running out of the (no) Energy Lab is really brutal. It’s a hill and it’s hard and hot. Lots of people were suffering through here, me included I guess. I tossed my hand bottle at an aid station, knowing I could make it to the end without it.

I passed Wendy here and she was not happy. I’ve heard nothing but cool things about Wendy from my friend Fred, but I keep meeting her in the middle of races when she is struggling. I felt for her, and I didn’t want to pass without saying anything, so I said “Are you Wendy” and she said “Yes” and I said “I’m Sonja” and she said “Hi Sonja”. But the way she said “Hi Sonja” was in a very sad little mouse voice, and I just felt worse for making her talk. Mile 19 up the NEL hill was 8:54.

Back onto the Queen K your spirits really lift. There is a downhill after that big hill and you only have about 7 miles to go. I was looking forward to the 10K to go mark, because anyone can suffer for 10K. This guy came past me, and he was running like there was a fire under his toosh. You could tell it hurt, but this guy was embracing the pain cave and throwing it down. I immediately hopped on.

And this is where I found my Zen mode. For a good 5 miles I latched onto this guy and we ran through aid station after aid station. I was one stride behind him, just staring at his back for 5 miles. Sometimes other people would jump in the mix, but eventually they would drop back or move along. I don’t know if I annoyed him, but I tuned into his stride and zoned out completely. Miles 20-24 were 8:03, 8:18, 8:02, 8:26, 8:17. And I was happy with them. The guy that I latched onto is in a ton of the pictures above, he has on a dark red top with a huge M-dot in the middle. He so totally rocked!

I passed my dad and my Uncle Norm and Cousin Kyle. They were cheering up a storm and taking pictures. My Uncle Norm was helping a woman that was done. I felt so bad for her, especially after hearing the story my Uncle told. She was only 2 miles from the finish, she was in my age group, and she was just done. Her name was Megan Newcomer and I hope some day I can find out if she is ok. The stories were pretty scary. Uncle Norm is with her here.

At the top of one hill this volunteer was telling everyone “it’s all downhill from here”. My brain went crazy for a bit over that one. I knew there was one big hill left, one really big hill. I made sure to tell my stud pacer friend this. I also asked him if he knew what race clock time was, he didn’t, but I found out he had an Australian accent. Sure enough we hit the bottom of the hill and there it was facing me. BIG HILL. I had about two miles to go and I thought, poop on this hill, I’m going up it HARD. So I did. I ran up the last hill on the Queen K like the finish line was at the top.

And at the top of that hill you turn and get to run down Palani. I ran down Palani as hard as I knew how, pretending the finish line was at the bottom. Then you turn left on Kuakini and I ran along that as hard as I knew. I was now getting tired of running hard. I turned the corner towards Ali’i and there was Chuckie and Ang and PIC. I started crying and heard Chuckie yelling to GOGOGOGO. I went harder, my throat choking up, but with no tears. Then I turned onto Ali’i and it was all smiles. Ali’i was AWESOME. It was lined with people, all of them cheering like crazy. I saw a woman right ahead of me and thought “oh no, I gotta get her, what if she’s in my age group”. When I got up near her I noticed she had 3 numbers on her arm which meant she was a pro, so I didn’t give chase. They started 30 minutes ahead and I wasn’t going to ruin my finish line experience racing her, ya gotta milk those last steps.

I ate it up on Ali’i. It’s truly the best finish line in the world and it did not disappoint. Because I had to restart my watch I had no idea what the race clock time was. I came around the corner, looked up and saw 10:17 on the clock. I was totally flabbergasted, I was ecstatic and my whole body washed with goose bumps. I ran over that finish line full of smiles and warm fuzzy feelings. My last two miles were 8:00 and 7:12.

The race volunteers were amazing afterwards. They take great care of you and before I knew it I had a lei and medal around my neck and I was laying on a massage table. I had an interesting thing happen after the race this time. I couldn’t find my family and I was horribly tired and I actually got sad and upset. I think it was a blood sugar thing, but I shed a few tears of sadness walking around afterwards. The massage helped a ton and then I found my family.

The evening was spent dancing it up at the finish line until midnight. It was an amazing experience, that midnight finish line. Thousands of others were there too.

