I appreciated the question, mostly because it really made me ask myself "seriously, why Kona?!" Why not focus on races that are closer to home, that are less expensive, that don't require a ton of racing to qualify for, where I have a hope of walking away in the "black" instead of the "red"?
I was pretty sure I knew the answer to that question before the race, but after the race, I REALLY knew the answer. Which, in short, is the simple fact that Kona captivates me. Sure, it doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons. But for THE MOST IMPORTANT reason, it makes all the sense in the world. Kona excites me. It is a race that I dream about. The challenge of getting there motivates me beyond belief. And I don't necessarily feel that same way about other races/goals. I realize it's not the same for everyone, of which I truly respect. But for me, Kona is the ultimate. And as I tread water in Kailua Bay, with 35 of the best female long course triathletes in the world this past Saturday morning, my answer to "why Kona" was solidified. It was one of the most terrifying, electrifying, amazing experiences of my life. And I won't soon forget it. I will surely need that memory to fuel me through the hard days, when I'm trying to qualify again for next year's race.
I finished 27th. Yep, pretty far from that top 10 finish (36 minutes, in fact!). But in my mind, 27th isn't that far away from 25th. And 25th isn't that far away from 20th. And 20th isn't that far away from 15th. And 15th isn't that far away from 10th. Who knows if I have enough years left in the sport to accomplish all of these jumps, or any of them, or even if I can qualify again and return to Kona next year. But my answer to "why Kona" is, you must pursue in life what truly scares you, and motivates you, and what you dream of, and what enthralls you. And Kona is all those things (and more) to me.
As for the race itself, I had what I would call a "solid" day. Nothing spectacular. But also nothing bad, either. Despite a slow swim time, I swam with a group of women that I would not normally be able to swim with. And I learned that even in the World Championships, people will backstroke if they no longer want to do the work up front. So yeah, I was the sucker and pulled my entire group in from the turnaround. Of course this made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER to me, because I was BY FAR the weakest swimmer of the group. But hey, I just wanted to get out of that water as soon as possible and that seemed like the best option to do so, at the time!
Of the 3 years I've competed in Kona, this year was the toughest in terms of conditions on the bike (and swim also, actually), as the wind was WHIPPING up a storm at Waikoloa and on the ascent to Hawi. Like "stop you in your tracks" type of headwind with a good dose of "knock you off your bike" crosswinds. One of the biggest highlights of my day was getting to ride with Natascha Badmann, a true icon of our sport and one of my heros growing up. She is every bit of awesome that you hear about. And in fact, when I missed a bottle at one of the aid stations, she rode up next to me and asked if I was okay and got everything I needed. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe. When she passed me for good she encouraged me to "keep up the speed, let's go, let's go!" I haven't known too many of the other pro women to be to chatty while racing so I was loving it. Natascha, by the way, is 47 years old and had one of the fastest bike splits on the day. Epic.
|Look at that snazzy QR!|
|It's all fun and games on Ali'i.|
|And then you climb Palani and the real work begins on the Queen K.|
When I was finished I was happy. Happy to be there racing as a pro, especially considering my relatively significant injury in the spring. Happy to have finished a solid, safe day. And happy to have the experience and all the learning that went along with it, in my back pocket. But I certainly wasn't satisified. And so it begins. How will I get back next year and improve upon 27th? Only time shall tell...
|Found these two jokers to sit with at the pro meeting. Another thing I learned about Kona? There is a LOT of hype. Like, a lot. The pro meeting alone was a zoo!|
|Got to meet many of my QT2 teammates, Bruce included.|
|Kona is pretty spectacular.|