Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not just another day in paradise ~ the finish

A little run.....26.2 miles.

If I could make.....when I would make it....I would be an Ironman again......

Things started off ok, altho my legs were feeling pretty shaky. I was also completely sunburned, which I didn't find out until later. I had put sunscreen on for the bike ride, but it was 1) apparently not rated for 8+ hours and 2) not water proof enough for 8+ hours of dumping water all over yourself. Huh....who knew!

You can hear how awesome the crowd is...even at this late point in the day. And I don't mean just my family, who are *the best*, but also complete strangers. You can hear my aunt letting me know that the Butterfinger I'd been eyeing all week was waiting on the bed. Like a pillow mint but so much better. I only had 26.2 miles to go to get it. This is a nice little clip. It's almost the entire amount of running I was able to do. Maybe not quite. But close. I mostly looked like this:

I dug myself quite a hole on the bike. And I felt it when I tried to get moving on the run. My stomach would start turning, but mostly it was my head. It would start to spin. And I'd be slowed to a walk. I was getting little bits of water and Gatorade in, but was reluctant to try any gel or food just yet. I'd hit an aid station and grab ice, dump it in my top, both front and back, then grab water and Gatorade and drink as much as I could get down. Before I had gone too long I started to think that time-wise it was going to be *close*. I kept telling myself that I would make it...just keep moving forward. I remembered what Liz had said, "If you have to walk, walk like you have somewhere to be." I didn't let myself lolly gag around. At least I didn't *think* I did. I kept telling the next mile marker hit the stopwatch. Start checking your times on the miles. Make sure that you will make that finish line. And a mile marker would come up...and I'd....completely space. It was like I couldn't even remember what I had just told myself.

The spectators...again...awesome. Many had the list of participants and would look up my bib number as I came by and would call me by name and give encouragement. I passed my family at one point, and was slowly running. I don't even remember what they said to me or what I said to them. But I kept moving forward. Looking for the turnaround. Before too long, a truck went by and a volunteer jumped out and hooked a glow stick around my fuel belt. "For your safety," he said. No problem. It was getting *very* dark. Eventually I made it to the turnaround. Only somewhere around 21 miles to go. But I wasn't moving fast enough. It was going to be *very* close.

Just before I got back to where my family was sitting, I saw Jeff heading towards me with a little flashlight. "Do you know where you're at? Do you know what time it is?" he asked me. I remember that I said, "I know it's going to be close. I'm doing the best I can." He asked if I wanted the flashlight, but I just didn't want even one more thing. I just wanted to keep moving forward and cross that finish line before midnight. I *had* to cross that finish line before midnight. Not long after this, I heard a familiar voice ask, "Is that Kris?" It was Liz on a bike riding along with Chris, her husband. I told her it was me and that I was getting sick and dizzy when I tried to run. I know she told me something like, it's ok...just keep walking...lots of folks are doing've got plenty of time. I'm pretty sure she was trying to reassure me, because I'm not so sure I had plenty of time. I think it was the mile marker after this where I finally remembered to start timing my miles. I made myself power walk, pumping my arms and moving my feet as fast as I could. I was hitting 13/14 min miles walking. I could live with that. That would get me there.

There's not a whole lot more to say about the 'run'. It was a very long walk. It was very dark. The aid station volunteers were amazing. I tried to encourage other people as much as I could. I was finally able to get some fluids and calories in me and even pick up the pace slightly. I was still toasty warm and dumping ice and water on myself quite often.

And...I'm about to blatantly confess a breaking of the rules here, so tune out if this will offend your triathlete sensibilities....but Jeff was so worried about me, I think both my physical as well as mental state, that he walked along with me. Not always right beside me. Sometimes off to the side, sometimes a bit behind, sometimes a bit ahead. But definitely *with* me. Almost the entire way. And he wasn't alone. Quite a few of us out there in the late night, in the dark, had company. Some on bicycles. Some walking. Just moving along with us. Our guardian angels, if you will.

It was along walk out the Queen K and back.

We passed one guy who said he knew he'd make it if he kept up 16 min miles and that he was on track. I hoped he would make it.

We had one guy from Costa Rica walk with us for a while, but lost him at an aid station when he had to stop. Jeff said he could see him sit down and take his shoes off. Guillermo. I hoped he would make it.

We passed Matt from the biggest loser when he was heading out to the energy lab and we were heading back to town. I hoped he would make it too.

At this point, I *knew* I was going to make it. I knew. We were getting closer and closer. I thought I could make it by 11:40. 20 minutes to spare.

