Everyone loves hearing about Ironman World Championship Hawaii race stories and this report from Christine (Kellsy) is no exception. What makes her story more inspirational and interesting is that she got to race Kona via the lottery system. While many people have many differing views about the lottery program, I LOVE IT. It takes the iconic Kona race and allows “anyone” a crack to really prove that “anything IS possible” – the heart and soul of the sport.
For Christine it proved that “dreams really do come true”
Kellsy’s Kona 2014 Reflections – ‘So dreams really do come true’
It’s been 12 days since race day and 9 days since I arrived home to my beautiful family and life in the UK. I have seen many of my fellow triathlete buddy’s posting many a race report and I have enjoyed reading them all, but until now I haven’t been able to put pen to paper to write my own race report. I am not entirely sure why, maybe the jet lag and fatigue have just gotten the better of me over the last week, or maybe the thought of trying to encapsulate my experience into words was just too overwhelming. It’s not a normal race report but hopefully you will enjoy the tale of my whole Kona experience anyway here goes…
2014 has been an incredible year, having decided early on in the year I was having a year off BIG races to give the body and mind a rest, it seems a little surreal to be penning a report for the biggest race of my life to date!
I was sitting at my kitchen bench back in April feeling a little sad after a personal loss and wondering how was ever going to get through the rest of this year without some big goal to aim for, when I received an email from ironman.com announcing the 2014 lottery winners for Hawaii ironman. I had forgotten that I always enter myself and my hubby, Dave, for this and the New York marathon, both big bucket list items we would love to tick off! I clicked on the link and scanned down the column that lists the country represented. I looked at all the AUS winners thinking I might know someone or a name I might recognize (love that the Tri community builds this network and familiarity innately). Then I looked down the GB column thinking I might recognize a name here having done a few races now and met quite a few triathletes in the UK. As my finger followed the column list, I couldn’t believe my eyes it read Christine Kells – GB. Yep that’s me, that’s my name, I must have registered under my GB details.
OMG OMG Kona, OMG I am going to KONA …
So that’s how it started, I know there is mixed emotion out there about lottery winners but I am an average age grouper who has done a few iron mans and 70.3s. I love this sport and I love ironman, I missed an opportunity to go in 2012 as I didn’t attend a roll down thinking it would never get to 6th place and felt like I had lost an opportunity I would probably never get again. I feel incredibly lucky to have won a spot and be able to tick off a bucket list goal and live a dream. Dave didn’t even bat an eyelid of course I was going, we would make it work he said!
And that’s what he did. So that’s how it started, I had 20 weeks to race day.
I registered for Kona and also for Luxembourg 70.3 as I had to do a validating race in this season and my IM Zurich was last year so it didn’t count. How on earth was I going to make this happen ….. “Hi, Mel it’s Chris kells, just wondering if you could fit me in your coaching schedule, I’m joining you in Kona”. Mel, was fantastic! Right from that very first phone call, she understood what this race was about for me and what I needed in order to get to the start line and then to cross that coveted finish line. Having your coach on the other side of the world can be challenging at times but regular google hangouts, skype sessions and Facebook messages meant that she was really not that far away.
I raced Luxembourg 70.3 to finish and had a cracker of a race, Mel advised to just listen to your body and race conservatively think about the end goal, Kona and that’s what I did. I threw in the Windsor Olympic distance Tri and again just used it as training session and a chance to practice race conditions, another great day out.
Throughout my training I remained injury free and for the most part in a good head space, even on my long lonely 6 hour rides, not too many sooky la la moments. I loved the variety of my program and I love the fact Mel included my family in my schedule. Weekend Rides drafting of my wonderful husband, including climbing the Alpe d’huez under his guide and swims in the wake of my son’s awesome kick and runs with my girls on their bikes. I felt really prepared and ready to live my dream.
October arrived quickly and soon I was in race week trying to organize my gorgeous and supportive family to cope with our busy life/schedules while I was away. I had run sheets on the wall for the week so at least everyone knew where they should be and what they needed. Dave was amazing holding fort doing his job and mine. Because we had not planned Kona for 2014 and we had already had our summer vacation, taking the kids and hubby with me wasn’t an option.
