Monday, October 12, 2009

Hawaii Ironman Race Report-part 1

Kona '09
Life experience. It was an amazing life experience. I want to write this race report but I am not sure where to begin. It was unlike any race I have ever participated in. In so many ways....

Friday night arrived so quickly. I wasn't sure if I was ready for that day to end....Mark and I ate dinner at 5 a.m. after checking in my bike. The energy at Ali'i drive was palpable. The finish line was being built. The carpet was being rolled out...we finished on an Ironman carpet!

8:00 Lights out. And I actually went to sleep! I was awake at 3 a.m. and ready to go at 3:30. The nerves were there....but under control. I ate my breakfast and headed to Kailua-Kona pier. Mark dropped me off and we planned to meet once he walked down after parking. I strolled around looking for other racers. Volunteers were everywhere but not many racers. It was 4:20 a.m. I waited and waited. Finally I realized that body marking took place on the other side of the hotel. Grrr.... I walked and walked and then waited in line. This is where it hit me. I started to well...panic is too strong of a word but that's close! Major nerves--major nerves. I was escorted to my bike so I could pump my tires. It made me nervous and anxious to have my escort standing there watching me go through my final preparations. I wanted to be alone...desperately. But rules are rules. I packed my bento box: 2 bars, 4 gels, salt tabs, amino endurance pills, anti fatigue pills, blistex...I think that's it. I know-- a lot. Bottles on bike. Tires pumped.
On to the run and bike bags. Again, I wanted to be alone. But she stood there watching me. I added a couple things and took a few things out and that was that.
From there I walked over to a quiet grassy area and sat under a tent. I couldn't find Mark. By mistake, my cell phone was in my pre-swim bag. I would have to check it for the day. I called Mark and he was willing to ready to run over to find me but he also had a good spot on the wall to watch the swim. I didn't want him to lose that spot so I insisted he stay put. I was ok. I thought at least.
I started to really really worry about the heat. My nerves were skyrocketing. Out of the blue....I started the doubt myself very much. I called Jen. Voicemail. I called Marni..she picked up! Phew! I really needed her calm voice and knowledge at that moment. She reassured me about my fluid intake/nutrition plan. Marni has raced here before too so I knew she knew how to calm me down. Success. I felt better.

I checked in my bag and went into thehotel lobby. I found a quiet spot, donned my Speedskin and stretched. This was it. I was about the race the Hawaii Ironman. The World Championships. Breath Ange Breath. Just Breath. Again, deep breath. I repeated this Many times that day. Later, for different reasons than before the race.

I walked calmly back to the start area. I saw Craig Alexander tending to his bike. Natasha Badman walked in too. She is adorable. She is tiny and was all smiles.
I was now standing at the end of the chute..about to enter the water. Chrissie Wellington strolled by my and sat down in a chair. SERIOUS Game face. Woah. The all smiles-woman was all business. She read a piece of paper with 3 massive cameras in her face. I was standing next to her. Pretty cool. It was time to get in...I kept my eyes open for sea urchins. The energy was building around me. Kate Major was standing on the beach with me taking deep breaths and looking out to the course. The Navy planes flew overhead and the parachuters jumped out. The pros swam out to the start line. It was really about to happen.

I swam out slowly. My arms felt super. I was so excited to swim hard. At least I know I can tackle the first leg without much ado. No worries. Sure, it would be hard at the start but I'd go hard and get my water.

We were out at the line and ready. The pros had started. I bobbed up and down so I didn't have to tread the whole time. Saving energy. There were lots of women around me and several from New England! We agreed not to crush each other at the start. I was about 5-6 rows back. I knew I didn't belong at the front in this race. I was in the middle of the pack. I thought it seemed smart. But what did I know. Apparently nothing....

BAM! The cannon fired. I was off......

