Friday, July 19, 2013

Ironman World Championship – Race Report



Ironman World Championship – Race Report
October 13, 2012


Yeah...this is eight months late...sue me.  Since crossing the finish line on Ali’i Drive, life has been a bit of a roller coaster, both physically and emotionally.  I should have put together a race summary within a week of the event as all the details would have been fresh in my mind but instead I had to change gears entirely and focus all of my attention on an international relocation.  After living in Hong Kong for eight years, I moved my family to London in December on a two year secondment contract.  Throughout the moving process I kept telling myself that I would sit down and write about Kona after my stress level subsided so that I could produce a more thoughtful account of the whole experience.  Once our new flat was sorted out and the boxes were moved in and unpacked, London welcomed me with a fantastically miserable winter.  Cold weather training is simply not in my DNA.  The turbo trainer is not an option either as my flat is upstairs and the LeMond Revolution, despite being the best trainer ever built, makes too much damn noise and vibrates the hell out of the floorboards thus creating pissed-off neighbors below.  Successive weeks of cold and wet weather turned into successive months.  It turned out to be the longest winter in the UK in 50 years.  It was only in mid-June that the temperature began to creep above 10˚C.  Now here I am in July, feeling like a frowning fat man but, finally, a fat man with a glimmer of optimism.  I've been cycling to and from the office each day and am slowly finding my legs again.  As the temperature continues to rise I’m looking forward to a solid few months of training before winter returns again.  On the bright side, the UK has an endless amount of cycling events.  I think it would be a shame if I left here having not taken the opportunity to absorb all this place has to offer in terms of road cycling skill development and pack riding opportunities.  There are outstanding cyclists in Hong Kong but the depth of cycling in the UK is in another galaxy.  So it is time for me to turn the frown upside-down, chin up, shoulders back and forward march back into fitness.

On to the race report.  This will be much shorter than my usual reports since many of the finer details have faded from memory.

Arrival in Kona

I touched down on the big island with my wife and daughter and soon thereafter linked up with the rest of my support crew: grandma, mom, dad, brother, uncle and aunt.  Most of us were staying in the Kahaluu Beach Villas across from Turtle Beach, while my aunt, uncle and grandma were staying in another villa further down Ali’i Drive.  We were about 8 kilometers away from the swim start—close enough to get there reasonably quick and far enough away to avoid the hustle and bustle around Ali’i Drive and Palani Road. When I go back to this race again, I will gladly stay in the same place.

The feeling of walking off the plane and breathing the Kona air lived up to everything I’d ever read about.  It’s a special place.  I've had my fair share of arrivals at exotic beach resorts—Koh Samui, Bali, Krabi, Hua Hin, Phuket, Boracay, Langkawi, Sanya, Nice,  Ken Ting—but this was different.  This was KONA.  The big island has a mystique that, in my view, has much to do with the history of Ironman.  I remember looking down at my feet on the tarmac and thinking what it must have been like when legends such as Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Paula Newby-Fraser, Natascha Badmann, Scott Tinley, Erin Baker, Scott Molina, Luc Van Lierde, Thomas Helrielgel, Peter Reid, and Normann Stadler stepped off the plane for the first time.  I was walking on hallowed grounds. 

I remember noticing that it was warm but not as bad as the “boiling lava fields” stories I had heard before.  I suppose it helps that I was coming from Hong Kong where the climate is primarily humid and hot all year long.  We loaded all the bags and the bike into a hired SUV and drove toward our villa.  As we cruised down the Queen K, the first thing I noticed apart from the black lava was the sign marking the turn off to the Energy Lab.  What a trip.  I had seen these images thousands of times before in film and now I'm here.  What the hell am I doing here?

Acclimatization and Preparation

Having arrived roughly two weeks in advance of the race, I figured this would allow enough time to get over any jet lag and to acclimatize to the envirronment.  Here is a quick break-down of my training during the lead up to race day:

Sept 30: 1.5K Swim (easy), 90K Bike (tempo pace-Kailua to Waikoloa and back)
Oct. 1:  (Run-Swim-Run Brick) 7K run @ 4:30/K, 2K Swim (pushing the pace), 7K Run @ 5:12/K
Oct. 2: Rest Day
Oct. 3: (Run-Swim Brick) 7K Run @ 4:55/K, 2K Swim (hard effort)
Oct. 4: Rest Day
Oct. 5: 2.5K Swim (easy)
Oct. 6:  90K Bike (race pace-Waikoloa-Hawi and back)
Oct. 7: 40K Bike (slow tempo pace)
Oct 8: 3K Swim (hard effort), 11K Run @5:16/K
Oct 9: 56K Bike (above race pace)
Oct 10: IM Talk / Blueseventy Aquathon 0.5K Swim, 2K wetsuit run @ 4:46/K
Oct: 11: Rest Day
Oct. 12: Rest Day

