I'm back in beautiful cold Maine now. And I must say, it feels great. The leaves are still colorful and orange pumpkins are everywhere but the the best part is hugging my boys. All five us are pretty happy to be back under the same roof.
When I went to bed last night, the temperature was 29 and we had the heat turned on. As I sit here with my sweatshirt on, I will try to relive those stiffling hot hours in the Lava fields of the Queen K.
Back to the race.
I took my time rinsing off in the hoses and then headed to the changing tent. The women volunteering were wonderful. I had two ladies helping me and they were super sweet and ready to get me all set. They put sunblock on my back and legs while I dried my feet and got the bike shoes on. All the normal prep...I headed off to find my bike.
(there she is above in the fancy Kona racks...the one without the helmet in the middle)
I was feeling fine at this point. Ready to see what all the wind hoopla was all about. The first few miles were fine. We weaved around the downtown roads. People were screaming for us. I had to maneuver around two men who had crashed. Already? Crazy. Before I knew it we were heading back up Palani and off to the QueenK. The roads were packed with people here..in fact they were In the road and only left a small aisle for us to ride out on. I found out later that Mark and Nat were there. None of us saw each other though.
The first 40-45 miles were great. Yes, it was hot. But not too bad. I was flying. I felt strong. My HR was fine. My legs felt nothing. I had no fatigue. I was just cruising along. In fact, I was very very conservative. My ave pace was around 20 mph wiht very little effort. I have no idea if there was any wind pushing us. I didn't notice any. The roads are not flat. There are long long climbs mixed with mild descents and some flats. My plan was to continue riding with this effort. I wanted to be strong but to save myself for what was sure to be a tough tough run. My plan was to be patient. To trust myself. I would stick with my nutrition and cooling plan and ride this thing out.
I was passed a lot. By men and quite a few women actually. Oh well. Let them go. This is a long day. I smiled knowing that I beat them in the water despite my near death experience. :) I still like being dramatic about that swim. I'm really not exaggerating though. It was bad.
I rode and rode and rode. The thing about Ironman racing and Ironman training...the biking is just too long. That's my deal. It's just too long. Around mile 50 I started to think about this even more. You see...that was where the climb to Hawi began. I had heard about this. And now it was my turn. I will start by saying this--It was beautiful. I did not overlook this while I was out there no matter how hard it got and how badly I suffered. We were up high overlooking a gorgeous sparkling sea. I had fun imagining the dolphins I swam with earlier in the week.
But mostly, I thought about getting to that turn around. The winds had kicked in. I wasn't moving. My effort had increased dramatically yet I was going no where. The temperature was rising. You could feel the heat rising off the black roads and from the black lava surrounding us on both sides. As we got closer to Hawi it did become green and lush for a bit. There is a cool wind farm on the left overlooking the ocean. I enjoyed seeing trees again. However, I was Desperate to turn back around. At mile 56 my split was 2:46. If I remember correctly. I was excited with this and knew that if I could hold on to this I was in for a very solid bike split. This was still my plan.
I had grabbed water and gatorade at every single aid station. I used water for cooling my body and took a few sips of gatorade. I did this in addition to my own nutrition bottles + gel,salt, endurance aminos and anti fatigue caps. (from Hammer...many have asked me about these..) I knew I wasn't dehydrated and yet my body wasn't acting 100%. I had some stomach pain and coudn't seem to go to the bathroom. Finally, the turn around. It isn't very dramatic. Just a little place in the road ina little town in Hawaii. There were however lots of people cheering and because I smiled so much, they cheered wildly for me.
The special need bag pick up was there too. I cant' believe I did this but I stopped. I got off my bike, a volunteer held it, and I went IN a portapotty. It was the only way for me to "go." The heat and stress was not allowing anything else. I wanted to be ready for what was ahead.
The bottles I froze and put in that bag were actually still frosting. It was Amaaaaaaazing to taste this. As Jen had warned me, my bottles were otherwise hot and disgusting. Totally gross. It's hard to get sweet nutrition in when it's hot and syrupy. I did it though. I choked it down.
And here's where the fun began. It is also where words will escape me.
I know everyone has heard about the heat. And the wind. Well....it's not normal heat or normal wind.
The wind is whacky. It gusts from all directions. It's hitting you in the face, from both sides, and sometimes the front and side all at once. At times I was going too fast and at times I wasnt' moving at all. But the thing was, you never knew what you were going to get. Just when you thought you were safe, and you could reach and grab a drink, Wham! You get blown across the road. I held on for dear life. My neck, shoulders, back, and hands got so sore from holding on so hard. By the end of the ride, my hands were bright red and raw. It hurt.