I have a treat for you for tomorrow on the blog. My aunt Grace took some great video of the day and I made a movie. It turned out really good, so I’ll post it after my closing thoughts tomorrow.

total time: 10:17:53
swim: 1:10:41
T1: 2:24
Bike: 5:30:47
T2: 3:17
Run: 3:30:46
W30-34: 15th
amateur women: 31st
overall women: 60th
overall: 637

Kona – The Bike

So I get out of transition and it is a zoo out there! I don’t know which was more crowded, the race course or the sidelines. Both were jam packed. We had an out-and-back section on the Kuakini highway and people were several across. Drafting codes were not really being considered, it was just really jam packed. I just relaxed, sipped on my bottles, and took a chill pill.

I was lucky in that I had a plan. Chuckie and Angela had ridden the course in days prior and Chuckie sent me a really good email about patience. My plan was to ride the first 50 miles patiently. Additionally the goal was to keep a low profile, a low heart rate, and to lay in hiding. Then when 50 came, it was go time. Michelle spent a lot of time training on the course the last few days and she gave me a ton of tips about the windy sections of the course and the climb up to Hawi.

My cousin Kyle, he’s a riot!

The first 10 miles were really about getting settled on my bike. People were flying by me. I wish I could figure out how many people went by me in those first 10-20 miles. It was oodles, it felt like hundreds, and it didn’t bother me one bit. I just let them all go, and I pretended I was a tiger in Africa, waiting. There was a few cat and mouse games with some ladies, one by the name of Kendra (a hoot this girl is). That girl cracked me up a few times. She was making friends out there, having conversations. At one point Kendra went by and said “Sonja, have you met Lauren”. There was a lady named Lauren riding next to us at that time. Lauren looked and me and said “Is she talking to you”, and I laughed and said “I think so”. It was just funny, here everyone was focused and Kendra was about to break out a Mai Tai!

Making the turn and biking up Palani is a total highlight of the race. I had people screaming my name the entire way up. Friends, acquaintances, blog readers. It was (to copy Raelerts 70.3 speech) “freaking awesome”.

By 25 miles in most people had settled down. I was hanging out at the bottom or a bit lower than my Ironman heart rate range. I had the rented 808 with a PowerTap on the rear and was keeping my watts nice and steady over the hills right around 160. I will say that I didn’t feel “tttt-riffic”. I felt “normal”. Chuckie had warned me about this, that I may not feel snappy. It actually took a little bit of time to get my legs under me. But I had 50 miles to get there, and I wasn’t too worried.

I also entertained a few thoughts about the swim during those first miles on the bike. Part of me was really hoping to PR at Kona and I couldn’t help but think that I was already 3 minutes down from my CDA time in the swim. I let myself think about it calmly for about 90 seconds and then I released it, told myself that I have to move forward, and I put it behind me.

The Kona bike course is insane. There is LAVA everywhere. It’s on the side of the road, and in some places all you can see is black. I have to admit, I loved it. It was hot, but not Death Valley hot. I usually go through a bottle of fluids every one hour, and in Kona it was one bottle every 45 minutes. The aid stations were every 5 miles, and the first few were actually almost a little too often and I skipped quite a few of them. I definitely felt like all the dressing warm on rides back home was a good move. It was a pain in the butt, however is was paying off here.

The first “marker” that you are thinking about on the course is the “turn to Hawi”. I learned this week that in Hawaiian when a “W” is surrounded by two vowels, it’s pronounced like a “V”. So Hawaii is actually “Hah-vi-ee”, and Hawi is pronounced like Havi. So, I get to the turn to Havi and we are only 40 something miles in. Now I’m starting to get antsy. I’m warmed up, my mind and heart are ready to hurt.

Mom, Dad, Uncle Norm, and Cousin Kyle are checking results on Dads iPad

At 45 miles I start picking things up about 1 heart beat per minute. I started playing “Ironman” in my head. I hit 50 miles and it was go time. It just happened to coincide with the climb to Hawi. This is the infamous section where people get blown off their bikes. It did not disappoint! The wind comes purely in gusts, and the gusts will knock you off your bike if you aren’t focused. I was glad that I was starting to hammer a bit harder here because strong pedaling and fast pedaling really helped me keep control of my bike through the wind.

And then it started…I started passing people like no tomorrow. All the way up to Hawi I was constantly passing while I worked my way into the upper section of my Ironman heart rate zone. It was fun to watch the average watts climb climb climb. People were really starting to hurt here. I watched people loose their strong cadence and start grinding at like 50 rpm. That’s a sure sign of eminent implosion. I was fresh and jazzed and having fun hauling.

