How do you eat an elephant?


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This race. The Super Bowl of triathlon, the World Cup, the Big Show... an iconic test of mind, body, and spirit in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This is where it all started. Ironman Kona is the championship race of the greatest triathletes in the world. It is the mecca of all TRIATHLON.

There's a few ways to qualify for the World Championship Ironman in Kona. Traditionally, an age group win at another Ironman lands you a slot. Beyond that there's a special group of passionate triathletes who work for many years finishing a minimum of 12 Ironman to qualify for their spot called LEGACY.
 
My journey began in 2010. As many of you know, I found running and triathlon as a defense against PTSD. Panic attacks and anxiety left me feeling alone, helpless, useless. I spent the better part of a year afraid to leave my house, afraid of food, medications, any situation that made me feel different or "weird"... I was basically drowning in fear. Running a local 5k race supporting our troops gave me air again. Each weekend, one run at a time, I felt my lungs opening and I was at least treading water. In short, making friends in this new community led me to an open water swim where everyone was training for their first sprint triathlon. I'd never legit swam in my life. I learned quick (well, "quick", it's relative) and before I knew it (2012), I was whisked away on a journey to Kona...

Over the next 6 years, I finished 15 Ironman around the world and applied for LEGACY in late 2017, securing a slot for 2020. I was hoping to race in 2018 but, waiting list. However in March 2019, I received an email from WTC inviting me to move my 2020 slot to 2019 - YES YES YES!! We put the rest of our 2019 plans on hold and headed into Kona training. Holy s*#! I'm going to KONA!

Luca and I decided that Jake and I would spend our summer in Ohio. My grandparents needed some full-time attention, training was safe and comfortable, Jake, family, friends... it all made sense.
Guys, these last months preparing for Kona have been WHOA... Right off the bat we were faced with: an ectopic pregnancy (yeah, I know, say what!?), a cracked (and later, broken and extracted) tooth, obviously the stress of caretaking, several major grandma falls, one disappearing grandpa, a locked up psoas, and finally, just a couple weeks pre-race, a 3 day stay in the hospital for we don't know why, potentially the passing of a gallstone and they found ground glass opacity in my lungs!

These last months preparing for Kona have also been WHOA... 2 weeks adventuring Ohio with my Luca, endless biking with Cheryl, working/playing on the farm, precious time with my grands, Ohio 70.3, the fair, time with friends, surprise party for mom, party for Jake, party for Nate, family dinners, baby cows, visit from Brittnie, visit with Amy, David's wedding, and all the miscellaneous shenanigans. And let's not forget: Skyline Chili and Casano's! Ha!! It's been amazing! Hard. But amazing.

Let's get to KONA already...

Kona

I arrive on Friday, Oct 4th and Luca has arrived a couple hours before me...LUCA!!!! It's been 3 months apart and my heart just melts into his chest.
The first thing that you notice when arriving to Hawaii is the intense heat and humidity. Wow, it's hot!  First goal: acclimatize! I started on Saturday with a 20 mile ride on the Queen K (this is the infamous highway we bike and run next week) and a short swim. So, our condo was right in front of the 2.4 mile swim turnaround buoy. That actually really helped me through the week! From the balcony we could see the entire course and everyday the distance got easier to swallow.

Kona

Each day after I did some short swim, bike, and run sessions.
The Ironman events officially began on Tuesday, Oct 8th, the same day mom and Bob arrived followed by Aunt Cheryl on the 9th. Tuesday is also the same day that Luca won a Garmin 945 at the Garmin/Team Zoot run! Annnnd now he has "Garmin buddies" - go figure!
Packet pick-up begins at 9am and I was there in line, ready. I'm SO GLAD I was; very emotional opening ceremony with the conch shell welcoming and volunteer cheers. The process was efficient, I signed half a dozen waivers, and choked up when she locked that KONA ATHLETE bracelet around my wrist. Although, I realize later... it's upside down! I couldn't breathe :O I lube my hand with soap, pry that baby off and flip it! Yes that happened! ...
From most Ironman, we receive a pretty awesome backpack but it's also pretty empty. This one was filled with goodies!! Triathletes love their swag ;)
Later we cruised the Ironman Village expo and attended the USAT party.
More of the same on Wednesday followed by the Legacy Event.
Lots of parties and events going on all week. Top brands set up booths, meet and greets, pass out swag, and celebrate. It feels very VIP and rockstar! Even bike brands are onsite to make sure your wheels are ready to fly. Zoot, Gatorade, Hoka, Roka, Cervelo... all your favorite tri names are there!

