No race is perfect. It’s all about what you learn for next time. But I can't say I'm disappointed with the results of my first triathlon. My goals were to finish sub-12 hours, run a sub-4 hour marathon and have more fun than anyone else out there. At minimum, I at least wanted to run the whole marathon. My results: a 12:14 finish time, which includes three flats on the bike and a 3:55 marathon. I'm hooked.
The swim at Kona is what makes triathlon a "full contact" sport. People are vicious (intentionally or not, I don't know). I finished in ~1:22. My swim was slower than I expected by at least 5 minutes. People told me after the race that the swim times were slow in general (even amongst the pros). There was a fairly strong current, chop, and a school of jellyfish to contend with. I started back and to the left to avoid getting pummeled and was actually quite successful with that...so I got out of water not really minding that the time was slow because I was relaxed and cruising the whole time...and I didn't get punched or kicked or have blood drawn. My recommendation to the race organizers would be to stress that people cut their finger nails before the race. I don't care if people draft off me. In fact, I'm flattered that they actually think I maintain a pace/line well enough that they would want to draft off me, but for the love, they should cut their nails before connecting them with my feet!
So, I got out of the water, ran up the steps and went to get my transition bag… I got my helmet and bike shoes on, got sprayed with sunscreen, downed a gel and ran out to my bike.
The short version of the bike is that I got three flats and had to stop to go to the bathroom (more in a moment)...so, in my opinion, the bike split should have been quite a bit faster, but what can you do?
At ~mile 21 my bike started to feel funny. I looked down and realized I had a flat. Now, I put new Gatorskins on the bike about a week before the race, and put about 75 miles or so on them to break them in... There is no logical reason I should have been getting flats. Anyhow, I jumped off my bike, took off the wheel, and had the tube out when the support van rolled up. The took over for me (though I said I was fine) and put one of their tubes in and inflated it with a floor pump...I mention this because it meant I didn't have to use any of my spares or CO2 cartridges. We put the wheel back on and I was on my way. About 2 miles later, my bike was feeling funny again – I had a flat in my front tire! So, I jumped off the bike, changed the tube, and once again tried to feel for anything sharp. Finding nothing, I continued my ride.
By mile 45, my stomach had decided that it no longer liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches (the same food I had eaten before all my training rides), so I had to stop and use a Port-a-Potty… Back on the bike, I made it to Hawi; I hit the turnaround to start heading home... And, lo and behold, my bike feels funny again - I have another flat (at ~mile 65 or 70). I got off my bike again, changed the tube, using my last spare and CO2 cartridge.
By the time I hit mile 80, I'm well aware that my bike split is going to be super slow. I'm feeling like I haven't done anything all day (despite swimming 2.4 miles and riding a few more), so I think, forget it all, its time for a time trial! Or as much of a time-trial as you can do knowing that you still have to run a marathon. So I start hauling ass for Kona, into another headwind, thinking that, hey, since my first time goal is shot, I might as well make a new one...Let's see if I can get this bike done in under 7 hours. I get back to the pier/transition area, and my bike split is 6:45...so I'm stoked, I made my "new" goal. And my nutrition through the whole bike went well. I had six servings of Perpetuum and 13 gels on the bike (~450 calories per hour). I was an eating machine.
While I love riding my bike, cycling will never be running. You will rarely find me unexcited to go for a run, and the marathon is my favorite run distance... So, I thought it was awesome to spend most of my day swimming and biking and then get to go run for a few hours (no, I'm not being sarcastic). The marathon was great. I negative split it and never hit the wall. I only grabbed water in the transition area, and then headed out on the run. I knew I had to pace myself and that I didn't want to be running faster than 9 minute miles at the start. I timed the first mile...8:31, and I thought, dang Trish, you have to slow down! So I ran the second mile...8:16. At this point, I give myself a serious talking to--Trish, slow the heck down now or you are going to regret it later. I listened to myself and backed off. I settled into a comfortable pace just over 9 minute miles. I smiled for every camera I saw, yelled to my parents as I ran by, high-fived the kids when they stuck out their hands and just enjoyed the heck out of myself. I know that I can run a marathon only taking Gatorade and water, but I took four gels with me. I hit ~13.1 miles in 1:58.
