Thursday, October 25, 2007
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly. by Lanston Hughes
Well I have been taking my sweet time putting pen to paper for my race report. But I figured I better get my ass in gear and start writing so here goes.
I must say that Hawaii is one of my favourite places in the world and every time I leave there (ok its only been twice) I get very sad and don't want to go. I spent only 6 days in Kona but it was a magical time and the memories of these days will stay in my heart for quite a while.
The days leading up to the race were quite hectic and bizarre. I landed on the big island at 8pm on Tuesday night. Unfortunately my bike and luggage didn't make the trip from Seattle – uh oh :(. At least that is where we thought they might be. So with my carry-on I headed to my hostel and tried to laugh off the fact that I had no bike. The hostel was really great. The people were so friendly and accommodating. I bunked with two other girls who were very respectful of my fragile state and knew I needed some zzz's. I barely slept as the bunk bed squeaked with every turn of my body and thoughts of my black Cervelo danced in my head.
I will sum up the next 24 hours in brief. I went for a great ocean swim with Angie and Chrystie and some other Calgary folks. We got free shots of espresso off of a catamaran that was 700 m out in the ocean (made a swim there every day before the race in fact). Then got registered for the race, scored a lot of free swag (nutritional product, gear and apparel), stressed a lot, cried a bit, spent numerous hours on the phone to airlines and drove myself a little nutty. Luckily I got a call just before 9pm that my bike had arrived and I could pick it up the next morning. I will no longer fly with Northwest (or North WORST as Jeff has rightfully dubbed it).
My parents and favourite aunt (Brenda) had made the journey to Hawaii as well over the course of the day. I cannot tell you how much it meant to have them there. My good buddies Al and Elaine Davidson had set me up in a beautiful condo that overlooked one of the best snorkelling beaches for sea turtles on the island. This place was unreal and it was great to have Al and Elaine there to distract and inspire me. Laura Thurgood also joined our happy household later in the week and became my second mom always taking care of me :).
Lets skip ahead to the night before the big day. I watched some motivational films "Rain Man" and "Steel Magnolias" to relax. Ok not really triathlon specific but it certainly got my mind off of things. I woke up at 4:20 to chomp down some grub and coffee. The four hour time change was to my benefit as this did not seem that early. Angie and Ken picked me up and we headed to the race. I made one small error during our pre-race preparation and left my much needed gel flask for my bike in the wrong truck. So I had to dig with some race volunteers to recover this fuel or I would be biking on empty. Time seemed to pass by quickly before the race as I stood in line for the port-o-potty for most of it. I met some great people in line and the nervous energy was really buzzing. I felt like a deer in headlights and my pupils could not have been any bigger. I was so excited, anxious and scared all at once. I could not wait for the start of the race so I could get the load of bricks off my shoulders and just be in the race.
The pros started 15 minutes ahead of us – good thing because I am such a threat to catching those kids :). The rest of us age groupers treaded water out in the ocean and tried to control our uneasy bellies and minds until it was our turn. When the cannon sounded I was so happy as the build-up over the past few days had been immense. The start of this race was unlike most triathlons for me. It was a little congested but not as spastic as I was expecting. Within one hundred metres I felt relaxed and swam in my own space. I saw a sea turtle early on as well which could only be a good omen. The swim was definitely a good part of the day as it required the least amount of time, effort and pain from me. The sailboat that marked the turn around did take a while to get closer but once I made my way around it I felt more at ease. The last couple of hundred metres were the most tumultuous. People were funnelling in towards the shore at a rapid rate and I felt like I was being sucked down into the abyss. I could not wait to get out of the congestion. I swam like a psycho to get to the pier and clambered up the stairs to retrieve my bike gear.