Thursday before the race is somewhat of an iconic day as well - the Underpants Run. This event actually began by the locals making fun of all the triathletes running around half naked (before tri kits, there were only bathing suits and speedo's) and protesting against wearing such in inappropriate places. Now it raises money for charities while athletes, locals, family and friends run Ali'i Drive in underpants, costumes, and bathing suits.
Following this event, Luca and I attended our Team Zoot breakfast. Ben Hoffman took us through a course preview (this REALLY inspired me) and the leaders of Zoot spoiled us with unique gifts.
Later, the athlete briefing - one of my biggest complaints: it didn't take place until 8pm!! Up until tonight we were pretty much in bed and probably asleep between 8 and 9pm. With a Saturday race, Thursday night dinner and sleep is the MOST important! Can we get this event earlier!?

Kona

Friday led us to bike check in. This too is a bit of a complaint - the process was slow and left us standing BAKING in the sun for WAY too long. A volunteer escorts each athlete to their bike spot and walks us through transition. This is annoying because, this isn't our first rodeo - we KNOW how this works, let us do it!! Not only did I not need an escort, but clearly she needed me.
Me: "This is super inefficient."
Her: "Well I'm sure they've discovered the most efficient way they can."
Me: "Uhm, no, they could let us walk ourselves to our bike spot like they do EVERY other Ironman race."
Her: "But how would you know where your spot is?"
Me: *Lisa looks sideways at her: are you kidding me!?* The same way YOU know where our spot is. WE ARE NUMBERED PEOPLE! WE ARE SET UP IN NUMERICAL ORDER!!!

Anyway, I'm locked and loaded.
An early dinner at home (thank you my Luca for cooking!!!) and early to bed...

Besides a few up and downs to potty, I slept well. I felt well rested. Waking up Ironman morning is... I don't know what word to use... "agonizing" is a little dramatic but let's go with that for now...
Just imagine the MOST NERVOUS you've ever been in your life and multiply it by 80,000! I want to vomit, I want to cry, I need to eat, I've pooped 7 times, I'm shaking, my thoughts are zooming uncontrollably in my mind, it's ROUGH! Fight or Flight.
The good news is, there have been races that I wake up ^ like this but also feel like, I can't do this. Not this morning. I'm nervous but I'm excited. I'm ready to be out there, to get this done - I'm ready to be an Ironman World Championship FINISHER.
Breakfast: oatmeal (few bites) and a turkey sausage, egg white, and cheese on a large english muffin. While waiting in coral, 3/4 of a banana.

Fast forward through the traffic, drop-off, the morning "flow" (which included half way gear bag drop, body marking, weigh-in, and access to bike), finding my coral, and losing my family for a little bit. A few different details from Ironman Kona and my previous:
  • morning flow. Most Ironman morning are a bit chaos. We all have the same tasks but it's not always so orderly. Very organized here in Kona. 
  • weigh-in. That was new! Each athlete is weighed in (and/but only weighed out if there's a medical issue). 
  • half-way bags. Most of the Ironman have an option to have a bag at the half way bike and half way run points (for extra nutrition, change of socks, or whatever you want half way!). I used it for the first couple I did, then never needed it, carrying what I needed with me. This time I used it to hold extra nutrition for the bike, sunscreen, and butt cream. On the run I put my shrug in it (in case I got a chill at night) and pickle juice. 
  • swim corals. For the first time in 41 years, Ironman Kona did an age group wave swim start (vs. the mass swim start it's always been). The pro's went first and then every 5mins, age group starts. Legacy athletes were in the final wave - the Kukui wave. 
    • The Hawaiian Kukui is a candlenut tree that symbolizes enlightenment. "Like the Kukui, these athletes represent enlightenment through their determined and inspirational journeys to the Vega IRONMAN World Championship start line." 
    • My start was 0730. 
    • Many were pissed about LEGACY being put in the final wave. The earlier you get on the bike in Kona the less wind you fight. We were hitting the road minimum 1 hour and 5 minutes after others. We definitely got the most brutal winds AND heat of the day out there! 
The canon blasted announcing the start of the pro men and then pro women. The conch shell indicated each age group start. One by one they swam off. Approaching our start (1 hour and 5 minutes from the initial start), pro's are coming out of the water - WOW! I was so impressed and just praying that I could do this too. p.s. it's still an in-swim start. Each wave had to swim about 100 meters to the start and then tread water until our official start <-- this scared the hell out of me by the way and I even practiced with Cheryl on Friday!

