- High-fiving thousands of people while running down Ali’i Drive
- My race crew riding beach cruisers during the run
- Racing with the best athletes from all over the world
- Living out my dream of competing in the World Championships
After two years of consistent hard work, a lot of determination and countless miles logged in training, I accomplished my dream of qualifying for Ironman World Championships in Kona by winning my first Ironman in July 2016 at Ironman Canada (Canada race recap). On October 8, 2016 I got to live out my dream and compete in the Ironman World Championships.
Kona truly is a magical place and the race experience is unforgettable. In the weeks and days leading up to the race Ali’i Drive is filled with athletes from all over the world running around town, swimming at the Kona Pier and biking along the Queen K all hours of the day. Race week is almost* more fun than the actual race day, it’s full of activities such as swim competitions, kids races, the famous Underpants Run down Ali’I drive, if you’re lucky enough to be invited there’s a beer mile race and my favorite swimming out to the Cliff Bar coffee boat, getting a refreshing drink and talking to athletes from New Zealand, Australia and Florida. Ironman village is huge and of course full of tons of new products and limited edition Kona gear that is all must have!
With so much going on and people from all over the world the energy is
crazy. It’s intimidating, exciting, anxious and unreal all at the same time. Thankfully we didn’t stay in Kona, I prefer to stay at least 20 minutes away from the race site. It helps me get away from the “race scene and energy” and not feel so anxious. We lucked out with a sick house big enough for my parents, brothers, grandpa and two friends who are basically family. During my taper week I did many light workouts, stretched, tried to stay off my feet, ate Basik Acai, drank out of coconuts and watched the boys as they jumped off cliffs. I really wanted to jump, just once but everyone told me it wasn’t a good idea. I saw a guy there with the Ironman wristband on who was jumping, I asked him if he was racing- he wasn’t he was a volunteer- the look of disappointment on my face must have said a lot since he told me, “don’t jump it’s not worth it. Think of all you did to get here and how horrible it’d be if it got taken away from a jump that lasts 3 seconds.” Valid point, so I videotaped and lived vicariously through them.
Finally, 24 hours to go! We got to rack our bikes and drop off our gear at transition, it was hands down the coolest transition I’ve ever seen and definitely filled with the most expensive and nicest gear there is. As I walked in on the red carpet spectators were wishing me good luck, I received so many compliments on my bike set up and high fives. The volunteers treated us like royalty, carried all our stuff, set up our spots for us and walked each individual athlete through the transition process. The woman who helped me came all the way from Nebraska just to volunteer because she enjoys this race, she told me “This is the Superbowl of triathlon, these people in volunteer shirts will do anything for you… except wipe your bum, but I’m sure some would if you asked.” Luckily I never experienced that- A huge thank you to every person who volunteered, these volunteers truly made the whole experience so much more enjoyable and effortless for us racers so we could stay focused on the race.
3:30am (6:30am California time)– wake up, eat, prepare mentally and head to the Kona pier. All 2,300 athletes had to get body marked with their temporary tattoos, enter transition and warm up before the swim. I was able to give my mom, Lacie and Ross a final good bye and knew I’d be seeing them in a few hours. The sun was starting to rise and the nerves began to flow. We entered the water, I looked around and saw thousands and thousands of people standing on the pier, benches, bleachers, in restaurants, on roofs and in boats all to watch us take off.
2.4 mile swim– Being an experienced swimmer, the swim never makes me nervous yet for some reason I was most nervous for the swim. 700 women swam out to the Roka swim buoy, we treaded water for 15 minutes and then the cannon went off. The best way to describe the swim is to imagine being at Water World standing in the wave pool and being knocked over while being punched, kicked, dizzy and drinking a gallon of salt water. The currents were the roughest I’ve ever swam in but the salt water getting in my throat and nose were the real issue causing me to gag and nearly throw up. I tried hard to get into a rhythm but couldn’t shake it. On a positive note I saw lots of fish, water snakes and coral through the clear blue ocean. Finally I finished what I considered to be the worst swim of my life.
112 miles bike– The first 8 miles are a short out and back through town to make it semi spectator friendly and fun before we head out on the Queen K. Right away I saw my dad, brothers and Ross cheering on one side and my mom, Lacie and grandpa on the other side. They were cheering so loud and taking tons of pictures. Once I was on the Queen K I immediately felt the headwind, stayed in aero position and pedaled my way to Hawi towards the turn around. I got to witness the Pro Men’s field pedaling their way back towards Kona and killing it. There were a lot of little roller climbs to get into Hawai, nothing as gnarly as Whistler but the heat and crosswinds made them feel never ending. Finally half way through the bike I put my head down and headed back towards the Queen K only to arrive at more headwind. The Queen K is brutal, it’s a two lane highway in the middle of lava fields with no shade in site, no people around, it’s draining, it’s lonely and it’s a beast. Imagine pedaling on your trainer as if you were pedaling in mud, with a fan blowing in your face while sitting in the sauna; that is an accurate description of the Queen K. The aid stations on the way back ran out of water, your options were Coke, Gatorade or a bottle of ice. Talk about the one race where it matters the most to have water and they ran out- I believe conditions were worse than they anticipated which caused the water shortage on the bike. With 6 miles on the bike to go, I saw people who were already on the run headed towards the finish. It’s a little demoralizing when you haven’t even gotten off your bike yet and you see people heading to the finish. The last few miles felt like an eternity. When I finally got to transition I took my time, got comfortable and mentally prepared myself for the next few hours.
