2022 70.3 World Championship, St. George UT

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,

Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

… I hope you dance.”

For some reason during race week, “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack came on the radio SO MANY TIMES! I’ll take it as a theme for this year’s really exciting World Championship race, as every athlete had to overcome the fear of a very cold race on a tough course. We chose not to sit it out, but to dance!

Every season finale has a certain air of nervous anticipation; everyone wants to end the year on a high note. I certainly didn’t want to spend winter thinking about a race that could have gone better! After a really disappointing race a few months earlier in Boulder, CO (delayed start, fueling issues as a result, and getting sick on bike/not finishing)  I know how it feels to have the weight of a “bad” race on your shoulders for weeks on end. St. George always delivers tough conditions: always windy and hilly, cold water temps with warm air temps or, in this year’s case, fair water temps and cold air temps. Going into race week, I knew it would be chilly before the start and after the swim getting on the bike, but likely deliver amazing run conditions. I was also  guaranteed a wetsuit-legal swim, which favors me as an “adult-learn-to-swimmer.” The race was divided into a female-only day on Friday, and mens-only day on Saturday.

My husband, Elliot, has been coaching me for the last three seasons. This is the first BIG race where he has been solely focused on supporting me instead of both of us racing together. Three weeks prior, he absolutely crushed the full distance Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii! It’s been a very busy season of travel, training, racing and supporting one another.

Elliot is spectacular at peaking me for big races, and physically I was in great shape coming of a 13 month training cycle. World Championships in 2021 was a month and a half earlier than this year, so I felt like I had been training with this race in mind for a very long time! During this training cycle, Elliot and I accomplished the following:

  • 1:20:30 @ Seattle Half Marathon, Female Champion
  • 1:17:55 (5:57/mi ave) @ Rock N Roll Arizona, 3rd Overall Amateur
  • Victoria 70.3 Overall Female Champion
  • Coeur D’Alene 70.3 Overall Female Champion
  • Won every local race entered, and placed 2nd overall with the men at Black Diamond and Lake Meridian Olympic Triathlon
  • 1:19:20 @ Rock N Roll Seattle: Elite Female Champion
  • 5th in 30-34 Age Group at Ho’ala Ironman 2.4 Mile Open Water swim in 1:04:47
  • Elliot raced Ironman World Championship St. George in May (a “make up” World Championship from 2020), Ironman Canada in August (5th AG, 3rd American), qualified for Boston at Tunnel Vision Marathon, and placed 4th in his AG at Boulder 70.3. He also raced Victoria, Coeur D’Alene and two of the local Olympic distance races with me.

So, yes, it’s been a busy and mostly successful season! We both had some rough races, which is an important part of the journey. I overcame a painful and complex snowboarding injury early in the year and a DNF, while Elliot overcame the fatigue of several long distances races and the shift to working with a new coach.

I worked especially hard on sleep training and recovery in the lead in to Worlds. Traveling to Kona for Elliot’s race was  during the phase I needed to put in quality training, so I knew I needed both a fantastic fitness base, discipline during travel, and proper recovery protocols with the new environment and added travel stress.

We always stay 20-30 minutes away from a race venue, and I loved the quiet and quaint country AirBnB we found at the base of a beautiful red rock mountain face in Hurricane, UT. All the careful details and preparation paid off on race day: I felt fresh, calm and well-rested on race morning.

Training through Elliot’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI was tough but character building!
Elliot and I race morning!
Keeping warm at the start!

The air temperature was 39*F at the start with water temps at 63,* similar to the conditions a few days prior to my practice/acclimation swim. Amateur athletes are released in waves based on their age category: 10 athletes at a time, 15 seconds apart. My age group (30-34) started at 8:15am. The sun rose of the red rocks as we entered the water, and the clear cool water of Sand Hollow Reservoir was a welcome comfort after standing on the cold pier. We swam through several of the older age group women that started before us, which is annoying for us but likely terrifying for them. I felt smooth and strong in the water, especially because it was warmer than the air, and the course buoys seemed to move by quickly. I noticed at the last buoy a girl in my age group (30-34 age group wore light blue caps for identification) blew by me, which is a detail that comes into play later in the race report. I know in the future I’ll need to push myself more, as I clocked the slowest swim time by 90″- 6 minutes in the top 8 women. Typically, I try and hold a smooth tempo effort in the water, despite the short 2km distance, to avoid panicking in the water and wasting energy, but I’m at the technical ability now where I could push harder and go faster. My mindset needs to go from “relax/minimize damage” to “push/race.” I swam the 1.2 mile course in 31:28 (1:29/100y), just 25” off my best time, which I’m happy but not satisfied with considering no warm up and cold conditions.

