2013 IM World Champion 40-44 AG
The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is like no other race on the planet. Before the swim starts at 7 am you’ll hear the thumping and pounding of loud hawaiian drums echoing as the sun rises sending shivers up your arms. The helicopters are flying above and a cannon booms as 2000 bodies fight for the same space of water leading to the orange buoys that make a 2.4 mile rectangle. Kona waters are warm & clear with 100 feet of visibility. The bike weaves through what seems to be an endless amount of hot black lava fields for 112 miles with 3 big climbs half way through the course and leaving the cyclist with a reminder of this island’s weapons, wind and heat. They push relentlessly against you for the last 32 miles of the bike. The first 10 miles running of the 26.2 are lined with spectators and beautiful coastline which fills you with energy and a little hope as you turn up the famous Palani hill leading you into the abyss of the Queen K for the next 15 miles …alone. Yes you have aid stations every mile with high energy volunteers but by this point in the marathon your mind fixates on just cooling the body down with a quick snap of a water cup, dumping it on your head, slamming a another cup of PowerBar Perform in the mouth, filling your sport bra with ice and taking one last cup for another sip of water or coke. The deafening crowds disappear and are replaced by the endless thoughts in your head.
For some this race goes smoothly, for some the wheels fall off and they go into survival mode taking just one swim stroke, pedal stroke or stride at a time. For many they will experience 2 good legs out of the 3 (swimming, biking and running). I’ve done this race 3 times and this year was my 4th. Each time I come back a little more hungry, try to achieve a bigger goal and feel more confident that I’ve figured out the strategies of this course.
This year I learned that Ironman is a physical and mental race that can take a person to the bottom of a well. Ask yourself what guides you through the race when it throws you to the bottom of the well? You had better find your strength and inner soul or you’ll be walking on the Queen K deep into the night.Some reflect on the love and support of friends and family or recall a tough workout session. Some think of life tragedies they’ve had to endure. Mine includes all of the above but my strongest power to fall back on is my faith in God. He’s pushed me through an 8 hour open heart surgery with my husband. A second open heart surgery as he had a heart attack just in April and had a double coronary bypass open heart operation. God was my rock and held me up during the sudden death of my best friend’s husband after being needlessly killed on his bicycle by a city bus just 8 weeks before this race. He also held me up during the most difficult Marathon of my life this Saturday at the Ironman World Championships. God has, does and will always get us through the tough parts of life.
My swim started awesome although it was very rough. I was scratched and kicked, but my goggles stayed on and I felt like a sleek river otter skimming through the water with ease. I came out in my new BlueSeventy PZ3 speed suit 1:30 faster than any prior year racing in Kona! I had a zippy transition (only 2:26) feeling my legs go right into sprint mode to my bike without effort! I jumped on my Quintano Roo CDO1 and felt a tailwind push me strongly for the first 40 miles out of town. I saw 30 mph on my Speedometer and knew to keep it easy as all of my time checks were blistering fast! I knew if I overworked the first half of the bike, I would pay for it later. My plan worked! I held my pace and passed many other’s the last 30 miles into a headwind and got off my bike holding another personal best average speed of 21.7mph. My bike split was 13 minutes faster than my previous time in Kona! Whoot! All of my hard training was paying off. I couldn’t wait to get on the run! No matter how my legs feel on the bike, 9 out of 10 times my legs feel like new. Well today was the one time my legs didn’t feel like mine. After the 2 mile mark I was looking for my husband to ask him if I could stop and stretch! What is going on, I thought? Oh man my lower back hurts and my hamstrings and hips feel locked up. I am running ugly and could not get on my toes to run smoothly no matter how many butt kicks or high knees I attempted to re-charge my stride. I had a 5:28 lead out of T2 and held it through mile 3. From miles 3 through 7 my lead had dropped to 3:20.
