Race Coverage

Part II - Fun. Not Fun. Fun Again. Then the Best Feeling in the World....

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By Jennifer Martone

Ironman World Championship Race Report Part II - Sooooo…race day (I’ll leave out a lengthy description of my day-before the event way-too-loose stools, and bad choice to order an incorrectly cooked chicken club sandwich, for another conversation. Suffice to say Pepto Bismol was a savior). I got out of bed up at 3am, ate my almond butter-honey-english muffin and Skratch pineapple flavored drink, made sure my timing chip was adhered to my ankle, and made my way to Kailua Bay via a pre-sunset drop off from Brent and Sam to the pier bike transition area. Our gear bags and bikes were dropped the day before, during what felt like a red carpet parade, including a 20 second survey by Ironman staff, answering questions on the brand names of all my gear. I made my way to one more biffy before joining the 50-55 AG swim corral, scheduled to start at 6:55am. Upon leaving the grassy knoll, I heard another woman say to her husband “not sure about race day karma but the woman next to me in the biffy just shit her pants”. It wasn’t me, I just peed, I promise....

Listening to Mike Reilly announce the pro women’s field as they started the swim was surreal. Ahhhh, to be a dolphin on the heels of Lucy Charles Barclay, one can only dream! There were 171 women in my age group at the swim start. I listened to Coach Jen’s advice about lining up towards the front of the swim and drafting off feet in front of me. Seemed a little odd, as I see myself as a back of the pack swimmer in this kind of competitive field, but what the heck. Her advice proved to be great! All I cared about with the swim was getting through it. In the words of Matt Dixon “you’re neither a hero nor a zero with your swim time,” it means little in the scope of the very long day. I was elated to climb up the carpeted steps from the sea floor in 1:19 to remove my Roka swimskin, shower with a hose, and grab my bike, all in about 5 minutes. I loved the swim, highlight of the day. I had too much adrenaline to pee in the ocean, so I stood at the bike mount area and let it drip. First time I’ve done that.

The Bike Leg. Wooo hoot! All smiles through the first 8 miles riding South (and then North) through town, waving to friends like Nick Weiler taking pics and videos, and who would go on to have a stellar race on Saturday. Yelling to Brent and Sam before the turn up Palani. Cheers, bells, spectators, the best. Then comes the Queen K. And the long, hot, mostly silent miles that go on and on and on. Volunteer aid stations were great, drop zones for trash, plenty of cold water and Gatorade. I stuck to my Skratch Superfuel, stinger waffles, and gels for the first half of the race, then moved on to more course nutrition, water, cola, orange Gatorade. As we headed towards Havi I knew I’d start seeing some of the younger MN triathletes that went off ahead of me. Shyanne McGregor is a rocket, and had the fastest MN race of the day, followed by Caryn Herrick, Katie Deregnier and Jessie Stevens, barreling down from Havi as I crawled up it. I truly enjoyed the climb to Havi as the scenery changed and I hadn’t done any practice rides up there, so it was all new territory for me. I don’t typically reach for special needs in an Ironman race, but I could tell my skin was burning so I stopped to grab sunblock out of my bag and hastily smeared it on my face and quads, clearly missing some key spots that showed up later as a bright red sunburned bruise. I crammed half a crispy, melted skratch bar into my mouth and then began the very fun descent down the mountain. Down feels so good after miles of climbing!

Miles 93 to 100 sucked. Into the wind, tired legs, relentless. I got passed by a shit ton of cyclists. Hoped I’d have the chance to catch a few of them on the run. Then it got fun again! Somewhere over 100ish the wind felt less like a headwind and the road descended a bit. Knowing we were close to town helps so much. Smiling again. No flats, no crashes, and almost to two feet on the ground!

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The Run. There’s a fleeting moment where you think, how the f#&$ am I going to run 26.2 miles after all of this? It’s 87 degrees, humid, and your legs have been working all day and there still aren’t any clouds in the sky. My bike split was nothing to write home about, but again, in the words of Matt Dixon (can you tell I loved his podcast?), it’s a day of mindset and execution. And crisis management. I knew I still had the legs I needed to keep going. I sped through transition and grabbed my Nike vaporflys, and was off with possibly a bit too much spring in my step. I was stupidly running sub-8 for the first mile, but that’s pretty much my M-O, as my legs are in the mood to move off the bike. And there was SO MUCH ENERGY all around me. Familiar faces cheering, spectators reading the names on our bibs and yelling our names. Kris and Jill Swarthout picking me out of the crowd, Danny Stevens (Jessie’s hubby) gregariously offering a verbal push up Palani. High fiving Sam and Brent in three different spots during that first 10k. Erin Weiler jumping in to run up the hill with me, Coach Jen and Liz squealing for joy and high fiving each time I passed, and I think I even did a little dance at one of the water stops. AND THEN the Queen K highway. Ugh. A steady incline that never seems to end. Hot. The Pro women entering the finish corral just as I was getting started (a big cheer for USA winner Chelsea Sodaro!!!). The run became a shuffle. Just run to each water stop, then saunter through it (and by saunter, I mean stop and stare at the offerings, unsure of what will stay down, and what will keep you moving without a side stitch), that was my name of the game. As Erin had said to me 15 minutes prior “one mile at a time,” and she was right. A descent into the Energy Lab was welcome, the ocean ahead of us was beautiful. I did not put anything in my run special needs bag, so I ran/walked through that area and continued to grab water, cola, and pulled my orange flavored salt tabs out my sports bra pocket -- I’m pretty sure that they were key to staying upright and not cramping. I learned at the airport the next day from a Doc on the scene, that a record number of 362 people ended up in the med tent on the women’s race day. I’m not sure where the numbers landed on race day number two. I’d heard the term “carnage” many times on the Purple Patch podcast. I watched the most beautiful sunset over the ocean as I made my way out of the energy lab and back on to the Queen K. The sun sets at 6pm in Kona at this time of year. I never looked at my watch for time of day, so I actually thought it was later. Despite not having predetermined split times, I really wanted to finish under 12:55. Darkness descended quickly, and I can see why they tell athletes to wear reflective gear. The water stops were further apart now so once again the highway felt like a grind and the humidity was still high. At about mile 23 I saw Julia on the course and yelled her name to say hi, she was grinding out the run. Soon after that a lovely descent. Wheels back on and I could finally run the way I wanted to. The right turn onto Palani was a dream come true. I thought the quads might scream with the steep downhill but they still wanted to move quicker, and I heard Mike Reilly say my name as I approached the final mile of the day, and saw Brent and Sam before the left turn into town. All smiles again and a 7:50 pace for the last mile, thank you adrenaline. I could NOT WAIT to get to that finish line. All sizes of hands clapping and smacking as I ran down the chute, the best feeling in the world!

Congratulations to ALL the finishers on October 6th and 8th, especially my fellow Minnesotans. No matter your finish time, it takes an inordinate amount of grit and determination to complete Ironman Kona!

Mahalo.

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