Cold T1! Thanks for the cheers Ryan and Patty!

The air was cold coming out of the water, but I packed appropriate cold gear for the conditions. Transition 1 felt a bit clumsy with frozen, wet hands/feet and cumbersome cold gear, but I got through unscathed in a fair time (4:50).  The beginning of the bike was brutally cold, as there were fast sections that felt very uncomfortable while still wet from the swim. However, I was able to keep my legs moving and mentally focused, eventually thawing out around mile 33. The bike course is an absolute stunner, and very dynamic with punchy climbs and long ascents; one of the hilliest in North America. I was feeling confident on the final climb, as no one passed me or even rode with me during the 56 mile bike course. I biked a 2:34:55 (21.7mph), which was a little slower than I expected having done this course twice before. However, conditions are obviously always a huge factor in St. George (wind, temps, etc) and they had slightly changed the course. I held spot on my power targets! I was smiling and having tons of on the fast descent into town, where large crowds were waiting for us to begin the run.

My bike, Summer Breeze, is wicked fast!
Coming into T2

Hands and feet were a touch numb getting off the bike from the chilly bike leg, so I felt a a little clumsy again in Transition 2. Luckily, I practiced a lot and went through the motions instinctively (1:33). I had told Elliot before the race “I will just be happy to see you when I get to the run!” and I was! I was certain my swim limited enough damage, and my bike was strong enough to put me in a good spot for the run, which is my strongest discipline. However, my smile faded quickly when Elliot told me I was 9th in my age group, 7 minutes down. Last year I swam 3 minutes slower and biked 5 minutes slower, but was 3rd in my age group and only 4 minutes down to first. “That’s really bad!” I remember telling him with a frown before turning uphill to the first out and back. “Just run strong and you’ll catch them!” He responded before fading into the noise of the crowd.

Focus mode: ON. I ran really strong and took mental notes on the first loop of the 2 loop, 13 mile run course, fueling as I have in races past. I let go of the somewhat negative and unexpected position update, and paced by feel on the undulating, rolling hills terrain so that I could have a strong second lap. Every time I crossed a timing mat I felt the strength of everyone tracking me from afar, knowing they would cheer with excitement at my effort to battle into a top position.

I came back into town ready to hear where I was in the field. Due to the rolling swim starts, athletes are never sure of where they are position-wise. We have to rely on spectators who have access to a tracking app with accurate splits to let us know, which is really tough when you’re racing to win. I was told the gaps were coming down, and that I was running the best in the field, moving into the top 5. I didn’t relax, but felt encouraged. There was more work to do.

Pain face!

My stomach felt tight and sick from the stress, new stimuli of cold early on in the day, and the general digestion of gels/sports drink during an extended hard effort, but I continued on. Fatigue crept up, but I knew the other girls were feeling tired too. I got more updates from friends on the course that saw me, I was gaining on 3rd and 2nd heading into the hilly sections. With just 3 miles to go, I was told I was 14 seconds away from the podium. I began to calculate how fast I needed to run before the finish line to keep catching women. I was running out of miles!

With 2 miles to go, Elliot shouted that I have to dig deep and run hard, that I was in both age group AND top 5 contention by mere seconds. I told him my stomach hurt, but OK and just to meet me in medical tent after the race. My legs felt like lead, but I refused to let my thoughts turn negative. I knew every second mattered now. I pushed the final out and back stretch with everything in me, praying it was enough.

Elliot was the key to my success.
Thank you to all who gave me splits on the run course!
Elliot: “RUN HARD! The gap is down to a second!”
Me: “K meet me in medical!”

