Ironman Kona 2013
2013 Ironman World Championship Race Report
Words would never do justice to describe my Kona experience; Amazing, emotional, and unbelievable! At times, I thought I had to pinch myself and wake up from a dream that I've had for the last nine years in the sport of Ironman. My special thanks to the Ironman Legacy program, without it, my Kona journey might have been another 20 years... if ever!
The Ironman World Championship experience was like none other in the sport. From registration to check in, it was the VIP treatment all the way for the athletes! The volunteers were unbelievable between 4 -5 thousand people gave up their time for us, the athletes, numbering a mere 2100! Their words of encouragement and congratulations from this special group of people who did everything for us from the time we registered, answering our numerous questions, directing us where to go and guiding us through the race, helping with nutrition requirements and cheering us on. The volunteers made our day so memorable! The entire week was filled with activities, commitments, wonderful friends catching up, great meals shared and just so much FUN!
Our day started in Kona Bay with a non-wet suit swim and as the cannon was fired, I took a minute to take it all in; the natives dressed in costume playing Hawaiian traditional drums; helicopters overhead, thousands of spectators surrounding the sea wall and the voice of Mike Riley announcing the 35th World Ironman Championships. Knowing full well I was with the best of the best on this planet, I held back and swam strategically to the far left and headed out to the ocean. Positioning myself not to be "beaten up" or swam over, had time to enjoy the incredible colours; yellows, blues, turquoise, black and white schools of fish teaming below the surface amongst the corral. The ocean was relatively calm without major currents and after the turn around point, headed back was privileged to see a couple of sea turtles, magnificent creatures they are! The water was crystal clear and recognized John in the swim three times, and knew that we were going to come in fairly close together. As I drew close to the finish, I had some nasty cramps in my legs, calves and feet and knew it would be painful getting out until I got more nutrition into the old body! With a 1:28:00 swim time, a couple of wonderful Hawaiian volunteers helped haul me out and up the stairs, the legs were seizing by now, I shuffled my way to my bike bag and change tent, where another fabulous volunteer dressed me by putting on my socks and bike shoes, as sitting or bending over was impossible. Not a pretty sight. After a couple of glasses of sports drink, the legs were still cramping. Suck it up Princess… and hobbling to the bike, I realized the bike lot was almost empty...with just two to three hundred bikes left...the older people at the back off the pack, the Legacy and Lottery winners- a whole different level of athlete than the majority of Ironman participants! It's a different feel to be one of the few last and spotted my bike immediately....a lonely Cervelo by itself on the rack! Taking my time, I took 3 Hammer Endurolytes, more sports drinks and knew all be good in a couple of minutes and I'd be ready to push through for the 180km bike.
The predictions and weather forecast for the winds through the lava fields and up to Hawi were none...a calm day and everyone was telling us that we had "got lucky for the day" with the winds! We all know that winds can make or break a cyclist day. It was beautiful ride… in its own rugged coastal way with spectacular ocean-views, the visibility so clear you could see the other Islands. It was hot, humid (was told it was close 40c) and we rode on! John passed me on the bike early on, (obviously just a minute or so behind me on the swim) gave me a pat on the back and wished me words of encouragement. I watched all the Pros and Age Group athletes, riding like race horses; scream past on their way back...bikes after bikes with lead cars and helicopters overhead. OK...I was a slow poke in this field but I was so enjoying my day, the course, the few spectators on this part and of course, the wonderful volunteers giving us food and drink and making our day possible. A few short miles before the turn around, I heard John holler my name as he flew past me on his way back. After the climbing up to Hawi with no winds to speak of, I completed the turn around and headed back to the lava fields passing several of my friends on their bikes making their way to the turnaround at Hawi. It was then, the wonderful Hawaiian God, Madam Pele, decided we'd had it way too easy so decided to do a shift this year and gave us head winds through the hot lava fields on the back end of the course! Up they came upon us like a fire wall of heat blowing hard. Still climbing and buffeting us around for the last 30 miles of cycling, most of the time arrow position on the bike was impossible and the danger of being blown over was too great. Still enjoying my day and digging deep, pushing to the bike completion, I was nearing Kona and saw hundreds of runners finishing up their last few miles of the marathon. I am in awe of these gifted athletes, how do they go fast? Again, a totally different level of race than I had ever experienced and there were parts of the bike, no one was in sight and it honestly felt like a long training day all by myself. I was pleased to finish the bike 7:26:40 and onto my favourite part - the marathon!
