It’s good to be on the other side of Ironman Hawaii. A little worse for wear, I’m pleased with how things turned out. Kona represents a wonderful opportunity to race against the best guys in my age-group from all over the world, and man o’ man, they’re getting faster every year! The race is long, as they say, but in the end, it’s surely with yourself. And I was out there to see if I could push hard enough to better my performance from 2007.
Beautiful, clear, warm water is a game-changer for me. Having good swim fitness, I was able to stay relaxed and happy over the swim course. There were some swells to deal with but I managed to not drink too much salt water. There were several occasions where we all bunched up but I would fall back and move around if it persisted and on the way back in from the turn-around, I was actually pushing myself to stay “long-n-strong” and move up. Drafting and navigation was solid.
I consider this my best executed 2.4mi swim. I exited the water fresh, happy, and visualizing a smooth transition to the bike.
Pretty psyched about the ride, I was eager but controlled starting the bike. I had some gear chatter goin’ on, so I hopped off quick and released some tension on my rear derailleur cable. Voila! Back to work and out on the Queen K Highway, I motored up the road and occasionally checked my rising average speed >>>
The conditions in the morning were ideal to ride fast and by the time I got up to the turn to Hawi I was averaging a controlled 24mph. Some good winds on the climb up to the turn-around in Hawi whittled my average speed back down to 22.6mph. Since I was shooting for a sub-5hr ride (22.4mph over 112mi), I was then confident I could build it back up on the way back to town.
Four hours in to the bike, the heat, humidity, effort, and the distance were taking their toll. At aid stations, I grabbed a bottle of water, poured half of it on me and drained the other half into my aero-bottle. Average speed was well established at 22.5. Mile markers, however, came painfully slow; 85… 90… 95… Seeing Kona rising in the distance, it became easier to stay positive and concentrate on relaxation and visualizing the bike-to-run transition.
I worked with another guy (draft-legally of course) for about 80mi. We must’ve went back-n-forth about 15 times. We were totally in sync. That was pretty cool. Saw some riders down with crashes and flats. I was fortunate to have fairly smooth sailing the whole way. Like the swim, the ride was dreamy.
I got down about 1800 liquid calories on the bike and took four Clif Shots over the ride with plenty of water; hydration was good (peed twice). Got in several Meta Salt capsules too. I felt that I’d ridden smart while still risking a bit to come in of the bike in 4:59, my best ride ever, which was encouraged by relatively mild conditions on the bike course this year.
Starting the run, I was cautiously optimistic about how it would pan out. Starting off I had a side-stitch on my right side. Trying to work that out, I was soon feeling the effects of the in-town humidity. Running the second mile in about 7min I found I was working harder than I wanted to be and backed off the effort. I grabbed cold sponges and poured ice-water on my head at all the aid stations. The marathon was having its way with me.
Things were not improving as I headed up Palani and out onto the Queen K highway. I simply forgot how tough it is for me to run well under a tropical sun, in that blasted humidity. I couldn’t seem to stay up on the balls of my feet. My turn-over was there but I just didn’t have my characteristic snap, that easy flow that followed my rides in Coeur d’Alene and Full Vineman this year.
I kept waiting for things to turn around and get back to feeling good. I tried every trick in my book. Nothing was working. I went to Coke at mile 6. As I emerged from the Natural Energy Lab, I read a note from my wife, Amanda, on a big screen marquee: “Work. Work. Work,” she had written. And that’s all it was back to town: laborious, hot, drudgery. Not used to being passed in the marathon, I was eaten up by so many runners. I started walking the final aid stations. Each time it got harder to start back up. With three to go, another athlete gave me some much needed encouragement and that inspired me to gut out the last 5k. Back to town, detached and forlorn, they continued to run me down. I finished in the back of a pack of eight guys, spent and disappointed in my run performance, though surprised I was still able to pull off a 9:40.
That’s racing. Things have gone so well this year, I was due for some hardship, in the form of falling short of my target finish time of 9:20. My build up to Kona had emphasized the swim and bike. And that’s what went well. In the end I was only four minutes off my best time in Kona from ’07.
Ironman Hawaii has been a significant thread in my life over the last decade. This time was special because my wife of one year was there at the finish to quickly cheer me up, along with some good friends.
We collected my bike and transition bags and headed back to our spectacular home-stay about a mile from the start/finish. After some BK and a shower, we headed back down to the start at about 9pm to cheer in the final finishers all the way up to midnight when 81y/o, Lew Hollander, came across the line. I wondered to myself if I could come back here in 44 years and do this. It’s mind-blowing that he’s even out there! And there was another 80y/o guy right behind him!
Chrissie Wellington and Craig Alexander stole the day and were back down at the finish greeting the final finishers. Wellington’s victory speech the next night was the best I’ve ever heard from a pro. She and Alexander are class acts, from what I know of them. I appreciate having these champs representing our growing sport.
The volunteers are off the hook in Kona! I was grateful to have friends Kim and Shelly Lydon, along with Ken Wright, out there volunteering. It was fantastic seeing them, EVERYWHERE, on race day and race week. Incredible energy. Thank you volunteers!! It was also great racing with my buddy Andy Brodziak, who qualified for Kona at Ironman UK. Andy enjoyed a strong performance at his second IM in Kona. On Monday, I got to catch up with another buddy, Russ Brandt, who I hadn’t seen since our marathon in Idaho in June. Very cool to see everyone out there.
I didn’t expect to get back into triathlon but my understanding wife is tolerating it, for now at least. I’m grateful to her for putting up with it all, supporting me every step of the way, and helping me live a more balanced (and rewarding) life.
A Big Island “Mahalo!” to Echelon Cycle & Multi-Sport for their support this year. There is no way I would have been able to re-enter triathlon without their support. Looking forward to some fall group rides and seeing them transition to their new location here in Santa Rosa.
I finally got to catch up with the Clif Bar crew at the end of the journey. Thanks to them for fueling the year. As my students say, “Clif Bar rocks!”
Thanks to my friends up at Three Dog Yoga. I’m looking forward to some mat time this fall and winter. I need it!!
Thanks to tri-coach, Dave Latourette, for all his help this year. Dave always has great and timely advice. The wisdom is appreciated!
And finally, thanks so very much to Kris & Brad for opening up their home to Amanda and I. We enjoyed our time with you. Aloha!
Looking down the road, I already have a plan mapped out to Full Vineman next summer. With three IM’s under my belt this year, I’ll have a good base coming into the 2012 season. No Kona next year but we’re talking about possibly going back in 2013. Sounds like Ironman San Luis Obispo may happen in the fall of 2012. If not, then I’m thinking about making a run at an age-group win at IM Lake Placid during the summer of 2013. Training during the month of June gives me the time to do the work necessary to get down closer to nine hours. All this, of course, is just talk. Right now, it just makes me tired thinking about it.
Looking forward to making a full recovery and getting back in the woods for some fall ultra-running. Cheers!