The start of the bike in the chute is usually pretty chaotic with people swerving around like crazy, especially those who do flying mounts and try to close their shoes before the first hill up Palani.
I saw that the pros don’t get into their shoes until the flat stretch out towards Aquatic center. Probably much smarter and safer. There are a few turns early on and the downhill (no pass zone) down Palani and then the usually crowded parade up Kuakini Highway where you get a lot of spectator support early on. Riders were pretty bunched up but not as bad as 2 years ago, on the way up and down to the turnaround I even managed to see my dad and my sisters! Great start to the day! They also seemed pretty excited to have spotted me!
So far so good, but after riding up Palani to get onto the Queen K my chain dropped from the small chain ring. What?! I tried to get it on while riding but had to stop and dismount. Not too late, because the chain got stuck at that moment, which could have resulted in a crazy crash. I put the chain back on, mounted and tried to get the chain onto the big ring. Nothing happened. It took a while and several frantic pushed of my Di2 button (electronic shifting) until the chain finally decided to rattle onto the big ring. The shifting has worked great in training, but started to buck 2 days before the race, when I replaced my training cassette with a 11-28 DuraAce one and also got an iced chain installed by the Dimond engineers, who did a great job getting everyone’s bike race-ready during race week (yay for awesome customer service from a bike company). There seemed to be a problem with the 16 tooth chainring of the cassette, the chain would jump it, but I was sure I could deal with this nuisance on race day. (Thanks to Matt who repeatedly tried to fix it even just before bike drop off.)
But now my front derailleur would not work either, but I always wanted to ride a 1x anyways (only one chain ring in the front). In addition, my shifter also refused to get down onto my smallest ring on the cassette, so the hardest gear would be out as well, leaving me with 10 gears (including one that got jumped) instead of my normal 22.
Also not worried about being passed so early in the race. I remember trading places with her for a while. Mostly riding by feel here, guided by glances at my Garmin.
I was so in the zone that I did not even worry about all those shifting issues for the remaining 100+ miles. I do remember thinking that I like a challenge and that I do pretty well when faced with adversity. So much about a positive attitude! Interestingly when I had my pre-race chat with my coach Chris Baker earlier that week he mentioned that I am physically and mentally stronger than in Ironman Arizona where I qualified for Kona going sub 10. I actually did not share that feeling about the stronger mental ability before the race, as I felt scared all throughout race week, however as always he was spot on about it on race day. During the lead up in training, I have been a bit hard on myself and have had low confidence, a bit of that could have also been fatigue though and I did some epic sessions (8h rides etc).
On of those epic rides: Endless Peak-repeats on Mary's Peak OR. Over 10,000 feet of climbing. On a clear day you will also see a bunch of vulcanoes on the horizon!
So there I rode on, surging a few times to pass people and trying to avoid getting stuck in the draft packs that came by. One of the bigger draft pack I saw around me was a pack of maybe 12 female age groupers with a few guys mixed in that rode 3 wide for a couple of miles. A few minutes after they passed me a marshal rode up on a motorcycle and I looked over and he gave me a hangloose. I gave him a smile and a nod and hoped he would catch up to that pack of riders. And I was not surprised that the penalty tent in Hawi was completely packed! But first I had to conquer the 35-40 miles on the gently rolling Queen K highway. I had tried to memorize the landmarks: Kona brewing co, airport, scenic point with a long, gusty downhill, vet cemetery, donkey crossing, Waikoloa, gusty downhill and uphills to Kawaihae. I rode with a full aerobottle with Gatorade and a full additional bottle on the beam, however that bottle cage started to come loose after only few miles and I considered to ask the neutral support that passed by many times to fix it, but then decided to just not use it anymore, the aid-stations were closer gapped than in any other race (7 miles apart from 15 miles in) and therefore it was sufficient to only have the aerobottle filled and to grab a bottle at each aid station. Luckily, I have mastered the task to fill the aero bottle while riding by now, in stark contrast to my forced stops in Arizona to fill the bottle.
