38 In ironman world championship/ race report/ triathlon

race report // kona!

Where to start! It’s been a month(!) since Kona, so ample time for race reflection – both while sunning on Kauai’s incredible north shore and while back at home in the real world (of mittens and brushed running tights!).

Overall, Kona didn’t disappoint. The concise race report: 140.6 miles of fun, smiles and so much gratitude. During the race, I repeatedly reminded myself that I was, in fact, racing Kona (someone still pinch me, please) – a goal realized thanks to countless hours of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The race was everything I hoped for and so much more – even though the end result wasn’t what I trained for or am capable of (a much faster marathon and a daylight finish). But, it’s Kona, and anything can happen (read: puke + rally during the run). I gave it my all and my very best on October 8, and I’m happy with how I handled what Madame Pele threw at me. That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied, though. This journey isn’t over yet!

Kona by the numbers

1:09:13 – swim split
5:54:13 – bike split 
4:14:22 – run split
11:27:09 – official time
5:00 – time in the penalty tent
1 – chocolate outrage GU
3 – Honey Stinger gluten-free maple waffles
2 – GU gluten-free salted chocolate stroopwafels 
6 – waffles that fit in the pocket of my Coeur Sports sports bra
4 – packs Skratch raspberry energy chews
2 – packs Skratch raspberry energy chews that I didn’t eat on the run
4 – mini biff stops
3 – times I applied sunscreen (night before, morning of, in T1)
7 – race day tattoos (smile, focus, fast, heart + courage, never give up, 5Q, InsideTracker)
mile 70 – when I started drinking Coke on the bike
30 oz – Skratch raspberry electrolyte drink on the bike

Race morning started like any other – an early alarm, gluten-free toast, coffee and gear check. My dad drove Nick and me to the King Kam, where after a pep talk from Nick, I went into transition for body marking (from my good friend Sarah, too!). After a quick tire pump and loading nutrition on my bike, I relaxed in the grass near transition and caught up with some teammates and friends before go time. It was really one of the most chill race mornings ever – so much time to soak it all up!

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Swim // 1:09:13

More so than the Hawi crosswinds, I was most anxious about the swim. For no reason, though, as the swim turned out to be one of the highlights. There were butterflies, yes, but once I was treading water in Kailua Bay (in the middle of the pack toward the left), those gave way to pure giddiness: I was racing Kona

Dudes on paddleboards kept us in line before the cannon, and once it fired, it was all systems GO. Surprisingly, it was pretty calm. No one swam over, kicked, punched or dunked me. Instead, I found some feet (a race first!) and focused on chasing the bubbles for the first 300-400 yards (not hard to do given how turquoise-y clear the water is). There I decided I wasn’t swimming hard enough so slipped out of the draft and went on my way. And, other than one woman who thought super splashy was fun – I could not get away from her for a portion of the backstretch – the rest was pretty uneventful, incredibly enjoyable and went by quite quickly. I started catching men around the second turn buoy, so knew I was having a good-for-me swim. Salt water FTW! I felt fantastic the entire 1:09 – almost a swim PR! – and couldn’t stop smiling when I ran up the steps to T1. (Pre-race superstition: Running up those steps was a no-no for me after Friday’s coffee boat swim because I thought it would jinx my race day swim!)

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Paddleboarders who kept us in line before the start.

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And, we’re off!

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I’m in there somewhere!

Gear: Coeur Sports tri shorts + speed top (unzipped and around my waist), Coeur Sports sports bra, ROKA Sports viper pro swimskin, ROKA Sports R1 goggle in cobalt mirror (loved this tint!).  

Bike // 5:54:13

Like the swim, I had an absolute blast on the bike. With a smile still plastered on my face, I rinsed off in T1 as best I could, quickly applied a third coat of sunscreen (not sure how well it stayed on because I was soaked), and as I ran out with my bike, said hello to friends Phillip and Liz, who were both volunteering on the pier.

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As I settled into a groove the first 10 miles through town, I couldn’t believe how many people were racing. So many people. So many packs of men and women. So much drafting. I stayed within legal distance the entire 112 miles, but still got a drafting penalty around mile 90. Gah! A frustrating call, as I was passing a woman on a climb and right as I was gonna go by, she floored it. My only options: hammer at 300w and fry my legs to get by her; stop pedaling and go backwards down the hill and into another cyclist; or, stay exactly where I was. I chose the latter and because of it, spent five minutes in the penalty tent near the aquatic center right before T2. Penalty aside, I’m still happy with a sub-6 bike at my first Kona – lots of room for improvement – but I know it’s not an accurate reflection of 5,000+ miles of hard work on the trainer and outside this year. 