I was a bit sketchy on my first swim.  I have never before seen so much action happening underneath me in the sea.  The first few hundred meters are quite shallow and it appeared as if the coral was just inches below my chest.  I kept thinking that I would smack my hand against something on any given stroke but in fact there was more room below than I perceived.  There were fish absolutely everywhere of all shapes, sizes and colors.  I even saw a medium-sized manta ray floating across the bottom—cool!  The water was very, very choppy.  I don’t mind, and perhaps prefer, a bit of chop but I did notice early on that the swells and chop made it very difficult to sight the buoys. On many occasions I would have to come up to sight 2 or 3 strokes in a row until I could finally make out the buoy in the distance.

Rocking our custom Simple Soda Kit
From O2 Creation
The bike training was super cool thanks to my fellow Hong Kong competitor/guide/mentor Anthony “Mr. Fish” Fesche.  We broke the course down into halves and rode the whole thing over different days.  I highly suggest this approach to anyone else doing Kona for the first time as it really gives you an opportunity to feel out the terrain / wind and determine your strategy for attacking the course.  I was also lucky enough to be joined on the ride to Hawi by the since-turned-pro Anna Ross.  Watch out girls, this Kiwi has some serious legs.  As is customary we stopped to snap a few photos next to the “Caution: Ironman Athletes in Training” sign along the Queen K.

I did all of my run training on Ali’i Drive.  I considered going out to run the Energy Lab but decided against it since by the time I would reach it during race day, sunset would soon be approaching and the temperatures wouldn't be much to worry about.  In any case, I was doing most of my runs near mid-day so I could get a feel for the heat.  It was definitely warm (29˚C) but nowhere near what it’s like training in Hong Kong’s 90% humidity at 35˚C.

Organized Activities

-Parade of Nations:  This was fun!  We had three white guys representing Hong Kong (Olaf Kasten, Anthony Fesche and yours truly) which brought its fair share of laughs from the crowd.  As we rounded the corner from Palani onto Ali’i I saw Dave Erickson with his video camera gathering content for one of his Kona summaries.  Somewhere in the middle of the parade I was joined by my daughter Esme which was a great experience for both of us.  As we came upon my support crew all dressed in “Let er’ Rip Danny” t-shirts, my daughter sprinted out to the middle of the road and jumped in my arms.  I was a happy dad and a proud Hong Kong'er.

-Underpants Run:  This was a bit silly but a traditional part of the Kona experience so I couldn't not show up in my tighty whities.  The run itself was a short shuffle of a few kilometers but it was good fun
checking out all the eye candy and crazy outfits.  I went with the basic kit: compression socks, "tighty whities," heart rate strap with no corresponding watch, sunglasses and ball cap.

-IM Talk / Blueseventy Aquathon:  This was a tension-breaker fun race with a bit of a sadistic twist.  We put on our wet-suits and swam out to the Coffees of Hawaii boat where the race would start.  The idea was to swim back to the pier, toss on running shoes and then run an out and back 2K down Ali’i Drive.  There was a handicapped start based on expected swim and run times and I was 3rd out of about 12 racers to start.  I set out swimming hard and managed to come out of the water in second place.  While in transition putting my shoes on I was a bit distracted by the presence of the gorgeous Tawnee Prazak who was conducting an interview for her podcast.  I set out running as fast as I could still sporting the wet-suit and swim cap.  After about 500 meters I was starting to boil but kept the pace up.  At the 1K turnaround I then had the lead runner in sight.  Unfortunately I was out of gas and had to slow down to avoid collapsing.  With about 300 meters to go I was passed by  John Newsom and one other thereby finally came through in 4rd place.  We were given cool Kona t-shirts from O2 Creation and a sample pack of Extreme Endurance.  Huge thanks to John and Bev for putting this event on—loads of fun!
with Bevan getting set to race
Blueseventy Wetsuit Challenge

Pre-Race Experience

Kona, Kona, Kona.  What can I say?   The place is magical.  Together with the family we managed to catch quite a few sights in during the days leading up to the race.  Here are a few of my recollections:

-Snorkeling at Turtle Beach:  My daughter (Esme) had a blast there!  It was the farthest thing from a sandy beach and had lots of water-washed lava rocks in and around the shore.  Esme was climbing all over the tide pools and exploring the sea life.  We saw a good number of sea turtles, including one albino.  It was amazing how close you could get to them.  For the most part the tourists respected the wildlife but occasionally some idiot would come out and start poking the turtles.  This usually didn't last too long after everyone else in the vicinity gave them a heap of crap for it.  I had my GoPro with me and caught some cool footage of the sea life.