26.2 mile run– Within the first mile of the run I saw part of my race crew. Physically I was exhausted and mentally disappointed with my performance on the swim and bike, which didn’t make me to excited for the run. As I was running a woman who looked fast was to my left and Ross to my right, Ross whispered “You know you’re running with pro Leanda Cave right now. She won the IMWC 70.3 and IMWC two months later in 2012.” She looked over at me and told me to run with her, while we were running she asked if I had done this race before- I told her no, this is my second full ironman, she told me “Enjoy the experience and don’t worry about your time. I’ve done this race way too many times, it’s never easy and today was no different. Enjoy it and finish with a smile girl.” Then I congratulated her as she turned down Ali’i drive to the finish and I turned to tackle the remainder of this race. My race crew rented beach cruisers and rode them along side of me while I ran. For 25 miles Lacie had music going, was cracking jokes and motivating me to keep going. Ross ran the first half of the run by our side and my mom ran the second half by our side. My brothers rode bikes, filmed, took pictures and sent snap chats to our friends. It was unreal how many of my friends were texting my family to wish me luck, sending motivational texts and letting me know they were tracking me. The sun was starting to set around mile 10 while I was running by the beach, my mom yells “You are going to love me later these pictures are so awesome” she was right they were so awesome. As it started to get darker, the “death march” that many people do in an Ironman seemed more common but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, cooling myself off with ice in my top and arm warmers and running to the beat of the music. Eventually it got too dark to the point you can’t see other racers until they’re right in front of you, this is when it becomes all mental. You feel like it’s just you out there, you can’t see any mile markers or people, it’s just you and the lonely Queen K highway. We finally spotted the Energy Lab from a distance it looked light-years away, my race crew talked to me to distract me from thinking how far I had to go just for the turn around spot. The Energy Lab is known to either make or break you, you leave with more energy or less energy and I believe that is entirely up to you to decide. Finally at the turn around, only 8 miles left. Mile after mile after mile we kept going, it was not fast and it was not easy but we kept going. I slowly began to breakdown until one of them said “Remember all those people who laughed at you when you said you wanted to go to Kona, or told you that you’d never make it because you’re an average girl and average girls don’t go to Kona. Well guess what, you’re here you’re in Kona and you’re doing it. And where are they, at home on the couch watching this race on their computer.” It lit a fire in me to keep going, I was so close to finishing. Of course Lacie put on my #1 song, Till I Collapse by Eminem and out of nowhere my pace increased, my form got better and we listened to that song for the next 3 miles. Mile 25 I ran towards Ali’i drive where thousands of people were cheering, lights flashing, music playing, motivational words written in chalk all down the road. I high-fived as many people as I could and they all cheered so loud for me, I ran down the red carpet to the finish and hear Jaimee Davis you are an Ironman World Championship finisher, it was the most magical and surreal feeling. I had to fight so hard to hold back the tears because I wanted an epic finish photo not one of me crying. I couldn’t believe I did it, once again.
Everyone talks about Kona being magical and they aren’t lying. The last mile running down Ali’i Drive is truly indescribable, the only way to really know how it feels is to experience it and I am so grateful I was able to. The feeling triumphs all those hard, tough or bad days of training, all the early mornings or long Saturdays logged and all the days where it felt like you were missing out on other things because you were training or too tired from training. This feeling and experience was the reason why I dreamt of racing Kona one day, although I didn’t have my best race performance, there were no PR’s and it was the first race I didn’t land on the podium it was the best race experience I could’ve ever had. There are not enough thank you’s I can say to all the people who have helped, supported and encouraged me to get here. First off my awesome race crew for being in Kona to support me, I couldn’t imagine being there without them. My Freeplay team for all they do to help us chase these crazy dreams along with all of our incredible sponsors, my coach Jon for believing in me and preparing me, the Vitality Multisport teammates for always being so encouraging, my friends for being so supportive even when they don’t understand why I do this crazy sport and of course my family for supporting me through every start, every finish and every mile in between. Kona would not have been the same without you. My heart is so full. Kona you are unreal.