A non racing perspective from Kona 2010
Kona 2010 was a very different experience for me because it was the first time I was in Kona without plans to race. While in some ways it felt as if I was racing (I arrived with my bike in tow and I was wished luck by everyone who assumed I was there to race), I definitely was not as I arrived on the Big Island, not in taper mode, but rather in “off season, out of shape, with an injury” mode. Watching from the sidelines was strange. However, the lack of pressure was quite alright! Better yet was getting to play coach as well as hang out with my many friends who were not racing, all while researching and promoting my upcoming Epic Woman camp that will take place in Kona in April 2011.
Upon my arrival in Kona at 6:30 PM, I made my way to the house where Epic Woman camp will be based. I was thrilled because this was the first time I had seen the house and it is simply awesome. It is gorgeous with lots of room and the Endless Pool was being installed as I arrived…Sweet! I had just enough time to assemble my bike before heading to bed (completely jet lagged) for a few hours before I had to get up to drive to meet Nigel and Fiona, my Mauna Kea riding buddies. I set my alarm for 4am and was not pleasantly surprised to wake up at 4:45 AM in a state of complete grogginess and confusion! Apparently I set my alarm for 4:00 PM instead of AM – oops! Fortunately I had prepared all my gear the night before, so was able to make a quick exit. While I made it to the start of the ride just on time, in my mad rush to get out the door I forgot my GU gels. Nigel came to the rescue and spared me some of his gels which I later realized was critical to my survival.
This ride up Mauna Kea sure was EPIC for me. In fact, it may have possibly been the hardest ride of my life. Starting this ride with a serious lack of sleep, jet lag, and huge amounts of dehydration from the traveling was not a great idea. Having no salt tablets to replenish my electrolytes (a rookie mistake I would advise my athletes against), a torn hamstring, a new bike set-up (I brought a new road bike for this ride), an extra 10 pounds of weight, and a lack of training while healing from my injury made this already challenging ride even more difficult! This ride was eighty kilometers of pure climbing! I have ridden a few Ironman bike courses in just over five hours but this ride, which was 100kms less distance, took the same amount of time! In addition to all the climbing the ride also included some INSANE headwinds, sand storms sweeping across the road, thin air at 9000 feet of elevation, rain, intense heat at the bottom of the climb, and very cold temperatures at the top!
Fiona and I set off 15 minutes before Nigel from Waikoloa Beach Resort and about 1:40 into the ride Nigel caught us and off he went, not to be seen until I made it to the end of the ride. Nigel is exceptionally strong and it was pretty impressive to see him take off from us at such a climbing speed. I also made the mistake of trying to hammer to catch Fiona after I stopped to adjust my Polar GPS battery and paid for this effort later in the ride. OOPS! I stopped with a chain/derailleur mechanical and lost more time so ended up pulling up the back of our 3-person pack.
At the final turn onto Mauna Kea bypass road, there were only 10kms to go. This doesn’t sound too bad, or at least that is what I thought as I made the turn. But that last 10kms were brutal for me. My back felt like it was going to spasm and I was desperate to stop and stretch it out, only I was panicking at the thought of trying to start riding again should I put my foot down as I continued to push on up the 20%+ grade road. Finally, I had to stop and in the process went into a full lower body spasm. All my muscles cramped and I am sure it looked like a bit of a freak show as I writhed around trying to get the cramping to stop. How I started to ride again on such an incline, I am not sure, but somehow I managed to continue after a couple attempts. One very interesting thing we all learned on this ride was that you can actually ride at 6kms/hr without toppling over!! In the end I somehow made it to the top, albeit a wee bit behind my riding buddies.
This ride will be a super addition to Epic Woman Camp. I will certainly ensure that options will be available so not everyone has to ride all the way to the Visitors Centre, but all the campers will be definitely be proud once the ride is complete! Another amazing ride I did was up the Kohala Mountains where Marilyn MacDonald and I felt as if we were back riding in New Zealand. Green rolling hills with sheep and tall trees was a whole new Hawaiian experience for me. Beautiful!
It was fun hanging with my Zoot family and it was special to see David and Eliane (who I stayed with for six consecutive years) again because they have become like a second family to me. Race day was spent cheering on my fellow pros as well as all my friends and my athlete John (who did really well) as they made their way up the Palani Road hill on both the bike and the run. My friend David and I did a two hour ride to the Painted Church which was amazing but we had to haul our butts back to make it in time to see the leaders head out on the run. It was a great race to watch starting with the morning shock of the day which was that Chrissie Wellington was out due to illness. It was fun but I would have much rather been racing. Spectating sure is a hard job!
In addition to the great riding off the Ironman course, a highlight of the trip was Epic Camp reunion where we got to watch the finished documentary (“Going Long, Going Hard”) made about our epic trip traversing the entire length of New Zealand. In 15 days we cycled from the tip of the north island to the bottom of the south island and the entire experience was caught on video. Stormy Dog Productions did a fabulous job of capturing our adventure of cycling the entire length of a country! At Epic Camp you form a special bond with fellow athletes and it was cool to be once again reunited to reminisce about the ‘good times’, all while sipping Coffees of Hawaii!
The trip ended with a boat trip to swim with the dolphins which has always been a dream of mine: To swim with the dolphins in the wild. Mission accomplished and a great way to end my stay in Kona.
Thanks for reading.