Jen is a Team Drea member who has taken our challenge to “Go on, be brave” to heart. I know you will enjoy reading about her amazing experience!

The Island of Hawaii will always capture my heart. There is a majestic lure that attracts my attention every time I return to the mainland. It pulls me back with the strongest forces. This Island resets my true self. It’s as much a part of me as I am of it.

Leading up to Lavaman, I got caught in the undertow of work/life balance. I was scrambling to find time for my workouts and frustrated for not making myself a priority. I contemplated pulling out of the race. It didn’t feel right. Any finish would be credited to my Ironman 70.3 hangover [Ironman 70.3 NC Beach 2 Battleship, October 21, 2017]. This year I convinced my friend, Caroline and Triathlon-Partner-Extraordinaire to experience it with me. The swim takes place in Anaeho’omalu Bay and Caroline encouraged me to at least do the swim because I incessantly talked about it for a year.

I had to say ‘Aloha’ to a friend upon arrival. I stood on the edge of the lagoon and was greeted with the familiar flipper wave of a green sea turtle.

On the day before the race, Caroline and I cheered on the Kona Kids during their Aquathon. Carrie McCoy proudly coaches the Kona Kids to compete without barriers. The heavy rain didn’t dampen their spirit. These kids are rock solid.

Papayas are plentiful, affordable and super food for athletes. Their irresistible sweetness and bright orange color surpasses any of the Island fruits. Mixed with sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey borders ridiculousness. I likely consumed my weight in papayas pre/post race.

I’ve learned that the mind cannot differentiate sources of stress. Most of my build up was not due to the race. Regardless, I only managed to sleep 3 hours the night before. Ready to go race morning, I chugged a cup of coffee and decimated a packet of caffeinated sports beans. I swallowed some salt tabs and drank a bottle of water. I accidently peeled back my big toenail. Long distance racing and training can result in black toenails and this happened during my 70.3. The old toenail stays intact as the new nail grows in. I stopped by the medical tent before the race to have it wrapped.

“There’s a whale in our water, a whale in our water” was the joyful song of a local athlete in my swim wave. This spectacular spectator, a humpback whale, treated us all to a show about 1 mile out from race start. It’s a sign of good luck to unexpectedly sight a whale.

A-Bay is the most beautiful swim in the world. The water is typically calm with superior visibility.

I was swimming strong until just before the first turn buoy when the swells picked up and I got bounced around quite a bit. I raised my head to survey the situation and got slapped in the back of my head with a wave. As a result, I swallowed a big gulp of water and the saltiness burned my throat. I told myself to put my head down and enjoy the pretty fishes. I quieted my mind and reconnected with the water to save energy. My time was a bit stretched, but I completed my 2nd Pacific Ocean swim.

I removed a layer of bandage in transition and adjusted my bike shoe noting any pressure points. I rented a perfectly fitted Felt Pro with the smoothest handling. I had some stomach issues but realized this was a result of my ocean drink and not dehydration. Ironman World Championships and the grueling bike course that takes place annually on Queen K highway were not lost on me even though I was only cycling a small portion. I was really pleased an almost 17 mph average.

Prior to the race, I joined Fleet Feet 10 and 4 mile running groups and this training helped me find a steady pace. I gave my body the freedom to run and curbed negative talk. It felt great despite a throbbing foot. Navigating the sharp lava rock took some extra care.

There was little time to celebrate my finish. I returned to the medical tent and pleaded with the doctor to cut it off (the toenail not my toe). He was a cardiologist not a toe doctor. Lucky for me, his nurse cut ¾ of my old nail and that provided relief.

I’m proud of this race, what I endured and what I accomplished. My most successful race was not time focused.

In the spirit of fundraising, please consider a donation towards my Facebook Birthday Fundraiser on April 19th for the Team Drea Foundation.

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