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A penalty?!

Anyway, given how much fun I had riding on the Queen K earlier in the week, I knew I’d have fun on race day. Madame Pele was out in all her glory, blessing us with a headwind both directions. I hunkered down in aero and rode my race (maybe a bit too conservatively, as my watts weren’t quite on target) – not easy when friends biked by. I wanted to take off with them!

Hawi’s crosswinds didn’t disappoint; they were fierce coming off the Pacific. I kept my pedal stroke strong and stayed aero, but by the time I reached the turnaround after the long climb to Hawi, I was more than ready for a reprieve. After a quick stop in the mini biff – too many people around me to go on the bike – hello, amazing descent! Definitely a race highlight… and, I didn’t even notice the crosswinds on the way down. 

At some point on the return trip, I realized my entire rear bottle mount was missing, and with it an entire bottle of Skratch raspberry electrolytes. Not ideal, but I dealt with it the best I could – by shoveling Skratch chews in my mouth and drinking Coke starting around mile 70. I grabbed a Gatorade at one aid station thinking some electrolytes were a good idea, but after a couple sips, thought better of it because I hadn’t trained with it. 

The last 20 miles were hot and windy. I started to get a little warm this stretch, but to be honest, even with the humidity, it didn’t feel as hot as it did at the CdA inferno last year. Maybe the wind helped? Or, the incredible volunteers handing out water (I took two at each aid station – one for my front bottle and another to douse myself)? Or, perhaps arriving a week early helped me acclimatize? Regardless, the bike was awesome, even with a penalty :) 

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In the penalty tent with Kayla just before T2! 

Gear: Coeur Sports tri shorts, speed top + sports bra, Giro aerohead helmet, Sidi T3 shoes, Argon 18 E-119 tri+, Quarq Elsa, CeramicSpeed chain, Zipp 808 + 404 firecrests, Cobb Cycling JOF saddle, TorHans Aero30, Garmin 520.

Run // 4:14:22

I bounded out of T2 feeling fantastic and so excited to run – so excited that I had a hard time keeping mile one in check. Too fast! I repeatedly told myself to slow down, run the mile I was in and not get too far ahead of myself… 26.2 is a long way! 

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As I turned off Kuakini onto Hualalai near the start, I heard some commotion behind me: The race leader, Jan Frodeno, was running to the finish! I couldn’t turn left to Ali’i without getting run over by one of the three lead motos, so I moved to the right as far as I could (with a slap from a spectator… WTF!). Running with Jan for a step – my three seconds of live feed fame! 

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The Ali’i out-and-back was an absolute blast. The highlights: Seeing all my Coeur teammates and friends racing, and seeing my entire support crew cheering (including Sarah riding on the TriTats moto!). There was just so much energy, and I could not stop smiling.

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Thrilled to be running at Kona! In my handheld: a mixture of Skratch + FundAminos.

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Lucky me – my sis joined me for a bit with a pep talk at mile six!

11_kona

My trucker hat + Coeur Sports sports bra held ample ice.

10_kona

I slowed at every aid station to shove ice down my Coeur Sports sports bra (giant pocket FTW!) and under my hat as well as to down some water and Coke (more or less how I fuel every IM marathon). And, overall, I felt awesome and was right on pace – until I wasn’t.

Around mile 15 on the Queen K, my stomach said enough. As much as I wanted to run – my legs felt a-ok! – my stomach just wouldn’t let me run the pace my legs wanted to go. When I was running, though, I oddly loved the quiet of the Queen K (seriously, no one was talking at all!)… listening to my footfalls was so meditative.

Once I reached the energy lab at mile 16 – oh, the carnage of the energy lab! – I alternated between running and walking. Oof… I felt terrible! Thank goodness for some cloud cover, a nice ocean breeze and other not-feeling-so-hot racers during that dark stretch. I repeatedly told myself one step at a time, no matter what the pace, because it was still moving forward closer to the finish line. 

Back on the Queen K – six miles to go! homestretch! – I told myself I could only walk during aid stations (you know the self-bargaining during those last miles!). But, that went out the window by mile 22 when my stomach really said nope. My saving grace here: Kebby from Coeur… she’s such a gem! There’s no way I could have gotten through this stretch – including some serious puke + rally at mile 23 – without her positive support and encouragement to keep going. After throwing up everything from the marathon, I (almost) felt like a million bucks and was on my way (with more cheers from the lovely Rae from Coeur!). Three miles to go!

