SUZY DEGAZON’S ULTRA(WO)MAN RACE REPORT 2008
Every photo has a story and as I look back on my finishing photo from my 11th Ultrawoman I realize that WE had a great journey as a family (Ohana) as my husband (Al) was crew chief, my 2 step daughters Cheyenne & Montana were official cheer leaders and photographers and my sister in law Marlene was in charge navigating. They all offered tireless help (Kokua) and showed lots of love (Aloha) as is the theme of Ultraman Hawaii World championships held over Thanksgiving.
The journey began at 6.30am on Friday 28th November, everyone was excited and I was nervous as the 6.2mile swim is not my favorite part! I put on my new Profile Design/Aquaman wetsuit and stepped into the calm waters of Kailua Bay where just a month back there had been over 1,500 athletes for ironman. In contrast here were 38 ultra triathletes with their respective kayakers waiting for count down. Suddenly one of the guys called out Turtle and my panic was forgotten as I watch a Honu peacefully swim around my feet. The next thing I knew was the horn and the journey had begun.
Soon Raffa my Kayaker for the last eight years was gliding smoothly by me, he kept on my left side and soon I was passing the coast guard buoy then the infamous ironman turn around buoy! It was a beautiful ocean. Soon I was passing mile marker 4.5 a little blue church, that is when my worst fear came to life: the current changed! You did not need to be a rocket scientist to come to this conclusion as suddenly the sea life was rapidly moving in the opposite direction and that included schools of Jelly fish! Then I was stung on my face, I let out a yelp, meanwhile Raffa remained calm, and guided me on an inside line so I could look at the pretty butterfly fish and see I was moving slowly forward. I ran out of water and hammer gel and the last mile was extremely painful. I could see the final buoy turnaround and kept thinking of Cheyenne and Montana waiting for me to get on my bike!! Finally I was nearing the finish I could see my husband waiting to help me out.
I heard my name being announced and there I was on land, my face all misshapen from the jellyfish welts! I looked at the time nearly 5 hours of swimming, I could not reflect on it too much, I peeled off my wetsuit and within a few minutes I was on my Cannondale bike heading up the King Kamehameha 111 road, the kids were screaming out of the team van. Cheyenne was snapping photos and Montana was mixing bottles of Perpetuem! After 3 miles of steady climbing I had rehydrated and Montana was giving me my endurolytes, my left wrist was bothering me and finally I stopped to look and saw a huge jellyfish stinger wrapped around it! So I moved my Polar monitor to my right wrist and Cheyenne gave me Wipeaway pain. Al sprayed my shoulders with Kool N Fit then it was time for some serious riding. 45 miles later it began to rain hard and the wind joined the ride on the only bit of downhill on the whole course!! Darn I thought I could not stop and kept on slowly descending until the rain stopped and the long uphill began to the volcano. I finished the first day with just 36minutes to spare with a respectable bike of 6 hours 25minutes at Namakani Paio Park.
Now you would think after a hard day in the saddle and jellyfish swims that luxury would await at the Volcano House. I had already told the girls to get their cameras clicking as we were staying in the most expensive room in the hotel! So you can imagine when I opened the door and saw a room which could not possibly be $250 a night. So my husband went to see if the receptionist had made a mistake, nope no mistake the room had the best view of the volcano and crater only problem was it was pitch black out side and was pitch black when we left at 5.45am in the morning! The girls were not amused and neither was my husband’s wallet!!
Day 2 came all too soon, I had slept soundly and was the first awake. Al finally shepherded the girls and Marlene and soon we were all huddled together in the team van making our way to the starting line of the 171.4 mile bike ride! The sun was nearly up to light the road for the steep 25mile down hill. Cheyenne and Montana took photographs and listened with AL to the race brief. This year the crews went ahead for 25 miles and then we started the race 6.30am sharp! It was pleasant, not too cold and a dry road. 25 miles went very quickly and I was reconnected with my crew. I gave Al my Pink Hammer jacket and set off for the Kalapana red road. Montana cracked me up as she monitored my hourly needs of endurolytes and nutrition, while Cheyenne started speaking in a British accent; it was quite a journey that day. At the Red Road the crew cannot follow and take a different road to wait for their athletes, which really is quite a shame as this part of the bike has the most dramatic scenery with the surf, palm trees, clear skies and lava rocks flowing to the wild ocean! I actually lose time looking at nature!
At mile 62 I see my team van, everyone looks happy and we set off for Hilo where I am met with several traffic lights which all seem to hit red as I approach each one! It is a great relief to get to Hilo and go along the scenic water front, carefully go over the steel bridge and from here there is only 70 miles left along the Hamakua coast line. There are magical water falls to be seen and plantations of papaya, mangoes, bananas etc… I only see the ocean and visualize the finish! I soon need a potty break and Cheyenne tries to protect my dignity! The girls are getting a real insight to ultra racing! Approaching Waimea, the beautiful tail wind I have had for most of the way is being replaced with droplets of rain, I can see the Kohalas to my right and do not like what my brain registers, there is a layer of VOG forming (Volcanic Fog) and I can see how hard the wind is blowing. I am so near the finish line, just a 6.4mile ascent over the Kohalas to 3,564 ft, I opt for my Brooks running shoes as I have been blown across this road before and climb strongly to the summit of the climb, I am cautioned by a race official that the wind is howling and to be careful. I gingerly made the first 3 miles of descent looking back – I probably could have run faster! Then another cyclist passed me so fast it was all a blur, which gave me new confidence to lean into the wind and hammer the pedals and before I knew it I was rolling across Day 2 finish line in less than 10 hours, which just happens to be a personal best for me at this race.
After we had all showered we all enjoyed a nice dinner and reflected on a tough day of crewing and riding! Tomorrow it would be all over after 52.4miles of coastline, lava rocks and Hawaiian eco friendly graffiti!
Day 3 and we were met with a rainy dark sky! But this is Hawaii and it would soon be a beautiful day in paradise. The final day I have traded my Cannondale for my Brook’s running shoes and blue running skirt! With my trade mark Hammer pink cropped top, I stood in a circle with the rest of the athletes as a Hawaiian blessing was sung and a triton trumpet blown North, South, East and West! 6am sharp and the final day had begun. What ever way you look at it, it is 52 miles! You have to keep moving forward. One mile 52 times, sounded the best plan. As for my crew we had sat down and discussed our game plan for the day they would leap frog me every mile and stop to give Heed, Gel or endurolytes. Everything was going to plan, as usual the first 18 miles I work out stomach issues, this year I was not too bad and kept to my Hammer Nutrition, I had a good friend Kevin pace me until the run went up a mile hill to the Queen K, then Montana and Marlene joined me for a few miles, Montana in flip flops was quite a sight to see and lasted a few 100 feet!
It was fun as you could see other runners vans strung down the highway like a string of pearls, mile 26 half way there and I was joined by another friend Michael, I had the perfect game plan, I was going to get to mile marker 82, then the Western Cemetery, then airport, Natural energy lab and harbor and before I knew it I would be at mile marker 99 running towards the Old Airport! Unfortunately the plan did not go as smoothly as anticipated, injuries I had been dealing with over the year began to wake up, I was also wearing orthotics for the first time at this distance and to add to all that the sun was heating things up! Cheyenne ran a mile with me and was all bubbly and happy! You are nearly finished! She shouted out so enthusiastically (I only had 20 miles left!) She is 13 and does cross country so I turned round and replied it was like having 7 track meets all in one day! She thought that was cool! The team van started stopping every half mile.
I made mile 40 and walked this mile with Al. I was crying with frustration, my Achilles tendons were both fragile my heel was rubbing on the right foot and I had only 12 miles left!! I was on course to wrap this up in 9 hours but my injuries that I had been dealing with were starting to plague me! The last 6 miles seemed like 60! I could hardly put my right foot on the asphalt! This is truly were ohana, kokua and aloha come into play, Montana thought I should just get into the van!! Cheyenne kept giving me cold sponges, my friend Chuck and my Kayaker Raffa had come out to support those last miles, Finally I am at mile marker 99! Where 3 other athletes over take me, Cheyenne is telling me go catch them, at this point I am in survival mode I just want to finish I finally reach the last quarter mile and another athlete literally sprints past me!! It is nearly over I have the family around me Montana, Cheyenne, Al, Marlene, Michael, Chuck and Raffa! We all go through the chute together, the journey has finished in a respectable 10 hours and 1 minute! I have just completed my 11th Ultraman Hawaii run, placed 2nd female overall and had the Kokua all the way! Jane Bockus the Race Director hangs a lei of sweet smelling flowers around my shoulders and Cheyenne and I decide to cool off in the ocean!
My thanks go out to Al for his support and my family for sacrificing 3 days to crew 320miles! This is the last race of 2008 for the AVON Breast Cancer Crusade. My thanks to Hammer Nutrition, Brooks USA, Rudy Project, Fuelbelt, Kool n Fit, Cannondale bikes, Serfas Tires, Polar Monitors, Tri all 3 sport cases, Profile Design and Aquaman Wetsuits and finally to Tom and Gordana who give me a place to stay with my family that is KOKUA in capital letters.