Amy Gluck, MS, RD, CPT

Registered Dietitian
Certified Personal Trainer
5 time USA Triathlon All-American
5 time Kona Qualifier
Boston Marathon Qualifier

Kona 2008

Pre Race Training:

Sun: Swim: 2000 meters, Run: 1 hr. easy
Mon: Swim: 2000 meters, Run: 1 hr. easy
Tues: Swim: 2000 meters
Wed: Bike: 30 miles
Thurs: Rest
Fri: Swim: 10 min, Run: 30 min easy

Race Day:

I slept fairly well the night before the race. The alarm went off at 4am (10am Michigan time - Yeah). Breakfast: A bowl of Special K Red Berries with Soy Milk and a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar with 24 oz. of First Endurance EFS over the next 2 hrs. I caked on the SPF 55 (except in body marking areas) and headed down to transition. It was a frenzy of activity. As I got near the big screen TV, I could see Michillie Jones doing an interview on TV. She wasn’t dressed to race. I headed over to body marking and a guy was yelling, “Pro athletes with NBC interviews over here!” Wow, that’s pretty cool. There was media everywhere, helicopters, a Navy ship, airplanes, boats, and scuba divers. The security was pretty tight. I needed a special handler to escort me to my transition bags. Then, I headed over to my bike. A volunteer came by with a pump. I could get air in my back tire, but not the front. Another volunteer came by with the same pump I have. Cool, I was able to pump this tire up with this same pump the day before. No luck – YIKES, PANIC! Somebody from bike support finally came over with an allen wrench and tightened down my valve extender. After a quick scolding for not having Teflon tape between my valve and my valve extender (I know, I know!) we all posed for a picture.

1 hr to race time: I was pretty calm and felt fully prepared. I made a few trips to the port-a-potty and got into my speedsuit. The mob started heading over to the water. After the pro start, I started swimming out to the starting line at the end of the pier. The water in Kona is crystal clear and about 78 degrees. There is beautiful coral, sea urchins, and tropical fish all along the bottom of the swim course. On my way out to the starting line, I noticed a sea turtle swimming right along next to me. I hoped the rest of my day wouldn’t be at a turtle’s pace.

I got to the starting line fairly quickly which allowed me great positioning, but also meant I was going to be treading water for about 15 min. prior to the start. I wasn’t too happy about it at the time, but in retrospect, I think it may have been a great warm-up. All of a sudden, I saw Mike Reily (the voice of Ironman) take off running. I wondered what was happening…….BAM!! The canon went off right near where I was positioned in the water and it was absolutely deafening. We’re off!

Swim: I was worried about the left side of my goggles filling up with water as I had some problems with them the day before. As soon as we took off, I got two hits to the right eye and the left side was all I had to see. After a short while, I found myself swimming all alone and I thought to myself, “If the entire swim is like this, this is going to be great!” No such luck, the volunteers on the surfboards started pushing us to the other side of the buoy line and I found myself in a tight pack as we came to a bottleneck. That’s the way it would be the rest of the swim. About half way out to the turn around, OOOOUCH!!, I got a heel to the right eye. I stopped and, at first, I wondered if I could even pull my goggles out of my eye socket. Then, I fixed my goggles and I wondered if I could even see out that eye at all. I started swimming again and slowly opened my eye and realized that I could, in fact, see out of it after all. I could feel it was a bit swollen, but I knew I wouldn’t be the only person coming out of the water with a black eye.

On the way back in, the pack was still very tight. We were all swimming on top of each other. I traded hits back and forth with one swimmer for a while. Finally, I could see the Gatorade bottle and the end of the pier. Almost done with the swim! As I headed out of the water, I looked around frantically, but I could not find the race clock anywhere! What was my time? I had no idea and it would be a while before I would find out.

T1: On my way into T1, my zipper got stuck on my speedsuit. A volunteer helped me break free from it and I was on my way into the changing tent. I changed into some cycling shorts, stopped in the port-a-potty, and grabbed my bike from the rack.
Bike: It was pretty congested coming out of T1. One guy flew passed me and hit my front tire – YIKES!! That would be a really bad place to take a fall. The first few miles take you through the town, up and down hills, winding around streets, and making sharp turn-arounds. Then, finally you head out onto the infamous Queen K Highway. As I headed out on the Queen K, I thought to myself, “This isn’t bad. I can’t believe all the awful stories I’ve heard about this bike course. This isn’t going to be bad at all!”

We all know the rule: Don’t do anything new on race day. I figured a new aero bottle didn’t really count since I’d been using basically the same thing for years. I just wanted to get the bottle with the perforated sponge that didn’t allow the fluid to splash up out of the bottle. Well, I must have somehow gotten the straws mixed up. About 20 miles into the bike, I was drinking out of my aero bottle, I pulled my head back and let go of the straw extender…..onto the ground. The straw extender was too big for the straw I was using and came right off and now my aero bottle was useless.

My nutrition on the bike was (2) 24oz. water bottles filled with a concentrated mix of EFS – 6 scoops/bottle. My plan was to dilute them with water from the aid stations in my aero bottle. Time for Plan B. Hmmmmmm, wish I had a Plan B. I ended up drinking a ton of water as I passed each aid station and then took a few swigs from my bottles of EFS.

