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written by: Sarah Keller
posted: 11/17/03

Ironman Hawaii was every bit as exciting as I dreamed.  And the pre-race experience was much more relaxing than I ever imagined.  We arrived on Sunday, 6 days before the race, and immediately swam the swim course and biked 60 miles of the hardest section, the turn-around at Hawi.  Wow!  How beautiful.  The water was a great 70 degrees and the salt buoyancy nice and comfy.  The rain forest after Hawi (not on the course) was spectacular, and full of green coastline and giant boulders.

The next day we rested, swam and ran a simple 40 minutes in the heat of the day, on Alii Drive, where the first 10 miles of the run would be.  Everything felt great.  Luckily, we had the playoffs to distract us.  We spent Tuesday doing another swim and a 40-mile easier bike.  Lots of wonderful meals at the Aloha Cafe, and lucious afternoon naps.  Other R&R activities included caddying for Jay's golf game in a bird sanctuary, a sunset cruise with the Inside Triathlon team, and snorkeling.

Before I knew it, it was THE DAY BEFORE RACE DAY.  Luckily, I had already meticulously prepped my bike, nutrition plan, and transition bags.  Nothing was up for doubt.  Lots of people were trying new things they got duped by at the Expo, but I was sticking with the TRIED AND TRUE.  The only new thing for me was a magnificent pair of Lu wheels I got a week before Nationals.

After my warm-up workouts, I ate my Last Dinner at 3 p.m., and snuggled up before a movie.  Soon, I was sound asleep and fresh when my alarm went off at 3:30 a.m.  RACE DAY.  Time to Rock n' Roll.  Jay cooked me breakfast and dropped us off at Transition.  I got marked, stashed a final PB sandwich (which never got ate) and tried to stretch and relax in the hotel lobby of the King Kam.

SWIM: At 6:30 it was time to go to the swim start.  I lined up with a bunch of other athletes, and soon jumped off the pier.  Although it was early, I wanted to get used to the water and away from the crowds.  The sun was rising and I felt calm.  The water was no where near as crowded as I feared.  After a Hawaiian prayer and drum beat, we left.  Everything felt smooth and rhythmic for the first half.  But by the turn-around, I had lost my pace pack, and was stuck behind a SLOW set of feet.  When i tried to go around them, I found there was no one in front and no bridge to the next faster set.  I was stuck with the slow-pokes, so a dreadful 1:17.

BIKE: Flying through the first portion of the bike course, I was averaging 20 mph at the 80-mile mark, and then hit some BIG HEAD WINDS.  At this point I was all alone so I had to fight my way back to Kona in wind and heat.  That was hard, but otherwise, I had an excellent bike experience.  The lava fields were cool, and the water blue, and my competition up ahead. 5:58.

RUN: Entering T2 with Cecily Tynan, my nemesis, I knew I would have to work the run.  Unfortunately, I did not feel as jazzed as I hoped I would, and my feet were killing me.  After a few hobbling steps, I started my shuffle-run, and soon picked up the pace.  By the time I saw Jay, he was so supportive, he convinced me I was flying, when I was barely managing 8:30 pace.  At any rate, it was all I could give, and I was dreadfully afraid I would stop or walk as I had done in other Ironmans.  I really did not want to that at Kona.  So, on out to the lava fields towards the Natural Energy Lab.  Trying to keep up the pace.  The pros were coming back now, and it was hard to see them so far ahead of me.  But I broke the race down into pieces, and told myself all I had to do was to get to the Energy Lab (mile 18).  Then all I had to do was run it (4 miles).  Clouds cooled us down by now, and I started to pick up a little speed.  But on the long highway back to Kona, although Jay was mountain biking alongside, I started to slow down.  I barely managed 9-minute miles into the finish.  Each mile seemed longer and longer.  Every muscle in my legs was killing me.  But the excitement of the FINISH drew me on.  Night was falling, and I desperately wanted to finish in daylight.  Now I was almost making my goal. 3:50.

FINISH: There were the bright lights, the bleachers, the finish!  Down Alii drive next to the water that we started in.  Finally I was here, and I tried my hardest to pick up the pace.  I couldn’t even sprint the finish, but was SO GLAD to cross that line.  11:14:59.  It was an OK time and a solid race, with no major mishaps, and no dropping out, walking, bonking, throwing up, or anything else.  I was really pleased.  Maybe next time I can go even faster.