Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kona 2011

Where to begin! Let me first say that Kona is amazing. 100% strait up pure triathlon adrenaline rush amazing. If you ever have the chance to come here, not even for the Ironman, but just to come here, you should. The people are beyond wonderful, kind and willing to help, the town is beautiful, cute and has all the amenities of home, and the training is hot, has every kind of terrain you could want and the water is quite possibly the most beautiful in all the world (in my opinion). My experience this week has been filled with everything from people running around in their under ware, to speaking about coaching at the expo, to seeing my friends and of course, getting ready to race.

Pre-race here is always intense. It requires lots and lots of prep here. Much more than other races it seems. There's just a lot going on here PERIOD. People to see, blogger friends to meet (Marni, Libby!) and Pittsburgh had 8 athletes here so lots of group dinners etc. In addition, Ty and Ryan Ballou were here with us, so it made for a wonderful pre-race team dinner etc. Plus, my Ballou Skies girls and I had matching outfits for the under ware run which was way cool!

The race itself...well, it definitely wasn't the day I had planned or the day I was hoping for, that is for sure.

Note: This may (and I said MAY) be the shortest race report I have ever written.

The morning of the race went as planned, no issues. When I headed into the water I lined up far left due to my Ironman Lake Placid Panic attack and I wanted to be able to "get out" if things started to get dicey. When the cannon blew I found myself in a perfect position and I got out rather well swimming with a small group and moving right along. Everything was pretty great until at one point I looked over an entire group was swimming directly at me. YES, at me. NO idea how that happened. I guess whoever I was sighting off of wasn't doing that great of a job. Anyway, I promptly did an about face and tried to swim in the direction they were going! Finally we made it to the sailboat turn around and headed back toward home. The highlight was definitively seeing 10 dolphins right below us as the light broke through the water. I wanted to stay and look at them, and maybe I should have if I would have known what was in store for the rest of the day, but there was much work to be done. When I got out of the water I was very surprised to see 1:10 on the clock! Really!! I had been feeling like I was going much faster. I moved on, no sense in worrying about that now.

After forgetting sunscreen in T1 (remember that for later), I headed out on the bike optimistic and ready to race. The out and back through town is dicey and crazy. Men going way too fast for the narrow roads and just wall to wall people. I took it conservatively and tried to settle into my own pace / not crash. Finally, we were out on the queen K and I was feeling pretty good. I started my nutrition plan and was just steadily moving along. Sure, there were some packs, I just did my best not to get involved. Each time a marshal passed, I got a nod that everything I was doing was cool.

Cadence, check. Heart rate, check. Nutrition, check. I was moving right along. The wind picked up slightly about 30 miles in and then at 45 while we climbed up to Hawi... it hit. I was just floored by how progressively worst it got through the 50-60 mile section. At one point, I actually yelled out in frustration as I could barely keep the bike moving forward without pressure on the pedals. I got frustrated and out of sorts.. I stopped drinking and just held on for dear life. I figured it will all get better once I made the turn around, but by then, precious fluids and salt within those bottles had been missed. Bad conditions, bad decisions. I had a little under half a bottle left at the turn around which should have been gone by mile 60. When I replaced them I thought "I can turn this around, everything will be fine!" Then my bike got wings. Flying down at 34 miles per hour I didn't dare take my hands off the bars. Precious time I'm gaining I kept thinking, precious time! Now I was in the 68 mile range, still far from drinking on schedule. In trying to catch up, I finally got it down and switched, more than half and hour from schedule. Around 80 miles the head wind kicked in and I started to feel my glutes and hamstrings tightening, my power was going down with each stroke and I had a hard time sticking to my prescribed cadence. Things were going south and they were on the express train.

My second to last bottle was warm and each time I drank it, I started to gag. It was the last thing on earth I wanted to do was drink it, but I kept trying. Instead I focused on water, leaving me missing precious electrolytes.

As the wind and sun beat me down, I felt my back just cooking under the UV rays. I could see my skin turning deeper and deeper shades of red. At some point I started wondering if I had enough focus to make it back to Kona without crashing or falling off the bike. "Just get back," I kept saying to myself quietly. Thoughts of certain times and places were slowly falling away. At that point, I couldn't even mentally entertain the marathon... "Just get back Kim, you can do it, make it back!"

Finally, I pulled into town and made my way to transition. I was so happy to be in there I thought about staying. The volunteers rushed me out though and what the heck, I might as well try to run a marathon. I was so out of it I forgot my baggie with my own flavors of gels and extra salt right in the T2 bag. Nice Kim, nice.