Now it's my turn. I'm repeating over and over, you can do this Lisa. You are going to do this. Nothing left but to get this done. You can do this... Splash, I'm in the water! I swim out to the start slowly and intentionally look toward the wall where I know spectators and my FAMILY are screaming at the top of their lungs. I instantly spy Cheryl and her clown hair and my Luca. YAY, they saw me!
I know there's between 5-8mins before we start so I continue my swim to tread.
The Kukui wave is awaiting our start, treading water, rolling with the swells and bouncing off the paddle boarders. The conch shell sounds and we are off! Except, there's a fairly large swell hitting us and we're taken back twice. It's okay, we're all sort of holding one another up and respecting space. I had a moment of Oh God, this is going to be rough and I had Los Cabos flashbacks (you know, that Ironman swim where I almost died!!) but it was okay and I start swimming. I'm almost immediately calm and comfortable. I think the in-swim start helped nurse my swim anxiety.

Swim Exit

The Swim. An Ironman swim is 2.4 miles (3.8km). Kona swim is a narrow rectangle: out out out and back back back. No one is ignorant to my fear of open water or lack of swim confidence. Even though I was (mostly) calm and comfortable, I was still scared and I wanted it done!
I'm a buoy to buoy swimmer to help manage the ginormity of the 2.4 miles. Unfortunately, the buoys weren't so kind. Sometimes they would disappear behind a swell and either I or the buoys were all over the place. Throughout I thought I was swimming a straight line, from one to the next. Looking at my GPS, what a mess!! You can see clearly at least twice that I was taken way out (probably w/a swell) and had to swim back. Mom and Cheryl heard this was the worst the water had been in nearly 10 years! Why yes, of course it was!

The salty water was crystal clear and I could see pretty much to the bottom the entire time. All throughout, the coral and ocean floor was staring up. At the farthest out point, it was too deep and nothing to see but still a beautiful blue. I didn't see any fish or animals - I imagine the first 2,300 athletes scared them away 😉 I did see a few swim caps floating around. I also spotted various landmarks along the coast noting how far down I had swam (recall, our condo was at the turnaround). Lots of water safety out there although at least twice there seemed to be none and I swam like hell to the next buoy.
I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed the swim course or not...
I think I'm indifferent and both in the moment and now, I'm just so glad it's done!

I ended up swimming 5,075 yards (2.4 miles is 4,224 yards) YES, that's an 850 yard difference!! YES, that's nearly a 20 minute difference!!!!!!! I finished the swim at 1 hour 48 minutes. I was not happy about the extra distance but STOKED to be out of the water and following our new Team TOA protocol, arms up, big smiles!! I wonder if I would have swam the 4,224 in 1:28!?!?!?!

Fresh water showers awaited us and tons of volunteers throughout transition. One of the few left, my bike was very easy to find. T1: 5mins 10secs <--- on fire!! Woo!!