Transition number one was quite chaotic as there were many age groupers who finished around my time. I should have maybe asked for more sunscreen at this time but was too excited to get on my bike. So after a couple quick pumps of sunscreen I was off (I would later regret this and still am paying for it). The bike start for me was full of adrenalin. We looped around town and I tried not to get caught up in the energy of the crowd and the speed of the other riders. I tried to hold back on the intensity to save myself for later on and listen to the wise words of my coach Greg and conserve at the start. I started to settle into a rhythm as we headed down the highway towards the airport.
I could feel a strange wind but I could not figure out its direction. At around 40km I started to feel some back pain that I knew was not going to be fun but endurable. In attempt to ignore these pangs down my spine I tried to take in the beauty of the place I was riding. The ocean, the lava rocks, the hundreds of cyclists whizzing by me kicking my ass :). As I made my way towards the Hawi (the place where we finally got to turn around) I could feel the wind picking up intensity and pace and the road started to climb upwards. I now understood what people were telling me about the unpredictable winds in Kona. At least this was a warm wind compared with the cold wind I had become accustomed to in Calgary over the past few weeks.
I was ecstatic at the turnaround point in Hawi and yelled out to the crowd and felt a surge of energy from them. This lasted on the downhill and into some of the flat sections before we turned back onto the main highway. I was hopeful that a tailwind would greet me once I got on this main road. This was wishful thinking and I instantly felt a headwind instead. I was disappointed but kept looking at my forearm where I had sharpie markered the following message "140.6 miles for my family and friends". I knew there were many people who would love to be sitting in my position at this point so I said SUCK IT UP SISTER and kept on spinning the legs.
As I rode through the blistering sun and gusty breeze I thought of my buddies in Calgary who had cycled with me over the summer and my parents and all of the people that supported me on this journey. I smiled on the inside and cringed on the outside. How lucky I was to be able to be here and take part in this race in this beautiful place. The miles ticked by slowly but somewhere deep inside I appreciated the experience despite the pain. There were amusing moments along the way that made it all worthwhile. I peed for the first time on the bike – yes in my shorts – yes its gross but its pretty fun and disgusting all at once :). I listed to people cursing the wind and each other for passing to close on the bike and for drafting. Oh those drafters – I won't waste time talking about those little cheaters.
I started to get excited when I could see the airport slowly approaching over the rolling hills – I knew I was about 8-9 miles away from this point. I felt like a real tool when I rode by the energy lab and saw the male pros running and nearing the last 7-8 miles of their race. Dammit I still have to run a marathon – whose idea was this again. Oh well – the true triathlon mantra "it is what it is".
As I rounded the last bend towards the transition I was elated and glad to pass off Black Betty (my bike) to the eager volunteers at the finish line. I got a few more mists of sunscreen and laced up my runners and headed out. The action of running was a strange feeling as I had been water running quite diligently for the previous seven weeks. I don't recommend twenty minutes being your long land run before you tackle a marathon but alas I was able to be here. Running down Alii Drive was incredible. I could feel some pain in my heel but I tried to ignore this because there were so many awesome fans along this stretch and for once I was not being passed. I came up with this little mantra to help me out when I felt discomfort creep into my heel, leg and butt. BTOTB stands for "Better than on the bike" – and for me the run truly was.
Al, Elaine and Laura were at a great spot on the run to cheer me on and they got the whole aid station to encourage me along. This was so great. I saw my family as I neared the 10 mile mark and this to help push me along. Back on the highway I began to notice that the wind had conveniently died down and the strength of the sun was now being felt on my exposed pasty skin (now red and starting to boil). I focused on the energy lab which signified a turnaround and a notorious place on the marathon where people much faster than I can dream of being have encountered successes and failures. I eventually saw the solar panels getting closer and I tried to loosen up my legs by increasing my pace. That was wishful thinking – the dogs were more than barking now. I also felt a weird burning on the ball of my right foot; this would later turn out to be a beautiful blood blister. As I ran down the hill towards the turnaround at the energy lab I could see the people walking up the hill that I would soon be upon. I did not walk. I am sure I could have but I might still be there had I done so.
