Island House Invitational Triathlon and 2016 Season Reflections

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This blog first appeared on Alicia Kaye’s personal blog, photo property of Jesper Gronnemark.

My three weeks’ post Kona to prepare for Island House went by way faster than I would have liked. I knew it was going to be a difficult challenge to recover from Kona in time to race my best at Island House. I had some great sessions and went in with the mentality that I was going to simply do my best; I had an open mind and heart. It was so great to spend time with Katie and Tommy Zaferes in the weeks between Kona and Island House. They are two of our closest friends, and they are also embarking on same journey as in this winter and buying a tiny house. We had so much fun discussing layouts, space saving ideas, and simply “living tiny”!

We were completely spoiled by Island House CEO participant, and our friend Anthony Sullivan (AKA Mr. OxiClean!), who decided to fly a private plane down to Nassau; we were lucky enough to be invited to join him. Jarrod had been coaching Anthony for the past 3 months to prepare for Island House. Terenzo Bozzone is a long-time friend of Anthony’s and the four of us all flew down to Nassau together. We kept giggling at the entire process, it was surreal to travel like this! We joked about making the short flight a little longer!

Upon arriving at The Island House I instantly relaxed, the friendly and helpful staff had us quickly settled in our rooms. It was so nice not to have to build the bike since we able to just wheel our bikes on the private plane.

The competition was stacked, as it should be at an event of this stature. After placing 4th last year and being a member of the Island House team, I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to do well. Day 1 consisted of three individual time trials; 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. I can’t remember what I was placed after the swim, but after the bike I was 6th and then 10th place after Day 1. It was such a tight race!  I felt fairly good in all three disciplines on Day 1 but I could feel that layer of deep fatigue I hadn’t quite shaken since Kona. As I rode back to The Island House, I felt like my bones were shaking with fatigue. I tried to stay mentally positive and believed that Day 2 would suit the long course athletes a little more than Day 1.

As I tried to fall asleep on Friday night before the Enduro my body was pulsing with exhaustion, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the race; it took me a while to fall asleep. At breakfast the next morning, I spoke candidly with a couple of the other female participants and I was not alone in my sensations; we were all tired and nervous! I rode down to the race site with Jarrod driving behind me to light the way. As I warmed up, I observed the CEO’s complete their race. It was interesting to watch the different strategies for pacing and transitions. As we toed the line, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that all I can do is my best. The gun went and it became clear we were going to be a lead pack of 12-13 girls. I didn’t want to fight; I stayed outside and exited the water on Flora Duffy’s feet in about 4th or 5th place. I was so pleased and took off onto the 5k run in good position.

The ITU girls ran away pretty early into the run and formed a lead group with Gwen off the front. I was running with Helle and Ellie about 10 seconds back from the lead group, but after 2.5k I just couldn’t hold the pace anymore. Ellie and Helle put about 15 seconds on me on the second lap. Even when this happened, I felt confidant and determined that I was going to catch up and really make a move on the bike. My mind was there, but my body was not. I did everything I could, but it was like being in a bad dream; I felt trapped inside my body. Even when writing this, I remember how devastated I was feeling when I slowly realized I wasn’t going to catch the pack ahead. I got so close, about 15 seconds- catching was so important for the 2nd swim. It was my last chance of making the top 10.  As I dove into the water, I kept telling myself, “Do not give up, you have no idea what’s happening up ahead”. I rounded the far buoys and I was so fatigued that I was disoriented, I had to breaststroke for a second to orient myself to where the swim exit was. As I exited the water Jarrod told me that a couple of athletes had penalties and if I could have the run of my life I had a chance. Again, my mind rallied, I began to believe but my body had nothing left to give me. I could see all these amazing long course athletes just behind me all feeling as did; we shared knowing glances and words of encouragement. I crossed the line knowing I had nothing left to give; my tank was empty. I really did believe that this new format would bring long course and short course athletes closer together but that first run differentiated the ITU athletes from the long course athletes creating a gap that we couldn’t close on such a tight course.

I was gutted to not make the final day- it’s taken me a really long time to process not achieving my outcome goals in Kona and Island House. I completely recognize that there was nothing I could have done to have these races go differently and that there were some really amazing parts of each race, but my goodness, its hard not to get caught up in the final result. These last few weeks reminded me of a quote I saw from Meredith Kessler earlier this year:

“Do not let your successes go to your head and do not let your setbacks go to your heart.” 

-Meredith Kessler

I believe I saw it on Witsup’s Instagram feed, and it’s been an important daily reminder for me as I get back into my training for next year. I am excited to continue to progress and improve over this new distance. One thing I am sure of: I love Iron-distance racing. I had the opportunity to come spectate my first Ironman this weekend in Cozumel since becoming an Ironman myself. It was absolutely incredible to watch my husband complete his first Ironman and watch him persevere despite many setbacks. It was amazing to watch my friends and support them with splits. Finally cheering on perfect strangers, and being able to give them words of encouragement and watch their fatigued faces crack a smile was priceless.

In summary, I love this sport. Next year will be my 19th year racing a professional. After 17 years racing Olympic distance or shorter, I’ve have been racing long-course (half iron or longer) for just two years. It’s important that as I continue to progress at this new discipline that I remember that. I’m very motivated and excited for 2017; my main goals are to qualify for both 70.3 Worlds and Kona again. I’m hopeful I can squeak in a couple short course races as well for fun!

I want to say a special thank you to Mark Holowesko for his tremendous generosity in supporting and creating this event. I’m not sure “supporting” properly encapsulates what Mark does for the event and how IHIT has positively contributed to our sport, but anyone who raced Island House gets it. A massive thank you to Luke and Beth McKenzie who worked tirelessly as race directors to make everything go off safely and smoothly. The fact that this event even happened just weeks after Nassau was hammered by at category 5 hurricane is a testament to how tirelessly all three of these individuals worked to pull this event off.

Funnily enough, I am now back at The Island House having an end of season vacation with my husband.  It’s fun to be here without the pressure of an important race! The “off season” is nearly over and my mind and body are ready to get back to work to prepare for 2017. Until the next post, thank you for reading!

Alicia Kaye

Alicia Kaye

Alicia Beth Kaye is a Canadian / US professional triathlete and Member of the USA Triathlon Project 2012 program. Alicia Kaye started her international elite career at the age of 16, placing 14th at the World Cup in Corner Brook.
Alicia Kaye

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