Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sorry Kona...though I do still Love You

Editorial comment: yeah, yeah...I realize having to make a decision as to whether or not to race the Ironman World Championships is a good problem to have.

Sunday was a superb day. I executed a good race and the placement fell in my favor. I finished as the top amateur in an Ironman, which has been a goal ever since Coeur d’Alene 2011 when I finished as the second amateur in an Ironman. I’ll write up a race report once I’m able to organize my thoughts about my 10 hour and 16 minute day. But first I wanted to address something that a lot of people have had questions about since I turned down my Kona spot on Monday.

Fond memories from past races in Hawaii: Body marking, the epic swim start, and pre-race relaxing

First of all, Ironman is HARD. It’s hard mentally, physically, emotionally. If there is anyone who tells you otherwise, they are LYING. There is nothing about the training, racing, or planning that is really that easy. When I woke up on Sunday, I was excited about the race, but I also knew it would be a long day with an even longer recovery. I raced Coeur d’Alene followed by Kona in 2010 and 2011 and it made for very long seasons with August and September being especially challenging. It can be so challenging that if I pushed it too much, I’d worry about burning out. There are also weeks during Ironman training when I'm sure I'm not the most pleasant person to be around; I feel like I turn into a monster. I talked through some of my options with my coach prior to and after the race and she told me that the decision was entirely up to me, but also that I could always go to Kona and not try to make it an “A” race. Still, I don’t think my heart would have been in it if I was basically just going for fun.

Secondly, if I committed to racing another Ironman this year I wouldn’t have the time or flexibility to spice up some of my training and focus on some of my weaknesses. I want to be able to swim more times per week and also work on my bike and run speed. I feel like my endurance is there, which is why I still think Ironman is a great distance for me. But sometimes, and I realize this isn’t necessarily my case nor the case for everyone, but sometimes racing long and racing a lot can make your training and fitness stagnant. I needed to look at the bigger picture and decide what a Kona build and a Kona recovery would do for my fitness and athletic goals.
And third, I had to look at the really big picture, like the fact that I want to be able to visit my dad this summer and not feel like I also need to fit in long brick workouts and rides when I’m in Minnesota. I want to crew for my teammate at Ultraman and not stress out about fitting in my own workouts when I want to pace him to do well on the run. I want to do some later season local races that I haven’t been able to do in years and also try some new races. I’ve been racing 2 IMs per year since 2009 and basically I just wanted to give myself a freaking break. It’ll give me some time to decide that if pulling the Pro Card trigger in 2014 could be in the cards.
Ironman Hawaii is an amazing experience and I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to race it - twice. I recognize that they don’t just give away Kona slots and I’ve been on the losing end of badly wanting one and not getting one more than once. I’m sad that I will miss the magical vibe that takes place on the Kona coast and meeting up with some triathlon friends. Going back to Kona this year would be fun and it’d be great to hang out on the big island in October, but I’d be going just to go and it wouldn’t make special. I don’t want the allure of Hawaii to wear off with just a mediocre race or one that I can’t get excited about from the beginning of training until race day. I do hope to go back some year, but it will have to be a year when it aligns correctly with my goals. And if I’m lucky, it will also fit correctly in my life.
My season is far from over and there will still be hard workouts and tough races and big goals. But the long rides won’t be quite as long and the race recovery won’t take as many weeks. And I think in setting up these new race plans, I will have more fun and reach new fitness goals. Once I feel recovered from Sunday (give me some time), I’m excited to start training. Thanks to everyone who helped me make this decision (especially Sydnie, Kainoa, Mom, Dad, and Gerry). I think I'll be a lot more fun to be around without Kona prep looming later this summer. Mahalo.     


  1. Yay for you, Cathleen! Congrats on a great result, and bravo for the ability to turn down something great for something(s) even better! Sending you, your dad and the rest of your family my best! --Kendra

    1. Thanks Kendra! The only bummer is not being able to visit with all the tri friends who will also be in Kona this year. Cheering for you from the West coast and sending your dad and family my best, as well. -CK

  2. "I don’t want the allure of Hawaii to wear off with just a mediocre race..."

    Did someone say "mediocre"? Saying that word summons me like a stumpy-legged genie.

    In all seriousness, I really respect what you're saying here and I think it's really important to find the balance and make sure this hobby remains something you love. Give some time to your family, friends, and the fun things you always feel you're giving up when you commit yourself to this ridiculous sport. I've missed racing this year but I've also kind of enjoyed the break -- it makes my return this fall and next year that much more exciting as I'll feel more focused than if I had continued to go all-out with races post-Canada.

    1. Thanks Rebecca! It's nice to mix it up a bit every now and then, whether it's with a break, different races, or just more time with friends and family. Speaking of, we should definitely hang out soon!

  3. Basically what you're saying is it's time to start prepping for the beer mile, right?