Out on the run I started to feel a little better. I was clicking along at 7:30 pace. Humm.. maybe my body was fine! Maybe it was just "a bad patch" as we all have in ironman! Around mile 6 I started to notice my skin had little divots in it and they formed these strange lines..I got worried. Really worried. It was either dehydration or sun poisoning, or both. By the time I hit Palani hill around a little short of mile ten, I was in trouble. Kyle and his Mom were standing there on the edge of the road and I stopped. Our conversation went like this:

Kyle: Are you ok?
Kim: No, I'm not sure if something is really wrong or if I should keep going or what.. my skin looks weird, my glutes and hamstrings are really, really tight and I just don't feel well. Do you think I will hurt myself if I keep going??
Kyle: Well, it's the world championships, I don't think you should quit, but only you can make that call.
Kim: Ok.. well, I'm going to keep going if I can, might be a long day though just so you know.

So, I chipped away at the hill and temperature on the Queen K rose to 120+ degrees. I could feel the heat through my shoes. My muscles got progressively worst until I could no longer use them. My glutes were like rocks. I stopped to stretch and couldn't even bend over. It was a disaster. I was at mile 13. The thought of walking the rest of the marathon was inconceivable, so was the thought of running it. Every step meant pain, walking or running. After walking for about 5 minutes I determined that the faster I got back, the faster I could seek medical help, so away I shuffled.

The next miles were long and drawn out. One mile seemed to take forever. I saw friends, they encouraged me and the only thing I could think about was all the people checking for updates. There was only so much I could do, and this was it...Kyle and Deb were out there on the course and they knew by my gait things were bad, very bad. Kyle told me he loved me and to keep going, so I did. Slowly but surely, I swallowed my pride, got passed by everyone and their brother and just. kept. going.

Night started to fall and the temperature dropped. Running down Palani at mile 25 I heard Cathy and Teresa yell for me and I couldn't hold it in one more second. Tears started streaming down my face behind my glasses.

When I finally turned the corner, people were cheering for me by name and I gave a thumbs up. They didn't know anything about my day, but they knew I was finishing.. and that was my only goal from about mile 80 on. I had made it to 140.6 on sheer will, everyone's thoughts and prayers and nothing else. My body had long tapped out. It was just me and my thoughts that kept each painful step moving.

During my last three Ironmans I've felt nothing but total joy and elation. This shoot was completely different for me. It was a combination of thankfulness, disappointment, awe of my mental fortitude and just a dizzy blur of pushing my body to make it those last miles. The second Mike Reiley shouted "You are an Ironman" I made the Ballou Skies heart, pointed to the sky to say thanks for the blessings of the day and burst in sobs. My body gave out. That was it, not another step to be taken.

The amazing volunteers grabbed me and rushed me into the tent. I couldn't move my legs to even take a step. My glutes and hamstrings had locked into complete spasms. Dizzy, crying and confused I tried to explain that I hadn't peed during the day. I tried once, but nothing but a trickle. When they weighed me, I'd lost around 7 lbs. For a 120 lb girl, that's a lot.

Doctors are angels and nurses are right there with them. After assessing my blood pressure and seeing my skin pucker when they pinched it they knew I needed fluids so very badly. Two bags of IV fluid later and I finally stopped shaking.

It was a long, hot day.. and a day I will not soon forget. Why? Well, that's easy.. because I think I might be more proud and thankful for yesterday than any other Ironman yet. It's easy to keep going when things are going our way, but what about the other times.. the times when you know people will see your results and instead of saying "wow, she / he had a PR or placed this or that" they say "Geezz, she placed 56, that's not her best time or place or I hope she's ok!?" There's no other reason to keep going except for out of respect for your competitors who tried to make it to this place and you got the spot, for boys like Ryan Ballou who were so excited to see you on the race course, and for your own reasons in your heart that have nothing to do with anyone or anything else, the reasons why you started this sport and why you love it still.

I finished yesterday. I am an Ironman once again. I'm so very thankful that I took a journey on this amazing island for 140.6 miles. It wasn't the journey I'd expected, but I learned a whole lot more about myself on such a tough day that I didn't know before it started.

Thank you to my family for being here with me - Kyle, Deb, and Randy. Thank you to everyone who follow me, took a moment to write a message on my FB wall, sent me an email, mailed a card or just gave me a word of encouragement on the race course. You are my hero's and no matter the day I have out there, it is good to know you are there for me. I'm so blessed.

