Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Andrea Hopkin Reports on Kona and her trip away!!

Andrea reports below on her recent success In Kona. it didn't come without pain and sacrifice, But Andrea seems to find Immense joy in immense pain!! (thats why we love her) Well done!!!

Kona 2014

I did get around to writing a race report for Worlds 70.3 but time went so quick and now it's already over one week post Kona so here's my Kona report instead. It might be a tad long as it also includes my lead up. Everything about this trip surpassed my expectations!


I was extremely fortunate in my preparation for Kona for a number of reasons. Prior to leaving for 70.3 Worlds I was working part time for a few weeks, which didn't necessarily mean more time for training but it did allow more time for recovery and getting myself organised. It also allowed for more flexibility depending on the weather. Then post 70.3 Worlds I made my way to Boise, Idaho to stay with my coach for two weeks. It was very kind of Kate and Guy to invite me in to their home following a constant flow of visitors this summer. Although, I think once they found out I was taking them up on their offer they looked for an "out" and entered Lake Tahoe IM. The extremes people go to, to get away from me!! So they were only around for a few days but they set me up well with their awesome friends about town and I had some great training partners for my long rides and swam with a squad at the local Y. Boise was a great training ground. Awesome trails, super hot and dry. After two weeks there I was on my way to Kona to acclimatise and train for another 3 weeks pre-race. 

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Boise riding

For a relative "newbie" to triathlon scene I am in awe of the stars of the sport and getting to the island early a lot of pros were already there. It was inspiring and motivating seeing the likes of Rinny, Jodie Swallow, Liz Blatchford, Craig Alexander to name a few out training and around town. I tried accumulating some good selfies with some of the stars. I was fortunate to have some great people to train with here too during this time and talk about the race and share advice, including friend Kim, thanks!


Selfie with one of my favourite Pros who I found out on the bike (oh yeah and my coach lucky me) ;-)

It was great to see the island before the influx of lycra cad bodies and take some time tour around and also take the opportunity for some quiet time and get my coffee without having to stand in a line for 30mins. I took advantage of the beautiful sunsets and would go to the beach to sit and watch. They never get boring.

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Coffee art – Before influx and during influx


The race week had a number of events that I attended. Beginning with the parade of nations, the Aussies sure did stand out. I love that we had team kits, a great opportunity to race and be proud to be Australian. Then was the expo, the undie run, a brilliant Witsup brunch listening to a wealth of knowledge from some great athletes , a visit or two to the coffee boat and a CEEPO function to see the launch of the 2015 bikes and meet other CEEPO athletes. Pretty much just a good fun week with a great bunch of people.


Parade of Nations #GKEndurance and Janine

I have never felt so much anxiety leading in to a race though. Every morning for a week I would wake up with anxiety and sick feeling. That worked for me and against me in some ways as I quite like working under stress.

In the three weeks there before the race I covered most of the course so knew to an extent what I was in for however whilst out riding didn't get to experience the famous winds I had heard everyone talking about. As race day approached I heard some people talking about the wind picking up and how they had seen people getting off to walk. I started getting worried as I only had an 808 front wheel.  CEEPO though came to the rescue and loaned me a 58 front Profile Design wheel for the day. Turns it that was probably the best change I could have made with the race day winds!!


With Tanaka NOBUYUKI owner of CEEPO Triathlon Bikes


When it comes to the race itself it's been said over and over it was the hardest year in about 15 years. A choppy swim, the heat, the humidity and some serious winds on the bike which saw some people blown off! I am happy that these were the conditions on race day. It's Kona, it's the World Champs. It's supposed to be hard. Call me weird, or whatever you want, but I loved every painful moment of it!!! I got to experience Kona at its “best”. 

I had three goals for race day:

1. To finish - always number 1 goal
2. Get in before sunset
3. To finish in 10hrs something, as low as possible. 


My race:
As always I start my swim off to the left to try avoid getting stuck in the middle. My main aim at the start is to keep my breathing under control,  not hyperventilate and find my rhythm. It was congested out there, but nowhere near as bad as starting with 2000 people. I found a little space on the way out and for once found feet to swim on that I felt was a good pace. I had no idea how I was going. I heard it was a slow swim in Kona so anything less than 1:20 and I was going to be happy. From the turn around the current seemed to push you sideways in toward shore so I found myself on the inside line, in among a lot of people which I don't particularly like but just focused on staying calm. I managed to stay on one girls’ feet for the majority of this return leg. As I exited the water looked at my watch and saw my time was around 1hr 10mins so was happy with this. 

T1 was smooth, with already having my shoes clipped on my bike, only had to strip my swim-skin and throw some nutrition in my back pockets. 