Changing into fresh socks, running shoes and a cap, I headed out on the run feeling great and ready to begin the chase and run John down and walk the rest in with him. We had our strategy planned and our goal was to cross the finish line together. The cheering crowds of spectators, the run along the ocean down Alii Drive were a celebration for the hard years of work and effort I'd put into the sport! Throwing ice under my cap, down my front and back to keep my core as cool as possible, I ran to cheering spectator friends and athletes with high fives and a hugs, it truly was a fabulous journey. Kevin and Katherine (husband and wife team and from Quebec) are incredible athletes with 3 Ultra Men completed, were the first I saw on the run with the crossover of the out and back! Big smiles and running hard; they are fast and looked strong and comfortable. After a few miles, I spotted John on his way back, he'd done the first out and back and was up on me by 35 minutes, and figured I'd catch him around the 19 to 20 mile mark. My fellow athlete friend Luis Alverez from Mexico, was racing his 100 Ironman with his 18 year old son, I stopped, gave a quick hug and pressed on with my run. Gordon Haller, the 1st Winner from the original...yes...the very first Ironman race (he and 15 others are to blame, or cheer, for the sport) looking strong on the run as we passed each other with a shout out of encouragement to him. Not so good a day for fellow athlete and friend, Dave Orowski, the 3rd finisher from the original Ironman, who ended up in medical about 8 miles into the run, and unable to finish...here's to better days ahead Dave. From wheel chair participants to prosthetic legs, I saw it all! The fast, the not as fast, the struggling athletes ...everyone doing their own journey and digging deep to get to the finish line. As the daylight began to fade and darkness descended, I pressed onto the turnaround at the Energy Lab. I knew I had this one done and was happy, elated and it felt so wonderful and surreal. Caught John at the 20 mile mark with a few detours, an elderly fellow competitor fell while running (no light and no headlight on him) so it's my karma to stop and help him out, thank volunteers and savour every moment. John and I finished together, as planned, down the famous Alii Drive with cheering crowds and the most spectacular finish line, lights, cameras, TV crews, NBC's Peter Henning and Mike Riley calling in John's 162nd Ironman and my 50th. It was a surreal day, a culmination of hard work and will remain one of the most memorable and cherished moments of my life! The finish time of 15:12: 34 did not matter but the crowning moment and fabulous feeling will last my lifetime. It’s a memory I will always recollect and cherish.
My personal thank you and deepest gratitude to John, my Ironman partner, an unbelievable athlete and a man, who made it possible to participate and compete with me. I am truly grateful and appreciate his commitment, work and efforts. John is a true Ironman and always goes the distance and beyond. He does the planning, bookings and major work behind the scenes for my journey to get them all completed in the world. Words can’t express my appreciation. Thank you to our friends who met us there...it was fabulous to see you all and for your support and presence. It was very special and I am so grateful.
Last, but certainly not the least, the underlying thought throughout the day was the fundraiser for the Vancouver Resource Society and knowing I was, in my own small way, giving back to those not as fortunate in life and are unable to participate in any active sport. My special thanks to all of you for contributing to my final fundraiser for VRS. For those of you who were waiting for this race report...I have the medal and the tee-shirt...and will also contribute! Visit . Remember, every little bit in life counts and liken fundraising to an Ironman....one stroke on the swim, one push of the pedal on the bike, one stride at a time on the run…every bit counts and it all adds up!
The Ironman World Championship will first air on TV - NBC November 16th and if interested, you might want to catch the half hour program! It is interesting and very inspiring and you might begin to understand the psychology behind the sport!
In closing, memories matter in life!
“The way we get to live forever is through memories stored in the heart and souls of those whose lives we touch. That’s our soul print. It’s our comfort, our emotional nourishment at the end of the day and the end of a life. How wonderful that they are called up at will and savoured randomly. It seems to me that we should spend our lives in a conscious state of creating these meaningful moments that live on. Memories Matter”!