All of a sudden I was in the energy lab and turning around to head out and back to Kona. As I hit mile 19.5 on my way out of NELH, I prepared to grab water from the aid station, and looked up and noticed a tall, rather good-looking man standing there to hand me water. Wow, I thought, clearly allowing my concentration to slip momentarily, a cute guy to hand me water right before I start the toughest part of the race. Awesome! As I got a little closer, I realized that this was not just your average good-looking guy. It was Peter Reid. How cool is it to do you first Ironman and have a former World Champion handing you water at an aid station! He had requested to work at that aid station all day to give something back to the race.
At this point I start doing calculations in my head. I was feeling really great, but if I continued to run this pace, I might just miss finishing my marathon in under four hours. So I started picking up the pace. About 100m from the finish, my dad joined my side and a few meters later my mom (she didn't want to run as far) joined me too, and we ran across the finish together. I finished in 12:14 with a 3:55 marathon split.
My big thing about this marathon was to run the whole thing. A friend of mine said I should have a plan to walk/run, and I looked him in the eye and said that I was going to run the whole thing, I didn't care how slowly I did it. I'm stubborn. I ran the whole thing (even through the aid stations). The soreness I experienced in the days after the race was minimal. I was never walking "funny" and it never hurt to sit down or go down steps. Maybe I didn't race hard enough or maybe my training program worked well, I don't know.
On not on pacing myself: I did it all based on effort. I intentionally have not put a computer on my tri bike. I don't want to know how fast or slow I'm going, and I don't wear a heartrate monitor while I ride. I wear one most of the time when I go out running, but have never raced a marathon with it. I wasn't wearing a heartrate monitor during any part of the Ironman. During the marathon, pace was based on time, how I was feeling and knowledge of how I should feel at different points in a marathon to finish strong. I wouldn't necessarily recommend training/racing this way to everyone, but it works for me.
There were a couple fears I had going into the race. The first was that maybe I would cramp. I have never cramped or had problems with it in training or races, but as I was going to race a distance further than I had ever gone before I didn't know what would happen. I didn't cramp though. I guess some people don't. Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones. My other fear was with regards to nutrition. I don't eat chocolate at all and haven't for about 2.5 years now. Some people are addicted to coffee. I was addicted to chocolate and it was not healthy. My fear was that all the gels they would have on the run would be chocolate. I brought four green apple gels with me on the run, used them all and at mile 21 thought it would be good to have another one. So in the dark, they (the people at the aid station) handed me a gel, which I tore open and started to squirt into my mouth. I hope there was no one behind me, because I spit it back out so fast it wasn't even funny and then grabbed water, swished out my mouth and spit it back out (all while running an 8:45 min mile). Sure enough, it was chocolate. I ran the next mile thinking it was so incredibly ironic that the biggest fear I had about the race would come true...but not until the last couple miles of the race. For me, part of doing this race is about breaking bad habits and replacing them with new, healthier ones.
I never experienced the highs and lows that people say you experience during an Ironman. I can honestly say I was just happy through the whole thing. When the flats happened I hopped off my bike, changed them and kept on going. When the first one happened, I just figured the powers-that-be were telling me to back off and enjoy myself...I was concerned when the next two happened, but I just knew I had to roll with the punches because getting annoyed wouldn't get me anywhere any faster. I felt on top of the world during the run, smiling at everybody, yelling back at my friends that came to watch and smiling for the cameras. Attitude is such an important part of the race. I think I could have let the bike ruin my race, but I had a goal for the marathon, that I really wanted to meet. And when I got off my bike, I knew that I couldn't go sub-12 unless I ran a sub-3:40 marathon. It’s difficult to describe in writing, but I felt positive through the whole race. I was just so happy to be out there and kept thinking that this was the best way to spend a Saturday--having people to clear the roads, cheer you on and bring you food so you can just run, bike and swim all day :)
Patricia M. McAndrew is a member of the triathlon team at University of Hawaii.