The best way to sum up this experience was that is was a fantastic week with this little thing called an “Ironman” thrown in for good measure. I am lucky enough to have raced in Kona several times prior (this was #5). I wouldn’t call my attitude last week “complacent” but rather, “relaxed”. I would be lying if I told you that today I was content with my placement; but on that day, I was very happy with my finish. I would also say that, for me, qualifying to tow the line is the bigger deal than the actual racing at Kona. Once you get there, whether you place 4th or 52nd is not necessarily indicative of your triathlon ability and fitness because the race is so unpredictable. EVERYONE is good. EVERYONE is fit. Kona is an interesting beast. I have seen Ironman age group champions crumble and others persevere. On race day, anything can happen.
The Week It was social. By this I mean, “Focused Athlete Social”. Up 4:30 a.m. every morning, talking to people on the mainland; returning emails, etc. The day would break about 6:00 a.m., and then we (me and Julie) would rally the other Groove girls (Gina and Amy) for whatever short fine-tuning workouts were on the schedule. I had a lot of face time with people, sponsors and friends with whom I’d only communicated with via email and/or social media. While we were extended a few invites to parties; we dialed it back and I was in bed before 8:00 p.m. on most nights. Socializing was swimming, biking, running, A.R.T. tent visits, coffee shop excursions, expo cruising and the infamous Underpants Run. We found a couple of good restaurants outside of Kailua-Kona: Annie’s Burgers, Kaya’s Coffee and Sushi Rock to name a few.
Race Day Julie and I were up at 3:00 a.m. I took until about 4:30 to eat 2 pieces of toast with avocado; 1 thick GF pancake with maple syrup and Kona Coffee with steamed soy-the usual. We got to the start, were body marked (Kona went to race number tattoos last year but unlike any other race, volunteers put them on race day morning—not sure if it is for the ritual or security but I have to say, I still felt special). We cruised though athlete weigh in (don’t tell me the number #carbypounds) and then went off to check our equipment and gear. At 5:30 a.m. I ate a baked potato without the skin/lotsa salt/a little butter. At 6:20, I ate an Espresso Chip Bonk Breaker bar. I felt like might have overeaten the day before as I hit the bathroom 5 times before the race started. I felt like a pastry bag full of chocolate mousee—WTH? I don’t think it was nerves, as I really never get nervous before a race.
The Swim This was the first year that there was a separate swim start for the females. The good news is that it meant cleaner, less agro swimming for the first half. The bad news is that the slower male athletes got in the way on the 2nd half. I hit the first turn around point at 30:xx minutes. That was pretty much on par with every Kona swim I’ve raced. However, it took me close to 40 minutes to get back to the pier. I swam straight and evenly and honestly it wasn’t terribly crowded. I had told people who were tracking me to expect anything from 1:04-1:15 as the swells in Kailua Bay vary year-to-year. I placed the highest in the age group that I have ever placed on a swim in Kona. Yee-hah! I have to think that being slightly faster against the field had something to do with my Roka skinsuit (or the extra swim-a-week that I added after IM Whistler)
Swim Time: 1:09:xx
T1 Uneventful except for yelling for sunscreen. We had the option of clipping our shoes into our pedals or putting them into our transition bags. There is about a 300 yard run from the transition tent to your bike. Since I have never executed a flying mount (or dismount, for that matter), I opted to run with the shoes in my hands. I saw people running in their shoes. The pier is really slippery and clomping in bike shoes is definitely slow—I made the right choice.
The Bike It was a slow time, but overall I was pretty happy about my placement. However, I made a really egregious error that cost me dearly on the 2nd half of the run. Apparently the winds were the worst they had been in 10 years (I’m sorry, but when have we not had crazy winds?). For the first time racing in Kona, I held my own on that “always windy” bike course. We first hit some crazy crosswinds around Waikaloa that continued up to Kawaihi. Gnarly; but not nearly as bad as the winds I encountered while going up to and down from Hawi. I was less of a chickensh*t than I’ve been in years past; so I was happy. My power was about where it should have been and my VI ended up at 1.04. I did sit up a fair amount during that climb up/descent down and then again any time I couldn’t handle the winds. I’m sure that it cost me time (well yeah duh), When I got to the energy lab, I sat up a little and watched the male pros race the final miles of the run. So here’s the mistake: I had about 1600 calories of nutrition packed on the bike. Because of the heat, I was terribly thirsty. My concentrated bottles of Infinit had gotten really hot. During that ride; not only did I take in all of my own nutrition, but I took in about 18 half bottles of ice cold Powerbar Orange-Mango Perform (call it 1200 calories). By my calculation, 2800 calories/6.25 hours = roughly 450 calories an hour. I don’t care if there are stories of Mark Allen consuming 600 calories/hour on the bike. Mark Allen is not Leslie Myers. Not yesterday, not today and not tomorrow. I hyper-consumed and eventually paid the consequences. This was a total rookie mistake. My head wasn’t screwed on (maybe because I was so elated that I made it down out of Hawi in one piece; white knuckles and all) and I should have reviewed a couple different bike course nutrition scenarios. It’s even more so embarrassing because I very confident in my nutrition planning and execution.
