Editors Note: Thanks to Amy for submitting her wonderful race report from 2010 Ironman World Championships!!

Hoping third time is a charm – Kona 2010

Three years ago, I arrived in Kona with one goal: to break 11 hours. I did not achieve my goal (11:38). The following year, I arrived in Kona with the same goal. Again, I did not achieve it (11:21). I now had a third shot at my long standing goal. Was I prepared? I had my best training season yet. I was hopeful.

Race morning was all business. I got up at 4:00am, ate breakfast, and walked down from my conveniently located condo, 1/2 mile from the pier. I headed into body marking, and then over to my bike to load up my nutrition. I found a spot in transition to stretch and mentally prepare myself. The commotion in transition on race morning is overwhelming which is why I missed the first announcement that Chrissie was out of the race. It only took a second before it was all the buzz. It was the only thing people were talking about. The questions and speculation were a great distraction from all the nervous tension. Follow-up announcements verified that it was true. There would be a new female World Champion this year.

The pros got a 30 min head start this year. As they took off, the AG’s headed towards the water. I waited 15 min before swimming out to the starting line to tread water for the final 15 min before the cannon went off. I swam out to my usual starting spot. The cannon’s deafening explosion initiated the usual chaos. We kicked, and clawed, and swam over one another as the surfboards ushered us around the outside of the buoy line. On the long stretch out to the turn around, my swim was going fairly well. I didn’t get any knock-out punches or kicks to the head. I rounded the boat at the turn around and headed back. I was really enjoying this swim. I was getting even less contact on the way back into shore. I swam with one guy most of the way back. Stroke for stroke, we swam. I was glad to have him to spot off instead of lifting my head to find the orange buoys. Apparently, he had the same thought. When I did finally look up to spot, I noticed he and I were swimming out to sea. We were quite a ways out from the buoy line. Those surfboarders won’t let you cut inside the buoy line, but I guess they’ll let you swim to Maui if you want!

As I was swimming along the pier and getting ready to exit the water, the moment of truth was upon me. I was about to see my swim time. What was it going to be? I had worked hard on my swimming. Was this going to be my best swim time ever? The anticipation was killing me! To assess my situation, I took a look at the stroke of the swimmer to my right. Hmmmm. Then, I took a look at the stroke of the swimmer to my left. At that point, it occurred to me: “This is going to be bad, this is going to be really bad.” Just as I suspected, I exited the water in 1:17, my slowest IM swim ever. Fabulous. What a great start to achieving the goals I set for the day.

I headed into T1 donned the biking gear as my volunteer sprayed me down with SPF 80. I made a quick stop in the port-a-potty and headed out to the bike racks. Empty. Ugh! The good thing is that my bike was quite easy to find.

I headed out onto the bike course, hoping this would go better than the swim and I had a chunk to time to make up now. More than I wanted to break 11 hours in Kona, I really wanted to break 6 hours on the bike course. I hadn’t been able to do that on my 2 previous trips to the Big Island. My ultimate goal for today was to ride a 5:45. As I started out, my legs felt good, the weather felt good, and the wind was light. I rode through town and past the airport feeling great. The sun was beating down by this point and the temps were rising. As I rode up the Queen K, I tried to stick to my nutrition plan. I got my Mile 50 Clif bar down at Mile 40 – BANK! However, my EFS was getting really warm and not so appetizing.

I really wanted a cold Coke. That sounded amazing to me. I had rode past a few Aid Stations wanting to grab one but didn’t. Why not? Just one. It would be a great kick. I grabbed one at the next Aid Station. WOW! That tasted awesome. I grabbed another at the next Aid Station, and another at the next Aid Station. I always say, “If something sounds good while racing, take advantage.” As I started the climb to Havi, the wind really started to pick up. Mile 50-70 were the most treacherous. I was counting down the miles until I would be out away this terrible force.
Somewhere around Mile 55, I felt water sprinkling on my right shoulder. There wasn’t anybody around me. Where was this water coming from? The skies were clear and sunny, however, there was a storm off in the distance. The wind was blowing so hard, that I was getting rained on, even though the storm appeared to be miles off in the distance. It felt amazing. It was a refreshing cool shower under the blazing sun. I finally reached the turn around and braced myself for the perilous descent. Perilous, yet much appreciated all at the same time. I crouched down into my aero bars as low as I could get and went for broke. I was sailing down the hill 30+mph. I was passing women. I was passing men. Before I knew it, I was passing people I hadn’t yet seen during the course of the race thus far. I was making up some serious time which helped ease the terror of the white-knuckle descent.