Hawi is about mile 60 and it’s also where you get your special needs bags. It was raining in Hawi and I got soaked and a little cold. I just laughed and assumed that it would be the last time I was cold in the race. I picked up two new EFS bottles in my special needs and an EFS liquid shot and was off. the volunteers were awesome and they nailed the special needs exchanges. My style is to stop in front of the person with my bag, unclip, take what I need, and get going again. Some people take the bag and keep biking, but I think this is just asking for disaster. Especially with the wind.

Departing Hawi is a giant downhill and you encounter the same freaky cross winds. Again, I was glad to have lots of juice in my legs and to be able to pedal hard and fast. The giant downhill was so fun and yet again I was so pleased with my gearing as I did not spin out at all and passed many a dude in this section. It actually reminded be of descending from Ward with a big head wind, and well, I’ve done that with Chuck and Michelle a dozen times this year, I felt prepared for that descent.

Making the turn back onto the Queen K from the Hawi side is where the women start to get separated from the girls. This is where you find out how hard you trained, how many bike sessions you missed, and how tough you are. It’s miles and miles of hot rollers in the lava with a headwind. But I was focused, I was ready. I had paid my dues in the front half of the race and now was the time to push the watts and push the little voices in my head (which were actually pretty happy voices).

I counted down the miles, every one of them. I stayed really hydrated continuing with one bottle every 45 minutes. The road is so straight, and so desolate (even during the race) that I would put my head down and watch my Garmin for minutes on end. I would only have to glance up every 30 seconds or so. I thought about all the trainer sessions with my head drooping while I watched my Garmin. It was just like that. I shut down all other body parts except my legs and I stared at my heart rate and my watts and tried to ride the most even, consistent, and hard that I ever have. I kept telling myself “If you are going to do this, do it well, do it the best you know how, seek perfection”.

If you are spectating, this is the smart thing to do, sleep while you athlete is on the bike! The King Kam hotel has some great sofas!

I gave myself lots of pep talks here “Stay strong, stay even, you are doing this, just keep it up, relax, use your legs, just like you’ve been taught”. I really pulled out all the mantras out there. I also started making goals. I wanted a 5:30 bike split. Actually, I really wanted a sub 5:30 bike split to tell you the truth. Where did I come up with this number? Nowhere, it just came to me out there on the Queen K. Yes, it’s 15 minutes faster than both my other Ironmans, but Chuckie had me ready, he had me biking really well and I thought 5:30 was in me for sure.

When I hit 4:30 on my watch I looked at my Garmin to see how many miles I had left, it was 20.1. Okay, I thought, you need to go faster than 20.1 mph for one hour and you will have that 5:30 split. I can do anything for an hour right? So, keeping my heart rate right at the top of the range, I went for it. Go big or go home. I’m glad I had this goal because it kept me honest. I rode so hard coming home that I swear I did not get passed once…guy or gal. I was focused. Every time I would hit a hill and I would be going 13 mph my heart was breaking, and then when I would go down the other side and I would be doing 27 I wanted to cry from joy.

With 7 miles to go I had exactly 20 minutes left until a 5:30 split. I really went for it here, there was no “sit up and spin your legs out”. Oh no, I was going for it. We came back into town and I saw my dad cheering and taking pictures. I went around the hot corner and to me it was just a sea of green shirts as my family lined the corner and screamed so loud that the announcer started cheering for me. They seriously took the whole cheering thing to a completely new level!

Around the corner, big Banyon tree, out of the shoes, hand off the bike, glance at the watch…5:30. Boo Ya Sonja, you made it. Okay, so I wasn’t quite under 5:30, but I was super stoked about my split. I worked really hard for it and I executed exactly what Chuckie had advised.

Two disciplines down, one to go. Just a simple little marathon. The heart of the Ironman is the run course, and the heart of the Kona Ironman is in places with names like Ali’i drive, Queen K, and Natural Energy Lab. These locations are cuss words in the hearts and minds of many. People are humbled, they are brought to their knees out in these places. How badly did these locations plan to hurt me?

Kona – The Swim

The morning of October 9th finally arrived! We were up and out of the house at 3:45am. Michelle was volunteering at the body marking area. Troy and my dad wanted good spots on the seawall and I just assumed I would go with all of them to the race start. I was pretty much the first athlete to arrive at the race area, but it just meant I had lots of time to get things done. I was really nervous, trying to talk myself down and to stay calm, but it was tough to get down my 2 Mix1s and toast with Justin’s Almond Butter and a banana.

My Aunt Grace with her GoSonja shirt on!

