I promised myself that this year in Kona, I would not get too wrapped up in performance and I would enjoy the experience and the opportunity. It was very important to me to keep perspective, to remember everything I had achieved this year, and that the opportunity to race in Kona was from the culmination of a lot of hard work and a little luck. Sure I had some goals going into the race, but I knew I wasn’t going to win, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be in the top 5, and I would have had to have the race of my season to crack the top 10. And so – I took the pressure off and enjoyed my experience. I didn’t get stressed. I tried to soak in what it meant to race as a pro in Kona – from the sponsor events, to the pro meeting, to the press – it was so unique and so vastly different than what I went through as an Amateur in 2011. It gave me an even greater appreciation for the performances put up by the top pros after factoring in so many media and sponsor obligations that are fit in to already hectic race preparations.
My race – well it wasn’t great. But I have never committed myself emotionally more than I did in Kona this year. I have never cried at the end of a race, but when I crossed the finish line 10 hours after I started, I was spent – physically and mentally…and I completely broke down into hysterics. Later James (the boyf..also dubbed by a few people as Mr. Sarah P) asked me why I was crying – was I disappointed? It was a completely logical question, but I didn’t know how to explain it. I didn’t cry out of disappointment or happiness or frustration – I think I probably cried out of relief – it was such a hard day and those last few miles of the run took so much out of me. When I crossed the line, I had nothing left and the emotional release was overwhelming. It was actually an incredibly moving and beautiful moment – perhaps the most poignant moment I can remember since I started this sport. I will never forget it.
So…yeh my race wasn’t awesome, but my Kona experience was pretty freaking amazing. It was fresh and unique. And I was proud of myself for keeping the perspective I so hoped I would all the way through my time in Hawaii.
I thought I would share my top 10 moments of my Kona week (and truly in no particular order!!):
1. Crossing the finish line with Reilly
Reilly Smith has become one of my best friends and top training partners in Los Angeles. He is my “person” – the person I can confide in about my insecurities, my fears, my confidence, my frustrations – both inside the sport and out. We are competitive, but we support one another and push each other at every practice and every time we step on the starting line. He has been such an incredible supporter of mine this season and someone who’s friendship I value immensely. So it was only fitting that Reilly and I crossed the finish line within 10 seconds of one another on race day (and yes…that means he did beat me by 25 minutes….dammit!!). When I crossed I had nothing left, and there stood Reilly, waiting for me, with arms open. He took me in and gave me this massive hug, and together we stood there and cried. It was such an awesome moment. I could not have planned a more perfect way to end my season and end my Kona experience. Reilly – THANK YOU for being the incredible person that you are. You are the bomb!
2. Going back to cheer on the midnight finishers with James
Despite being in incredible pain after every Ironman I have ever done, the finish-line party in the hours leading up to midnight are moments that I relish at every Ironman event – whether it be at Kona or elsewhere. To feel the satisfaction of your own achievement from the day, and then to channel that energy into celebrating the accomplishments of all the other finishers is an experience unlike any other.
My boyfriend, James, had come to Hawaii to watch my race. I was unsure if he would be up for returning to the finish line later in the evening, but he was a trooper and trudged down to Ali’i Drive with me. We stood in the bleachers, dancing and cheering loudly as the final finishers came in. I was SO HAPPY.
James said he had never seen me so happy before and that it was his favorite moment from Kona. And he was right – being there and feeling the pride of the season and what I had achieved, the relief of the day being done, being in the presence of someone for whom I care so much, and the excitement in cheering on the final finishers had me bubbling over with happiness. It was so great.
3. Attending the pro meeting
Yeh – ok. That sounds a little weird. But as a little first year pro, attending your first Kona pro meeting is a pretty damn cool experience. Everyone is kitted out, representing all their sponsors. There is media and cameras everywhere. The nervous energy in the air is tangible. Everyone looks ridiculously fit, slightly jittery and ready to go. It’s insane. And it’s awesome. Definitely the coolest pro meeting I have ever been to.
4. Seeing a floor-to-ceiling-sized poster of me in the Clif Bar Lounge
Again – Yeh. OK. That might sound a little lame, but honestly, the first time you see a giant poster of yourself, well – it’s also a pretty damn cool experience. And I get that I should probably be playing it cool, and obviously I’ve got a long way to go to be anywhere in this sport, but I still had to pinch myself and appreciate the moment and how far I have come. And sometimes jumping up and down inside just isn’t enough!
