Traveling to paradise
While taking a short vacation in Maui I decided to take full advantage of a rare opportunity. Being fully aware that the Ironman World Championship is hosted in Kona, I wanted to experience training all three disciplines while there. Although I don’t have a desire to race in the world championship, I was excited that this would likely be the closest I’ll come to competing in such a beautiful and iconic environment.
I will train
I was not willing to ship my bike to Hawaii, so finding a rental was necessary. I found West Maui Cycles, a shop near our hotel that rented road bikes. But, before choosing the rental days, I reserved time to SCUBA dive and a few other activities that would allow us to explore on land and by sea. From the bike shop, I chose a 58cm Specialized Roubaix Sport. Once the reservation was confirmed, I packed my training accessories –Assioma duo power-pedals, Garmin VARIA radar and Wahoo Element computer from my tri bike.
Next, I used Strava to look for long bike routes around the island that I could handle. After all, Maui is a volcanic island, and that could mean big climbs and narrow roads with blind turns. After looking around and playing with the routes, I fantasized about riding the 65-mile route that goes around the whole northern section of the island. Unfortunately, I couldn’t assess the terrain or the type of roads I’d have to travel. Since I’m not an experienced road biker, these details really matter to me. The route would have to be contingent upon inspection once I was there.
Ocean swimming was next up on the “gotta do that” list. Growing up in Los Angeles, I spent plenty of time swimming in the ocean. I love it. But, swimming an ocean mile and playing on and off the beach with a boogie board are different activities with different risks. The goal was to swim for at least one mile. I was simultaneously filled with anxiety and excitement. Would I find other triathletes swimming and join them? Were the currents amenable where we were staying? 🤷🏽♂️ So, I decided to bring my swim buoy as a safety precaution.
Time to face my fears
No matter where I go, there is always a place to run. My goal was to push hard and do some long runs. To go further and longer than I’ve ever gone. During the past month or so, I’ve been afraid of the two-hour and the three-hour runs, have found myself making silly excuses and not conquering them. Basically, I’m acting as if I don’t want to run the Ironman because it scares me too much. However, I despise when I allow fear to make my decisions. Getting better at recognizing when I’m exhibiting that behavior and pushing through it is one of the purposes of this Ironman training process.
While there, the plan was to maintain my regular training schedule which included a two-hour run. Fortunately, the time zone change supports early mornings. Since I love being outside and the weather is perfect, what better place to push through some of my perceived limits and soak in feelings of accomplishment and growth?
Boom! The motivation was locked in.
Just as importantly, my first half-marathon was quickly approaching. The race was scheduled for two weeks after we returned from Hawaii. To date, I’d avoided all the longer training runs so I didn’t even know if I could run that far. What would the experience feel like? What type of pain would I experience? Where would my mind go during all that time? Where would I draw strength or confidence If I’d never run 12.1 miles in the past?
I needed to do it at least once before the race. No more excuses!
A few weeks before Hawaii I ran a 10K race and felt pretty good. My pace was between 11-12 min/mile and at the time, it seemed sustainable for double the distance. But I didn’t really know….the tastin’ is in the eatin’.
In Maui..get to running
We were going to be in Maui for a full week which meant that I could get three runs done. One every other day.
For the first run, I woke up just before sunrise and went from the resort and jogged along the beach walking path from Kaanapali south towards Lahaina and back. I ran for an hour the first day then two and a half hours the next time. I decided to take a different route and go north towards Napili-Honokowai and back. The last, one-hour run was along the same beach route.
The first run, which was short, was stunning. Watching the sunrise over the volcano while feeling the ocean breeze felt like paradise. I did my best to be mentally present and soak it all in. I’ve read a lot of athletes expressing feelings of gratitude when they are doing endurance activities…At that moment, I understood exactly what they feel. I was filled with absolute gratitude, and smiling uncontrollably as I ran.
The longest run…ever
For my long run I set out before sunrise. I was less concerned about the distance and more unsure whether I’d be able to run continuously for 3 hrs. To improve a runner’s mileage, the rule of thumb is to only increase mileage by 10% a week. I was about to try to double my longest mileage in one day…10K to 20K. A recipe for disaster, I knew that. However, I put myself in this position by avoiding all of the opportunities to increase my distances leading to today. Now I was going to do what I needed to do and pay the piper afterwords. However, I was in Hawaii right now and wanted to push myself and experience the pain, doubt and whatever else my mind would throw at me when my body began to hurt and become fatigued.
Initially, it felt like a normal run. I enjoyed watching the sun shoot it’s morning rays into the sea as it rose above the volcano. I also felt a tinge of disappointment as the town began to awaken and people were leaving their homes and filling the streets. The run felt comfortable for the first 8 miles. I kept an eye on my pace, ensuring that I didn’t run too fast in the beginning. Mile 9 is where the gorilla jumped on my back. Looking back, I didn’t adequately fuel myself. To compound the issue, I only had coffee before heading out to run. So, I’m not surprised that the gorilla showed up after an hour and a half.
Soon I would see how deep I’d have to dig, and how many ways my mind would tell me to quit. I distinctly remember smiling and looking forward to the pain. Thinking to myself… I chose this path…and it’s time to show up and push…embrace the suck as each mile became progressively more difficult. Eventually, my water bottle was empty and my legs felt like they’d been filled with cement. My body was hurting. My brain was screaming stop doing this shit! Why continue, you aren’t ready, you need more time, try again later. I was able to keep my “why” at the top of mind and silence the defeatist voices for brief periods. It was in those silent moments that I felt alive and unstoppable. The high of feeling like I could accomplish anything served as the needed counterbalance to the doubt and fear I was also grappling with. I was nearing 11.5 miles and about 2 hrs 20 minutes of continuous running. I had to admit that my time was up, I was out of energy and devoid of the drive to continue pushing myself. Feeling completely exhausted and delighted at my accomplishment, I walked slowly back to my room to rest, refresh and prepare for the day with my family.
Goal achieved! Time to embrace the pain.