John Arneson | graphic designer
THE ROAD TO KONA
The journey began in 2010 when Alissa and I moved to South Africa. While there I trained for my first full distance triathlon, Ironman South Africa 2011. An 'Ironman' full distance tri consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 run. Training was a fun challenge. I found myself training with a group of top-notch local triathletes that challenged me (big thanks to Grant, Johan, PJ, Shaun, Werner and Virgin Active!). The race was AWESOME and I finished feeling strong in 10:52 (swim 1:20, bike 5:29, run 3:52) - 23rd in my age group and an hour behind podium spots that seemed like an eternity away. The pro winner, Raynard Tissink, finished in 8:05. Chrissie Wellington came in with a blazing fast 8:33 - very cool to watch these legends in action.
The next year brought us back to the states and Ironman Wisconsin in Fall 2012 – a Kona World Championship qualifying race. Training intensity and volume picked up for what would be a tough course. I hit the training hard, inspired by my buddy Shaun's 9:28 at Kona the previous fall (with a 3:18 marathon!). I had a great day in WI, finishing in 10:21 (swim 1:09, bike 5:23, run 3:37). My swim had improved greatly and I felt solid on the run once again. Finishing 14th in my age group, 38 minutes away from a Kona spot, I dreamed that in a few years I might have a shot.
For 2013, we planned a return to WI and I was excited to see my time improve after a year of motivated training. I was all in. I had purchased my first triathlon bike, a Specialized Shiv. The new ride and concentrated training improved my bike speed substantially. Training went well and the season was fun. I had an awesome training crew (Casey, Cody, Craig, Denny, Jason, Josie, Ryan, Todd, Mike, Whitey and everyone at Endura Camps, thank you!) and managed to podium at a few races. I was feeling great, constantly setting higher personal benchmarks. I was excited to race in WI and knew what I'd need to do to qualify.
The day started at 4am, with breakfast and final prep flying by. Before I knew it I was floating at the start line with 2,400+ competitors. A cool and cloudy morning, the lake was very choppy, leaving me with a swim that was seven minutes slower than I'd hoped. Once on the bike I was pushing hard, frustrated and making up time. Alissa was on course giving me the overall time split updates, which was incredibly motivational. I was biking around 2mph faster than the previous season and after four hours, I was feeling great going into an incredibly windy home stretch. Off the bike in under five hours and very excited to have made up time, I was on the run and flying (for me) the first mile or so, nervous but loving the chase. Eventually setting into my pace I felt strong, probably running too fast - but with the updates I was getting, I knew I had to keep pushing.
Around mile 14-15, I'd moved into fourth place and held steady 'til about mile 20. Though I wouldn’t realize it until the finish, the runner in 5th managed to sneak by me at an aid station. The final push down State Street, the Capitol and eventual finish line was INCREDIBLE! It was a priceless feeling of accomplishment to have left it all out there on race day. I had finished 5th in my age group in 9:56 (1:12, 4:59, 3:36) which in previous years would earn me a World Championships slot. After celebrating with the training crew, we headed to bed for a restless night from excitement, exhaustion and my future of Kona unknown.
In the morning, we learned that I had secured my spot at the Ironman World Championship in Kona. I’ll never forget that moment. I'm still stoked! :)
Every donation helps.