It took awhile for me to find body marking which is odd because I should have asked PIC, since once I finally found it she was there body marking away. It was behind the King Kam hotel. Each number range was assigned 4 volunteers and my range just so happened to be manned (womaned) by the ladies that sat behind us on the airplane. What’s the odds? They were super duper excited and did a fantastic job stamping my arms with the official numbers. I’ve never had the cool number stamps before and it made it feel like this was a big deal, which just added to the nerves!!

From there I headed over to transition to check on my bike. There was a volunteer every 5 feet telling me which way to go and within 20 seconds of arriving at my bike a lady appeared with a pump for me to use. The volunteer support at this race felt like 5X the amount I have ever seen at any other race (that is once you “found” body marking). I pumped the tires, adjusted the shoes (we got to put our shoes on our bikes, that’s unique to the World Championships).

I got into my run bag (led by a volunteer) and deposited some Benadryl just in case I had another allergic reaction at the energy lab. I wanted to make sure I was self sufficient, especially since I knew it was a potential “issue”.

Then I was done and had like 90 minutes to wait. I found Troy and said hi, I ambled around. Finally I found Chuckie and Angela and sat down with them. That was great because Chuckie really talked me through my race and reminded me of all the little details we had been over.

When it was finally time to start the getting in the water I felt ready for the day and ready to dig deep. I was nervous, but I knew that once we got going the nerves would go away and I would feel better. Everyone had nerves, everyone. I didn’t see one person that looked totally calm and chill. I think it’s inevitable.

I’m not in this first picture, but look at everyones face, intense!

And then there’s me…dork!

The pros got off and going and then we age groupers started descending onto the beach. I got in the water right away and found my friend Julia. We had a little nervous chat and then I got swimming out to the start line. First I waved to my two dads who were ready with cameras.

I was getting really excited as I hung onto a boat near the starting line. There was a Ford car floating in the water, there were thousands of people on the seawall. The pier was lined with VIPs and cameras and volunteers. They started giving us a countdown and yelling at us to stop hanging on the floating car. I lined up way left and way in the back.

I was hoping for a stress free start, I guess that’s always the hope isn’t it? The cannon went off and I hit “go” on my watch and started swimming. PIC got a great shot since she just happened to be standing next to the cannon. You can see the car in the water too.

The contact was minimal, people were swimming nicely and I seemed to mesh with the swimmers around me rather quickly. The water is super clear and the tropical fish are swimming below you, but you can’t get caught up looking at all those beautiful fish, you must swim. I didn’t have too much trouble ignoring the fish but every once in awhile you would swim over something that would catch your eye, like a tire…or a lunchbox, or a paper plate.

The other great thing about the clear water is that it’s so easy to find feet to swim on. The bubbles are obvious, even the feet that are 5 meters ahead are obvious. A guy went past me swimming a good clip so I jumped on his feet. He was swimming faster than me so I really fought hard to stay on his feet. I followed those feet all the way to the turn around where I lost them to the cluster of people trying to turn around a boat, get their bearings and get going in the right direction again.

Then I played a game. I would sit on some feet, then I would pass that person and swim really hard to the next set of feet ahead of them. Then I would sit on those feet before I did it again. I felt like I was swimming really strong, and really fast. I was telling myself “This is going to be a great swim”. I felt it. I was hanging on to feet that were barely within my reach. The way back took forever as I played my game of hopscotch. Finally I could see the pier, and then the Ford car, and then the final buoy.

I had lots of contact the last 50 meters or so. We were funneling into the swim exit, there were about 5 of us around and we just pummeled each other those last yards. Kinda silly but it was what it was.

I’m in here somewhere, how did my dad know it?

I’m the pink cap with the curved arm.

white TYR goggles…that’s me!

I pulled myself up the stairs and ran up them, just in time to see the clock say 1:10. My first thought was “seriously”? I was a little shocked, I swam really well, really straight, and quite hard. To see the 1:10 was a little alarming because it just didn’t match my perceived exertion.

I didn’t have any time to think about it though. I was through the showers, grabbing my bag and finding a seat in the changing tent. There were actually seats for me and about 4 volunteers waiting to cater to my every need. They ripped off my swimskin immediately and helped me with my stuff. Again lots of volunteers. I ran out of the tents just in time to see one of my competitors eat it on the run out. I felt bad for her, I would not have wanted to fall down in transition.

I found my bike likity split, threw on the helmet, grabbed my bike and got the shanizzle out of there. More volunteers were helping guide my way and before I knew it I was on my bike, getting my feet into my shoes and biking down Palani Road.