-Island Breeze Luau:  We packed up the whole gang one night and drove out to Waikoloa’s Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel for what was marketed to be the best luau in Kona.  Having never been to a luau I didn't know what to expect.  In the end it was a great night out.  We completely stuffed ourselves with the amazing food and thoroughly enjoyed the stage performances.  Again, I don’t know anything about luaus, but as a minor critique point, if I had to do it again I would look for something less touristic, smaller in scale and more intimate.  The buffet was massive and there were more tables than I could count.  We couldn't help but feel like cattle
being shuffled though a feed trough.  Here was what we ate:


  • Lomi salmon
  • Kona-style poke
  • Cucumber Namasu
  • Kona tomatoes
  • Macaroni salad - Waimea garden greens, legume salad vinaigrette
  • Hawaii's own pineapples
  • Cinnamon-spiced bananas
  • Banana bread
  • Poi
  • Steamed white rice
  • Uala - Hawaiian sweet potato
  • Kalua Pua'a - juicy roast pork
  • Kona broil
  • Long grain rice and chicken
  • Catch of the day tropicale
  • Coconut cake
  • Coconut pudding
  • Kona coffee
  • Tropical fruit punch
  • Esme learning Hawaiian
    rock bowling
  • Mai Tai and standard bar service
-Hawi Excursion:  My parents wanted to have a look at Hawi so we drove 90K out there one evening and discovered upon arrival that there really isn't much to see.  It’s a tiny village with a few shops and restaurants—most of which were closed by the time we arrived.  We decided to grab some dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Mi Ranchito.  One word: Yummmmmmmm!  I highly recommend this place as a lunch stop for anyone cycling out there in the future, unless of course you don’t like Mexican food in which case you should be shot in the head.

-Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:  This was a fun albeit slightly disappointing excursion.  I always imagined that I would see molten lava flowing into the sea creating billows of steam; however, we learned that this only happens on rare occasions.  The volcanoes were definitely active though.  There were sections of the park that were completely closed off to the public to ensure that visitors would not be poisoned by sulfuric gas.   Spots we hit: Kīlauea Iki Overlook,Kīlauea Visitor Center, Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, Steam Vents and a lava tube hike.  I have one tip for anyone that is going to the volcanoes for the first time:  bring a jacket.  The climate out there is much cooler than the lava fields.  We ended up paying for an overpriced long-sleeve t-shirt from the gift shop for my daughter to stop her from shivering.

My daughter Esme learning
a Hawaiian Dance
-Lava Java:  We took the whole family out to eat one night at the famous Lava Java.  I’d heard a lot about this place and it is hyped up to be packed with the who’s who in triathlon.  Their food was delicious but in terms of star spotting we were just lucky enough to be sitting next to the legendary Normann Stadler and didn't recognize any other pros that night.  


Hapuna Beach: The whole family went out to this beach after the race was over and done with.  This was a heavenly place to just relax on the beach and have an easy recovery swim.  Sand, surf and sunshine, what more could anyone ask for?

-Donkey Balls:  Salty Balls, Blue Balls, Flaming Balls, Dirty Balls, Flaky Balls, Frosted Balls,--this shop has it all.  Don’t miss this road-side stop on the drive from Kailua out to the volcanoes.  Embrace the balls! 

I was quite relaxed throughout the days leading up to the race.  I knew that I had sufficient training behind me so I just focused on enjoying the whole "island experience."  In no particular order I’ll mention a few things I remember during the pre-race phase.  After a training ride one day I came up behind Dirk Bockel.  He glanced back after hearing me come to a stop and he had a bit of a scowl on his face.  Only much later did I discover that he wasn't being a dick.  The poor guy fractured his fourth metacarpal on a training ride earlier.  He then went on to finish in 10th place—nice work.  Another day, during a run down Ali’I Drive I saw the unmistakable Faris Al Sultan hanging outside of the Hawaiian Pedals Bike Shop. He gave me a “what’s up dude” tilt of the head and, as much as I’d like to think it was because he recognized me from previous Phuket and Singapore races, I guess it was more connected to me staring at him and hence wondering if I was gay.  I’m not, I swear.

