In 2009 I qualified to compete at the Ironman World Championship when I was the first Hawaii finisher in my age group at Honu. But on race day at Kona, a pre-race injury caused me to DNF with only a half a mile to go when time ran out at midnight.
Since 2009, I have been on a mission to return to Kona, competing in a number of Ironman qualifying races around the world—in Mexico, Australia, France and New Zealand. I’ve also competed at Ironman Hawaii 70.3 Honu, making sure I registered as a Hawaii Resident, just in case they pulled my name in the special lottery for residents who finish that race.
As I entered races and tried my best, I thought I might earn an invitation to Kona. The size of my age group has had anywhere from 8 to 30 entrants, so my odds of making the podium are much better than for those that race in the age groups full of hundreds of competitors. I made the podium in three events, but the slot never rolled down. As I moved to a higher and higher age in my group, I set my sights on qualifying in 2014 when I would age up to 60. That would mean I’d be “young” in the group and the competitive field would be even smaller. I have to say, however, that many of the women who are racing in this age group are darn fast and seemingly unbeatable by me.
Strategically picking my race for 2014 was critical. I spent a lot of time looking at race results over the past few years, checking out the times and ages of direct competitors who might age up along with me, and reviewing courses to see which might give an advantage to someone strongest on the bike (and pretty darn weak on the swim).
And I found the race. Ironman Brazil in late May, 2014. The course looked well suited to me, there have been only 1-2 people in the F60-64 age group in the past, I thought I could beat them, and the one person who might age up appeared to be about my same speed. Of course, someone else could be thinking just like me and register and instantly kill my chances, like Missy LeStrange did at Ironman Cozumel in 2010. But this race looked pretty good.
The next challenge was to register before the race sold out. I had made it into Ironman Melbourne its first year when it sold out in just over 5 minutes. I frequently checked the published time and date for IM Brazil’s registration by looking at the local site in Portuguese. I researched the time in Brazil, made sure I knew what that time was in Honolulu, marked my calendar, set my alarm clock and got on the computer, ready to try to sign up, about 10 minutes before registration opened. Then, it was refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh….until I got a registration screen. Yippee! I made it in before Ironman Brazil sold out in 17 minutes. Whew!
This was on June 7. Almost a week after Honu, but just a day before the Hawaii Resident lottery drawing scheduled for June 8 at 6pm.
I didn’t think there was any chance my name would be drawn in the lottery. It hadn’t been in the past and I had already plotted my course to return to Kona. But, at 6pm that Saturday I was on facebook, the source of all breaking news, checking to see if winners had been posted. Soon after 6pm, Bike Works started posting names of Island of Hawaii winners, one or two at a time. Then, whammo! A list of Hawaii residents popped up and THERE WAS MY NAME smack dab in the middle. A little shiver went through me, but I didn’t feel excited since I had set my expectations very low so I wouldn’t be disappointed. REAL excitement was palpable on a call I received from fellow lottery winners shouting and laughing and crying in joy. That night, I dreamt that I was racing at Kona and in the morning I checked the list again and my name was still on it. Then, it sunk in. I am competing at the Ironman World Championship on October 12, 2013!
I am honored and blessed to be able to return to this incredibly special event. Now, I have to train smart, stay healthy and be ready to go. Will I still do Ironman Brazil next year? Yep, that’s the plan, along with Ironman Cozumel on December 1 this year. Will I get a slot at either of these races? Who knows? I do know I’m pretty fortunate to be able to participate like this. Having the time to train without juggling a career and a family makes this possible for me when it’s pretty much impossible for most. As much as I’ve never been much of a fan of being “old”, I’m finding that being older does come with some pretty good perks that compensate for wrinkles, a few more aches and pains and a temperamental memory.