A Kona Ironman report ~ from a first timer

Over the past twelve months I’ve been able to watch Kierra as she prepared for her first Ironman at Port Macquarie and then for the big dance, the World Championships in Hawaii.

She had a wonderful race ~ ticking many of the success boxes, including making the podium (WOW).

If I could sum up Kierra’s attitude towards training and racing I would say she is committed, hard working and humble.  Lovely attributes for a such a youngen!

Enjoy her race report.

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Where do I start…boarding the plane with my family, best friend and tribe ferro (my training crew) made it all start to feel real.  Everything I had dreamed of was about to begin. As we touched down in Honolulu I remember saying to Kacey (Swiper)  “shit is getting real now”... as excited as I was, I was also so scared! Scared of the unknown, it’s tough enough preparing for an ironman in Oz, let alone overseas!

I arrived in Kona on Monday leaving me enough time to get comfortable with the conditions and familiarize myself with the course. That afternoon I proceeded to head for a swim… with no idea where I was, I walked across the road from Uncle Billy’s Hotel when I noticed my coach BBB running towards me so I yelled out “I am just heading out for a swim, do I just go straight out here?” Bruce chuckled as he responded “No head down past the old church and you will see”… rightio, obviously a rookie.

I headed towards the pier and to my surprise the swim course was partly marked out with buoys and it looked just like what I had seen  on TV! At that moment it really hit me  – this is all real I am going to be racing at Kona in the World Championships.

The rest of the week was awesome and consisted of some early training sessions to stay out of the heat, sight seeing with my best friend, carb/ salt/ electrolyte loading and resting up in the dodgy Uncle Billys Hotel air con.  Hirdy and Jen drove me out on the bike course to give me some idea of what I was in for and I did all the big Hawaii pre-race rituals; parade of nations, undie run (most memorable) and welcoming banquet dinner.

serra hawaiian ironman undie runundie-run

Race morning had arrived. I had a riper of a sleep the night before and woke up had my fruit toast and oats, as I put my race suit on I felt so excited and a little emotional, but so keen to get out there! I headed up with my Dad, Sambo who was carrying my pump and bottles (his my kit bitch).  As I set up my bike I stopped for a minute and looked around to take it all in and the cannon fired for the pro men start it gave me goosebumps. I paused a little longer and prayed for a great race, a safe race and that I would have the ability to finish.

As I headed over to give Sambo my pump he was looking more nervous than me, he helped me sunscreen up and wished me the best. Swiper and Jen turned up to wish me the best.  I think Kace was more emotional than me and gave me the biggest hug.  Jen knows how I roll so she just high fived me and wished me luck.

I went into transition feeling relaxed and excited – without any time expectations. I simply wanted to enjoy the moment, soak up the experience and smile even when it got tough! I knew that it was going to be tough as everyone had told me the wind will be blowing and it will be HOT!

Treading water at the start line was like no other experience.   To turn around and see so many people watching on gave me goosebumps. The cannon fired and we were off. I wanted to just get a clear line so I swam out to the left and tried to not get distracted by the sea life.  Within the first 1km I had settled and I felt good.  I had some complications during the 70.3 Ironman World Championships that saw me in medical after the swim, so I was heading into the Pier sand nervously – then I realised that my legs were fine.    I whispered to myself “I am in Kona beeetches lets do this” and continued through transition.

Onto the bike and I knew that my support crew were going to be loud and excited to see me and I was excited to get to see them.

Loud they were!

Hawaiian ironman bike

Tribe ferro were screaming as soon as they saw me coming. At the turn around I knew I wouldn’t see them for a few hours, so I waved with the biggest smile on my face and set off onto the Queen K.

I knew the Queen K would be hot and I knew it would be blowing hot wind – it was  a straight head wind.   I didn’t let it get to me as I knew we were all fighting the same conditions. I tried to just focus on keeping my cadence up, rather than worrying about my speed.  Slow and steady.

After numerous aid stations grabbing water bottles to poor over myself, heavy winds, lava fields and steady climbs I was heading into Hawi.  Half way.  I turned around and we had a  tail wind. Wow! That was the best feeling as it was getting hotter and hotter.

Heading home on the Queen K the cross winds piped back up but we still had a slight tail wind.   I felt like I flew back into town. I mentally felt great, I had imagined and prepared myself for that dark stage out on the bike, but fortunately I didn’t go there.  Don’t get me wrong, it was next level of hard and hot out there but I had Swiper’s voice in the back of my mind saying ‘enjoy it, when it gets tough smile!‘ And Hirdy’s voice saying “I am in f#*?ing Kona!” I got through the bike leg and made it back into town with a split of 6:01 hours I was so pumped to have done a quicker bike split than Port Ironman.

Onto the run and it was hot, like nothing you can imagine! Again I was pumped to be onto my favorite part of the race .  Seeing spectators around for those few km’s was fantastic. I set out at about 4:20 pace so after about 15km dropped pace back a little where I felt a little more comfortable to hold pace for the rest of my run.

sierra Hawaiian Ironman Alli drive -running

Once again support crew were on point, so loud!

It was an emotional feeling running past them, they made me feel like a rock star. My family on one side cheering and tribe ferro at the bottom of the hill to cheer me up. I got a big slap on the bum from Swiper and high fives from coach Brucey and Cath.  My best friend ran up to me and started me up the hill chanting “you’ve got this chick go finish it off!”

Out onto Queen K again I knew this was going to be tough.  Mentally this was the toughest part for me, the heat was getting to me and my feet were throbbing.  I was starting to trip out a little.  I remember thinking where the f#*^ is this energy lab!

A few more kilometres ticked past and a few more sets of traffic lights – I was struggling more! My feet were getting more and more swollen from the heat. Mentally I had to find something to put that smile back on my face and push through…Finally the energy lab was in sight.

I ran down around to the turn around, but struggled with a stitch.   I wasn’t going to let it make me walk.. I remember telling myself ‘this is Kona no walking is going to be happening here!’ at the turn around and back onto the queen k with about 10km to go. My Garmin died so I was just going by feel.   I went as hard as I could go knowing 10km wasn’t far!

Coming down the hill into town you couldn’t wipe the smile of my face! I had done it! Pete Murray high fived me and said “you have 2kms to go”…. what a feeling that was.

Emotions were running high I kept up the pace, around and onto Alii Drive where I saw Tribe ferro ready to high five me – I remember thinking “OMG move out of my way. I can’t go any other way than straight”

The finish shoot was in sight. I ran down there with the biggest smile on my face and my hands in the air.

An overwhelming feeling of success and the thought of “thank God, I need to get these shoes off!”

My family and best friend were there cheering loudly as I finished with Mike Riley saying ‘Kierra you are an ironman.’  It was the most memorable feeling! I was an ironman on the world stage.   To my amazement I had finished in 10:44hr, faster than my qualifying time at Port and placed me 4th in my age group.

podium hawaii ironman world championships

Splits of 1:07 swim, 6:01 bike and 3:28 run.

I was so proud of myself. I definitely had the time of my life out there, smiled when got tough, loved every minute of it (even when the pain set in) soaked up the amazing place I was in and had such a blast! The experience will definitely be something I never forget…. it was something special and the successful icing on the cake after months of training long hours.

Kona taught me a lot and it was an absolute honor to race on the world stage amongst the very best athletes in the toughest but most honest course in the world.
I would love to be back there next year that’s for sure…

Kierra –  #babyferro out

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