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3 Tales of Reaching the IRONMAN World Championships Finish Line

IRONMAN Kona is a one of a kind race with one of a kind experiences.  Here, three athletes with very different stories describe their race day. 

Scott Shumate: “HOTSHOT will be a part of all my future races!”

I was lucky enough to qualify for Kona last year in Louisville.  Towards the end of my Louisville race and during some of my longer training sessions, I experienced cramps that impacted my performance.  Knowing the conditions in Kona would be very challenging, I looked for ways to prevent cramps from derailing my race.  I experimented using HOTSHOT both before and during all my key training sessions leading up to Kona with great results.  No cramps!  Only thing left to see was whether HOTSHOT would work during the big dance.

My race plan was to take a HOTSHOT 30-45 minutes prior to the race, one about 3 hours into the bike, and then use it on the run as my body dictated.  Throughout the swim and bike, I had no cramping and the HOTSHOT seemed to do its job.  Coming out of the Energy Lab late in the marathon, my body was struggling from the heat and miles of the day.  My hamstrings and quads were on fire and on the verge of cramping with every stride. A final dose of HOTSHOT (from Crowie at the HOTSHOT tent!) kept the cramps at bay and allowed me to maintain my pace during those final miles.  This had been the same point in previous IRONMAN races where cramps had threatened to stop my run.  While you never feel good during this part of the race, being able to race without cramps is key to a solid performance.  

 

Tana Jackson: “My legs continued to feel strong all the way back into Kona.”

The 2016 IRONMAN World Championship was a dream come true – for the 12th time. I’ve been racing Ironman for 18 years. Since I came to Kona as a spectator at the 1997 Ironman World Championship, it’s been a dream of mine to race it. Yes, that dream has come true, but each time that it does I relive it with renewed enthusiasm! 

I had an uneventful morning before the race, which is a good thing.  I had a good swim and came out of the water right around the time that I expected. No cramps despite having someone slapping my lower legs for the last quarter mile. I had taken a HOTSHOT 30 minutes before the swim. Like everyone who does endurance events and especially those in hot conditions such as Kona, I cramp while competing. Swimming cramps are painful and often debilitating to the point where I have to stop and get out of the way of the pack. The frustrating thing about swim cramps in my experience is that any little touch from a fellow swimmer can bring them on. I don’t cramp while swimming solo, but as soon as someone slaps my legs, I seize up. On that day it didn’t happen.

The bike was also good despite the winds. I drank a HOTSHOT during transition and another at special needs. Unlike past years when I’ve started to cramp after the turn from Hawi, this year I didn’t. It meant that I didn’t have to dial back my intensity in order to hold off cramping. My legs continued to feel strong all the way back into Kona.

I would have liked to have run faster, but my legs weren’t capable of top speed on that day. I was just happy that I was able to run and keep a consistent pace. It was great seeing the HOTSHOT team on the course on the way into and out of the energy lab. I wasn’t running a pace that causes me to cramp, but it was reassuring to know that they were there if needed.

The final stretch down Ali’i drive and the finish line is the most amazing experience. Months and years worth of hard work and dedication is represented in that short moment, which always proves to be overwhelming and emotional. It’s my dream to experience it all over again in 2017. I hope to see you there! 

John Critchfield : “Stories from the Ironman who should not have been.”

Where do I start? There are sights, sounds, tastes and, yes, even smells to this event that I will never capture with words. The week was stressful, incredible, humbling, exhilarating, exciting, and just plain badass!   Kona is and was my Super Bowl, and I got playtime! Was it worth it? Let me say it this way: I suffer from a severe lack of self-esteem and self-worth. Ironman, that dumb race I had seen on TV a few times, was for crazy people only!

It was worth every early morning (try 2:00 a.m.) workout, every cramp, every pulled muscle, every fight to stay awake, every dollar spent, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every moment I was able to actually impress myself. This is not meant as arrogance (note my title) but as a truthful statement. How in the hell did I, me personally, do this?!  

Before I begin, there are two people who MUST be thanked. First is my dear wife and best friend, Theresa. I’m so glad to have shared this experience with her.

The second person to thank is my coach, Brian Lowman. Brian took up my cause the moment I called him and told him I had won a lottery spot to Kona. He put together a training plan that strengthened my bike yet still saved my run. I’m proud of being able to finish in a place like Kona, but realize that Brian was responsible for getting me across that line and in a faster time than I had anticipated.

It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in Kona. Tense. Surreal. Electric. Prideful. More helicopters. More cameras. More noise. The sun is rising over Mt. Hualalai in the background. The national anthem playing. It’s a glorious moment to be an American at this unique event with this multi-cultural crowd.

Brian prepared us VERY well for Hawi. The rides up and down Ft. Mountain on those hot summer days were perfect preparation. And, seeing Team HOTSHOT on the course was like seeing family again – family at Christmas bearing gifts!  I took at HOTSHOT at each transition, finding relief, especially in my calfs, each time.

By the time I reached the end, my intent is to enjoy the finishers’ chute as long as possible. I am on the red carpet. I find myself speeding up as I see the ramp to the official finish line. I hear Mike Reilly, “From Tennessee, John Critchfield…you did it! You are an Ironman!” As I type this I still hear it in his voice and it still gives me chill bumps! I was screaming out loud, the music in my ears — “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Kesha – and jumping what felt like a mile in the air (about 3 or 4 inches actually) and continuing to sprint down the finishers’ ramp almost out the back. A lei is put around my neck…. and I’ve never felt so good!  

 

Did you race IRONMAN Kona? We’d love to hear your story! 

 

MORE ON THE HOTSHOT BLOG 

“What I learned from IRONMAN Champion Crowie Alexander” One athletes story 

Training For Success in Extreme Summer Heat:  6 tips to keep you safe and prepared. 

Running Tips: How to taper for race day. 

 

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