Thinking back, I don’t recall being too worried about the swim, bike or run.  I wasn't imposing any significant performance targets on myself.  In general I wanted to finish in less than 12 hours but I wasn't going to stress over it.  I planned on just laying into my pace and then I’d go harder or easier depending on how my body was responding to the stress.  I think it was more important for me to ensure finishing rather than redlining my way into a possible DNF.  I felt at peace in the water there.  The temperature was perfect, not cold and not warm, it was just right for swimming.  The bike course and hot weather suited me perfectly.  As a heavier athlete I do quite well time trialing on flats and minor undulations. The run would be a test obviously but nevertheless I was confident that my preparation would support a faster marathon than my previous effort at Ironman France.

Kit / Setup / Nutrition Summary

-Swim:  Zoot shorts, O2 Creation custom “Soda Simple” tri top, Blueseventy Hydra Vision goggles, Blueseventy PZ3TX swim skin.

-Bike:  Mavic Tri Race shoes, Cervelo P3, SRAM Red crankset, chain and cassette, 3T Aura Pro cockpit/straight bars with a bottle cage mounted between and saltstick dispenser on the side, SpeedFil on the down tube, FFWD wheels (F9R back and F6R front), Continental Gatorskin tires, spare tubular and tools mounted creatively with a Livestrong band behind the saddle.

-Run: Newton Distancia shoes, Newton visor, Spibelt containing SIS gels, salt tabs and ibuprofen.

-Nutrition:  I relied completely on SiS GO Gel + L-Carnitine.  I found these work much better for me that the Gu gels I have used in the past.  These gels are isotonic so are easier on the stomach and more rapidly provide the body with fuel than other gooey gloppy gels.  In my Speedfil I had a moderately heavy concentration of Nuun enhanced water that I planned to sip from together with pure water from between the aero bars.  My nutrition strategy was fairly simple:  I would take a gel on the bike every 20 minutes and be ready to adjust the intervals depending on feel.  Drinking would be according to thirst.  On the run I would carry 4 gels and take one every 8-10K.

Race Morning

My alarm went off at 3:30am.  We planned on driving over toward the swim start at around 4:30 as the transition area was scheduled to open at 4:45.  I was well hydrated but downed about half a litre of Nuun enhanced water for good measure.  I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast but I suppose it would have been something like oatmeal.  After a couple cups of Kona coffee and two visits to the bathroom we loaded up in the car to head out to the race.  I remember standing in the parking lot and seeing the lights on at various villas where other athletes where preparing to leave as well.  The sky was
dark blue and there was a cool breeze blowing in from the sea.  I think my family was more nervous than I was at that point.  This was their first time attending an Ironman so they had no idea what to expect.  I on the other hand was grinning from ear to ear.  We pulled into a parking lot just around the corner from the top of Palani hill.  Surprisingly we had no trouble finding a parking space.  Once inside the check-in area at the Kona Beach Hotel parking lot, I started into a long series of deja vus.  I had watched this whole event countless times in videos and now little old me was here, holy shit.

Sorry you couldn't be here Lance
Volunteers stamped my arms with my lucky race number 1313 and sent me off toward transition.  I pumped my tires up to 120psi, stuffed nutrition into my top-tube pack, filled up my SpeedFil/aero bar bottle and clipped my shoes into the pedals.  I pulled on my swim skin and headed over to the water.  It was still dark at that stage and there were just a few pro men in the water warming up.  I wasn't sure if age groupers were permitted into the water that early so I decided to head back up and chat with my family for a while.  Start times were: 6:30 male pros, 6:35 female pros, 7:00 all age groupers.  After finding my dad for a short hug and a “good luck”, I decided to head back toward the water to warm up.  I watched the pro men and women start and jumped in the water.  I was taking long gliding strokes just to enhance a feeling of calmness and composure.  The swells were rolling in quite heavily and few hundred meters to the left I could see waves smashing against the Hulihee Palace retaining wall.  Underwater was another world.  Colorful fish were scattering about through the coral below.  I remember floating face down and realizing how big the swells were as I watched the sea floor move in massive sweeps beneath me.  I don't think I was near as nervous as in any other triathlon.  Somehow I felt at peace yet anxious to get underway.