Bike

The Bike. An Ironman bike is 112 miles (180km). Kona bike is along the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi and back. The most notable elements of the bike is the intense trade winds and the heat from the lava fields. No joke!! I think I was more afraid of this bike than the swim! All through training I pestered Cheryl over and over asking for more and more details regarding the course. The wind, the heat, the 5,000+ feet of elevation! Tell me everything! The best way to know? Go do it yourself! And now it's MY secret. Ha ha, just kidding, I'll tell you EVERYTHING:

I knew my bike would be between 7 and 8 hours (desiring a 15-16mph average). I guessed about right coming in at 7 hours and 37 minutes. But let's talk about it...
  • The best part of this ride was my attitude. I knew I needed to remain positive to battle the winds. And I did. And I did really good at it. I was admiring the island; these lava fields are mighty impressive! and the views of the ocean. The landscape was ever changing and so unique! Advice: stay positive!! 
  • At mile 23 the pro's were on their way back from the opposite direction which was a grand reminder that I was out here - on the same course, fighting the same elements - with the world’s top triathletes!!! and a flow of the entire field of athletes that followed. All 2,300 of them! Advice: especially if you're in the final wave, you are going to be behind the crowd, get over it!
  • It was hot. So hot!! Like if hell has a hell that has a hell? I'm cooking over a fire in July hot! And humid! Advice: train in heat, ALL the heat!
  • ^ despite, I managed my hydration and nutrition like a boss! I had to skip a few feedings due to holding on for dear life in the wind, but always picked right back up. I ate salt tabs, waffles, fig bars, and one Gu (but it was too hot and really grossed me out). Advice: choose heat resistant nutrition and have it all open and prepared. 
  • The wind. Let's see if I can properly describe the wind. There's a constant wind and it literally trades from the west to the east to the east to the west. But sometimes it trades to north to south or south to north. It would be at my back and I'm flying at 20+ mph and all of a sudden strong in my face and I'm going 9! I'm not kidding, that quick! But for a long time, climbing towards Hawi (which is pronounced HaVee) a strong side wind with even stronger gusts. Jerking from left to right was the situation. Luckily the course was pretty empty for me, the rest of the athletes already heading back to Kona. But many others were challenged with not being blown into one another! Other athletes saw a few wrecks (results of wind) but I did not. A few pro's had offered tips to "stay confident on the bike", stay aero even though instinct wants you to go up and hold tight. I stayed down, stayed confident, and stayed positive <-- key! I thought of it like a dance with the wind. Instead of fighting it, I was letting it gust by. I also held on for dear life though!! The wind was WAY more intense than I imagined. Advice: stay confident, stay aero, and wear bike gloves because you will be holding on for dear life! 
  • I stopped at mile 60 for my half way bag. I put on sunscreen, reapplied butt cream, reloaded nutrition, and chatted with a gal who I believe wanted me to tell her she should just quit. She was complaining of an injury and straight out asked, "would you quit or push through it?" HELL NO I wouldn't quit! Fight like hell! I have no idea if she quit or not. And frankly... well, my mind was on ME and MY success. 
  • Max speed: 37.9mph (61kmh)
  • Min speed: 5mph (9kmh)
  • Elevation gain according to my Garmin: 4,291 feet (1,300 meters)
  • It was on the bike when the clever joke, how do you eat an elephant? struck me... And over these last years, I realize, that's exactly what I've been doing. I tasked myself with eating an elephant... just an average girl snacking on an elephant, HA! and here I am, licking my fingers. 
  • Despite the hot, windy, tough course, I enjoyed the bike. 
T2 was just as fast at T1 - in and out in 5 minutes!!

Run

The Run. An Ironman run is 26.2 miles (42km). Kona run is an out and back down Ali'i Drive before heading up Palani Road to the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. Oh boy, the Queen K run... Then through the notorious "energy lab" and back to the Queen K for the return.
Starting out on the run I felt good. I mean "good", (like "quick"), it's relative.
Down Ali'i I (finally) saw my good friend Paul. This whole section of the run course was okay. Plenty of people and support, shade, and some light rollers. I was maintaining an 11-12min pace through here and just smiling. I was very happy. The swim was a success. The bike was a success. Just a few hours out here to go! Also found mom at the end of this section for some sunset photos. She's always so excited with me Ha Ha.

I was sort of alternating a slow mile with a... slow mile the whole way and definitely after the half way point spent a lot more time walking. The Queen K was the most mentally challenging run I have ever done! It's a VERY long stretch. It's VERY hot (even though the sun was setting now). It's not flat, but just steady long inclines. It's FOREVER long. And it's really really really long. <-- oh, did I already mention that? Yeah, well it's LONG!