The next 45 miles or so were so hard. I forgot to mention that the magnet on my wheel came loose so at 3:13- I had no computer. I had no idea how far we'd gone or how long I had been riding. I just knew I had to get to the airport and then it was only about 10 miles or so. The thermostat was cranked. You are truly riding in the middle of black lava fields. There aren't any trees or houses to absorb the heat--its' all you. Before I left here, people told me it would feel like hairdryers blowing in your face. Perfect. that is Exactly what it felt like. I grew tired. I was sick of it. I had a splitting headache. It caused me to ride with my eyes shut at times. I knew there was nothign in front of me to hit...I took water at at all the stops and squeezed it into the tiny slots on my helmet. This was heaven. It cooled my brain and eventually my headache wasn't quite so debilitating. I continued to drink a lot, to take my salt on the hour and also got a melted hammer bar in. That bar brought me back to life I must say. I started to see straight after I ate that. My time was slow. I could see that it was almost 2:00 and that meant I wouldn't be breaking 6 hours. This was disappointing. And quite frankly, surprising. The first half of the ride had been fast. I thought I had a deep enough cushion. But you know, that wind was relentless. The entire second half was a struggle. It was a constant hard push. I put out so much effort and yet moved the bike forward so slowly. The heat was intense...the humidity thick. I was doing the best I could do and if it wasn't under 6 hours that day, well, it did not really matter. I was conquering the 112 mile ride of the Ironman World Championships. I wasn't blown over, I didn't quit, I got my nutrition in, and I was still riding strong. The elements. It became a different race because of those Hawaiin elements. Just like I knew it could.
I had a boost with about 4 miles to go. Mark and our friend Nat had hiked out onto the Queek K to cheer for us! This was a hard hot trek for them so I felt extra grateful. There they were as I headed to the end of that miserably hard final 112 miler.( ok,maybe not final....but for now) HEY GUYS!!!!! Nat was ahead of Mark and hollered to him with a big wave, "IT's ANGELA!!" Mark jumped up and down "hey babe good job go go!! how are you? are you ok?" I smiled, and simply said, "this is crazy. This is absolutely nuts." It was great to see them and share a smile. I told them I'd "be right back." I only had a 13 mile run before I saw him again. oh boy....
While riding those final miles my mind went to the run. When I was slowed to my slow pace on the bike, the heat was intense. It was like standing in front of the oven. How would I run in that? How on earth would I do a marathon right now? My arms were sunburned. They cracked when I moved them. My head felt like it had a vice on each temple. I just hurt. And I was hot. And tired. And quite frankly, seriously worried about making it to that glorious run down Ali'i drive. Could I? Could I get to that finish line?
I tried to smile as I rode slowly through the hot corner (for once, not referring to air temp here...the hot corner is an intersection we run and bike through multiple times) but I was scared for what was ahead. I soaked in the energy from the 1000s of spectators. I braked happily as they waved me to slow down for the dismount. The lovely volunteer said, "I'll take that for you." (my bike) and I happily said, "thank you! you can Have it!" I trotted in the bike shoes for about 5 steps and then stopped to take them off. The run to the tent was waaaaaaaay too long and my legs hurt so much. I hobbled along for a bit and hid into a porto potty again. I never do this. I just had to do it this way this time. When that was done was able to jog a bit to the tent. I smiled so much and told those ladies how happy I was to see them. "Ahhh it is SO good to be here finally!!!" I told someone I had a headache and regretted not putting stuff in my bag. what was I thinking?? Before I knew it, the medical person came to me with tylenol. She suggested I get caffeine somehow and more water. Espresso gel in hand--perfect. I took my time in there on purpose. I wanted to cool myself a bit and make sure I was ready to go. Turns out T2 was over 8 minutes. Ooops, didn't mean to take that much time.
And then without giving it any more thought...I ran out of the tent. This is it. The final leg. I was ready. Actually, after regrouping for those 8 minute off the bike, I was feeling excited to run. The swim had been a failure and disappoinment, the bike was ahem, hell, but the run was going to be great. I love to run. I had control here. Nobody was going to knock me around, the wind couldn't crash me to the ground and there are no mechanical issues, so I was ready. Just me and the road.
26.2 miles. Piece of cake...let's get it done.