IRONMAN 70.3 | Hawaii – “The Big Island”



PRE-STORY


Mental Masturbation

Marbella race completely destroyed my expectations, flipped everything upside down. For about 3 weeks after the race I suffered from depressing thoughts and emotions. I got locked up in my head. I almost dropped out of sport of triathlon… 

It was dark and I searched for help at different places. I was looking for someone to help me to stop my mental masturbation and make a sense of my thoughts and emotions. 

My swimming and triathlon coaches, Bruce and Renee, my father – were able to find the right words and grounded me and kept me away from mistakenly turning my back on the sport. Thank you! I’m am grateful for you.

You can only lead the horse to the water, but you can’t force him drink. Still, all the mental work needed to be done. I had to re-evaluate and reassess the mindset I bring into the training and racing. 

What role does the sport play in my life?
What function does it have?
Whom am I competing against?
How do I see myself as an athlete, but more importantly who the Sasha is as a person?
How do I evaluate my athletic performance?
What expectations do I have for my body and how are they linked to the feeling of self worth?

I had to destroy and rebuild myself as an athlete. I bring a different mindset to this race, my expectations are different. 

My goals for this race were:

SWIM: under 30 minutes 
BIKE: no specific goal here. Just give it all and see how it goes 
RUN: 1/2 marathon under 1:40 hr 


RACE EXPO



NUTRITION


3 day before the race, starting Wednesday, I increased my carbohydrate consumption from typical 300g/day to 300g+. Wasn’t tracking anything so it’s hard to say what the actual amount was. 

I give preference to low glycemic, complex carbs. I like to have my foods simple and I get most of my carbs from:

  1. Oatmeal 
  2. Brown rice 
  3. Sweet potatoes 

Previously, for Ironman Marbella, I was carb loading with solely with oatmeal. It’s a great option, however due to the high fiber it’s not the best option for a day or two prior the race. This time I am loading with brown rice. I am hoping that low fiber content will make it easier on my GI and prevent digestion issues on the course. 

A day before, on Friday afternoon suddenly felt really bad hunger. Ate a lot of rice, oatmeal and chicken. 

Opening a can of peanut butter was a mistake. After I got a taste of it, I literally lost control… I ate the entire jar myself. (About 3000 Calories). I wasn’t tracking anything, however my curiosity took over and I threw in some numbers into MyFitnessPall to guesstimate the amount ate. 

This is almost triple the amount of food I usually eat. Damn, I’m so full! I hope this extreme caloric excess will provide by body with the energy to unleash on the course tomorrow. Stopped eating at 6 pm, went on a 30-40 minute walk around the block. Planning to wake up at 4 am, which will give my body about 10 hours to digest all the peanut butter I ate 😅 I hope I won’t feel this full tomorrow morning. 



RACE MORNING


Did not sleep well 😔
Had night sweats and woke up to the restroom 3-4 times. My usual resting heart rate went up from 40-41 to 55 bpm.
Really bAD headache upon waking up. 

Breakfast:
Sweet potato (~300g)
Oatmeal 50g
4 tbsp of peanut butter
1 tbsp of honey 
Banana 
Coffee


RACE VENUE: T1

T1 transition opened up from 5-6:15 am. I arrived at 5:30am and faced a huge line from cars. We were not moving at all. I heard one of volunteers saying that they’re already full and there are no parking spots left. Well, great! People were leaving their cars everywhere, on the side of the road, on the hills, anywhere they could find a spot. I was not an exception and left my car on the side on the road. I had 20 minutes left until transition is closed.

Clean transition. This means that you can not leave anything on the ground. All your bike gear has to be off the ground.

Walking down the isles of bikes with my wetsuit hanging over my shoulder I’ve been getting weird looks from other athletes. I a few minutes I realized why. My bike rack neighbor, when saw the suit on the ground, said: “Nice wetsuit, man! Is it legal to swim in suit?”

This is when I realized that NO ONE had a wetsuit , besides me 😆. Went back to the car to drop it off.

I was very disorganized. I couldn’t focus, I could think straight. I felt I was in some sort of mental fog 🌫 On top op it, since waking up this morning I had a REALLY BAD HEADACHE.


SWIM
[00:43:42]


slow but enjoyable


Idiot brought a wetsuit. 

My wave, 25-29 was starting 25 minutes after the official start. First, they let older folks get wet and slowly moved downtown to the younger athletes. Each wave was separated by one minute time.

10 minutes before the start had a half of Cliff Energy Gel.

Despite headache, felt ok through the swim. It was not as crazy as Marbella start and I found out that I was competing with only 42 athletes, my age group. 

It was hard to sight. Because of waves and small size buyees. Another thing was the sun. Being a left side breather I was constantly blinded by the sun, zigzagging throughout the course. 

There were a lot of space between athletes. Because of wise separation between age groupers, there were enough space for everyone to swim at the comfortable pace without getting kicked in the head or pulled by the feet. 

The swim course was absolutely beautiful. The water was so crystal clear, that you could even the tiniest fish swinging around the corals on the bottom. Turtles foot steps could be seen on the white sand. I almost wanted to slow down, just to watch the wildlife. 

The last turn, straight to the finish line, sun was hitting right in the face. Couldn’t see anything, so I was jut following other folks.

Exiting the water, you’ve got to run up the hill to T1. It was about 2 minutes run that would bring your HR up. 

Approaching the bike, I had a volunteer by my side offering to hold transition bag and help to lift the bike. The young kid was really nice.

