Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kona 2.0

Wow, where to start. What a journey it's been these past few months. First of all, I need to say a huge Mahalo to everyone that has helped me get this far, I couldn't have done it without you: Aaron, Raul, friends, family, training partners, co-workers, sponsors, thank you so so so much!!! 

The short version: My third Ironman, a new IM PR 10:34.06, 1st in my AG in the swim, lost some time on the bike, made up some time on the run and wound up 9th in the world in my AG (2nd American) on the day! Not too shabby. I'm super happy with a top-10 at the World Championships! 
Pre Race: We headed over to the Big Island on Wednesday, plenty of time to get everything taken care of and get in some relaxing time before Saturday morning. Although, seeing all the pictures and posts from everyone that was already there made me want to get there earlier, I'm glad we waited until Wednesday, that was the perfect day to arrive. Checked-in, went to the expo, got some swag, FINALLY got to meet the amazing team at ROKA (super stoked to be working with them!), and the stylish ladies at SOAS (who I am equally excited to be working with!), checked-in to the condo, went grocery shopping, etc. You know, all the pre-race stuff. Aaron, took care of picking up my bike (well, his bike) and getting it all situated and ready to go, thank you, thank you! Now all that was left, was relaxing, a few shake out runs, rides and swims and getting ready for Saturday morning! 
I NEVER sleep well the night before big races, it just doesn't happen, I get to bed early so I'm at least resting, but it is usually a restless night. Swim meets, triathlons. running races, cycling events, doesn't matter, sleep the night before is always tough. Morning came quick, sunscreen, getting my hair braided by Mom, forcing down breakfast and we were out the door. Dropped off at transition, said goodbye to everyone in the car in case I wasn't able to find them before the race and head off to get body marked (what a cluster! Ironman had the genius idea last year to change body marking from instead of stamps that volunteers stamp onto your body with paint (which stays on all day and if they want us to have numbers all over the place this is how it should stay, in my opinion) to tattoos. Well, last year they let the athletes put the tattoos on themselves in the comfort of their own hotel rooms and saved a bunch of time, this year they had us all wait in a line and had the volunteers put the tattoos on one-by-one....this took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, terrible idea. They apparently thought that it was the athletes fault that the tattoos weren't staying on...notsomuch. Shotty tattoos don't stay on no matter who puts them on (bad idea Ironman) and if you tell me not to put on sunscreen when I'm going to be in the sun all day long, you're crazy!). Anyway, I digress. That took forever, but then I was off to get weighed and check my bike. Once I was all set up and ready to go on the pier, said hi to a few friends, found Mariane and then we found Aaron! Had a little pre-race pep talk with him, got some pictures, a hug and a kiss and I was ready to go! 

Standing on the pier listening the the boom, boom, boom, boom, of the drums, the splashing in the water as racers begin to warm up, nervous chatter, the music in the background, gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. The pier on race morning is intense, but it puts me in the right frame of mind to get my head in the game (as long as I can keep my nerves at bay, thanks Aaron and Mariane for helping with that!, (nerves are good, but too many nerves waste precious energy that I will need later)) and focus on the task at hand, which is a looooooooong day out there racing for something that I've been preparing for for months. 

This was the first year the swim start was changed up a bit from how the WC usually runs the swim. Pro men first, then Pro women, Age group men at 6:50 and AG women last at 7:00AM. One would think starting the swim 10 minutes back from the AG men and having the start be ~600 people as opposed to 2000+ would be ideal, notsomuch. Women are vicious. Look at all of those bodies, pushing and shoving and jockeying for a place in line...ladies...there is plenty of room, no need to shove people into the surfboards in the front, calm down a bit and swim with a little aloha. The ten-minutes waiting for the start and treading water was terrible. I have never been pushed, yelled at, shoved and clawed so much, I have a bruise on my forearm from being shoved into a surfboard skeg to prove it. Anyways, the cannon boomed and we were off. I found clear water right away and was swimming along at a good pace, by the third buoy I started running into the slower men. I made it to the Body Glove turn boat in leading the AG women, took a waaaaaaaaaaaay outside line and saw 4 girls skirt the inside and take off. I tried to catch them, but was still waaaaaaaaaaay outside and getting tangled up in 100s of men. By this point there was no chance in catching back up and overtaking them, there were too many men to weave in and out of. I still tried, but wasn't able to catch back up, I bridged the gap a bit, but they had gotten too much ground on me when I made the poor decision to swim outside. My bad, I took the wrong line, lesson learned. If you are going to have to swim through 1000+ people, it doesn't matter if you are inside or outside, choose the faster line..the inside...stay inside. The rest of the swim was uneventful (other than seeing 9, yes 9 GU/Powergel/whatever gel you like wrappers floating in the water...come on people, you don't have to litter in the ocean, you get penalties for littering on the bike, don't pollute our Oceans!), swam through some more men, made it to the inside, didn't get passed by any more ladies, tripped up the stairs getting out of the water, exited in 58:55 5th AG woman. I wanted to have a faster swim time and luckily I didn't know what I swam until the end of the day or else I would have been a bit upset and that's no way to start the day. Overall, the swim was slower for everyone this year, Pros included I think it was a lot slower for strong swimming AG women, all-in-all I give my swim a "B".

On to the bike. My plan for the bike was to not get grumpy and BELIEVE. Great Success!! The Hawaii Ironman Bike Course is no joke. It's not hilly, it's not flat, it's not a guaranteed tail wind in one direction and headwind in the other, it's whatever Madame Pele has in store for us on the day and she can change her mind whenever she wants. You have to be prepared for whatever she throws at you. The first section of the bike, you get a lot of spectators lining the sides of the road screaming and yelling, there's a little wind, but there are so many people out there and the energy just pulls you right along. When you make the turn onto the Queen K, you've got about 30 miles to Kawaihae, a little less to Waikoloa and the road is still lined with spectators every once in a while. It's the beginning of the bike and you should be getting into a groove. Right before Waikoloa, I had just seen a friend and asked him where the wind was? Right on cue, as we are coming on the entrance to Waikoloa the wind smacks us in the face...thanks Madame Pele. At this point there were probably 100 people riding along, Tour De France peloton style and there was no avoiding it. Nothing worse than seeing a woman tucked into a group a men just getting dragged along (there was plenty of that out there on the course and those women had opportunity to get out of those packs). I will say though, that I saw plenty of drafting penalties being given  out along the course. Thanks bike officials for trying your best to keep it legal. I tried to ride as legally as possible, but at some points there was absolutely no way to get out of the group of people. Thankfully, when we made the turn to Kawaihae the group split up and at least I could ride legally. The 17 miles to Hawi was what it normally is, but the winds were even stronger. I've rode a bunch of time on the Big Island and I have NEVER experienced such strong winds head AND crosswinds (word on the street is these were the strongest winds Ironman Hawaii has seen in 15 years!). I knew to expect wind, so the fact that the wind was SO strong wasn't a struggle for me, everyone was having to deal with the same conditions, so I pedaled on. Made the turn in Hawi, decided I didn't need my special needs bag (in the end a fine decision) and started to head home. Wicked tailwind coming down from Hawi. We were jamming, I'm actually glad I didn't have a Garmin and couldn't see how fast I was going. At one point about 3 miles down from Hawi, I decided to sit up and take a quick drink, bad decision Lectie, a crosswind came, unclipped my shoe and I don't know how I was able to keep rubberside down. From that point on I stayed aero and made my way to Kawaihae as fast as possible. These winds were SCARY. I have never been so sacred on the bike in my life. Made it down, onto my favorite part of the bike course, the 3 little bumps heading back out to the Queen K. Here is where people get to frustrated because you come from jamming down at 30+mph to now having a 1 mile climb. People get grumpy and frustrated and hate this section...I LOVE IT. Through the bumps, no big deal back on the Queen K and about 30 miles to home. Goal here is to keep pushing forward and not get grumpy, mission accomplished. This section was pretty uneventful for me, I had been drinking a lot of water all day and really had to pee at about mile 80, I tried and tried and just couldn't make it happen, I was looking for a porta-potty as well, no dice, so at mile 90, I hopped off the bike and took a quick little break on the side of the road, got back on and was able to have a pleasant ride back in to town. Getting recharged with all the energy from the spectators in town is a great boost heading into the start of the marathon. 
This year we had great cloud cover for almost the entire marathon, which was ideal. We have had such a brutally hot and humid summer here that this little bit of cloud cover made the run, at points feel chilly. We even got rain! I know some people might kill me for saying this, but I didn't think the run was that hot at all. 
The marathon starts with a 10-mile jaunt up and down Ali'i Drive, which is completely lined with spectators the entire time. It's easy to get ahead of yourself at this point in the race, but after this section, you still have 16 miles left and that's still a long run. For me, keeping my pace in check is important in this section. Both years, these 10-miles have gone by pretty fast, with all the friendly faces and people shouting your name 10-miles is a breeze. You make the turn up Palani and it's out on the Queen K again. About 6 miles to the Energy Lab. You have to break this run down into sections or it will mentally destroy you. Got to the Energy Lab feeling pretty decent, I'd been taking in at every aid station, water, ice, preform (yuck!), coke after about mile 11, water, ice, along with some gels that I had with me, however on the run down into the Energy Lab, I started to see a little red blurry line in front of my feet. I knew this was not a good thing and knew I needed more calories ASAP, so I booked it to the next aid station as, at that point, I had run out of calories on my person took in as much as I could and by the time I was headed back out of the Energy Lab I was doing just fine again. Back onto the Queen K, I ran for about 3 miles and started to struggle, I didn't want to stop, I was just ready to be done. Cue Aaron. He arrived just in time. Well, I arrived where he was waiting just in time. He rode next to me, gave me a little pep-talk and got me motivated to get to that finish and enjoy myself. I might have been a little rude to him at one point, I can't even remember what I said,but I apologized right away, it wasn't me talking it was the 137 previous miles talking. Sorry! Finally, the final hill on the Queen K, Aaron said bye, that he would see me at the finish and to enjoy myself, stop thinking, just run, stop pouting and SMILE. There was a big crew from Kona Bike Works there that also helped power me over that hill. The final downhill, down Palani (trying not to slip and fall on the slick road), through the hot corner for the final time that day, down Kuakini, now I could relax and begin to take in what I was about to accomplish, the final turn onto Uncle Billy's road, the right hand turn onto Ali'i Drive and the finish was in sight. The cheers of the crowd, the music, seeing all the flags of the world bordering the finish line, the jumbotron in the distance, and passing that one last girl in my AG to secure a top-10 finish at the World Championships. Although I did not hear Mike Riley say, "Lectie Altman, you are an Ironman," I know I am x3