I was very sad and I knew that this decision was double edged but two very special friends Caterina and Kerrie had Kona on their radar and were just looking for an excuse to go! I was that excuse and I couldn’t have asked for two better ‘gear bitches’. To actually describe the support they gave me in Kona would require pages, not to mention their support over the weeks leading up to the race. They were incredible on the day and I thank them endlessly for sharing it all with me.
We arrived in Kona on Tuesday evening before the race. Checked in to our hotel and put my bike together! I usually have Dave around to do this but I managed albeit probably taking a little longer! It was hard to sleep and the excitement was really building.
Next morning I woke to a text from coach Mel, going for a swim at the pool at 6.30. I sprinted down the hall and onto the lift and out into the foyer where the Cockshutt’s were picking me up. I remember I launched into Mel’s arms for a huge hug! It was the first time I had seen Mel (in person) in a few years, and although she knew every detail of my Kona journey, it was somehow a reaffirmation that this was real and I was going to be OK!
Todd and Mel, continued to be amazing in the days leading up to race day. Practice swim on the course together, rekkie ride out on the queen K. Answering endless questions and just being around them made things a little less daunting. We also hooked up with Rhona and Tammy, and met Beryl and Ron and Rosie Spicer. These guys are legends. If you love ironman like I do, then you know what I mean. We joined these guys on the undie run which was so much fun and our her-coach bright pink kit looked very schmick indeed!
After a few days acclimatising, and buying out the Ironman store, race morning arrived! I can remember not sleeping much but feeling ok. Life seemed surreal I was in the Ironman Mecca.
We had heard Mark Allen and Dave Scott speak at the welcome dinner, I had had a photo with Liz Blatchford, we kept seeing Bob Babbitt hosting his ironman brekky interviews and so many more memories. Everyone was Lycra clad, bikes were just plain pornographic not to mention the athletes. There was always something to look at and too much to take in.
The checking process was incredible they do it all for you. I was feeling very important indeed! I made my way to my bike and pumped up the tyres and hung out til Mel arrived we were racked not that far from each other! Another big hug and some calming advice and we were good to go.
I stood with Mel and Beryl waiting for the ladies start time, which was calming being with two such awesome ladies! When we finally got into the water I took a deep breathe and swam out to the start buoy. I was feeling so glad they had changed it to a wave start as things seemed relatively calm.
I picked a not too congested spot and paddled around to look back at the shore line. It was indeed special, so many spectators just like you see on TV. As we raised our arms to the gods and connected with the Hawaiian spirit, I knew that what ever this race had in store for me, my goal was to finish and to soak up every moment as a memory!
The next 14 hours were the hardest hours of racing I have ever encountered.
I did however enjoy the swim and thanks to the mega long swim sets Mel had been giving me in training, I felt strong and enjoyed the clear warm water. I did catchup a few of the slower men, but on the whole it was a relatively clear run.
Then onto the bike.
After feeling special in transition as the volunteers can’t do enough for you, I was out on my pal Miss Specialized. The first part of the ride was ok, I felt strong and was looking forward to getting out on the Queen K. After some fabulous cheering on Palani drive from the crew, I hit the highway and the race changed very soon after that.
Winds, winds and more winds.
I have never cycled in conditions like that before and hope to never again. I felt like I was going nowhere the harder I pushed. I couldn’t take my hands of my aeros and it was a challenge to open my bento and take in nutrition.
I saw Mel on her way back from the turnaround and I was at about 80km mark I felt a small burst of excitement but the next 20kms were nothing short of horrendous. A short reprieve at the turnaround as we had a downhill section but the winds were still strong enough to make the descent scary!
I struggled to take on nutrition for fear of letting go of my bike even for a second and my left foot was numb with pain. I even had to remove my shoe for a while and sit my foot on top. The pain was excruciating! I stopped looking at my Garmin and knew that I just needed to put my head down (literally), hold on and keep cycling even if it was SLOW.
Finally, I reached the point where Todd had dropped me a few days before, to ride back into town. I knew now, I had about 45 mins left, but these conditions and my fatigue turned it into more like an hour to go!
