Continuing our series profiling each one of our age group team members racing in this year's Ironman World Championships, we are thrilled to chat with Mary Knott. Team SFQ'er Mary earned her Hawaii Ironman qualification by winning the 40-44 age group at Ironman Mt. Tremblant in August.
This will be your second time racing the Hawaii Ironman and it was nearly three years between your first and second qualifying races. Talk to us about your road to Kona the second time around.
I am so excited to be going back to the World Championships!! The first time I qualified was a culmination of 3 years of complete focus and intense work in training to make that dream happen. When I raced in Hawaii it was a celebration and I didn't have any specific goals for the day, just get to the finish line no matter what. I followed it up 6 months later with Ultraman Australia which is hands down, one of my most favorite racing experiences. It took so much out of me physically and mentally. After Ultraman, I had a hard time connecting with the goal of racing another Ironman. I knew I wanted to go back to Hawaii, but I didn't put pressure on myself to have a timeline. I knew when I was ready, it would happen. In early 2018, I applied to the Ultraman World Championships, and I thought it would be cool to do both in one year. So I got back to work in training and got my head in line with my vision. I decided in April that I was going to race Ironman Mont Tremblant with the goal of winning my age group and securing a spot to race again in Hawaii. I was all in, mentally and physically. And thankfully on race day, all the stars aligned and my hard work paid off with an age group win and a Kona qualification.
You have not one but TWO big races on the Big Island this fall as you will also compete in the Ultraman World Champonships in November. How do you wrap your head around a challenge of this magnitude, or better yet, prepare for both?
That's a good question. And one I'm not certain I know the answer to. I'm not too worried about the "back to back", if I wasn't racing Ironman Hawaii, my training would probably be a lot more intense. As it is I'm going to have a taper before and recovery afterwards, so I'm losing a few training days to the October race. If anything I worry about being underprepared for Ultraman, though I know I'm in good hands with my coach and have faith that when Thanksgiving weekend arrives I will feel ready. I try not to think too far ahead, and just be in the moment every day. Especially as the training has progressed for Ironman Hawaii and I've started to feel a little bit tired and fatigued, I'm better off not looking too far ahead. I just focus on getting through one workout at a time. And I take recovery seriously. Loads of sleep.
One thing I'm looking forward to is going back to the Island on November 1 to finish my preparation for Ultraman there. Not only will I have time to adjust to the heat and humidity, but I will also have nothing to do but eat, sleep and train. No work distractions, no house to clean, no yard work. Nothing to do but prepare. I think this will be really beneficial as I will be able to do some huge workouts, and have plenty of time to recover. I'm going to miss my fur kids, but they're in good hands when I'm away.
What were the biggest lessons you took away from your first Kona experience?
I think the most important thing that I took away is that the Island of Hawaii is a very special place, and if you can connect with the spirit of the island, you will be in good hands on race day. With Ironman racing there is a lot of ego, a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. But feeling calm in the midst of all of the chaos is so important. For me, I take time every day to enjoy the experience of being there. This is truly a gift... one that many, many people would give anything to experience. That doesn't go unrecognized. I am so grateful to be able to do the things that I do in triathlon, to be healthy and strong, and to have my hard work allow me to experience this race. The morning before my race in 2016 I said I would give my whole heart to the race in exchange for safe passage. And that same feeling applies to my race next week. Ironman Hawaii has my heart, and I will race passionately, with joy, in pursuit of my limits.
What are you most looking forward to about your Hawaii Ironman race week this year?
I am so excited to share race week with some of my teammates who are racing for the first time! I love seeing others get excited about the experience, and to see things through different eyes. We all have different goals, different preparation, and different ways to handle the stress of race week. But being able to swim the course together and share laughs, and coffee, and acai bowls... it doesn't get any better than that! Also, I'm a huge ITU fan so I'm going to be fan-girling on Javier Gomez and Sarah True and any one else who might just show up to scope out the event. ;)
What are your goals for this year’s race?
My goal for this year is to break 11 hours. That is a huge ask, and I might be risking a lot going after it, but I think it's also doable. In 2016 I finished in 11:33. But I struggled on the back half of the bike and ran very conservatively as I was afraid of blowing up and not making it to the finish line. Now I know that I can handle the conditions and push myself a little harder. I feel ready to go after it.