Kona… where to even start with this blog.
When I did my first Ironman 4 years ago, the goal was simply to finish. I’d gone from a very un-sporty girl, I then suffered with some mental health issues and found myself in a bad place, to finding running and feeling like it changed my life (cringey, but true). I set my sights on completing and Ironman after being so inspired watching my Dad do Bolton, despite the fact I didn’t ride or swim.
After my first race and finishing 3rd in AG, the goal quickly shifted from finishing to chasing that Kona spot that so many triathletes dream about. The ‘Kona dream’ has sometimes felt like it’s absolutely taken over my life… it’s brought many disappointing races that should have been celebrated, and found me spending more money than I’d like to think about flying around for races… putting some serious strain on my nervous system and bank balance doing multiple races close together 🤣
I didn’t think any race or feeling could compare to accepting my slot in Taiwan – I felt like I’d achieved the goal just holding that Kona coin, almost that the actual race ahead didn’t even matter. I was so wrong!
We landed on Monday in Kona, and you instantly feel the energy of the island. I’d read about it, but I just wasn’t prepared for it to live up to/be better than the hype we hear about. Triathletes everywhere. So many lean bodies running and cycling up and down Ali Drive, and some serious views of a beautiful island.
The plan for Kona was to enjoy every second of it with no pressure to do a fast race time or finish in a certain place, so I wanted to do everything I could to fully experience it! The days leading up to the race involved swimming up to the Kona coffee boat and drinking coffee in the oceon, in the sun amongst lots of triathletes (as cool as it sounds), walking with GB in the Parade of Nations, swimming with Manta Rays, watching pros at Breakfast with Bob, and running in the famous Undie Run – literally amazing.
My activity levels and step count were definitely far too high for someone about to do an Ironman, but it was all so worth being a little more fatigued on race day!
Before I get into race day I need to mention the day before bike racking/bag drop – I didn’t think this could be a cool part of the experience, but It was! Every athlete has their own transition guide – mine just happened to be Simon Ward , which felt like a little bit of good luck to have someone from Yorkshire giving me advice before the race. I also got to stop and view dolphins from the transition area, which was amazing!
Of course I had no idea that the swim required a swim out to the start (because I’m never organised enough to study a course), which threw me off a bit – 2.4 miles is far enough without adding any more! It was quite tough being in the water waiting to start – the current was pretty bad so I got a lot of kicks to my shins. I positioned myself at the back and was lucky to find myself next to Britney who I qualified with in Taiwan, we both had the same “we can’t believe we’re here and get to do this” attitude so it was nice to feel relaxed and excited amongst some very serious girls!
The swim is always tough for me as it’s definitely not a strong discipline of mine.. it’s also the first time I’ve done a sea swim (not sure Taiwan counts given it was cut to 400m), so the current was super challenging!
The route was out and back, which was quite nice to get into a rhythm, and also amazing to swim in such clear waters – the whole time I just kept thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”
T1 was so well organised, I had about 3 ladies around me putting sun cream and Vaseline on me and helping me get ready – one of which made my day by telling me she follows me on Instagram and was just generally so lovely, which was a great note to start the bike on.
I was super nervous about the bike section – I really didn’t feel like I’d done enough training or long rides, I wasn’t sure I’d have the fitness, especially on a very hilly, hot and notoriously windy route. I’d almost convinced myself I wouldn’t even make the bike cut offs (I think I need to have a little more self-belief sometimes ). As soon as I got onto my bike I actually started to tear up! I’ve never felt emotional before on a race but I really did… I had goosebumps just knowing I was on the Kona bike course.
The bike lived up the expectations – really hot (see photos of how badly I burnt despite being caked in sun cream), some very crazy crosswinds up in Havi – which is a super long climb, and pretty hilly. As soon as I got into it I started to relax, I felt strong despite riding at a reserved pace. For the first time in any Ironman I actually pulled in and stopped at multiple aid stations – i re-filled my water and poured it over myself to keep cool. My aim was never to have a super fast race, I was more interested in definitely crossing that finish line and not having any disasters like over heating on the way.
There were a few very sketchy moments where I got blown into the hard shoulder in the cross winds – it was very scary but I really tried my best to keep calm and opted to ride in a much less aero position until I was out of the section.
Despite a REALLY tough day in the heat and winds, not pushing it as hard as usual… I was super pleased and surprised to clock a 6:21 bike – not my fastest by any means but one I was happy with given the conditions and everything else.
I was relieved to get to the run – I knew it was going to be hot and hilly, but at least there’s no chance of a mechanical and crawling is always an option if necessary.
The run is pretty tough as it’s basically just a long road surrounded by the lava fields… it’s very exposed and the black tarmac makes it even hotter. There’s a few steady, long climbs and you can see them ahead of you which makes it tough.
The run was so well supported – not in terms of spectators as people would cook in the heat, but the aid stations were so frequent and well equipped.
I felt super strong on the run, but still made the decision to walk through every aid station to properly fuel and cool off. I drenched myself in cold water, put ice in my cap and down my back… drank lots of coke and ate lots of crisps! Towards the latter half of the race my tummy started to struggle which meant a few stops, wasting a fair bit of time! I know this could have been an Ironman marathon pb given how strong I felt, but I was more interested in staying safe and keeping comfortable, it was the best Ironman run I’ve ever had even if it wasn’t my fastest!
The finish line was out of this world… I felt like an actual celebrity running down it and high five’ing everyone!! I’ve never felt more happy to hear the words “You are an IRONMAN” even if it was the 5th time over heard it… nothing was more special than at Kona!
I’ve had so much support leading up to this race… thank you so so so so much for every bit of advice, comment and message, it’s been incredible to share my Kona journey!!
Swim 1:20, bike 6:21, run 4:08