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I found myself out on the bike at the same time as Amy who I knew from 70.3 worlds, (the winner of our age group in the end). I knew she was a great athlete and if I could keep her in sight I was going okay. The first out and back section of the bike course was quite congested and we spent a lot of time passing people and some back and forth of positions. We hit the Queen K and I still had Amy in sight, and another girl Sonja (eventual 2nd place) also joined in the mix. Amy pulled away with Sonja following not long after. I am well aware of the need to race my own race so did not try and go with them knowing the effort I was already expending felt enough at that point. I don’t work to power or heart rate, I was just going on good old fashioned perceived effort!

Nutrition wise we had spoken that I was to aim for minimum one bottle per hour. During training, even back in the cold of Melbourne I was supposed to practice this, and in the lead up Kate again reminded me of the importance of this. I don't sweat much when not in humid conditions and in Melbourne Ironman had just over 4 bottles, so Kona had to be a different story. I got through my first bottle within the first 30mins and 2nd within the hour. Well on target! (Turns out I think I had 10-12 bottles on the bike in the end!!) I didn’t particularly like the flavour of the on course Power Perform so swapped to Coke quite early on. I made the turn towards Hawi and felt reasonable good on the climb up passing quite a few people. 

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When I had been out riding with a friend, Kim, earlier that week she had given some advice in terms of how I was feeling when I made that turn back on to the Queen K. After descending Hawi, despite the winds, it was great fun. I managed to hit 67km/hr albeit slightly sideways at times. I tucked as aero as possible and pedalled hard. I felt I descended well passing many people along this stretch too. I turned back on to the Queen K and felt great - a good sign and a confidence boost from what Kim had told me. Coming back from Hawi somewhere I came across Sonja again and we had some more changing of positions. Near Waikoloa we had a tailwind for a short time but suddenly the wind swung to a strong headwind, which would remain all the way back to town. Sonja pulled away again in the last 15km or so and again I couldn’t go with her. It was tough going for the last section although my legs felt good coming off the bike and knew I had taken in more than enough nutrition, which definitely gave me a mental boost in preparation for the run ahead.

T2 was smooth. Volunteers were great. I think I had 5 ladies helping me put everything on - Sunscreen, socks, shoes, race belt! Go! It was a bit of a blur!!

My plan on the run was to go out between 4:50-5min/km and no faster. I have a tendency to run out too hard. I was committed to staying to this plan. Around the 5km mark I saw Kate and Guy. Kate told me I was sitting in 5th, and although this was great news, my response was that I didn't care where I came, I just wanted to finish. But in the background in my mind the competitive side kicked in a bit, I didn’t want to lose any placings as this excited me to come to Kona and place in the top 5 in my age category. The first 16km I stuck exactly to our pacing plan, however was starting to think it might be a bit ambitious to stay at this pace the whole way. Once I hit the Queen K around the 22km mark I started walking for a very short time at the aid stations to make sure I was getting my nutrition in so my pace dropped from here on. Prior to entering the energy lab I had overtaken the girl I knew had been in 4th but there had been some other girls come past and I was unsure of their category so had no idea where I was placed now. Still the goal was to get to that finish line and I knew that I was feeling good enough to also be in well before sun set – goal number 2.

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In to and out of the energy lab I didn’t find it to be the dark place everyone talks about. I actually came out feeling better than I went in. Most likely due to a much needed toilet stop that I had avoided for the previous few km’s. My split coming out was only slightly slower than going in and that included the quick toilet stop. I draw the line somewhere!! I felt good for the next 3km or so but with about 7km to go when the crowds are there again I was starting to feel a bit broken, had a moment of wanting to cry when I saw some people I knew. Andy and @Ironchicks gave a great boost of support though! Just after this I saw Kate, Guy and co. too. Kate provided me some great motivation in that final 6km during which I stopped walking the aid stations and just kept running! The finish chute when I arrived was amazing and it was great that my mum could be there to experience it too!

Final result
Swim 1:10:43; Bike 5:24:02; Run 3:44:35 Total 10:24:54 
4th Female 35-39yrs.
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In the week leading up to the World Champs I attended a brunch hosted by Witsup and was lucky to listen to a great panel of female athletes. One of those women, Siri Lindley spoke about being grateful. I like that word. I am grateful for so many things the last 7 weeks including the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve had. Too many to mention here, this is long enough already!! But after hearing of circumstances preventing people from making it to the start line after qualifying or DNF's in the race itself for whatever reason I am so grateful for the opportunity to have raced, and to have made it to both the start line and the finish line, and experience Kona. I’m lucky to be able to do what I love doing. And then as a bonus to everything I’ve had two well executed races and two 4th places at my first lot of World Champs and bought home a wooden bowl in the process. 


But lastly and most importantly I'm grateful to all the people who have helped and supported me along the way! Triathlon is not an individual sport. Far from it. Thank you!!

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