Amy Gluck, MS, RD, CPT

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

Kona 2011

Arriving in Kona a week early, I had a great week of race prep.  My condo was great.  It was in the perfect location, right next to the Farmer's Market, across the street from the Athlete's Village, and a 1/2 mile from the pier.  I was so glad to be staying in the same complex as last year, but this time with an ocean view and just steps from Alii Drive.  I had some great pre swims, runs, and rides.  The winds were quite a bit stronger in the days leading up to the race.  Surfers were riding waves on the swim course.  Even the locals were impressed by the swells in the bay.  That was far from settling to me.

This year, I had the opportunity to add a whole new dimension to my racing experience.  While picking up a PitStop at a local bike shop, I was approached by two college students who were working on a research project sponsored by Timex.  There was quite a time commitment required, but I was intrigued by the data that would be collected.  During the week prior to race day, I gave blood, sweat, urine, cheek swabs, recorded my resting HR every morning and night, recorded my daily dietary intake, swallowed a pill that recorded my core body temp on race day, and filled out several surveys each day.  I'm anxiously awaiting the results which should be available in January.   

Race morning:

Race morning, my alarm went off at 4am, as always.  I got up and went through the usual routine which starts with breakfast, a bowl of Special K Red Berries with Vanilla Soy milk and a bottle of HEED.  I got dressed, mixed my bottles, coated myself with SPF 55, grabbed my pre-swim bag, and headed down to the pier.  First stop, body marking.  The pier is still dark at this time and the body marking tents are fully lit.  It's a huge dose of the day's reality as the athletes remove their sweats, become branded with a rubber stamp, and turn into "competitors."  I put my nutrition on my bike: 2 bottles of HEED on my frame and 1 in my AeroBottle, 2 Clif Bars, Endurolytes, and a GU.  I pumped my bike tires and headed over to the medical tent to donate my bodily fluids, fill out the questionnaires, and make sure my internal thermometer was still in my GI tract for the study. 


I found Laura while taking my place in line at the pot-a-potty. We got through line and headed over to the swim start.  We easily worked our way through the crowds as Laura knows everybody and they're all more than happy to let her (us) move in front of them to the head of the pack.  The pros went off 30 min early again this year, so we waited a bit before heading out to tread water.  We headed far to the outside of the swim course.  So did everybody else.  We moved further to the outside.  We were crowded, once again.  We moved further to the outside and this is the point as which I lost Laura.  I believe she was still moving further to the outside.  I found a canoe to hold onto and decided to latch on and give up on changing my starting position.   


With the intense blast of the cannon, we were off.  I had hoped starting so far to the outside would help reduce the contact on the swim course.  Kona remains the most brutal swim I have ever experienced.  The water had been quite rough in the days leading up to the race.  The water had calmed a great deal, but we still had strong currents.  The athletes starting to the outside were quickly washed towards the buoy line, so it may have been even more congested starting far to the outside.  I quickly found myself on the buoy line as well.  As I was getting pummeled, I took a kick straight to the eye.  My goggles suctioned to my left eye and I could feel my eyeball bulging out of the socket.  I thought about stopping to fix it, but I figured I'd take another blow before too long that would, once again, alter the fit of my goggles.  The one time I actually wanted to get kicked in the face, I didn't.  My left eyepiece was starting to fill up with water from the tears being extracted from my eyeball. 


I didn't get kicked in the face again until the turn around.  As we rounded the boat, it was the usual chaos.  My goggles were kicked clear off my face.  As I rolled over on my back to fix them, I was relieved to be able to empty the tears and affix them properly to my face.  Ok, all set.  Or not.  Another kick to the face and they were off again immediately.  Round two.  I quickly fixed them and focused on finding some open water.  On the way back in, I spotted a large pod of dolphins swimming below us.  They usually surface to play during the practice swims, but it appeared that they were able to sense something was different on this day and they maintained their position towards the bottom of the ocean as we flailed past.


I was swimming along fairly uneventfully when, all of a sudden, a girl grabbed me on my left shoulder as she took a stroke with her right hand and didn't let go.  She grabbed my right shoulder with her other had and start shaking me.  She yelled at my face, "VAT are YOUUU doooooing?"  I scurried away from her and tried to regain my rhythm.  I was swimming scared.  I was constantly in fear of what was coming up behind me.  I was never happier to get to the final stretch along pier.  As I swam that last stretch, I anticipated my swim time.  I used my usual tactic of assessing the stroke of the swimmers around me to prepare myself for what I was going to see on the clock as I emerged.  At that time, I realized it was bad, much worse than I had expected.  As I located the swim clock on the pier, it felt like the worst blow I had taken since the cannon went off.  Second slowest swim since I started IM racing.  I quickly decided I was not going to readjust my goals for the day.  I was just going to have to make it up on the bike. 


I headed into T1, which was packed.  My volunteer sprayed me down with SPF 80 as I quickly changed into my biking gear and headed out of the tent.  The long trek around the pier is carpeted with fake grass carpet which is incredibly slippery when wet.  The bike cleats don't help with traction, but I chose to live dangerously and pass people along my route to the Glux Capacitor II.  The rack wasn't quite as empty as I had expected.  There was hope. 


