Well, I have had a few days to let the past weekend sink in, and it still seems a little surreal. So here is a story of how it unfolded. A bit of a warning though, this blog is a bit long, and does not have enough photos. Blame that on Chris who was too nervous watching the race to take pictures.
The week prior to the race just flew by, and before I knew it it was Saturday morning, still dark, and I was weaving my way through the crowd getting body marked, my bike ready, and into my very snazzy blue Blue Seventy speed suit. I fully expected that I would be so nervous I would feel like puking, but somehow I was really calm, weird.
The swim start is in deep water, and we had to be out at the start line more than 10 minutes before the gun went off, so there was lots of shuffling for position, trying to figure out who was around, and staying out of the way of the paddle boarders keeping us back. This would be a bit of a rough start, with more than 150 pro’s, many of them very similar swim speeds, and most of them men with much more sprint speed then me. Suddenly the race started, and within seconds I was in the middle of a big mess, arms pounding me, someone grabbed my butt, pushed it down, and I was fighting just to stay up, instead of swim forward. No time to panic, just time to try and not drown! I had to cut across to the edge of the crowd, close to the buys, find some clear water and finally get into a decent swim rhythm and go. I was finally moving forward, passing people, and feeling better and better. In the second half I caught up to a small group, and ended up coming out of the water with a few other women, like Leanda Cave who usually is a super swimmer. It was a bit of a relief, since it meant my swim was not as disasterous as it felt. Awesome.
Out onto the bike, somehow I lost the water bottle that was between my aerobars immediately out of transition, and got the string that I tie my crank with twisted up in my rear wheel, near the brake. So a very speedy pit stop, while a few people whizzed past, and soon I was on my way, with Scarto my Cervelo P4 no longer tied up. I passed a couple of other girls right away, and realized just one other was ahead. My super fish of a teammate, Lucie Z, crushed us all in the swim, and was more than 2 minutes up the road. Not long into the bike Chrissie Wellington came by me. I stayed behind her for only a couple of kilometers, on a downhill the gap stretched out, and soon I had a decision to make. Step on it, and really go, in order to keep her in sight and try to pace off her or play my own game. It was not a two person battle, there were more then 60 other women behind me, and I could not pin my race on imitating someone else’s race plan. So I just settled into my rhythm, and didn’t panic. Soon I passed Lucie, and by 60 km I found myself feeling strong, and catching some of the scattered pro men ahead of me. It was hot, and windy on the course, but no crazy wind gusts that are famous in Hawi, instead it was more constant cross winds, which was fine.
The second half of the bike course was quite lonely, a few men, far, far ahead, so I could barely see them, and nobody else around. The wind was picking up and at 140 km I was really having to focus on staying positive. Every once in a while a media vehicle or motor bike would come by, snap a few pictures, and whiz off again. For a little while the media helicopter hovered above, and it reminded me that this was the big show, and I was in second place. How cool. The last 15 km of the bike I started to feel super again, and came into T2 feeling like I put in a strong ride.
In and out of T2 pretty quick, while putting on compression socks, lucky Avia shoes, and stuffing some gels and salt pills in my pockets of course. That is when I realized just how hot it had gotten. Roasting. I got moving well enough, and was amazed at the crowds and wonderful support out on the run course. Everything from guys dressed up in full body banana suits, to one guy yelling at me how much the prize money for second place is if I could hang on. Well, money was last on my mind, survival was first and foremost. Each aid station I took as many things as I could grab, and mixed it all together, Coke, Gatorade, water, ice, it didn’t matter. If I couldn’t drink it I just dumped in on my head. I also would dump as much ice as I could down the front of my suit, where it would slowly melt, and in between aid stations I would just reach in, pull out an ice cube, and have something to keep me going to the next aid station.
Oh yes, there were definitely some rough times on that run, when Virginia passed me, and then Mirinda, I tried not to falter, and just kept moving forward. Mirinda blew by like it was a 10 km, and all I could do was wonder if perhaps she would pay the price later on and fade, or if she would keep flying. In the Energy Lab, a very famous part of the run course where it is supposed to be the hotest, and toughest part of the run, I caught up with James. I could see him up ahead for a long time prior to this, and finally inched up my way and caught him. Very rough day for him, since he is usually a blur of speed on the run, but it was nice for me to see a friendly face. He offered me some Red Bull, I offered him some ice cubes. He declined when he saw me pulling them out of my suit. Wonder why. By this point I had been walking the aid stations in order to have enough time to grab as much as I could, and running the parts in between. Survival.
Throughout the run I didn’t really know who was right behind me, or how far, I just focused on moving forward as best as I could. And it wasn’t until the last few kilometers that I let myself think about what place I could finish. As I came to the finish line I realized I was going to finish fourth, meet my goal of top ten, and finish strong. It was super coming down Alii drive, so many people, and finally the finish line. Too good to be true.
Yes, 4th place is the chocolate medal as Abi would say, but hey, in my world there is nothing wrong with chocolate, actually chocolate makes everything better. Just think, have you ever had anything that once covered in chocolate was not even better? Chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered jujubes, chocolate covered licorice, you get the idea. Well, if I keep working my butt off perhaps next year I will have a third, or second or first place trophy from Hawaii that I can cover in chocolate, until then I will be happy with my current 4th place chocolate medal.
Chris and I at the awards dinner