The theme for this race report is basically this: words will fail me.I am going to have trouble putting into words some of the feelings of that day.
Here's my word for the swim: Fear. Yes, fear.
I have been swimming since I was 8. I love the water. I need the water. I am at home there. The Kona swim start is a whole different story. Let me tell you folks, I have never EVER experienced anything so frightening in my entire life. I was truly scared to death. This sounds dramatic but when I truly go back to that moment ( so much happened after that it's easy to forget) I was absolutely scared. I can tell you how people swam on top of me, how there was no clear water, how I got my goggles ripped off, and how chaotic it was but that doesn't really allow you to feel what I felt. I grabbed the surf boards twice and mumbled, "I can't do this...." We were not even going fast! I totally messed up my starting spot. I was barely moving forward. When I was able to take a few strokes, they were warm down pace. That seems hard to believe but I was surrounded by big men with messy strokes...they just thrashed their arms a lot and had no regard for the human lives around them. At least that's how it felt. I got so mad and emotional at one point I think I might have yelled right out loud, "I'M A MOTHER! DON'T KILL ME!" Ha...I know. Crazy but it was that chaotic. Sorry Mom and Dad. I know you hate to hear that stuff. I am not sure how people Don't drown out there.... Ugh. You get the point. I hated the swim. And trust me folks, you will not hear me say that often. Or really, ever. I love swimming. But I hated that swim. The first mile was useless. There goes my sub 1 hr. Out the window. It was vicious enough that I stopped caring about the time. (theme # 2 of that day..) About 2-3 minutes before the turn around, I found water. Alleluia.
I have no idea how long that first mile took me. I didn't dare look. But I do dare say the 2nd mile was a solid 10 minutes faster. I swam as hard as I could back to the pier. I was disapointed with what had just happened. But I was also very relieved that I survived and could now move on to the bike.

All the fishies were missing that morning! I guess they decided to get otu of the way for all those crazy athletes! I did see one little blue guy as I headed back into the pier.
Ok, finally, the famous steps. Those green steps I've watched Ironman atletes climb out of each year on TV. Now I was climbing them. It was a thrill. The walls were loaded with supporters screaming for us. I was fired up. And here's the best part. I was half way around the world and as I excited the water I hear, "GO ANGE!!!!" My friend Matt Geary and the daughter of another Maine woman racing (Kim Cole) were On the steps looking me in the eye as I climbed out. Awesome. Matt worked the race as part of a medical conference and Rachel (Kim's daughter) had a VIP pass and was helping too. I smiled and headed for the hoses.

time: 1:03 I am happy with this since I was stuck in the deathly washing machine for a mile. 6 min off my Lake Placid swim....but that's ok. At least I'm trying to be ok with it. It's frustrating. I know I could have been significantly faster...I just got trapped. But that's part of the game in Ironman. And, It wasn't able the time that day...

I took my time and rinsed my face and all my clothes thoroughly. Salt water can chafe badly if you're not careful. I put water in my mouth to get the salty taste out and headed into the T1 tent with my blue bike bag. Here we go.....

Part 2 coming soon...

10 comments:

Michelle said...

Wow Ange! To hear you of all people say the swim was scary - just wow.

I can't wait to read Part II - this is so exciting. :)

Velma said...

Can't wait for part II. It was fun to track you on race day.

Marni said...

It was so great to talk to you. I kinda felt like I was there hugging you in kona. Great part 1. What wonderful details in your blog. Your swim time was amazing considering the number of men trying to swim over you.
So proud Ange!

IronMatron said...

Ange, if that swim scared you--God. I just can't imagine how rough it must have been. I thought the 1:03 might have been be/c of a strong current, or maybe that you didn't have a wetsuit. But now that I know...
SCARY! Glad you got through it. Glad Matt was there! So cool!

Kim said...

how terrifying! i cant imagine what it must have felt like - especially bc i hate swimming! you still pulled out a remarkably awesome time. glad you got your bearings and found your groove. cant wait to read more!

MaineSport said...

Great story. I guess the moral of the story is that if you are normally a strong swimmer, you're still strong in Kona, and go off the front.

Mama Simmons said...

I wish you would have found us prior to the swim start. You would have had a very different experience! You're a stud though for getting through that- and NOW you can do ANYTHING! ;)

Alili said...

Yikes, sounds terrifying! I'm glad things cleared up for the second mile and that there was a friendly face at the end of the swim for you. Looking forward to Part II.

Rebecca DeWire said...

Sorry to hear about your swim start. That must have been so terrifying! It is definitely disturbing that this can happen to such a stellar swimmer like yourself. My husband had a near drowning experience and panic attack in IM CDA this year.

Melissa said...

Jen.sorry to hear the swim was so horrifying. I'm very curious to know why you must have an escort.