Kona. It’s the toughest nut to crack. There’s a reason Kona is the Ironman World Championship. It doesn’t hand over its secrets easily to even the fittest athlete on the starting line. It takes a special combination of experience, smarts, practice, attention to detail and pure grit to prevail. When you show up, you had better be 110% healthy, and in your mental groove, because it has a way of exposing your weaknesses and leaving you walking along the Queen K asking yourself “What just happened?”
In 2014, it was my second year on the Kona starting line as a professional. I had a few niggles leading up to the race, but I thought I had them pretty well undercontrol. “Arriving over two weeks early, should take care of checking the heat acclimation and drinking my own weight in PowerBar Perform surely will prepare my gut for the carnage about to ensue on race day,” I thought. I was fit, and I felt ready. Yet on race day, I crumbled. It isn’t just one thing in Kona that does you in; it’s the combination of things that eventually gets you. For me, it was feeling my hip issue rearing its ugly head on the bike, which sent me spiraling into a negative mental place. The hip and mental state combined with an unhappy gut from trying to keep up with my insane sweat rate was my eventual demise. In the end, I spent a very intimate half hour hugging a cone on the Queen K watching
my day go up in smoke. Walking to the finish wasn’t in my plans, but on that day, it was the only way to finish. I sucked it up and got it done. The good news was I learned more about myself and who I was during that eleven plus hours than I did during every flawless race of my career. That may have been more important than running through the finish chute with a new Kona PR.
Part of me wanted to pack it in after falling apart during the pinnacle race of our sport. The other part knew that I became twice the athlete that day, reflected in the official results. When it was time to decide if I should put away the trainer and run shoes for good or jump back on the bike, I knew what I had to do. On November 20, 2014, I started the rebuild and eased my way in through the Holidays to see how I felt about another season and all that it would entail. By January, I was in a great place enjoying the progress in my aerobic zones and feeling like anything was possible again. One of the best things about being a triathlete is our resiliency. While at the time a bad race can feel like the end of the world, we are pretty good at picking ourselves up, dusting off, and looking toward the future. My injuries had healed and been strengthened. My mind had also been healed and felt ready to take on another journey.
This season brought a trip to Taiwan where I faced the heat and humidity again and this time prevailed, as a stronger, smarter version of myself.
When Ironman Coeur d’Alene’s forecast started predicting record high temps for the race I laughed and decided it was another great test of my new ability to nail the variables and perform in the heat. At 105° degrees, it was a race of attrition, and yet somehow I still pulled it together and raced my way into third in a deep field. “Maybe I was getting this heat thing down,” I thought.
Finally, Ironman Chattanooga was the final push for the season, so I shifted into overdrive on mastering the heat. I trained with our pro camp in Texas, in August (insert Tim and I saying a few choice words about the weather). I came back and got on my trainer with a heater and humidifier while testing my nutrition plan in the worst conditions imaginable. When the forecast for Chattanooga showed a balmy 70° degrees, I knew I was in for a treat. Preparing for the worst is what we have to do to achieve our potential on race day regardless of the cards we are dealt. Through the year, I’ve faced my demons and even though no one can eversay they can guarantee things will go well in Kona, I know if I ever get my chance again, I’ll be a different, more confident athlete. Three Ironmans, three podiums, no one can say I haven't put all my cards on the table in some of the toughest field around and given it a shot.
Regardless of if you’re pleased with your Kona experience, or more like me, a bit down in the dumps from not achieving your potential; know that this can be a
stepping stone to your next evolution as an athlete. Knowing you’re surrounded by coaches and teammates that care and support you regardless while equipping you with the tools to be successful is key. I could not have attempted this journey without my QT2 family, and specifically, my coach, Jesse. I may have supplied the wings, but he helped me learn to fly. In the interim, enjoy your off season. Learn from your mistakes and take advantage of the tools and resources available to you. And don’t worry Kona, should I ever get my shot again, I’m coming for you. This time, I just might come out on top.
Thank you to my #1 Supporter and the love of my life, Kyle for always being there, regardless of what the journey brings
Wishing everyone a safe and happy New Year! May 2016 be our best year yet!!