2014 Honu Ironman 70.3: Racing Against My Own Demons

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Finisher. For the record: 08:23:56, 12 minutes slower than last year.

Finisher. Official medal and Cookies by Design edible medal from Bonnie Leong. For the record: 08:23:56, 12 minutes slower than last year. Swim, bike and transitions were minutes slower. But my run, despite my walking quite a bit, was faster. Amazing.

No matter how well you train, if your body doesn’t respond, react or deliver as expected on race day there really isn’t much you can do about it.

It was perplexing for me. Throughout the race my body was not responding to my directions. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, except that I worked so much the weeks before and didn’t get in enough rest. And believe it or not, it is possible for ME (YES ME) to not eat enough before and during a race.

I had the best training! I was part of a great (and large) group for Endurance Triathlon Training with Boca Hawaii. The fast kids were gracious, the well-established kids were welcoming, and the coaches were supportive. It was so incredible, that I signed up for Summer Triathlon Training, which begins Saturday, June 6, in preparation for the inaugural Boca Hawaii Kawela Triathlon later this summer. After my Honu results, and after a sort of decent night’s sleep (despite the high-maintenance cat), I’m feeling it.

I’m feeling that triathlon thing again and it’s all good.

Pros in white caps, men in blue caps, women in pink caps. Officials. Spectators. Photographers. Kids. It's crazy. We're all nuts.

Pros in white caps, men in blue caps, women in pink caps. Officials. Spectators. Photographers. Kids. It’s crazy. We’re all nuts.

Here’s my blow by blow.

When we arrived on Friday morning in Kailua-Kona and were driving north in our rental car to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, I was giddy. I was loving the hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven baked brownies look of the lava fields, I was admiring the beautiful deep blue ocean, I loved the dark and ominous clouds that clung to the volcano summits.

“I have to find a way to live here,” I said to my husband. “I feel like this is where I belong.”

We would need a few million dollars, that’s all.

We didn’t have much time to shop for a new home or to make a land purchase, so we went straight to the Fairmont so I could check in to the Ironman 70.3 event. I needed to get my race packet, sign several releases, get my race chip, pack and leave my run bag, check into the hotel, attend a mandatory race briefing, pick up my bike, sweet talk the TriBike Transport guys to put the new tires on my wheels so I’d have fresh rubber on the road the next day, and get dressed to ride my bike to Hapuna Beach Park to set it up at the bike start. After that we went to Foodland up the street to pick up some sandwiches and bottles of water. I slept well until 3:30 a.m. and had coffee and breakfast with John. We met our friends Rick and Lori in the elevator and they graciously gave us a ride to the start, so we didn’t have to take the shuttle bus. That was so great!

First swimmer on the beach. So eager! So ready! No idea how the day would go, but that's really how it is for anyone.

First swimmer on the beach. So eager! So ready! No idea how the day would go, but that’s really how it is for anyone.

I was the first athlete down the chute and to the beach. I heard the little beep as it read my race chip when I walked under the giant inflatable that hovered over the checkpoint for transition one from swim to bike. I was in my new Aquasphere skinsuit, I was at the most beautiful beach in th world, and I was eager to achieve a personal record on my second Ironman 70.3. My day didn’t go as planned. Before the horn blew at 7 a.m. for the women to start swimming, the wind picked up and the sun was hot on our backs. The weather had announced itself: hot and windy.

Honu 2014 women's start.

Honu 2014 women’s start.

I hovered in the back of the pack at the start of the swim, and I felt good as I worked my way up and through the other women. Before I got to the first buoy, I was already passing some of the men who launched seven minutes before us. In fact, I passed quite a few by the time I got to the finish. I felt like my swim was going well, I didn’t lose sight of the yellow buoys that I needed to swim around. I spotted underwater photographers taking our pictures from the sandy floor. I thought how so cool those photos would be.

Swim to bike transition. See how happy everyone is around me? I just realized my time was slower than last year.

Swim to bike transition. See how happy everyone is around me? I just realized my time was slower than last year.

I got out of the water and saw that my time was seven minutes longer than last year’s. I was so defeated. The evil self talk began and stayed with me most of the day. After all this training, how could I be so slow?

My transition from swim to bike was about two minutes longer, but I was changing out of a skinsuit, putting on sunguard sleeves and getting into a bicycle jersey while soaking wet. My coaches told us to slow down and be deliberate during transition because haste makes waste. So I didn’t worry.

Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

The bike is my thing, most of the time. But it would not be the case during Honu. Last year I finished the bike segment in 03:38. This year it took me 03:57, 19 minutes longer, on a spiffier and lighter new Cervelo P2 bike, too. I have a very difficult time eating on the bike. I can’t stand it. I also don’t like to drink, but I force myself to use my aerobottle. By the time I got to Hawi, I thought to myself how I was so DONE with this race. It took me nearly two hours to get up there. How in the world would I beat last year’s time of 03:38? I was defeated. I used the bathroom, drank two Power Gel lime drinks and ate a Bonk Breaker bar. It was wonderful. I felt better and I got back on the bike feeling refreshed. I bet I spent 12 minutes up there, but I needed it. I couldn’t believe that it was taking me so long to get up to Hawi. I was worried it would take me another two hours to get back, and it just about did.

Honu 2014 finishing the bike and telling John how I'm worried I won't finish in time.

Honu 2014 finishing the bike and telling John how I’m worried I won’t finish in time.

I saw my husband John as I was rolling back toward bike-to-run transition and I said, “At this rate, I don’t see how I’ll finish on time.” He smiled, encouraged me, and clicked off a few pictures. Later he told me that he felt I might be right.

I worked on the self talk. And fortunately, I had lots of teammates and friends on the course whose encouraging words put some steam in my steps. I am one of those people who needs the attagirls. You can look at my Garmin stats and see the points of encouragement. My pace picks up, my heart rate bumps up a little bit, and I get a little more positive. If it weren’t for my friends Janet, Kristin, Miriam, KC, Marcy, Karen, Lisa and Eric, I might have finished well outside the cutoff. Especially Janet and Miriam. Such compassion!

At the start of my run I realized I had a water bottle in my back pocket so I tossed it aside as I went by John. I also had a tire tube but I didn't realize it until miles later.

This year’s run was 03:23:59 compared to last year’s run of 03:32. I am amazed I was faster this year because I was truly struggling. But I was determined to finish in time and I had to get my act together. The running training paid off. I still have a lot of room for improvement.

Last year’s run was 03:32. I don’t think I did any walking except for at the aid stations and only until I was finished eating or drinking. I cannot eat, drink, and walk or run at the same time. Such a dork. I’d throw up. This year I did a lot of walking. The Honu run course weaves in and out of the hotel grounds, the hotel’s golf course, through lava fields, behind the shopping center, and back onto the golf course lined with beautiful homes where we run along the fairways. Yesterday it was so steamy hot that I dreaded walking on the grassy parts of the route. It seemed to radiate with so much heat. Finally the course dumps you on to what many of us refer to as Death March Road, which is hotter than heck possibly because it is through more lava. It isn’t smoldering, it is just black and very, very, hot. It was on this road, from miles nine through 11, that I saw a herd of wild goats. Now my friends think I was hallucinating. I wasn’t. They were there!

I ran the first three miles of the 13.1-mile course, then I started walking. First I saw Janet who checked on me from across the road. She was way ahead of me. Then my teammate Marian came up from behind me and cheered me on. We ran together a little bit and then I said to her, “You know, I might have to start walking again, so don’t worry about me.” She started walking at that point but I was still running. We had a good laugh about it. Eventually she passed me and finished before me.

I will be the first to tell anyone that running is hard for me. I cannot stand to run. But running has helped me dropped a little bit of weight, so I’m starting to see the value in doing it more often.

When I emerged from Death March Road, two course marshals told me I had 28 minutes to cover 1.5 miles. Even if I walked, I could finish on time. But I was in pretty bad shape. I was really sad. I thought I spent all this time and money training for my A Race and I was going to miss finishing it on time by minutes. My dream of coming in under eight hours was shot to hell.

Once again I wrestled with my demons. I started to run the best I could. It was more of a crappy jog, but it was faster than walking. I reached the last stretch of golf course and I saw two nene geese in the shade to my left. I love nature. I swear, I look around a lot when I do my triathlons. Maybe I should do less sightseeing?

First there was Lori and Rick and the TryFitness group to holler their support at me as I struggled to beat the clock. John ran alongside me for a little bit — barefoot in the hot grass — and told me that I had it, that I was going to make it, that I would finish on time and get that medal.

I turned the corner, made my final approach and finished the 2014 Honu Ironman 70.3  in 08:23:56, compared to last year’s 08:12: 25.

I wasn’t that upset because I finished before 08:30 the cutoff. And when I got through the finisher’s shoot, my Boca Hawaii coaches and teammates were cheering for me, which was the nicest thing ever — considering most of them had probably finished hours before me. What’s nicer than a group of friends lubed by beer and burgers anyway?