Somewhere around mile 24.5 or 25 we were back into town enough that we could see the finish line lights. We could hear the crowd and Mike Reilly announcing the finishers. I'd make it. I tell Jeff that once we make the turn onto Palani back into town, he could go straight down and wait for me at the finish line. I had to make a loop through town and then down Alii Drive. As we hit Palani, a nice downhill, I started to run...very slowly...down the hill. There were still quite a few spectators. And all were yelling encouragement. I made one turn after another, and then....and then....I was on Alii Drive. And everyone was clapping. And telling me...only a few hundred yards. You're going to do it! Keep going! And then I could see the lights. And the crowd. A crowd like nothing I imagined. Wall to wall people lining the finish line. Everyone wants to high-five. I feel like a rock star. I jump up and down "YES! YES!" People are cheering. I see my family. I'm smiling a huge smile. And then....the finish line. I'm here. I'm finally here.

And as I cross the line. There's Tina with a huge hug. And there's Jeff waiting for me. And there's Chrissie! Chrissie Wellington! Who gives me a lei, a hug, and congratulates me. And in my fuzzy headedness, I don't make sure to get a picture of it. Oh well, I don't think I was *all* there.

And so ends a very special day in paradise.

Thanks to my Mom, my Grandma, my Aunt Pat, my friends Tina and Matt, for journeying to Hawaii to support and cheer for me.

Thanks to my coach, Liz, for her support and encouragement all season long. She knew before I did that I'd make it.

And huge thanks to Jeff, who went for the longest walk of his life to help make my dream come true. I always tell everyone that he supports my crazy endeavours, but never dreamed how true that would be.

Aloha and mahalo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not just another day in paradise ~ part 3

When I last left you, I was....prepping for a little ride around Kona, no?

I exited the changing tent at a slow trot. In retrospect it might have been a better idea to carry my bike shoes and put them on at my bike....but whatever. I was here to enjoy the day and see that finish line, not set any records. I made it to my bike, after overshooting my rack by a row or two and slapped on my helmet. And I have to say....those bike racks were pretty empty by the time I ran up to Ruby. More evidence that this was not just another event. Not that I'm ever in the front half of the pack, but I'm usually somewhere in the least after the swim, I am. :) Grabbed Ruby out of her parking slot and headed to the mount line. I hadn't seen my family yet, but figured they'd find me somewhere out there.

I started spinning, trying to find my bike legs. I went by a big tower where Mike Reilly, at least I think it was Mike, was calling out numbers. I must have had a huge grin on my face because I heard "And there's a BIG smile, number 1387, Kristi Mahadocon from Fremont, California." That was fun! And not too far up the road I saw Jeff and gave him a big smile. I'm in Kona! I'm doing it!

And just as Liz predicted it wasn't too long before everyone and their mother was passing me. These folks were going ALL out. That's ok, let them go. I had my plan and I'm sure they had theirs. Heading back down the route, getting ready to hit the hill on Palani and then out for the long ride on the Queen K. And I saw Tina! She had an awesome sign and was cheering and that was fun too! I tried to soak it up as much as I could because I knew I was going to be out there, pretty much alone, for a long time.

As soon as I got into a rhythm I tried to keep my hydration and nutrition on pace. So far, so good. Soon enough I passed my favorite sign on the Queen K. All along the road they had posted signs "Caution Athletes in Training." But my favorite had been converted to:

Again awesome! Although I knew that by the time I hit this sign again, on the run route, I might not find it quite so amusing. For now tho, I was feeling good.

I was following my plan and feeling good. Even though I was constantly getting passed like I was standing still. Drink, drink, drink, a LOT and eat at little. I have to say, it was HOT out there. From the second bike aid station it went something like this....chuck a water bottle, grab a bottle, fill aero, chuck bottle, grab another bottle, finish filling aero, dump rest on head....pedal on. Eat a little, salt tabs, sweat, pedal, repeat. I was doing fairly well and feeling pretty good....until the climb to Hawi. I knew it would be long and take a while to get there. I also knew that the turnaround was a little *more* than half way. I just needed to get there. I did start to get worried because I hadn't needed to make a pit stop. In more than 3-1/2 hours. Not good. I was supposed to be hydrated enough that I would need to stop at the most every 3 hours. I was putting in what my plan called for, but in retrospect it was very hot, and started to get very windy. Both dehydrating factors. I finally made the turn around, a bit behind schedule, but I kept up the positive thoughts.

