In looking back on the first *Kona Ironman World Championship since the inception of NYX Endurance, we are pretty proud of our 10 out of 10 finishers. We asked them a few questions to encapsulate the experience, including low moments, high moments, what they learned and what it felt like to race with teammates. One of our athletes (Sarah) responded with this meme, which seems to be a great introductory image:
For first timers: how was the race similar or different than what you expected?
Kristin: The race was similar in that you do feel some ambient pressure – the best of the best are all here on one island. It can mess with your head a bit if you aren’t careful. The humidity and heat were the polar opposite of the type of heat we have here in Colorado, and that was really jarring to me when first arriving in Kona. The race was different in that I found it pretty easy to do my own thing pre-race and not interact with anyone I didn’t want to (#introvert). I also thought that the course was fair and fun, not this nearly-insurmountable, scary day that many people say it is. It is an absolutely doable course so long as you respect Madam Pele, race your own race, have nutrition down, and choose to have a good attitude.
Larry: The race was everything I expected and more. I had tried for so long to qualify, and then waited a year and half after that to actually race. I had thought I was aware of everything, but it was even bigger and better.
Cindy: The race was different from what I expected in that I thought the run course would be fun the whole way, not just the short out-and-back in the beginning. And then after that, the entire run course sucked.
David: I knew it was special but had no idea it was this special. Everything about it and around it is electric and overwhelming at times. Embracing every moment and finding ways to smile in the darkest moments are what propelled me through an amazing experience.
Angela: The race venue was about what I expected. It was a little overwhelming coming off the plane and walking into the high humidity and heat, but it was anticipated. I trained with a humidifier and short sessions in the sauna. The bike course was a little more boring than I thought. The scenery was pretty much the same for miles. This caused me to be a little drowsy on the bike and a little uninterested.
Alex: It was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be. An amazing experience, hard, fun, special! I know many things were different than in prior years, which made it not as special maybe, but it was very special for me!
For Kona vets: how was this year similar or different than past Kona experiences?
Julie: The Kona magic is still there! It’s hard to describe it, but if you are fortunate enough to be in Kona the week of IMWC, you can feel the energy in the air. Everywhere you go, triathletes from all over the world gather to fulfill a dream, reap the benefit of all the sacrifices made and lay it all on the line. The 2 day race, the lack of a mass start, significant differences, and not ones I am personally a fan of. What was different was the crowds, so many people everywhere, the usual gathering spots had lines down the block, so I retreated a bit. What did not change was the best finish line anywhere! The IMWC finish line is the most fantastic experience!
Laura: I’ve never given birth but I presume that the way you remember Kona is similar to the way you remember the pain of your first baby when preparing to give birth to your second. It probably wasn’t that bad… right? 😳
Sarah: The women’s race had 1,000 men, which meant I spent most of the day getting passed by dudes. Felt like an old school 70.3 with age group starts – swim was a washing machine of carnage towards the end.
Describe a low moment of the race:
Larry: The low points for me were on the bike when I started to feel nauseous and couldn’t get my nutrition down. But I reminded myself that the goal was to cross the finish line and to not worry about my time. Then at the bottom of the energy lab I was walking and realized that I couldn’t walk straight. That was the one time I thought I might not make my goal.
David: I don’t think there were any low moments for me during the race. There were certainly some challenging moments like at mile two of the run when it was becoming apparent that my legs just were not going to run anything close to fast. There was a low point at about 2 am race morning when I realized I was not going to sleep at all that night. Note to self: do not agree to a Coffee Tour for the day before Kona and then OD on high octane coffee. Rookie mistake.
Sarah: When I got up to the Queen K on the run which is a straight highway and literally could not see the next aid station – that’s when the reality of the 6 eliminated run aid stations really sank in.
Laura: Most of the bike course was a low moment with the few exceptions of seeing teammates and my husband dressed as a clownfish.
Alex: Puking in the energy lab (actually wasn’t too bad)
Angela: A low moment for me was the last 10-15 miles of the bike course. As previously mentioned, I was a little bored, drowsy and tired. My eyes and body started to drift a little into sleep. I had to keep shaking my head and moving my body position to keep awake. I decided to chug a red bull at one of the final aid stations.
Kristin: Around mile 23 of the run, there is one final sloping uphill to get to the top of Palani before you’re net downhill to the finish chute. This being my first Kona, I didn’t know the hill was there (should’ve studied the elevation profile a bit more pre-race). Mentally, I was pretty done at that point. Another hill? F*ck me. I walked more in that .5 mile stretch than anywhere else on the course. I eventually got back to my mantra of “you can shuffle, but you can’t walk,” and finished strong, but there was a good 5ish minutes being so close to the end where I start to lose it physically and mentally.
Cindy: Walking in the dark on the Queen K around mile 20, and there was literally no one else in sight. It was super depressing because I didn’t think I could run anymore. And my run pace was a walk pace. I thought I must be the last finisher. (I wasn’t, yay.)
Julie: The 4th time I threw up, realizing this was not a fleeting issue and that I was in significant trouble. I had to reassess my goals and pivot to survival and finishing.
Describe a high moment of the race:
Cindy: On the bike course, feeling strong at mile 80 and thinking the wind was not that bad. And it was a good day overall out there on the bike. That felt great!
Kristin: Finding joy again at this distance. Coach Laura and I started working together just a couple months (yes, only about 2 months!) before Kona and she has helped me find my love for the iron-distance again after some years of burnout. To smile literally the entire day was such a win. It was also amazing to have so many teammates cheering and spectating. How can you not pause and step outside of your race for a second and be thankful so many people are literally and figuratively on your team? It’s awesome.
