Hi Family, Friends, Frontrunners and Tritons, It was an "earth shaking" experience. Managed to get to Kona and everything was operational...rental car was available and condo had electricity but no ac. Oh well, blessing in disguise because my coach recommended that I stay out of AC anyway.
Treading water at the start of the World Championship Ironman, my nerves have calmed now after the crescendo of anxiety that peaked about fifteen minutes ago in the controlled chaos of final pre-race preparations. Right now time seems to stand still. My mind is reviewing the events that brought me here.
I love triathlon. The multi-sport lifestyle: the hours of training, watching my diet all the time, lifting weights, swimming for two hours, biking for a full seven hours. Running. Doing the Westchester Olympic distance Triathlon and then doing three hours of biking later that same day. Ironman Lake Placid, where I had such a great time, I’m smiling in all the pictures because I was smiling all day and into the night. Once I found out I qualified from my place at Lake Placid, I knew that my dream of going to Kona was coming true. And soon!
I hired a coach. Josh Gold helped me plan my training, gauge my progress. And he pushed me beyond my limits. Josh had asked how I felt after the finish at Lake Placid and I said “I felt great!” and he replied “Then you didn’t go hard enough.” So Josh made sure I went hard in the training. I asked around about shipping my bike, got accommodations near the Kona race site. Anyone I met who had done Kona, I asked about the wind on the bike course. Everyone said it was over-hyped, not that bad. I met a 61 year-old who had fallen in the dark on the run and broken her finger on the lava. She had the finger set and taped, took ibuprofen and finished just fine.
Boarding the plane at Kennedy, I knew I was as ready as I could be. During my planned layover in Los Angeles, I got an early call from my sister in San Francisco. “Did you know there was an Earthquake in Kona?” I thought she was kidding. It was real. Now my nerves started to kick up. Should we just stay back? Would they cancel the race? Flights were delayed, but soon rescheduled. Reports came in, the airport was fine. We flew over, arriving in the dark. In the morning we found the Island intact, beautiful, hot and humid. I began following my training plan for the final taper week.
What a nervous week. I couldn’t enjoy all the hype and excitement going on around me. There were superheroes everywhere and that can be very intimidating. I just kept my head down and stayed focused on my own triathlon. I got in the water every day to get used to the ocean. I thought the bike would be my nemesis but it turned out the swim was the biggest challenge. I was seasick even after taking my regular remedy of ginger tablets. The heat and humidity were something to be reckoned with. I was not going to get upset or angry at the conditions… I had to learn how to be one with the Island.
During a training run I caught a ride with an Island resident who kindly inquired about my training and upcoming race. I mentioned my trouble with the water and she told me, if you believe in our spirituality, talk to the Ohnu, the turtle spirit of our Island.
Starting gun goes off bang!
With the help of my ginger and talking to the Ohnu (sea turtles......suggested by a local) I was carried thru the swim. I got out of the water turned around, scooped up some water in both my hands and kissed it. "Thank you Ohnu".
Onto the bike the winds were not too bad. In my training I learned to stay light on the pedals with high RPMs. The bike was lonely and desolate for hours...so....I sang to myself(my repertoire consisted of singing the "Lord's Prayer", Allelujah Chorus (Alto's part) and then trying to remember all the verses for "She'll be comin' round the mountain"! After the turnaround, no....not mile 56 but 60 (what's up with that?) it was "YeeHa" down the mountain...but, watch out for those cross winds. Respect the wind because she'll blow you right off the bike. I watched the person in front of me and if I saw him being blown, I just braked a bit. I was really happy with my time on the bike. Oh, real food(such as pretzels, bagel/peanut butter), Accelerade, water, Gu, energy bar and SALT TABLETS. I think the pretzels and bagel soak up acid in stomach and helps in digestion. Works for me!
What a freakin' long walk to transition tent and I had my bike shoes on. Finally I stopped and took them off. By the way, tent volunteers were terrific. You can't be modest in Ironman. Changing all yours clothes gives you a fresh start. On to the run and again managing the conditions. Finding what works on the run was more of a challenge but fortunately they had good choices on the run...crackers, pretzels, Gatorade, oranges, soup, Fig Newtons, etc. and.....taking SALT TABLETS. Barbara said, "If you feel like you're stomach is bloated and sloshing around, take another salt tablet". Well, that did happen to me so I followed her advice and it worked. Can't say I felt great on the run because my stomach was always a little yucky but I managed to run about 85-90% of the course. This, too, was dark and desolate out on the Queen K highway. All I could see was light stix coming and going until I came to an aid station and then it was "Party Time". Yep, those locals really know how cheer you on with music, loud speakers calling you in, dancing....I wanted to stay and chat but had to move on to the next party. I managed to stay status quo for a while even with a yucky stomach but I accepted it and trotted along. It was all working right to the finish line and then.....I'm a few blocks from finish, I take off my hat and start swirling it around in the air and the crowd was going crazy and the more crazy they went the crazier I got. I ran into the finish like I was a pro winning a race, going from side to side high five-ing everyone and throwing my hands up and smiling and laughing with delight. I am very pleased with my time and being 11th out of 22. After the Awards Dinner I think I have a shot at the podium when I'm 60.
Aloha and Mahalo, Kona Jo
Ford Ironman World Championship
October 21, 2006
2.4 mi. swim – 112 mi. bike – 26.2 mi. run
Joanne Dondero 14:41:26
swim 1:42:30 bike 7:26:56 run 5:17:35