Ironman Kona Hawaii 2010: Emily's Kona Diary

Emily Kratz graces the cover of our book Qualifying for Kona, and this week she'll be competing in her first Ironman Triathlon World Championship. On race day, follow her progress; she's #1695, representing the great state of Wisconsin. We're happy to share her Kona diary on

Emily's Kona Race Report

Race day

Well here we go...the celebration for all the hours training has finally arrived...I woke up at 3:45 to eat some oatmeal and coffee then hit the road to get to the race start.  After getting body marked I headed to my bike where I discovered my valve on my tire broke off and I had a worries, they have people for that here in Kona. Tire fixed, nutrition in my bento box, water bottles filled...pre-race duties complete.  I had a few moments to hang out and just take notices of a few things...the looks in peoples eyes telling a story of countless hours of training, sacrifices, and drive to make it to the start line here today...everyone has their own story and motivation but we all share the common goal of crossing that finish line at the end of the day.

The mass start swim was wild as usual...I managed to get kicked a few times, had a body swim over me, and swallowed my share of salt water...but took it all in. I think I was even smiling in the water- it really is fun to be splashing around with 1800 other people.  My swim time was a little slower than i expected but am always happy to just make it out of the water in one piece.

On to the bike...I knew within the first 5 miles that this was going to be a tough ride for me.  My legs felt really heavy and I just did not feel good...maybe it was that salt water.  The first 60 miles were a battle...uphill and headwinds...and strong side winds...I was being blown all over the road and had to stay out of my TRI bars to control my bike.  It can be so frustrating to work so hard and not make much ground....but I learned to just take it one pedal stroke at a time, low gear, and just keep at it.  Once I hit the turn around we had a nice tailwind for about 10 felt so good...but then back to reality the rest of the way.  I heard later that there was a heat index of 124' with 30-40 mph winds. Nice. Honestly I knew it would be challenging and it met and exceeded those expectations.  I did the best I could...and that's all that is required.

I was hoping that the run would feel better...and it did. I was able to get in a groove and just go...I drank every mile and took a gel every 3 and it was working.  My legs were starting to throb at about mile 18 but never considered stopping...of course they are going to be tired but knew I had to just keep at it.  The last mile was a lot of fun...the cheers and just knowing I was soon going to cross the line brought a smile to my face as I ran...Emily Kratz, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.

Overall I had an awesome day...and my time has nothing to do with it. It was a pure honor and humbling experience to be at the start line with some of the best athletes in the world.  Looking back at my summer...remembering the 3:15 am training mornings, or dedicating a whole weekend to my bike, going to bed at 8:30 on a Friday night so I could get up and train the next day, sacrificing time with friends and family in order to get the big weekend brick in...was it all worth it? Absolutely. There is nothing like setting a goal and doing whatever it takes to see that it is achieved...whether that be an Ironman or a 5k, the process is the same.  It starts with your inner voice telling you that anything is possible...and believing it because it's true.

My day was accomplished one mile at a time.  I tried to live in and appreciate that mile because pretty soon all 140.6 of those miles would be complete.  I am so proud off every athlete that crossed the finish line...both first and last place.  Many goals were met and dreams realized today...and I was blessed to be part of the magic. Thanks for joining me on my ride and i encourage you to think of something you always wanted to try and never thought you could...go after it. Anything is possible.

Friday, October 8, 2010.

All day today I kept thinking..."this time tomorrow i will be..." the easy part is filling in the blank since there really are only three options: swimming, biking, or running.  I also can't believe that tomorrow this will also all be over...but I really don't think that Ironman ever really ends...the lessons learned and strengths defined I will be able to take with me the rest of my life.

After a later night last night I tried to sleep in this morning...7:00! Best sleep all week. I spent the morning organizing my transition gear bags, prepping my bike, and just trying to make sure that I have it all. After a test drive on my bike I was ready to drop it off in transition.  I could not believe how much things changed over night by the start and finish of the race...more stages, lights, arches, and people everywhere!

Once I entered transition I was treated like a queen.  I had a personal escort who showed me where to put my bike (the bike transition area was all fake grass/ cool) and where to go for each part of the was awesome to have one person explain the whole process to me- the volunteers here are as awesome as this event.  The whole drop off took about 10 minutes...and I am one step closer.

On my way out of transition, I noticed the rows of media and cameras waiting for the big names to show up and drop off their bikes and bags...I almost would've thought they had "people" for that...I noticed media from across the globe-it's great to see these athletes and sport get recognized. I tried to move on through fast before I was recognized by the triathlon paparazzi...mission accomplished-ha.

After lunch and a trip to the grocery store I headed home.  The excitement and buzz downtown is off the charts and just need some downtime to have some space and just be away from it all.
I know that I am ready for is such a long day and can really present a whole host of feelings, challenges and opportunities.

