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Snap Crackle Pop: My Road to IRONMAN Kona 2019

By Barbara Perkins | Oct. 07, 2019, 1:29 p.m. (ET)

barbara perkins ironman race

On May 11, 2019, I was racing IRONMAN Santa Rosa.

During the ride, I contemplated my retirement from the Iron distance, I cursed the person who designed the bike course and thought about getting off my bike and going to grab a glass of wine at one of the dozens of wineries that bordered the course.

Then I got to the run course and everything changed.

I started steadily running and gaining ground on the women ahead of me. Around mile 22 I went to pass the girl leading my age group and she says to me, “You’re on your last lap, right?”


“You’re leading the race, go break the tape.”

I’m winning the entire race? Wait a second. “Oh my God” escaped through my lips.

There were still 4 more miles to go so I picked up the pace a little. And I reminded myself that in an IRONMAN, anything can happen. I went back and forth between holding my breath and actually telling myself this is really happening.

I hit the red carpet and the crowd was deafening. It felt like time slowed down and this was all happening to someone else. I grabbed the tape, fighting back tears, and lifted the tape above my head as it crackled in my hands.

I won my age group, punched my ticket to Kona and was the first woman to cross the line. People dream of this kind of moment for years and I had run away with it.

But that’s not where my journey to Kona ends, but rather begins.

Fast forward to three weeks later when I had a 1 hour, 30 minute run on the schedule and signed up for a last minute half marathon the day before the race. Did I mention it was 2,000 net feet DOWNHILL? People target this race for a BQ and I was doing it as a training run.

Somewhere at the halfway point my left hip really started bothering me. I stopped and stretched. Still hurt. I kept running. I finished. The pain didn’t go away.

It still hadn’t gone away a week and a half later. Maybe I should go to the doctor, I thought. Well, turns out my hip had popped out of the socket and I had been walking around on it like that. Oops.

Through months of walk/runs, PT appointments, tears and frustrating results, I kept pushing and wondering if I would be able to run again in time for Kona. Four months later as August rolled around and the week before 70.3 Worlds in Nice, France, my hip started miraculously cooperating and I was able to run without pain at a normal pace. barbara perkins ironman athlete

In Nice, the bike course was one of the most talked about, highly anticipated and technical bike courses the IRONMAN circuit has ever put out for a World Championship event. So of course, I wanted to see this for myself. Three days before the race, I went to ride the climb and master the descent. SNAP!!!!!

I looked down.

My entire derailleur was on the ground dragging along beside my bike. This is the piece of the bike that changes your gears. This wasn’t good. My derailleur hanger snapped completely in half.

I couldn’t ride my bike without one. After a stressful couple of days combing the city of Nice and searching for this necessary piece of my bike before the race, a friend traveling from the U.S. brought me the piece I needed. My emotions were frazzled and I got through the race half wondering if my bike was going to fall apart again on the 17 mile descent down the Col de Vance.

After a less than stellar performance, my confidence took another hit. I had just started running again but was miles away from where I wanted to be when I got to the start line in Kona. I stepped back from myself and decided to take each day as it came instead of focusing on the long goal of Kona.

To get the best out of myself in each session, in each moment. And guess what? It worked.

The Road to Kona never goes the way you had planned.

Each of us deals with our own set of circumstances, injury, bike mishaps and more. To arrive to the Big Island in one piece, with your bike and all your gear is one accomplishment in and of itself.

There are always going to be questions in the back of your mind, "What if I had done this workout" or "What if I didn’t go to that family event?" or "Did I do enough?"

These questions could plague you all the way up to and during the race if you let them. You have to trust that you have done (mostly) everything in your power to get to that start line happy and healthy.

Enjoy the day! Celebrate the moment! Because hey, this is actually happening.

Because wherever you are in your Road to Kona, you’re doing it right now.

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