The course was lonely and quiet too. And dark. There were sections of street lights, but mostly just dark. That part didn't bother me, but the emptiness was a mental challenge. Big time.
I thought the energy lab turn was NEVER going to end. Once finished with that section, you know you're headed home so...
But I would see an intersection coming ahead of me, the lights and such and I would think "that MUST be it" and within miles realize it wasn't. And then again, "okay okay, this is definitely it!" and it wasn't. And then I see the big solar panels; yeah that's it!! But arriving to that intersection, it's still not it. MOMMA MIA. It's an endless run! I'm stuck in the Blair Witch Project of runs!!

But alas, the energy lab turn came. What I thought was just going to be a quick in and out was what seemed like HOURS. It was a good 10k or so back there, pitch black, completely empty, deafening quiet, and still hot. Mom says, "When you were in the energy lab, it was like a time vortex, you were just gone! And you didn't emerge for hours." Oh, so it was hours. Haaaa!
I was aching to get to my half way bag (which was actually at mile 17) and I'll tell you why...

From being so hot and humid and therefore WET all day, I was chafed everywhere. EVERYwhere... I had my shrug in the half way run bag and I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. A bit TMI, but a very tender area was rubbed raw and I was planning my execution. I basically used a sleeve of my shrug and tucked it in my shorts protecting the area from my shorts rubbing it. Aww, I was able to run a bit after that! Thank goodness I had put it in the bag! Also had a (hot) pickle juice shot. Speaking of nutrition - I take a different approach to nutrition in an Ironman run. If I've managed my nutrition on the bike, I don't need much during the run (and can't even stomach much). I ate a few pretzels, a few chips, a few cups of broth, and one bite of a bread roll. I drank plenty of water, sipped some Coke twice, and took a few licks of salt early on.

My projected 14.5 hour finish rose quickly but I was also able to math up and determine that I could finish under 16 and then I thought that that was pretty cool, finishing my 16th Ironman in 16 hours so I kinda backed off myself and did what I could. My run was my longest to date at 6 hours and 21 minutes. That's a 14.33 (per mile) pace. Not very brag worthy but I feel PROUD!

finish line2

The final little jog to the finish is pretty rockstar. We circle the block before hitting the red carpet and at this point other athletes are finished and walking home and the course is clearing. EVERYone pauses to give you that final push though.
The final stretch, down Ali'i drive is the real magic...

finish line

Spectators line the chute and the crowd gets thicker and thicker. Music is pumping, bright lights, red carpet... I made sure the finish was mine and mine alone. I high-fived all the hands I could that were coming out at me. I threw my arms up to rev the crowd. I wanted to feel their cheers inside my teeth!! Give it to me!! I heard the clap clap, clap your hands, the stomping, the bells, the chanting, and that voice - "Lisa Johnson, jumping into the finish line, You ARE An Ironman!"

finish line3

I was thinking YES YES YES, I FUCKING DID IT! And it felt so rockstar! For that finish line moment, I truly feel like I won the race. And it's true, because I did win the race, MINE. An average unathletic country girl from farm life Casstown, Ohio just finished the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii! I proved to myself, to my world, to who ever it needed proven to, with the right determination... you don't have to be superhuman to do great things.

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It took me longer than most. Both in the sense that I did 15 Ironman to get here (while some qualify at their first Ironman) and it took me 16 hours to finish (the fastest was a course record at 7:51) but I did it. I set out on a journey to finish Kona before I turned 40 years old and I did it. Year after year I finished Ironman - Texas twice, Los Cabos, {Cedar Point}, South Africa, Coeur d'Alene, Arizona, Barcelona, Brazil, Vineman, Wisconsin, Cozumel, Netherlands, Italy and France. Each finish I couldn't believe I finished. Each race brought great lessons and enlightenment. Every Ironman was the hardest Ironman I've ever done. I found gratitude, humbleness, and discipline that I didn't even know existed.

Through Kona I felt very present, very controlled and intentional. I focused on keeping a positive attitude and remembering each moment. I reflected on this journey and how much I've grown as a human. I thought about all my friends and athletes and hoped they all know what huge impacts they make on me. For once, I knew I'd finish. I knew I'd walk away different. I knew this would be the hardest Ironman I've ever done. I feel grateful, humble, and I'm so proud of the discipline I sustained to make it to that finish line.

