Sometimes the best lessons learned are the hardest to get over. I don't think I ever got my head around how I should feel about this race, or if it was really a race at all. Mostly it just turned into an act of not giving up. This was Kona for Pete's sake, these opportunities don't come around that often.
While I know there are times to pull the plug on a race for fear of injuring yourself, and I respect that, but I started this thing, and damned if I wasn't going to finish.
My Kona dreams of blasting away a 9:30 IM, and chasing down my buddy Tim were dashed two weeks ahead of the race as an IT Band issue hit me hard as a result of not listening to my coaches. I had a great plan laid out, and one workout did me in as I pushed it too hard to try to cap off a season of injury frustration. You live and learn, but hopefully if you are reading this you'll head that advice.
Well, off to Kona now for the Miller family retreat round three for a bigger, better, just not faster experience!
My parents treated us well with an amazing house up the hill on Palani. Overlooking the town 1000 feet below, this was a great place to get away from the hub-bub and relax. Big pool, kids running around and the family together is always nice. We had our normal swims to the Coffees of Hawaii Espresso Bar, bike rides out the Queen K, and beach time in Waikoloa. My Dad and I decided to take a ride along the Hawaii Belt and I highly recommend it opposed to the Queen K, just make sure its early in the week because its a good deal of climbing.
The first of a few amazing pieces to this trip was our Dolphin tour with Sunlight on Water. Some of the family didn't deal too well with the rolling sea, but with crystal clear water, and some really large pods of spinner dolphins, it was amazing! Diving down and getting within 20 feet of these guys was ridiculous. And of course they put on a show jumping out of the water too.
In our attempt of divine intervention to heal my knee, we invited Sister Madona to the house for dinner one night. The blessing didn't work, but it was great to hang out with one of the notable amateur athletes of our day. It was a fun night of stories and history around the race which I won't forget.
Race day comes and its time to get down to business. I had gotten through (still pain, but manageable) an hour run at 8:00 mile pace two days prior, but still big question mark on how it would play out. Roll through body marking, find a place on the grass behind the King K hotel, and try to relax.
Pro's are off and its time to get in the water. Definite nerves as the swim just sucked for me last year with a myriad of issues from leaky goggles, to cramping. TYR hooked us up with the custom goggles, which I had them make in M2 colors, and they were working great all week. Slow crawl in the water to the start and lined up about 5 back from the front, about 2/3's to the left as well. Trying to stay as calm as possible, and keep enough space around too. The helicopter is heading for us for their dramatic shot and BOOM!
Head down and trying to just move forward and get good breaths. Not as combative as last year, and after a minute, I actually find myself in a hole in the water, with really nobody around! It was impossible for me to go off course with so many to the right and left, but I had open water, yippeee! For me, drafting at this point isn't worth as much as clean water until I get into a grove with my stroke and breathing. turns out from some pictures I saw, there were two main draft lines and I found the middle. A few minutes later there was a convergence, and that is where the some good old "rubbin son, is racing" came into play. No real blows, but lots of contact. Handled it pretty well since I was all warmed up at this point, and it seemed people were polite about it as well. Making the two turns I still felt good, and was holding pace with people, finally getting a draft. The warm water began taking its toll and I could feel some twitches forming in my calves. Thank God I could see the Pier though. Cruising along with people screaming is an awesome feeling. I knew I had done better than last year. Out of the water, a quick glance at the clock, 1:10! Wahooooo! That's good for me in a non-wetsuit swim.
Grabbing my bike and jogging to the mount line, very happy to see more bikes around than last year and I'm ready to go after Stefan's time and chase down Timbo who probably smoked me out of the water. Rolling through town my watts are sky high! I don't know whats going on because I don't feel like I'm pushing too hard?! Check my heart rate and it has settled to 140's, something's wrong. I must have calibrated my Powertap with some torque on it by accident, $#it! Flying blind, sort of. It seems to be consistent, so if you look at my Strava ride, I'd say 400 watts is 260 instead. There will always be a few things that go wrong in the race, you just need to be ready to deal with it and move on.
Long ride coming up, and I'm feeling good. Take it easy getting out of town as I go by what was a brutal accident at Hot Corner with a spectator taking out a cyclist. Crazy crowded, so need to just get through. Finally up Palani and out on the Queen K. Long line of cyclists ahead is always a sight to see. Thoroughly enjoying myself, cruising through the field. I'm on top of my gearing and staying out of trouble, traffic and draft packs forming. Lots of penalties given out which is always awesome, I'm feeling even better!
My second time through the lava fields is much more enjoyable. I'm zoned in on the race, but not so worried about every little sound or happening, just plugging away all smiles. Off the Queen K and onto Kawaihae, the group of people is always nuts. Along with the people who make the trek to Hawi, I love these guys for getting out there. Wind is picking up and its going to be interesting coming back down from Hawi as its a cross wind this year. The climb to Hawi is just a grind as usual. Benefiting from better bike fitness, along with the cross wind and not the head on wind from last year, I best my time by a minute (20:48) to get up to Hawi. The turn and I'm getting excited to hit the roller coaster back down.
