Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Islands, One Big Race, 50 States

We did it.  We hit 50.  50 states, that is.  And just like that, a goal was reached!

Hawaii was amazing and was everything we thought it would be and more.  We arrived mid day in Kona to one of the most beautiful sights we have seen.  Just look at the view from our hotel.

For the first 5 days we stayed in Kona at the Fairmont Orchid.  Absolutely beautiful with friendly, attentive staff.  Highly recommend this hotel, if you're planning a trip to the Big Island.  First thing we did when we landed late Wednesday was check-in to the hotel which, by the time we landed, was well after our bed time.  Dinner, relax and take in the scenery was all that we planned to do.  And sleep.

The girls enjoying one of the many cool activities at the Fairmont Orchid - lei making!

Thursday, we headed over to Kona to pick up our bikes we had reserved.  I got a sweet Cervelo named Gino and Greg found a Cannondale that would be his ride for the race. We brought our own pedals, but never thought about bringing our own seats.  We would soon learn the importance of that mistake!  Rest of there day was spent poolside and relaxing while squeezing in a little scuba and light open water swim.

Friday, was packet pick-up and athlete check-in.  If we weren't nervous before, we would be now.  We grabbed our packets, ankle timing chip, swim caps, signed our waivers, and drank lots of water.  The race would be hot, hilly and humid.  Hydration was necessary.  Oh, and we hit the expo shop and found a couple cool shirts with all the racers names on the back.  What a great keepsake!

Friday evening, we took our bikes to mandatory bike check-in.  The Ironman 70.3 Honu race was unlike any other triathlon I had raced.  Normally, you check in your bike the morning of the race and lay out your towel, organize your transition area, and then head down to the water.  Not this Half Ironman.  We had to drop off our "T2 Run" bag during check-in.  No room for mistakes at this point.  Then, early Friday evening, we rode our bikes to the bike checkin, which was about 7 miles from the hotel.  Holy crosswinds, batman.  What the hell was I thinking when I decided to enter this race?! I know, I thought "Go big or go home." Now this was suddenly feeling like a super crazy, super insane choice!  We found our assigned rack, checked-in our bikes, and took the bus back to the silence...freaking out inside.  We don't get CROSSWINDS in Cleveland.  My right hand and shoulder blades were already aching from the death grip that I had trying to prevent myself from tipping over on the bike from the forceful direction of the winds.  This was after a 7-mile ride.  I had to come out of the water, hop on to the bike, and cycle 56 miles! Uh oh.

The rest of the evening was light and easy.  Early dinner, early to bed.

It's 5am? How can it be 5am? Holy crap, we're doing this.  And off to the Athlete Bus we went with all the other racers at our hotel.

As soon as we arrived at the T1 Transition Area, I dropped by T1 cycling bag and headed down to the open water swim.  Nerves were on heightened alert.  I knew I could swim the distance.  I even felt comfortable with the open water and channeled my inner Crowie Alexander Got Milk Commercial (The open water is my playground, he says).  I knew I could do this.  But could I do it with nearly 1,000 other athletes, with waves, in salt water, and under 1 hour 15 minutes? And the women were the last wave, so there was no cushion for finishing as the clock started ticking with our group.  Greg and the male group got a 7 minute cushion over the women.

I did.  Made it out of the water in 1:03 and change.  A bit slow, but I'm pretty sure I zigged and I zagged way more than necessary.  My dad always said I ran like a Singer sewing machine on zigzag stitch.  Pretty sure I swim the same way.  But hell, I did it.  But this is where the first of many mistakes began.

I walked across the sandy beach to the showers they had to rinse off the salt.  I piddled.  Seriously, I stood there and enjoyed the rinse.  What was I thinking?! Then I walked the 200+ yard hill to the transition area, thinking I was conserving energy.  No no no.  The (and yes. there's another "then"), I couldn't find things logically in my transition bag, had to dump out the contents, sort through my crap, find my gels (which would NOT slide into my back pockets in my race top because I was soaking wet), and had to insert my gels into my bra.  Mental note, get a bento box and organize your fuel, Robin!  I start to head out of transition and then realize I forgot to apply my hoohah cream.  No way was I going to tackle 56 miles on an uncomfortable seat without the miracle of hoohah cream.  So back to the port potty I went.  By the time I hopped on my bike and exited transition, I spent nearly 20 minutes in transition! Stupid.

There was a giant hill immediately out of transition.  And this was only the first of MANY hills I would encounter on this fine Saturday morning.  The hills, the headwinds, the crosswinds, and the fact that I was not at a good racing weight, would all challenge me.  I raced a good portion by myself, which also meant I didn't have to worry about drafting concerns!  No penalty tent for this girl.  Since we weren't allowed to have music, it also meant I had a lot of alone I sang.  And I only know the words to a few songs...mostly rap songs.  And my voice is awful!

While the scenery was beautiful, I remember very little about the course other than it was hot, hilly, humid, but filled with breathtaking views of the ocean...and lots of lava rock.  The turn around was in a neat little town called Hawi (pronounced with a "v" instead of "w") and I was so grateful to be able to say I was over halfway!  About 40 miles into the race, I ran into Greg, who was with the medical team due to leg cramps.  I pulled over to check on him and chatted with the medical team to make sure he was ok.  It was a wicked hot day and it got the best of many athletes.

The final 5-mile stretch was through lava fields and I was stunned over just how how my body would soon feel.  I was rounding the last couple miles and a volunteer told me that it was nearly 12:30pm - the cutoff and I better hurry.  As I entered the chute, I was told I missed the cutoff by 4 minutes.  4 lousy minutes! I racked my bike and paced a bit, considering whether I should just dart off on the run anyway.  The run cutoff allowed athletes in the transition area until 12:45pm to get out on the run course.  I still had 10 minutes and only needed to slide my feet into my running shoes, throw on my hat, and head out.  I wanted to do this so bad because I had the legs to do it.  It's my thing, running.  But I'm only a rule follower and that was that.

So I wandered off to the medical tent to see if Greg had checked in.  Afterwards, we grabbed our t-shirts and a couple beers and watched as the finishers came through the run cute.

Amazing experience.  I conquered the swim.  I handled the bike just fine in all the heat.  And I knew I had the legs left for the run.  This could only mean one thing...I just HAD to sign up for another half ironman to prove that I could do this.  I had to have closure.

But first, I needed a shower.  Boy, did I smell!

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