About 30 miles out, the wind started to pick up, stronger, tougher, and more powerful. It was wind like I had never felt before. I felt like I was riding in a blizzard without the snow. It was relentless, blowing from the side, blowing head-on. I knew the turn around was at mile 60 and I couldn’t wait to get there. The head wind was strong and continuous. On my climb into Hawi, I saw the pros coming back on the other side of the road. That was when the grandeur of this event really hit me…..I’m racing on the SAME COURSE as these guys, I’m racing AGAINST these guys!! It was enormous rush of energy as I watched the pro field go by.

After battling the wind and the uphill grade for several miles, I finally made it to the turnaround. Now I get to “enjoy” the downhill with the tailwind. I was going about 35 mph, but the winds were blasting from the side. It was a white knuckle ride. I didn’t dare go aero. I was having a hard enough time staying on the bike with my hands on the handlebars. I had a few close calls with the wind trying awfully hard to dump me off my bike.

Getting to mile 80 was mentally tough for me. I was back to facing a headwind again with a lot of uphill climbs. I felt like I was going 8 mph for the past 50 miles. Although I saw plenty of riders pass me with a red slash across their number for a drafting penalty, I saw plenty of riders passing me in packs which really frustrated the heck out of me! The miles went by very slowly at this pace and doubt started to set in. I told myself that if I qualified again, I would never take another slot to Kona ever again. This was just too hard. That made me think of my sports nutrition talks. Negative attitude = lack of carbohydrate. Luckily, I had taped to two spare Clif bars to my top tube “just in case.” I thought, “I’m bored, might as well snack.” Those 2 chocolate chip Clif bars had been baking in the sun all day and tasted just like Toll House Bars fresh out of the oven. This was the mental boost I needed. Soon I was passing the airport on the way back into Kailua.

Just past the Energy Lab, I saw the pro field heading up the Queen K on their run. I saw Chrissie Wellington, looking strong. I gave her a cheer and enjoyed the entertainment the rest of the way in on the bike. I was told that the temperatures reached 108 at this point of the day, but heat didn’t really seem to be a factor for me. I was so happy to get back to transition; 6:29 is about 29 minutes longer than I expected to be on the bike.
T2: Heading into T2, I was fairly disappointed. I had no idea what my swim time was, but I had feared it was somewhere around 1:30 and I really missed my mark on the bike. I was just doing this to finish now and I took my time in transition. I changed shorts again, stopped in at the port-a-potty and got “sunscreened” from head to toe.

Run: Those Clif bars were tons of fun on the bike, but they quickly turned into a side-stitch on the run. Luckily, I knew the cause of the side-stitch and took water at the next 2 aid stations and the stitch was gone about 2 miles into the run. It wasn’t until this point on the run course that I finally found out what my swim time was: 1:12. 1:12? Really? That was great news. “Ok,” I thought, “I had a great swim and I can still have a great run. Even though the bike didn’t go as planned, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!” That was the mental boost I needed for the run. I felt great. I was passing time by counting people in my age group coming by in the other direction. The run course in Kona is great because there is a 5 mile out and back on Ali’i Dr. and then an 8 mile out and back on the Queen K, so you can always see who’s ahead of you. The whole course is gently rolling hills with a big uphill at mile 10 to get up onto the Queen K.

The miles were ticking by. I arrived at the turn around on Ali’i Dr., 5 miles down. My pace was good and I felt good. I was holding back. I wanted plenty left in reserve for the Queen K. I was taking Gatorade at each aid station and sometimes water or a sponge. I went up the hill to the Queen K at mile 10. We got some cloud cover at this point and I think I may have felt one or two sprinkles for a minute there.

Heading out onto the Queen K, I was looking forward to the Energy Lab. I had heard many stories about this being the place where Champions are made or broken. The Queen K is more gently rolling hills. I was watching the runners coming in for their finish, knowing that would be me soon – only 16 more miles to go. I kept counting who was ahead of me in my age group and then checking them off as I passed them. Mentally, it was a great game to keep me going.

The energy lab is a 2 mile downhill and then a turn-around and 2 miles back uphill. They have a thermometer sitting by the side of the road at mile 17 so you can see how tough the conditions really are. Rumor has it that when Craig Alexander came through there, the thermometer read 108 degrees. When I passed the thermometer, it read 87 degrees. By this point, the sun was starting to set and we had some cloud cover just before dusk. So, I didn’t get the full effect of the Energy Lab as I had hoped, but I was having a great run. Before I knew it, I was up and out of the Energy Lab and back on the Queen K. I was in the home stretch. With only 6 more miles to go, I decided I could stop holding back. I was feeling great. I was passing people left and right. (Wait, no, I was only passing on the left.) I was actually thinking that if only this run was 30 miles instead of 26, I could probably pass a few more girls in my age group.

Then, I hit the downhill back towards Ali’i Dr. I was flying. I could hear the crowds all along Ali’i Dr. What a great feeling! I was so happy to see that finish line – 11:38:29. My goal was to match my qualifying time of 11:19:13. My goal was a 3:45 marathon and I ended up running a 3:46. I may have held back too much early in the run, but I have no regrets on my pacing for the run. I knew this course was much tougher, I just didn’t realize how much tougher it was than Wisconsin. I was very happy with my race and my finish. It was the experience of a lifetime! I got my massage, my bike, and my transition bags and headed back to the condo for a shower. We went down to the finish line to cheer on the last finishers. The icing on the cake was that when we went back, I got to meet Chrissie Wellington and take a quick picture with her. Whether it’s to race or to volunteer, I will definitely be back to Kona for the IMWC!
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