Big Kahuna: Ready or Not, Here I Come


These are the prizes you win at Big Kahuna. I have one of those bronze hula girls.

The first time I ever did this race in 2009 it was to be my first half-Ironman, but the swim got cancelled and it ended up being my first 56-mile bike + half-marathon race instead. It was still long and sucked. (My actual first full half-Ironman was the following summer at Barb’s Race, which I did with an injury and which prompted me to decide the half distance was not for me.)

I did Big Kahuna again in 2011 as my last race right before Steve broke his leg and before my surprise temporary hiatus from triathlon. It went better that time, but the half distance is still not my favorite thing.

This is the only picture of me still in existence from either of the times doing the race:

Looking serious
Looking serious

So why did I agree to do it again this year? Especially after Ironman and being a bum for the last six weeks and feeling terrible? Why do we do any of these things? It sounded like fun at the time. We want to see what we can do. Why not.

Of course, usually when I think something sounds like fun and I want to see what I can do, I’ve run farther than seven miles and ridden my bike more than a handful of times. But, that’s ok. Hopefully, muscle memory kicks in. If this was an Olympic distance, I’d feel confident that my muscles would remember what to do. But, it’s a half. And I don’t know that my muscles ever learned what to do in halves in the first place, so there’s not much to remember.

Getting to the Ironman Start Line: A Series of Unfortunate Events

In case you want to know how most people would advise NOT to go into your first-ever Ironman, here are some tips:

First, you should definitely move to LA and start a fellowship program the day after you get back from doing the international race — and you should make it as logistically complicated as possible, so that you have to get everything done in the weeks before your Ironman. That will make prep easy and stress-free.

Then, you should work A LOT so that you have money once you move to LA. The extra work will help ensure that you don’t get overly rested and relaxed. You don’t want that.

About two weeks before your Ironman, when you decide to do a get-the-legs-moving race, it would be ideal if your car could break down on the way just to add some personal obstacles to overcome.

Then, once you pay $750 to have the alternator fixed in the car (even though the car has a limited lifespan since you crashed it back in January), it would help if you could have it fail smog check. Ideally, not because it actually has any emissions, but because the state changed the list of approved catalytic converters and your’s is no longer approved for this model of this car. While you’re arguing with the used car dealer you bought it from, you should drive it to a wedding just so on your way home the back tire can blow out on the freeway and start smoking. Nothing like learning to deal with adversity to get ready for triathlon.

You should also get pretty sick at the wedding, just to make sure you don’t overtrain. Call it a taper.

When you go to fix all those things in the car, try to make sure that the steel wire sticking out of the blown tire punctures your hand and you get a weird blood bruise across your palm. Get some oil in it while you’re trying to wipe up the the quart that spilled in the trunk during this. That’ll take your mind off the fact that your left knee has been hurting since the one long run you managed to do two weeks earlier.

If the car stalls while you’re driving to the airport it’ll just give you a chance to practice your powerful positive thinking and not crying. Think at the car ‘you can make it to the airport, come on, just do this’ over and over until you get there.

Once you’re at the airport for your flight to Seattle, try to wait until the last possible second to remember that you need a passport to drive from Seattle to Canada, since you didn’t need a passport the last three times you went to Canada. Have a small panic attack while trying to Google whether or not you’d be able to talk your way across the border. Walk around Seattle for a day, refreshing the FedEx tracking page to see when the passports will arrive and checking the Ironman schedule over and over as you worry if you’ll make it before check-in closes.

Once you finally arrive at your race, you’ll be so on edge and tired and relieved to have made it that you won’t even worry anymore about the bears, even when Steve runs right by one on the trail.

But, at least you’re there and ready to go.

I’m trying to remember that even though we arrived in Whistler 38 hours later than planned, it’s still the earliest I’ve ever showed up for a race. And, maybe I’ve gotten at least some of the shit going wrong out of my system. And, when more things go wrong (because they will), maybe I’ll be able to deal with it because I certainly know how to deal with things. Except for my left knee hurting still. That could be a problem.

I’m trying to just get the (GIANT) list of things done that need to be done before the start and rest the rest of the time and remember that I’m ready to go.

Because it is time to go. IM Canada starts at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. I am #427. You can track me online or I’ll probably tweet and facebook when I’m done. Which will hopefully be sometime before midnight. I have some time goals, but they’re sort of general and I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. I actually don’t know what’s going to happen at all. One guy today tried to tell me that KFC chicken in my bike special needs bag is the secret. (Also smoking pot on the run?? He was full of advice.) Let’s hope he was not 100% right, because I think this is going to be hard enough without KFC and pot.

The two things I’m telling myself over and over are:

– You don’t have to move fast. You just have to keep moving.


– Everyone else feels like shit too. (Unless they’re smoking pot, probably. But then they may not be following piece of advice #1 – keep moving.)

So, I will keep moving and it will feel awful and then I will be done. Ideally. And, none of this other stuff that happened before and sucked will matter. Because it doesn’t matter how you get to the start line as long as you get to the finish line too.

What to Eat the Day Before a Race

A lot of people are really picky about what they eat the day before a race. They have a long list of celebrity-level requirements. I have learned that if I stress too much it turns out badly and I accidentally eat nothing for six hours except some Z-Bars and then go nuts on some super-oily chicken and get pretty sick(ish) in a port-a-potty. Not that this happened.

I may have to remedy this for Ironman, but in the meantime, here’s what I ate today before the Tiburon Half Marathon tomorrow. Hopefully it works out:

  • McDonald’s Oatmeal
  • McDonald’s sausage egg McMuffin (grabbed both on my way to volunteering for a different race at 6:45 a.m.)
  • Bagel + light cream cheese – benefits of volunteering!
  • Half a Clif bar
  • Glasses of water
  • Homemade nachos: refried beans, gaucemole, salsa, cheese, corn chips
  • Grapes
  • Mini-Hershey’s bar
  • Hummus + chips + some lettuce + roast beef
  • Bottle of Blue Moon
  • Two cookies + ice cream

And, yes to the second question: that is pretty much normally what I eat.