Ironman World Championship 2016 Race Report

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016 in Sara's Blog |

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There’s truly something magical about the island of Kona.  Having my family along with me for the trip kept me distracted from thinking about the race too much.  I think that was a good thing – seeing all the athletes training along Ali’i drive was very intimidating.  After recovering from my IT band issues earlier this season, I was excited and hopeful for what the race would bring for me but I also knew that the hot and humid conditions would make for a challenging race.

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The swim start was amazing, I made a new friend in the swim line up who told me where to line up for the start and some strategies for swimming the course.  I lined up near the middle-left of the swim start and before I knew it, the cannon went off!  For the most part, I swam by myself with very little contact – I kept telling myself “don’t look at the beautiful fish, don’t look at the beautiful coral – you are racing!”  but the fish and coral below were amazing!  About 800 meters into the swim, out of nowhere, someone’s hand hit my goggles but thankfully didn’t knock them off… later I found out that this hit turned into a black eye post-race!

During the 2nd half of the swim, the ocean swells seem to increase but it didn’t really bother me – I just kept telling myself to get with the rhythm of the waves and go with it.  I exited the water and glanced at my watch and was very happy to see 1:06!  A personal best non-wetsuit swim by 4 minutes!!  All those early morning swim sessions are paying off.

I stopped to rinse the saltwater off and then tried to move quickly through transition and on to the bike.  I fully expected the headwinds up to Hawi but what I didn’t expect was the headwind back to the pier.  Overall, I felt good on the ride up to Hawi – I made sure I was taking in water and my nutrition.  I just kept counting the number of people who passed me like I was standing still on the bike!  A very humbling experience.  The climb and last few miles into Hawi were rough, mostly because I saw all the people flying back down from Hawi with smiles on their faces.  I kept telling myself that SOON that would be me flying down out of Hawi with the same smile.  The ride along the coast was beautiful and with the winds I tried to stay in my aerobars the entire time.  The last hour of the ride was probably the longest hour of the day, I was ready to be off the bike and on to the run!

I was most excited about starting the run because I knew my family was waiting for me around mile 3 and I would get to see them a few times on that part of the course.  They staged themselves at a nearby beach and I knew that they would be having fun during the time leading up to my run.  My heart rate monitor was working fine on the bike but for some reason as I started the run – my heart rate monitor stopped working.  I tried to make adjustments on the fly but couldn’t get anything to register.  I had a goal pace in mind but wanted to use heart rate as my guide for the first few miles.   Before the race, I made a promise to myself that I would ONLY walk in the aid stations no matter how I felt.  For the first few miles, I was able to maintain my goal pace but that quickly started to fade.  I started running from aid station to aid station and didn’t look at my watch much while running.  I grabbed ice and water to cool myself down and I think this took a little longer than it needed to and impacted my pace.  This is something I’ve struggled with all season, I get in this automatic mode of running but don’t push myself to the point of being uncomfortable in a race.  I definitely want to work on this for next year!

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Heading out of town on the Queen K, the sun slipped behind a bank of clouds and I felt like this helped me both physically and mentally.  Everyone talks about how tough the Energy Lab portion of the run is but for me the Queen K seemed to drag on forever!  It seemed like a gradual uphill that never ended.  Many people were walking at this point but I kept my promise of only walking the aid stations.  There were many times where I wanted to walk but I stayed mentally strong even though my pace was not what I wanted it to be.  For me, the Energy Lab seemed quite populated, there were a few aid stations and some music playing, it wasn’t as dark and lonely as I thought it would be.

Back on the Queen K into town, the miles slowly ticked by.  As I rounded the corner back into town, I was SO surprised to see my family there cheering – it literally lifted my spirits and I knew I could finish the last mile!   The last mile of the race was truly magical – I had tears in my eyes for the last 400 meters of the race!  I’ve never had this happen in my other 6 Ironman Races – I was so overwhelmed with emotion at that point – knowing that day wasn’t just a race but a culmination of hours and hours of training and pushing myself further than I EVER thought I could push myself on many days leading up to the race and waking up earlier than I’ve ever gotten up to train before because my family time is important to me.  But in the end, I managed this big smile of pure joy and gratitude that my family was there to cheer for me and my body and mind were healthy enough to get me through another 140.6 miles and all the training leading up to this day.  I am so thankful for all those who support me.  While I didn’t quite make my goal time or run like I thought I could run – it fuels a fire inside me for the future and gives me motivation to continue to improve.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity to compete in the Ironman World Championship and I am especially honored to represent Team Freeplay in 2016.

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