Elliot had sprinted over to the final timing mat to give me one last update: with 400 meters to go the gap to 2nd place was down to one second. I felt like a zombie running, leaning forward to propel my legs just one second faster than the invisible competitor I was racing. I saw the finish, leaned into it, and raised my arms in triumph after crossing. Whatever the chip times said, I gave it my absolute everything. I finished completely alone despite being neck and neck with other women “virtually,” which was such a strange feeling. I began to sob, collapsing into a volunteer who carried me to a wheelchair. Soon I was looking up at a kind medical volunteer, babbling about seconds and how I’m so tired. They assured me my finish was amazing and encouraged me to relax. Thank you volunteers! Luckily, the air was cool which prevented me from excessive overheating and I recovered moments later. I had no idea what my finishing position was, and frankly I didn’t care. It felt absolutely incredible to be so engaged in a battle that I was truly, deeply satisfied. I ran a 1:26:17, and while it was impressive on the day, I KNOW a 1:25 on that course is in me!!

Finishing completely alone despite the “neck and neck” tie!

I immediately called my dad while riding high from the experience; speaking to my dad after races is one of my favorite rituals that I don’t think words can accurately describe. Thank you for being in my corner, Dad, I love you! Elliot found me and asked if I wanted to know what happened with results, and I said no. I just wanted to enjoy how amazing the day went, and my effort all around in each swim, bike and run. We laughed in the gorgeous afternoon sunshine, and caught up with our good friend, Sascha. There is no greater feeling than the sweet relief of a hard earned  finish line after months of hard work.

Sascha and I at the finish party

Driving back from the race, Elliot told me what happened: I was in a 3 way tie for 2nd – 4th in the 30-34 age group and 4-6th overall. The race directors had to go down to the tenth, and then the hundredth of a second to determine the podium. I had gotten 3rd in my age group, 5th overall, by just .04 seconds.  CRAZY. I wish we all started together, so that we could have duked it out on the finish line stretch! Elliot confirmed I was the fastest American amateur, which meant a lot to me!

Overall Amateur Results
30-34 Age Group Results

On top of that drama, the girl who won  my age group was tactical (albeit unsportsmanlike in my opinion) by starting at the very back of our age group wave, approximately 5 minutes behind that front wave, and swam one of the best age group swim times to give herself company on the bike, and a solid  time  cushion. Usually, the fastest swimmers line up at the front of the age group; I seed myself according to my predicted swim time vs working the system, but it’s technically within the rules and a tactic other strong age-group swimmers may use. I immediately remembered the girl who blew by me as I was finishing the swim. Recently, I realized this could also mean her course spotter would have seen all of our splits come through about 3-5 minutes before she went through, do some math, and communicate what pace she had to hold run to defend first. Elliot noted I passed her during the second loop of the run, physically. The 3 way tie AND the slingshot swim tactic would be eliminated if we had mass age group starts instead of the rolling starts, just like they do at the Ironman World Championship in Kona. These are issues both Elliot and I ( and several other elite athletes) have been burned by; it’s the primary drawback in racing as an age grouper vs. professionally. I don’t want to sound negative, but these are really impactful experiences that have a profound affect on competitive athletes.

History makers! 3 way tie group at awards. Irish, American, and Polish!
30-34 Age Group Champions

Despite all that, I knew I was in the right place racing amateur instead of professionally. I absolutely loved battling my way to the front. From 58th position out of the water, to 9th position off the bike, to a 3-way tie for 2nd after the run, it was a dream come true in hard conditions on a tough course.

I learned so much about myself, and clocked the best run in my age group, 2nd best of any amateur in the entire field. I am the fastest American amateur at the 70.3 distance. I’ll admit… I would have loved to win my age group and be top 3 overall. The gaps were close – only 3.5 minutes to first overall and 1 minute 50 seconds to first in my age group/second overall. I was hoping this race would offer closure on what to do next season: continue racing amateur or make the jump to professional, but the 3 way tie only left me wondering if I have more unfinished business with age group racing!

