I didn’t really want to write this blog….which is why, for four-and-a-half weeks, I didn’t. Why dwell on failures? Why relive the pain?
But, there was something in the back of my mind that said that it was important to be honest, to be real, to get it out there, to process it. And I had enough awkward conversations involving tentative “so…..what happened in Kona?” questions that I figured I might as well get my story out there. So here we go.
|Pre-Race Swmming At Dig Me Beach|
Talking about October 11 isn’t easy because after weeks of re-thinking and recounting every minute of the day, visiting multiple doctors, asking anyone and every one with some semblance of expertise in this area for their opinion, I’m still not entirely sure I know “what went wrong.” I cannot point to a single decision I made that, doing it again, I would have made differently. I had a plan for the day and for the week before, I had several very smart people behind me who helped me put that plan together, and I executed it almost flawlessly. That’s what’s so mind-boggling, so frustrating. I wish I had over-ridden, or botched my nutrition, or done something stupid, because then I could say that was a dumb mistake, live and learn, do it differently next time. But I didn’t, and I can’t. Instead, I’m left with the very same sentiment I had in the med tent, once I’d come back to life and was able to talk: “But….I did everything right! How could this happen?”
That, I suppose, is the mystery of Ironman.
|Bike Check In|
Until mile 8.5 or so of the run, when things spiraled downhill very quickly, my day in Kona was unfolding fairly uneventfully. I was having a day that definitely was trending more towards mediocre than magical, but I was getting through.
The swim this year was split by gender, with the age group women starting 10 minutes after the men. From accounts I’ve read, the other women seemed to mostly appreciate this change. I wasn’t a huge fan. I actually don’t mind mass swim starts, and I loved my swim in Hawaii last year, when I just tucked into a pack of men of the same speed and chilled out, barely sighting and just going along for the ride. This year, I never found that rhythm, I never found a draft, I just felt sluggish, and every time I sighted, I saw lots and lots of pink caps pulling ahead. The water was choppy, I swallowed a ton of salt water, and I could tell the swell was slowing progress. But, I told myself to relax, be patient, the first hour of a ten+ hour day means nothing, blah blah blah. I tried to look around and take in the natural beauty of the Pacific. I saw a good-sized manta ray swim right beneath us and squealed a bit….there’s truly no place I’ve swum as beautiful as Hawaii and it gets me every time.
|Women AG Start|
|Favorite Sign on the Queen K|
I never felt great on the bike, or really even good, but getting off, I was very happy with my effort. I’d managed the winds. I’d paced properly and stayed within myself. After being in a bad mental state for the first section, I’d pulled it together. I’d followed my fuel plan and done everything I could to keep myself cool. As I dismounted my bike, I took a quick look at my average power for the ride and found that it fell exactly where we had planned. “Perfect,” I said, possibly out-loud. I really couldn’t have done anything better.
|Love this picture|
Except….I never pee’d. I didn’t count precisely, but my educated guess is that I took in 18 to 20 24 oz. bottles of fluid during that bike ride….and never pee'd. In the back of my head, I knew that was bad news. But I tried to ignore it.
It didn’t take long on the run for me to realize where all that fluid I’d drank on the bike went….it was simply sitting and sloshing around in my stomach. My gut had shut down. I looked several months pregnant, totally bloated. This was not good.
I ran OK for about 8 miles. Not fast, but I was trudging along, trying to problem solve, trying to stay positive. I stopped at a couple port-o-pots, I took Tums, I walked through aid stations and filled my top and shorts with ice, trying to find the right solution but not succeeding. My stomach just kept expanding and expanding.
|Not feeling good but still running OK|
Out on the Queen K, I swerved along, once opening my eyes to find myself about to run right into the press vehicles accompanying third-place pro Rachel Joyce, who was running the opposite direction in the final miles her race. I was in a weird enough mental state to find that almost amusing, thinking I’d just come pretty close to getting myself an appearance on the NBC broadcast after taking out one of the top pros.
Shortly thereafter, I swerved into a curb, and went down hard.