Paul was at the finish line to "catch" me and my family on the other side to hug me. Mom screamed in tears, "I'm so proud of you!" while Luca waited his turn to get kiss #3 ;)
I said, "I'm DONE! I'm done! I'm done X." LOL!! As in YAY I'm done, I made it... I'm done, holy shit I finished :O... and I'm done, like no more full Ironman, done!! 3 very different expressive DONE's.

And then I was rushed off fast. I didn't get much time to just enjoy that finish line before being dragged off to the athlete area. Other races, I've been able to get some photos with my fam and enjoy the environment - that was very different than other IM. And then once in the athlete area I was handed off to another volunteer who happened to be another friend of mine, Susan!!
And then I was alone. And that really sucked too - I wanted my Luca and mom and Cheryl to be with me. I was forced to a massage tent and then I was so lost. I had no idea where I was (location wise) and no idea how to get out and back to my family. I was in this really odd euphoric state and/but felt very vulnerable and misplaced. Finally I see Paul walking towards me again (whom my family had actually sent back in looking for me) - and he walked me through what's next - collecting my bike and gear. I was feeling so loopy and confused!

I slept only 3 hours that night. I think that's actually shorter than the shower I took after the race. Ha ha... Kidding but I did take a long shower. For one, it took a long time to allow the water to run over my chafed areas. If you've never let shower water run over a chafed area I'll tell you right now it's probably one of the greatest pains in life. Before the shower though, Luca made my favorite dinner to eat after an Ironman - Cup O' Noodles. It's like 'thank you God' in a cup. I replayed various moments of the race to everyone before they lost consciousness (how were they all so much more tired than me!?). I woke up to everything hurting. My earlobes down to my pinky toes - it all hurt. We spent the better part of the next day on the beach and refueling! We celebrated with mimosa's and fish and chips <-- weirdest post-race craving! The next couple of days we explored Kona - hiking lava fields, swimming with turtles, and sipping Kona coffee and beers. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

What's so unique about Triathlon and specifically Ironman Kona, from Legacy athletes, to age group athletes to professional athletes is that we are all racing the same disciplines, the same course, battling the same environment and the same conditions with the same love and passion for the sport TOGETHER.

Finally, this isn't a very spectator motivated course. There's one corner that we pass by 2-3 times on the bike and run but there aren't loops of excitement where your family is waiting every few miles. It's a very self motivated course. As an athlete, you are essentially alone, fighting your demons. There have been races that I'm motivated by helping another athlete. There have been races that I'm motivated by the crowd or my family urging me on. There have been races that I'm motivated by needing another notch on the post. But not Kona. I WANTED Kona and I kicked my ass for years to get it. Kona is clearly designed to test self - all aspects of SELF. And anyone who faces the challenges, conquers the elements, and finds that inner self is TRULY An. Iron. Man.

So, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Q&A Sesh: I think I mostly covered the questions but to be sure:
How did the championship differ from all the other races? Well, it was the championship! So all the top triathletes in the world were there competing. The environment and course is very athlete focused. More tri brands influencing gear/brand choice, more VIPs, more events and experiences, more swag. I actually got starstruck a few times when bumping into pro triathletes.

Did you feel the rise in competition lead to a different type of race? Better course etiquete, etc? Yes and no. There were far less "average" athletes out there so you had great competition. The course was nearly empty for me. I saw pro girls shoving one another exiting the swim. I can't speak for the etiquette on the bike or run because really I was pretty solo out there.

How did you do in the water? I know you were focused, but did you enjoy the glimpses of scenery? Did the scenery help you enjoy the course more? Answered in report.

This might be inappropriate, but do people who run those races go to the bathroom during the race on themselves? Answered on FB but yes. It's not really "on themselves". Definitely in the water and/but you really don't have a lot of anything coming out. Drips really. And me for example, I was soaking wet the entire race so I went on the bike. I just sort of stand and it goes away behind me. And then I rinse with a water bottle which is actually very refreshing! On the run I stopped at a toilet.

