Wow the road to Kona starts here. Winning my age group at St Croix 70.3 is my major goal accomplished for the year, or perhaps this is just the start. All week every 40-44yrs female I met were all saying the same thing, “Hawaii slot please!” However all of us knew we had our work cut out as Karen Smith who won 40-44 yrs at this race last year and ultimately finished 3rd overall at Hawaii was on the starting grid!
So I knew I had a big race ahead to beat everyone chasing the same goal. Quite a thing to have going on in your head that you’ve just travelled half way round the world and are toeing the line in the knowledge that winning is the only option.
Thankfully for me the main opposition although on the start list decided to stay at home, I think!!! I noticed this at racking on the morning, but as it was a randomly racked transition I wasn’t too sure. Come what may I just knew had to go for it as everyone was up for this race.
The 40+ women were the last to go, so with all the women ahead and plenty of men to catch it was always going to feel like a great race going through the field. There were 99 women starting overall with around 30 in my wave. By the time I hit transition I had passed most of the field, perhaps rising to 6th on the road overall. I had the fastest AG swim which really surprised me as I haven’t felt that great in training, but most likely down to bigger loads of running and biking. I felt really strong going out on the bike & unusually had adpoted wearing bike gloves to keep my grip on my TT set up handle bars down the fairly technical and bumpyish descents. During training on the course we had had the odd mishap, one of which including a gear end shifter popping out and generally loads of creaks which had taken us about 4 days to rectify. All our preparation went well for me as I approached the infamous Beast climb.
Unfortunately for Mike who had had an amazingly good swim, 2nd out in his wave and beat me on time (urgh!) he came to blows with a dog that randomly ran out at speed out onto the road. The dog basically took him out, over the handle bars smashed his helmet and twisted his back and groin awkwardly on impact. As I passed him on the roadside he was with a passerby standing up and looking at his helmet. We managed to exchange You OK signals and I understood a dog had been involved, so I just ploughed on thinking, he’s tough he’ll be OK!
At The Beast I had female company. I had passed Veerle D’Haese Belgium former marathon national champion in the swim in the 30-34yrs category and she caught me back up at this point and flew up The Beast en route to the best ladies bike split. I rode up it well putting out the same power average as in training but with a heart rate right up there for me! Glad to get to the top I really enjoyed the back 35 miles. It was so like being in Lanzarote with a strong headwind all the way on flatish roads with a final 10 miles that are quite lumpy. It was a hot, humid wind tunnel and that is what I came to experience. Very glad not to have eleceted to wear a TT helmet, I would have overheated for sure.
Coming into T2 mike had had a ride back on the broom wagon. I knew I was leading and had probably built up a good margin so was reasonably relaxed, however mike had spotted a bike on my rack and had assumed someone was up front. I took my time to change into new socks, I had worn socks on the bike after my hot coals experience in Florida. Really pleased socks worked, worth the time to put them on! Mike starting to sound a bit nervous, “come on babe you need to get going!” Luckily I hadn’t spotted the bike in the park so it didn’t bother me! It turned out the bike belonged to a DNF after the swim so wasn’t an issue.
Oh my goodness out onto the run. A really up and down course, in overcast but super humid conditions. I held it together quite well, it was really hot on the Buccaneer golf resort and at every aid station I wanted ice and water and got into the groove of sitting the ice in my visor and eating the ice to try and get my core temperature down. This was my first experience of perhaps what Hawaii will be like, most people with experience of both seem to liken them to each other. Seeing photos of myself at 12 miles I think I was in better shape than I felt so I could have been a bit tentative I have learnt a lot for the future that is for sure.
I ended up winning by 13 minutes and came 4th age grouper on time. I had the fastest bike and swim and 2nd on the run. I did notice that the higher ranked female age groupers ran far better than the men who we finished with. I.e. it looks like the men really overbiked and suffered on the run in the age group ranks.
The roll down was great I loved how they mixed the awards with offering the Kona and Vegas places, being early on in the season most people were taking their slots and roll downs didn’t go really far down. In my category I rolled down Vegas 70.3 as i have a slot as did Stacey in 2nd. Lynn in 3rd with 3 kids didn’t want to go because its just too busy for her and I am really pleased that Monica who i got to know in the week got to Vegas – lovely lady. In fact as we haven’t done too much Ironman yet it was like meeting a whole new group of people. I have a huge list of new friends and people to draw on in our build to Kona : had a lovely time with Mike, Alicja, Rafal, Peter, Timo, Veerle and Walter!
St croix was quite simply a trip of a life time. It takes 3 flights to get there including an overnight, but on the way back you go seamlessly back. We volunteered to step out of an overbooked flight on the way home in lieu of some compensation (good news for the Hawaii trip) and went home a different route to our bags arriving at the same time miracoulously. We took a flight from St Croix to St Thomas in a 10 seater plane. I sat in in the co pilots seat which was a wow moment. It is obviously water of a ducks back for the pilot but for us tourists to do this trip over the island was something special. Mike has a less than comfortable trip back and then we did our annual trip to A&E when we got home. Nothing too serious bruising to overcome and the usual cycle of physio and rehab ahead.
So now the road to Kona begins. Filipe was in daily contact consulting on our bike creaks, we got rid of them of course but at one point the advice was hit all the bolts and jut ride hard, so thats what we did. Once again the plan hit the spot despite my 10 day lay off at a critical point a few weeks back. We are now planning just for Kona and see what is possible as well as working full time, gonna be tough but we’ll enjoy it I am sure. THANKS to Mum for doing the airport run and to all friends and family keeping in touch and encouraging us on our adventure!