I started on the coca-cola train in the energy lab and I think it saved my ass. The combination of sugar, caffeine and bubbles had me happy, burpy and gave me the sense that I had a second wind. I relished the next aid station where I could drink some more of this magical liquid. Ok this was short live as the pain intensified in my left leg and I now felt an annoying electrical current travelling from my left butt cheek to the back of my left knee. I tried to focus on anything else. I looked to people ahead that I could try to run down. Hmmm…maybe not. I looked to the sun that I was desperately trying to beat to the finish before it hit the horizon. I tried to distract myself anyway possible.
As I hit the last 2 miles I felt like I could hold on. I descended down a hill that truly hammered my quadriceps but I knew I was getting closer. I could hear Mike Riley (the Ironman commentator) announcing more finishers and I believed that I was almost there. OOOPS should have read the map a little more closely as I still had a small loop to do before I could pass the finish line.
The last 2km really took their toll. My buddy the sun had dipped down and darkness was upon me. I decided to do what I had done in Ironman Coeur D'Alene and that was to name the people in my life who had supported me along the journey to the race. So I started the list – and it’s a long list as you will soon see. As I rounded the last corner back onto Alii Drive I knew I was so close. I kept reciting my friends, family and training heroes. It was quite a surreal experience to be passing through the finishing clock and I did it in true Katie fashion. I tripped on the last little part of the carpeted ramp and crawled my way across the timing mats. No wonder my parents got me out of dancing and all sports requiring grace.
I was now truly spent. I could feel the burning in my quads both muscular and on the surface where the little blister heads were starting to form. I got a little help from my catcher to the massage tent. I was rubbed down by an amazing woman. I cannot believe the massage volunteers who actually touch our battered, smelly, sweaty bodies and make us feel like champions. My parents and aunt greeted me in the massage tent and helped me get all my gear out of transition. Thank goodness I might still be there :).
After the race my friends and family hung out together at my condo and we relaxed and laughed and told stories of the day. The next morning I got my fave post race breakfast – chocolate chip pancakes, peanut butter, and more syrup than you could ever need. YUMMY! I had a good couple of days in Kona – swimming, snorkeling and hanging out with the great people there.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
I got a chance to live one of my dreams and I got to share this experience with my two best friends who are also my parents. For me this race was more than a one day event. It was a journey that started a long time ago when I used to watch Escape from Alcatrez (the crazy triathlon in San Francisco) when I was in my early teens. I still have that race on the goal list. I didn't start doing triathlons until much later in life but I was always in awe of those crazy freaks that swam in that water and did the crazy run in the sand. I was forced into tri's due to running injuries – I think it’s a good thing.
I am so happy to have been a participant at Kona this year. And although I am not satisfied with my times on the clock I am content with the time I spent in this wonderful place and the people I was fortunate enough to be with. I hope I can help others achieve their goals and dreams too. And my list is barely cracked so you better be ready to help my ass do some more stuff.
To all of you thanks for reading and thanks for inspiring, healing, befriending, supporting, caring and sharing your time and life with me :).