Triathlon is a mental game. Where the winners compete with each other, people like me compete with ourselves. But we don’t just compete against last year’s time or our personal records. We have to beat down the voices that diminish our effort. We have to tell our legs to shut up when they throb and feel too heavy to move. We have to protect ourselves from the flailing arms and legs in the swim and then, when we emerge from the ocean, beat the vertigo, get up on our feet without wobbling, and heave all the way up the sand to transition.

Each race is a transition in our lives. Finishing is an accomplishment that affirms we’ve got within ourselves something more powerful than we know. Part of my future training will have to include mental pushups that will keep me from slipping into the abyss of self loathing.

And (are you still here? still reading?) I also know that I have to not eat so much after a workout. That’s something else I can take care of right now.

I have some wonderful coaches in Boca Hawaii owner Raul Torres, and Ryan Leong, Filipe Rael, Stefan Reinke, Alika Chee, Ray Brust, Lee-Ann Watanabe and Todd Iacovelli. While I continue to improve physically, I want to also work on my mental fitness so that I can push the crap out of my mind faster and get on with my race.

 

 

My Second Tinman: It Gets Better


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After I finish an event, I’m mostly all smiles. You can’t tell my feet hurt, can you?

Before I got hooked on triathlons, I used to think how crazy triathletes must be — but I always admired them. I wanted to swim, bike, and run, too! Embarrassment about my weight kept me from trying. I also thought I was too old and getting back into shape would be hopeless. But that nagging “Why NOT?” kept popping up. Since my first try in 2012 at the Boca Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon, I’ve done a handful of triathlons, including a half Ironman (70.3) last month. Triathlons remind me of small-kid time. Swim, bike, run, repeat. Now I’m starting to repeat events and there’s no telling when I’ll stop.

Yesterday I completed my second Hawaii Tinman Triathlon. Here it is: Finishing the 2013 Hawaii Tinman Triathlon. Impressive, huh? LOL! I came in about five minutes faster than last year. I also came in a little higher up the age-group food chain at 6th place out of 17. I’m so used to being in the bottom third, so that was a very pleasant surprise!

The weather was perfect, but a bit junk for a 25-mile bike ride through East Oahu. I managed a pretty good swim of the 750-meters in under 18 minutes. The first transition, T1, was like the longest barefoot run ever! Once on my bike, I could gain composure as that is my favorite event in a triathlon. Before I reached the top of Diamond Head Road, I saw somebody fixing a tire. There were a few more competitors along the bike route having to do the same. Blustery and rainy weather dislodges all kinds of crap from the road that can puncture a tire in an instant. And it is no fun to change a tire in the pouring rain. I’ve been extremely lucky in this instance. I got back to the staging area for T2 with a bike ride that was about five minutes faster than last year’s. I popped off my helmet, changed my sunglasses, put on socks and shoes, grabbed a gel and a swig of my Infinit Lavagal sport drink, and headed for the hills. My average running pace was 13-minute miles for the 10k. Yes, that’s slow for everyone else, but not bad for me. I had to do a little bit of walking, but I finished hard and fast. I hope that next year I’ll finish in under three hours. My 2012 time was 03:10:17. My 2013 time was 03:05:15.

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Exiting the swim in front of a guy who took off in the wave before me. Booyah!

How did I get here?

Kristin “KC” Carlberg helped me find my comfort zone with her company, TryFitness, which is dedicated to helping women of all shapes and sizes achieve their personal fitness goals. If you think this might be you or someone you know, follow the link and begin an incredible journey. Orientations include women from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes, aged 20-something to senior retirees. The one thing in common is that we all want a push, we all want accountability. Without it I wouldn’t ride my bicycle up Sierra Heights Drive or Pineapple Hill, I wouldn’t take on open-ocean swims, and I would never jog more than a trot. Squeeze my body into a spandex trisuit? Two years ago that would have been a whole lotta nope.

Now it’s yes. Yesterday I sent a message to Oahu’s premier sporting event organizer Chris Gardner and told him a weekend without hearing his voice on a bullhorn is boring. It’s true. I’m addicted to participating in all of these active events that help me realize personal goals. I’m rarely on the podium, but my personal victories are immeasurable. And I am so very fortunate that my husband gets up a few minutes before me each time to brew espresso shots and then join me as we drive at the pre-butt-crack-of-dawn to the starting line, camera in tow.

My abs are not ripped, I drink wine, and I can’t stand doing planks. I’m unemployed, STILL, and I believe training and participating in these events helps me feel a sense of accomplishment and gives me confidence as I inquire about jobs. In fact, yesterday as I was doing the Tinman run, I thought to myself how I really want to translate these personal achievements into plusses as I approach my personal intersection of joy: Happy family, satisfying job, physical fitness, and emotional balance. It gets better with each step I take. It gets better. I just need a personal conversion table.

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