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With a mile to go, I had to get to the finish line as fast as I could. I just needed to be done. So, even though I knew I’d be sick again, I dropped the hammer and ran as fast as I could. And, after my fastest mile of the day (7:42!), there was the sweet finish line on Ali’i…! 

There really aren’t words to describe the feeling of crossing this one. Just pure joy and gratitude, an exclamation point on an amazing journey ♥

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2_kona-finish-line_web

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My only thought here: Just get off the fancy red + black carpet so you can puke!

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And, up comes the chicken broth + Coke!

Gear: Coeur Sports tri shorts, speed top + sports bra, Feetures no show tab socks, HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 2, GSF never give up trucker. 

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Big hugs after an hour in the med tent.

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Team chase the light.

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Do I have to move?

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Refueling post-race at Longborad Pizza… so good (gluten-free, too)!

MAHALOS!

It takes a tribe, and there’s no way I could have raced Kona without mine. The biggest mahalo every single person who helped me along the way ♥

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Team Coeur Sports! Thank you for lifting me up and inspiring me to always give my best, on and off the race course.

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The BEST support crew! So grateful for them!

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My amazing parents, who taught me the power of hard work and perseverance (and have cheered me on at every single ironman!).

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And, this guy. Luckiest woman in the world ♥

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    SimplyAmyLynn
    11/10/2016 at 9:37 am

    What an amazing report-I’m so happy that you had a wonderful day even though it didn’t go perfectly-that was quite a party in the penalty box! Congratulations!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:25 pm

      It was, wasn’t it?! :) Thanks so much for all your cheers + support, Amy! Can’t wait to follow your journey… you’re feeling better, right?! Here for you cheering YOU on, always!

  • Reply
    Christine
    11/10/2016 at 10:35 am

    Amazing! Proud of you.

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:26 pm

      Thank you, Christine! So glad we got to hang out in Kona :)

  • Reply
    Maslife
    11/10/2016 at 1:06 pm

    Congrats!!! Sounds like a wonderful adventure (also sounds like you’ll be working to head back there!!). Way to go, mama!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks so much, Maria! Yes, I sure would love to go back!

  • Reply
    Kelsey @ Happy Triathlete
    11/10/2016 at 2:17 pm

    Yay!!! Congratulations Erin! Loved reading about your journey to Kona and then of course this report and seeing the massive smile you carried all through the day were the cherry on top!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:28 pm

      Many thanks for all the cheers, Kelsey! <3

  • Reply
    hyedi
    11/10/2016 at 3:39 pm

    Incredible! Fantastic recap, as usual :) So glad I got to congratulate you in person this past weekend <3

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:29 pm

      So glad we got to catch up last weekend, Hyedi! Looking forward to our next coffee date :) Thanks for all your cheers!

  • Reply
    Steena
    11/10/2016 at 6:14 pm

    ahhhhhhhhhh! Every bit of it. All of your training, your journey, your smiles, your grit, all of it inspire me beyond what I could possibly express. it’s WWED (What would Erin Do?) to me. Congratulations on all of this!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:33 pm

      Ah, Steena! You’re so sweet! Biggest mahalo to you! Excited to be teammates this year! xo.

  • Reply
    Feisty Eats
    11/10/2016 at 7:45 pm

    Great recap. Very inspiring. Puke & rally? Way to go & I love how you’re always smiling. Your attitude is great!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:38 pm

      Thanks so much, Sarah! A positive attitude – it’s the only kind to have, right?! :)

  • Reply
    Leslie @ TriathleteTreats
    11/10/2016 at 9:28 pm

    What a race!!! It may not have been the perfect race…but now you have the experience for when you go back!!! Hope you are recovering well!! Congrats!!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:39 pm

      It really was the most incredible experience, Leslie! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you were there! Seeing you was such a giant pick-me-up on the run! Your cheers were awesome :)

  • Reply
    ami
    11/11/2016 at 9:13 am

    So fun to read this and relive being there!! Even got teared up a little! So glad I got to be there!!!! xoxo <3

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:43 pm

      ME, TOO, SIS! So, so grateful you were there! Made the experience so much more special :) xoxo <3

  • Reply
    Kecia
    11/11/2016 at 1:42 pm

    Congratulations! After chasing you all day virtually, it was fun to experience Kona through your eyes and experience!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:44 pm

      Mahalo for all your awesome cheers + support, Kecia! Glad to be teammates again in 2017! It’s gonna be a fab year :)

  • Reply
    Kristina
    11/12/2016 at 8:43 am

    Congratulations on a great race – and thanks so much for sharing your experience. Hope that you have enjoyed the post-race recovery, even as you think about next season!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/13/2016 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks so much, Kristina! Recovery – and scheming 2017! – was lovely in Kauai! Hope you’re well!

