2022 Kona Ironman World Championships Race Report
NEVER STOP TRYING.
A quest for the top of the podium. If you know me, I am not the most talented athlete, but I will train hard and not give up. I believe in my coach and the training program, even if I disagree with the volume of running the past few months I managed to stay mostly injury free. This is part of the challenge I enjoy, going through the process of a training build that I learn more about myself and what I am capable of. To maintain health and excitement in a challenging block of training is not easy, but somehow it worked. During an 11 week build I had 3 of those weeks with over 51 miles of running and an average of 22hrs a week of training.
The Build Up:
For 5 weeks we needed to be in Boise, which I was nervous about during fire season in August. The environment was fantastic for Jono and I to be home with late summer heat often into the 100s and some altitude. Along with easier training logistics, less driving, friends to join me for long workouts and family nearby it made for an enjoyable block. A good reminder that a happy athlete is a fast athlete.
My final prep was in California thanks to the Golan Family who generously host us in their peaceful casita in the Bay Area. My final race was Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 in September alongside a few athletes, this was a successful weekend for us all and I executed a half marathon PR that day. Although confidence was high, it was easy to get complacent and I was reminded that I still had a few weeks of key sessions and more heat training to accomplish. We arrived on the Big Island 12 days before race day, allowing us plenty of time to acclimate, fit in some long rides and runs and a practice swim on the race course a few days out. Workouts were all getting completed without issues, meals and nutrition were on point and I was feeling relaxed. As race week began we moved from the busy town of Kona up into the cooler hills of Kaloko, a little bit of a drive but very relaxing. I also brought over to Hawaii my Ooler Sleep pad just to make sure I could stay cool at night and recover from hard sessions. Two days out, I somehow felt a rib in my thoracic vertebrae slip out of place, it was painful breathing while swimming and I could definitely feel it running. Fortunately Jono managed to help with mobility and the pain was gone by race day.
Prior to race day, I read an inspiring book and watched an inspiring series that made me laugh. Although with bits and pieces of advice, pros, coaches talking about exactly what does happen in Kona where everything changes. The pressure, the conditions and the level of athletes can be challenging to handle. The reminder I had to myself constantly, was to respect the conditions and fuel. About one week out from the race there was an update in our athlete guide that 6 aid stations from the bike will be removed and 4 from the marathon course, my immediate response was...THAT IS A LOT. I made some changes to my run hydration plan to adjust and my bike was pretty much already the same plan with 2 frozen bottles in Special Needs and hitting every bike aid station for 2 bottles.
BOOM! The horn goes off (cannon is only for the pros).
I lined up in the front row and immediately found myself in the lead for approximately :05 and then after a bit swimmers from my left came over and I counted four people so figured I was in around 5th place and then nobody to draft off of and nobody that I saw in my AG pass me, it was going to be a solo day so I relaxed and settled in finding my rhythm, stroke pull and relaxed kick for efficiency and minimal fatigue. I eventually was passing other waves and exited the water with many women. Upon entering T1 (the transition area to get bike gear) my sunglasses arm was broken off and I certainly was not about to go all day without glasses, luckily a volunteer fixed them while I ate a banana and was ready to run out to my bike.
Off I went passing a number of women but very consciously shifting with ease, staying light on the pedals and working hard to not go guns ablazing in the first few miles like I've done in the past. Focusing on rehydrating, keeping my cadence high and arriving at Queen K where the highway has neverending rolling terrain you can see for miles in front. Then as the day heated up, the lava fields start to feel like you are riding through a furnace, however the wind was not yet too strong and we had occasional respite from cloud cover. I reflected upon numerous rides in over 100F in Boise this summer which felt far more challenging. Today was just another long training session I thought to myself, with plenty of rabbits out front to chase and a breeze. After a couple hours I climbed up to Hawi, finally putting down a bit more power after a conservative approach. At one point I reached up to my face to apply some sunscreen and felt what I thought was sand, "how in the world do I have sand on my cheeks???" "Oh my, it's salt caked to my skin" After grabbing my special needs electrolyte bottles, I continue to eat more and make sure I was doing everything in my control to stay on top of nutrition and fluids, even coast down a few hills for a break and taking advantage of the tailwind.
