Champion of the Elements: Sarah Allen's Inspiring Tale from the Hawaii Ironman World Championships

Amidst the crashing waves and scorching heat of Hawaii, a true triumph unfolded. Sarah Allen, fueled by unparalleled determination, conquered the Ironman challenge, etching her name in the annals of sporting glory. As coaches at Team Triumph, we stand in awe of her incredible feat. It's undeniable: Sarah's victory is a testament to the unyielding support of her coaches and teammates, the driving force behind her momentous achievement. Here is her race report with the full details.

Race Morning
I had a great night of sleep and woke up at 4 am on race morning. Had my usual protein oatmeal with a banana and a black coffee. Other than being a bit itchy from some hives, I was feeling good and very positive for the day to come!

I love the feeling of getting to transition while it’s still pitch black... and feeling the intense energy in the air. The volunteers in the morning were amazing and they were everywhere to help. The whole day the volunteers were incredible! :)

I got my nutrition set up on my bike, my tires pumped, my morning clothes bag sorted and was ready to head to the age group coral for the swim. I think this was the first time I REALLY realized just how much of a triathlon/Ironman beginner I was because I only saw one other woman wearing just a swimsuit instead of a tri suit and a swim skin.

The swim was intense!
I kept to the back of my age group to avoid the swim panic and mass start chaos (good call!). No panic and the water was beautiful! We swam out about 200m to tread water before the start and it was a nice warm-up. There were some big swells in the ocean and the women were really aggressive and FAST! But I had been on the swim course every day practicing and I was ready for it. I focused on my stroke and breathing (and focused on watching the fish!) even though at some points it felt like it took me 2 strokes to go forward 1. There were also a few jellyfish stings to contend with but they weren’t so bad. I was thrilled (and shocked) to get out of the water a whole minute faster than at IM Tremblant! 

T1 was total chaos!
I took my time in T1 to change into my bike kit and apply sunscreen. The salt water had really irritated my hives and now they were covering my whole body…they were so painful and I was afraid of getting a sunburn on top of them. T1 was total chaos because it was only one relatively small change tent for all the athletes! But I got to my bike eventually and off I went! My bike goal had now shifted to not making my hives worse (so staying extra hydrated and not getting burned).

Wow, it was incredibly hot along the Queen K Highway!
The bike started off so well! There wasn’t much wind (yet!) and I was feeling good on the hills, conserving my energy, and I was even passing people on the hills. But wow, it was incredibly hot along the Queen K Highway, and it kept getting hotter! And then at the turnaround in Hawi, the headwinds picked up. (I heard after that they were mild because it was only headwinds and not the usual mix of crosswinds thrown in…) That’s when it got hard. It felt like it took more effort to bike down the hills than it had to go up them! The highway was fascinating to bike along because the colour of the ocean was just so vivid compared to the black lava! My nutrition was good, I had about 60 grams of carbs per hour and managed to eat 95% of it. The last 40km were brutally hard for all the normal reasons, and then my hives had gotten so bad I couldn’t even touch my skin and it was so itchy... I was very glad to get off the bike!

So many learning moments!
My biggest takeaways on the bike were that I wish I had 4 water bottles instead of 2, and I probably didn’t need to reapply as much sunscreen as I did (but no burns!). I wasted a good 40 minutes stopping at the aid stations to fill water bottles with electrolytes and put on sunscreen…oh and my bike seat was slowly sinking on me as I rode hahaha. That is probably something I should have stopped to evaluate, but I didn’t even clue into the problem until after!

T2 was pretty fast!
I changed into running shorts and a singlet and was off again. Being new to triathlon I’m still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In retrospect, I wish I had worn a trisuit for the whole race, but I haven’t found one that I like enough yet. 

The run. I’ve never thought so hard about quitting...
I had my first gel of the run at the first aid station and immediately threw it up…the run was off to a GREAT start! I would say this was the hardest and worst run of my life. I’ve never thought so hard about quitting…my hives were getting worse, anything I tried to eat I threw up (no matter how slowly I ate it), and I couldn’t even drink Coke, which is my go-to for carbs when I have stomach problems on a run. So I did that marathon on fumes, and just walked/ran it as best I could. I was happy when the sun set at 6 pm so I could get some relief from the heat! It was so dark for the Energy Lab portion, but the stars were shining bright and I felt really lucky to be out there to see them. 

Somehow I finished the race! I smiled at every single person I saw, and every time I had a negative thought I would smile as big as possible and think about how lucky I was to be there. The energy of the people cheering, the lights, and the music of the last 3km were incredible and gave me the push I needed to cross the finish line. 

I can’t wait to keep improving (and there’s definitely a lot I can work on). I love this race distance. Thanks again for EVERYTHING this season, I’m so happy I found this sport and took a chance on the Ironman distance this year!

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