At the turnaround, I made myself climb off my bike and hit the bathroom. The bad news was that I didn't even really *have* to go. I really just wanted a brief stretch of the legs. Just past the turnaround I grabbed my special foods bag and pulled my extra salt tablets out. Then I was off again. The downhill out of Hawi was fun. Luckily there wasn't much of a cross wind on this stretch and I was able to just cruise down the hill. It was lonely out there, not may of us left on the course. The wind picked up and at some points I was heading down hill, not coasting mind you, but pedaling downhill at about 10 mph. I shook my head and turned around, sure that I would see I had been on an incline. But no. I was *actually* going downhill. I still had about 40 miles to go and I was already getting discouraged/frustrated/worried. I remembered one thing I had heard several times throughout the week. "The only thing you have control over is your attitude/response to the situation." I tried to stay positive and just kept reminding myself that I was lucky to be here. At some point this reminded me of Willie Wonka. The one with Johnny Depp. And he's meeting the kids and tells Charlie.."and you, well you're just lucky to be here!" That was me....just lucky to be here.

I was trying to keep up with my fluids/food. But things started to go south. I started burping and throwing up a tiny bit. I tried to remember what I was supposed to do if this happened. I stopped putting food in and tried to get my stomach settled. I kept sipping water, and tried to keep sipping Gatorade. The aid stations were shrinking too. Although the folks that were manning them were still so supportive and encouraging, it was depressing just to see them breaking stuff down. I was in a pretty dark place at times. More than once I thought about climbing off and walking. Seriously, couldn't I walk faster than I was moving in this stupid wind?!?! And then I'd talk myself out of it. Look at the ocean. Happy day, remember?? Lucky day, remember??? Just keep moving forward. As Liz said, "Don't stop until you hit that finish line!" At this point, I knew I was way behind my prediction of when I'd finish the bike. I hoped my family wasn't too worried, and that the athlete tracker was being updated so they'd know where I was. I was not doing well. I kept looking for the airport, as I knew I'd be home free once I could see it. It refused to show itself. Refused, I tell you. I was moving at a snails pace and I started to worry about something I had not even imagined I'd worry about. Missing the bike cutoff. How did this happen? I know how it happened. I completely underestimated how hot and windy it would be. I completely underestimated how prepared I was to handle the heat and wind. Now, you may or may not know, but I sweat. I mean I SWEAT on a cool day. And it was at least 90 degrees out there, not including the heat baking up from the asphalt and lava rock. I think Chrissie Wellington said it best "It was like riding in an oven." And I was spending more time in that oven than most.

I have to say that as much as I might have wanted to quit and call it a day, I just couldn't. I most likely would not have another chance at *this*. Kona. And everyone who was here to support me. I couldn't let them down. But mostly I couldn't let myself down. And so I kept pedaling. And trying to drink something. Everything on my bike was lukewarm. I'd grab something from the aid station, whatever they had left, and before too long it would be lukewarm too. Not enticing in the least, I have to tell you.

Finally! Finally! The airport came into sight and I was never more relieved to see something in my life. I was almost there. And I was going to make the cutoff. And I was already calculating what I'd have to do to make the finish. Because I was not feeling very perky and I knew it was going to be ugly. But...I was one step closer.

Rolling in close to the finish, I saw my aunt. And then I saw Jeff. And I'm not sure, but I think they were almost as relieved as I was. Jeff later told me that they started to worry when it took me so long to reach the last check point on the bike. Yeah, you and me both!

I finally made it to the dismount line. I had pulled my feet out of my shoes in an effort to dry them out a bit. All that water dumped on head, basically all day long, had left them feeling like prunes. That would make 26.2 miles extra fun, I'm sure.

Tina was actually there to catch me at the line. And I think she was just as relieved/excited as everyone else that I had *finally* made it in. She grabbed my bike and I took off for the long, slow trot around transition to find my run bag and head back into the changing tent. Where another volunteer was waiting to help me and she was just as awesome as the first. She grabbed me a cup of Gatorade and a cold towel. I sat down and must have been in a daze. I didn't think I was in there *that* long, but Jeff would tell me later that I had spent almost 10 minutes in T2. What was I doing all that time? Trying to find my legs. Trying to find my mind. I changed clothes. I wiped my face and shoulders and legs with that cool, cool towel. I smeared my feet with aquaphor to try and limit blisters. I skipped the sunscreen, I remember that. What was the point, it would be dark shortly. The volunteer asked me if I needed my Garmin. I looked at it for a moment. No. No, I don't think so. I have my watch and I just don't want to get worked up about how slowly I'm moving. In what seemed like moments, but was of course, actually about 10 minutes, I got myself moving. I was slowly jogging out of transition, where Tina was still cheering me on. "Just a little run," she said.

