Before the race I knew that this race is going to hurt, because every Ironman hurt to some extend and with my Achilles injury it would likely hurt more than it has in any of the workouts. I gingerly ran up Palani and took a right onto Kuakini Highway, quickly assessing my heel. No shooting pain, no increase in discomfort, ok all good. I checked it off and tried to ignore the pain. All pain would have forgotten anyways as I saw my family right where I expected them to be. Also loved seeing friends and acquaintances on Hualalei road (I have spectated there before and it is a great spot as runners coming out of transition are still trying to find their legs on that downhill and runners coming back from Alii drive are going a little slower uphill there.
Running on Alii drive was hot and humid. It was probably the stretch I felt the heat the most. It really did not bother me all that much all throughout the rest of the day but despite having the ocean right next to the road, there was hardly any breeze. I had some quiet miles on Alii, despite the many spectators. I tried to dodge all the water hoses, in an effort to keep my shoes dry for just a little bit longer. I also slowed to a walk at every aid station to get Gatorade, ice in my shorts and top, and an ice-water filled sponge that I squeezed out over my hat. I tried to keep the body temperature down as good as I could and walking the aid stations also helped doing that. All my training runs are usually run/walks, so getting going after each walk break is no problem.
I did not see a lot of familiar faces, except a few people associated with the Dimond brand. The turn round came somewhat unexpected as most of those initial 3.5 miles went by in a blur. I did see some of my competitors before I turned and was surprised that I wasn’t further back from them. I was indeed reeling some of the faster bikers in. Just as I left Alii drive behind me, and turned from Hualalei to Kuakini Highway, I saw my family who was cheering. My twin sister yelled at me that I have been off the bike in 6th and that the front runners were slowing. I have no idea how she knew or why she thought they were slowing down in front of me. But I was happy that after more than 7 hours of racing, I got the first idea where I stood in my age group, it was the first time I knew within a race what my ranking was, so that was very cool. My twin sister had never spectated a triathlon, nor used the ironman live tracker, but it must be twin intuition, she knew exactly where I was and always caught me when I went by.
My pre-race predictions were pretty spot on, I had written down some estimates of my swim, bike, alii run, total run, and overall time. Getting a top 5 in my age group was my goal, and I knew I would not want to fall short on this goal by being 6th, so running into the top 5 was my task now. But at no point, was I worried about not getting there, but I was also not sure whether it was doable. However it did not matter, I tried to stay in the now and the things I could control. I felt I was running a steady pace that I could run for a lot longer, not as fast as I wanted, but it was a sustainable and somewhat comfortable pace. I knew the hard sections of the marathons were still ahead of me.
I headed up Palani again, some people were walking but I just trotted it up lightly not even spending a single thought on my Achilles. On top of Palani Road, at the turn onto the Queen K highway were a lot of spectators. That was very motivating. The next few miles felt like all uphill, even though I think it is rolling hills with a slight downhill. I thought to myself that this will be downhill on the way back, but of course it felt like an uphill again. It tried to keep on pace and fell in behind a guy who passed me. A little later I pulled alongside of him and at that moment Mirinda Carfrae passed by and as we clapped and cheered for support he said that he was actually cheering for someone else and that he was Swiss. At that time I answered in Swiss German that I was too and when Heather Jackson went by I explained him who that was (I felt a bit like a Swiss-American). We chatted a bit and I told him that I was going for a podium spot (he seemed surprised) and that I could use a pacer. For a while he would pull away on the uphills and aid stations and I had to catch up on the downhills. I kept thinking that he was too strong of a runner for me and that I will try to hang on as much as I can but soon after he fell back and I pushed on myself. I would pick targets and tried to run them down. At each aid station I would walk and people would pass me back but I most often caught them again. Finally the solar panels who mark the entry into the energy lab, were visible and we were approaching the energy lab. Even though I had ran this section in training, it felt like forever.
The aid station at the top of the energy lab always feels like a big party and I was looking forward to run in the lab, as I have had the enormous pleasure of a meeting with the energy lab COO a few weeks prior to the race. I knew I could draw energy from that meeting and the knowledge I had acquired about the entire enterprise, the companies and the science of the energy lab. The turn around came up quickly and I was happy to get a high five from a fellow competitor and coach. I was still running pretty well. I grabbed my special needs bag as I had a gel and a beet juice in there. Some of the aid stations seemed to be out of gels or just did not pass them out, so I had missed taking in gels and the Glukos Energy gel was exactly what I needed. I was a pretty happy camper and made my way out of the lab and back onto Queen K. That is when the hardest part of the race starts. I had to dig deep, and asked myself many times: "How bad to you want it?" For which the answer was: "I want it MORE" or "I want it REAL BAD". And all the mantras that came to mind. :) It worked to keep on pace but it hurt and I had some talks with the man above and my late grandma showed up in my random rambling thoughts as well. I tried to get this race over with as quickly as I could. And did I say it was hot out there?