Did you accomplish what you set out to accomplish? Absolutely! Ironman Kona DONE!!

What's next? This is a fun question! I joke that Kona is/was my grand finale. It's not! I''m going to focus on shorter races for a while, 70.3's and bringing my run pace back up.
Luca and I would also like to start a family so that's probably going to be the next BIG next ;)

What was the worst moment and what was the best moments of the race???? The worst moment was probably fighting my tri shorts rubbing in one particular spot. I was very wet the whole race so this one spot was just rubbe raw. Running hurt so much I wanted to cry!
The best moment(s) were coming out of the swim. I knew it was a win from them on. And of course, the finish line!

Everyone really wants to know how many times you stopped to get a kiss from Luca? Answered in report but I think 2-3 times. It's not a very spectator friendly course.

Write about how your body was affected from this event compared to others... reference the elevation, recovery time, muscle cramps etc... Compared to the other IM, it was so hot. Very humid. I really focused on my hydration/nutrition to prevent issues. Near the end of the run my legs felt like they were going to cramp at any moment. I've never really had cramps before but I know it's like a Charlie Horse and I was borderline. The next morning I was very stiff, very sore. Yeah, everything hurt. But I can't really say that it's more or less than others. I didn't sleep well, super restless legs. My elbows were sore - weird! Dehydrated. And so hungry!! Still.

How many times did you say “This sucks” during the race? Not once!! (maybe once regarding the chafing)

DESCRIBE the feeling running towards Luca and family and hearing the chorus of chanters chanting LISA LISA LISA? Answered in report but great pride. I felt like a superstar, as if everyone was there just for me.

Was there chocolate in the transition?!? That was my fav part of one of yours before!! Ha ha! Love the chocolate trick!! Only in Gu form - YUCK! LOL

What did you speak to yourself along the way to keep going, stay positive, and do your best? Inner dialogue? I thought about where I was, how amazing to have gotten here and created this opportunity for myself. I admired the landscape. I thought about all my friends, family and athletes. I wanted to make everyone proud. If I veered off (negatively) I reminded myself that I never have to do this again if I don't want to, this is IT - the big one! I thought about the finish line and how fulfilling it would be. I tried to stay in each present moment and be very intentional about my actions/behavior.

What was the most challenging aspect of the race? I can name a few things here (the scary ass swim, the winds, the heat, the humidity, Queen K...) but the truth is, the most challenging aspect happened before the race, arriving in Kona and walking amongst this environment. I felt like I didn't belong or didn't deserve to be there.

Did you poop in the water? No way!! Did you hear that IM do that!?

Nutrition for duration - see race report

Is it hard to keep on racing? Do you ever say to yourself what in the hell am I doing?? Yes for sure!! You REALLY have to like yourself to get through an endurance event. This is why positive talk is so important.

The highs and lows of your journey and your race...at the end of the many years it took you to get here, was it worth it? Did it meet YOUR expectations? What would you have done the same and what would you change? I think many of these highs and lows were reported either here or in previous reports or FB posts. Kona met my expectations as far as ME reaching the goal I set out to reach. To do different: I would have maybe arrived a bit sooner, swam the course, acclimated to the heat better, maybe biked to Hawi. But really not sure if any of that would have changed the outcome. And in any case, it was success!!!

Your exact feelings and thoughts as you were running those last several hundred yards. How you pushed yourself through the tough points and most of all was it all worth it and why! I think I covered most of this in the race report. I felt incredible!! I talked to myself a lot! It was ALL worth it!!

Do you really not eat or drink for that long? No. See race report for nutrition details. If swim bike and run are the first three disciplines, nutrition is the 4th. CRUCIAL!! But I'm really only eating about 1,300 calories for the day. Maybe less. It's not much.

That's a wrap my friends!! Thank you all again for your support and love through these years!
I still can't believe I did it. Such an amazing feeling!!
Lots of fun Hawaii photos to come!!
Another special thank you to my momma and Aunt Cheryl (my Ironman hero) for training with me, coming to Hawaii, spending the day on the course excited and cheering, and throwing me an Ironman pizza party in Ohio. Love these girls!!

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