Thursday, October 14, 2010

IM Spectating in Kona

I went to the Big Island to watch my first Hawaii Ironman. I was able to get a relatively inexpensive flight and since it is only a 4.5 hr. flight I could not pass up the opportunity to go out, get some sun and watch an amazing race. Plus, I was super excited to experience a race week without having to get ready to race. However, that being said, it was definitely a little odd to be in the middle of a bunch of motivated athletes and not be one of the ones getting ready to go on Saturday. Perhaps a bit of motivation....

Anyway, I finished my season with Tinley's so I had some strict guidelines on what I was allowed to do workout wise. I followed my coach's instructions EXCEPT for the fact that I swam the entire swim course on Friday. I just got out there in the beautiful blue water hoping to run into some dolphins so I kept going. Plus, all the athletes were not swimming that far so I had the ocean all to myself. It was quiet and calm and I spent some time just floating and diving around in the clear water. I got the photo above from the plane. Now you can see why I did not want to get out. Sorry coach!

Hillary's cousin was able to get us passes to be out on the pier for the swim so that was an amazing way to start race day. I woke up super excited on Saturday morning to spectate. When we got on the pier we found out that Chrissie was not starting---the drama was beginning! There was an electricity in the air. You could feel the excitement, the nervousness, the fear of the unknown. The pros went off at 6:30am to allow for a big gap from the age group athletes.

This is a picture of the age group start. The idea of having to start in a mass of people like that is way scarier than having to do an Ironman. I liked the look of the "sedate" pro start 30 minutes before. I heard a rumor that lining up on the left is the way to go for the age group athletes. I have to agree although you do end up swimming a bit further. The athletes in the photo above were right along the pier and some of them definitely got caught against the wall and behind other athletes. Right after the start they do a "sweep." Snorkelers come through making sure nobody is on the bottom. A little eerie but I am glad they check.

After watching the swim and seeing everyone come through transition (amazing to be right there) we headed for breakfast and to relax before watching the end of the bike on the hot corner. Cameron and I had out phones out and were constantly checking the updates while watching the broadcast near the finish line. Maiki was doing awesome on the bike and was crushing it like the GCM (german cycling machine) he is. Actually, there were a lot of Germans in the front group but he was the best of the best---we were proud. I even got a good shot of him coming into the hot corner and down to transition. After this, my phone died so no more pictures. You will just have to trust me on what happened next.

After watching the men come out of transition we walked to Orange Tree (great frozen yogurt), got lunch, cooled off and bit and headed back down to the hot corner to watch the women and see the men return from their 10 mile out and back. The hot corner was awesome for spectating. Athletes were biking in, running out and then heading up the hill on Palani. Chris McCormack looked awesome. Some of the other guys, not so much. Maik was running strong and we yelled instructions at him to keep cool. As for the women, most of the top 10 looked pretty good. Mirinda looked awesome which probably is not a surprise to anyone, she ran a freaking 2:53. Caitlin Snow was also running really well and clocked a 2:56.

Hillary had a tough run but was gutting it out. We waited to cheer for her at mile 10 and then ran down to Alii to see the top men come through. Maik finished in 12th and while he was aiming for top 10 he was really happy with his finish. Cameron and I met up with Hillary's cousin Amy and waited in transition for Hillary. We also were waiting for Maik to get out of the med tent since he was getting his usual post race IV. Apparently, Maik pukes after every IM and then gets an IV. When he returned he looked great. We were waiting right near the path that brings the athletes and their "catchers" through transition and to post race food and/or medical. This was an interesting perspective. People were in all sorts of states of duress. Some could not walk. Some were walking fine but seemed happy to take their running shoes off. Some seemed relatively with it although most had a look of un-focus (is that a word?) in their eyes. I was able to see some friends who did the race so that was nice. Quick hellos and good jobs along with getting them water and/or pretzels. Amy asked me if seeing this was not motivating me to do an Ironman but actually it did not bother me. I figured that most people are not exactly chirper right after a 10 hour day. My time is coming. I have always wanted to be patient in stepping up to the distance. I want to be able to stay injury free for the training, especially the running. Now that I am getting stronger and I have had several years of running on my legs I am definitely getting close to tackling the IM distance. I just have to choose which race will be my first....suggestions?

After Hillary finished we sat on the beach for awhile and listened to war stories and then headed to Hillary's condo to rest and shower and then head down to watch the finishers from 11-12am. I had mentioned the bloomin' onion from Outback (the commerzbank team was heading there for a post race dinner) and Hillary was dead set on getting one. So, off to Outback we went. After a late dinner we hit the finish line to cheer everyone to the finish. In a word---inspiring. Doing an Ironman in 8.5 hours in unfathomable to me but completing one in 16 or 17 hours is equally as amazing. Lew Hollander is 80 years young and finished in under 16 hours. I saw a post on FB that someone heard him say "I could not outrun them so I had to outlive them." One girl finished with a boot on her leg from an apparent injury. Multiple 60-70 year old women finished. A guy with terminal cancer---and the list goes on.

At midnight a long day ended. We picked up Hillary's bike and headed to bed. I slept in the compression socks because my ankles were so swollen. Spectating is hard! I told Andy that if I do an IM he does not have to come watch (but I know he will). I woke up early, packed and hit the airport to head home. It was awesome to watch Hillary and Maik and it was inspiring to see all the athletes reach the finish line.

I took this picture from the plane on the way out. Good-bye Kona! I hope to see you again soon.
And, a big surprise awaited me at the grocery store on Monday morning. GT's Kombucha is back! Smiles all around.

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