As the road evened out, I passed a large male (200+ lbs). His clothes were torn to shreds and he had some nasty road rash. He was clearly a casualty of the Kona winds. I was grateful for not being in the same position as I had some close calls that sent chills down my spine. Although I still had 30 miles to go, I no longer had to fear getting blown over. The rest of the ride in was a struggle, but I was determined to ride my “best case scenario” time: 5:45. As I rolled into transition, my bike computer read: 5:46:XX. Darn, so close. What I had forgotten is that my bike computer included the run out of transition. My official bike time: 5:45:59 – I’ll take it! (Although, this fact wouldn’t occur to me until I looked up my results after the race.)

I quickly changed my shoes and stopped in at the port-a-potty. As I exited T2, the race clock said 7:08. I only had to run a 3:51 marathon and could break 11 hours. It was on!

I was excited to get to the run. My run training was the best it had ever been this year and I didn’t get to reap the rewards in China. However, I had just PRed my Kona bike split by over 20 min, so I wasn’t sure what I had left for the run. The first mile tells me exactly what l have in store for the marathon. I felt pretty good. My first run split was right where I needed it to be. If my first mile is a 7:00 min. mile, I know I can actually “run” the marathon. Anything less and it’s all about survival. As I ran up Alii Drive, I tried to assess the situation. Who was ahead of me? Where was I in my age group? Did it really matter? No. However, it’s a great distraction and it keeps my mind from thinking thoughts it shouldn’t be entertaining like, “Why the ____ do I do this?” I was hitting my splits just over 7:30 pace. How long could I hold this?

I hit the turn around on Alii Dr at mile 5 and headed back, looking forward to seeing my sister again. (The best fan ever!) She got some pictures of me trying to smile. It was now time to head up the long steep hill on Palani to the Queen K. Good God! I had forgotten how long and how steep this hill really was. People were walking. That sounded like a great idea, but I knew it wasn’t. I knew I had to stay on pace. My memory of this run course was fairly flat. However, this was the point at which I decided I had a really bad memory.

My pace had slowed into the 8:00 min range now and I was only at the half-way point. It was looking like a marathon PR was out of reach. However, Louisville’s run course (previous PR) is as flat as a pancake and this was far from it. Heading into the Energy Lab is a double edge sword. I’m excited to get there because it’s the final turn-around. However, I’m keenly aware of the fact that every step down into the Energy Lab is another step up and out of the Energy Lab on the way back. I hit the turn around and headed back. I started doing math in my head. My marathon PR was out of reach, however, I calculated how slow I could run the last few miles and still break 11 hours. This was the mental boost I needed at this point. I could slow to a 10:00 min pace and still have time to spare. I knew I had it. I wondered if I could hit my “best case scenario” finish time: 10:45. There was a chance.

At Mile 24, I finally saw Laura getting ready to smash her age group record. Mile 25 is a cruel joke. It’s uphill the whole way. It took me a full 9:10 to get up it. That was more time than I could afford if I wanted to finish in 10:45. I flew down the hill on Palani, and passed: one…two…three… traffic lights to the turn down to Alii Drive. I think it’s been said once or twice before; coming down Alii Dr is the best feeling in the world! It truly is. As I kicked it in for a strong finish, the clock slowly came into view 10:45:54, 55, 56, 57….NO, NO, NO!! 10:46. DOH!! I finished in 10:46:10 – just seconds short of my goal. Oh well, I guess that means this isn’t my last Ironman…..

My sister met me at the finish line. I grabbed something to drink and started telling her a story when I heard Mindy’s name being announced at the finish line. I stopped mid-sentence and turned back towards the finish line to congratulate her. I never saw her out on the course the whole day and we were less than a minute apart. As we walked into the finisher’s area, James greeted us and Laura finished shortly thereafter. I was so happy to see everybody and hear their stories of the day. As a just reward, a bunch of us went to get showers and some sloppy Mexican food and head back down to the finish line to see Kona wind down for 2010. Oh yea, I’ll be back. For sure!

Editors Note: Congratulations to Amy, as she place 3rd in her AG at IM Cozumel and will be heading to Kona in 2011!!! Great qualifying race Amy!