KONA 2016, Racing the sun – By Desi Dickinson

Kona 2016

It’s now almost a month since I competed at Kona and I’m still struggling to find the words for this blog. A few days before the race there was a post on facebook, I think it was by Brett Sutton saying that it should be treated as “just another race”. But I think that’s just about impossible for most of us that were there. It is very difficult not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion. It is very difficult not to overthink the whole thing.

I arrived in Kona 10 days before the race and my sole focus was to get used to the conditions; to eat well, to train and to REST. My build up to Kona this year was extremely stressful; physically, emotionally and financially. But I don’t really think that this is unique to me. Any Ironman age grouper will tell you about the sacrifices it takes to race well at an Ironman race combined with the stresses of daily life; and each athlete has a unique set of circumstances that they are dealing with. The only thing I could think about was that there was no ways I was going travel halfway around the world (without Kim!), train so hard, spend all that money, sacrifice time with friends and family, to not have my very best possible race. Last year, I finished the race with some “could haves” and “should haves” and as I said to Lucie before the race, I wanted to finish knowing that I had done everything within my power to put my best race together.


I'm baaaaack
I’m baaaaack


Two months before the race we added some very specific strength training to my programme. I was traveling twice a week to the Sports Science Lab in Pretoria where the guys put me through some crazy sets aimed at improving strength but more importantly aimed at being able to translate those strength gains to swimming, cycling and running. I think the jury is still out on the exact benefits of strength training, but I believe it was one of the main contributors to my good run time at Kona. I also think some of those tough sets prepared me for the mental challenge of the day.

I don’t really want to go through the race in detail, but rather to mention some of the special moments that are highlights and that are so vivid in my mind when I think back to Kona 2016.  I will carry these with me forever. 
• Arriving in Kona and being reminded of what a truly special place it is. Realising that although it was a year ago that I was there, I had a strange feeling of coming home, a feeling of familiarity…weird.
• Getting to know my “Kona” family; Garron, Andrea, Audrey and Rob who each brought something unique and special to Alii Cove, Unit I 23 , and to my Kona experience.




14463095-10154701617040039-5728319853018234124-n_1_orig• My birthday, the longest birthday ever over the time zones, but very grateful for everyone that made me feel special. That moment when Rob came walking towards me with a huge piece of chocolate cake and a beautiful bunch of lilies; thanks Rob for making the plan work for Ki​m.


• The arrival of my incredible, beautiful, amazing sister (you get the picture), Arlene…or Lynx as we call her. My person was finally there and I can’t even begin to put into words how much this meant to me. Those of you who followed on FB will know how completely dedicated she was to making it all about me! Yoh, I love that woman! She was determined that we would cruise around in a jeep with the top down singing into the wind…and that’s exactly what we did. She studied the route over and over to make sure that she could be where she needed to be on race day so that I would see her the maximum amount of times. She cooked for me at night… Andrea was talking the one day about how good beets are for you and Lynx leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Des, I need to get you beets.” :) lol. And the next night we ate beets!






• 5:30am and 5:30pm face time calls to Kim; one of the hardest things when you are halfway around the world is to wait for someone to wake up before you can tell them what you did that day.
• Literally swimming into a pod of dolphins out on a practice swim in the ocean, they were just there, about 20m away and I swam like a crazy person to be among them. I can still see the little guy’s tail flick in front of my face…breath taking.




• The day before the race: the most stressful pre-race day ever. We all went swimming, I went out a bit further for my warm up swim, and I cut my foot on some coral. And when I say “cut” I mean it was like a cheese grater took a chunk out of the side of my foot on my pinkie toe side. Heading back to the beach I looked back and saw blood coming from my foot. I can’t even begin to explain the emotions that went through me. In my head I went to the worst case scenario of not being able to run or even having to walk the run. I saw the vision of my perfect race disappearing. This sounds very dramatic but I think it was amplified because of the build up to race day. Again, thank goodness for my sister. We went straight into solution mode and went to buy antiseptic cream (although we ended up using good old Zambuck!), scissors, different types of plasters and tape. We had to have 2 sets of everything for my transition bags, but the truth is that when I went to sleep that night I had no idea if I would be able to run as normal. I had only told a few people and the best advice I got was from Lucie who said, “That’s going to hurt” and “Suck it up Princess”. I still feel such a warm glow just ‘ços she called me princess…
• Coming out of the water, looking at my watch and seeing my best swim time ever 1:10:26 and I was still only 40th in my age group at that time!
• Dealing with my foot in each transition. There was so much sweat and water and sun cream that nothing would stick, so I ended up riding and running without any plaster or strapping.




 Hearing my sister shout after an incredibly tough ride, “40th out of the water, 19th off the bike, and you are gaining places!”




• The first 2kms of the run where all I could think about was finding the medical tent to strap my foot; and then I made the decision to properly suck it up. I took two pain pills and ran as normally as I could and eventually it went numb. So to be quite honest, a LOT of emotional stress for something that turned out OK…lots of lessons learnt!
• Every single time I ran over a timing mat I would imagine everyone that was supporting me back home…I drew a huge amount of strength from that.







• The finish: I was so determined to beat the sunset. I remember running along the last part of the Queen K with the ocean to my right and the sun on its way to everyone back home. 




I used some very choice language at that moment telling the sun it would not beat me …and it didn’t! Running into town and eventually on Alii Dr (that 1 mile feels like FOREVER) was the best part of my day, I have never been so happy to see a finish line. I felt like I was the only person in the race. I had the hugest smile on my face and the crowds were amazing and then the red carpet…


• And just like that it was over…
10 hours 57 minutes and 20 seconds. 7th in my age group. Breathe…


Spotting MY person at the finish
Spotting MY person at the finish


So, why has it taken me so long to write this blog? 

I have an equation for my build up and my experience in Kona and it looked like this:
Preparation (physical, mental, emotional)
Circumstances (time, finances, daily life etc.)         =    Performance (satisfaction)

As I look back, I think the essential part missing from this equation is simple: JOY

Last year I had the luxury of having Kim, both my sisters, my 3 nephews and 4 friends in Kona with me. We had an incredible time together; yes my lead up to the race was busier than it should have been, arriving 5 days before the race was not ideal and before I knew it, it was over. I finished 12th in my age group in a time of 11:15:00. I was there to conquer the unknown. This year, with a more focused approach, knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve, I finished 7th in my age group in a time of 10:57:20. Yes, I took 17 minutes off my previous time, yes I achieved a top 10 finish…but does it really matter? Does it really matter that I finished 7th instead of 12th… would 5th place have been better…?


Yes it matters because I am competitive and will always want to do my best, but this trip reminded me that the result, the performance is a little emptier without the things that are really important to me. I am extremely proud of my performance, having my best ever swim and best ever run. But if I had to compare the 2 experiences, I think there was more joy in my first experience. I was less attached to the result.

Just a thought…I am not a pro, I am a 48 year old woman who has found something to be passionate about and hopefully to inspire others; but I need to remind myself, and maybe we all do; why I am doing this and the joy it brings to my life.

So the new equation is:
Preparation (physical, mental, emotional)
Circumstances (time, finances, daily life etc.)    x    JOY     =    Performance (satisfaction)

This probably makes no mathematical sense at all, but it makes sense to me 

What’s next for me? It’s time to give back a little…bring back the joy…watch this space #beingbetter

There is a very long list of thanks yous to be said, from my precious Kim and my precious family to my clients who had to deal with me on a daily basis, to people who raised money or randomly made donations, to people who showed support on messages or facebook. Some of you did a little something or said a little something that meant the world to me or touched me in some way. There are so many to mention. But I’d like to especially list some names…I know I’m taking a risk of leaving someone out, please forgive me if I do:



Audrey and Lynx
Audrey and Lynx


Kim Voller
Arlene Lynx Dickinson, Yorke and Alex
Celeste Dickinson and Jimi
John Ndlovu
Lucie Zelenkova
James Curtin
Grant Roest
Rory Garton
Gareth and everyone at HIGH5
Morne Lombard (Irwin Wheels)
Jeanne Kleu
Magda Niewoudt
Mariska Swanepoel
Elaine Swanepoel
The Eastie Beasties
Raedean Hepburn
Jackie Seddon
Roxy and Pietie
Elizabeth Dos Santos

So we're having beets for dinner??
So we’re having beets for dinner??

Jo Johnston
Odette Reid
Lina De Gouveia
Lindsay Dibden
Kim Matticks
Robyn Louw
Tyrone Walker
Kris Feesel
Audrey Seale
Garron Mosely
Andrea Cullen
Rob Heath
Di Kelway
The Trompies
The Watsons
Sonya and Andrea K90



Reposted from http://trifactri.weebly.com/blog.