What I've learned is simply this: even the best laid plans can go awry.
1:09:58 (5+minute PR in Kona!! Fastest ever non-wetsuit Ironman swim!)
41st F30-34, 252nd Female, 1252nd Overall
With our wave starting at 7:20am, I waited until 7:16am to head out to start treading water before our cannon start. I did position myself up a little closer to the front this year as my goal was to be sub-1:10 and I didn’t want to get stuck behind too many people. WOW is it a different feel being with the 1:05-1:10 swimmers. There was SO much pushing around. At one point, a hand hit my back so I moved slightly over. One second later, that hand was back on my back and literally pushing me down. I was shocked that another human being would try and pull someone down while swimming and (after catching my breath) quickly got away from her!
The swim is straight down, followed by two quick turns, then straight back (so basically a long rectangle without one of the short ends). After we made the turn around the “short end” of the rectangle, I quickly glanced at my watch and saw 34:50. I knew I had the chance to break 1:10 if I could just keep my pace, which as many would agree is somewhat hard to do coming back for some reason. At this point in the race, I start passing some of the age group men and also some age group women who went out too hard, so I knew I’d be swerving around a bit but was determined to go sub-1:10!
I was elated when I came out of the water and saw 1:09:5x on my watch and felt like it really might be a big day for me!
I was so caught up on the fact that I had such a good swim for me that I completely forgot to grab my bag in transition. I didn’t have anything in it since my bike shoes and helmet were both on my bike, but DUH, the bag is also used to put your swimskin, goggles and swimcap in! I had to run through the people heading to changing tents and get my bag, so probably lost 30seconds here but didn’t panic.
5:44:37 (worst bike split in Kona besides 2014 when I legit gave up on the bike)
33rd F30-34, 180th Female, 1325th overall
Power: 151watts... Goal: 170-175watts.
Once I got onto the bike and had my feet in my shoes, I reached back to adjust my helmet. I had a headache and just assumed my helmet somehow got bumped and tightened up in transition. When that didn’t work, I figured I was dehydrated so worked hard to drink as much water as I could. As I got out of my aerobars to grab my water bottle with my nutrition, my arms felt SUPER weak. I attributed this to just having such a fast swim so wasn’t really concerned until my neck started to feel weak as well. I kept drinking in hopes that I was merely dehydrated.
The bike was 100% the most challenging part of the race for me. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose for the first 40 miles, and then when I finally was able to breathe out of my nose, I threw up four times. By the time my stomach started feeling okay again, I was all clogged up and back to breathing out of my mouth. Any time I would try to push my power to my original goal watts (170-175), my heart rate would sky rocket and my throat would start closing up. Heck, any time I got close to 160, my heart rate would immediately spike!
I’ve only passed out twice in my life, but I know exactly what I feel right before that moment happens. I kept getting that shortness of breath, tingly, shaky, dizzy feeling after trying to push 160watts and realized that I would have to readjust my goals for the day if I wanted to simply finish. In the moment, I was mad at my body for “failing” me, but I now realize that my body was just working so hard to fight off being sick that it had no energy leftover to bike (especially considering I had just swam faster than I ever had before).
To put all of this bike talk in perspective, when I did my 140.6mile bike ride 2.5 weeks prior, I rode at 165 watts. 2 weeks before Kona, I rode 75 miles at 185 watts feeling really good. In my debut Ironman (Kona 2013), I rode 150 watts. So to only ride 151 watts on this day was incredibly frustrating and nowhere near what I was capable of doing. Essentially, I lost just over 20minutes on the bike because I physically couldn’t push my power.
I had planned to be top 20 coming off of the bike, knowing that a good run (sub-3:10) would put me on the podium. Instead, I ended in 30-something place so hoped I would at least be able to run the entire marathon but truly had no idea what to expect coming off the bike.
