Highs and lows of sport - Kona 2017
This will be my hardest blog to write to date. I think it's important to share the rock bottom moments in sport - because essentially, that is sport. It can provide you with the highest of highs, but it can chew you out and spit you back out. And unfortunately, my only (besides mechanicals) DNF in my whole athletic career to date, happened to be at my Pro debut and Kona. And trust me, there have been dark points in my racing career that I have nearly binned it - including IMSA and IM Bolton this year. But this time I really didn't have an option to plod on.
Firstly I wanted to talk a little bit about the positive experience I've had in Kona. If you've followed my journey on social media in 2017, you will have got the gist of it. I've mega mega enjoyed sharing my process to qualify this year, how the points system works, heath chamber sessions at the University of Gloucestershire - which enabled me to feel comfortable when getting out to Kona. My video/interviews and snap shots of our time in Kona. The lead up to the race was one of the best experiences of my life, and loved every minute of it.
Otherwise here's a few little amazing parts from my Kona journey:
-As if you swim with dolphins in such a peaceful, natural environment. Absolutely stunning (in Captain Cook)
-I knew Kona was iconic, epic, a whole new level of experience to any other race. But really, until you're out there, it's hard to describe the epicness of it
-Being surrounded by so many inspirational athletes - Agers - Pros
-Volunteers were bloody awesome.
-Parts of the island are stunning
-Media around the event was epic - you can see why this island and World Championships is a sponsors dream
-End of the World jump was pretty scary but awesome
-Absolutely honoured to be here as a Pro athlete
For those who haven't been to Kona, want to qualify, or generally those interested in the course who haven't been:
-More often than not - will always have some chop
-Gorgeous water with turtles and fish
-Non wetsuit, 1.9k out, 1.9k back in warm water! Very salty
-Slow swim times
-For pre race training - you need to time when you go, one morning I could have sworn all 2,400 athletes were swimming at one time - with no swim regulation / clarity of direction
-TBH this was the worst part for me (bike training whilst out here), I'm used to quiet roads. Here you're along a highway, with a lot of traffic and athletes. I will be definitely getting a turbo for the next race here.
-The course (on race day) suits me. Challenging winds, soul destroying boringness of the course does suit the mentally tough. You do literally ride out and back along a highway in high winds, heat and humidity, and it's verrrry lonely. Essentially 112miles in a hair dryer.
-Be aware that pre race training - the cycling 'lane' so to speak is filled with loose stones, glass and some nails. So bring lots of puncture repair kit out, and a new set of tyres for race day
-Some of the course does provide gorgeous scenery - very iconic.
-Oven, challenging, 50% epic crowds, 50% lonely
-Long stretch on Ali Drive (out and back), up Palani Hill, long stretch on the Queen K, Energy Lab, back along Queen K, 2k home
On the whole this course, conditions and everything it brings is like no other race. I'm already mega hungry to come back and perform here. This will be my motivation for every single winter session coming up.
My race day:
Bare with, this is all still very raw. I wanted to leave this as long as possible to write, but it's eating me up, I'm not sleeping and wanted to at least jot some emotions down on here. I'm an honest person, and believe we should talk about the hard times, and the times we fail. It builds us and makes us stronger in the long run. And appreciate the days when it all comes together. Trust me, I'm already dreaming of this in 2018.
-Swim - Epic, had a great swim, although in the swim I did take on a lot of water, and came out pretty hot. I felt waves of dizziness in the swim, but put that down to the chop. I did have to work very hard to sit on the back of the pack, but I'm very proud to exit on 58mins, in those conditions. My swim is definitely heading in the right direction.
The day ended there for me in terms of racing.
-Getting onto the bike I knew something wasn't quite right. I really struggled to put out any kind of relevant race watts. I know watts are varied in Kona, but trust me, not this varied. I lapped my watch 45mins in hoping for a fresh mental recharge. Didn't happen. Only got worse, and by worse, around 80 watts off of goal pace. Off the garmin went
-I had to dig mega deep to even get to the half way point.
