An adventure, a journey, a long day, awe-inspiring, intimidating, thrilling, friendships, terrifying, painful, exhilarating, rewarding, demoralizing, thirst, heat, intensity, patience, tolerance, support, celebration, emotion, and finally accomplishment…. There are just some of the thoughts and feelings that come to surface when reflecting on Kona 2010.
The day begins at 3am with Ironman. Lucky for us, we were in bed by 6:30. Sticking to California time was key for this and our household managed to do it well. The alarm goes off and the calm resting HR immediately skyrockets as the brain process, this is the day of Ironman. And not just any Ironman THE Ironman. Coffee is on and the house comes alive. Within minutes Jen, Chuck and I are sitting around the table drinking coffee and beginning the morning ritual of loading up on calories before the long day begins. We are still full from dinner and the thought of more is not a pleasurable one. Liquid calories are the way to go Glucerna and Pediasure- calories and vitamins, slowly going down.
By 4 we are off. Jen and Check in the hot convertible mustang and me following the Jeep Wrangler. Pitch dark down Alii to the Queen K and Jen is taking turns at 50- I fear my day will be over before it begins as I roll the jeep into a ditch.
We park and begin walking down Alii; all is quiet and very dark. The jumbotron is up at the finish and the music is soft by building with the hour. Pictures of 2009 are displayed. 100’s and 100’s in the street are descending along the pier. You walk around the Queen K hotel and drop off special needs and then to body marking. Flood lights everywhere and the energy are building. With your number on, the race has begun. Around the lot and onto the pier, athletes only and time to recheck T1 and T2 bags, fill the tires and check out the bikes. Millions of dollars in bikes and gear is stacked on the pier. My mind is quite as I walk by and see Crowie checking out his bike. How cool is it that we line up with just like the Pro’s.
The mood is serene, it is dark. As the sun creeps up the announcing beings and the music is louder and the energy is flowing. I find Amy and we sit on the pier and talk, just like 2 friends hanging out on a nice morning. It was awesome, so normal, yet, not.
Before we know it we are linking up, skin suits on the pro’s are ready to go. They announcer says Chrissie has pulled out….the pier goes quite as this news settles on the crown. The 3 time World Champion is not going to start the race…..Wow.
Soon we are making out way to the water and I am so thankful to be with Amy and shuffling along. Holy cow, we are doing it! I see KP and final good luck and I am in the water. Deep water start and I am ready for a dog fight. I swim to the middle and start 2 rows back. The Kona swim was all it promises to be, arms, fists, elbows and white water for the 2.4 miles. My plan is stay calm, don’t get upset and swim with confidence. Coming back when the pier is in sight on the left the mind begins to transition from the swim to the bike.
Running up the stairs there are 1000’s of people screaming along the sea wall, in transition, it is mayhem into T1. Quick change and it is along run around the pier to the bikes and then to the bike mount. I wiped out last year so I am carrying my shoes and rolling my bike. Hop and you are off and into the screaming crowds and up and off Alii. There is about 10 miles of and out and back before you settle onto the Queen K for the ride out to Kawaihi and then to Havi. Temperature is good, hot and humid but not oppressive like last year. I settle in, my HR is spot on (not 15 beats high like 2009) and I start the 2nd leg of the journey. My plan is to ride conservatively, the goal for today is not a PR but to finish this race. The hardest part on the way out is keeping my steady pace with the 100’s of people passing me. Swimming near the front has its advantages and disadvantages…. Nutrition is spot on and I am very comfortable. As we make the turn to the 18 mile climb to Havi the wind picks up significantly and we are climbing into the wind and that is continuous and the only relief are the cross winds. Terrifying crosswinds sit up and hang on crosswinds, cannot take my hands off my bars to drink crosswinds. Finally Havi and the turnaround….and downhill and bigger crosswinds. I was blown many times across the road. I have never been so scared. I was so scared I was actually begging for a head wind- anything but these crosswinds. Those with better bike handling skills dropped aero and flew, I was just too scared. Beth was my inspiration on this tough section….she is significantly smaller than I and while she is a tremendous athlete her bike handling skills can use some work. I kept thinking if Beth can do this, so can I. So thanks you mate for the strength to get me down.
The ride back to town was good- I was feeling strong and I knew my split was slow, but I was in control of this day. I picked it up the last 90 minutes it felt good physically and mentally to finally pass some of those who dropped me.
Before I knew it was flying down back to Alii, slipping my feet out my shoes and ready to dismount. The saintly volunteers whisked my biked away in its filth and grime and back on the long run around the pier to T2. I am feeling 100% in T2 over last year, huge sigh of relief.
Out the path and onto the run. The first 9 miles of this run are awesome. Running down Alii with lots of people, feeling good and I am optimistic for a good day. So nice to see so many familiar faces cheering on the road and so many good friends out on the course. With the out and back you see a lot of people, we ran right by our house and I had no interest in sneaking in for a nap. I am feeling good and soaking up the amazing experience this is.
Around mile 9 the glory started to fade, the legs began to heavy and I could feel this was going to get tough. The Queen K is a hot, lonely, miserable place to run. And that is where I was when I began to fade. John, the most supportive husband out there, was riding along side alternating with words of encouragement and utter bossiness’, get ice, drink water, more ice, and put it on your head, ice down your shorts.
As I hit mile 18 my pace slowed significantly and I was miserable. The race was not longer about what will my time be but how can I finish. Porta pottie stop 1 and I thought that was all I needed, cleaned out my stem and was back on the road. Heading into the Energy Lab (what an ironic name- the energy lab is hot, lonely without spectators and is 1.6 miles downhill only to turn around and run back up) I could tell my stomach was not settled and the inevitable was coming. Puked and felt a bit better and I am shuffling along, just getting it done. I test my stomach with water, came back up. Tried coke, returned a well. So the next few miles nothing and now I am really slowing down and walking. Cannot do an Ironman in Kona without nutrition and hydration. KP had recommended Glucose tabs in special needs, which is at mile 18 but the way, I could be dead by then. In any case they saved me. I was able to keep them down and slog along.
I exit the energy lab to see John and I am about to puke, in tears and cursing the island of Hawaii. Shortly I see KP and I am now screaming I HATE HAWAII, I HATE KONA AND YOU CANNOT PAY ME TO DO IRONMAN ARIZONA. Okay done with that and slog along. I can do this, 1 mile at a time. Okay mile 22 and I am feeling like I can do this. KP rides up and says, you really only have 3 miles as the last mile is “free” with all the crowds. Of course mile 23 is uphill….stomach is rebelling and I am going on fumes at this point- really don’t want to puke or stop for a porta pottie again. Finally I am at the top at an excruciating slow pace and I hit Pilani and the street is packed and people are screaming, waving cow bells.
Yes, this is my free mile…downhill, ouch, ouch, ouch and then we make a left turn, away from the finish line onto a totally deserted street. I am cursing KP, this is not a free mile, this sucks. Nothing like running away from all the action and finally after what seemed like 5 miles you turn right and drop down to the infamous Alii Drive.
The streets are lined with people 10 deep, screaming at the top of their lungs, cow bells, booming music and the booming voice of Mile Reilly. I am now crying out of sheer pain, exhaustion and joy. Running down this shoot has been a dream for a long time and to actually be doing it is surreal. I see a guy ahead and decide to sprint and catch up but about 20 yards away I decide how crappy to run by him and ruin his picture so I run across and do the victory arms in the air and hear those magical words….JULIE DUNKLE YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
And then….it all got bit fuzzy for a bit.