As started the bike, I was very comfortable and my fit felt great.  I could feel this day had potential.  I headed up the Queen K, powering along and putting as much road behind me as I could before the legendary Kona winds starting picking up.  The weather report said 20 mph winds for the day.  Ha ha!  This was probably the only part of the day the winds would be that light.  The bike always seems so friendly after the aggressive nature of the swim.  As I approached Kawihae, I was looking forward to getting my least favorite part of the bike course over, miles 50-70.  It is, by far, the most treacherous part of the race.  The climb to Hawi was quite a battle.  There was a strong headwind the whole way up.  The cross-winds were strong, but the headwind prevailed.  Although this is my least favorite part of the course, it is my favorite part of the race.  I always look forward to seeing the pros making the descent from Hawi and watching the Ironman World Championship unfold in real time.  It was quite a surprise to see Julie Dibens leading the women.  She had a sizable lead on Chrissie and Mirinda was right on Chrissie’s tail.  I couldn't wait to see them again out on the run course.


I passed the time counting aid stations.  How many had I passed?  How many more until the turn around?  How many more until the end of the bike?  Anything to distract myself from counting down the miles.  112 is a lot.  At each aid station, I was pouring water over my head and grabbing Coke.  The sun was hot, the air was humid, and the black top was radiating intense heat.  I loved the racing conditions and kept with my plan of 2 Endurolytes/hour.  As I made the turn-around in Hawi, I hammered down the descent.  I pushed as hard as I could from mile 60-70 to get out of the terrifying cross-winds.  I should remember to be careful what I wish for.  The rest of the ride was a steady headwind.  I kept telling myself it would lighten up in the next 10 miles…in the next 10 miles…in the next 10 miles.  It let up at mile 110.  Two miles of smooth sailing.  Sweet.  However, I couldn’t complain.  I had just ridden a new Kona bike course PR: 5:36. 



I headed into T2 and my volunteer collected my bike gear as I changed into my running shoes and grabbed my visor.  A quick stop in the port-a-potty and I was out on the run course. 



I’d been having serious stomach pains running off the bike in my races this season so I skipped my pre-run GU.  It didn’t matter.  I took water at the first 3 aid stations to help settle my stomach.  That helped somewhat.  I felt I was running a decent pace, but my Garmin begged to differ.  It wasn’t going off at the mile markers.  The mile markers were telling me I was running a 7:40 pace.  My Garmin was telling me I was running a 9:00 min pace.  Which was right?  I racked my brain trying to figure out what was going on.  Thinking doesn’t come easy 7 hours into an IM.  I figured my assessment of my pace at the mile markers was somehow incorrect and that I was, in fact, running much slower than what I felt.  I figured I was in for a 4 hour marathon.  I had made up the time deficit from my swim on the bike, but would it cost me my marathon?  I really wanted to break 3:36 on the marathon, my marathon time from Kona last year.  It looked like this, as well as my overall goal of finally breaking 10:45 on this course, was out of the question.

I continued down Alii Drive.  Just after mile 10, Chrissie passed me heading in the other direction, coming in for the win.  She was at about mile 25.5.  I saw Mirinda in full chase shortly thereafter.  These are the amazing moments I look forward to while racing in Kona.  I headed up to the Queen K.  I pushed along trying to find my motivation after accepting that I wasn’t going to run the marathon I had hoped.  I forced myself to refrain from looking at my watch.  I saw Laura at mile 16.  She gave me a quick pep talk, telling me I was having a great run and I was going to PR.  Hmmmmm….really?  “She’s just being nice,” I thought.  I hit the turn around in the Energy Lab.  I passed a few girls in my age group in there.  This surprised me and gave me motivation to continue pushing on. 

Coming out of the Energy Lab, my stomach was feeling a little better.  I decided I would be able to get down some electrolyte capsules.  I had 4 capsules of another brand, which contained caffeine.  I had been carrying them for the first 20 miles of the run and I decided to take them all at once.  This turned out to be a bad decision as my stomach became nauseous as a result.  The aid stations along the last 6 miles, coming back down the Queen K, are always a mental battle for me.  I just want to skip them all and not take in another ounce of fluid, gel, or sugar, but fear the potential self destruction so close to the finish line.  I forced myself to take something at each station.  I continued to trudge along, trading positions with 2 guys who would walk through the aid stations and then pass me once again.


I turned down the hill on Palani.  It hurts almost as much going down the hill at mile 25 as it does going up it at mile 11.  That is where the aid station that I allow myself to skip is located.  I headed down the hill, made the turn and passed the 3 streetlights, which always seems to take forever.  One more turn, and I was heading down Alii Dr.  That amazing feeling never gets old.  A guy in the crowd pointed ahead down the finish chute and yelled, “You can take her!”  He was right.  I had an ounce or two left in the tank.  I passed her as the finish line came into view.  I was about 10 seconds from the finish when I realized that I did have a decent marathon and I was about to PR.  I wanted to finally break 10:45 on Kona’s course.  The clock came into view at 10:37:55, 56, 57…  I crossed at 10:38:00 exactly.  A PR by 9:10!  As it turned out, I ran a 3:36 marathon.  I was within seconds of my marathon time from last year.  My legs knew my pace better than my watch.

As I crossed the finish line, I found my friends at the finisher’s area.  We shared race stories and I headed to pick up my medal and pose for my finisher’s photo.  I had to stop in the King K hotel and give more bodily fluids:  blood, urine, cheek swab, questionnaires, etc.  I caught up with my friends who had waited in the finisher’s area.  We collected our gear and dropped our bikes off at TBT.  This is where I was mistaken for Leanda Cave.  She took third.  Sure, I’ll answer to that!  We went back to my condo and showered before heading to Lulu’s for some Mexican grub.  Now, it was time for the party at the finish line.  We spent hours cheering for the late night finishers until the clock ticked 17:00:00.  On the way back down Alii Dr., we saw Mirinda.  She signed my finisher’s medal and we took a quick pic with her.  Another great day in Kona in the books!  Now to figure out my plan for next year….

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