I would not have been the girl holding the microphone and the bigger trophy if it weren't for the massive amount of help, love, & support that has been given to me. So while some headline may read that I won Ironman Canada, WE WON IRONMAN CANADA! It has truly been the experience of a lifetime racing around the world. Memories have been made that will last a lifetime and friends have been made that I will never forget. However, taking three years to qualify has been one of the most emotional roller coasters of my life. Yes, I enjoy triathlon very much, but I have not enjoyed being broke off my ass trying to make a flight to a start line and wondering if I should toss in the towel and return to full time teaching. Was it all worth it? Yes. It is always worth it to give a dream your best effort, because life has taught me dreams do come true (eventually) and most times just when we think our efforts are exhausted and it feels like we are the only one left fighting in our corner, it all works out. I am beyond happy to qualify for Ironman Hawaii and finally, finally, three years later, be racing in my back yard!!!
At the moment, I am enjoying some easy days of junk food and not riding my bike, at all. It has been fun licking the bowl, staying up late, and sleeping past 6. But let me tell you, the moment coach puts me back to work, I am ready. I have longed for the day I am training for Ironman Hawaii, to be one of the 35 women out of 300 pro women that get to race for their country, their town, their sponsors, their family, holy cow I am so excited!
This Ironman was extra special because Kainoa and my mom came along for the ride! Ever since getting my pro card in triathlon I've tried really hard to bring Kainoa to a race a year. This would be his second Ironman out of the country (he tagged along to Ironman Japan when he was 2) and has been to 3 other Ironmans outside of Hawaii. He said, "This was the best yet, Canada is paradise!".
We touched down in the big city of Vancouver and instantly got lost. Once over a bridge or 4, we landed amongst some of the most incredible views in the world...Whistler is so gorgeous, it took my breath away and instantly had me feeling as if this was going to be a race experience I would never forget. I have never been some place so peaceful in all my life. And let me tell you, I was craving some silence from the world and even my own head. I had very little cell reception and that made it even easier to get lost only in my race without hearing the opinions from tri websites on how the race would unfold and the pressure of a win to solidify Kona qualification.
Leading up to Sunday was the usual race week obligations and "sit on your butt" stuff. There was of course my favorite, practice swim in a wetsuit, I was of course numb in the face and hands. Seriously, trying to stuff a bikini wearing girl into a wetsuit is nearly as hilarious as watching a dog chase his tail...painfully teasing. Pro panel was the usual reminder that people are watching. I am getting really good at either embracing it, some folks look up to us and it's cool if you can inspire even one person. Or I kind of sit silent and tune out so I don't get intimidated. Then, pro meeting, where a couple of us pro girls snuggled in a couch and listened to the rules and girl talked (way more exciting). And finally, an interview where I have to brush my hair and tell my secrets. Only problem is, I don't have any secrets. It was actually very fun hanging out with the men with cameras and pretending I am a movie star without any make up...
Masuda sent me to Canada with lucky socks, ZAP! POW! Were the theme and I pretty much used these for gloves and ear warmers all race morning while setting up my bike...why is there so much snow on the mountain tops in July!?!
Saturday morning was a final test spin on the Ceepo, I am so thankful for my beautiful bike and the sponsors that trust me to ride it. The swim and run you can pretty much control by yourself alone, but the bike you have to put some trust in the equipment who is pretty much your best friend for 112 miles. After that little spin I knew Sunday would be just fine. From there it was Ironkids. A couple of us pros had the honor of leading the kiddos in warm ups, talking to them, and then be the ones to put medals on them across the finish line. I had a favorite 8yr old in the race...but I cheered for all the kids!
From there it was Subway. It's weird, but Subway became my "night before the race meal" at Ironman Mexico this season. In Cozumel I was tempted to eat tacos from a man on the side of the road but there was a Subway behind him and my gut instinct said to pass up the tacos. Food from trucks and stands on the side of the road is usually my adventurous favorite, but Ironman Mexico was my first of 5 races to qualify for Kona & I decided not to gamble. Anyways, I ended up running a 3:19, it was my first time breaking a 3:20 off the bike so I decided Subway was the reason and I have had it every single night before a race since then...My mom did not and would not join Kainoa and me...mom, it works! It also gave me my 3:14, 3:11, and I know it will help me bust a 3:10 soon!