Attitude is Everything:
As the bike unfolded riding back towards Kona, I was overtaken (6 bike length draft zone). I was eating & did not come out of the draft zone quick enough or the athlete slowed too quickly and I was only 3 bike lengths back, instead of surging to go around (goal of riding smooth and steady as possible) I was issued a blue card. A blue card is given by an official on the road and you are required to sit in the next penalty tent for 5 minutes. Most athletes are angry, upset and stand over their bike in the penalty tent waiting and being mad. My strategy was different, I then rode a bit harder then next 20miles looking to gain time before my rest break. As an older athlete, the opportunity to stop and stretch is a complete blessing. During my penalty I consumed all my food, took my cycling shoes off, stretched out my legs, back, hips and laid down letting my heart rate drop. Those 5 minutes flew by and with a mile to go I was ready to run and rehydrate after my rest break. While I believe many things can go wrong in a race, it's how you respond to them and make that outcome in your favor.
In the Lead:
As I lost the lead of the race while resting, I exited a very busy T2 to start the marathon in 2nd place. Towards the end of Ali'i I was overtaken and dropped to 3rd, after glancing at my pace it was critical to stay hydrated, not get excited but manage my body for the many miles to go. As we turned to run up the steep Palani, there was a glimpse of hope that I could bring back 2nd because she started walking...before the aid station. Relaxed and calm I watched her take off again at the top of the hill into the distance where I could barely recognize the kit, "Ok, I thought settle in relax, form focus and nutrition you have a LONG ways on a hot and boring highway just be patient and at least hang onto your spot"
The miles ticked away and I continue to hold onto my ice bottle for cooling, I would not let this go until around mile 7 and after the harbor the highway continue to go slightly up and my pace was slow, but soon the downhill and a nice ocean breeze into the Energy lab was a good sign being over the halfway marathon mark. I came upon a friend/competitor in my Age Group, gave her a pat on the back of encouragement (minimal running and no knee cartilage, but strong as ever) Amy shouted some kind words as well. The next aid station came up before special needs and I definitely needed a different snack and another water bottle with my NBS hydration mix, so while I picked this up, arranged and ate my nutrition I watched first place continue to run further away without grabbing any aid. Running out of the energy lab at mile 17 with a tailwind is tough, but I continued to plug away even with a slower pace, and I looked up as I started to catch her, she walked, then sped up again to run. Patience I thought, things could still go very wrong with my body. Once again she started to walk and I made the pass up the hill holding my best form and not looking back. Coming out of the Energy lab I felt it, just after 21miles both groins were very tight and seemed like they would cramp, or was it just soreness I thought.
Then out of nowhere as I approached Hina Lani, 5km from town was Kathy Harris, Erin Green and my husband and biggest supporter ever Mr. Jono. He said "You have 1:30 on 2nd but you need to continue to go". That was all the encouragement I needed along with a lot of positive mantras in my head. As I picked up the pace, the adductors screamed at me and then I stopped to walk unsure if it was soreness or cramping, I restarted and focused on consistency, more electrolytes and slowly took focus on what was ahead, kept best form I could and rallied my body to the finish line. Sprinting down Ali'i drive is like no other experience of any race, the crowds are overwhelming, loud and encouraging you every step. I was in disbelief yet I believed I could.
I finished strong and took in the moment and experience.
For a non-runner I had the fastest run time (still not sure how this happened).
An incredible thank you to Ironman for pulling off a 2 day event in Kona.
To the volunteers who worked endlessly to keep us fed, safe and looked after, thank you.
Snowflake Properties, LLC,
To my coach: Craig Upton and swim coach Pete Kain
My Kona Cheering Squad: Erin Green (chef), Jono Coulter (mechanic, chef, masseur, sports director) and Kathy Harris!