  • Reply
    Laura
    11/14/2016 at 2:36 pm

    Congratulations! What an incredible smile…such positive energy through the whole report. Best of luck at IMAZ…I’m sure you have hopes of getting back to Kona soon. :)

    • Reply
      erin
      11/21/2016 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks so much, Laura! Yes, high hopes… will try again! :)

  • Reply
    Eri
    11/15/2016 at 3:46 pm

    First time coming to your blog (from Jessie’s blog), I am just amazed at your Kona experience! I know a couple of people (friend’s friend) who’ve done this year’s Kona. I can only imagine how difficult and challenging this race is…and you seemed to enjoy almost every part of it (other than being sick!).
    So amazing.
    Congratulations :)

    • Reply
      erin
      11/21/2016 at 5:37 pm

      Yay! Hi, Eri! Thanks for stopping by! Are you from MPLS, too?

      Indeed, loved every single second, even the puke + rally :) Thanks for the well wishes!

  • Reply
    Kristen L
    11/17/2016 at 4:36 pm

    Wow- what an experience. Sounds like you learned so many things and are ready to tackle Kona again in the future. Glad you were able to enjoy just about every moment even though you had some tough ones in there. Congrats on your first Kona finish!

    • Reply
      erin
      11/21/2016 at 5:39 pm

      Biggest mahalo, Kristen! I sure am :) Lessons learned for the next time!

  • Reply
    Luv What You Do
    11/21/2016 at 8:28 pm

    What an epic race Erin! So fun to watch the entire journey from start to finish!!! Congrats on another amazing race and can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

    • Reply
      erin
      12/04/2016 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks so much, Jen! So stoked for next year! Hope you’re well!

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    11/25/2016 at 10:29 am

    You are so adorable with that huge grin on your face at all times. Congratulations again on a great race! You worked hard to get there and it looks like you enjoyed every second of it!

    • Reply
      erin
      12/04/2016 at 12:18 pm

      I just had the best time! So much FUN! Thanks so much, Caitlin!

  • Reply
    Alyssa Kurt
    11/30/2016 at 9:30 am

    Congrats Erin! I love your Coeur kit! It makes me so happy to see a big grin on your face in all these pictures! That’s the best accessory to have in an Ironman!

    • Reply
      erin
      12/04/2016 at 12:19 pm

      Kebby and team really nailed this year’s Kona design! Loved it, and it was so easy to spot on the course! I seriously couldn’t stop smiling all day… it was such a blast! Thanks so much, Alyssa!

  • Reply
    kona recovery + the kauai quiet. - sweet sweat life
    12/14/2016 at 8:14 am

    […] crammed in a few other activities on the Big Island after the race, including a trip to the black sand beach at Pololu Valley Lookout (the Jurassic Park views!), […]

  • Reply
    my top 16 of 2016. - sweet sweat life
    12/31/2016 at 6:27 pm

    […] still pinching myself that I raced Kona…! Because it still kinda feels like a dream. Race week and race day didn’t disappoint. They […]

  • Reply
    Joy Yang
    01/18/2017 at 4:43 pm

    thank you for sharing the great experience here, i am taking notes to prepare Kona 2017.
    “Gear: Coeur Sports tri shorts + speed top (unzipped and around my waist), Coeur Sports sports bra, ROKA Sports viper pro swimskin, ROKA Sports R1 goggle in cobalt mirror (loved this tint!). ” question: do you mean you wear the speed top around your waist under the ROKA swimskin in to swim? thank you! Joy

    • Reply
      erin
      01/23/2017 at 9:41 pm

      Thank YOU for reading, Joy! And, it sounds like congrats are in order on Kona 2017… BIG congrats! Where did you qualify? First Kona?

      To answer your question… yes, I wore the Coeur speed top unzipped and around my waist under my swimskin to swim. I pulled on the top and zipped it up in T1. It worked great! Definitely practice it prior to race day to make sure it works for you.

      Hope your training is going well! And, I hope to see you Kona this year :)

    your thoughts…

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