And so....I had just a little run left.....and as Liz had told me on Friday.....more than enough time to walk it if I had to.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not just another day in paradise ~ part 2

I'd have to say I slept "okay" for the night before. I was up before the alarm went off at 4 tho. My family wanted to have a good view for the start, so we planned to leave the condo around 4:45. I got dressed, ate my oatmeal and toast, grabbed my pre-swim bag and we were off. There was some traffic, but not bad. I got booted out of the car as my relatives jumped out to find a spot along the sea wall to watch the swim start. I made my way to the special needs bag drops, through body sharpies here! No sir. They use ink pads and number stamps....very neatly stamping me with 1387 down each arm. I wandered out of body marking towards transition and stopped to check my weight on the scale. Coach Liz had said I shouldn't be surprised if I saw I had gained *another* 5 pounds since registration. A little niggle of worry entered my mind when I saw that I had actually *lost* 4 pounds since then, but was too caught up in the events of the day to really think about it.

Off to find Ruby,

pump up the tires, and stock the bento box with my picnic lunch. Again, a little intimidating to see so little food on the ladies' bikes next to me. Obviously they weren't planning on spending quite as much time out there as I was. "Lucky to be here, lucky to be here, just enjoy it as much as you can!" I putted around for a while with my bike. Got her all ready to go, put on my PZ3 speed suit, liberally applied the Body Glide to my neck and arms, packed up my pre-swim bag and dropped it off at the bag drop. Then I headed over to the water entry just to see if I could see my peeps. I saw a group of pink that *had* to have been the awesome t-shirts my mom had printed up for my support crew.

My Gram and my mom (pink hat) awaiting the start of the day

I saw Jeff's signature hat and waved and waved. I willed him to look over at me....but he didn't get my vibes. I put my head down for a minute, got a little choked up, and thought to myself, "You're really here! Enjoy it as much as you can. Take it all in. You *will* cross the finish line eventually. Soak it up." It was a feeling unlike any other, I have to say. A day unlike any other.

It was getting close to 6:30, the time Liz had said I should work my way into the water. The sun was up.....the Navy Seals had parachuted into the water.....and the pros were soon off on their journey. I took off swimming along the sea wall to warm up and yell up at my family. I was so glad to have people there looking out for me. I smiled up and told Jeff "I'll see you in about 16 hours!" A guy sitting next to him yelled back at me something like "Race hard! Go hard! Go for it!" The water didn't seem bad to me, although I've read other people say there was moderate chop. It felt just like the practice swims I had done...except for that I was out there with 1800 or so other folks, there was excitement buzzing in the air, and there were spectators as far as the eye could see.

I headed out towards the swim start, sticking to the left as planned. I was Kona....ready to start the biggest event of my life. I chatted with some other participants and realized I had somehow gotten a bit too close to the start line. I definitely didn't want to be in front! I overheard someone say they were hoping for a 1:30 swim and felt like I was in a good position sticking in that general area. Before I knew it, the countdown was on and the cannon went off. I put my head down and started swimming. I was pretty calm. I felt good.

At some point I had drifted close to the buoy line and it was pretty crowded, but people were surprisingly polite. My only 'major' contact was an elbow to the head, and the guy that delivered it immediately said "Oh! I'm sorry!" "No worries," I said and put my head back down to start swimming again. Sighting wasn't too much of a problem, as there were always quite a few people around and the buoys were easy enough to spot. I was able to latch on to some feet for at least part of the swim and before I knew it the turnaround was there. A right turn, swim a little, and another right turn and I was headed back to shore. Just after the turn around, I felt something under my arms, and realized that I was starting to chafe. Lovely salt water. I wished I had grabbed some of the Vaseline for my arms, instead of just using Body Glide. It felt like the swim back was shorter than the swim out, but that may have just been anticipation. I found some feet that were slightly faster than me and hitched a ride. I stayed with those feet almost the whole way back. I swam until I could touch sand, then popped up and pulled off my goggles. The spectators were still everywhere and it was amazing. Out of the water, up the stairs, under the freshwater showers to rinse off and then into the changing tent.

Just like everything I've heard...the changing room volunteers were awesome. Pulling everything out of my bag, helping me with my clothes, my shoes, my sunscreen. Taking my sunglasses out of the case and handing them to me. Then when I was ready to head out, packing up my stuff into the bag for me to pick up at the end of the day. And so encouraging. And cheering. And it was just....awesome.

