My Kona Journey
It has taken me a month to write about my kona experience and race day. I have hesitated to write this simply because it would have meant the end of my dream but that isn’t true, it is only the start of my journey. The lessons I have learnt in the last six months is invaluable, the Kona trip is indescribable. I have shared my journey along with pictures on Facebook but sadly I cannot share the magical, spiritual, emotional part of the island or the race with you as that is something only you can experience for yourself.
I could write a book on the last couple of months of the 90 degree turn in my training leading up to the race but will narrow it down in one paragraph so I don’t bore you with the nitty gritty.
I have always been a social able athlete. Training partners & groups got me out of bed in the mornings, the banter & support reassured me that we are all in this together & I have always assessed my progress leading upto a race with the athletes I train with (True story). My Kona training program was loaded on Training Peaks and I was super excited, almost like a elastic band being stretched and ready to go.. And so the training started, but I was alone. No longer did I have an active training group , people to join me for a 5 hour bike or 2 hour run etc The mornings were DARK, early evenings were DARK and in-between it was cold and raining, there were a few mornings were I simply could not go out there as it was 2 degrees. I had a bike accident and that was the final straw and so I started riding my bike on a cheapie indoor trainer. Suddenly my weeks revolved around sitting on the indoor staring at either a brick wall or worse.. My Teenage daughter watching Goerdie Shore! I had no power meter & therefore no clue how I was progressing. I was running alone which we all know can also initially be a mind game when we not bouncing fit! NO open water swims.. I tried, I really did but there was no ways my body would cope in Camps bay 8 degree water. This was the battle I was fighting until a light switched on around 2 months before the race.. This is my dream, my race, I am an individual so why is it that I feel dependant on other athletes to train with me or to measure my success (or lack of) It was at that point where I changed as an athlete and a person. This is the lesson that I needed to learn in life.. It was at that point that I got a power meter (BEST GIFT I have ever bought for myself) and cycled on the open road alone. I loved it, I found myself at an athlete and person on those long rides.. MTD joined me for part of some of them and it was awesome. I learnt how to ride my own ride, listen to my body & fuel when it was time to fuel, do my intervals at the pace my coach has given me and ride mostly down on my bars, all of this is difficult to do when you ride every ride in a group type setting.
FAST Forward to my Kona experience, climbing off the plane was an eye opener, the heat and open air airport highlighted the fact that I was no longer in a wintery country ruled by crime. What striked me the most was how clean & tidy it was, a bit like a horror movie where it seemed to good to be true.. The difference is that it is true.. there is no cruelty, no disrespect, no crime etc The locals are very respectful, friendly and take pride in everything they have and do. Our condo was out of this world & I had the privilege of sharing it with 3 awesome, inspirational people (plus 1 top class supporter). The heat was something special, never have I ever experienced heat & humidity like that before. The island teaches you how to acclimatize, don’t think you can just pitch up and adjust, doesn’t work like. The first week flew by and I had adjusted to the heat nicely, my training was on track and it was time to start the proper taper. A week prior to the race I swam a sea swim race which involved swimming the Kona course. I remember finishing that swim thinking I should not kick that hard (I guess I thought kicking would keep me buoyant seeing I didn’t have a wetsuit on which wasn’t necessary as the sea water is extremely salty there & you naturally float) The next day I had a easy run, as soon as I started I felt my calf strain, after 30mins I walked back to the car I knew something was wrong but chose to believe it was minor. The last week before the race was silently emotional for me, I had spoken to my coach about the strain and together we decided to rest it until race day.
Race Morning I felt very calm, mental prep was done and the one thing I knew was that under no circumstances will I leave without my Medal!! Every step of the race prep, check in, weigh in, race number right until I was treading water waiting for the canon to go was one big emotional journey. I held back on the swim, it was my swim and I wanted to enjoy it, I know I was not in a position to contend this year so I soaked it up and had the most enjoyable swim I have ever had.. Transition was easy and quick and soon I was on my bike, The bike route is special, in a nutshell its like cycling on a road amongst blazing fire(lave fields), the wind is twisted in its own way as it feels like you fighting a head wind, next minute its crosswinds but remarkably never seems to be a tailwind! At one point it leaves you alone but then it feels like someone put you in an oven and you start baking which at that point you semi wish for the wind to come back only for your wish to be granted with a hairdryer to your forehead. It was tough but I executed the bike according to plan, my splits were even and I rode perfectly to have a fantastic run. Transition from bike to run was hot but what a pleasure, I felt fantastic and after a loo stop I was on my way. As I ran up Ali drive I felt my calve start tweaking but I chose to ignore it, sadly my calve strain was stronger than me and I stopped at the first aid station to give it a quick ice treatment. I ran off but it got worse within a few meters and I knew that my run was over. Nothing worse than seeing the 40km sign board, knowing that this will be the longest run of my life. I was emotional throughout that marathon, I watched how others struggled, some were absolutely smashed, others couldn’t keep down nutrition, some were having a blast just walking and talking.. I had a deep moment when I was handed my glow stick & watched the last rays of the sun go down, by this time I couldn’t walk properly any longer so medics helped to strap my calve as tight as possible. Strangely enough this felt much better and I began a slow trot which was more comfortable than walking. I got confused with the miles & kilometres realising that its still further than expected. I trotted for the last 4km non stop (pain was almost unbearable & personally I thought I had some type of stress fracture) but I wanted to get to the finish now, enough was enough and I wanted to get that medal! I got that medal & although I was heart broken, I was happy.. Every South African athlete was simply awesome out there, this sport brings people together in a unique way and I feel a special kind of closeness to everyone specially our two Alii Cove condo’s.
When I landed in Kona I had two things in mind, first thing was to enjoy every second of this trip.. and the second thing was to take as much as I can from this experience, learn as much as I can learn, ask as many questions as I can ask so that when I come back, I will come back to compete!
Im a new kind of person and have to thank each and every single person who has uplifted me, encouraged me, believed in me, thought of me & thank those who have inspired me, helped /guided me, pushed me in the right direction etc. Special mention goes to Claire Horner my coach who continuously supported, believed and hounded me to be where I am today. Paige Seale for not hounding me for things the last couple of months & being my best supporter. Our South African team who were awesome (highlighting Garron, Andrea, Desi & Arlene) Craig & Bev for all the support back home.. My MTD crew!!
HUGE SHOUT OUT to my sponsors who believed and continue to believe and support me
TYR South Africa / ThinkRoom / PowerBar / Body20