Thanks the sweat analysis by Levelen in the week before the race, I knew I had to increase my drinking by half a bottle to 2 bottles per hour. I did that pretty well for the first 2 hours until I lost track as I always drank a bunch of Gatorade rolling through the aid stations and also occasionally grabbed water to drink and hose my back down for external cooling. The aid stations were once again freaking awesome! I decided the week before the race to carry diluted gels in a downtube bottle, so I added 15 oz of gel to the bottle. Grabbing that bottle was a little difficult, but I managed to drink maybe 4/5 of it throughout the race and never felt low on energy. It started to get pretty windy (headwind on the queen K and crosswind on the stretch around Waikoloa to Kawaihae). The headwinds did not bother me all that much this time around, I expected them and I just tried to stay low and in aero. The wind tunnel testing was definitely worth every penny as I felt slippery and confident, as I was riding by feel and often checked the numbers estimated by BestBikeSplit. Surprisingly, those numbers matched up almost perfectly with was I was putting out. Once again, my coach was right about my ability to ride simply by feel.
Having experienced the crazy gusts in 2014 and 2 weeks before the race on a training ride, I questioned my decision to ride my 58/78 profile design wheels for something more shallow, but even though in afterthought I think I often rode to conservatively on the gusty downhill stretches (out or halfway out of aero especially also because my sister asked me to be safe) and the wheels were perfect. I don’t know why I had this fear as I trained a lot in the wind with deep wheels, but somehow it got to me and I was very cautious.
I was pretty happy to get to Kawaihae and at that turn there is a Hawaiian flag that indicates the wind direction. Headwind/crosswind. I was cautious on the downhill to the start of the climb up to Hawi and expected to see the professionals on the way back any minute, but I noticed that I was faster this year, as I saw them zoom by a lot later than 2 years ago. I watched the female pros go by a few minutes later with Daniela Ryf in front, which I enjoyed seeing. Going up to Hawi were the regular cross/headwinds, but even though there were white caps on the ocean the winds were not too bad up here. The turnaround came quickly and I sped past the special foods (I still don’t know whether there really was only special foods and no special needs), I had a glukos bar with an attached pitstop (I think) in there, but I decided not to pick it up but rather try to pee (did not work, I still cannot pee while moving my legs HA). The downhill was fun as I passed a lot of people as usual even without being in aero position, again I credit my bike and the wind tunnel time I have had.
The wind had turned to a headwind/crosswind again on the Queen K but I felt good all throughout the ride and I felt pretty happy and content. At least I don’t remember much other than that I changed places with the later 3rd place quite a bit until I rode away from her. In general, I felt that I passed and got passed by the same people. I never spent much time thinking about people drafting off me, which occasionally happened, and I was just completely in my world, just pedaling away and keeping on top of my nutrition. I remember a few details like after I passed the front wheel of a guy, he grinned and rather than immediately falling back to comply with the rules, he re-passed me. I also I remember an older guy who passed a few riders on the right, myself included. I re-passed him a few minutes later and told him that he was not supposed to pass on the inside, he said something I did not understand and I sure made clear that would not pass me again. HA. I was very happy, I felt good and passed a lot of people, without riding outside my comfort zone. And finally after 5h39 minutes I rolled into transition. Gotta admit I was a little sad that I could not hold an over 20mph avg as I had expected and predicted by BBS, but it was pretty close and Kona’s conditions are a little unpredictable. I think I had one stretch where I was not so focused and I might have missed a few minutes there, other than that I was happy with my ride, especially with only having 10 gears and all…
I got out of my shoes before the last little downhill on Palani, stopped the Garmin and handed the bike to a volunteer. Barefoot and with a little stiff bike-legs I tried to run through transition but was pretty much stopped by a pretty bad ache from my left Achilles. I limped as quickly as I could without aggravating my Achilles some more to the transition tent and sat down. A volunteer asked me whether I wanted an ice-cold towel: “YES please! Ahhh” that felt really good. I tried to be quick in transition but my English usually escapes me so I asked the volunteer to put my race belt around my neck, and of course she did exactly what I asked her. I really meant my waist, but I forgot the word and could only stutter neck. I quickly put on socks and slid in my beloved ON cloudracer. The rest is a bit in a blur, I am pretty sure that I drank another Beet performer drink, but I don’t clearly remember. I only remember going into the portapotty and while sitting in there, assessing my Achilles and putting on my hat and my sunglasses, while also stashing away (into my sports bra) a little ziplock bag with BASE salt, gas-ex tabs and another tummy calming tab (luckily I did not need any of those). My transition time was quite long: 4:37. On to the run!