Finally on top of Palani again I could not help but smiling in excitement as I opened up my stride a little to fly towards the finish (and always trying to not cramp up doing that). The last mile always seems long: left onto Kuakini, right onto Hualalei and the final right turn onto Alii. The excitement of the spectators on this last stretch of Alii is special and very amazing. Everyone seems to have a good time and good words for every finisher. I smiled from ear to ear and I felt like the only person in my 30 m bubble. Then you see the strong lights of the finish, Mike Reilly's voice and the white of the finish shoot. In the shoot I knew it would be over any second and to my right I saw my family right before the arch, their hands stretched out for their high fives and there it was the finish line.
I actually stopped and walked the little carpeted bump through the arch. I felt surprisingly good and very grateful, happy and excited. I turned and looked back at the arch to see my finish time and instantly burst in tears of joy. 10h23, 7 min faster than my prediction. Two catchers were there to give me a lei and a towel and I think I said about 10 times "I am so HAPPY", I hugged them and they brought me into the finisher area, where I got my picture taken and where I collected my finisher items (very cool medal and a finisher hat). I really enjoyed finishing in the daylight, it feels like some kind of batch of honor or a secret society to be finishing in the daylight in Kona, as it gets dark very early. I went to collect my morning clothes bag and left the finisher area as I wanted to get my phone to be able to connect with my folks, even though I kinda knew where my family was, but I was not sure whether they would still be there. They were. So I made my way to the public parking and sat in the passenger seat of my tiny Chevy Spark rental for a few minutes. When I glanced at my phone, I saw a facebook post of a friend saying that I was second.
I went back and copy/pasted my reaction. This was the moment when I found out. Probably 30 min after my finish. I got many posts that day, and this post was the first one I saw on the screen of my phone before before I even opened it.
I really had no idea where I finished. The only thing I knew was that I got off the bike in 6th. I was already very happy with my finish time, it hardly mattered what place it was at that point (I tend to race against myself alone). But I was especially happy with all the struggles and injuries I have had this entire year. I am a Vize-World champion! And once again ran a 3h33 marathon, which is just over an 8min/mile, 10 min slower than in Arizona, but it qualified me for the Boston Marathon 2018! How cool is that!
(I made 2 goofy, totally emotional videos from after the race, but since I uploaded them to facebook, I dont know how to add them in there. But I found this one made by my sister. Giving high-five's to my dad and my sisters was probably THE highlight of my entire race.)
My dad leaning in for a high five! Priceless! Could not stop smiling!
I wanted to find my family as they had spent the entire day out here and were probably glad they could finally go back to their house and relax (they obviously did enjoy their day spectating though). I also ran into one of my Hawaiian room mates, she had 2 huge signs for me, and after a little searching I found my family still watching the finishers come in.
This was for dinner, even though I was not especially hungry after the hundreds of sweet and gooey calories I have had during the race. But seared tuna, avocado and some fruit went down.
We had dinner together and after they had left to go back to their rental, I went back into the finisher area to enjoy the atmosphere and get my post-race massage.
This lady was so cute. A massage therapist from Japan. She hardly spoke any English and each time I said something, she answered with THANK YOU and giggled. Very cute. Nice short massage, she ran out once as a japanese athlete came through. Had to get a picture with her!
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, I drove home to my stay and had some good talk and some more food with my room mates of the Airbnb I was in. Cleaned up my bike and had a shower (where I painfully discovered all the chafing on my neck). As usual sleep does not come easy after all that coffein and adrenaline, I was up a few hours later. I drove back to town and ran into Daniela Ryf at 6.30am, she was on her way to a first interview. I was too shy to say hello and congratulate her, but I would have had to also run up to her, and my blistered toes where not up to that task, so I went to stand in line for the merchandise tent instead. I gotta add, that she walked a lot better than I did.
I was still on a high, I had a decent race, not great but I was mentally strong all day. I also did make some of my goals, not all of them but some important ones. And best of it, I got to share it all with my sisters and my dad. My mom and I dont text often internationally, but she sent me a text to congratulate and how proud she was and that she would get random people talk to her about my performance. That was pretty cool, that even so she could not make the trip, she still was involved in all the celebration.
The 40-44 podium. Waiting for the awards was fun, as I did know a few people from this and other age groups who finished on the podiums. Just like an ol' big happy family. Definitely going to miss coming back here.
I like to thank every single person who supported me, cheered for me and sent messages. I like to think that even so triathlon is a solo sport, it ends up being often a group effort and I like to have you all involved. I also like to give a shout out to companies who make product that I love using. I am not sponsored or affiliated but please consider these companies: ROKA swim skin and googles, Dimond bike by Ruster sport, GURU bike fit by WesternBikeWorks in Portland, my favorite and only running shoe for the last 4+ year by ON running, Beet performer, Glukosenergy and Normatec Recovery boots. And of course my coach Chris Baker of Colorado Springs. Thank you all - this umeke is for all of you!
Watch out my sisters will be screaming really loud when I get up to the stage... :)
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!