At awards the next evening, the podium girls and I finally met, gushing over the day and excitedly sharing our experiences with one another! The announcers proclaimed history was made as they called the three of us on stage. We were all over the moon as the crowd gasped in amazement over the tie. The feeling of making it to a World Championship award ceremony is just unreal, and I’m thrilled to have made it back. The field was deeper and far more internationally influenced than last year, as travel in 2021 was still fairly restricted. 2/3 of the field was from outside of the United Staes this year! (Last year I was 2nd in 30-34 AG, 8th Overall, and 3rd American). I definitely improved and raced far better, so I am truly happy with the results.

Thanks to my crew! Elliot, Sascha and I at awards.
Happy and relieved to end a busy season on a high note!
My triathlon sister, Carolyn, celebrating after the race! Love you C!

I’m thrilled with my preparation, the coach-athlete relationship that got me here, my performance, and can confirm that I absolutely love this lifestyle. I’m in no rush to think about next year, and am looking forward to down time with my dogs and husband, painting and completing DIY projects while continuing to grow my coaching business. Thank you to all those who helped me this season, on race day, and supported my mental health and emotions throughout the highs and lows of the long season. I appreciate those of you who took the time to read this report, and am happy to answer questions or discuss triathlon/lifestyle if you feel lead. Just shoot me a message on my coaching Instagram page or send me an email (becca@kawaoka-coaching.com)

Cheers,

Becca

One of my idols, Craig “Crowie” Alexander, with me after awards. He was amazed by the 3-way tie! Thank you for your inspiration and commitment to the sport, Crowie!





New Video: Triathlon-Specific Total Body Workout

Join me for a 25 minute functional session that combines sport-specific lifting complexes (swim-bike-run specific) stretches and more!

You’ll need a set of light to moderate weights, and a mat.

This workout is great for all levels, but is considered an intermediate workout.

You don’t have to be a triathlete to enjoy this session! Enjoy!



Single Skillet Supper

Prep Time: 8-12 minutes

Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups baby creamer potatoes, rinsed and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons fat of choice (butter, oil, or my choice: reserved bacon pan drippings!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • optional: dash of Tabasco
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (or more if you ❤ garlic)
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 2-3 cups spinach
  • 2-3 cups of leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken, cubed
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce

Directions:

Start by melting fat of choice in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the quartered potatoes and season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco as desired. Stir to evenly coat potatoes in salt and pepper. Cover skillet with a lid, and cook over medium-high heat for 8-12 minutes, or until one side of potatoes is crispy. Stir once, and leave uncovered for another 8-12 minutes or until potatoes are crispy. Add in garlic, onion and corn. Stir, and cook another 2-3 minutes or until onions and garlic are fragrant. Add in spinach and chicken, stir until spinach is absorbed (1-2 minutes tops) Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Cover until cheese is melted or until ready to serve. Drizzle with BBQ sauce.

*Amount of potatoes and chicken used can be adapted based on pan size , how many people you are trying to serve, and what you have available.


Why Every Triathlete Should Race Locally

By Certified Triathlon Coach & All-American Athlete: Becca Kawaoka

After racing my first local triathlon of the season, Lake Whatcom Triathlon in Bellingham, WA, I feel compelled to highlight the importance of participating in local 5k’s, half marathons, and multisport events. This is my 4th year racing triathlon (5 years in the sport) and every year I am intentional to incorporate local events. Why?

Reviewing the swim course with racing buddy and local legend, David Larpenteur

The sport of triathlon has a grassroots beginning. In the early 1970’s, a group of 46 athletes decided to do a short sprint-like event with swimming, biking, and running as a way to cross train for running events. In the late 1970’s, a handful of people on the shores of Kailua-Kona attempting a self-supported, open-road event that eventually evolved into what is now known as the Ironman distance. That course is now known world-wide as the Ironman World Championships.

History aside, without local races to offer new athletes a chance to “dip their toes” (no pun intended!) into racing, the sport is unlikely to gain new participants. Large corporations like Ironman, Challenge, and the up-and-coming PTO typically only offer long distance events. This can be intimidating to youth/new athletes. Infusing young people and new participants is vital for the long-term survival of the sport, and local racing offers a variety of short to middle distance options (like the super sprint!) or even pairings, such as just the swim-bike, or team relays in case that’s more approachable / in case an injury pops up.