And as I said at the beginning, I could not have done this without the love and support of those around me. This was not just my journey, but a journey of many people and one I could not and would not want to do alone. I am so lucky to have the encouragement and love of so many great people and companies. This list is by no means exhaustive. Aaron, for putting up with all my early mornings, late nights, mood swings, triathlon talk, sore body, schedule planning and triathlon-ness (I know it's not a word!) in general, you are amazing, thank yoU for being you and for all that you do! Raul for being the best coach a girl could ask for, we couldn't have done this without you. GOTTA BELIEVE. Mariane, training partner, friend, inspiration, I want to be like you when I grow up. Michelle, thanks for joining us on all of our looooooooong training days, you are ironman ready! My parents and brother for always being supportive of anything and everything I want to do and my Mom, for making the trip to be here with me during this race. Kona training weekend buddies, thanks for making that weekend a great lead up to an excellent race for us all! My BOCA family for being out there cheering ALL DAY LONG, you guys have a harder day than we did, thank you! Kimi, for the cheering heads, love them! The Kaneohe pool gang for making me want to keep swimming and keep swimming faster! Planet Sun Hawaii for keeping me protected out there in the sun. ROKA for the fastest, most comfortable SwimSkin and now GOGGLES! out there, so glad we were finally able to meet! TeamSOAS for making the cutest, most comfortable kits out there on the course, also glad Kona was able to allow us to finally meet! BioAstin for helping aid my recovery and protecting my joints and skin. Dr. Zen and David at ZenCenterHawaii for putting me back together and keeping me from falling apart. REAP Hawaii for also aiding in my muscle recovery before and after the race. And for all the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram messages, and pictures from everyone out there watching and following along, Mahalo! I could not do this alone!