I really just know that I own my day...there will be times when I feel like an absolute rockstar and moments when all I will want to do is stop.  Taking ownership of my day means staying positive from beginning to end and simply enjoying the process of being active and doing what I love to do...and not ever giving up.

To breakdown my day: I plan on just finding a comfortable spot in the water...Make it through the first 10 minutes of insanity, find my stroke and glide.  I have always used the swim to get warmed up and that nervous energy out.  I am hoping to swim about a 1:15 or so...

The bike is where I will spend a majority of the day- I am expecting it to be windy and hot.  My plan is to embrace the wind, don't go out too hard, keep it relaxed, don't go too hard, keep drinking and consuming calories, and not to go to hard.  I have been riding my bike all year so this is nothing new for me- just continue to do what I have been doing. I want to stay consistent or perhaps ride a little stronger after the turnaround...all in about 6 hours.

The run is typically my favorite and strongest ...hopefully that carries over tomorrow too.  Mentally this can also be the most challenging since the legs can be getting a little tired by this point and stopping seems the easiest solution.  I break it down in 5 mile segments and just take it 5 at a time...or maybe even 1 mile at a time if I need too.

 I am not sure how the heat will treat me but will do what I can...important thing is to again, not go out too hard and find a rthymn.  The real race starts at mile 16.  I want to stay relaxed, hydrated, and just enjoy this last part of my day.  I am hoping for a 4 hour marathon but would be happy if I can get it done sooner than that...all good things must come to an end since the part will be crossing the line.

I truly am excited and ready to go...the week of pre-race festivities was fun but time to get the show on the road. I am hopeful for a successful day that exceeds the expectations that i have for myself but know it will be

Thursday, October 7, 2010.

I can't think of a better way to start my day then running through downtown kona in my underwear.  This one mile fun run has been a tradition for years and really does bring out Ironmans finest...I think some of these people put more effort and attention into their underwear outfit than perhaps race day attire.  This was hilarious...everything from hot pink wigs to ironman big boy undies to coconut bras.  I even saw many with heart rate monitors on...gotta make sure it stays in zone 1 I suppose.

Post run, It was crazy to see people just walking down the street in their underwear hours later too- hey, why not right?  It was a great event and nice to just relax and have much of the week can be spent preparing gear, getting a workout in, visualizing your race, focusing on nutrition, etc... so running around in your underwear was a needed break for all.

I did have to get a 20 minute run in...clothes on.  My legs felt pretty good as I cruised down the main drag.  The next time i run on this road will be on my way to the finish line.  I cooled off with my last swim before Saturday...the highlight being swimming up to an espresso bar on a coffee just to make sure you have enough energy to swim back...only in Hawaii.

The day ended with the athlete dinner and meeting.  Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, was the emcee and introduced the faces behind the race; from the race directors, to the head ref, to the stand out age groupers, to the oldest and youngest athletes (18 years old to 80 incase you were wondering)...the dinner was just a venue to bring us all together to celebrate getting to the start line.

The night ended with a course and rule overview, what will be available at the aid stations (water, power aid, cola, that order too...) and the much needed reminder that its not a matter of if, but when....I will soon be an Ironman.

I cannot believe how fast this week has gone...Overall I feel good- funny how people ask how I am feeling or if I am ready...not sure exactly how I am supposed to feel and I hope that I am ready but I guess Saturday will provide the answer.  All I know is that I prepared the best I could and will just let the day happen.

 I have learned to enjoy the moments and just take it all in.  I am living what other people only dream of...but hopefully those dreamers too will know that anything is possible. I view Saturday is just a celebration of the countless hours spent swimming, biking, and running to prepare for one day...and for the pure sense of accomplishment of fulfilling a personal goal that will be mine when I cross the finish line. You can't buy that at the ironman shop.

Wednesday October 6, 2010. 

Wow...Wednesday already.  I wanted to get a swim in a little earlier today so was at the swim start around 7:30 or so...and joined by over 200 other athletes who had the same plan.  What a difference a few days make- last morning swim I had was relatively quiet and now there are tents, signage, advertisements, and a whole lot of action and this is just by the swim start.  

My swim went well- I was looking directly into the sun on the way out so my eyes were burning but hopefully the earlier start on Saturday will help...The water was like a wave pool but it was can't get that kind of activity in your local lake.

After my swim I hit the Ironman Village...the highlight of my day came when I was named the compression sock champion of the world! Well I guess I gave myself that title but was recruited to participate in a race put on by CEP (compression sock company) to sprint 5feet...put on compression socks and shoes...and sprint back.  Yup, yours truly took home the gold! It was a proud moment indeed.