Pre-race shake outs and nervous laughter!

Local races have a laid-back atmosphere, which is a wonderful welcome if you have ever participated in a high-stakes race like Ironman. It’s so fun to chat candidly in transition with your local buddies. Most of my friends, and my husband’s friends, are people we have met at local triathlons. It’s a great way to get to know people who share the same interests as you and live nearby. We love racing the local competition and have developed a wonderful camaraderie with a lot of local triathletes!

Elite start with our buddies discussing tactics!

Racing locally is sort of like choosing to go to a Mom and Pop coffee shop instead of Starbucks. Local racing is really the heart of the sport, and while the field sizes are a bit smaller and the courses are not quite as elaborate as big corporate races, the local events are keeping triathlon alive. One thing I’ve noticed local races do this year is offer an elite wave, which allows anyone competing for an overall position to start in one mass group. This is EXACTLY what we want Ironman to start doing so that it’s a live race on the course versus wave starts. It is very challenging to know where you stand in the age group field at Ironman events because they do rolling wave starts, so we are thrilled that local race directors are starting to offer elite fields. There is no qualification to start with the elites, and you can much cleaner water than the wave or gender starts. Plus, it’s a true live race! For those of you who race competitively with Ironman and have felt the pain of wave starts, support local races and engage in the elite wave. Change really starts at the local level.

Lake Whatcom Triathlon offered such a start, and a handful of about 8 of us started together. My husband and coach, Elliot, started just in front of me with the local group of triathletes we know well: David, Bethany, and Jeremy to name a few! I enjoyed starting on Bethany’s feet and we all stayed together until the first buoy. Lake Whatcom is a wonderful lake, with a triangular swim course. The water was relatively calm and cool, perfect for racing.

Me exiting the water just behind my friend Bethany!

Transition was about 400 meters from the swim exit, up a shallow hill. This year, the transition set up was in the Bloedel Donovan Park’s parking lot. The set up was FAST, as transition was compact with pro-level bike racks and a very short jog out of the swim onto the bike! I was happy to get the chance to practice transitions, though mine was a bit sloppy. My friend Bethany reigned supreme in transitions, with the fastest men and women’s transitions of the day! She was just up ahead of me out of the swim and we exchanged enthusiastic encouragement to one another when I found her on the bike course.

Practicing my transitions!

The bike course is quite challenging, with a fast and beautiful rolling start into a size-able climb on quiet country roads. Unfortunately, I was alone most of the day so I didn’t bike quite as hard as I wanted too. I was also feeling under the weather, congested and weak the days before, so knowing that I was at the front of the women’s field allowed me to ease into a more sustainable effort. A few men passed me, which hasn’t happened much this year, so I was rather chuffed coming into transition.

Shoes off, ready for a quick T2!

The run course is a DOOZY here. Our buddy David, who lives near the course, coaches athletes, and owns the course record from last year, did the aqua bike vs the Olympic due to a hamstring injury. He went out onto the run course after finishing and helped direct me where to go – which is just a perfect example of class sportsmanship and why I love local races! I ran completely alone until I saw the men’s leader, our friend Jeremy. He assured me I was headed the right direction. The run path starts relatively quick on packed gravel and dirt, but quickly gets challenging with a full flight of stairs both down and uphill! I’m not talking a few steps, I’m talking 400 meters of full stairs to burn your quads and skyrocket your heart rate no matter how good of shape you’re in! I saw my husband, who was hard to miss as we were in bright polka dotted matching kits, and a few other men on the out and backs, but was otherwise alone. There was a very encouraging aid station ran by some friendly volunteers who did a great job directing me which way to go on the labyrinth, forested trail run course. Several white arrows directed racers which way to go, but you did need to look for them carefully. Elliot missed one arrow and ran a bit extra, but thankfully found his way back to the path and it did not affect his position.