The Swim - 3.8K

I made a few assumptions when determining what would be the best location to start my swim.  I
gathered that the majority of the competition had qualified through competition (as opposed to my general lottery slot entry) and hence would be very fast and aggressive.  Also, the older athletes likely to be swimming at near my pace would likely also be a force to be reckoned with.  So, conservatively, I swam my way out to the far left side of the field.  Chatting with others around me it seemed I was in the right spot as most of them were general lottery entrants as well. I saw a good number of people hanging on to the side of canoes waiting for the start but I found it quite easy to tread water with buoyant salt water.  I floated around patiently waiting for the giant boom from the canon.

The canon fire never came.  I guess there was a technical mishap so instead of a cannon we heard the announcer on the microphone shouting "Go! Go! Go!"  I wasn't sure if this was correct or not but since everyone started swimming I figured I'd better do the same.  I jumped on the gas and surprisingly started working my way up through the field.  I figured I'd be the slowest fish but was happy to be making good progress.  I quickly discovered that the aquarium I had experienced in training swims was not going to be a part of race day.  The frantic churning of the fast group ahead turned the sea floor into a dusty mess.

Once we emerged from the lined buoys and out into the open sea, I needed to start paying attention to sighting.  More so than ever before, I was not able to find a reliable line to the buoys ahead.  No matter how many times I came up to sight I went back not having seen anything and was left to follow the general consensus of the pack around me.  Unfortunately this wasn't working very well.  There were people swimming in every direction imaginable.  Aggggh!  I had no choice but to just make way the best I could.  From an overview shot of the whole swim it doesn't look as if I was going too far off course but when zoomed in you can see the craziness a bit clearer.

At the turnaround point we started to bunch up quite a bit but by then I was settled into the swim enough to be ready for some jostling.  I took the inside line around both turns and was soon swimming for home.  I glanced quickly at my watch and saw that I
was about 5 minutes behind my projected time and tried to pick up the pace.  That didn't turn out to work out too well and I finally climbed out of the water 7 minutes slower than my swim time at Ironman France.  That final 500 meters felt like a kilometer! Coming out of the water I glanced back over my shoulder and was pleased to see loads of other swimmers still in the water. I shrugged it off and was looking forward to getting on my bike to rip up the lava fields.

Swim Time: 1:34:03

T1

The volunteers in transition were top notch.  I felt like I had my own personal attendant with me at all times.  In just a few seconds I had my bike bag in hand and jogged into the changing tent.  I only needed to slide on my compression calf sleeves, arm sleeves and stuff two gel flasks into the back of my jersey.  All the while I had a volunteer covering any exposed skin in sun screen.  Then I was out  of the tent and off to collect my bike.  Helmet on, glasses on, race number on--rolling.  I remember hearing the distinctive tic tic tic tic of my DT-Swiss hubs as I jogged toward the mount line with a grin on my face.  The transition area was packed and I wasn't able to spot any of my family just yet.

T1 Time: 6:07

The Bike - 180K

Once on the bike I spun steadily through the barriers on Palani Road that were jam-packed with people cheering on athletes.  I rode the first few hundred meters with bare feet on top of my bike shoes and then after getting up to speed slid my feet in to get down to business.  During the first short segment looping around Kuakini Highway, I kept the effort level low but at the same time tried not to get passed by anyone.  I had planned on getting into proper race pace once I made the final turn onto the Queen K.  As I approached the corner of Kuakini Highway and Palani Road I saw my aunt, uncle and grandma on the side of the road shouting "Go Danny!!"  This gave me a nice boost as I wasn't sure if I would see any of my family until the finish.

As soon as I made the turn onto the Queen K, I quickly settled in at race pace.  I had my Garmin set to show me average speed and my target was to keep it above 30kph. This speed would set me up for a potential sub-6 hour bike split.  The majority of the terrain for the first 80K would be either flat or undulating road.  Considering that I'm not a bean-pole triathlete, I went against the standard practice of attacking the inclines and recovering on descents. I don't have much range with my climbing speed so if I'm going uphill all-out vs. 50% effort, the end time results are not too much different but the energy expenditure difference is massive.  As for descents, it's a completely different story.  Thanks to my weight differential I get significant bang for my buck going down.  An all-out down hill effort on undulating road can most often more than double my speed than if I were to be spinning in post-climb recovery mode.  For the first couple of hours on the bike I would find a target rider in front of me, stay within attacking range on the ascents without over-exerting myself, and then go balls out and pass them on the decline.  I did this over and over and over again.  Every rider I passed felt like more fuel going into my tank.  In short, I was having fun.

