Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kona- Part 3- When the game changed...

Ironman is unpredictable. Ironman is long. Ironman is never straightforward.  

I always advise the athletes I coach to make "time" goals with caution.  Triathlon is not like swimming, for example. I grew up swimming competitively and a 200Fly was a 200Fly. Sure, some pools were too warm or too shallow but you could always measure your race in pool A with the race in pool B on any day of the year.  

Racing the Ironman in Hawaii is about the the furthest thing from predictable as you can get. I was well aware of this and prepared for it. However, I didn't realize until October 11th just how "lucky" I had been on the previous two years I had raced there.  

The bike leg of last week's race is when I had to come to grips with the fact that all my goals for a PR time, would have to be put aside.  It was a tough pill to swallow since I was in the best shape of my life and had been biking better than ever before.  I was ready to go fast and end this streak of Ironman races with the best ( at that point I meant  fastest) race ever.  But, I am an experienced athlete and while I was out there fighting on the Queen K highway,  I was able to accept it and continue to fight to do the best job I could do on that day.  It was my only choice!! Well,  it was  either that or have a pity party and give up & quit.  Quit? That is not one of my options, ever. 

If you are a triathlete or a cyclist and you know what it feels like to ride in winds, you can appreciate this. If you aren't, it's a little harder to explain why it was so rough.  To say, "It was very windy and so hot" doesn't begin to touch upon the true conditions in Hawaii that day.  

The first :40 seconds or so of this video talk about it a little bit:

Mumuku Winds

Let me back up--
I ran into T1 and took a deep breath. I haven't looked at the results to know but I think my transitions were a little too slow that day. I can't even remember this one but I consciously took my time ( it's all relative... I was rushing but taking care not to forget anything) to get covered in sunscreen, pull the arm coolers onto my wrists, grab glasses, shoes on ( mistake ) and.... I guess that's all. I clunked my way around the LONG transition path to my bike. ( reminder: keep shoes in Hands until you get there Or keep them on the bike, oops.) 


small part of transition on the day of bike racking 

view from Transition to town 

gear bag-- (the volunteers loved my ribbon to help find my #. Works every time! )
Everything was moving along just fine. I ran out and headed up the road smiling and excited to see my family. It was my only chance before mile 5 of the run ( many hours away ) so I was eager to make eye contact with them. The first ~10 miles are fast and frantic zig zagging through town. It's almost like they wiggle us back and forth on the streets so the spectators have a chance to see everyone. Of course that's not it, but I laughed a little during that time as it feels like we are in a parade. There is no  regard whatsoever for ANY of the biking rules during that time. Everyone is all over the roads, passing on either side, drafting, everything. It's actually a little dangerous and scary because your chance of getting hit by someone is high. 

I rounded hot corner and headed up Palani on the last quick road before THE LEFT hand turn onto the never ending Queen K highway. (Kaʻahumanu is what the K stands for ). 

Yes! Just as planned, they were there. I Screamed "BANCROFTS!!!!!!" at them ( hard for them to pick me out amongst everyone else)  and they saw me. It was quick but it was happy and fun. With that brief 'home contact', I was off. I said a little something to myself but out loud as I made the corner( along the lines of a little prayer since this is the Longest part of the day ) , dropped into aero and started the journey to Hawi.


I'm going to do something different here and just throw together a few bullet point comments and thoughts to summarize what took the next 5.5 hours. Otherwise, I'd lose you all to sheer boredom. 

  • The next 10-12 miles were Great!! I felt strong, fast, power was good, I was drinking like a champ, the roads weren't too crowded, legs were totally responding the way I hoped. My average speed hovered around 21-22mph. All good. It was only 88 degrees.
  • Suddenly ... Boom. They hit. The famous Mumuku winds of Hawaii were making their presence known a LOT earlier on the course than usual.  Madame Pele was talking and she had a lot to say.  To explain a little ( maybe the video I attached earlier too?) but the island is known for it's two conflicting winds-- the mumuku winds from the uplands and the  Naulu wind from the sea. What does that mean to athletes on bike trying to go fast? It means shift to Plan B because CRAZY hard winds are blowing from the Sides and straight at you with a headwind and you have No chance of going too fast. I remember looking at my garmin around  mile 26 and just shaking my head and mumbling out loud, "it's going to be a long long day out here."  But I tried like hell to stay positive.  Everyone was in the same wind. It was a level playing field. 
  • 90 minutes into the ride the temperature was 97. 
  • My speed had decreased from 21-22 mph average to around 17mph.  grrrrrrr  And yet, my average power was basically the same.  
  • I had a decision to make. How was I going to ride? It actually seemed like an easy call for me. I quickly planned to just stay the course & keep my power as close to the original plan as I could.  If I didn't do that, I feared I would blow up on the run. After all, it all comes down to the run and how you run depends on how you ride.  Easy.  No brainer. But since that day, I have second guessed myself a lot. Should I have taken a risk? Should I have gone "with" girl A,B or C who flew by me? I am not sure. I played it safe.  I might always wonder but it's what I chose and what felt smart that day.  I wasn't taking the 'easy' route, I was taking what felt like the Smart route.  With that, I pedaled on and just kept hoping things would ease up and I'd see my pace improve over the next 80 miles. 
  • Two hours in it was 99 degrees.  

