I think every triathlete dreams of someday biking along the infamous Queen K highway and running through the notorious Energy Lab, scene of so many epic Ironman (IM) battles. But how to realise that dream?
I started racing Ironmans back in 2011 when my youngest of my 3 kids was 5 years. It was a way to try to recapture my identity as a person, not just a Mom, as well as show my kids that, as the IM saying goes ‘Anything is Possible’.
I swore I would be one and done, just so I could say I had done an IM, but I was hooked…. And one turned into a two, into one a year, into a lifestyle.
I always managed to do reasonably well – inside the top 10 for my age group, posted a sub 11-hour IM in Penticton to realise a goal of seeing 10-something on the clock. I finished in 10.53 in 2012 and in 2015 made the podium in Tahoe IM. I was on roll with several 70.3 podium finishes and even a 70.3 win!
However, how to I take that next step and nab the elusive KONA spot? Hundreds of thousands of triathletes each year attempt to get into KONA which registers only 2500 participants. Women typically only have one, maybe two spots per age group so I knew it would be a tough ask. I did what I advise all the athletes I coach to do…. I established a plan and stuck to it.
One of my greatest strengths, and something I preach to my athletes, is consistency. Over the years I train day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, not because I have to or because I am trying for a goal race (although of course I do ramp up and tailor training ahead of a big race), but because being active is part of my lifestyle and I just love it. That consistent training has given me a hugely solid fitness base. But, to get to the ‘The Big Show’ that wouldn’t be enough. You need to be fast and be able to run the marathon.
The biggest change I made in my training this year was really drilling down the bike portion. TCR is the perfect place to train for the bike with the power metrics available on the Computrainer and Altitude sessions for peaking, so I took full advantage of that.
I took a long hard look at what power number I *should* be able to hold for the 6 hours +/-. The 2019 Whistler IM would be the next testing ground to get to KONA. I knew the hilly Whistler course would be suited to me with the goal of running the entire marathon.
And then I simply went to work. Week after week, session after session, I dialed in that wattage number until I could do it in my sleep. I paired that with long brick runs at a target race pace I figured I could hold and again, just practised it over and over.
The other big game changer was the mental aspect. Although it was always at the back of my mind that I wanted that win, that wasn’t my primary thought and goal going in. I knew I could do a solid swim. On the bike, I had proven over and over again that I could hold the necessary watts. And then I was determined to run the whole run. I knew if I could execute those 3 things, then I would have a good day.
Those are the things I CAN control – what I can’t control is who else shows up.
When I went sub-11 in Penticton, any other year that would have got me 1st or 2nd, but 2012 was the last year of the race. EVERYONE showed up and it was ‘only’ good enough for 7th. Nonetheless, I thought that if I could execute those 3 things again, then it would be a good day and I could walk away with my head held high and the placing would fall where it may.
On race day in Whistler, I swam my swim, felt GREAT on the bike and used my power meter to double check my pacing. After the bike, it was simply mind over matter on the run. Initially, the run pace I would have liked was a little fast which I knew would lead to me walking and I was determined that wouldn’t happen. So, I tuned in to my body, instead of chasing a pace on my GPS, and I listened to my instincts. “Can I sustain this pace?” The answer was “No” so I switched to a slightly slower pace and then said “Ahhh yes – there it is… this I can keep going!” And I did, with no idea I had won until I crossed the finish line when the tears started flowing.
All that training, all that work had paid off… I was going to KONA!