I stayed on my plan of taking an SIS gel every 20 minutes and drinking to thirst.  I also took a salt tablet about once an hour.  I'm not certain if this really works or not but I did the same thing in Ironman France and had no cramps on the bike or the run.  Although it was definitely hot out there, I didn't feel particularly bothered.  I'd been on much hotter training rides in Hong Kong.  The sun, the flats, the lava fields--it felt like that course was custom made for me.  I suppose that is a bit of a slap in the face to the all the hype and lore of Kona being one of the most gruelling races on the planet.  I dig the heat, what more can I say?

After leaving Kailua Kona behind and reaching the start of the lava fields, I realized I needed to piss.  I figured I'd better get over with as soon as possible so I eased off the pace and veered toward the far right side of the road. Concentration time.  As I was free spinning with my eyes practically closed trying to get the flow going, an NBC news van rolled up along side of me with video cameras pointed out the side.  If that weren't bad enough, I was chicked by a older woman at the same time.  Just in case this footage made it onto the the NBC coverage special I was tempted to shout out in defence of myself, "I was trying to take a piss!!"  Needless to say, I scratched the piss plan and got back to work.  In less than a minute I had passed the older woman that chicked me and hammered on forward with a full bladder.  Shortly thereafter, I saw a port-a-loo in the distance and was contemplating stopping.  There was a female athlete ahead of me already dismounting to use it.  She leaned her bike against a sign post and dashed into the loo.  Seconds later a gust of wind blew her bike over and it crashed into the road spilling all of her water and nutrition.  Again, I decided to skip the piss attempt.

The climb up to Hawi was very windy.  It came in billowing gusts so there wasn't really a way to lean into a crosswind and find a rhythm.  In general I was holding an average speed of 19kph but would get slammed with wind over and over again that slowed me down.  After 3 hours and 10 minutes I was at the turnaround point in Hawi.  My average speed over 90K had dropped under 30kph but I knew I would recover that target quickly on the approaching descent into the lava fields.  The climate in Hawi was much different than the elsewhere on the course.  There was lush vegetation and, for a moment, we even have some rain falling down on us.  I had never heard of it raining during this race but definitely welcomed its cooling effect.  Just before descending I decided to have another go at taking a piss.  No such luck.  I coasted slowly downhill for about a kilometer and was clearly not going to be able to get the flow going so I decided not to waste anymore precious downhill and got back to cycling.  In the end, I didn't manage to empty my bladder until well into the run.  Once properly into the descent I was able to average just under 60kph.  Looking back I think this was overly conservative and I should have pushed a bit harder over the 10K downhill.  I think I could have quite easily averaged 70kph if I had a bit more confidence in my handling abilities.  By the end of the downhill section I had recovered my average overall speed to 32kph. I was quite happy to have made a little buffer for myself.

Before long the clouds and drizzle of Hawi was well behind me and I was exposed in clear sky and
burning sun again.  At about 120K, I remember reviewing consciously reviewing my condition so as to decide how to pace myself to the finish.  I felt good overall but I could clearly sense the slow onset of fatigue in the legs.  The gentle undulations in the lava flats no longer felt gentle.  This time, my quads were starting to burn as crested each roller.  As the kilometers ticked by, I watched my average speed slowly decrease, 32kph, 31.9kph, 31.8kph, etc.  I would occasionally put in surges to try to keep the inevitable from happening but finally, with just 15K to the finish, my average speed hit 30.0kph.  I had to decide whether it was more important to reach my target of going sub-6 hours or should I ease back and let my legs recover for the upcoming marathon.  It reminded me of cartoons I used to watch as a kid with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  Well, I told the devil to go to hell and eased back just a bit so as not to destroy myself before the marathon.

As I dropped down Palani Road toward transition, I saw my hold gang of supporters in their bright yellow "Let er' Rip Danny!" t-shirts.  That gave me an instant boost of energy and I hit the dismount line smiling wondering how my feet would feel on the ground.

