Blaire Kniaziew Gervais - Ironman Hawaii 2009

Hawaii Ironman 2009

As a preface to this report, I'd like to set up the events leading up to this race in 2009.  Blaire and I had a goal of finishing our first (and likely only) Ironman together at Ironman Canada in 2009, with the goal of me (Matt) qualifying for Hawaii that year, and then transition away from Ironman racing for a little while to have kids.  That August, Canada (despite being in arguably my best shape ever), did not go to plan. I cramped hard by the end of the race, that forced me to a crawl for much of the run finishing in an overall time of 10:06 and missing the Kona slot.  Blaire had a blazing race, putting together an impressive 10:34.  The goal was for Blaire to pass on the slot, but since it didn't look like I was getting the opportunity to race, Blaire grabbed her slot so that we could have a chance to experience Kona together.  She cried when she saw me walking on the way back into Penticton, because she knew that my shot was likely off the table.  Blaire had 6 weeks after Ironman Canada to prepare for Kona.  6 weeks that she did not intend to spend training.  She was able to get it done, despite not loving the idea of having to race 1 more Ironman after what was supposed to be her retirement from the distance.  I was very proud to get to watch her race in Kona, since I was not around yet when she raced there in 2005 and put down a 10:27.

Saturday, October 10th, 2009
Race Day- Ironman World Championships-Kailua-Kona

My day stated at 2am- I couldn’t sleep any longer and my alarm was set for 4am. I laid in bed until 4am, then got up and had my pre-race meal (oatmeal, OJ and a banana). We left the condo at 5am and started our walk down to the Pier. It was dark but the roads were busy with racers and support crews. You would never know that it was 5am.

I dropped off my special needs bags and got my body marked. In Kona they stamp numbers on you. I then went to my bike to pump up the tires and refresh my memory of where my bike was on the busy pier. While I was doing this, Matt and Brad were awe struck by all the Pros stretching and relaxing by the pool.

I left Matt and Brad at 6:30am and headed to the Pier so I could start filing into the narrow swim area. I finished my first (of many) bottles of Infinit and a gel, talked to Tereza Macel and jumped in the water to watch the Pro’s start their day at 6:45am.

Once the Pro’s started I got into the choppy water and hung onto a tire along the Pier for 10 minutes. I got really cold (I know-crazy in Hawaii) and was very afraid of all the black crabs crawling on the wall beside me! Five minutes to go, I got into position at the front right side of the start line. One minute until the canon………..

The race has begun… It was the roughest swim I have ever experienced! We had the entire Pacific Ocean and I was in a pack of 50-100 people that were pulling on my ankles, hitting me in the head, grabbing my shoulders and swimming over top of me. It was a battle of the fittest and I lost! I had NO clear water the entire 2.4 mile swim and therefore took in a lot of salt water. Yikes! Needless to say I was very happy to be on land in 1 hour and 3 minutes.

I had a super fast transition and I was off on my bike. I was so happy and relieved to see Matt and Brad at the “Hot Corner” about 5km into my ride. I took a gel at about 10km before leaving town. I saw the guys again at the top of Palani Road. I won’t see them again until I’m finished the bike. I felt great for the first 125km. The course was flying by. The climb to Hawi was typical-very strong crosswinds forcing you to hold onto your bike for dear life! I was so excited to reach the turn around in Hawi and I totally enjoyed the 28km decent back to the Queen K while eating my salt and vinegar Stax. The last 50 km of the bike was much more difficult than I had imagined. I didn’t use my big chain ring until the last 5km into town. I was averaging 24km/h and I thought if I could only ride 30km/h I would be done sooner. But I could only get up to 28km/h. It was such a struggle. I really didn’t want to be on my bike for longer than 6 hours. I decided the only thing I could do was enjoy my time in the Lava fields and just look around. Enjoy the moment! I smiled when I saw the chalk messages Matt had written for me the day before and soon I saw him and Brad before I left the Queen K for my final decent into town. My bike time-5:58:36!


Two legs done-One to go!!! I Can do this! I took my time in T2 (had an ice cold towel around my neck, reapplied the sun screen…but it was too late!)I had realized at this point that I was totally burnt and I was in trouble. It took me 2 miles to settle into my groove. I got to see Matt and Brad at every mile marker which was so cool and inspiring. They were on their road bikes so they could follow the whole run. They gave me constant updates on how the Pro’s were doing and telling me how great I looked! Ya right! I took Infinit for the first 5 miles, then had a gel every second mile. I felt good until the energy lab. It even sprinkled for a minute or two on the run. I was happy to get my special needs bag in the energy lab because I was craving my salt and vinegar Stax! I even shared some with a fellow runner that was cramping. He was excited to be eating chips after such a long day! The last 8 miles really hurt! All I could think of was finishing without a glow stick! I managed to run the WHOLE marathon and only walked the water stops….water, gel, ice, water, sponge, water…. I was so excited to be back on Alii Drive that I ran a 7:30 mile to finished off my 6th Ironman! Marathon time-4:03.14

Alii Drive was incredible. You dream about running down this road your whole life. It’s magical. Everyone is going nuts and you know that “You’re an Ironman!” I totally enjoyed the last mile and getting to that finish line again was just amazing!  I did it in 11 hours and 12 minutes! 29th in my age group. 6 Ironmen! Now, I can retire from that distance!

Matt and Brad were there to greet me at the finish line where I threw up for a couple of hours. After having some long awaited shave ice and a well deserved shower we headed back to Alii Drive for the inspiring finishes of the 16-17 hour guys. What a party!!!   

Here is a video of Blaire's Race Day in Kona.  A longer video is posted below.  These are both pretty rough quality.  Not really cutting on the video technology front.

This is a much LONGER video that includes the same footage as above, but also a lot more of our trip to Hawaii from pre and post race.

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