That fall was the last one. I couldn’t get up. Spectators and volunteers tended to me, trying to get me to sit up, but they had to hold me in the sitting position….I was too weak. No one really knew what to do, and while I was somewhat conscious, I couldn’t find the energy to communicate. One person forced me to eat a gel. Another poured water into my mouth, until I managed to muster the strength to say I’d already had more than 20 bottles and hadn’t peed, at which point they promptly took the water away and wouldn’t let me have any more for the 30+ minutes (!!!) I laid on the ground while waiting for the ambulance. I curled into the fetal position, then switched to face down, falling in and out of sleep, my cheek resting on the hot Queen K highway.
|My "nap" spot|
Medics finally arrived, and before they’d move me, they forced me to say, out-loud, and three separate times, that I “wanted” to quit the race. I suppose I understand the reasoning behind this rule, but the cruelness of that exercise….I can’t even begin to start. Of course I “wanted” to finish the race, but there was no way I could. By making me say it, by making me feel like DNFing was a choice when in reality it was anything but….that haunts me.
From then it was to the med tent, for a long, long time. Once I’d stabilized and returned to a human feeling, I was released to my family, who hustled me out of there, got me home, and let me stay curled up in tears in bed for the rest of the evening. Over the next couple days, I managed to pull myself together enough to enjoy the rest of our trip in Hawaii. I took comfort in so many messages I received from friends and loved ones, people who are closest to me, people I knew in high school but haven’t seen since, even people I’ve never met in real life. The outpouring of positive energy held me up, and to each and every one of you who reached out to me over that time….I can’t begin to thank you enough.
And I’d love to say that since I got home from Hawaii, I quietly moved on with my life and put it behind me. But that would be a lie. The disappointment, the anger, the frustration of having poured so much energy, thought, work, and desire into this race, only to fail….those emotions have overwhelmed me at times. They’ve made it hard to get out of bed on days, I confess.
Some days, I’ve been great, going about trying to solve the mystery of what happened, consulting doctors and experts, reading anything I can get my hands on that will give me clues, gaining energy from my quest for answers. But other days, it’s been tougher. I’ve felt anger, swearing off Ironmans, calling myself a failure, and seriously contemplating selling all of my triathlon gear, closing this chapter, and moving on with my life. And, maybe more than anything, I’ve felt fear…the fear that comes from not really knowing what went wrong, and thus, not knowing how to avoid it happening again.
These feelings are extra hard because I’ve never been fully comfortable with just how much triathlon means to me. I know, rationally, this is a hobby. I am not getting paid. I am an amateur, this is not something that should be this big in life….these are the things I tell myself daily. Move on. It doesn’t REALLY matter. It’s almost like I’m mad at myself for feeling. But to those of you who know me even just a little bit must realize, for me, it is more than just hobby. It’s so much more, and to me, it does matter. For better or for worse.
|Black Sand Beach|
I think I’m rambling a lot here, and this has probably come across as WAY melodramatic and silly. But, here’s the thing. It’s not all puppies and rainbows, and I think it’s important for me to go through this process of feeling (and to bring my loyal reader(s) along:)). I could come on here and say, “Kona was a disappointment, but I was so happy to be there, and I still love Ironman, and you learn more from the tough days and this has just made me stronger and ready to kick some butt!” but that's not me, that would be a big, fat lie and in the end, not dealing with it would make it worse. Instead, I’m letting myself feel.
And at the same time, I’m moving forward. I didn’t jump right into a true off-season the way I did last year after Kona….I kind of feared that if I did, that off-season would never end. Instead, I’ve kept training, a bit. My season’s not quite over yet. Things haven’t been all that pretty, I’ve had my break downs, I’ve quit in the middle of workouts, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every moment or even the majority of them….but I’ve kept moving because I have to.
As a wise person reminded me recently: “You can be a basket case, you can hate life, hate yourself, hate the process, hate failure, hate it all… but as long as you’re still moving forward, you still have a chance to succeed.”
And that’s what I’m doing.