Race morning finally arrived. I am skipping over the "what I ate and how many calories" part that the tri-geeks seem to love. I will tell you, my pink water bottle was green tea, not sports drink. The morning was so cold. I mean freezing. Thankfully my friend Mark was there and gave me his bike mittens, I would have been racing with socks on my hands if it weren't for him. The swim start was finally here, I was ready, keeping entirely focused only on me, knowing the day would be a good one if I did. So, I began with my usual smart-ass remarks. I asked the pro women if they happen to be winning to please stop at the finish line and let me cross first so I can have the Kona points, I would give them the pay day. I am not sure anyone liked my plan, but I am sure it felt really calming to be on a start line with a handful of women that I respect and consider friends, and that I am able to goof around with despite a very big day about to begin for us...
Earlier this season Anna beat me out of the swim at Ironman New Zealand by nearly 8 minutes and Karen always out swims me, so I was figuring I'd be in the chase group alone, again, but was ready for my day in patience. The first loop I was next to Karen all the way around, any attempt to pass her resulted only in elbows from me and I didn't want to waist energy or piss her off, so I tried to just use her as company. Lap 2 she put a little gap in me but I could see feet and that was like eating doughnuts for breakfast, SWEET! Out of the water they announced Anna was only 3 minutes up and Karen only 15 seconds! That was by far my best swim with those women. I simply must give some credit to having a Zoot wetsuit that fits like a bikini but not as pretty.
Out of the swim and on the bike took FOREVER thanks to winter clothes taking place. I put on Marks mittens and arm warmers. It wasn't till mile 60 that I finally warmed up enough to take them off. My entire ride was patience. All I wanted to do was get to the front and I was so tempted to just go for it, feeling good always gives you some added confidence. But I have learned, that sometimes having patience pays off bigger. So I waited. And waited. And just rode my own race up and down the hills of Whistler. It was frustrating getting within a minute of Karen & McKenzie but not being able to really zoom to the front. The hills were much bigger than I expected and now consider Ironman Canada the most challenging Ironman of the 19 I have done. Throughout the bike I kept wondering if I should race to the front and completely chase after the possibility of getting that Kona slot, all or none kind of thinking. Or if I should just remain patient and trust my coach. I went with the patience thing even though it was really hard sitting in 3rd place knowing a Kona slot does not happen for girls in 3rd place...
Off the bike, through transition, into the marathon. I felt horrible, the legs were not liking the ride up the mountain into Whistler, but I have learned it usually takes me 20 minutes to feel like a normal person again. So patience, patience, patience. I was over 2 minutes back from the girls about 6 miles in. It's really weird, but my mind never even thought about the finish line or the miles during the run. It only thought about running. I just kept running. Even when I tried to do the Math, "how many seconds faster a mile do I need to be to catch and pass them", my mind would silence itself. I couldn't even count calories at the aid station! I'd just take drinks and gels and run. Around mile 15 I could see the girls at an "out and back" section. But again it was hard to even look in their direction and check my watch to see how far back I am. All I can remember is passing them at mile 16 and then counting...
It was a hill (whoever said the run was flat was wrong). I just counted 1,2,3...1,2,3...over and over. I tried to sing, to smile, to wave, to high five kids, and I could only run. It was like my head and heart were finally on the same page, despite always running so happy my head would not let my body use any effort or energy other than to run. Once I got to mile 25 the tears came. I was hurting so badly, mentally exhausted, and just really, really wanted to get to the finish line and see if it was for real that I did pass the girls at mile 16 and they were still behind me...
I ran down the finish chute like a little girl on the playground. Triathlon was my playground and I just beat all the kids at tag, or kickball, or whatever game it is that you always wanted to win. I could not stop smiling, laughing, dancing, crying. It was all pretty unreal to me. After 3 years of trying to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, I did, on a beautiful day in Whistler.
They let Kainoa in to put the medal around my neck, talk about surprise finish line...
