Honu 70.3 Race Experience “Don’t Count The Miles, Make the Miles Count”

If Ken and I were going to make the trip to the Big Island we wanted to make it worth it. I often asked myself in the months leading up to the race “What kind of experience do I want to have on the Big Island?”

I have not raced a 70.3 since Vineman 70.3 in 2014, almost two years ago. I went into this race with fairly unstructured training. Work and other life priorities left me feeling unready to commit to a formal training program for this race. I trained (myself) enough to have the fitness and mental fortitude I needed for be race-ready. I honestly had zero expectations for my performance other than to have fun being out there for 5+ hours. My main goal was to experience this race and be present in the process. No matter the outcome of my race, I was in control of my intention of how I approached race day. This was a BIG-HONEST intention for me because those that know me know that I love being a competitor. I always want to give the best of myself always, however the wise part of me knew I had to race smart and stay mindful of race conditions. I had to be realistic about what my body could do on race day.

If you read my previous blog then you know that I stepped on a sea urchin two days before the race. My right foot was struggling and for that first day it felt like I stepped on a thousand splinters each time I put my foot down, but honestly by race day it had improved enough that I wasn’t thinking about it and I don’t think it negatively impacted my run as much. The real culprit was the heat. I’ll get to that later.

Swim: 35:29 (non-wetsuit)
Ahhhhhh-mazing and I was totally in the flow…LOVING it! I sighted well and was in gratitude the whole time! The water was perfect and I loved the non-wetsuit swim.

What really made the swim special was right before the start another athlete in my swim wave was expressing feeling anxious and worried about finishing. She was telling her teammate “Oh I don’t know if I can do this. Oh my goodness. What if I can’t do it?” I turned to her and told her “You will do this! Just focus on getting to that first buoy. When you get to that buoy then just get to the next one. That’s all you have to think about.” By talking to her I was distracting her from thinking about anything else but also it felt good to just comfort her. She expressed being thankful for my advice. A minute later we were off…

I challenged myself to push my pace and stay strong the whole time. I visualized my lane-mates’ feet and thought about how good it felt to really push my body.


The run to T1 was a good .25 miles up “hill” and to my bike. Thankfully I racked my bike close to the bike out. It was a clean transition so I put everything in my bag and then deuces…I was out!


Bike: 2:59 (18.71 mph)
THANK YOU Madame Pele for being so kind to us on the bike…barely no wind!!! I was so damn thankful for all 56 miles! We got rained on in Hawi, but that was a sign of good luck according to the race announcer. I’ll take it. The bike had about 3500 ft of elevation gain, but definitely doable. Lots of fun rollers! I felt steady and consistent the whole way using the elevation change as best I could to get some speed. However, the heat started to kick up and I didn’t bring extra salt sticks (sorry Marni I should know better) to take on the bike so I paid that price by the time I was off the bike and into the run.


T2 was interesting because there are no designated bike spots and you have to rack your bike in order that you came in. So I racked my bike and I was off to get my run stuff…

Run 1:58:
Good God was it HOT! Especially when I’m not acclimated to the heat. Word on street was that it was about 125 F on the golf course that day. Sure felt like it! Typically I bank on my run in a triathlon, but not today. I soon realized that the pace my body was able to hold was well off a pace I expected. My legs weren’t there but my mind was. So I readjusted my mental plan and focus. I would walk aid stations to get water, Gatorade and/or coke and keep a steady clip. This was challenging because we were running 2 loops on a golf course that was a combination of grass and concrete with lots of little hills and twisty turns. Definitely a challenge! Nonetheless I kept my head and stayed moving.


The high point was when I saw the teammate of the girl that I saw before the swim start. I asked if she made the swim and she said “yes!” and that she was on the bike. I was so damn happy for her! Throughout the run my mantra was and adaptation of Muhammad Ali’s quote “make the miles count.” This motivated me to run what I could, give what I had and keep moving forward in my best effort. My mantra reminded me that no matter how bad I felt I could AWLAYS help make someone feel better by saying “good job” “keep at it” or “you got this!” In the last mile I knew the finish was coming so I kicked it in and came home to finish in 5:40.


I gave everything I had when I had it. I kept my mind tight and my head focused. I truly made the most of all 70.3 miles. I controlled my process and stayed focused on gratitude. However, the little “competitive critic” in me tried to rear its head when thinking about my run split. I embraced that part of myself as it reminded me that I am someone that loves to raise to a challenge and put for my best and HONEST effort. That was what I had today.

This was my 13th half-iron distance race since I started racing triathlon in 2007! I met my husband through the triathlon community and it has been a big part of my life. As I shared on my IG and LWNL Facebook page, I am truly blessed and grateful to God for the life and health that I have. It’s easy to look at outcomes and allow them to discount the process…not today, not now, not anymore! Life is way too good.


I’m a competitor at heart but Muhammad Ali’s passing reminded me that sport really does reveal our character in the face adversity. Our character (what we do when people aren’t looking) is a true testimony to the meaning our lives. Sport can help us rise to the attention of others and get the spotlight, but when the spotlight is on us what is it drawing attention to – ego or character? When people speak about us, long after we are no longer in their presence and long after the spotlight is off us, what will we have left them with? I don’t know about you, but I want sport to be an opportunity to show the best of myself performance and character, and if I don’t have the performance I always have my character.

During my race I had a lot of time to reflect on the passing of Muhammad Ali. Although he was not perfect he had a powerful purpose to people of color, including myself. I am inspired and admire his courage to transcend sport and use his platform to speak of issues of social justice and racial inequality.

Muhammad Ali reminded me that it’s not just enough to do well in sport we must take it further. In the words of The Greatest of All Time, “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.” Rest In Peace Champ this blog and race was dedicated to honoring your legacy and greatness.

Mahalo to the Big Island and Madame Pele for al the beauty, love and memories,

Dr. G

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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.