Bike Time: 6:04:19

T2

I remember barely being able to walk after getting off the bike in France so I was hoping this would be better this time.  I found that my feet felt okay but my legs were quite wobbly.  I took this as a good sign and knew that my legs would normalize a bit after getting a few kilometers into the run.  In the changing tent I slipped on my socks and running shoes as volunteers were cooling me down with icy towels.  Contrary to what I've done in all other triathlons, I decided to go without speed-laces on my Newtons.  I probably wasted a couple of minutes in trying to get them tied up at the right tension but oh well.

T2 Time: 6:19

The Run - 42.2K

I jogged out through the barriers and again saw my support crew at the side.  I was thinking at the time

that it must be quite boring to spectate at an Ironman since they would only see for a handful of seconds during the day.  Nevertheless, I selfishly sucked in their good vibes and made my way out onto the run course.

I started the run at 2:51pm so the sun was still in full effect.  I was running around 5:45/k pace down Ali'i Drive but knew quickly that I'd have to be very cautious with my pace under that sun.  I skipped the first 2 aid stations but then walked through the third to take on ice and water.  I was stuffing fistfuls of ice down my tri-shorts to keep cool.  As painful as that sounds, it was actually heavenly.  I could immediately feel my core temperature coming back under control and then by the last table at the aid station I was back up and running again.  The out-and-back 16K section down Ali'i Drive was, for me, the toughest part of the marathon.  I was boiling in the heat and doing everything I could to keep running and keep cool.  I think it helped a lot that there were supporters lining the roads most of the way and that made me less inclined to slow down.


I reached the turn to run up Palani hill and noticed that a good number of people were just walking it.  Then I saw Chris Lieto standing on the side shouting out words of encouragement to everyone and I decided right then that I would not walk that hill in front of Chris. I powered up the hill and out onto the Queen K.  Once I hit the first aid station I took a slow walk through it to re-assess my condition.  I was hot and hurting but also noticed that the sun wasn't nearly blazing as much as we approached mid-afternoon.  I carried on running around a 6:10/K snail pace toward the Energy Lab.  On the other side of the road I was happy to see Anthony Fesce running toward me.  He gave me a huge smile and we waved at each other as he made his way back into town for an awesome 10:17 finish.  Meanwhile I was still chasing a sub-12 hour race and a rapidly setting sun.

I felt quite good running down the Queen K.  Most likely the awe I was experiencing just being out on the course of the most famous triathlon of all time helped keep my mind away from all that my body was going through.  As I made the left turn down into the Energy Lab, my right shoe started making an irritating squeak on every step.  It turns out that I had burst one of the forefoot lugs on my newtons and the squeak was coming from air being squeezed out through a pinhole.  So for the next 15K I would have to put up with "pat, squeak, pat, squeak, pat, squeak..."  Oh well, I thought, it could be worse. I felt bad for the guy in front of me that I was pacing myself off of.  I basically stuck to his heels all the way to the finish.  I looked him up afterward and it turns out he was a Japanese guy in the 60-65 age group,Masayoshi Tsurukawa--awesome.

Running back out of the Energy Lab went smoothly since the sun was just about to go down.  I remember thinking how strange it was that I was feeling so good that far into the run.  No stomach, energy, nutrition or hydration issues, I was just running along enjoying the gorgeous sunset and watching the grimaced faces of the runners on the other side of the road just making their way into the Energy Lab. Turning back onto the Queen K I thought to myself, "Time to head home."  It felt good to at least be headed toward the finish line instead of away from it.

After the sun had set we were handed glow sticks at the aid stations to attach to our race belts.  I remember being slight bummed out when I was handed one.  It seemed like a badge of  shame for all those who couldn't reach the finish before sunset (6:02pm).  Of course, in hindsight, this was nonsense thinking.  Finishing an Ironman, regardless of whether its in 8 or 17 hours, is an accomplishment to be proud of.  As I ran farther down the Queen K toward home, my spirits were lifted by the emergence of light on the horizon.  It was the glow of Kailua Kona coming slowly closer.  Feeling well hydrated and energized, I stopped walking aid stations and starting running at a slightly faster pace.  It felt as if I had Ali'i Drive connected  on a rope and I was just pulling myself in toward the finish.

As we made the turn down Palani Road, I found myself in a pack of three girls and three guys (including the Japanese guy I'd been chasing for over an hour and half).  Making the turn onto Kuakini Hwy we all jumped up the pace.  It almost felt like we were racing each other as we surged and counter-surged but I suspect instead we were all simply excited anticipating the turn on Ali'i Drive.