Just under 7 and half hours later and I was back in transition and grateful to be off my bike and in one piece. On my way in I passed Rinny, throwing up after crossing the finish line! having just taken the title once more, wow how awesome. I felt inspired by this, ‘no guts no glory ‘. I am going to finish this race and as I headed out on the run I felt a renewed energy.
The weather had started to cool a tad and the sun wasn’t blistering any more.
The course is relatively flat for first 15kms until you come back into town and head up toward the highway. I felt good, one foot in front of the other just keep moving. The crowds were amazing and the aid stations a real highlight. As I came back into town Cat and Kerrie ran with me for a while it was incredible. I felt their energy and as I turned the corner I saw Mel looking fab on her way to the home stretch. What an incredible athlete she is, I thought as I gave her a shout and then reality sunk in, shit I’ve still got 20 something kms left.
My first half was pretty good I thought! just over the 2 hour mark but life got pretty tough around the 26km mark as I realized I hadn’t taken enough food in on the bike and it was going to be a dark and lonely run home.
I was suffering with some nausea and tummy cramps but just trying to keep it plugging along as dusk came. I agreed with myself that I would power walk the energy lab. This was indeed about conservation now. I was scared about the energy lab before I raced. You hear the stories about the sweltering hot conditions but alas not for me. The challenge was somewhat different . It was dark, very dark and I really could not see where I was running.
Athletes had glow sticks and the odd head torch here and there. I struggled to take on anymore fluid and decided that the run home would be walk/jog/run. Whatever it took to get me back on Ali’i drive.
I followed the white line on the highway just peering up every now and then enjoying the fact that the aid station was getting closer. The music and support at the stations is absolutely incredible and at the time it felt like they were angels. They kept saying ‘ you got this‘ and I remember chuckling to myself thinking….. Really, I got nothing!
Finally, the turn off off the highway back into town was ahead and I knew I was going to make it.
The support from here to the finish line was incredible a few randoms that felt like long lost friends ran alongside of me for a few stretches and then finally downhill to Ali’i drive.
My heart was jumping, I felt like I was flying.
I could feel that back of the throat choking feeling starting to grab hold!
As I got closer to the finish line shute I could see Cat and Kerrie and the tears started to flow! I promised myself I would make this moment last and I did for as long as I could. I slowed down and walked, I spun around and looked back at all the people cheering along the sides. I turned back to the line, I held off for a second as a wheel chair athlete ‘simply amazing ‘ finished just ahead of me and then I crossed, as Mike Reilly said those coveted words, Christine Kells, You are an Ironman!
As I walked into the recovery area hugged by two young volunteers I kept saying I can’t believe this. I just did Kona!
Mel had come back down to the finish Shute and was there to give me a big hug and a chance for me to say a massive thank you. I felt incredible, I knew Dave and the kids would have been watching and been proud, I really wished they were here!
After grabbing my bike and meeting up with the girls we decided we just had to stick around for what was left of this incredible day. A quick shower and back down to the finish line to see the last competitors roll in before the clock ticked 17 hours!
It was an incredible atmosphere dancing and partying and feeling elated. I don’t know how I managed to jump and dance on such weary and spent legs but adrenaline is an amazing thing!
Finally, speaking to Dave and the kids was awesome they had watched the live stream and the love and support that was coming over the phone was incredible. They are incredible they have been nothing but supportive and encouraging throughout the entire 20 weeks that Kona has ruled my life.
Doing an ironman requires an incredible amount of dedication and sacrifice and without the support of your family would be an insurmountable goal for most. I trained through our summer family holidays, I was constantly tired and served many a prepackaged meal. My training became my family’s priority and during all of this they were amazing.
Now as the dust settles, sunburn is peeling and my life returns to its normal non ironman mania, I don’t think there is too much I would change about my Kona experience except I wish the love of my life, Dave and my gorgeous children were with me and maybe the winds were a little more well behaved!
So from an average age grouper to my triathlete peers, keep on swimming biking, running and “dreaming” because dreams do come true!!!
Thank you for sharing Chris and a big congratulations! Awesome work and we are all very proud of you!
I love the “I can’t believe it, I just did Kona” quote.