My mind raced, how can I loosen up because at this rate I’ll be lucky to run a 3:45 marathon. Ouch every step hurt. I saw Scott and couldn’t say anything because he was across the street and a girl was behind me. I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness. My husband saw I was struggling while other’s told me I looked good or hold on you can do this. I saw Scott again at mile 8 before heading out to the Queen K and I yelled “I will have to do everything today to even break 3:30 because I felt horrible”. He just said “food and form, we’ve been through tougher things than this, hang on” He knows me more than any person in the world and has been by my side in 100 races. I stuck with my plan to keep eating and drinking the salt, water and calories with a glimpse of hope maybe that was the key to help loosen up my legs and hips. In many moments of discomfort I called out the names of all of my family, friends, called up to the sky for Udo (my friend’s late husband) and recalled the mental pain of waiting for my husband to wake up from his heart attack. This discomfort and pain was not going to beat me. I sang, “He can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save”. I entered the Energy Lab watching people walking as they came out the other side. I decided this is where I will be stronger. A girl came up to my side and we ran side by side. I told her we were in the top 10 overall amateur women. Then a song blasted at the turn around, “Eye of the Tiger”. Bam, bam, bam, bam, rising up back on feet, take my time, take my chances….. “Yahoo” I yelled, “Let’s get this going” and zipped my pace up back below 7:30 a mile pace. I dropped that girl and never looked back. I was on a mission to win my age group and saw a girl in my age group maybe a half mile back. I dropped my Power Bar bottle of calories all over the ground as I exited the Energy lab, oh shxx I screamed. Think fast. I filled it with some Perform calories and said with 6 miles to go a Gel and this will have to do. I turned back onto the Queen K and boom a headwind and a six foot guy! Thank you Jesus!!! He paced me for exactly one mile to the next aid station to a 7:20 mile then I never saw him again. This is when I saw my husband again and I pulled energy from him as he screamed “I am so proud of you, you are such a fighter.” Yes, I am and so are you. I saw him at mile 22 after not seeing him since mile 8 which was extraordinarily unusual. He later told me, “there was nothing I could say, I knew you had to figure this out by yourself” He told me I was back up to a 4:20 lead.
Holding 7:30 pace felt like inning a 10K tempo which I can hold 6:05 pace typically. It hurt and was uncomfortable. Only 30 minutes to go! I can endure any pain for 30 minutes. I passed another guy and thought I’m making progress. No one was passing me, so hope was overtaking the negative thoughts of pain. I hit the last mile down Palani and flew down hill as fast as I could. A Timex Teammate Barry yelled out, “you are amazing Susanne, Go!” That gave me a smile and carried me to the crowd on Alii. I popped onto my toes and ran “pretty” in form for the first time all day. With this energy I also took in the crowd and gave high fives to kids thinking of my own Matthew and Brooke, flashing smiles and blowing kisses to everyone. I took in the finish line and heard Mike Reilly announce as I was coming in. Here comes Susanne Davis the 40-44 Ironman World Champion! Susanne Davis you are an Ironman!
I pointed to the sky, raised my arms and smiled ear to ear. I crossed with a 10 minute Personal Best time racing in Kona with a 9:41 and finally winning. I didn’t run my best marathon but surprised myself with a 3:25 which isn’t something I thought my body would achieve that day. This is when the mind becomes more important than your physical being. I went to the bottom of the well today and God helped me climb back out.
A 3 year journey has come to a close. In 2010 I completed the IM World Championships in 9:50 and was just 6 minutes away from the Amateur World Record. I set out to go under 9:44. They’ve all gotten faster somehow and the record is now lower, but now at the age of 42 I am now the Masters Amateur American Record holder racing 9:41 and reaching the top of the podium. I suffered today like never before. The tragedies in my life have made me a stronger, more appreciative, more patient and I better understand the power of faith. The first two legs of this race went easy and exactly as planned. The run was one I’ll never forget. If you are going to achieve a lifetime goal you’re forced to reflect on the journey. It’s been incredible. The support of the Timex Multisport Team, Quintana Roo, Shimano, Nytro, Powerbar and a huge list of those that have helped get me here. Chiropractors, bike fitters, massage therapy, coaching advice, training partners and the list goes on. My friends, family that support me, cheer for me and celebrate my accomplishment are forever in my heart. Mahalo Kona, 2013 will never be forgotten.