“You posted a blog on January 13th: ‘2016-The Year of Kona‘. You had a tough go of it earlier this year but you have to go through the lows to enjoy the highs. GUESS WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO MF KONA!!!!” –Zach Eagle
This sort of sums up my race this past weekend.
Throwback to my Ironman Journey:
2013: Ironman Lake Tahoe (32 degrees, 4th place finish)
2014: Ironman New Zealand (9th place finish)
2014: Ironman Lake Tahoe – Race Canceled because of a massive forest fire
2015: Ironman Coeur d’Alene – Crashed my bike, ripped my liver, and decided not to compete
2016: Ironman Texas (8th place finish)
2016: Ironman Lake Placid – DNF
2016: Ironman Louisville – KONAAAAA!!
To anyone who thinks the road to Kona is an easy one, this is proof that it isn’t. The victory this past weekend is a culmination of 4 years of blood spilled on the pavement, sweat dripping into my eyes and tears hidden behind sunglasses. I have put the work in mentally battling myself through every swim practice staring at the black line, countless hours inside the pain cave and outside dodging cars on my bike, and pounding out the miles on my two little feet. You can’t fake the training in order to get to Kona. You hang it out there for the world to see in each of your race performances. That’s freaking terrifying. And easy to get caught up in the chase.
So you may ask what does ‘8 minutes to Kona‘ actually mean? I missed Kona by 8 minutes at my first Ironman in Tahoe. And I’ve been chasing those 8 minutes for all these years. When you’re going for the big dance, you never know when it is going to find you, or what it will take to get there. In fact, it takes the perfect storm and a little bit of luck. Hell, a lot of luck in my case.
This past Sunday at Ironman Louisville, I had my best swim ever and was on pace to negative split my bike. Then my back brake started rubbing on my wheel. It was screeching in protest going up every single climb and at the faintest touch would jolt me. I knew that if I continued like this, I was going to burn off useless energy in my legs and not have anything left for the run or I also might be going for another terrifying ride down to smash my face on the pavement. So I tried to fix it. No luck. I kept going and miraculously found a bike tech to help me out. With his help, he loosened my back brake to the point of no return. I put my face in my hands, forced myself not to cry and thought my race was over. I would have no brake for the rest of the race.
If you know me as a biker, I am not really good at descending. I was still overcoming some post traumatic stress from my crash last year until very recently. Even before that I wasn’t all that confident in descending. But you know what? I was going to finish this race. I may not be having “my race”, but I was going to finish no matter what that meant. And I had to double throw down to make up for my DNF at Lake Placid.
Coming home on the bike for the last 20 miles, I was absolutely flying. I had to pass a bunch of people who I had already passed. I talked to a girl from Tri Bella and she’s like “Oh, you were the one with the mechanical!” Yep. That was me. Going into transition, I was kind of pissed off and ready to run. I ran out of transition and my first mile split was 7:20. Ok, that is a little fast for an Ironman marathon.
I tried to settle into my pace. My legs immediately started cramping and my feet started going numb. I just kept thinking, ‘you will loosen up, just keep going’. In the mean time, I was desperately searching for the Base Salt Tent.
At mile 5, I heard the Base Salt Tent before I saw it. I took the life saving tube from one of the guys and immediately took some salt. I couldn’t even talk, I was in so much pain.
Around mile 6, my legs finally started feeling better and I had a pretty decent pace. I could see where the overall leaders were and where some of the other people in my age group were. And I settled in to do some work and start picking off some people. My goal at this point was for a top 5 finish and at a stretch a top 3 finish, nowhere on my radar was a win.
At mile 15, I hit the proverbial wall that you always hit in an Ironman. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen and how you will deal with it. I kept pushing on.
At this point, it was hard for me to eat anything. I was drinking anything I could get my hands on and a bite of a banana every couple of aid stations. But I kept pushing myself into that pain cave. I was right on the edge, overlooking the precipice into the abyss. I remember running by one guy and groaning in pain. He said “just breathe”. I kept going.
At the last turn around, I was at mile 20. Another girl right by me that I was about to pass had her boyfriend giving her splits. He told her “This last 6 miles is a completely different race.” So I dissected that and told myself, there was only a 10k to go. This was a completely separate race from everything I had done up until this point. I could do this.
I was concentrating on 1 mile at a time. 1 mile at a time. Ticking down the miles. When you get to the last mile it takes care of itself, so I only really have 5 miles to go. I was trying to pass any girl I saw. I had no idea where I was.
Around mile 23, I saw a couple of my running buddies Larry and Jeff, from Team Brilliant in Bloomington. Larry was yelling at me that I was on the podium. I didn’t know if that meant top 5 or top 3, but I dug a little deeper and ran a little faster.
When I hit the last turn towards 4th Street Live and the finish line, I dropped my last hammer I had in my arsenal and brought it home with everything I had left. Heart over my head and a huge smile on my face. I never tend to hear them say my name.
After the finish, I was having trouble standing up. My legs and lower back were killing me. I wandered aka hobbled over to the med tent and asked for some Advil. They brought me inside and sat me down. I was shivering and shaking so they decided to put an IV in me. Disclaimer – this is the first time I have been in the med tent post race even though I probably should have before. They couldn’t get a line into my because I was so dehydrated. They finally got it in but then it fell out. They were in the process of trying to get it back into me when my coach Craig came into the med tent. I told him I was ok but he came over and leaned down next to my ear. I wasn’t really sure what was going on and then he whispered in my ear, “You won.” I replied, “Are you effing kidding me?” and immediately started crying. I was going to Kona!!!!!!!!!
I cannot accurately put into words or surmise every single emotion that came with this. It is still sinking in. I have made many sacrifices in past relationships, with my health, for better paying jobs, for events I missed, for opportunities I may never get again, just so I could chase this dream. And it really happened. So on October 14, 2017, I will toe the line in Kona at the World Championships. A dream come true. I am getting chills writing this.
There are way too many people to thank and I may have to do a completely separate blog for that alone.
My coach Craig, my fiancé Matt, my mom Allison, my dad Tom, my sister Jules, my best friends in the universe Julia, Terri, Katie and Hannah, my training partners Zach, Brad and Meridith, my Coeur Sports sister soulmates, Matt Miller and everyone at Base Salt, TYR Sports, my Team in Training Family especially HB, BP, Matt Andrus, Skip and Nancy, the best coaches Peter and Susan at NESTEL Masters, everyone at Combine Training, all my past teammates, coaches, friends, and online friends. I could go on and on and onnnnnnn. But thank you, every single one of you!! I am sending you so many hugs. My heart goes out to you. I hope you can also follow your dreams and make them real, no matter how long it takes or what sacrifices you have to make.