Al and Elaine – thank you so much for setting up all the accommodations and for spending your holiday with me, I know we have lots of future trips together and I am sure they will be incredible
Laura – thanks for sharing your vacation with me and for being my surrogate parent, you are always looking out for me and I really appreciate it
Aunt Brenda – you truly inspire me with your dedication and commitment to your children and family, your resilience in tough times inspires me, thanks for being you, thanks for giving my folks a little nudge to come by your great stubbornness (must be genetic :)), thanks for never complaining even when I know you were in discomfort, I will send you somewhere cold next time
Ryan and Deanna – you are such great friends and mentors, I cannot tell you how much I look forward to our next race together (muddy buddies, Trans Rockies trail race or maybe another tri), Dee we still have a date on the marathon course one of these days, thanks for you unconditional support, advice and love, you guys are wicked
Angie and Chrystie – thanks for being there during my pre-race shenanigans, you were incredible, you got us free loot, had a pretend bike for me, saved me mentally and let me hang out are your pad, I am in awe of the number of races that you tackled this summer – you truly are IRONWOMEN – thanks for helping me cope
Gert – you have been unbelievable in your support and generous gifts, you have always been there for me in tough times (Ball, planting trees, getting through university and now this), I am so glad that although we are far away we continue our amazing friendship
Jill and Chris – you two represent what I aspire to be – and not because you are a couple years older but because you are amazing people in all domains, thank you for all that you have done for me, thanks for riding with me all season in the bitter cold, wind, snow and on hilly routes (Chris picked them), and for always making me feel better than I am
SYL and Julie – thanks for healing me and saving my body, you both helped me so much and I know that my body to a major beating before the race and you enabled me to participate, I appreciate the breaks you both gave me
Greg – thanks for always supporting me and pushing me along, thanks for your advice and for trying to teach me discipline on the bike, thank you for being my coach and also my friend
Sandra – thanks for putting up with me and my stubborn ways, thanks for always telling it to me straight, thanks for looking out for my best interest and caring for me beyond the realm of sport, thanks for becoming a good buddy
Stef and Elaine – thanks for being my biker buds this season, thank you for pushing me on the hills Stef, thanks for always making me laugh, smile and almost pee my pants Elaine, you are both great riders, friends and your positive energy is contagious
Lise, Jeff, and Laura – thanks for always being there on the phone, in your cards, in your special ways, you guys are truly amazing friends and I look forward to reaching more of my goals and your goals with you
Leanne – thanks so much for all your advice and for giving me perspective on the course and on the race, thanks also for the bike box and for letting me get to know your two special boys better
Shannon – thanks for being my roommate in Coeur D'Alene and helping me get through that race, thanks for inspiring me to be a better athlete, coach and person, you have a gift for seeing the best in people and making them feel special, thanks for being a good bud
The Hoopers – thanks Hana for being such a strong advocate for me, thanks for always believing in me, Jarrett thanks for understanding why I do these crazy things and for motivating me – your card before my race in June still sticks in my head, you both are incredible people and I am so glad to have you in my life
SCHS staff and students – thank you for your support throughout my training, racing both in the spring and summer, you enabled me to get workouts in and you put up with my sugar highs and tired days, thanks for cheering me along and for caring about me, and a special thanks to Randy for crashing Jill's party with the ironman live website
Lindsay C – thanks so much for lending me your fancy Zoot Suit, I think some of your speed rubbed off on it and allowed me to swim a bit quicker in the ocean, you are truly an amazing athlete and I look forward to learning from you how to get faster
Speed Theory – thank you for your support, Dale you are the best bike mechanic I know and I appreciate you always trying to fix my battered bike, thanks for doing the extra things and for allowing me to buy you off with treats :)
Tri- It – thanks for putting up with me for the month of August, Brian and Rose you are great people and great to work for, thanks for making me feel so welcome and for being so generous to me.
Training Buds at the Talisman, Speed Theory
- thanks to my lane mates who pushed me along and to the boys in the hot tub who are always keen to take the piss out of me
- thanks for the kids at Speed Theory who push me on the trainer and on the road
- thanks to the people that kept me company water running
To everyone else that I forgot to name personally that helped me get through this thank you. I am sorry if I forgot anyone. I have been overwhelmed the past couple of weeks with great highs and lows from pre-race to post race so I will blame that on my forgetfulness.
And lastly but most importantly a huge thank you to Mike and Cathy – aka mom and dad. You are my heroes, my buds, my biggest fans, my advisors, my teachers, my coaches and most of all the most important people in my life. Sorry Mom :). Thanks for never doubting me and for always supporting even my dumbest decisions. I love you so much and you cannot know how much it meant to me that you came all the way to Hawaii to be there for me. I don't quite know how to thank you.