Most importantly my husband who does about 10 zillion things for me each day and we were able to celebrate our anniversary on the big island this year, a million thank yous.
To wrap up the experience, I would like to emphasize the importance of your "team", your family and being surrounded by positive, happy people (not just for training) your whole life is important for success. Even with a busier year, starting a new business, and building a house it was not easy managing my time to everything, without the support I could not have done it.
I am not the most talented athlete but I try.
The details were dialed in and on race day it all came together to take the victory.
Previous Ironman World Championships results:
2021: St. George* 2nd
2022: Numero UNO
Kona 2018 Race Report:
Brief race recap of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, Oct. 13, 2018. Being on the start line in Kailua Bay when the cannon goes off is a feeling like no other race start. The opportunity race and be healthy gives me full motivation to prepare to the best of my ability and control. I had a few minor obstacles come my way when my training ramped up with a bike crash in a pro criterium and getting sick 5 weeks out. I came across a fantastic quote that I reflected on daily, that I believe holds true for this often very challenging event. "Seek opportunity in the difficulty. NOT difficulty in the opportunity."
2.4mile swim, mass women's AG start, 660+ starters. A bit hectic, even though I had a good line up. I started working on a better technique withKarlyn Pipes and was happy to integrate this with less effort for the overall swim. However my "persons" to draft off was a little questionable, as the women start to round the Body Glove (halfway) boat, we start overtaking the back of the mens field, this is always chaotic and frustrating so I decided the 2 male athletes going my pace that were tied together at the waist (one blind and the guide) would be perfect for making headway for me...except when they continued to veer left away from the buoys. Regardless, I came out a minute or 2 slower than hoped and rushed through the overcrowded transition. As I mounted my bike and was off, the plan was riding controlled, consistent and to fuel as best as possible for the 180km/112mi. For the first 1/3 it was difficult to find long stretches where I could motor at my pace, rather dropping back or accelerating past others became slightly frustrating but didn't let it affect my positive mental state, especially when I thought "WHERE THE HECK IS THE WIND?" AND it was slightly cloudy and overcast. Hawi, no side gusts, no extreme heat, this is gonna be fast. I genuinely think we will never see conditions like this again on race day in Kona. Grabbed my special needs (ie. mussette bag) Only major snafu I had was my emergency Base Salt in my bento box opened up to spill on all of my Honey Stinger chews...so the next 50+ miles everything I ate was salt covered....you may think that would be good but actually not so much for digestion later. The way home flew by and I negative split my bike effort and was starting to visualize the run. T2 had lots of volunteers to help and I was off making sure to eat banana and have a some non-salted energy food to eat. It's often hard to control your own momentum and energy starting the Ironman marathon run down Alii drive. Amazing friends were there cheering and motivating me. I was faster than my starting goal pace and really had to slow down because I knew what is out there on the Queen K and energy lab...it's usually not pretty if you implode. I just stayed focused on myself and used the energy of my biggest supporter and husband Jono Coulter smiling and encouraging me to do what I've done in training, run steady, eat and drink. All was ok until about half way when a small sh*t storm happened, I had sort of experienced this before and was not going to stop. I walked the aid stations, smelled awful and that was definitely motivation to run past people. The marathon was hot without the wind, but nothing like years past. I pushed on as best I could, those final miles out of the energy lab are always mind over physical deterioration, lower leg cramps started just 500m from the finish but somehow I was able to run it in.
I am thrilled to finish 4th in my AG in 9:53, in a world class field that has stepped up another level the last few years. The Ironman race organization put on an amazing show for the 40th anniversary. The energy from the locals to volunteers to staff was incredible. I was actually able to take in some wonderful post race moments because I was FINALLY not in the medical tent but actually went to dinner.
Many Mahalos to my friends surrounding me racing or cheering this week. Janice and Jim Gustin Kathy Harris Carla Mott Cherie Zeiler, Mark, Rebecca McKee, Margaret Hepworth, Jeff Mutchie, Clifton Duhon Melissa McCormack Amy Rappaport Moira Easton Horan T Dale Jackson Monica Moreno Jessica Cerra Julia Hawley. Also my family and friends at home supporting from afar, thankful I could feel your energy!