I slowly got off of my bike and, minus some dizziness, actually didn’t feel that bad. My stomach wasn’t sloshing around (I was nervous about this considering all I was really doing was drinking water and Gatorade on the bike since anything else made me throw up) and my legs weren’t even tired. I made it to the (super crowded) changing tent and got things situated since I was going to at least start this run!
3:25:00 (7:50 pace)
2nd fastest F30-34, 27th Female, 186th overall
I have to give a HUGE shoutout to Ryan here for getting me in SUCH good run shape. Because I was in my best run shape since 2014, running 7:30s was “easy” and in the lower heart rate zones. This would prove to be incredibly important during the run portion of this race.
Ryan and I usually see each other as he’s heading up Palani Hill (mile 10-ish) and I’m heading out on the run. I wasn’t really sure if I’d see him this year after having such a bad bike, but knew I’d see my parents at some point on Ali’i. Right after mile 1, there they were. As soon as I saw them, I asked how Ryan was doing. And as soon as they told me he was doing well (but had already passed by), I started crying. All I wanted in that moment was to see him. I was happy he was doing well (spoiler alert: my parents lied as Ryan was having just as rough of a day as I was!) but just wanted to tell him he’d be waiting longer for me than normal at the finish line.
My parents got me moving again and many spectators who had seen me crying were super encouraging and got those tears off of my face rather quickly. A few other athletes that were spectating tried motivating me (“C’mon Jacqui, use that run and go catch those girls!”) but anytime I dipped below 7:00 pace, my body would again shut down. It’s like because I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, my mouth could only handle so much breathing or something.
SPLITS through mile 10
7:21, 9:06 (stopped by my parents), 7:30, 7:26, 7:25, 7:13, 7:13, 7:29, 7:24, 7:33.
Fortunately for me, running 7:30s wasn’t as taxing on my heart rate as trying to push anything over 160watts on the bike. My legs felt AMAZING (probably because I didn’t do much on the bike!) and it KILLED me to not be able to run fast.
Every year, even back in 2015 when I was running on a torn plantar, I run up Palani Hill. SO many people walk there but the crowd just goes NUTS when they see people running up it. This year, I made it maybe 5 steps before feeling like I could barely breathe…and started to walk. I became frustrated that once again my body was shutting down and limiting me…and then I saw Jan Frodeno. You know, the guy who won this thing in 2015 and 2016. He was WALKING down Palani Hill. And cheering for me and the other athletes going up Palani. I realized after seeing Jan that just simply crossing the finish line at the Ironman World Championships is an honor and that I must keep pushing on and simply do whatever my body would allow at this point.
At this point, I decided to start counting the girls in my age group (ya gotta do something to pass the time!). I assumed I had probably missed 1-2 already, so by the time I hit the turnaround in the Energy Lab, I had only counted 8-9. I couldn’t believe that I had worked myself into top 10 already!
SPLITS through the Energy Lab entrance (10-16)
10:28 (Palani Hill walk sesh), 7:55, 7:31, 8:01, 7:50, 8:08.
Another girl in my age group was close behind me, as her significant other was on a bike and telling her that the top 5 girls were fading badly and she had a chance to move up to podium position. Hearing this got me SO excited but also a little bummed since I knew all I’d be able to push were 7:15s at the best. But hey, it’s Kona, and anything can happen!
I had to make a pit stop in a porta potty, but otherwise had a rather uneventful last 10k. I put my head down, fueled through the aide stations, and reminded myself that I’d be reunited with Ryan at the finish line of our 5th Ironman World Championships soon.
SPLITS miles 17-finish
7:37, 7:24, 7:55, 8:04, 7:51, 7:50, 8:40 (bathroom), 7:56, 8:15, 6:43 (down Palani), 1:00 (0.2)
So a huge mahalo to everyone who got me across the finish line on October 14th. Any other year, I would have been THRILLED to finish 6th in my age group. This year, knowing how well-prepared I was, being limited by something out of my control really took a toll on me mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But to come home to everyone still proud of me means the world.
Up next: TBD.