Headache is getting worse.


BIKE
[02:50:27]


challenging but fast


At the *mandatory pre-race meeting, organizers made a big emphasis on drafting rules and penalties. At least 6 meters between front wheels. Two penalty tents on the course. Yellow card – 30 seconds, blue card – 60 seconds if I recall it correctly. 

T1 was quick. No need to take the wetsuit off, just put your shoes, helmet, sunglasses on and fill your pockets with nutrition, previously prepared. 

The Course:

First 20 km flew by fast. It was a bit windy here and there, but nothing crazy. Approaching the hill is when the wind started to pick up. The higher we went, the stronger the wind blew. About 10 km to the top of this monster hill the wind was BRUTAL. Rocks and sand flew into my face. Along the route I’ve seen quite a few flats and respectively frustrated athletes. Unfortunately you can not prevent it, but you can prepare. “Every hill has a downhill”, I kept repeating in my mind and oddly enough this hill was not an exception. Halfway through the course, on top of the hill you turn around, grab your G2 and fly downhill. I felt I could use a higher gear ⚙️ but my cassette did not carry any. With gravity and wind working for you, not against, second part of the ride was definitely more fun and enjoyable. 

Nutrition: Aid stations were offering Gatorade Endurance at each tent, so I planned to rely solely on it. Brought only one bottle of electrolyte solution, leaving the second bottle cage empty for G2. Also only aid station#3 had GI gels.  

Planned to consume & Actually consumed:

Pretty close to what was planned. Sugar in Gatorade accounted for the rest. Also G2 endurance tastes good. I loved it. 

Headache continued chasing me through the entire bike leg and followed into the run. I could feel the veins pumping on the sides of my head.  

Quick Tip: in hot climates like this, solid foods most likely will melt. If you don’t want to drink your protein bar, pack gels or liquid sources instead. 


RUN
[01:58:05]


hot and painful


REALLY-REALLY HOT🥵 is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the run part.  Right the second I dismounted off the bike, sharp pain 9/10 hit me behind the left knee. I could not even walk… 

“The race is over!”, flew through my mind. Somehow I limped up to my running bag and put on my gear. Again, volunteers were really helpful and helped me with my bike. Thank you!

First 5 km were painful to even step on the leg. However I felt a little bit better 30-40 minutes into the run and slightly picked up the pace. 

Run Course:

We were running along the golf course, often on the grass. Wild goats were starring at people from the side of the road. They were more confused than us, having no idea what was going on.

Two loops with 7 aid stations on each. Gatorade, water, coke and ice. In addition there were ice sponges, GU gels, oranges and bananas. Very well organized and setup. 

Planned & Consumed through the run:

Twice as much as planned.

15 km into the run, really fast and sharp pain hit my knee again 8/10. Ever since it never went away and rapidly increased to the point where I could not resist it anymore… I suffered each step I took. However I did not walk. I was slow, really slow, BUT I did not walk! and it took a lot. 

Dropped my race belt, which I later lost. I also found it much more painful to run downhills rather than uphills. 

Suffering was real, especially for the last 5 km. 

“It’s all good mental training Sasha!!!”, I keep repeating in my head. My mind crossed the finish line, not the body. 


Total consumed through the race:

According to carb consumption formula (0.33 x body weight (150 lbs)) x 5 hr 40 min = 277 grams of carbs were required to cover energy expenditures. 

Looks like I’ve done a pretty good job with my fueling and it’s almost gram to gram precisely close to what formula suggests. 


RACE RESULTS


LESSONS LEARNED


  1. I tend to binge eat the night before race. I don’t repeat such behavior during regular days. Could be due to stress and anxiety, could be out of fear of coming into the race under fueled and bonking, could be because of deeper psychological issues I am not aware of.
  2. Overeating before bed will not fuel up your glycogen stores, but will compromise your night sleep. You will wake up exhausted and feeling like crap.
  3. Do your homework and carefully research on race rules, requirements and regulations. Failing to do good research made me bring the wetsuit into the event where it was not permitted.
  4. Rice and sweet potatoes are better alternatives to oatmeal for pre-race meal. Consuming low-fibrous foods reduce the chance of GI distress during the race.
  5. Gatorade Endurance G2 is a great hydration tool. If possible, use it in the next race or hard training.
  6. Some gels can cause your liver to spasm. Don’t experiment with unfamiliar fuel on the course. If got a spasm, deep balled breathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth.

CLOSING THOUGHTS


Absolutely gorgeous race course!

  • This is definitely the race to remember and experience worth all the money I payed. 
  • I did not perform as I wanted to. I suffered a lot. 
  • I trained my mind. I experienced 50 shades of pain and will be more appreciative of pain free body. 
  • I enjoyed the race!
  • I’ve been there, I’ve seen the fish and felt the warm water on my skin. I smelled the melting road and enjoyed the cool breeze of salty air on my sweaty face. 
  • I put my all, physical and mental. It’s all that matters. 

Special thanks to Volunteers along the course! You guys were EXTREMELY NICE AND HELPFUL! You were one of the highlights of my experience. 


REPEAT AFTER ME:

You are doing triathlons because YOU CHOSE TO, not because you have to.
Don’t forget that!

You do it FOR YOURSELF, no one gives a f*ck.
Don’t forget that!

NO ONE FORCES you to train every damn day.
No one, besides your ego or whatever motivation you have.

You can quit anytime you want.
No one gives a fuck! 

It’s your life, it’s your decisions.
Don’t forget that!

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