Saturday, October 16, 2004

KONA - 2004

Fig Newtons continued their involvement as the Official Energy Food of the Ironman World Championships in 2004, and the First American was very glad they did. Read why in Heather Gollnick’s Race Report………………

This year I decided to skip Ironman Madison, and the defense of my title, for the opportunity to get experience on the "Big Island" and the entirely different level of competition at the World Championships. The wind, the lava fields, and the heat – well I got a very good taste of it all, as it will go down as one of the toughest days in Kona History. Here is how my day went.
Race day finally came and I awoke ready to go. I was so glad it was finally here. I could feel the excitement within every athlete I spoke with. The look in their eyes, the nervous jitters, the fierce competition, and the love of this sport – it was all there.

It looked to be a beautiful day. I got in the water at 6:30am as the pros started fifteen minutes earlier this year, 6:45am. It was a much different feeling with the absence of so many bodies in the water, we felt like such an isolated group. As we all awaited the cannon, the entire pro field kept inching and inching forward in anticipation, and before I knew it many took off, yes before any cannon or "GO" before any official start!!! For a minute I was worried they would call us back, but I quickly realized there was no stopping now so I joined the fray. I was happy not to get punched in the swim but did swallow A LOT of water (made note to self to work on this) I got separated from the pack I was in and found myself pulling a small group out to the turn around boat. As we rounded the boat I let Karen Smyers take the lead and do some of the pulling. We kept in our small group of 5-4 until we hit the shores. We came out in 59 min. much slower than I had anticipated but then again it was just the beginning of a long day.

Having a separate swim start was a disadvantage for many of the women as there were so few feet to get on, but this turned to an advantage as we hit the road and found an open highway at our disposal. I was thrilled to get out on the bike and experience the mysterious Queen "K." Last year was a very calm year for the daunted winds. While on a training ride earlier in the week I mentioned to Chris Legh that it was kind of windy today, his response, "this is nothing Heather" boy was he right! Fortunately I was able to continue to tell myself that this was just what makes Kona special.

Thankfully I didn’t know just how "extra" windy race day turned out to be. I thought we would catch a tailwind on the return from Havi but as luck would have it the wind changed and I was going 12mph pedaling hard, downhill. Overall I felt great on the bike, strong into the headwinds, it was the cross-winds and sudden gusts which I found challenging. I passed a few women back into town.

I came off the bike in 12th place, and was the third American at this point. I was now looking forward to my date with the lava fields. I passed Karen Halloway by mile 2 to move into eleventh place but started experiencing some stomach trouble. I passed mile four, where last year’s patellar tendonitis forced me into walking a 22 mile marathon. This year however I caught a second wind and was pleased to be running injury free. Lisa Bentley passed me at mile 9; she looked great and went on to run the second fastest run split of the day.

I kept taking a steady amount of fluids, simply trying to keep it all down. I was successful most of the time. I knew however that I had reached a low point on the run realizing I was energy depleted. I also knew however that the official energy food "Fig Newtons" would not upset my stomach or go through me too quick. Simply put, I was so excited to see the Figs at the aid station. I grabbed six, ate four, drank some soda and kept moving. Boy did they taste great and the simple – complex carbs was just what the doctor ordered! At the next aid station I took three more. Not only did the Figs give me the energy I needed but helped my stomach return to something close to normal.

At that point I remember passing by two friends out on the course, Christine and Sonja. I even told them I did not feel so hot and thought about stopping. Sonja yelled "There aint no room on this race course for quitters," She’s one tough cookie. I was glad I kept going as one of my race day goals along with gaining experience in the lava fields was to learn to push mentally on this island. It is a very different Ironman with the elements involved. Fernanda Keller and Monica Caplan were ahead of me and I was looking forward to seeing what the time gap was at the energy lab. Fernanda had picked it up and was nine minutes up, the good news was Monica was just two minutes ahead of me and I was feeling strong. The bad news, Nicole Leder was flying by Lori Bowden who was also picking up the pace just minutes behind me. I passed Monica to gain position ten and first American, but was passed by Nicole and later Lori.

The last four miles I felt better. I’m not sure if it was because I got a fourth wind or because I knew I was almost finished. The finale 600m was incredible. The crowds cheering, the energy, Mike Riley calling your name. It was the first part of the day I really wanted to go on forever. I no longer felt sick, I no longer was tired, I was motivated and wanted the chute to last. Whatever it is about that magic carpet, if doctors could bottle it up it would change the world for sure. I was happy to complete my day 13th overall and the 1st American. This is a tuff race. Ironman is challenging to begin with but then throw in the elements. Congratulations to all those who started and to all those who finished.

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