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 middle....at 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.