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
amateur women: 31st
overall women: 60th