Bike Time: 6:14
T2 Handed off bike and shoes to volunteer (cool on the shoe part—hope that she was wearing gloves). More athletes running the length of T2 in their bike shoes (*sigh* but who am I to point fingers, dumba$$ me just drank 144 ounces of Mango-Orange Perform without considering the inevitable repercussions? #boneheadmove #prematuresmugness)
The Run After what I felt was a long transition, I headed out on the run. I felt “Ironman Good”. “Ironman Good” is when parts of you are stiff, sore and sticky and you are wondering at times when this damn run is going to end but are you actually running. Unfortunately, I had hit the portapotties 3 times during that first 7 miles: once for feminine reasons (I didn’t want to be THAT girl with anything dribbling down my leg) and two times to go to the bathroom (let’s just say that I have no problem peeing standing up on the road—the Powerbar Perform was starting to work its magic). I saw a couple of girls in my age group who were struggling. Unbeknownst to me, Julie was just up the road; having a rough time. Except for the stopping parts, I had a blast running down then up Ali’i drive and up toward Palani. I finally caught up to Julie on Palani (which was about mile 11 or so). She told me that she was having a super tough day and hoped to be in by 11:00 p.m. (I really hoped that wasn’t the case). I got onto the Queen K highway and this is where everything went south. Holy Crap (deliberate choice of words here), I had stomach issues and was having a really hard time running. I hit the portapotties another 4 times between miles 12-mile 23. The most interesting thing to me now was the condition of the portapotties. I’ve never seen so many piles of crap/sh*t/excrement/call it what you will/ as I’ve seen in Kona mounded up in all areas of the interiors of said portapotties (could you not see the hole, people?). Horrifyingly amazing. Made it to the Energy Lab (you know, that magical place where none of the racers seemed to have any energy?). Miles 16-19 were out and back in there. There was some funky, coma-inducing Hawaiian music playing at the aid stations. I was thinking “Get me some Dead Kennedys, AC/DC or even Whitney Houston and this would be a much more “energetic” place”. Kenny G might have even worked. I saw the Groove Girls: Amy and Julie were running together (Julie was rallying—awesome!) and, as I slunk out, Gina came bounding in with a glow-stick necklace already around her neck.
My ego I refused to take one even though it was getting dark on the Queen K highway (I actually welcomed the darkness as it meant that I could ditch the portapotties and hit the scrub weeds without garnering too much attention—LOL!). I was doing a lot of self-talk. This is my 15th Ironman. In Ironman racing, there are always low points from which you bounce back and even though this particular low point lasted about 2.5 hours, I could do it. Finally, I hit mile 24 and thought “I have left to run the exact same distance from Del Mar Dog Beach to my house. I have 2.2 miles left of this season—I can do this”. Just before the turn onto Palani, I came upon the last hill and an ELECTRIFYING aid station with some killer music and amazing volunteers. Julie’s husband, John appeared on his bike and later told me that I did a little dance with one of them (really?). It was here that I shifted into normal Les Myers’ running gear. I flew down the hill as fast as I could and high-tailed it to Ali’i drive. It was there that the magic kicked in. I was so humbled and honored and excited and elated knowing that I was finishing this race strongly. Mike Reilly called my name and I crossed finish. I then proceeded to give Mike an inappropriately long, tight hug (sorry, Mike—well no, I’m really not).
Run Time 4:10xx
Final Time 11:44xx
Finish Place 14th AG
15 minutes later, Julie finished (she negative split the run and was able to rally for a strong finish). We ended up reconvening with spouses and friends in the lobby of the King Kam hotel. It looked like a sunburned war zone. Marty filled our waterbottles with wine and we started the off-season (Cheers!). We hung out in the lobby for a while; cleaned up and then landed a table overlooking the last 300 yards of the finish. Lisa, Marty, Sydney, Carol, Marcus, Geoff, me and Julie enjoyed drinks, picked at some god awful Mexican food and cheered the racers on for the next hour or two.
We enjoyed the next day in Kona, fired up some tropical drinks in the blender. Returned home late Monday night and have been enjoying the week doing a lot of atypical things.
It’s been an amazing year of training and racing. A huge shout out to all the support prior and during race from Nytro, Betty Designs, Roka, Bonk Breakers, Smith Optics. Kurt, thank you for the guidance this season. To friends both new and old; I appreciate all of the humor, camaraderie and well wishes. I’m lucky to have some incredible teammates. Finally, I don’t think that the outcome of this year would have been the same without the love and support of Geoff and my family.
Did I mention that I ate two donuts on dog beach this morning? I have a love/hate relationship with the week post Ironman. Lots of food, Lots of drink and barely any exercise. Can’t wait to get back to “normal” (but is any of this really normal?)
Looking forward to 2015