A massive thanks to sponsors and partners Revolutions In Fitness ROTOR Bike Components Veo Strip Breakthrough Nutrition JoJe Bar AminoripOakley Bike SCOTT BIKES FFWD USA Donnelly Cycling, LLC SELLE SMP 💯 % ITALY Vie ƐƖ Kustom Apparel Arm Local Terun Tazzina Coffee Isa Hashim Stacy Sims and coach Craig Upton for keeping my body and equipment running smooth all day! Also, thank you for the support of myHagens Berman Supermint Pro Cycling Team for being flexible with race calendar so I could prepare for Kona. THANK YOU and ALOHA.
Blog March 24 2018: Supermint Team Camp #2 and Tucson Bicycle Classic
The season begins. A blog. A story. A glimpse into 9 days with Team Supermint | Hagens Berman.
Travel-logistics is always a big one. A majority of the team arrived on a Saturday into Phoenix to gather, drive with staff and equipment to Tucson where our host house and base would be for training and Tucson Bicycle Classic.
Setting the tone. Spending 9 days together in one home while sharing meals, stories, experiences and emotions is a quick course in getting to know your teammates. During the season we will spend more time off the bike recovering and preparing for the upcoming races. This time is important in creating a positive and supportive environment to perform at our best. Often the most underappreciated jobs is behind the scenes of our Team Owner, Director and Mechanic. These individuals all work hands on overtime to keep the wheels turning. They have the ability to make on the fly adjustments to travel, racing and season planning.
Training and riding and practicing together. One of my favorite things. When I started out racing I was so green, anxious to learn from the greats, early teammates like Laura Van Gilder, Kristen Armstrong, Polikeviciute twins, Kori Seehafer, Gail Longnecker and Alessandra Cappellotto. I often forget that I am now the experienced rider, who made significant changes in her life for this sport.
Defending yellow. A different type of racing. Early in my career I was part of a team defending yellow often and I’ll always remember the feeling and constant protecting at the front of the peloton. In most recent years I have raced a more aggressive style of attacking on the offense with teams, so this past weekend my legs and mind were up for the defense of yellow.
Sponsors and Media. We had 2 video interviews from Tour of the Gila and USA Crits during the week. Each athlete provided answers and background information for the interviewees.
Community Relations with Homestretch Foundation. During the week we visited Bicycle Ranch, a local shop that connected us with our host family and also was a distributor of GQ6 our drink product. After our last day of training we were treated to lunch at the Homestretch to meet the residents and learn more from Katheryn Bertine about the project. If I could dream of giving back to the sport, this would be the best way to do it! http://www.homestretchfoundation.org/
My appreciation these days is for everything. Racing on St Paddy’s Day with Mint Green. I was reminded of my luck. Lucky to still be racing. Lucky to be healthy. Lucky to have longevity in this sport. The longer I am racing, the more important I realize the .25% that I make in my decisions each day affect the ability for me to race at my best. Fortunately most decisions are within my control and others are not, however that is the catch- not letting those out of control decisions affect you too much and rolling with the punches. The question was asked to me a few days ago, “are you harming your joints or body?”? This is in reference to my auto-immune disease I was diagnosed with in 2007. I raced for over a year in pain, struggling to find any kind of real form or fitness, however not ever feeling “sick”. I had a type of Rheumatoid Arthritis that would eventually do irreversible damage to my joints and cause painful flare ups for the next decade. Ice packs, tigerbalm and rocktape were just as important to travel with as my cycling kit. I bring this up because a recent teammate has been diagnosed with an Autoimmune disease and it has not deterred her from racing. Adjustments in life sometimes have to be made to reach our goals and live our passions. My gratuity goes deep of my appreciate to train at race at the professional level, because one day I won’t be able to. I will have my cycling stories and memories, along with knowing I lived life to the fullest.