Cliff Notes Version:
To just hear about the race, click here: http://egopbsammysbikes.com/2015/10/ironman-world-championship-race-report/
Ryan and I left for Kona one day earlier this year to better acclimatize and feel less stressed during race week. He picked me up after school on Monday and we were on a late flight to Phoenix, where we would spend the night before boarding a 10:30am flight to Kona on Tuesday morning. One thing that is probably important to note is how relaxed I felt with this all. Last year, there was a LOT going on with school and it pushed me over the ledge on the bike, but this year I felt like I really had my stuff together. I think this was a BIG key in my race prep as it was something I COULD control; focusing on this helped me to put less focus on my plantar fasciitis improvement (or lack thereof).
We boarded our Phoenix flight…both of us in middle seats. I apologized to the person in the aisle and even offered to switch (poor lady for declining). My window neighbor actually was really great to talk to. He and Ryan knew a lot of the same people, and he’s affiliated with the Timex Team, so it was fun to talk to him about triathlon and such.
Once we arrived in Kona, we were warned to hang onto our hats (literally) when getting off of the plane as the winds were about 45mph at this point! Ryan got our rental car (the same tiny guy as last year) and we easily fit our bikes in and sped out to head to our condo…or at least tried to. Our 11-mile drive to our condo took 90-minutes due to the construction on the Queen K (apparently, the town forgot about this tiny event called the Ironman World Championships that would be happening amidst this construction timeframe). With our condo being right above Lava Java, we grabbed a quick bit to eat after unloading our car. We made sure to head to Safeway to grab some groceries, plus it kept us up an extra hour or so, which was good as we had hoped to quickly adapt to the time zone change.
Normally the day we arrive, it was nice to have a FULL day to get in a last minute medium swim and bike versus one or the other as we had experienced in years past. Ryan and I were up by 6am so decided to head to the pier and got in a nice swim with Coach Bill. After our swim, we headed over to be one of the first people in line to check in. This is when the overload of excitement tends to kick in for me. Something about the energy in the room from the volunteers checking you in really makes the “holy cow, I’m competing in the Ironman World Championships on Saturday” feeling sink in. Then we all grabbed some breakfast at Lava Java with Bill , before Ryan and I napped/worked on school work.
A nice dinner at Splasher’s ended our night, and we again fell asleep rather quickly.
The 7:30am Underpants Run was really the only thing penned in for this date. It’s always fun to make fun of ourselves while raising money for charity….Ryan and I just might need to figure out how to add more space to our suits!
Ryan was taking a coaching class from 9am-5pm, so I was off for a solo ride after a delicious breakfast at Bongo Ben’s. I rode down Ali’i and kept going (using the bigger hills as opportunities to test my gears and new wheels plus wake up my legs) until the road ended. I was able to also throw in some pace work so I could make sure to keep my watts in check come race day. After that, I hung out in our NormaTec Recovery Boots, working on school work, until Ryan returned. After dinner at Kona Brewing Company, Ryan worked on my legs in hopes of loosening them up. He had been doing this for the past few weeks, with both of us feeling a progression had been made, keeping my race goal of simply finishing at a much higher possibility.
I surprisingly felt amazing on our morning swim out to the coffee boat. This left me encouraged that my race would still be okay, despite my strength (running) being a big question mark. Ryan headed off to his coaching class, I got in an easy ride and some more school work, and before we knew it, we were putting together our race bags.
After dropping off our bikes, we just relaxed and grabbed dinner before talking race plans with Coach Bill (who would be competing in his first Kona!!) and then heading to bed fairly early.
Don’t pray for life to be easy; but pray for yourself to be strong.
Everyone has the talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.
These two quotes resonated with me as I knew my race would be something different this year. While I was going to give every ounce of me to this race, I knew my mind would have to be strong when my foot was not. A positive mindset can make all of the difference in a race, and I was about to find that out...
Race morning came, and Ryan was up before me at 3:30am per usual, making his coffee and eating his breakfast. I just kept laying in bed, nervous to hop out and see how my foot would feel. When I finally stepped out, I tried convincing myself that my foot would loosen up on our walk over and throughout my 5.5-hour bike.
As always, the beginning is rough with ladies inappropriately placing themselves and arms and legs just flailing around. I kept my cool and did a few quick “surges” to reposition myself on the inner line of the buoys. This is where I had placed myself last year, and I found it to be very lonely (a good thing!) so I went with the same strategy this year. I even found a friend who was about my pace, so I was pretty confident I was doing okay. I counted the buoys on the way out so I could expect how many to count on the way back (give or take a few). After what seemed like much longer than just over one mile, we finally reached the turnaround point. As expected, things became congested again but I wasn’t about to let that make me lose my goggles or get punched in the face/stomach/leg/head. Coming back in was tougher as usual since I had the tired ladies and the slower men to weave between. I really thought I was swimming harder than in 2014, but my Garmin was about to tell me otherwise.
