Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Michelle & Kona: Take Two

It's 2 weeks post-race. Time to get this post up! Subconscious (or probably more truly, consciously) I have been avoiding this. I have to face myself and sometimes that's not so fun! This is the Ironman World Championship Race. I have been there twice and she has kicked my ass twice! Here goes.

First off. I MUST thank the sponsors of Team EVOTRI. I love my teammates and am so grateful to the sponsors we have. What I have been able to obtain through their sponsorship has made my training and racing so much more effective and enjoyable. Thank you to ZIPP, SRAM, CycleOps, Hub Endurance, and Quintana Roo. Also, I love my coach and probably don't tell her enough how much I appreciate her work.

I love the Big Island and the town of Kailua-Kona. It is truly a nostalgic and mystical place for triathletes. Going back for a second time brought this all home to me. There is something unforgettable about Ali'i Drive on race week watching the runners and cyclists going back and forth on the side of the road. It's a tri geek's version of people watching at the mall! Driving the course pre-race and seeing the lava fields and long rolling roads stretched out before me brought back a lot of memories and goals for the future. The prerace check-in and banquet were a bit less of a blur. Swimming in the bay left me feeling good about myself and in control. Then again, the heat and humidity when out for a few short runs had me wondering again what I had gotten myself into!

In the end, however, mother nature and my own psyche have a way of combining to become a powerful force.

I know nothing about trade winds and island weather other than the race is always hot and windy. But, the weather forecasters for days before the race were talking about "swells" and "tradewinds moving back in for the weekend". What the hell? I don't know what any of that means! All I did know was swimming the few days before the race felt more up and down than it did 2 years ago. Then again, I thought it might be all in my head and I just wasn't remembering things correctly. Ha! It was going to be a nasty day.

Pre-race all went as planned. I had to laugh. All racers were weighed after getting body marked and on our way to transition. When I was standing in the port-a-potty line afterward, the discussion focused on how all our weights were up 3 lbs. Really, who the f cares? We are all such self-absorbed geeks, it's hilarious! Myself included! I was able to meet my family by the fence line under a Banyan tree to chill out before getting in the water which was fabulous. I am so thankful to them for being there!

For the swim, I seeded myself smack dab in the middle. Really, the swim went well. The water was not clear at all. I couldn't see the bottom. Unlike 2 years ago when I remember entertaining myself with watching the fish and corral underneath. Afterward, talking with a local I heard that the water was choppier or swellier or whatever you want to call it more so than usual. I came out of the water with a 5 minute improvement. I was feeling good and satisfied with my effort and on the race went.

For the first 80 miles of the bike ride, I was in heaven. I was back on my own bike which I had been without for 2.5 weeks as I shipped it out to Kona. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling good. My power was on target. Not overriding, not underriding. I was keeping up with my fluids and taking in my electrolytes. There was wind a couple of times on the way up to Hawi and the turnaround. The 6 miles up to Hawi, with the climb and the wind, were tough but I was in control. At the turnaround, a descent follows for a few miles and this was an absolute joy. I love descending! (who doesn't?) It was drizzling a bit here so visibility was a tad sketchy. But still all good. And I can go down hill. I was passing and passing and passing. Fun! However, the fun came to a screeching halt the last 30 miles into town. It was like God turned on the wind tunnel and I was going straight into it and it never shut off. I tried to hang in there. I really did. I knew this too would come to an end as I often tell myself to get through hard times. But, it never did. The wind just kept on. Then the deluge of passing bikes started. One after the other, after the other. I became discouraged. I am saying this out loud (in print) and not proud. I gave up. Ugh! Gasp! Kick my ass! But, it is true. I remember vividly saying to myself, "I am sick of this shit! I am supposed to be on vacation!" See, I wasn't out to win my age group or even come close. I was looking for a solid performance and this wind had f'ed that all up! I was so discouraged with myself but couldn't muster up the guts to work harder. I limped it into Kona and tried to mentally switch gears. Now, I needed to realign my goals and in a hurry.

The run turned into an effort of mental stamina. I was dejected by my bike performance and just wanted to walk. But, I knew that would just piss me off more. So, I made a deal with myself. Truly, the run portion of any Ironman turns into me making deals with myself! I allowed myself to walk each aid station. Spread out over 26 miles that's about 25 minutes of walking. Well, that will slow down your marathon time, like it or not. I'm not complaining about my run. Nothing surprising at all happened. I drank, walked, ran, kept moving. Never did I feel like I was going to die or puke or tip over. Just the usual, familiar, pain and suffering! I just focused on going forward and finishing.

I had a goal of finishing in the daylight. That did not happen. I was coming out of the Energy Lab when the sun went down. That hurt....bad. It was the first time in my Ironman racing that I have put a goal out there and it didn't happen. I was dreading this. I've done 7 Ironman races and #7 was not my lucky number. I've had this feeling for a long time that my luck would run out eventually. It has too. Nothing always happens the way we want it to even though we care and try. Life doesn't work that way.

But this sounds all like a lot of bawling, crying, and carrying on. Not so. By the time I had finished the race, I was fine with it all. I was glad it was over and vowed to myself that my value was not based on the result of this race. I tell you, I went through more emotional upheaval during this race then I can ever recall in other races. Calm, happy, sad, pissed, dejected, apathetic, determined, and content. That is amazing to me that one day can be filled with so much drama!

A lot of these race reports are filled with numbers and data. So, here's a little of that. I finished 12:06 something. What will haunt me is that this was 21 seconds SLOWER than 2 years ago. That number I will remember. Yes, the conditions were worse, blah, blah, blah. But still, I wanted to be faster. I was 60 something out of 80 something in my age group. Also not where I wanted to be. What's done is done. I'm happy to be moving on.

Most importantly, my family. I saw my husband, mother, sister, and her IM virgin boyfriend throughout the course in town many times and they were truly a blessing. I thought about them and also other people in my life a lot throughout the race. That's really what kept me going. Thinking about others and not myself. I really appreciate all the sacrifices my family has had to deal with over the years to allow me to participate in Ironman racing. I love you all.