I wasn’t worried about my fitness going into Ironman Hawai’i 70.3 (Honu) after winning my age group at Ironman Santa Rosa three weeks earlier. I was more concerned about how my body would respond to the difficult Honu race in the heat so soon after a fast Ironman effort.
|HOW TO REST AND RELAX|
My plan was to mainly rest and only train as much as I felt inspired to do for the first week after Ironman Santa Rosa. We stayed in the Wine Country visiting friends until Tuesday the week after the race on Saturday. I swam on Thursday and went for about a two-hour easy ride on Saturday, one week after Ironman. My husband came down with a cold the day after Ironman Santa Rosa (tough day as a spectator), and it hit me the following Sunday. This forced me into four additional rest days; Maybe a blessing in disguise. The remaining week and a half before the race, most workouts were easy efforts with three high intensity training sessions sprinkled in (one in each discipline.)
This year was my tenth year in a row racing Honu and the first time as a Hawai’i resident, staying at my new home in Kona and not right at the race venue, 35 miles north. This year was also the 15th anniversary of the Honu race and is the 40th anniversary of Ironman. To celebrate these anniversaries Ironman was offering 24 general slots to the Ironman World Championships (one per each age group) and additional 24 slots for Hawai’i residents. The Hawai’i resident slot would go to the top Hawai’i resident in each age group. Fortunately, I had earned a World Championship slot by winning my age group at Ironman Santa Rosa so the pressure to qualify was off. I still wanted to do well, but the race plan was to keep it simple, do what I know how; steady, strong and smile.
I had to get up an hour earlier than normal to make the 50-minute drive from Kona. I had my usual 700 calorie breakfast, but I ate half of it while driving. Honu is a point-to-point race and there isn’t much parking at the swim start so I parked in the event lot near the Fairmont Orchid Hotel where the finish line would be. They had efficient shuttle service from there to the swim start at Hapuna Beach. I had enough time to casually get my bike stuff ready, head down to the beach and do a bit of socializing before the race started and then still more time until my age group wave start.
If not the most beautiful, it has to be one of the most beautiful half Ironman swims. The water is warm, clear and usually calm for an ocean swim. The age group, gender separated, rolling start makes for a very civilized swim experience. I managed to swim a decently straight line from buoy to buoy and swam the 1.2 miles in 37 minutes. Pretty much the same as Oceanside in April but without the advantage of a wet-suit.
I jogged through the sand, ran up the hill, ran into transition and on up to my bike. I saw Ellen Hart, long time top ranked female in my age group, (who was my predicted winner of my age group) already at her bike and she left transition a few minutes before me. I was soon out on the bike and heading to the first turnaround.
I’m riding along finding my groove and I see GO BADASS BRENDA written in large letters in chalk on the road. That’s me, I thought excitedly; that’s the nickname given to me by some of my Dixie Devil teammates. The next message was something like: BADASS BRENDA we love TEAM FUN. Those messages warmed my heart and put a big smile on my face. Such a nice gesture from my friends Carla and Martha.
The biggest factor on this bike course is the wind. It didn’t start out super windy, but when we started the climb up toward Hawi there was a very significant headwind. Lots of miles going at a slow speed in light of the effort being put out. The tailwind on the way back is loads of fun, but never makes up for the time lost in the headwind. With more headwinds and less cross winds than normal, it was a less tense experience albeit slower. I finished the 56-mile bike in three hours and nine minutes. I ate about 200 calories per hour and drank two 24-ounce bottles of water and Nuun electrolytes per hour (one each.) I felt like I was going into the run well hydrated.
|RESPONDING TO CHEERS FROM MARTHA|
Off the bike and out onto the run in less than four minutes. My legs were feeling pretty good, but I cautioned myself not to get too excited and carried away. This is a brutal run; Its hot, humid, almost no shade and about half of it is on squishy golf course grass that doesn’t give anything to push off from.
My plan was to keep running as much as I could, slowing down enough at the aid stations to get ice in my hat and in my water bottle. I managed to get through the first four miles fairly easily before the heat started to add up and my pace started to slow by about 30 seconds per mile. I figured though that I was still running better than I have before on this course. There is an out-and-back section we lovingly refer to as “the pit” where I saw a few of my friends (who started later) and competitors who were behind me.
I got through the first lap feeling relatively good. When I got back to the pit, I saw that my friend Carla was gaining on me and I shouted words of encouragement. Then with less than two miles to the finish, I was passed by the woman who I had predicted would be my competition for second place. I decided to see how long I could hang with her. She was obviously running faster than I was, given that she had come from behind. I got right behind her right shoulder and drafted off of her for the next mile. I thought “now this is racing!” We came to a small hill and she pulled away. After the hill I could see she had slowed for an aid station and I thought I could catch her with only a half mile to the finish, so I started to pick up the pace again. Then BAM next thing I know I’m flat on my face. Was it a leg cramp; did I trip over my own feet? I have no idea what happened but it hurt when I hit the concrete and lava rocks. A few people stopped and helped me up. There was a medical staff van right there and they started to come to help, but I waved them off saying I only have a half mile to go. My shorts were ripped, leg, arm, hand and face bleeding slightly but I could go to the medical tent once I finished.
After I fell and got through the aid station, asking all the volunteers if my face was bleeding, my friend Carla finally caught up with me. I sort of lamely said, I just fell down. She started to slow to run with me but I encouraged her to go ahead. I always give her a hard time about not being focused on the finish line and I didn’t want her to regret minutes lost that could have jeopardized her placement.
|WITH CARLA AFTER THAT REFRESHING SHOWER |
(photo credit Martha Ehrenfeld)
About five minutes later, I crossed the finish line and after a cold and fresh beach shower made my way to the medical tent and had my booboos attended to.
I managed to hang onto third place, being 1 minute and 25 seconds behind second place!
|SHOWING OFF MY BANDAGES|
Doing this race three weeks after an Ironman win and setting an Ironman personal record was not bad. I don’t think I could have done much better if I hadn’t done an Ironman three weeks prior. I had my best swim and best run of the ten years doing this race. The bike times are always wind dependent so they are difficult to compare year-to-year. Given this experience, I wouldn't hesitate to do a half Ironman three weeks after a full Ironman, even as an older athlete.
I love this race venue, the chill vibe, the post-race entertainment, food and camaraderie. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the fun this year and I’ll be back.
The women in this 60-64 age group are awesome!
|SOCIALIZING WHEN WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE POSING FOR PICS|
(photo credit Carla McKay)
|OK, NOW THEY GOT US TO COOPERATEEllen Hart, Cary Craig, me, Michele Sorensen and Glee Jewell|
(photo credit Carla McKay)