After a disappointing swim, I quickly ran through the hoses to rinse the salt water off, determined not to let a slow swim ruin the most anticipated part of my race. I grabbed my transition bag, threw my new Roka swim skin, cap and goggles in the bag, grabbed my sunglasses and attempted to run to my bike. EGO p/b Sammy’s teammate Alicia was able to see the pain of my foot reflected through my face (oops, gotta do a better job of masking that!!) and just encouraged me to focus on the bike.
Hands down the best part of my day. I knew coming in that I could have a really good day on the bike with all of the improvements I had made throughout 2015 (huge silver lining to all of the injuries!). As I was climbing the quick Palani hill before turning, I was shocked to not get hit or hit someone as people were just riding crazy. Chill, guys, we still have 111.5 miles to ride!
Once onto the Queen K highway, I kept anticipating the crazy cross winds. I remembered Ryan telling me our bike experience would be a mix between 2013 (like super easy year according to Kona veterans) and 2014 (super tough year), and that the beginning would likely feel more like 2013. He was right. Doing the math in my head, I was on pace to be just over 5 hours (5:02) if I could keep up the pace I had been riding for the first 1/3 of the race.
Of course this did not happen as Kona is known for its winds and unpredictability, but it sure was nice to have that confidence. Overall, as usual, my bike got better as the race went on and I made sure to focus and dial in my watts. This helped me accomplish my BIG goal on the bike: pass and do not get passed. I usually have some of the slow swimming men pass me, but this year, I truly held my own and posted one of the top bike splits in my age group. I guess that’s what riding the bike more consistently can do for you!
As I rolled into T2, I had a decision to make: leave bike shoes clipped into my bike per usual and hope running barefoot doesn’t flare up my heel, or unclip shoes and run with them in hopes that extra support on my feet will help. The latter seemed most logical, so I quickly handed my bike to a volunteer, nearly ran over a guy who apparently was going for the longest transition time (truly, that’s a thing)… and about toppled over. I honestly wasn’t expecting the pain, and if you’ve ever run in bike shoes before, you know it’s not the easiest/safest/smartest. I made sure to stay on the green carpet and almost faceplanted three times. After grabbing my run bag, I decided I’d hit the porta potty since I was already having a rather slow T2 anyway and vowed not to stop on the run. I grabbed my gels and massage tool, stuffed them into the back of my jersey and fled T2 as fast as I could.
The one part of the race that always gets me excited had turned into something I was almost dreading. I really had no idea what to expect or how long the pain might last. So many awesome people reached out to me, describing their own plantar fasciitis situation, so I had some guesses as to what I might experience. One of my tri friends ran through her plantar fasciitis just a few weeks prior at Ironman Chattanooga, so after texting with her, I knew if I was able to make it through the first mile, I’d be finishing the race.
Right then and there, I decided I HAD to run the rest of this thing. I wasn’t even halfway done, but I knew if I walked, Ryan would be waiting SO much longer for me to finish…and all I wanted to do was celebrate him earning what he truly deserved. After having a frustrating race in Austria, one in which I’ve never seen him train harder for, I knew Kona would be a BIG day. I started doing the math, and realized it’d be almost 2 more hours before I finished if I kept my pace. I’m sure if I was wearing a heart rate monitor, it would wonder if I was actually running, but the pain with each step truly limited my pace, as frustrating as it was.
At this time, fellow Chicagoland triathlete Liz Waterstraat passed me, encouraging me to come with her. Her positive talk combined with my massage/tape/meds pit stop really helped me get through the next 6 miles (thanks, Liz!). Just after mile 21, I could feel the tape getting tight, which made sense since my feet were likely swelling due to the 95 degree heat. At 22, I just had to stop and remove the tape as my foot was hitting that 9 of 10 pain point, and I was not about to stop to walk. The only way I could think to describe the pain to my students was this: imagine someone is hitting your heel with a hammer. Each step on my left foot felt like this, and I kept hoping those ibuprofen would just kick in!
I then found out that Ryan placed higher than I thought: 3rd in the M30-34 age group... just mind-blowing. My tears kept flowing out of pure excitement and joy that Ryan had completed a goal we had since signing up for Eagleman 70.3 (a Kona qualifier at the time) in 2013.