Newbie’s Perspective: A Lesson in 70.3
The idea of racing 70.3 miles seemed shorter and shorter the closer race day approached. Honestly it seems short compared to the insanely long full Ironman. The worst week of training has to be the week before the race. I’m pretty certain that every single person I worked with was sick and that I was going to catch their cold and/or get food poisoning. Thankfully neither happened and I fitfully rested and took things pretty easy, which felt very odd and left me feeling more restless.
My coworkers think I’m crazy, and honestly for wanting to do this I just might be. But that’s ok. Having found an activity that I enjoy (and more importantly still enjoy!) fills this void that was left after college. Being able to dedicate my mind, body, and energy into something that seems impossible and to prove that it’s not is beyond satisfying. It’s has become the outlet where I’m able to prove to myself that I can do anything I want. It’s always surprised me to see my hard work pay off.
We drove over from Hilo on Friday morning so I could check in, drop off my T2 bag, drop off my bike and helmet, and enjoy Waimea a bit before going to sleep early. Having split transitions was interesting but posed no real issues for me, only the nervous feeling of having possibly forgotten something terribly important (I didn’t!). Bike racking was first come first serve, no designated area. Only markers and your own mental map to rely on.
I’ve been to that side of the island before, swam at that beach, and ridden that bike course. In addition to having Katie coach me through these tough months of training I was physically and mentally prepared for the miles that lay ahead.
Race night was filled with hours of laying awake wishing I could sleep but fearing I would miss my alarm. Finally the minutes and hours ticked away until I was able to be fully awake. The best thing about race morning was being able to drink coffee again. After coffee and a hastily made peanut butter sandwich we were on our way to the event parking. After double and triple checking that I had everything I was loaded onto a school bus and shipped down to Hapuna beach park.
Bike bag in hand I walked into T1. The last thing I had to do was pump my tires and head down to the water. I dilly dallied a bit too long up at my bike and didn’t get to warm up as much as I had wanted in the water but that’s not really the worst. I love swimming in the ocean, growing up in Encinitas the ocean was my first love. It was nice and calm, couldn’t ask for better conditions. After waiting for the men to go, finally it was my turn to get in. As expected the swim was fantastic, it’s my favorite of the three legs. I always love seeing fish, no matter how small I still get excited. I’m swimming along, I make the first left turn, keep swimming, then I start to think wow I’m still going. Then that thought starts to turn into “wow this is just the beginning” to “this is the best!” And back to “ok focus, remember you still have a bit more to go.”
Exiting the swim I was instructed not to mount the bike at first. The first bit of the bike course is on a rather steep incline. As I watched people fumble, fall, and be frustrated as I ran past, helmet on, bike on one side and shoes in my other hand. This lack of riding the bike on the bike course was greeted by “you should be on it” and “that’s a great idea!” I’m so glad I ran up that hill.
I knew the bike course was going to be challenging, having ridden it before and knowing my fitness when it comes to the bike. You see I didn’t really start riding until June of 2014. That is to say, I sort of knew how to ride a bike but not really. So with that in mind, I knew this was going to be a challenging undertaking.
It was very difficult to watch everyone fly past me while I pedaled my little heart out. Certainly a lesson in dealing with my ego. But I made up to Hawi just like I knew I would. The winds were so minimal, which was a really a miracle. The last time I had ridden up there I was getting blown all over the road. On the way up you get this beautiful view of Maui, it was such a clear day, the clearest I have seen in that side of the island because the winds had shifted the vog (think volcanic smog) to the southeast. It was beautiful and inspiring and everything I had hoped it would be.
As I made my way back I saw athletes on the side of the road, the heat becoming too unbearable for them. If I didn’t live in Hilo and wasn’t somewhat acclimated to the humidity and the heat then I would have been on the side of the road as well. Thankfully I wasn’t. I kept going. It got difficult right where I knew it would, the right turn back onto Queen Kaahumanu highway. But after I passed that I knew it would be fine from there on out. At least until the run.
The run. Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the roller coaster that is that run.
I enter T2, seeing I’m one of the last to return, and head on out to the grass. Half of the run is on the the golf course grass. I’m running along, feeling pretty excited to not be on that horrible bike anymore, nothing can be worse than that right? WRONG!
Between mile 1 and mile 3 I felt amazing, on top of the world. I’m racing 70.3 miles! I’m actually really doing it! I’m gonna finish and have my goals realized! Then somewhere around mile 4-5 things start to go wrong. I start to realize how much pain I’m in. I start to realize the heat is really taking a toll on me. I start to see the people I ran past, run past me. Then this internal struggle begins that I’ve been trying to fight off all day. My brain keeps asking me “why are we doing this? What’s the point? Why did you think you could ever do this? You aren’t an athlete! What were you thinking?!” As some might say, the struggle was real. Somehow I make it to mile 9. I keep counting down the miles until I’m done. I knew that if I could go two more miles then I only had two more to go after that. (This is the same sort of thing I tell myself in the pool when my brain gets all grumpy.) I make it to mile 11. I’ve consumed so many cups of ice, water, and Gatorade yet I’m still hot and still thirsty. This is unbearable. I start to worry about the time, I know I’ve been going for a while. I worry that I won’t make the cutoff. Somewhere near the end Pono finds me, he tells me I have to pick up the pace, I have to finish in time. There is no other option. Somehow my legs have a bit left in them, my heart wants this so badly that I can’t be defeated by seconds on a clock. I round the last turn, I hear the band playing, I see the end. Before I know it I’ve crossed the finish line. Tears streaming down my face, sobs caught in my chest. The volunteers ask if I’m ok. Something must be terribly wrong to be crying the way I am. But it’s the other way around and no one really seems to get it. I’ve don’t it! I’ve finished!!! With minutes to spare!
I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished. During the race I was often asking myself why am I doing this? Why did I want to do this? The phrase “this is literally the worst” went through my head countless times. And yet right after finishing I knew I wanted to do it again. I want to see what another year of hard work earns me. I was sunburnt beyond belief, achey and in pain all over, yet I couldn’t wait to do it again. I can’t be the only one like this right? There must be others, a collection of driven, yet crazy, people who love to torture themselves in the name of fun and competitive spirit.
I gave everything I had to that course. And I’m so happy that I did.
I owe so much to Katie and Pono. Without them I wouldn’t have even started this journey, let alone finish this amazing race