The Miracle Race – Kona 2012

November 30, 2012

Harriet Anderson, Ironman World ChampionThe Kona Ironman is such an exciting race. The beautiful Hawaiian setting, the exciting atmosphere, the incredible professional athletes, the fun pre-race activities, the Expo and the wonderful athletes from all over the world all contribute to making the race so exciting.

I debated about doing another Kona Ironman race after having a very slow time in 2011. I am aging and losing muscle mass every year, which makes competing more difficult. I received a slot for competing by winning my age group in 2011. My friends convinced me to compete again in 2012.

In the Spring and Summer of 2012 I completed two 70.3 races and my training was going as planned. In the months before the Ironman race I gradually increase my distance in all three sports. My longest run had been 16 miles by the end of August. I usually go out on a long bike ride early on Sunday mornings, before there is much traffic on the roads. On Sunday, August 26, 2012 I was out on a long bike ride. My plan was to ride around eighty -five miles that day. Everything was going fine until I was going down Pierce Road in Saratoga. All of a sudden I hit something and I went flying through the air. I landed hard on my right side. Another cyclist and a neighbor came to my rescue. The neighbor bandaged by wounds and called my husband. He told me a motorcyclist had crashed on the same spot the day before. A water main had broken and the road was not completely repaired. There was no cone or sign to warn people about the problem. The neighbor took me over to Starbuck’s on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road to wait for my husband. I told this nice man that he did not have to wait with me but he insisted on waiting until my husband arrived to take me to the emergency room.

The X-rays revealed a broken right clavicle but only a bruised right hip and knee. I was seen by an orthopedic doctor in Redwood City who told me to keep my arm in a sling and he would see me on October 8, 2012. I told him that was the date I was leaving for Kona. I received a referral from my doctor to see my former orthopedist who was now in San Mateo. He said I would have another x-ray in three weeks to see how the healing was progressing. In three weeks he started me on exercises. I was able to spin, use the elliptical trainer and water run. Another x-ray was taken at five weeks and the bone was healing well. At that time I was able to start swimming and running. I also took my first bike ride out on the roads. I was a little nervous and very cautious when I was biking. Thank goodness I arrived home safe and sound.

On October 8th I flew to Kona. I was still not sure I would feel like doing the race. I did a bike ride and I swam in the wonderful warm water at the start area, known as DigMe Beach. A treat during race week is having a coffee boat out in the water about half a mile out from shore. They serve you a small cup of coffee and a cookie. It always tastes so good!

On Thursday evening the carbo load dinner was held. The island entertainment was spectacular. The dancers are so beautiful and graceful. The entertainment gets better each year. This year the age group winners were able to sit in the VIP section which made me very extra special.

Harriet Anderson - Kona Ironman 2012On race morning I went down to the start line to compete in my 21st Kona Ironman. Since my training was reduced I did not know how my body would react to the long race. My swim was very slow, 2 hours and 10 minutes, my slowest time ever. I had made the cut off by 10 minutes. I ran to the changing tent and put on my bike jersey and I was off on the bike. Of the three sports, biking is my favorite. The winds and the heat on the bike course are a given at Kona. I felt good on the bike and I made the bike cut off time and I was then off on the marathon. I try to jog and walk the first part of the marathon. I had hoped to jog more but I thought I could walk fast and still make the midnight cut off time. With eight miles to go I had two hours to finish. If I could walk 15 minutes miles I would make it by midnight. One of the monitors on a motor scooter said I needed to go faster if I wanted to make it by midnight.

By mile twenty-four, I was told I was the last person who had a chance to finish by midnight but I only had a 50/50 chance of making it. I did not feel like running but I did not want to be like the lady the previous year who missed the midnight deadline by four seconds. My daughter and nephew encouraged me to keep going faster. Going down Palani was easier because it is downhill. When I turned on Kalakini Street I did not feel like running. My daughter kept encouraging me. She told me I could rest at the finish line. When I reached Alii Drive I started running. A group of people joined my daughter, nephew and I as we ran down Alli Drive. The noise level increased and I could hear the Ironman announcer, Mike Riley, announcing my arrival. Mike was still full of energy after announcing the arriving athletes all day. I crossed the finish line and I put my hands on my hips and stopped to catch my breath. I had made the midnight cut off with 41 seconds to spare. I was so excited I had made it to the finish time before midnight. My son had been texting my daughter to try to make me go faster. He was calculating the time and the distance and he did not think I could make it by midnight. Everybody was thrilled, including me, that I made it.

My husband greeted me along with Mike Riley and Pete Jacobs, the winner of the race much earlier in the day, who put the finisher medal around my neck. Leanda Cave and Miranda Carfrae greeted me as I was walking down the finish area. Midnight arrived and the race was officially over. The fire dancers started dancing at the finish line and the crowd was enjoying the final entertainment of the night.

As I waited to have my massage I was still amazed I had finished a race with minimal race preparation and a recently healed clavicle. Before the race I had talked to Chrissie Wellington who had crashed on her bike two weeks before winning Kona in 2011. I asked her for advice on how she handled the race with her injuries. She said you have to do the best you can and never give up. Chrissie came to talk to me after the Awards Banquet and I thanked her for her support and advice.

Kona 2013-time will tell. Don’t be surprised if you see me on the start line in 2013.

My advice to all athletes:

  • Stay positive, even in the face of adversity.
  • Get a second opinion from a doctor if you are not satisfied with their recommendation.
  • Never give up – miracles do happen.


  • Reply Janice Milliken December 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

    What an inspirational woman! Harriet’s accomplishment of finishing The Ironman after her accident illustrates that you can be a winner at any age!

  • Reply Sue December 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    <3 Harriet! Always, always find her stories inspirational!

  • Reply Michelle Sommers December 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    You are such an inspiration!!! So proud of you and all the years you’ve been completing this event. Hope to meet you in person some day to congratulate you:)

  • Reply Dave Orlowski December 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Harriet Not only are you you an inspiring person but you and Gary are the warmest and most wonderful people I look forward to seeing in Kona every year. I was so sad I did not make it but will be there in 2013 and hope to line up with you. Keep that beautiful smile and personality and train carefully for next year.

    Have a Happy Holidays!

    Dave Orlowski

  • Reply Kathleen December 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Congratulations Harriet! So proud of you. Your perseverance and spirit are truly inspirational!

  • Reply Lucija December 2, 2012 at 1:05 am

    You inspire me everytime you write and this time was no different. Mahalo!

  • Reply Gen Matchette December 2, 2012 at 2:40 am


    Thank you for continuing to train and inspire others. Your endeavors and dedication are proof that while aging might slow one down, it doesn’t have to make one quit being active. I often use you as an example with my patients. Stay strong. Train safely.

    Cheers, Gen =)

  • Reply Rachel December 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Harriet!!!!! You are an IronWOMAN!! Thank you for inspiring us all to keep moving forward.


  • Reply Rachel Toor December 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    So cool. So. Very. Cool.

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf December 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Congratulations Harriet!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are such an inspiration. Watching the video of you crossing the finish line literally put tears in my eyes.

  • Reply Laura December 14, 2012 at 6:54 am

    You are the ultimate athlete, Harriet!
    41 seconds to spare–WOOHOOOOOO!!!!!

    Congrats and thank you!

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