Today (Sunday) was the last monster day of training for me before the race. The plan was to ride the entire course + run around 12 miles of the bike. This is something we at E3 Triathlon Coaching call "Race Rehearsal"
I started the day with the same exact breakfast that I eat before each and every race and also before each and every big training day. Train your gut and know what works for you!
Plain white bagel with peanut butter & jelly, banana and beet juice (Beet Boost powder in a cup of apple juice)
While my breakfast was digesting I prepared my nutrition for the ride. Training days like this are perfect opportunities to test and practice your race day nutrition, and hopefully this is something you don’t try for the very first time just couple weeks before the race.
6 Powerbar gels (I like to mix up the flavors and alternate caffeinated and non caffeinated gels, 5 rice potato cakes, 5 home made packages of PowerBar Perform, and whole bunch of salt stick pills (I take 2 every single hour) + lots and lots of water (not pictured)
I practice my race day nutrition (just like me pre-race breakfast) essentially every weekend on all my long rides & runs. You should too! I know exactly just what to take in every single hour, and I practice it! I really enjoy eating solid foods on the bike and hence the potato/rice cakes. The potato/rice cakes are simple, easily digestible carbs and they are salty so they also help me break up the monotony of constant sweetness. I do also take in ton of salt and that's because I am quite a bit of a "salty" sweater, which is something I know thanks to a series of sweat tests I have done with a company called Levelen . I really believe that knowing not just my sweat rate, but also sweat composition will help me step up my game here in Kona. I highly encourage you to check them out, and if you happen to be here in Kona, Levelen folks will actually be here as well offering sweat tests on the spot! If you are interested in reserving a spot, let me know or email Levelen directly at email@example.com
I finally headed out around 8:30am so roughly around the same time I’ll be out there on race day, and I started (and finished) right at the pier. I was also extremely lucky and thankful to have coach Jorge with me because otherwise I know I wouldn’t have made it. He carried all my extra bottles (between water and PowerBar perform) I drank at least 12, and also extra bottles of water that I could just dump on myself to cool off.
I have never had the opportunity to ride the course in training before, so this was absolutely awesome, but also very, very hard. It really made me appreciate all the aid station volunteers even more because without them (Kona bike course has aid stations every 7 miles), the carnage out there would be unreal. Not that Jorge wasn’t super awesome, but I highly underestimated the cooling the body down part until it was a bit too late.
I was pushing the pace from the beginning (a bit over IM race watts on purpose), and was able to stay very strong all the way to Hawi, which is the turnaround point. Sadly regardless of my strong power numbers, I wasn’t going anywhere fast! Madame Pele had brought her A game and the very strong headwinds with the occasional cross winds came out to play big time! It took me nearly 3 hours (2:56 to be exact) to get there, and I was ready to quit.
Climbing up to Hawi (check out the trees up ahead - no it wasn't windy at all ;) )
From lava fields to green fields
Quick pit stop at Hawi (I won’t pee on myself in training), and it was time to head back. At least I was hydrated!
The descend from Hawi offers some magnificent views, potential for high speeds, but also some very dangerous and scary crosswinds. The way to know just how bad the crosswinds will be is to check out the ocean. If you can see whitecaps, you are in for a treat. And no, not the type of a treat you would want.
All I could see what “sea full of white caps” and my heart sunk a little. Thankfully I still only had training wheels on, but even with those heavy wheels there were more than a few times I was really worried I may end up getting blown off the road.
White caps everywhere - death grip initiated
Regardless of my death grip, and genuine fear of the wind throwing me off the cliff, I always find that putting the power to the pedals makes me feel more stable and in control even if that means more speed. Plus I guess the faster you go, the faster it will be over? (I think that’s one messed up logic but one I went with).
The first 5 miles back from Hawi, I was averaging 30+mph which was nice to see after I had just spend crawling and battling the headwinds for what felt like all day. That didn’t last long, as the crosswinds picked up the further down I got, and the heat was rising! I was still moving fast, but not 30mph fast.
Just trying to get back to the Queen K as fast as possible!
Somewhere about half way down back from Hawi, I started to get super HOT! As in someone stuck me in the oven, and turned it on high! (Thinking back this has happened to me back in 2015 and essentially cost me a podium spot). I did stop somewhere along the way, and proceeded to dump an entire water bottle all over myself for the first time, which nearly 70 miles into the ride was just a too little too late and kept me "cool" for about 2 minutes. (Aid stations with ice cold water every 7 miles were dearly missed)
The cloud cover was non existent, and the heat was radiating of the blacktop. It was so hot that when Jorge kneeled down to take a pic he burnt his knee! Any skin that was exposed was on fire less than 2 minutes after I hosed myself with water. I was seriously wishing that Castelli would make a full stealth body suit – I would have worn it!
That sunscreen didn’t stand a chance and I am now wearing a permanent watch, 3/4 length sleeve shirt and cycling shorts!
Overheated at its best, I made my way back to the Queen K, which put me at about mile 80. I did have somewhat of a tail/cross wind with the now only occasional headwind on the way back into town so I kept making up time even though my power has now dropped a bit. I was dreaming of snow, and kept telling myself I was cold! I am always cold, so you know it was hot! I was somehow trying to get my mind stop thinking that I may melt any second. I tried staying aero as much as possible, and although I am super comfortable on my speedy QuintanaRoo PR6, aero meant that my face was way too close to the pavement which just meant more heat I didn't need!
Melting one pedal stroke at a time
I was still moving at over 22mph but it wasn’t fast enough. Sherpa extraordinaire had stopped along the way to grab some water, and didn’t even blink once when he dished out $15 for 3 gallons of water! I love Hawaii but that is just WRONG! When he caught back up to me with freezing cold water, I wanted to hug him but because he wouldn’t let me get in his air conditioned car, I didn’t ;).
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and as a result the views were beautiful! (but perhaps one could actually enjoyed them from that car)
Just me, my own HOT thoughts and the Queen K
Are we there yet?
I made it back to the pier in 5h16 min which means I made up ton of time coming back, but I was just cooked. As in fried by the sun!
The thought of a 12 mile run and further baking wasn’t appealing at all, and I just really thought that pushing through that would have put me in too big of a hole less than 2 weeks out from race day. I ended up doing 4.5 miles and to my surprise felt absolutely amazing. My legs felt fresh, my HR has finally seemed to settle (it was 10+ bpm higher during my 20 mile run couple days ago), and it also meant that regardless of the extreme heat, wind and humidity, and overheating on my part, I did a great job on my nutrition, hydration and salt intake! Thank you Levelen!
In the years past, I would have kicked and screamed and ran myself into the ground to prove myself that I can, but I knew today cutting the run short was a SMART decision. It may have taken me a few years, but I have learned to really listen to my body and know when to push and when to back off.
After such long day it was time to refuel and relax a bit.
Dinner hit the spot
And I followed that up with a little R & R by the pool while watching the sunset! Not a bad way to finish of a monster day!
I could get used to this
Another magnificent sunset that this iphone doesn't do any justice
Of course the day wouldn't be complete without a proper snack, and time in the boots!
Papaya filled with a cup of plain greek yogurt into which I mixed a scoop of chocolate brownie topped with my now favorite local granola! Get in my belly!
What a day, that brought a roller coaster of emotions, but one I am extremely thankful for. I have learned even more about the course than I thought I could, and I am walking away from today more confident than ever, and ready for race day.