Finally the day had come, the day of my half Ironman, in Hawaii. The first ironman since the accident that almost beat me. The second if you count the one I did last year in Russia. What a difference!
The start, finish and briefings were at The Fairmont Orchid, a hotel on the Big Island. Perfect place to stay as well, which we did. No more problems with transport, we learned that in Saint Petersburg!
At the check-in I received my number and the transfer bags, all very efficient, on to the briefing. It was a relief the briefings were in English, not Catalan, Spanish or Russian like other races I’ve done. Nothing new except that there were many professional athletes competing, practising for the Ironman World Championship, also in Kona.
The course, they just kept saying was challenging. With a nickname for the run course, ‘Devil’s Kitchen’. I would soon find out why that was! We went on to the market and bought almost everything. Only to be used when I finished the race, extra motivation!
Off to drop the bike at the first transition point, T1, some 8 km from the hotel. We checked lists over and over again to make sure we had everything, so it went very smooth. Bike in the rack, nothing attached to it as there was a lot of wind. Great atmosphere with all the volunteers and fellow athletes!
I was worried about a lot, did I have the race gearset (I used a 11/27), would my tires hold (a lot exploded in the hot sun), did I eat enough or too much (Holly had it all covered of course), would the sea be very choppy (it was the day before), would I get lost during the ride (no GPS allowed ;). Time to go offline, relax and early night!
The day started super early, but with a 12 hour time difference my system was already confused, so I felt awake and ready. After some overnight oats, fruit and coffee we went to the shuttle bus, a very American Schoolbus, very cool, made me feel like we were in a film!
At the picture perfect beach all athletes were waiting, different coloured hats for the different age groups. I had a blue one, and mixed in with my blue headed new friends. I was so nervous at this point, had to go back to the toilets a few times. Adjusted my goggles a million times, and looked around if Holly was still there, I waved and she gave the “thumbs up, you can do it” sign. It helped.
Before the swim they played the National American Anthem as they do, and also the Hawaiian one. Everyone went quiet, a special moment.
The athletes were released in age groups and there was a rolling start, meaning every 5 seconds 4 people start running into the sea to swim the 1.9 km. Time flew and soon it was my time. I felt emotional, filled with adrenaline, ready and scared at the same time. Knowing the next 7 hours I would be very busy. Beep! Into the sea I went!
Holly made me swim the day before, so I knew the water, that was a real smart move. Also before the race I went into the water to swim some laps. So when the race started, I was already used to the water, and could avoid any panic or shock.
The swim was amazing! Clear water, the perfect temperature, the sea floor was visible at all times, and the sun was shining. There was a current, but we were warned and could anticipate. I was swimming like I have never swam before, keeping course almost all of the time, not being bothered by arms and legs and other people trying to swim on top of me, and before I knew it, it was time for the bike ride!
I came out of the sea a happy person, thinking that was the hard part. Boy was I wrong!
The bike course was part of the official Ironman World Championship, but on the shoulders of the road, as they could not close of the road, so there was still some traffic. The side of the road was bumpy and there was glass everywhere. Tip to the organisers, please clean this before the race, there were lots of people with a flat tire or worse. The sun came up fully, the famous crosswinds made sure all concentration was on handling the bike.
The first part was climbing up Hawi mountain. It was beautiful and I was quite fast, felt great! The second half was going down from the mountain, great time to let it all go and speed all the way. Amazing feeling, lava fields on the left, the Pacific Ocean on the right and a long straight road to just pedal hard! At two thirds of the ride I began feeling a bit tired. Sitting hurted and the rolling hills and constant cross winds worn me out.
On top of that I did not clean my feet very well in T1 so I had half of the beach in my shoe and started to feel that. A final effort and it was time to change the bike for my running shoes. I was happy to get the sand out of my shoes and not have to sit anymore! One last effort of 21 km and I would be done! Great time as well!
Soon I realised why they refered to hell when talking about the run part. It was on a hilly golf course, the floor changed constantly from grass to sand to concrete and it was hot everywhere, no wind, no shade, no sunscreen and the sun going over 30 celcius.
There were aid stations every mile. I planned to stop at about every 5 km, or 3 stations for a water or a gel and run in between those points. This soon turned out to be too ambitious. Lots of people walking, and I really missed the crosswinds that I hated so much on the bike.
At some point about 8km in the course, I was so hot, I even got confused, and asked people where to go, while the course was marked pretty clear. A signal to change tactics. At the next stop I put a full bucket of ice under my hat. Ice spunges in my tri suit. Threw ice water over myself and drank a few cups of water as well. Can you believe this did not even feel a bit cold at all, but only refreshing? I repeated this at every stop, and did intervals inbetween. Run, walk, run walk, ice treatment, run, walk, etc.
I started to enjoy the race again, and came closer to the end, trying to convince my body to just keep running. Ironman is so much a mental battle. There it was, the last kilometer! I heard the music and started running, with my last energy boost! I was so happy when I crossed the finish line! People cheering, music, the voice over calling my name congratulating me, and a very happy Holly at the finish line. It was over! I did it! I just could not believe it.
I was given a medal, a vegan burger, a few beers and some rest, and realised I did it, faster than expected too! Who would have thought, only 8 months after I was released from the hospital starting recovery!
I can now finally wear Ironman 70.3 Hawaii clothing!
Thank you everyone for your support!