Hawaii 70.3 – Race Report

Colette Hopkins and Mark Hopkins at the finish of the Hawaii 70.3 in Waikoloa, Hawaii

Being my first Half Ironman, I had no idea what to expect so I consciously decided to let go of expectations.

My goals for the Hawaii 70.3 were very simple. I wanted to enjoy the experience, stay in the moment and have fun. Make it through the swim without panicking. I wanted to race for myself…not for a finishing time, not for a qualification spot, but to prove to myself that I could cross the finish line of a Half Ironman, something that I always thought I was incapable of.

Swim

The thought of swimming in the tropical ocean was loaded with anxiety, panic and irrational fears right up until days before the race. I managed to get in a few practice swims and became more comfortable with each exposure, but I was still scared. Every time I got in the water, I chanted to myself “Just keep swimming” in order to distract myself from my anxious thoughts. I knew the swim was going to be my biggest challenge.

I loved the rolling start of the swim because it allowed me to focus on my own swim rather than be distracted by the chaos around me. It also made for a calm start to the race, which was essential for me. I consciously chose not to “race” the swim. Instead, I focused on maintaining a steady pace and being mindful of my sighting so I didn’t swim any further than I needed to. 1.9km was plenty long enough! I turned out that I felt calm the entire time and actually enjoyed myself! It was such a beautiful environment for a swim. I truly cannot describe the pride I felt coming out of the water after conquering one of my biggest fears.

Bike

The bike leg was my favorite part of the race. Such a stunning course! Coming out onto the bike, the road was quite congested so I focused on hitting my heart rate target and settling in. I did a lot of passing on the bike which was super encouraging but also really frustrating at times on a course open to vehicle traffic. Staying safe was my #1 priority.

Having ridden this course a number of times I knew how lucky we were with the wind conditions on race day. There were numerous times when the wind was blowing hard enough that I had to pop out of aero and grip the handlebars, but I kept reminding myself how much worse it could have been. I was so grateful!

The last 6 miles or so before Hawi brought   its consistent uphills and wind gusts as expected. After the turn around, I was in my element. I really put the pressure on the pedals and took off on the first downhill section. It was a blast!

Run

I felt great coming off the bike and took the time to put on some extra sunscreen in transition. The sunscreen on course had an SPF of 30- not enough for this fair skinned redhead!! Running out of transition I heard two little voices screaming “GO MOM!!” It was our kids and our friends from Memphis. Big smiles and high fives all around and I was off!

The first 5k felt pretty good but SO HOT!! I quickly learned that running on a golf course is tough. Many sections of the course were on grass which makes it easy on the body but sucks all of the speed out of your legs. The course was also full of short punchy hills which made it tough to find a rhythm.

I have never been so hot on a run, even after the cloud cover gave some respite around the halfway mark of my half marathon. I had to intently focus on running from one aid station to the next.  At every aid station, I drank some water, squeezed wet sponges on my head and put ice in my tri suit. It was all I could do to drop my core temperature and avoid overheating. I focused only on the mile I was running and nothing more. One foot in front of the other.

The highlight of the run was seeing so many of my teammates on the 2-loop course, hollering encouragement at each other at every opportunity. That half marathon would have been so much harder without them.

When I came around the corner just before the finishing chute, I spotted Mark cheering for me. Big smiles, tears and a high five and I continued on to find my kids and our friends only to repeat the same.

As I crossed the finish line, I kept thinking over and over- I did it! I really did it! Racing the Hawaii 70.3 was as fun as racing my very first triathlon. I put in my best effort and raced to the best of my ability. You can’t ask for more than that. Not all races are unicorns and rainbows, but this one came pretty damn close. I learned a lot of things about myself from this race, most of all that I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. The 70.3 was tough but it wasn’t nearly as tough as I had conjured up in my mind. This was my first 70.3 and definitely not my last!

Accomplishing this goal was a team effort both on the part of my own family and my teammates at Human Powered Racing (including those that were unable to join us on the Big Island). Triathlon may be an individual sport but you don’t get to that finish line on your own. I spent a large portion of the race thinking about the hours of training (especially those hours spent training with my teammates), the days when I wanted to sit on the couch but I got out there anyway, the negative self-talk that I had to conquer to get here and the people that encouraged me along the way. What an amazing adventure…Can’t wait to continue on the journey!