It still never sunk in that I was actually the winner or that I qualified for Kona, and made money in all the same moment. To want something for so long and finally have it happen is something I am finding difficult to put into words. I know people all over the world are doing exceptional things and saying that dreams do come true if we keep believing, but nobody ever tells us how to keep going through the days you don't believe. Maybe it's when it finally happens that we believe without holding our breath.
A really big congratulations to the women of Ironman Canada and to those women in the front of the race all day, thank you for pushing me so hard that I had no choice but to run. It was a special day in the fact that it could have been anyone of us crossing the finish line first, I hope you take that with you as confidence into your next race, that you are faster and stronger than you think you are. Anyways, I am going to be thinking of you girls on the start line of Kona and will dig a little deeper for you. Good luck at your next races and your wedding, Jackie!! I am sure you will look even more lovely in a white dress than spandex and run shoes! And to the beautiful town of Whistler, amazing. Thank you for welcoming nearly 3,000 athletes all running around in spandex while peeing their pants in your community. To the race directors, by far this was the most challenging bike course I have done, you have made it truly a test of character and I am so glad to have been part of the event! Amazing volunteers and people! Finally, well done to all the finishers...we did it!
Last but not least, my many mahalos to those that have made my Ironman Hawaii qualification possible. It began with Ironman Mexico, Ironman New Zealand, Ironman Texas, Hawaii 70.3, then Ironman Canada. What a beautiful trip around the world! Next stop...Ironman Hawaii!
Bike Works & Nick
, My first ever sponsor, thank you for keeping my bike in tip top shape and being my favorite hangout thanks to great people in the shop! Ceepo Bikes
, without a doubt, one hell of a sexy bike that loves hills and flats. You care about your rides like family and I am so blessed to be with you. Zoot Sports
, my favorite run shoes & finally a wetsuit that can keep a girl from an island warm! Beyond proud to be with a company that was born in Kona and continues to deliver quality ONLY. Splish,
you make swimming fun (even in a pool). Bioastin Hawaii,
it's like drinking up the ocean and knowing your body will recover from all the miles, Thank you for having me on the team. Rolf Prima Wheels
, pretty and fast, a winning combination for sure. Coach Cotter
, WE DID IT! The very first triathlon I ever saw, you won! It's very easy to follow a training program from someone you believe in and I am so thankful you have found a way to keep me passionate about sport while still being able to live a full life. This win is as much yours as mine. Coach Steve
, damn, you actually taught me to swim without looking like I'm drowning, it has been so much fun being part of the greatest masters swim team in the world! My son, Kainoa
. You are first awake with me every morning and willing to play at the pool so I can make 6am swim practice. You crossed the finish line with me on my first Ironman and have always been proud that your mom rides a bike for work, thank you. Masuders
, for three years you have been the one wiping my tears and holding my hand, not letting me give up on this dream even when I was worried I would have to let it go. I love, love, love how you believe in me and with me and never let our fridge run out of food or run out of laundry soap (even though I am sure that is because you really don't want to smell my run clothes). Brooke
, for watching Kainoa SO MUCH and feeding me even more, then teaching me to breathe, love you! Wendy & Kawika
, for the time you give up to be part of my training miles and make sure I don't forget to appreciate sunsets and dolphins. So thankful for you! My beautiful parents
, mom for being in Whistler and giving Kainoa such a great vacation and pops for sending mom to be there with me! Tammy, Marianne, and Katy
, you three ladies have made it possible for me and my bike to fly, landing on a start line was so much less stressful with your help! Thank you! JUNKO & Odin, the absolute best massage and chiro I have ever endure or trusted my body too! Thanks for keeping me in one piece! The Gray family and Liz
who helped host me this year while I scored many of the points that got me closer to Kona. What a bunch of great people and memories to have on this journey to Ironman. Mark S, Kerry S., and Loretta M
, for being my Canadian angels. Unbelievable how much you have taken care of me in what seems like a simple thing to you...thank you. The A-team of Kai'Opua
. I adore having team mates! In a sport that is very independent, like triathlon, you have taught me to trust and look out for others by sharing a boat with me. I always look forward to paddling with you guys at the end of a long day in sports bras! And without a doubt, so many of the great friends and people in little Kona town
that have a way of making home the most special place on Earth, THANK YOU.