Last year I spun out my compact crank, but I have a standard on this year. Not 30 seconds into the descent and I'm up to 40 MPH and spinning out the standard! Harsh crosswinds throw a little wrench in my attack, but still much faster than last year. A big gust hits and blows a poor girl off the road. I thought she was going to hold onto it, but as she slowed in the dirt, she hit a rock and endo'd. A support moto was right there at the time and stopped to check, but I don't think it was catastrophic.
Retracing the Akoni Pule and back on the Queen K the legs are still feeling good, but my feet hurt! At this point in the race is usually when it happens, and I actually take some pleasure in it because it keeps me engaged and not thinking about how much everything else may be hurting;) After this race, time for some new ones though. Three years, and 6 IM's and I think they have seen better days.
Twenty miles left and I think I'm going to hit my race goal of taking down Stefan's time last year. Unfortunately, the winds had picked up and no matter how far tucked I could get, there was no speed left to gain. Swallowing my pride, I let it go, but very happy on a hard day to have bested my own time from last year. I still needed to try to run after this, and chasing a bike time was not in the cards. Into T2 with the amazing crowd as usual. Love seeing the SF Tri crowd that always comes to volunteer (Thanks Bourgon's:).
Bike Time: 5:04:57
Is my day over? Did I put a nail in my day at Kona?
I decide to walk for a bit. 100 yards later, jog, and boom, knee pain, but a dagger this time. Walk some more. Doing the math in my head, walking at this point is not a preferable mode of transportation and would make it 5 plus hours. I hit the turnaround on Ali'i, and people are very nice cheering me on. I take their generous thoughts and give a jog a chance again, and I can do it! Its a bit of a dead-legged hobble, but I'll take it. My Dad rides up and see's I'm in trouble and wishes me well. I needed him out there to keep me going and I appreciated it. Finally after another mile, the hobble turns into more of a jog. A one leg job, but still hitting 10:00 mile pace. Back into town and at least I look like an athlete again. This isn't going to be as much of a physical test as a mental one.
My family is waiting at the bottom of Hualalai and at that point I was happy to stop for a second. My fiance gives me a big kiss, the kids cheer and they are happy to see me running and not walking. I was happy not to be walking and have them out there an extra few hours waiting for me. Up the hill we go! Top out on Palani and out the long grind of the Queen K. Chrissie is chasing her boyfriend and gives me a good cheer as well. I was excited to be able to see the rest of the Pro race unfold in front of me as well.
With the mellow pace, I got to make friends out on the race course. Where I'm usually running a heart rate of 150 and growling with my breath, now I'm at a leisurely 130 and wanting to talk to someone to help spend the time. Enter GoSonja! Sonja ended up being my victim for most of our time out the Queen K. Not sure if she like the chatty Brett I had become, but hey, she was cruising along with me. She was having a sub-par day, so we figured agony needed company. She's a Mom, Coach, and very fast AG'er from Boulder. It was good to have someone there and I very much appreciate the Queen K run with her. On the way to the Energy Lab I get to see Leanda Cave chasing down Caroline Steffen, and the rest of the top women flying down the road. So cool to see.
Almost to the Queen K and Timmy comes blowing by me delirious, but recognizing me. He's having a great day, and making himself suffer. The Energy Lab is a different world when you aren't deep into it in an IM. The aid stations were a riot with the kids doing a great job entertaining. A few of them recognized me (off course with the kit) from last year and gave a big cheer. Climb back out of the Lab and the final stretch back home. The sun is getting low, but I know as long as I can hold onto the 9:00 mile pace that I'll be home before dark.
The final climb up Iron War Hill was a different story than last year. I was digging deep for 3:20, but this year I was trying to keep my leg together for 4:20. Favoring my stride to one side had taken its tool and I could tell my left leg was not very happy with me. Cresting the top and I knew it was an easy time home. Downhill was not fun though as every step asked me to extend my right knee much farther than it wanted.
This was the first time I looked forward to the end of my season. The long year had its ups and downs and the finish was a great place to celebrate it, and put it to bed. I longed for the time a few months away when my body would be 100%. Taking in the finishing chute was amazing to help the healing process begin. No matter what happens in your race, the finish of an IM is such an experience if you pay attention. People just going nuts for someone they don't know. Climb the ramp to the finish, thank God for surviving, and I'm DONE!
|Snuck into IM Europe's Kona video at the end: http://youtu.be/ExVpVAO6tgw|
Run time: 4:21:57
Total Time: 10:47:59
2012 was a great, but rough year of life changing events, as well as pressure to follow up with another Kona. I am happy to have persevered through some hard things physically and mentally, but elated at where the year has brought me personally with my fiance and family. 2013 brings me together with my fiance in our wedding and starting our life together, and I get to throw a few races in there as well. Different priorities and goals with my coaching starting up as well with M2. The people I have surrounding me are the reason I'm successful, and I can't thank them enough for everything they do, they mean the world to me.
Good luck to everyone in 2013, and we'll see you in Oceanside to kick things off proper!