Winning the Kona Lottery
November 20, 2014 6:50 am / Category: Uncategorized
Competing at the Ironman World Championship in Kona has been a dream I pursued for more years than I can count. I started competing in triathlons in 1994 a couple years after graduating from college where I had cycled competitively for five years. Early on, I saw the Ironman World Championship on TV and was captivated by the goal and dream of someday finishing this race.
How did you finally gain a position at Kona?
Absent the speed to qualify with an age group win at a qualifying race, my only option to race in Kona has been a lottery spot. I have entered the lottery every consecutive year for longer than I can remember without luck. This year’s lottery winners were announced on April 15th at 9:00AM PST. With no email from the WTC by 9:03AM, I resigned myself to another year without an entry. As I glanced over the list of lottery winners on the Ironman website to see if recognized any names, I suddenly encountered my name on the list. What?! I had a sense of disbelief since I hadn’t received an email. Was I reading this right or were my eyes deceiving me? I reached for my phone and checked my email again. The email confirming my lottery spot had arrived at 9:24AM. I was stunned and elated. I finally had my chance to make this dream a reality.
Once in, where did you training take you?
In the months leading up to the race, my training progressed well. In training for other IM distance races previously, I knew to temper my enthusiasm in the early months, stay healthy, keep it interesting and have fun. Over the summer, I raced at Escape from Alcatraz, Vineman 70.3, Coveathlon and Big Kahuna Aquabike. Plans for racing IMLT 70.3 as a final big training day fell through with the race cancellation, but the long rides and runs were in the bank so I took this in stride. I was fortunate to stay healthy as my training volume increased. A bit of discomfort in my heel area was quickly addressed with a few visits to Jessica Snyder at Rausch Physical Therapy. I was able to keep moving forward in my training without any downtime which was important both physically and mentally.
We arrived in Kona on Tuesday before race day. Leading up to race day, I enjoyed practice swims in the ocean, the coffee boat and the Underpants Run along with some relaxation time and a drive to Hawi to check out the bike course. Another highlight was a chance encounter along Alii Drive with Chrissie Wellington who wished me a good race as I rode my bike to check-in on Friday.
The big day has arrived, how did it go?
A big part of competing in an Ironman is taking the conditions of the day and making the best of the circumstances. When the cannon went off on race morning, my first goal was to finish and enjoy the experience. And if I’m honest, I had a finish time in mind I thought I could achieve if circumstances allowed.
The swim felt good and I was out of the water in 1:24. A little slower than I expected, but no reason to fall apart over 9-10 minutes. The first 30 miles of the bike were comfortable and on target. Out on the Queen K, conditions abruptly changed at Mile 30 with an incredible headwind that left me riding 7.7mph on flat terrain. I watched my average speed plummet and later learned my support crew thought I’d crashed or flatted with the sharp decrease in speed. By Mile 40, I was reassessing my time goals. As the strong winds continued to gut both my speed and ability stay aero, I knew my time goal was slipping away. The ride on to Hawi was hard. And slow. And uphill. And windy. Probably the toughest riding conditions I’ve experienced in 27 years as a cyclist. I was grateful for the turnaround in Hawi and anticipated tailwinds, but with gusting crosswinds, even the downhill was slow in order to maintain bike control. 112 miles later, I came off the bike absolutely fried. My legs rebelled at my attempt to run in to T2 and I slowed to a brisk walk. Coming out of T2, I again tried to run. I was able to jog easily and gradually loosened up to maintain a decent pace through the first 16 miles. The pace slowed a bit until Mile 25 but I kept a moderate jog while walking the aid stations. As I came back into town, my pace picked up heading downhill to Alii Drive. Making the final turn on Alii Drive was magical. My legs no longer hurt. My pace accelerated all the way across the finish line. I finished in 14:42.
It’s been a few weeks since Kona, have you been able to reflect much?
Recently a friend asked me if I ever asked myself “Why am I doing this?” when I was out on the course that day. My answer came easily, “no”. On race day, I was able to embrace every minute of the day, from the pre-race nerves to a beautiful swim, the incredibly challenging winds on bike course and the run along Alii Drive at sunset. And the finish….An incredible feeling of accomplishment beyond words. I feel privileged to have had to the opportunity to race in Kona along with incredible support from a wonderful group of friends and husband who supported me through my training and traveled to Kona to cheer me on.