Angela: At the halfway point on the run course, just before the Energy lab, I saw my husband. He had run there as soon as he saw me come out of T2. I knew that I would need some motivation and emotional support at this point and advised him to be there. It brought my spirits up and gave me momentum to keep going.
Julie: Seeing the red carpet on Ali’i, realizing that I was actually going to finish this beast.
Laura: I finally started feeling like myself on the hill up out of the energy lab, which is also coincidentally around mile 17/18 – my favorite part of an Ironman, where it doesn’t matter that everything hurts – you just fucking go.
Sarah: Heading up Palani aid station and having Jan Frodeno hand me a cup of water. My response was “what the actual fuck is going on here.” He walked with me a few steps, saying how I should chase my Red Bull with water at the end of every aid station. OK – got it Jan! And second high moment – then obviously seeing all my friends out on the run course, although I kept hoping I’d see ANY of them having a good day.
David: My high moment was when I got off the bike and knew I was going to be able to run albeit not too fast. It was at that point that I knew I would run down Ali’i Drive to Mike Reilly’s words, “You are an Ironman!”
Alex: Doing 18+ miles of the run with Julie and finishing together.
Larry: So many high points! Swimming out to the starting line. Obviously crossing the finish line. But to see all my friends out on the course cheering for me was truly special.
Name 1 thing you learned:
Larry: Maybe I already knew this, but my friends are special!
Sarah: 1. You can overheat on the bike, put your foot down at a bike aid station for the first time ever to pound a coke … and STILL have an ok 👌 overall day. 2. KT tape is your friend for all known chafing spots. 3. Don’t wear a kit so tight on your ass that you end up with a sunburned waffle pattern on your butt.
Alex: Watching Julie going through her motions (from puking everything out to slowly recovering by trying pretty much anything) made me realize that you can recover from feeling like shit… you just have to keep on trying.
Julie: Don’t stop trying to get hydration and nutrition in. It took me 12 miles and finally, my stomach accepted some nutrition and I could turn things around minimally.
David: I learned how to race in the toughest IM conditions there are. All of the preparation for hydration and nutrition paid off and I nailed it in the race. I will go into other hot humid races with more confidence knowing what my body needs to perform well.
Cindy: This race is harder than it seems like it would be on paper. It would probably take a few race attempts to get 1 right. And thats IF you can get there to try. I’m happy to have finished it, in case I don’t make it back. But if I did get back, I would hope for a better race.
Kristin: I learned and saw it play out that attitude is a choice. You can choose to come into this race looking at it as the hardest thing you’ll ever do and fearing every turn of the course, or you can choose to come into this race saying that it’s just a course, that you’re prepared, and that you’ll choose to remain solution-oriented and at the very least, neutral attitude-wise, all day. It’s hard to make that choice at times but it is critical during an IM.
Angela: I learned that I could do hard things, be stronger and overcome things that I once thought was impossible. I had the will power to get through long sessions and a long day. This gave me insight into what I am capable of and motivation to continue to see what else I can do.
Laura: I’ve always relied on my mental strength as the #1 tool in my toolbox. It has always been there for me… except in this race. So I learned out of necessity that I have some other pretty awesome tools. Even though it was a race full of low moments, it took me until after the race to realize that I never had a single moment where I doubted that I would finish. My body is way too much of a badass to not finish. Throughout the numerous times that I wanted to quit or just wasn’t mentally in it, my body just kept doing it’s thing – one foot in front of the other. Also, teammates are actual energy. Does that count as a tool?
What was it like racing with and cheering for teammates on the course?
Julie: Incredible. Every time I saw a NYX athlete, my heart swelled! This company is based on community, and to see so many out there gutting it out, the support of our Sherpas was simply outstanding.
Larry: Truly the best part of the week!
Cindy: It’s always nice to have a team even if you are far apart during the race. But in the end, this is a sport where you are alone. That’s a big part of the challenge.
Laura: This was a rough race for me mentally, which is rare. Besides the fact that racing with my athletes fills me with an overwhelming amount pride and joy, I needed my teammates and their energy out there. No matter how their days were going, racing alongside these badasses who don’t have a single ounce of quit in them was exactly what I needed.
David: I tracked all of the NYX Endurance athletes all day and was at the finish line to see both Laura and Julie cross the finish line. I saw several of you along the way while I was racing and it gave me a little shot of adrenaline. Laura spotted me on the run coming (walking, LOL) up Palani on my way out to the Queen K. She gave me a boost of much needed encouragement at the right time!
Kristin: Freakin’ epic! Casey and I met earlier this year at Oceanside 70.3 and then finished Kona just ~3 minutes apart, how insane is that!? We were in sight of each other for much of the marathon, but I never felt, “I have to beat her.” All I wanted was for all my teammates to have healthy, safe, fun races, and that’s a great attitude shift for me from being destructively competitive with anyone and everyone. The spectators and support crew from NYX were epic. Brought the energy all day and made me truly feel like I must have been winning the race with the way they cheered me on. I am so grateful that they extended so much mental and physical energy so that I and other teammates could have a good day – that’s true friendship and selflessness. Also, Aaron was a key part of getting me to the start line feeling good with some PT sessions in Kona before the race!
Alex: This is exactly why I’m part of a team that’s smaller (not a large national team) so it keeps it close and personal. We connect before, do things together and motivate each other to keep on going.
Sarah: There you are! You’re running! (reference to a scene described in Laura’s blog)