Thursday, October 17, 2019

Kona 2019 Race Report: Koji Aoki

This year there were so many local Kona qualifiers, sadly we weren't able to feature them all with an official "Kona Profile" interview.

Koji Aoki is one such example, and his performance on triathlon's biggest stage caught our eye... who is this fast young buck who can out-swim most of the pros?? Why have we never heard of this guy on the local scene??

Thankfully Koji obliged us with this race report from the big day. Thanks for the time, man!

Kona 2019 Race Report

Kona 2019 was unforgettable! It is surreal to think that I was able to race on the big island with the most elite athletes in the world. I am extremely grateful and fortunate for the amazing opportunity. Blessed to have a body that allows me to compete and an amazing support system. As a Kona first timer my coach and I decided that I should soak up the entire day and enjoy every minute of it.

And I am so glad that I did that! From the wind on the Queen K, the humidity and heat of the run course, and the electric atmosphere felt all throughout town. Once I landed on the island I knew it was a special moment in my life. But oh did that race really test me. I know it was only my second Ironman, but Kona was freakin hard!

I felt really good with the swim. The mass start brought me back to my water polo days of people thrashing in the water fighting to keep position. I remember getting hit in the face and I immediately thought “Okay Game on!”

The bike was brutal. The winds were relentless. And luckily I mentally prepared for that to happen when I visualized for the race. I lost nutrition in the first 4 miles on Ali’i drive, so lucky I had back up plans for that. Grateful that I decided to put extra salt and nutrition in my special needs bag.

As I was heading back into town I remember thinking “I don’t remember going down these hills!” The legendary winds really made the back half of the bike course terrible hard!

The run really tested me. As I was going up Palani before heading out on the Queen K, I saw my family and said “holy shit balls!” It was hot, humid, and my legs felt heavier and heavier as a progressed through the marathon.

I really hit a wall at mile 18.5 once I climbed out of the energy lab. I remember really hurting and mentally struggling and then I heard “Koji Honey, how are you doing?” I turned my head and It was Ali [McInturff].

Those words helped me so much at that time to actually psychologically acknowledge that I was hurting but to just keep pushing. I was amazed because she looked like a million bucks blazing back into town! Later on I was encouraged by her husband, Jorge, which I hated at the time because I was hurting so bad; but it was much needed! It was also very nice to see other Utahns in the race and see their true grit! Shout out to Gentry Yost for killing it out on the run course!

The last 4 miles it was a test of my strength. I had to really dig deep and remind myself of my 5 mantras for doing this. Those reasons carried me those last few miles. But once I hit Ali’i emotions came running out.

All the hard workouts, sacrifices, blood, sweat, and tears were all felt during this moment. It was unforgettable! I will never forget running past that finish line and hearing the roaring crowd!

I would like to thank the Utah Tri community for welcoming me into this sport! As a newcomer it was intimidating but everyone at BAM and Intermountain Tri were so welcoming! It is amazing to be able to practice with such amazing athletes! Thank you to Wes, Andrew, and Nat for the little things they did for me!

I will be more present with workouts in the future. I would also like to thank Janie Dahle for encouraging and believing in me to race Kona! Lastly I want to thank my coach Kayla Bowker from Where Your Feet Take You! She is amazing and deserves so much credit for what she does! Love you Kayla!




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