The Big Dance – Day 2/3

The Big Dance – Day Two

Well, today went much better, but still with it’s share of eventful happenings. It started off with a swimmy swim in the OCEAN. Oh yes, you would think the race was actually today if you were down at the water. Lots of athletes were out doing the first portion of the swim course. Michelle and I were excited! Troy was shocked with all the people and had a little of the deer in the headlights look going on.

Michelle and I found Chuckie who was hanging out on the seawall. My dad got some hilarious pictures from like 50 yards away. How do I explain my dad to you all? He carries around a camera with a very big lens. Everyone thinks he’s an Ironman photographer, but really, he’s my dad. These pictures are pretty funny, especially since we are talking about him….while he’s taking our picture. Also, I find Chuckie’s leg to look extremely ripped. Good on ya’ Chuck!

So PIC and I hop in and off we go. We stay way left and out of the commotion. So, what are my thoughts. Well? Salty. That’s number one, definitely salty. Umm, Clear, that’s number two. And finally FISH, that’s number three. It is a little bit hard to focus on swimming, but I think I’ll be okay on race day. I do need to figure out just where to place myself. It’s a tight starting area.

PIC and I swam out to the coffee boat. Yes, Kona is so cool that there is a swim up coffee boat. BlueSeventy was on the boat doing little contests. They dared Michelle to touch the bottom and she would win a pair of goggles. She gave it a solid go, but didn’t quite make it. They handed out little cups of coffee and little cookie biscuit things. I didn’t have coffee, but I did have PIC cram some biscuit in my mouth.

Back to shore we went, and just in time to suit up for the underwear run. Holy Moly! The underwear run was sheer mayhem. It was equal parts awesomeness and silliness and nakedness. I know you all have zero desire to read about it, so here are the goods.

That’s none other than Team Trakkers Big Kahuna: Michael Lovato.

Go SAUCONY!!! Michael, Michelle and I’s shoes. Saucony rocks!

Ok, this is really the best one I have…

The true queen of Kona herself, the notorious Ms. Bree Wee. And yes, PICs abbs are a little out of control! Also, I’m 99% sure that’s Bree’s coach behind us in the FBI hat. Maybe it’s Brees security. Either way both of them were really fun to pose with!

And how totally cute and hot was Ms.Recycled Gel girl? Love it! So creative!

My dad got a video of the entire underwear run going by so when I get some time after tomorrow I will post it on vimeo. It’s a total riot!!

After the undy run Budget called and they had a car for us. It was totally worth the wait, they upgraded us to a convertible Mustang with a whooping 33 miles on it. Boo ya! PIC needed to get in a long ride so the grandparents and Troy took off with Annie to go snorkeling, and PIC and I threw her bike in the “stang”. I got her going on the Queen K highway and I drove the bike course. It’s hot, it’s hilly, and there is a lot of wind. Real shocker, eh? But oh so fun was the convertible. A little too much fun almost!

I did treat myself to a little macadamia nut ice cream in Hawi. It was just a kids cup, and it was totally worth it!

After that I headed back to the house and got my bike ready. Affixing stickers and tags, changing to fresh tires, pairing the PowerTap with my Gamin, etc, etc. I rented a Zipp404 front and a Zipp808PowerTap rear from Race Day Wheels. I’m very impressed with their service. Their wheels are in great condition with new tires. I put my own (also new) tires on, but I was still impressed with what they sent.

Before I knew it I had to skidaddle over to the Banquit and Race Meeting. It was a lot of the same info that I’ve gleemed from other IMs but this time with a Kona flare, and lots of Alohas.

And now, I go to bed. Because it’s only 36 hours until race day and I need sleep!

The Big Dance – Day 3

Update: Since I had so much trouble getting internet connection this post was actually from last night. Here are a few more fun pictures from yesterday.

Here is PIC riding out on the Queen K.

Here are a few Punk Rock Racing girls that I found. I was SOOOO excited to see some punk rock shirts out there.

And the Mile High Multisport Clan. Julia and Kathy were headed to go swimming when we bumped into them. Kathy’s 50th birthday is tomorrow and she’s racing. Look for her to knock it outa the park on her Birthday!

Today has been a go through the motions day. It’s been busy and I’m about to head down to turn my bike in and then RELAX. I want to write a long post on my final thoughts but there just isn’t any time left. It’s time to go, it’s time to race. My dad took this one picture of me yesterday and it portrays exactly how I feel. Fit, ready, nervous, excited, focused, prepared, optimistic, and stoked.

I’m number 1714 tomorrow! Mahalo and Good Night!