5. The pride I felt all week to be part of my incredible team of sponsors
This may SEEM like a bit of a sponsor plug, but it’s honestly not intended to be. I just can’t say enough about the team of people that supported not just me, but all of their athletes all week. These guys worked their butts off! Everything from bike support from Cervelo and Shimano and swapping out wheels last minute, to Saucony making sure I had the right shoes on race day, to getting me my “mini” Clif bars for the race, to the custom kits Helen’s Cycles had made with all of my sponsor logos – These guys were awesome awesome awesome. I felt (and feel) so honored and proud to be part of such amazing brands. I feel lucky and thankful every day.
To Cervelo, Shimano, CycleOps, ISM and KASK – You guys have gone above and beyond this year in terms of making sure my bike (and my head) are always safe and race ready. THANK YOU for your continued support
To Saucony – I can say, without a doubt that you make the best product out there. The brand has continued to surprise me throughout the year with how amazing everything you make it – from shoes to apparel. I love this brand and I could not be more proud to be part of the Saucony team.
To Clif Bar – Awesome product. It has kept me going through SO MANY hours and hours and hours and miles and miles and mile of swimming, biking and running this year. You make absolutely awesome tasting products and I am so stoked to be part of your team.
To Helen’s Cycles – What a great surprise to start this relationship! Your support is amazing, and the Helen’s team is the best around.
The Game Ready – You saved my legs after the race! No joke! I was literally crawled up in the fetal position on the ground, and 40 minutes and 1 Game Ready compression & icing cycle later I was like a whole new woman, dancing up a storm in the bleachers on Ali’i Drive. Seriously – you make fantastic stuff that has been a huge part of my training and recovery this year – thank you!
To WIDSIX and Verdict Digital – What can I say. Everything you guys do is Magic. The dedication and professionalism you have shown this year in helping me with my website and the videos has been second to none. You both have great companies and are great people. Thanks for being part of the journey
6. Surfing with the Cervelo crew post race
On Monday after the race, the entire Cervelo team went surfing. It was so chilled out and relaxed, but after what was an incredibly long, tiring and hectic week for everyone, it was great to see the weight of the race lifted off everyone’s shoulders. It was awesome to see everyone out there laughing and catching some waves and enjoying our last moments together in Kona. THANK YOU Cervelo for an amazing experience!
7. Enjoying the first 10 miles of Ali’I Drive
I know this may SOUND a little odd, but it is true. Last year when I came here, everyone told me how awesome I would feel along Ali’i Drive during the run – there was a breeze from the ocean and the crowd support was unmatched. Well – last year I overheated on the bike and spent my entire Ali’i experience sticking my head in ice buckets, puking on the side of the road, and wondering how the heck people thought Ali’i was “the great part of the run”. This year, I got it. With my body temperature under control, the first 10 miles were awesome, and I was smiling both inside and out……and then I hit the energy lab and it all changed….
8. Seeing my mother out on the course, standing all day in the beating sun with her “Don’t Dream It. Be It” signs
It’s no secret that my family was not exactly in favor of my decision to turn pro. With a great job and many years of blood sweat and tears put in to reach the point in my career that I was (in Finance), my parents had a hard time justifying my decision – and rightly so. But despite their concerns, once my decision was made they have stood by me and supported me with all of their heart and soul. And this was epitomized in Kona when my mom stood out on the Queen K all day, with her “Don’t Dream It. Be It.” signs, cheering me on with everything she had. My grandmother is quite sick right now, and I know it’s been a hard few months for my mom. So it meant so much to me that she was there supporting my every step on race day. It gets me all teary eyed, actually. Mom I love you SO much. Thank you for being my #1 fan and being there at the race. I needed you there.
9. Ice Cream and Cheeseburgers
All year we focus focus focus on everything that will give us that extra edge in racing – our diets, our recovery, our equipment – everything. And sometimes things we love have to be given up. For me…that is ice cream and cheeseburgers. In the days (read weeks) after the race my diet consisted almost entirely of ice cream and cheeseburgers….and they were HEAVENLY. It was awesome! They were so well deserved, which made the eating experience that much better!
10. Purplepatch and Tower 26
My coaches, Matt Dixon and Gerry Rodrigues, have been such important parts of my life this last year. And so it meant a tremendous amount to me that they were there on race day. Good or race or bad, they have been my everything in terms of my progression as an athlete, and I was proud to race in front of them. THANK YOU to you both for everything you have done.
So! That was it – my Kona experience in a nutshell! A big thank you to The Ogin family for their amazing hospitality; to my mother, James and Bryan for your amazing support on race day; and to my coaches and my sponsors – I would not be here without you!
I am now into my off season, and enjoying every minute of it!
Until next time.
Don’t Dream It. Be It.