I also stopped by the KSwiss section of the Village where their whole Pro Team was on hand for a Q&A and autograph session.  It was pretty cool to see these rockstar guys and gals up close...they do look and act like normal people. Crazy. Only at Ironman can you have such easy access to world famous and class act athletes.

On my way back, I stopped at the local farmers market to buy some fresh fruit...this stuff is unreal.  I might just have to pack a papaya in my bento box on my bike.

I decided to go home for the afternoon and just chill's good to get away from the craziness of downtown, get out of the sun and just unwind. I finally got a chance to look though my race bag...I think I got it all:  race numbers for bike and run, transition bags, bike number, helmet number, timing chip, swim cap, and a bunch of free stuff-love it! Everything is just so much bigger in Kona...everything.

I'm going to bed early tonight.  I have to make sure I get a good 8 hours in to prepare myself for the famous Underwear Race tomorrow at 8:00am...1 mile fun run in your underwear. I have no idea what this will bring  but based on my week so far- I won't be disappointed.

Tuesday October 5, 2010. 

Today it became official: I am registered... Weighed in, gold kona athlete wrist band applied, timing chip activated and all paperwork signed, sealed and delivered.  Today was the first day athletes could register and I wanted to check it off the list as soon as I could.  The registration process took about an hour and waiting in line was a great opportunity to meet some new people...throughout various conversations i heard rumblings of and about race strategy, the heat in the energy lab, how one can actually predict the wind direction and speed based on cloud cover, and a whole host of other thoughts and opinions on what Saturday will bring.  

I could sense athletes checking out each other to see what perhaps they would be going up against.  Everyone was real nice but again, this almost nervous energy could be felt in the room.  The volunteers were great and I was able to get through the entire process pretty efficiently.  I have not had a chance to look through my new black IM CHampionships bag but it is full of fun, free swag...and who doesn't love free stuff right?

After I was done was my turn to take a bite out of the Queen K HWY pie...I picked up my bike and set off on a 25 mile test drive.  Yes, it was hot and yes, it was windy.  The way out I had a slight tailwind and the way back some headwind...but cross winds the entire time.  The 12.5 miles out were rolling hills and yes, it was hot.  I rode past the infamous energy lab and the rest of the scenery was a whole lot of nothing but lava rocks.  It will be fun to see what the other 100  miles has to offer although I have a feeling it might mirror the first 12 miles.  The ride actually felt great- it felt good to get out and move my legs.  I finished with a 30 minute swim in the magical water...saw my first sea turtle!

The day ended with the Parade of Nations where the athletes from their respective countries could represent and come together for this event.  It was cool to witness just how many people from so many different places are able to come together with one goal in finish as an Ironman...that's one common language we all speak.

The Ironman Village opened tonight as well- the village gives athletes and spectators the chance to check out the latest equipment, bikes, shoes, nutrition, clothing, training devices and programs, and pretty much anything else that any triathlete might possibly need...or maybe just want.
Overall it was a fun day.  I am getting more acclimated to the time, still working on the heat though.  I am getting used to seeing extremely fit people riding and running everywhere.  I continue to remind myself that saturday just needs to be my day- defined, determined, and executed by me.  

It's so important for me to not get caught up in the excitement and nervous energy that can almost mentally exhaust you before the race even starts. At the same time,  I am so humbled to be here and have the opportunity to be a part of this.  I was sitting by the water today and was really thinking how couldn't believe this week is finally here.  Months of swimming, riding, and running and here we are...and it's almost show time.  I am so glad I still have 3 days left though...not sure i want this to end.

Monday October 4, 2010.

Well today was my get to know kona day...I dropped my orbea off at the bike shop to get looked at slash tuned up-that place was filled with fast bikes and fast looking people picking up and dropping off to make sure their need for speed is supported by their machines they ride. I was going to attempt to put my bike together but thought somethings are best left for the pros to handle...I am able to pick it up tomorrow morning to take it for a test drive.

I headed downtown to where all the action takes place...i had about a 1/2 mile walk to the ironman headquarters and saw 20 or more athletes riding or running past me in about 10 minutes-i am pretty sure kona will be taken over.

I got a nice hot run in...just 30 minutes and I probably started sweating In the first 30 seconds-it's really true what they say...its hot here.  I followed my run up with a swim on the course- aqua water and yellow fishes that tagged along with was beautiful.  There was a pretty strong current and some small waves but that makes it more fun.

Everywhere I was today there was ironman energy- I met a few people who have roots in Wisconsin which was cool but there were also many athletes who were not speaking English...truly is a worldwide event. I think that it could be pretty easy to be distracted by the fit bodies, fast bikes, and overall vibe that I can already feel.

Each of us has our own reasons for why we race and I have to remember to stay within myself this week.  I am excited to just take it all in and enjoy each moment.