Wow, the last few days have been surreal!! Not sure reality has completely sunk in yet. To come back to Kona for the second time, and be able to put together another good race to take 3rd amateur overall and win 25-29 is a dream come true. To be honest, the main feeling crossing the finish line was relief – relief I had achieved my goal. I’m not actually sure how I would have been able to deal with it mentally if I hadn’t, given what I have invested in it this year.
So how did the day itself pan out. . .
Barney dropped us off for 5am to go and do the usual pre race faff. It was pretty speedy through body marking at that time, and there was a real buzz and energy from all the volunteers. Time to do the final bike preparations, pump up the tyres, get the nutrition on and then try and stay calm before the race. I had a lovely pre race coffee with Barney, and felt very lucky he was able to be out here to support me this year. It was then time to go and get in a good place ready to be one of the first women in the water to line up at the front.
Having treaded water for 10 mins and tried to hold my ground at the front suddenly the cannon went and the usual mass start chaos ensued! There were arms and legs everywhere and I was trying to go pretty hard to find some fast feet. It managed to spread out a bit by about 300m in so I settled into my rhythm. I found a couple of girls to follow for a bit but they were weaving around a bit so went back to swimming solo. Then around 1k we started catching the men so it was a game of dodge! As ever the swim out to the turnaround seems to take forever, but I was able to enjoy it a lot more than last year. It wasn’t too choppy and I was actually quite enjoying just swimming outside. Finally as we approached the pier to come back in it became chaotic again and I had to fight a bit to hold my line in. The usual relief to be getting out of the water and get excited to get on the bike!
I managed a pretty good transition and jumped onto the bike to start heading out onto the course. The first little loop through town is great – so much support from the crowds and a great atmosphere. It is always congested in that part so I was mainly concentrating on giving people space as I came last to avoid any crashes. We were soon up onto the Queen K and it was time to settle in and start catching some of the ladies ahead!
I absolutely loved the way out to Hawi, I was just passing people and sticking to my power and getting the nutrition in. As last year on the first chunk out I saw lots of people purposefully drafting (as opposed to the unavoidable groups at the start), but was careful to not focus on them and just focus on my race. As we started to climb towards Hawi the male pro race came back the other way, and then the female race. It was great to see Lucy crushing it on the front.
At the turnaround point Nick (Sophie Bubb’s husband) told me I was winning my age group and 3rd overall. This gave me a great boost. I knew I was riding well as hadn’t been overtaken by anyone at this point and had caught a lot of ladies. Time for the fun to begin. That first section down from Hawi was amazing!! Being so much lower to the ground than most of the men I was cruising past them. As we turned back onto the Queen K I was still feeling pretty good, not too hot and legs still strong. Not too far back now!! I was trying to work out if I could go sub 5 and started getting excited when I thought that was looking realistic.
Coming back into t2 I looked down and saw 4.52! Was stoked with that. Even though it was clearly a fast day without much wind it felt like a solid ride, and even on the way back I had only been overtaken by a couple of men.
Now for the real battle – the marathon. With not much wind it was feeling pretty hot, and having had a few crampy twinges at 160k on the bike I was just hoping the run legs would come through. Fortunately setting out down Ali’i drive I felt good. Tarsh (stomp the pedal queen!) told me I was 2nd overall, but leading my age group by 9 minutes. I was running pretty well for the first 10k or so, but there is such a long way to go and so much that can happen, especially in Kona I was trying to be very conservative. By the time I was heading up to the Queen K I knew that there were 2 ladies behind me that were running quite a bit faster, but I also knew I couldn’t go much faster than I was or there would be a serious blow out!!
The drag from Queen K to the Energy lab feels pretty endless. There aren’t really any crowds, there are long stretches of road and quite a few slightly uphill sections. I slowed a bit up here as I started to heat up a bit, but just kept plugging away. Barney continued to give me splits and by the time I reached the energy lab the lady in 2nd had closed the gap to under 5 mins. I spent the next 5k in a mental battle between giving in to the voice telling me to walk a bit, the voice telling me not to give up, the tiredness in my legs and the overwhelming heat!
It was also tough seeing the ladies behind me as we doubled back – there were a number looking pretty strong so I knew it was going to be a bit of a fight. Coming out of the energy lab the gap was down to 2.5 minutes. . . This was it, the time to remember the sweat, pain, tears and sacrifice that have gone in. Barney’s support was amazing, and James from the club had also run out along the queen k (in his sling), to give me some more encouragement. Would not have managed it without those 2 driving me on.
For the final 5k I met a lovely guy called Brad who had had 3 punctures so whilst he wasn’t having the race he wanted, he was more than happy to run with me to keep my pace up a bit. We had a good chat and that made such a big difference to the final section. It was finally time to go past the party tent and head down the hill. At this point my lead had gone back out a bit so I knew I just had to keep moving forward and not collapse before the finish!! That final 1.5k does seem to be quite long, but the crowds are unbelievable. I saw Joe Spraggins coming up to the red carpet so as promised gave him a little slap on the bum!
Coming down the red carpet there were definitely a few tears, and just huge relief!! The lady who met me at the finish was lovely, and helped walk me through. I was given the great news I had to go be dope tested (again!! 3rd time in the last 4 weeks!), so was straight up to that room until I was able to wee – 1 hour!! Not what you want when you want to go celebrate with your family / friends and get some food in. Good to see effort being taken to keep the sport clean but would think that 95% athletes who would dope would be clever enough not to have it in their system for the actual race!
Finally it was time to go find barney and enjoy the moment!!
Whilst it was an easier year on the bike in terms of no wind, this race seems to take some people at the peak of their fitness and give them the worst day. Absolutely gutted for coach Will for not having the day he deserves and has trained for. Also gutted for all my friends out here who didn’t have the race they wanted. Kona really is a brutal beast and you need a fair bit of luck on race day!
It has been an epic trip and I’m looking forward to some time off from serious training.m, and being able to concentrate more on work for a bit. Next year my A race is Challenge Roth, which before this race I was hoping to go somewhere around 9.20, but given my time from yesterday may have to raise that bar a bit!! Other than that I need to have a think about my plans and other races.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey – the support I have felt has been overwhelming st times. The triathlon community really is special!
Thanks again to the awesome sponsors: