K-O-N-A 2022.

FINALLY!  Kona recap 🙂

It’s taken me a while to process my experience at Kona and figure out what parts would be most helpful to share 🙂

First, I’ll be honest about how hard this year was for me personally – we had some family things go down that triggered what I now know was a ‘trauma response’ including things like flashbacks (it was news to me that there are different types of flashbacks and they are not just for war vets), depression and anxiety. There were a lot of days that felt pretty hard to function.  Like many of us do, I grew up in a home with a lot of dysfunction > I thought I’d worked through all that business….but, alas – life presented me with AFOG (Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth :).   

Had this race not been Kona, I am certain I would have pulled out.  I’ve pulled out of races before – which I mention b/c it’s a legitimate option – sometimes ‘toughing it out’ is not the best choice.  I did not take that route this time simply b/c it was Kona ;).

I don’t think having a tough year is unique – quite the opposite – I think most people out there are dealing w/ hard shit and working right through it to keep marching forward.  It’s not generally the fodder of social media – but it very much is woven into all our stories >

It’s the very thing that makes so many of the start lines and finish lines victories in 1000 ways beyond swim/bike/run.  

After a year w/ lots of therapy and hard work, I am much better > I am incredibly thankful for the therapist, educators, and support groups willing to help me along, thankful I could afford help, and will be forever thankful that I did not quit my journey to Kona. Getting to that start line was a victory in and of itself for me this year > and actually doing the race was a hell of an experience I will always feel so incredibly blessed to have had.

Alas, the race report:  

Training for an IM this year was a son of a gun this year (understatement).  BUT! > it gave me the chance to put into practice the many things I preach (… remind me to shut my yap!) – including accepting where you are in life, setting race expectations & race plan to match your training, embracing progress not perfection, and moving forward with grace and gratitude….and in moments that you’re a total freaking asshole, own it, make reparations and move on 🙂  

Trust, but verify, your travel plans….

We had Angels w/ us on this trip – and EEIK did they have their work cut out for them.  At 4 PM on the Saturday before we were supposed to leave, one of those angles tapped me on the shoulder and said Dear Liz. Your flight leaves in 12 hours – NOT in 72.  Perhaps you ought to notify your husband who has not started packing yet and hope your marriage survives.


And 12 hours later, we were off. (and miraculously still married).

We arrived – our hotel was GLORIOUS.  (Some of you are aware that I had a few “accommodation situations” this year which included things like disassembled barbie dolls mounted as “Art” throughout my VRBO and halfway houses posing as Hostels….). Mmm how I did enjoy staying in a place with ocean views & safety.

Craig Alexander was even staying in our hotel! (proof it actually was a nice establishment!)   We never saw him – BUT – the hotel owners did give us a Kona World Champion shirt he left behind in his room (with the tags on it)….so we never saw him and we have a shirt he never wore….basically we’re best friends now. 

Ironman’s set up for Kona is next level – it’s not always obvious that Ironman puts the athlete experience first – but they did not miss a beat on this one IMO.  

During one of the many times I was slobbering over the weekend, a volunteer looked at me and said “you trained, right? you’re going to be okay – you’ll make it!”  I gave her a hug slightly longer than was appropriate and told her they were tears of joy.

Pre-Race Banquet:

Pre-race banquet was notable for 2 reasons > 

#1 Ironman demonstrated repeated leadership on the importance of being good humans focusing on being respectful of each other, the planet, and of the islands.  Amen. 

#2 Mike Riley’s farewell! > Mike Riley, Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Bob Babbit, Juan Ferdino > all of them on stage talking about the triathlon history I’ve only gotten to read about was a weekend highlight.  Seriously the best! I felt like I was watching the changing of the guard….it felt like closure on an era both personally and in the world of triathlon.


My expectations:  Mainly that ocean swimming is amazing and I wish I could take all you w/ me so  you could see how amazing it can be when you’re not swimming in Kansas Goose Poo Lakes 🙂  


I knew my swim fitness wasn’t actually that great (shhh, don’t tell) > certainly not as good as it had been for Tulsa IM in 2021…I had a hard time getting my rear in gear in the pool (eik…even swimmers have a hard time getting in the pool sometimes many times).  Eventually I got there w/ my training – but I set my race expectations knowing my fitness wasn’t the best it could be > I figured I could pull off 2000-3000 before I would feel the impact of that > so, like I tell you all, I focused on those first 3000 yards and didn’t let the last 1000 hijack the rest of my swim.  That last 1000 was hard – but I just kept my focus on never letting up on how hard I was pulling – every single stroke had to count.  I didn’t think about anything else except sighting. 

I thought it would be cool to be top 10 out of the swim > extra cool to be top 5 > it never occurred to me I’d be first.  I still don’t know how that happened – but we take our wins where we can get them!!  eik!

I wasn’t sure what place I was in during the swim, but I did know there was a girl drafting off me – and when we hit the ramp to get out, she ran past me…..and I thought – well, we don’t know where that timing mat is – so I ran past her up the stairs….turns out that was a good move that put me in 1st place ;).  yea!

I will take this opportunity to point out that while pool swimming and open water swimming may look similar – there are important differences.  In some ways it’s like comparing road riding to mountain biking….the fitness and the motions are similar but the execution requires different skills.  

Pool swimmers are largely training for relatively short sprint races in the pool (even the shortest distance of most triathlon swims (~500 m) is considered a “distance” event in the swimming world).  

Triathletes are practicing for 15 min – 2 hour long swims in open water.  

Pool and Triathlon swims are VERY DIFFERENT EVENTS – the strokes can be different, the type of fitness required is usually different, and the race tactics are different.  …And certainly swimmers are not getting out to bike and run 🙂   

Truth be told, I have never been a ‘fast’ pool swimmer.  My stroke is made for open water > I get a lot of crap from the Masters group I practice with about my terrible stroke and mono-speed (one pace) swim ability.  

It’s really just that my stroke is made for open water b/c it’s choppy – not long and super technical like good pool swimmers. 

I have mostly 1 speed in the water for a few reasons – but largely due to how I train.  I do a lot of longer threshold sets w/o much rest > why?  B/c that is how I would like to be able to race 2.4 miles in open water – and with decades of being a distance freestyle swimmer under my belt, I can (usually) physically and mentally tolerate these kinds of sets….(tho this tested that ;).    

Take aways:

  • You don’t need a perfect pool stroke for triathlon
  • How we train matters
  • OCEAN SWIMMING IS THE MOST AMAZING EVER – don’t say you don’t like open water swimming until you swim in clear ocean water 🙂  


My mindset on race day: This is epic and amazing and holy shit I get to ride the Kona course!!  No matter what, this is freaking amazing!!!!!  And it was > I list the things below that impacted my bike b/c I think it’s good to see what other athletes go through out on course – but I had the ride I earned in training this year and I was grateful to make it through.

Overall being out there was every bit as cool as I thought it would be – b/c they split racing into 2 days by gender, I was racing w/ mostly women on the course > and racing with mostly women meant people were generally more thoughtful (sorry, dudes – even Casey, my husband, agrees).  I was getting passed in droves on the bike but in the rare instance I passed someone, it also meant they didn’t take it as an affront to their manhood and try to race me down…. ; /

It was windy and hot and I loved every second!!   Hawi (the turn around point on the bike) is a really cute town 😉  There is a LOT of lava and wide open spaces (like 50 miles of it) between Kona and Hawi and you can see the ocean almost the whole way.  GLORIOUS!!!

I cried the whole last mile of the bike.  Relief my bike had (mostly) held up + total overwhelm by all the people, the support, and my gratitude for such an opportunity made me a slobbery mess on more than 1 occasion on race day.

My expectations for the bike portion of the race:  

I knew:

  • My fitness wasn’t at it’s best (and that was ok) 
  • This course could be brutal b/c of elevation, wind, heat, humidity, and relentless sun.
  • COVID in the month prior left lingering effects on my breathing / heart rate – and had also meant missing some key training; Both factors needed to be accounted for in my race expectations.
  • On the flight to Kona, I’d caught another bug that turned my snot into angry glue monsters – but people race sick all the time so I did my best to ignore it.
  • I traveled a lot in the 2 months before Kona > this (esp in combination w/ having COVID) was definitely NOT ‘performance enhancing’ – but definitely NOT something I was going to miss

Based on these factors, I laid expectations for this bike as one I would need to pace smartly (conservatively), never miss an opportunity to cool myself, and eat/drink/ take salt like it was my job.

My goal power and HR goals were both zone 2 (power 160-170 watts / HR ~135 or less) > I am careful w/ time goals b/c they often lead us to make poor choices in a race – but I was hoping I’d be done in under 6:30. I ended up at ~6:05 which is about 30 minutes slower than my standard IM bike ride time for similar courses > but absolutely a fair time all things considered and I was grateful)

My carb / electrolyte intake per hour: 

  • 1 skratch + Nuun (20 carbs), 
  • 1 Kurt Bar (45 carbs), 
  • 1 Honey Stinger (22 carbs) hour 
  • = ~80-85 carbs / hour (a bit less in the last hour)

I did this nutrition routine for the first 5 hours > in the last hour I backed off the solids and took in more scratch to make sure things digested before the run (but still wanting to keep up the carbs/salt).

I carried nutrition in my back pockets > each hour I’d grab enough for the next hour and move it to my boobs 🙂 Then I’d note the time and know I had to eat all that was in my boobs over the next 60 minutes – this helped me keep track to make sure I was eating enough.  Hooter snacking on the go!  LOL eik! (sorry again, dudes).

My Fluid Intake: 

  • 1 bottle of Skratch/nuun (as mentioned above) 
  • 1 bottle of water + nuun per hour 
  • Every aid station I grabbed an extra bottle of water and drank ~⅓- ½ and poured the rest over my head and body.  
  • = 2 – 2.5 bottles of fluid per hour drinking
  • = ½ – ¾ bottle per hour of cooling  

Headspace on bike:

Prior to Kona, I kept saying: ‘I ‘just wanted to enjoy’ this race > I know lots of athletes say this – but for me,  it’s dicey 😉  I might enjoy the chance to race – but it’s no picnic out there – and I should have known better!  Within 15 minutes on that bike, I knew I was going to have to be as focused as any other race > the problem was that I should have mentally been preparing for this in the weeks leading up to the race > my focus was not there. (It really hadn’t been most of the year – at least not in the way it needed to be to nail an IM.  FWIW – I have made my peace with this – so please don’t take this as complaining 🙂  I share b/c I think it’s really important information – the physical prep is only part of nailing a race.

The impact of not having my focus where it should have been, ‘cost’ me ‘free time’ (meaning you can go faster w/o expending more energy).  I could have done more to tighten up my race prep and saved time.  (This is part of ‘the mental side of sport’ – we have the fitness – nailing the other details takes a lot of focus and preparation – and race day is about getting the details right so your fitness can shine).   

Again – I have not spent time beating myself up about this – it’s stuff I knew, I didn’t do well and that’s ok.  IM takes an enormous amount of focus – I missed some things this time around – this can happen to any of us 🙂

Examples of details I botched which cost me ‘free’ time;

WHEELS: I normally rent aero wheels from Race Day Wheels > Early in 2022, their website said they were not going to be at Kona > I thought that was weird but I never followed up to secure race wheels for Kona.  It turns out – they were at Kona and if I’d followed up I could have easily rented wheels.  Normally racing w/o aero wheels would not be an option for me – I’d find a way to get them > but this year I just let it go b/c my head space wasn’t locked in > I was bummed I didn’t have them (and not just b/c of the cool sound they make!!) b/c it would have been an ‘easy’ way to save a few minutes.

SADDLE: My saddle kept falling during my warm up ride at Kona > I should have taken it in to be fixed…..instead I tried to fix it on my own (uh hu).  Shockingly, this did not work – aaaand it kept slipping down during my race > obviously this took time to repeatedly stop and fix > and once I got it to stay, my saddle was too low > this meant I was using my quads instead of using my gluts on the bike….this is tough on the power numbers & speed and, dear lord, tough on the quads during that run (o.m.g).

Huge silver lining:  My prayer for the bike was that if I had bike issues on the course, to please be ones that still allowed me to continue….that was granted and sweet glory thanks for that.  I’m recapping the nitty gritty as teachable moments 🙂  


I’m not usually one to linger in transition – but I sure did this time. I sat down, I had a snack, I drank some stuff….!   This was my mindset of “doing Ironman for fun” (….lies! All lies, LIZ!!).  In hindsight, I wouldn’t do it this way again…..even if we’re not going to have a PR race, we all still owed it to ourselves to get the most out of our race > I’d be a bit more focused next time round >  BUT!  A few extra minutes in transition is nothing to get worked up about 🙂  onward we go.


A lot of the same things went into my thinking about the run as the swim/bike > I was a bit undertrained & conditions were tough > pacing and fueling and cooling were a must.

First and foremost: Holy shit I made it to the run – my bike didn’t have any un-resolvable mechanical issues!  (more tears!)


If I am die, at least I’ll go out doing what I love!  


Is someone stabbing my quads with an ice pick?


Over the years, I’ve come to fairly reliably know that my pace for my zone 2 heart rate (130s) is ~8:30 give or take.  Since COVID, my pace for zone 2 has been more like 9:30.  This, combined the current cold/flu, I knew I’d need to be super careful on course with pacing and eating > and, sweet glory, it worked out.  I kept an eye on my HR (130s) and my pace was holding ~9:30.  I walked through each aid station to get ice, water, coke, more water and more ice.  I had a few porta potty stops towards the end > but for the most part, I was able to steadily move forward. THANK YOU TO THE KONA GODS.

My nose ran like siv so my sweat rag turned into a snot rag.  mmm.

My only 2 real “prayers” for the day were #1 if I have mechanical issues on my bike, please let it be something that still allows me to finish (granted!!) #2 no matter how I feel out there on the run, please let me be able to make steady forward progress (granted!!).  THANKFUL THANKFUL THANKFUL!!!

I felt descent enough on that run – nothing that ever shut me down – however, mile 24 there was a very rude hill that almost killed me.  At the end of that climb, I was not my best self – as I rounded a corner a guy looked at me and was like “WHERE’S OUR SMILE?”  – I simultaneously wanted to laugh, cry, and punch him > but he was right and I put on a smile (fake it till you make it…or you see the finish line and forget the pain! :).  

My quads have never hurt so bad in my entire life.  Riding w/ a low saddle was a special challenge – but some of you may remember our Red whose entire saddle fell off during a race…and she tied it back to her seat post w/ a bike tube and had to ride half way standing….I kept thinking well, at least it’s not THAT!  

It took ~ a week for my quads to stop buckling when I was walking (a special bonus while cheering for Casey’s IM the next 2 days – eik!)

I always take Tylenol during my IM runs to dull the pain – I take 2 at the start and 2 at half way > I did that this time as well > I literally can’t imagine what my quads would have done w/o it. 

Run Nutrition + Cooling:

I carried a 24 oz bottle of Skratch out of transition w/ me > I immediately started my sipping and kept it up all day.  When the skratch was done, I refilled with water at aid stations > the entire way I sipped water and poured it over myself. (yes, i got blisters one of which is currently killing off my big toe nail! rude).  I don’t know how much fluid I ultimately took in – it was just a continuous trickle all day.

I took a salt tab about every 2 miles > usually get my electrolytes from nuun (not salt tabs) > but my quads were screaming and the salt seemed to help so I took it.  I usually carry extra salt during a race and was glad I did this time.

Carbs:  2 gulps of coke at every aid station, 1 GU chomp OR ¼ of a SIS gel between each aid station.  Basically I took in some kind of sugar at least every ½ mile.


Casey and I had an interesting conversation after IM which I think worth passing along: we both felt sick during the run.  Neither of us wanted to eat.  We talked about how this is true every time we race.  And, how many years it’s taken us to realize this is our ‘normal’  – it’s freaking hard to to eat during a race – it’s so much WORK.  It can feel almost harder than the physical part sometimes.  We also noted how long it’s taken us to realize how much more we needed to eat on the run than we thought and how long it took to train our stomachs to take it in even when we didn’t feel well.

Casey took in a GU ~2 miles > that was 3-4 GUs per hour (60-80g carbs).  I don’t know how much I ultimately took in b/c mine was a more continuous trickle but I’d guess ~50 give or take.

I can’t stress enough how much work it is to eat during a race – it is a ton of work to pay attention to and track what you’ve eaten (esp after the first few hours) and it is work to put it in your mouth when you feel sick.  

But the fact of the matter is you arrive at race day with the fitness you have – and at that point, it doesn’t matter – for most, it’s not the fitness that will make or break your race – it’s all the other details – including nutrition.  For most, Ironman is a fuel limited event – not fitness limited.  If time is a factor in your day (whether it’s a performance or cut off goal), those details are as important as your fitness come race day.  You owe it to yourself to work as hard on those as you do on building fitness 🙂

Thank you all so much for all of your support both this year and for this race.  I appreciate the grace and support you’ve showed > I can’t wait to get back out there and support you all next year!!!

Relentless Forward Progress, Together!!


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