Kona, what a race and journey it has been to my first Ironman World Championships. Just like the Olympics, it was many years in the making and I can't wait to take on the challenge again.
I had an amazing group of people on the ground supporting me in the days leading up to and during the race. My partner Carolyn was the center of that support group, making sure I was getting to where I needed to be, eating and drinking enough, and keeping connected with everyone else in this awesome group. I had my coach of twenty years Lance Watson at my side helping with the common hurdles in the final weeks of training and even race week. My chiro and soft tissue therapist Jamie Grimes was at my side for the final weeks of training making sure my body was loose and aligned and ready for a great performance. While in Kona my manager Lisa Bentley was running around with me to engagements helping manage time and hydration, as well as being web media producer. Having been on the podium and in the Top 10 six times in Kona Lisa's wisdom and cheering on course got me through one of the toughest runs of my life. My great friend and one of my greatest supporters Aaron has allowed me to train out of his house in Maui for over ten years and been my lead competition researcher. Finally, without them, I would not be here and I would not have gotten into this most amazing sport, Mom and Dad. They have followed me around the world and shared in all my highs and lows and have always been happy and supportive no matter what happened.
Race morning I felt very calm and confident that I had done everything I could to prepare for my first time in Kona. Though I had some hick ups in training leading up to the race and even race week, that didn't change the fact I knew the course and believed I could win. That is how I approached the race, I wanted put myself in the right place to go for the win.
Feeling comfortable and smooth the whole 3.8km swim I was in the first main group coming out of the water. I was hoping my Aquasphere speedsuit wasn't going to chafe too much as I have never done an Ironman swim in the ocean with it before. Thankfully once I pealed of the suit in T1I was unscathed and going to have a chafe free bike. To manage the heat and intense sun on the bike I put on a Fusion speed top which covered my back and arms from the sun but also actively cooled when wet. I was able to throw it on while running to my bike and with a quick mount I got onto the bike course third in my group only a minute or so down on the front three out of the water.
Through the bike my good friend Chris Lieto had told me to stay in the front three as much as possible so I could stabilize my power output but also keep an eye on the front of the race. I road through town in this position and headed onto the Queen K to begin the meat of the course. There was a lot of fire power in the group this year and some calmer wind conditions which kept everyone together all the way out and back down from Hawi and even part way to Mauna Lani.
It was at this point that Frodeno and Keinle inched away up the road to catch up to Tim O'Donnell who had gone up the road solo through the Hawi climb. Once the gaps started to form I worked my way to the front and set out on my own to pull back the front three as we approached Waikaloa. I had spent considerable time in the Specialized WinTunnel improving my aero position and I had become much more efficient but also confident in my solo riding. I was able to open a sizeable gap and close on the front three. Eneko Llanos came up slowly from the group behind and we road together for a while but I focused on my pace and staying hydrated and cool and let him inch away with 30+ miles to go. As we neared town, previous Kona Champion Frederick Van Lierde bridged up and we closed out the final 15 miles together and I felt strong and confident heading to the run 90 seconds down from the leader and in fifth place.
In and out of T2 I had my usual quick, smooth changeover and came out ahead of Van Lierde and only 20 seconds down on Llanos who was in 4th. The opening kilometers were tough but I was moving fairly well but the effort was high. Typically this lasts the first three to five kilometers and then my run legs come around. I was going back and forth with Van Lierde and Llanos during this time and I had the whole Bahrain Endurance support staff on Alii cheering me on to stay strong and move up spots. As I headed towards the 8km turn around on Alii, my run legs were not coming around and I was feeling worse and worse. I was struggling to keep a pace slower than my warm up runs. I was in a world of hurt just focusing on getting to each aid station and then walking through them to get water and aid. I had Lance, Lisa, Aaron and Chris cheering me on and telling me to stick with it. I have never felt so bad for so long as this race. I jogged along and just focused on all the hard work I had done and all the people that had gotten me to the start line. There were many times I almost gave up an I was just in the opening 10k of 42.
I struggled up the Palani hill but kept moving the whole time and once cresting knew I had a long way to go still (25km) but I had gotten through a major portion of the run. It was as I headed towards the Energy Lab, arguably the toughest part of the marathon that I started to find some rhythm. I wasn't running much faster it just came a little smoother. At this same point, I started to see guys ahead starting to falter on the long straight rolls of the Queen K. I had persevered that point and gotten that deep into an ugly place I had to keep going and reaching for those spots ahead. I slowly clawed back time and moved up into tenth and as I moved passed Van Lierde in the bottom of the energy lab, he made a sound as if to say, "where on earth did you come from, I thought you were dead on gone." It was this moment that I knew I had overcome so much to this point that nothing was going to stop me from getting to the finish. I was going to push and suffer all of the 14km still to go.
I emerged out of the Energy Lab in ninth with a renewed sense of will power that I was going to need every step of way to the finish. Within a couple of kilometers of leaving the Energy Lab I was back to misery and battling every step, but I knew I could make it now. I was being chased my Boris Stein in these final kilometers and I was running with everything I had. I hit the top of Palani with two kilometers to go and I let it all hang out on the downhill. In the final mile I managed to open and additional minute on Stein and gained a minute on Keinle ahead in eighth to come within 30 seconds.
At the finish line, I was spent and relieved to have finally finished and come across in ninth place in my first go at the Ironman Kona World Championships. It was not how I saw the day playing out, whether it be the hick ups in training or a misjudgement of calories, I was so happy to have been tough and persevered through the ugliest run I have ever done.
I am very satisfied with ninth, but all too hungry to come back next year to execute a better race right to the end and have the marathon I know I can run.
Thank you to all my sponsors and friends and family that supported me along the way. I look forward to the journey to next year's World Champs.