Time for.......a wee bike ride!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not just another day in paradise ~ part 1

We arrived in Kona about a week prior to the big day. My Mom, my Grandma, and my Aunt all arrived from Illinois a couple of hours before we did. The week is kind of a blur of activity, non-activity, and an active attempt to stay out of the hub of energy as much as possible. I did some short swims, some short rides, some short runs. I picked up my race wheels and arranged to have my bike shipped home. We did a bit of sight seeing. I ate, drank water and Gatorade (in retrospect, probably not enough of either), experienced the heat of Kona, previewed the course.

The sight of so many super-fit, super-serious athletes was pretty intimidating. I started to have the sense that I didn't belong, I was some kind of impostor. I tried to tell myself that while I may not have qualified, I got an invitation to participate, I paid my money and I had just as much right to be here. Not everyone can be front of the pack. It did make me realize tho just how different this event would be from Vineman. It was going to be very lonely out there. These were the best of the best, and there would be precious few folks back where I'd be spending my day.

On Wednesday I hit the expo, registration and the 'official' merchandise shop. I warned Jeff that I was going to buy everything the shop had and while I didn't quite do that.....yeaaaaah.....this was going to be an expensive trip. Registration was the first time I experienced the amazing volunteers this race has. Already everyone was so nice and extremely helpful. Instead of treating me like a 'lowly lottery winner' they seemed even more excited for me when they found out I was one of the lucky 150. Registration was quick and before I knew it I'd been weighed in (coach Liz was right....I was about 5 pounds heavier than I thought I'd be), filled out a medical and emergency contact form, received my race packet, and had my chip activated. Now I just needed to sort out my gear and food into the appropriate bags and check everything in.

On Thursday Jeff, Aunt Pat and I checked out the underpants run. No I wasn't wearing underpants...well, I mean I WAS wearing under pants, but they were under my pants.....err know what I mean. We donated some cash for a good cause and got souvenir t-shirts, a visor, some compression socks and watched the run get under way. Later in the day I made sure to get my bags ready for check-in on Friday. Special needs bike and run, bike gear bag and run gear bag. I included anything and everything I thought I might want, even extras of shorts and tops just in case. Better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it, I figured.

Friday was a swim with Liz and Tina. Liz watched us swim a bit and after a couple quick suggestions for me, I proceeded to draft her for the rest of the swim. Well....I had to rest up for the next day....that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Then I met Liz at Lava Java for a discussion about what to expect during the event. Based on my times from Vineman, when things did not go as well as planned, we figured I could walk the marathon and still make it (cue foreshadowing music). She reassured me that I would make it across the finish line. Around 4:30 (after 'dinner') I went to drop my bike, bike gear and run gear off at transition. All the athletes are funneled through a chute where first your helmet is checked, then a line of folks tally up equipment. They count bikes, components, saddles, aero bars, wheels, etc and publish a tally of how many of what brand were represented. I'm sure I looked (and definitely felt) like the 'poor country cousin' with my road bike/clip on aeros next to all the tri-bike eye candy. But I tried to maintain my attitude of 'I'm just lucky to be here'. Evidently there were a lot of freebies handed out earlier in the day, but everyone was pretty much gone by the time I got there. So it was fairly quiet, which was okay by me. The butterflies didn't need the extra excitement. I got a sticker for my bike that says it was "checked in" or something like that and rolled up to the next stop, my escort around transition. I hear someone say 'I got the girl in pink' and look up to see Matt, T's husband, heading towards me. Nice to see a friendly face. He took me to my transition spot where we parked my bike, reminded me to let some air out of my tires (I already had) so the tubes didn't blow from the afternoon heat, explained the flow of things thru transition and took me to where my bags would be stored. And with that I was officially 'checked in'. Ruby would spend the night surrounded by greatness. I hoped some would rub off on her. Home to finish packing up and early to bed.

Next up......the big day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I'm home now and it's back to work tomorrow.

And I've finally realized that I truly am an idiot. Or there's something seriously wrong with me. Yep, it's pretty much confirmed. In the last week, the glow of finishing Kona has started to dim and I've been feeling like I should have done better. See, told you I'm an idiot. I don't know why it is that I have trouble being satisfied with my results. Just a few short years ago I hadn't even done a single triathlon. Forget the idea of doing an IronMan.....let alone Kona! And now, I successfully finished a marathon, and 2 Iron races in one of them the world championship. That sure seems like a big accomplishment. So what is wrong with me that I can't just enjoy the success of that? *sigh*.....I guess that's something to work towards.

I'll put together a race summary soon........maybe even with pics. :)