this is pretty much what that road looks like with lava rock on both sides--- so 99 + degrees has a special feel to it :) 

  • I was alone on the roads a lot. It was a very clean ride with very few bikes near me for much of the day. Lonely and a little concerning, but clean. The staggered swims broke the groups up a lot and I didn't see nearly as much drafting as I have in the past. I did see a Few groups, but not as many. I also saw a lot of draft marshals that appeared to be taking #s and handing out penalties. Good. 
  • I Finally made a turn to head towards the 18 mi climb to Hawi. For a little while, the winds had let up. I was back in aero ( a position that was Very very hard/ scary to maintain that day ) and feeling good again. I had consumed at least 4-5  bottles of fluids and felt 100% on top of the nutrition. I felt really good despite the frustration of the winds and still maintained hope that I could make it all up.  
  • My coach, Jeff Capobianco of Breakthrough Performance Coaching passed me during that time.  He asked how I was and we had a quick back & forth about the winds and that things were better. With that,he was off.  
  • The climb to Hawi---  a long long slow grind.  Headwinds, heat and hills.  Not much more to say. The winds were back. 
  • The turn around on the corner in Hawi ( mi 60) was both happy and depressing. My 56 mile split ( half way ) was really really slow for me. And yet, I was making the turn and still kept hope that the decent would be fast and the way back better than the way out.  
  • I stopped for :30 sec at Special needs. Two need cold bottles of Osmo (frozen that a.m.) were FABULOUS to grab and refresh with. 
  • Time to go DOWN hill for a change. 
  • Be careful what you wish for Ange. 
  • I flew for a little ways and had some fun. I maxed out at 39 mph. I'm SURE I was braking with that.  ( cautious mom that I am ... ) and my average for a bulk of that descent was 29 mph. Yay! The average speed climbed a bit ( still not where it was supposed to be ) and I was excited.  
  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Without warning, They were back and they were no longer just slow they were SCARY!!!!  Of course, I am speaking of, the winds. 
  • This time-- the Crosswinds off the mountain were CHUCKING us ( at least me ) All over the road. Aero was Not possible. I held the bars with ALL my strength.  
  • At least 10 times I thought, " I am GOING DOWN!"  Yup. I was fully prepared to be thrown off that bike. Over and over sudden massive crosswinds nailed me and I have no idea how I kept that rubber on the road.  But, I did. 
  • I made it to the bottom and we had another hill to climb before turning back onto the Queen K. 
  • My face felt like it was going to explode. It was pulsing. I was so so hot. 
  • The temperature was 104. 
  • Just keep riding, Ange, just keep riding. 
  • My mojo was admittedly slipping a little. The ride was proving to be really rough. 
  • Soon thereafter, we had a brief ( 5+ miles? I am not sure... ) gift of some tailwinds. Alleluia! I was finally "riding my bike." It felt amazing. 
  • And then...... yup. Headwinds! And Crosswinds! Shocking huh?  :) It was a tough day. 
  • Numerous people asked me while we sloowwwwwwwwwwly went by each other ( legally of course ) "Have you been here before?? Is it always like this???"  me: " YES! Twice and NO! This is the worst I've seen." 
  • We were Yelling this because the winds were so loud we couldn't hear & that howling in our ears for 112 miles was making us deaf and a little crazy. 
  • At aid stations, I tried to squeeze water onto my arm coolers to keep my core temp down a bit, but the winds were blowing it off to the sides so hard that I had a difficult time getting any to actually hit my arms. 
  • This is where I started seeing the carnage-- One girl I will never forget. As I rode up beside her for the pass I see her face first. Blood. And then I look more and see her entire left side is road rash. Her face, her shoulder, & her legs. Her shorts are Completely torn such that her entire quad was exposed and the giant road rash very clear. She was semi-crying but still riding Hard. I told her she wins Badass of the day. Hands down. 

Sadly, it became clear that she was not the only one. Many many people were thrown off their bikes and chucked onto the road.  I wasn't having a fast ride but I was in one piece and for that I felt grateful.  

I guess that's about enough of that!!  I wanted to get to the run about as much as you want me to stop writing about this wind possessed ride!!  They talk about the Hawaii Ironman being tough because of the elements. This was one of those years that makes them say that. The other years I was there, while there was some wind and heat, were just a way for me to ease into the real deal. This year was the real deal. 

I came into town feeling optimistic despite being ticked off that my smart ride I did, by that i mean I kept  my power where it was supposed to be, yielded such a slow time for me. I planned to ride ( and have ridden in Kona and a few other Ironman races) about 30-35  minutes faster.  But, I was optimistic that I could now RUN well and still have a really good day. I had NO clue where I stood in the field of 40-44 women. We didn't have ages on our legs, only numbers on our arms, and I wasn't close enough to people to have any clue where I was. 

It was down to 90 degrees in town at the end of my 112, so it felt rather cool.  ;) 

 One of the best parts of an Ironman is handing your bike to the volunteer as you dismount it at the T2 line. ahhhhhhh. 

And that is all I have to say about that.  

Time to run! 


1 comment: said...

Thank you so much for sharing your impressions, emotions and thoughts! It is really inspires the reader to start running!