-My legs were screaming. I wasn't even hitting easy riding watts now, but felt like 70.3 pace
-Fluid was going down fine, but some came back up.
-By 30miles on the bike, I felt empty, exhausted, drained
-My emotions were running pretty high, it's not easy to jump on your bike, after setting up the day perfectly in the swim, but also your favourite and strongest discipline, to have absolutely nothing to give.
-I tried my best to keep mentally strong, keeping in the zone, but by half way I looked down and was shocked, my whole legs and arms had completely swelled up. Completely confused as to why, I kept my head down, trying to churn out some kind of speed. Nothing happened.
-30miles to go, I knew I was in a hole, I started to cry a little, my body had literally crumbled at this point. I wasn't particularly hot, just empty
-Trying to keep positive, imagining getting off of the bike and feeling good for the run. This fuelled me to T2
-The volunteers (were amazing), sat me down, cooled me down and noticed the swelling.
-I felt lonely, isolated, emotional
-I cried with the thought of failure. On reflection I wasn't in a healthy place to start the run, but I wanted to try, a DNF was not good enough
-Out I plodded, aiming to get my core temperature to stay low
-Within 3miles I felt dizzy, couldn't even walk in a straight line
-Everything was spinning around me
-Then slowly the body couldn't take anymore and down and out I went. Asleep in medical for 2hours. My HR was at 166 for 70mins and I got really cold. I've never ever experienced this kind of failure in a race before. It's not a place I want to ever visit again, I was scared of the state I was in, and on reflection was so sorry for Bex and the three lovely people who helped me in this state.
How does a DNF make you feel?
-Horrendous, failure, empty. It brings sleepless nights (along with jet lag - not a good combo). You ask yourself, could I have carried on? But nope, there was not an ounce left of me to give. I left my heart and soul on that course. Kona won this time, but I will be back stronger!
-I've been to dark places in IM SA this year and got to the line regardless of my pre race illness which came on the night before. But I was still able to plod and walk to that finish line, although sometimes this isn't the best decision as I was ill for 3.5 weeks after IMSA. But here, there was just no chance of even holding my body up. I'm still not really sure why my body responded this way at the beginning of the bike. My heat prep went so well, I was running and biking strong pre race. I'm not going to list excuses, but I have a lot to take away and learn from to build me into a better stronger athlete for 2018, and coming back to Kona.
The other downside to a DNF means I'm on absolutely ZERO points for Kona Q in 2018. But I'm mega fuelled for the 2018 racing scene- to qualify and compete.
What failure does teach us:
-How to get back up when you're rock bottom
-Set some short and long term goals quickly
-Surround yourself with positive, amazing people
-Go and see some new places and explore
-Man up, get over it, and move on, if you can't deal with failure in sport, don't even start. It's just a diversion to greatness, and our dreams and goals
So that's my long winded story. But whilst I was pants, other athletes were amazing. So many inspirational stories, from GB AG athletes - finishes and podiums, to 2xGB Pros on the podium, to other Pros having an ace day. We watched the finish line and other athletes smashing it out there once I came around. It was so inspiring to see, so a massive congrats to everyone. You're all amazing!
I'm motivated to show the work Rob has put into me this season, and this will get me through the winter months. I couldn't be more thankful to Rob for qualifying me in my first attempt at Kona Q, improving my racing, fitness and Pro profile. A coach isn't designed to just write programmes. In all aspects Rob goes above and beyond, knowing me inside out as an athlete, challenges me, keeps me engaged and motivated all season. The list is endless and not enough thanks even comes close to what he's put in.
Just a final note to say thanks to the amazing team; family and friends. I've had so many private, and on social media, messages. You guys rock. My sponsors - fundamental in my journey and I have particularly close relationships with them, and means a lot to share my Pro journey with you all: