October 22

Ironman Kona World Championships

September 25th – Arrived in Kona for climate acclimation and training. Since this would be my FIRST and LAST full distance Ironman I planned everything out to give me the best chance and success. My husband’s friends Chuck and Doni Antone who live in Kona were gracious to allow me to stay at their home for my preparation. Many people have already arrived in Kona with the same plan as me, and found that the swim course was already quite busy as well as the bike course. I have never swam 2.4 miles in open water, never raced 112 miles on my bike and have never ran 26.2 miles…. I guess I’m CRAZY. The next two and a half weeks I am on my own as my husband/coach won’t be here until October 12th. I was able to ride the full bike course only one time before the race and found it to be very hot with CRAZY strong winds. This is going to stretch me more than anything I have ever done. I am able to catch up with Jong Sajulga as well as the other Filipinas that have qualified for Kona. It’s great to have friends here to share this incredible experience!

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October 12th – Today is the underpants run. Need I say more…….. My husband also arrives today and I get registration done, get in a quick swim, bike and run before I pick him up at the airport. Two day until race day and they are filled with bike prep, transition prep, special needs bag prep, race nutrition prep and many gut checks and much nervousness. The pre-race banquet is Friday night and looked like there was about 3000 people there or more. It was a great event that featured a new hall of fame inductee, talks from previous champs, recognition of the youngest participant (18) and the oldest participant (85 AMAZING and he finished in 16 hours), and pre-race meeting. I’m READY

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Ocotber 14th – RACE DAY The alarm goes off at 3:45 and I am up stretching and taking my normal Vitargo Post for breakfast. My husband/Coach has my nutrition laid out for the day and I have to take on 5000 calories and 500 grams of carbs over what is hoped to be an 11 hour event. Vitargo is a very big part of that as I have 10 servings onboard my bike as well as some stingers, and almond butter. These things along with two scheduled bananas during the run and I should be good to go! We head down to transition at 5:00 AM and it is already as busy as a small city! People are everywhere and the music and the commentary is already in full swing. This setting is AMAZING, and the amount of people that have converged into this small town in the last few days has transformed it into a global event. With over 60 countries and nearly 2500 athletes I am just trying to soak it all in and not be overwhelmed. Today is about proving that I belong on this big of a stage as many have hinted that I really didn’t belong as I have never done this distance and qualified at Xiamen 70.3. The pro men and women have already started and I head to the water as the men age groupers have just began.

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Swim Start 7:20 am – I have tried to position myself so that I am not dismantled by the over 600 women in the mass start but when the cannon goes off I quickly realize that nothing could have prepared me to do so. I swam out fast but so many others were faster that I quickly become engulfed in what I now understand is the “washing machine” After what seemed like an eternity of getting kicked, grabbed, scratched, bumped, pushed, pulled, and swam over I stopped and SCREAMED as loud as I could. This was pointless as nobody could hear me, and even if they could what could have they done? I put my head down and just SWAM with everything that I had. It took several minutes but things started to thin out to where I actually felt safe and could get into a rhythm.. My strategy was to count buoys and just try to stay straight against a pretty strong current. The body glove boat which was the turn around came quicker than I expected and once I made the turn was welcomed with a girl that I started drafting for the remainder of the race. The current was still strong but I was feeling really good and was very happy when I exited the water with a 1:06:50 swim leg which was 3 minutes faster than I was planning. As I entered into T-1 I heard this lady yelling for me me to come to her. I headed in her direction and then realized it was my friend Tiana Rockwell from Gold Country Tri Club. She was volunteering in transition and she gave me a hug then helped me get my skin suit off and my compression socks on, told me I looked great and wished me luck as I grabbed my bike and headed out to the course after a 3 minute and 3 second transition.

Bike Course 8:30 am – I fell great after the swim, but was 30th out of the water and Know I need to catch some women on the bike. The first 30 miles I am going 21-26 mph and feel like I am doing just that….. but then at mile 30 the headwinds and sidewinds come hard. Then the HEAT! If you have been following me at all you will know that I have been struggling with my bike fit for quite a while and I now understand how important it is to get it fixed. I feel like my body is a parachute and my speed slow to 16-18 mph. I am fighting the wind and working to stay aero but nothing is working. All the way to Hawi and and back I am just working to get to 20 mph and average that for the course. My goal was 5:30:00 for the bike but I didn’t make it and finished with a disappointing 5:47:00 and actually lost another 5 spots coming into transition at #35. UGH! A top 20 finish is my goal and now I have to gain 15 spots over the next 26.2 mile run which I have NEVER EVER ran before?! Despite my struggles on the bike a feel surprisingly good as I head out of T-2 after a 2 minute and 30 second transition.

Run Course 1:50 pm – Heading out of transition, up the hill and a right turn I’m feeling strong. I don’t check my watch until mile one and am surprised to see 7:30 pace. TOO FAST! I tell myself I’m going to die at that pace and dial it back to 8:00-8:15 and maintain this until just before the climb out onto Queen K. As I head up the hill I am feeling tired, hot and doubting if I can actually complete the marathon. I see my husband and he runs next to me encouraging me, telling me how strong I look, reminds me to focus on form, and to just pick someone out in front of me and work on catching them, and then do it again and again. This make me feel so much better and I follow his advice and it WORKS! One by one I focus on a person in front of me and slowing reel them in and pass them. Mile 10. Mile 11. Mile 12, 13, 14, 15… I hit a wall. My mind begins to cast doubts. This is the farthest I have EVER ran. I’m hotter than I have ever been, and I still have over 11 miles to go! What am I doing!? Why am I doing this!? What was I thinking!? I want to stop. I want to cry. I want to quit. But I am determined to not let this course beat me so I keep going. The mile are creeping by ever so slowly. I had no way of knowing this at the time but I actually move up from #35 to #18 while on the run. If I had known this maybe I could have pushed harder but I felt like I was giving it all that I had. Finally I see the airport and I start to feel like I WILL finish this race. The finish is crawling closer. Right turn, down the hill, left turn, right turn, right turn and I am on famous turf. The finish is line with people on both side. Athletes pushing for strong finish as am I. I see my husband and he hands me the Philippine flag and I sprint to the finish and I hear for the first time……. Maria Hodges! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! I am relieved, exhausted, overjoyed, proud, appreciative and many other emotions. Hugs from friends at finish. Later I find out that I now have the Filipina record for full distance race. That’s exciting and has made it all worth it. I finish 22nd with 10:49:00. 11 minutes better than my goal time! Yes 2 slots below my top 20 goal, but I do belong on this stage, and who knows…… Maybe I’ll be back.

Post Race – As I lay next to my son here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after watching his Broadway Tour ” School of Rock” and chasing HIS dream, I am so thankful and grateful to all who have encouraged me and supported me in my adventures. I am so lucky to have the life that I have. My husband who is my coach, cheerleader, accountability source and my love. My mother-in-law who spends so much time caring for, educating, and traveling  with my son on his adventures while I am traveling the world. My friends and teammates who train with me and push me to greater accomplishments. My sponsors, who help make all this possible with the best equipment, nutrition, discounts, apparel travel expenses and promotion of me and my dreams. THANK YOU with all of my HEART!!

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