The finish was flat and fast, and the arch was a welcome sight after quite a battle on the fun but challenging course! I won the women’s side and was 6th overall, a bit disappointed I didn’t make the overall podium but I accepted it, acknowledging I felt less than 100%. Elliot was 4th overall and 2nd in his age group. A few of the front age guys started in age group waves instead of the elite mass start, and it did affect the flow of the overall placements. For example, Jeremy was  only passed physically by the men’s leader, Tom Hutchinson, who won the race convincingly despite starting in the age group waves and catching everyone. If results stayed this way, it would have put Elliot third and age group winner. However, two other top age group men clocked times that put them into top 5 podium position, but were never seen physically because they started further back.

Helpful volunteers pointing me the right way!

This was hard on me as well, as usually I hold onto a podium overall position in the men’s field. In general, this could be cleared up by stating anyone who wants overall awards should start with the elite or first wave. It would have been a more dynamic race that way! This also affected the women’s podium for 2nd and 3rd overall, as my friend Bethany started with me in the elite field. She was only passed by me, so she thought she had 2nd place squared away but a gal who started well behind us clocked a time about a minute faster. This same thing is happening with Ironman races, like I mentioned, but at least there is an opportunity to solve the problem by encouraging an elite start. We just hope more people use that option in the future, and that large corporations catch on. Competitive athletes want a live race! 

The post-race food was AMAZING, and it was so fun jumping in the lake after while discussing the day with our friends and athletes. My athlete Carissa won her age group in 18-24, so we were excited about that as a start to her racing season. The weather was great, and I am so happy to see local races continue to thrive in Washington. We plan to do upcoming local races such as Black Diamond, Lake Meridian, Bonney Lake, and Lake Stevens (barring any injuries) to continue to hone our race skills for key Ironman race events.

Athlete Carissa and I after the race!

SUPPORT LOCAL RACES! If you live near Bellingham, put this one on your calendar!

Cheers,

Becca Kawaoka


Race Report: Coeur D’Alene 70.3

The main takeaway from this race is gratitude. This is my 5th year racing triathlon, my husband Elliot’s 15th year, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from racing year after year it’s that not every day is a great day – especially on the race course. While I am grateful to have the last 2 races result in wins, I am almost prematurely preparing for the day I am bested on the course. The mental shift is now about maintaining confidence with humility in order to both build momentum and prepare for what lies ahead. My favorite quote at this time is: “The good news about failure is that it’s short lived, but the bad news about success is that it’s short lived.” The 48 hours after a win is nothing short of elation, but when the soreness dissipates and the training resumes, the challenge of the next race begins to loom. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already nervous from my next competition!

Our trip to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho was short. We got in Friday, checked in, did a short swim in the chilly waters of Lake Coeur D’Alene (water temps hovered around 58 degrees the entire weekend) and checked into our Air BnB. We planned to leave right after the race to get home that night, too. After the usual pre-race checklist, it was already time to race! If my ankle was the primary source of anxiety prior to Victoria 70.3 (which I was thankful to have won 4 weeks prior) the cold water was the source here. There’s always something!  Thank goodness we were allowed in for a warm up to acclimate, which isn’t always the case. Quick kiss to Elliot, and we were off.

The swim went better than expected, and I felt a bit better than in Victoria. I tried not to be concerned with the usual hard start/washing machine that kicks off every triathlon, and focused on breathing and staying within myself. While I swam alone the first portion, I was able to avoid a lot of contact and save some energy despite not having a draft. I did find a good jet stream the back half of the swim, and felt like I was catching vs getting dropped – which was encouraging. While I swam a few seconds slower than Victoria, I dropped over a minute on my time from 3 years ago in far choppier, colder, and all around tougher conditions with a total time of 32:26.  I remember smiling during the last 300 when I saw the shoreline approaching, as I knew after this I could really get going in the race. I briefly thought one of my swim team athletes, as his mom provided me her secret “record-breaking” homemade bone broth the week before the race. Knowing I would make my athletes (and the few people that knew I was racing) proud really brings me positive energy.

I had really only thought as far as the swim, so when I came out of the water I HAD to celebrate. I smiled and yelled to the crowd of spectators and volunteers: “I DID IT! I SURVIVED!” I was very concerned pre-race that I would have a cold water shock and need to stop; my biggest fear of not being able to continue in a race was almost tangible. Obviously, I had done a few cold swims, but now that I have performance goals and expectations, the anticipation changes. I feel more confidence in having done my 2nd swim under 60 degrees without “failing” – I didn’t have a ground breaking swim but I did keep myself in contention without losing too much time to girls in front of me.