Thanks to my Ballou Skies teammates, sponsors like Top Gear and Powerbar, and everyone else who touches my life in a positive way.

Three more days on the Island and I plan to enjoy every last one!!


Beth said...

Proud of you Kim. Better days ahead!

Kiet said...

You know what the good news is? You and I can finally relate to something! I know this race report all too well, and I'm glad you came to the decision that I've learned is the best decision: sometimes you have to start what you finish, out of respect for yourself, your competitors, and your supporters. And you can only do this by putting your ego aside, and you did just that when you said who cares what others think when they see my results, they don't know how much I suffered to place 56th. I have mad mad respect for you Kim, even more than I had before. You are a rock star! Now enjoy the rest and relaxation with all of your friends and loved ones!

ADC said...

You are awesome, really really awesome. Huge congrats

Mike said...

Job well done! Sorry about the cramps and dehydration, those are always painful! I once had the quads and hamstrings in my right leg cramp so bad during a race I had to lay on the side of the trail for 3 minutes. It was painful, embarrassing and demoralizing but made me stronger (and smarter too)! You live, race and learn, that's life! Besides, you're an Ironwomen!!! I swear by these now, never cramped since my "incident".

Keep popping them in your water when you can and you'll be gangster golden!


Kim said...

way to push through the heat kim. what a brutal day out there. you are such an inspiration. congrats ironman! :)

m said...

Sounds like a really tough day! So great that you finished! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman said...

Awesome, awesome race!! Too bad on the fluids, but way to pull the day out mentally!!

Enjoy your rest days in Hawaii. You've more than earned it!

Christi said...

Congratulations Kim! I know you did not have the day you wanted but you once again proved that you are a competitor. Your spirit and drive are an inspiration and I hope I can emulate your desire to compete.

Thanks and now enjoy your time on the island!

TriGirl Kate O said...

You are still such an inspiration, and congratulations on seeing it through!

millerb said...

Congratulations for gutting it out. That's a true Ironman. While it may not be the race you wanted, you still did it under less-than-idea conditions. Those of us who only dream of every participating in Kona applaud you.

Charisa said...

Enjoy your well deserved rest! Congrats.

Kim said...

Wow.. tearing up again..thanks for the comments everyone.. Thank you...

Angela and David said...

Glad you are okay and hopefully you are recovering. Slightly different but last year I got injured the Monday before Kona and had to shuffle/walk the marathon. It was incredibly frustrating to come off a great season and to not have the race I'd worked for and to watch so many others have an amazing day. You are super tough. I can tell you the experience makes you that much hungrier and I have no doubt you will get your redemption on that course. But in the meantime, enjoy Hawaii!

David Criswell said...

Great report Kim! A real pleasure to meet you in Kona and congrats on the race. I thought you showed true character and courage to cross that line.

Michelle Simmons said...

I saw you out there and could tell something was wrong with you... Bc I was not good either and walking a lot and you were not passing me (like everyone else did!)... Sorry you didn't have your day... Though I think I know just about exactly what you web through bc I went through it too! Yikes. It's those times that we have to just suck it up and get it done. Congrats on showing your grit. Xoxo. And sorry I missed your post race party! 9:30PM after the awards I was just DONE and went to sleep. But I will see you here next year where we will try again. ;)

Heidi Austin, PT, DPT said...

love those shirts.. congrats girl.... what you did out there speaks a lot more than any podium finish and i know that you know that. keep on inspiring us all :)

Dena said...

Hi Kimmyroo,

I know this race result was not what you had hoped for. The reason I'm so proud of you is because you never give up! Being an Ironman is such a huge accomplishment by any standard but gritting through the pain & struggle to reach that finish line when you could easily have quit is what makes you exceptional. I couldn't be more proud! Love you! Xoxo

Marit C-L said...

Kim - you are amazing, and extremely courageous. I couldn't be prouder of you. All my love - House Monsters, too!

Alison said...

I saw you out there, and congrats on finishing! Sometimes the days that don't go as planned are the ones we take the most away from.

BriGaal said...

Maybe not the day you hoped for but you are still a stud! Awesome job.

Gary said...

you should be proud! a tough race challenges you in so many ways,
When I ran my 5:28 marathon i learned things about my self as I am sure you did.Sometimes --it happens, the important thing is that day is over, you arent injured, and the always another race, thanks for sharing your journey, it is truly inspiring!!

Triathlete in Training said...

You are incredible for pushing through!!!