Thursday, November 10, 2011


I realize it has been 4 weeks now since Kona. I don’t really have any excuses for not blogging about my experience until now other than work has been crazy, I’m back on the training, and blogging still intimidates me! Throwing caution and fear of writing an uninteresting blog to the wind!
Oh Kona, where do I start? I felt AWESOME going into this race. I had just come off a win in Vegas and had a lot of confidence in my training and I just knew I was going to have a good race. Training was going well and I was really excited to get back to the Big Island.
As soon as I arrived I thought Kona was better than I remembered. It was hot and humid, but gorgeous and even with the race hoopla still had the ‘islandy-vacationy’ feel (I believe that is the technical term). Anyway I had a few good training sessions and fun activities before the big day. I was excited to get in a ride with stud triathlete and pal Sarah Piampiano (who had an amazing day with a 9:50 PR and a podium spot – woohoo!). And of course some QT w/ my SOAS ladies! This was my first year doing the underwear run and I almost embraced the theme of the event!
On to race morning – I was nervous, but more excited. I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I was ready to get out there and race again. I woke up early, started in on my breakfast, which I had to force down and throw out half way through. Why am I a bottomless pit every other morning but on race morning, when I need the fuel the most, can I barely get anything down?!? At the race site I had a little time after checking all my gear to catch up with the SOAS ladies again, get some awesome USA tattoos from buddy Beth Walsh, and meet the incredible Lou Hollander.
I was still getting things together when the pros started, then it was time to head to the swim. Last year I lined up pretty close to the pier and was pummeled for an hour straight - maybe the worst swim of my life. I decided this year lining up a little more left might not be a bad idea – especially if I could manage to shoot for the far buoys and cut a good angle. I would have much quieter water and not swim out of my way. The gun went off and I was right next to Team Sheeper buddy Keith Terada. Keith and I planned to swim together (knowing our splits would be close). Really I was hoping to draft of Keith and conserve as much energy as possible. Of course that always sounds good in theory until the gun goes off and all you see is white water and your draft buddy disappears in a sea of craziness. Luckily despite losing Keith instantly, I was able to get out front, get some clear water for a couple hundred and settle in to a nice pace. I definitely don’t think I took a great line, and I wasn’t super excited about a 59 min swim, but I only got kicked in the ribs once and my cap never came off. SUCCESS!
I tried to make T2 a quick transition and get on the bike as soon as possible. I knew my bike would really dictate how the day was going to go. After the couple quick hills and turns in town, I was out on the Queen K and feeling AWESOME. I was staying focused, but also really enjoying myself. I really watched the time and was 100% on my nutrition. I passed a couple girls and when I saw my coach at mile 45 or so he said I was in 3rd and only a couple minutes down from the leader. Still feeling great, I continued to ride strong, although when the temperature started rising, my nutrition plan began to fall apart.
I had been training with Justins Nutbutter packets and bonk breakers bars. I know they seem like an odd choice, but I was working with a nutritionist trying to get the optimal balance of carbs, protein, fat, and sugar early in the ride. Both items are super tasty and great to eat on the bike…at least in the SF Bay area climate. My miscalculation for Hawaii was not knowing how terrible those would both sound after 2 hours on the bike in the heat and humidity. I was only able to get down 1 of each by mile 45 and after that had to switch over to cliff bloks (which weren’t in the schedule until mile 70). Over the next 30 miles I definitely didn’t get enough calories and I knew I was starting to bonk a bit. No problem! I could get it back. I just need to get gels from the aid stations, stay calm, and ride it out – it would come back. I stuck to that plan, but by mile 80 I really felt BAD. I grabbed a few more gels and finally a bottle of coke. I don’t actually like coca cola and have never had any in a race, but I know sugar and caffeine work so it was worth a shot.
Unfortunately while I was worried about getting all these calories, I guess I forgot to take in enough water and was quickly dehydrating. By mile 90 it hit and I threw up. Okay, keep calm, keep riding,…and unfortunately keep throwing up. Over the next 10 miles I couldn’t keep anything down. I would take sips of water and 30 seconds later it was back up. When I finally got to the aid station at mile 100, I had already been off the bike once. I was wabbly, weaving, and worried I would fall over. At that point I figured my dream race was out of reach, but the finish line wasn’t. I planned to sit down, drink, eat, and be on my way. When I got off my bike I collapsed. Luckily there was a med van at the aid station and volunteers surrounded me immediately. Lots of ice, a little water, more vomiting, and an hour later I was in the med tent getting an iv.
What just happened?!? How did I go from feeling amazing to ending up in the med tent with my first Ironman DNF? Because the race is so long, It SEEMS like you have so much time to think, analyze your situation, and ensure you are making good decisions about pace, nutrition, etc… The reality is that when things start to slip your mind gets a little fuzzy. The miles feel long, yet you can go 60 minutes with no calories and not realize it. I knew Kona would be tough and good nutrition was one of the most important components of the day, yet I still failed.
After 2 hour in the med tent and 2 IVs, I was finally ready to get back on my feet. I grabbed a little food with my family (which I threw up later) and watched the top amateur women come across the finish line. Of course I was bummed, and jealous that they were finishing, but it was done. Stuff happens and while I wished I could have finished, even if it had taken me 16 hours, I didn’t. At the time, I was 100% sure I did the right thing. Of course now, being completely removed from that feeling and situation, I think I should have been able to keep going – funny how you always think you could have given more when the pain is gone.
At the end of the day I had to remember that I was in Hawaii. I got to come to an amazing place, race (for awhile) with some incredible competitors, and I guess got in an awesome training day! It was not the end of the world and luckily not even the end of my season. I hoped to never DNF no matter what, but I think I learned more from that race than all my other ironmans combined. I know I will be much stronger and better prepared for the next one and I can’t wait to get back out there!

While I was disappointed in my race, I was so proud of all of my racing buddies, especially those in the W30-34 category! Big shout outs and hugs to Sarah P., Beth Walsh, Beth Shutt, Ashley Johnson, and Hailey Manning for incredible races and inspirational finishes! This group of women is going to do BIG things next year!

And last, but certainly not least - thanks so much to Soas racing for the awesome kits, fun, brunch, and support! AND OF COURSE my amazing family for joining me in Hawaii! I love you all so much and it meant the world to me to have you there (even for a DNF) :)

So once again choosing my VIP is tough – there are so many amazing people in my life – in and out of triathlon. I think this time I have to stick to the Kona theme and highlight the person who has become a great training buddy, friend, and had a breakout race in Hawaii, Miss Hailey Manning.
Ha! Please don't kill me for this one :)
Hailey is one of the toughest competitors I have met, yet she is also one of the most fun girls I know! We first met in June of this year and after 1 race w/ a wrong turn and a few extra miles together, I felt like we had known each other for years. After that race we were able to train together to prepare for Kona. It was great to have another girl to ride with who definitely pushed me to work my BUTT off!
She is so strong and had been training so well (and smart under the direction of hubby & cyclist Mark) I knew she was destined for Kona greatness. She started the season with a 4th place OA finish at Ironman TX and ended to year with an 8th place AG finish at Kona, which was 36th out of ALL women (including the pros). WOW! I can’t wait to see what this girl does next! (I’m sure it will be big after we spend a winter doing TRX in her “garage of pain” woop woop!


  1. Jess....You are STILL the princess in my book. A rough spot in Kona, but as always, a positive attitude and outlook at the end.

    and yes, Hailey is the bomb!
    Love you girls! Can't wait to see you crush it next year...or rather, in a few weeks, maybe?

  2. Great Blog Jess, can't wait to see you smash AZ!