The bike course in Coeur D’Alene is DELCIOUS. I have been to this race 4 of its 5 appearances, either to support Elliot or race it myself, so I’m very familiar with the town, conditions, and course. I was happy to dry off and warm up much faster than at Victoria. The sun was out with air temps between 60 and 70 throughout the day. I am always aggressive on the bike – knowing you’re 4-6 minutes down is very motivating if not borderline panic-inducing! With about 3,000 feet of climbing on the bike, I was excited to work so that I could hopefully get to the front of  the field.

35-40 miles into the bike, you get your first glance of the field, as there is a U-Turn out and back at that point. I counted 4 women in front of me, all 4 of which I knew from past racing or living nearby them. I knew two of them had probably started the swim in front of me and likely outswam me by about 4 minutes. Two of the four of them could run really well. Once I worked my past each one, I kept my eyes forward and the pedals moving. I believe I had the best female bike split, but according to the results (which could be a mistake, since I have checked the top 10 females bike times and none are faster) I had the second best split at 2 hours and 28 minutes on the 56 mile course.

Coming into T2, I knew the run would be difficult both physically and mentally. I’ve never been first off the bike at an Ironman 70.3. It’s one thing to hunt, it’s another thing to be the hunted, especially with the knowledge of who was behind me. The weight of dictating the pace for 13.12 miles was daunting. Due to the rolling swim starts, you never know how big your lead is. Physically you could be leading by a landslide, but someone could be quite close to you virtually. I’ll never get over my 2021 loss of 8 seconds to a girl who started several minutes behind me in the swim. So despite my massive effort on the bike, I had to keep the gas pedal on for the half marathon. In the end, this is probably a good thing! I really wanted to run around a 1:23 on this course, and I pulled off a 1:23:47. It was hard, and my ankle was really painful in the last 5k – likely from the course being all on pavement and a lot faster than in Victoria. Second and third place ran exceptionally well. We all pushed one another to achieve personal bests of some kind, and that fills me with so much joy. 

When I started this sport, there was a fair amount of cattiness, both from myself and women around me, and I’m happy to have grown and matured into a competitor that is able to lift up those around me. The women I raced on this day have nothing but respect from me, true class competitors, and we all embraced while sharing our individual stories of triumph on the course. I was really proud of Kayla and Kylie (2nd and 3rd overall females) and incredibly thankful for how they pushed me to my best and I to theirs.

The finish line was… indescribable. I had the female lead bike with me and the crowds were so loud and supportive. I knew in my heart I had won, which is such rare due to rolling swim starts as mentioned before.  I wish I could bottle that once in a lifetime feeling and keep it with me forever. It was a really personal, joyful memory that I’m blessed to have with me for all my days. I will never forget it. As mentioned, big hugs from my fellow female competitors and athletes combined with the sweet relief of finishing keeps me coming back. My girl Hannah was volunteering at the swim start and finish so that she could give me pre-race AND post-race hugs! Another athlete of mine, Erin, raced very well for her second race of the year and first 70.3 with Kawaoka Coaching. Elliot had a good swim, didn’t feel great on the bike, but rallied to finish what he started!

Whatever happens next, I am incredibly thankful to have put together two great races and achieve back to back 70.3 wins on tough courses in strong fields. I am proud to have been the 31st out of over 2100 athletes, meaning only 30 men beat me to the line. Pre-race anxiety and fears are real, and will likely always be there. The finish line, whether your first or 50th, is the greatest reward for overcoming those emotions. Never forget that. (me to my future self, and all others who struggle with the emotions of sport)

On to the next because, like I said last time, the best win is always the next one.

Cheers,

BK


New Video: Race Recovery Session

Join me for a post-race recovery session that’s meant to check in with the body and aide in the recovery process! No equipment required.

*this is a great mobility, stability and flexibility session for those of you who don’t actively participate in racing, too! Life is a race is many ways, so do not let the title discourage you from giving it a go!