When I finally rounded the corner onto Ali'i, the group the I was running with slowed down and let gaps open up between us.  It was if we were all thinking the same thing.  Here it is, this is magic, slow down and enjoy it.  I remember having chills go over my entire body and getting slightly short of breath.  I could feel my tear glands filling up as I ran slowly through the hundreds of people lining the street cheering us on.  I don't ever think I will be able to explain that feeling in writing but I will definitely remember that moment for the rest of my life.

My whole family was there at the finish chute and screaming for me.  The next thing I knew I was standing at the finish.  Ironman World Championships Hawaii, done and dusted.

Run Time: 4:31:31

Overall Time: 12:22:17 (A whopping 1:24:30 improvement over my time at Ironman France!)

Post Race

After gathering my medal and street clothes bag, I headed out to see my family.  My super wife gave me a big smooch and then I picked my daughter up in my arms for a big hug.  She seemed bewildered by all the commotion but, at 4 years old, I think she had a better idea of what this race was about than the year before in France.  I want to give endless thanks to my wife, daughter, mom, dad, brother, grandma, uncle and aunt for making the journey out to the big island to support me.  You are all awesome!!!  We took a seat in an upstairs restaurant with an open window looking over Ali'i Drive so that we could watch the remainder of athletes finish on up to midnight.  Everyone was asking me, "How was it? Was it hard?, How do you feel?"  I don't remember exactly but I suppose I probably said something like, "It was...it...it...."  It was too soon for me to process it all.

In the days after I finally could devote myself fully to family and we relaxed and enjoyed the remaining tourist spots on our checklist.  I was definitely sore but surprisingly mobile so had no trouble in keeping up as we toured around.  Time blew by quickly though and before long we were saying our goodbyes and boarding planes back to our lives.  I hope that one day I will be fortunate enough to return there after having qualified the hard way.  Anything is possible.

Monday, July 01, 2013

2012 Airwaves Hong Kong Triathlon Challenge - Race Report


September 23, 2012

As far as I can tell, this is the longest (distance) sanctioned triathlon ever held in Hong Kong--1.9K Swim, 60K Bike, 15K Run (The distances were drastically off in reality but I'll come back to that later.)  I entered this as a bit of a tune-up 3 weeks out from Ironman Hawaii.

My alarm went of at 4:00am and I was on my bike riding toward the start line by 4:20.  Its about 20K from home to the race venue so I figured this would be a decent warm-up.  If this were an "A race" on my calendar then I would have driven or taken a taxi.

Upon arrival I quickly went through registration and body marking then set my bike and run gear up in transition.  The numbers on the bike-rack-bars were so close together that handlebars were overlapping on both sides.  Sportsoho Fail #1.  As such, I decided not to balance my helmet, race number and glasses on the bars and opted to fasten them completely.  I might lose a few seconds in unclasping during T1 but I figured that would be better than having to hunt around the ground for my helmet after it was knocked lose by an adjacent competitor.

I headed down to the water before sunrise and stood at the edge listening to a few guys exchange their guesses about the direction we were going to be swimming.  It was clear that none of us had a clue.  There was, however, one thing that was crystal clear:  the smell of fresh sewage--lovely.  I tried my best to forget about E.-coli, donned my goggles and plunged into the smelly darkness.  I did a 5 minute warm-up swim, came out for the race briefing and then jumped back in the water for the start.

The Swim 1,900m  (actually 2,400m)

The starting horn went off and I set out swimming very relaxed toward the back.  Within 500 or so meters I had worked my way up into my usual "back of the middle of the pack" spot.  After getting away from the shoreline, I didn't notice the horrible smell so much.  I'm not sure if this is because the water was getting cleaner or I was just getting acclimated to the funk.  Anyhow, it seemed like I was swimming decently but about halfway through the first of the 2-lap course, I felt chaffing on my neck.  This wasn't coming from friction against my tri-suit but rather was just the folds of skin on my neck converging as I rotated my head to breathe.  I don't know how many times I must chafe myself into a bloody mess before I learn to take 2 minutes aside with some Vaseline before the race.

For the most part, the swim was strung-out so I didn't have much collision or jostling to deal with.  I climbed out of the water, glanced at my watch and was shocked to see 51:08.  I had a similar post-swim reaction as in the 2011 IM 70.3 Singapore.  I had to let it go and focus on the rest of the race.  Only afterward did I figure out that the course was 500 meters longer than it was supposed to be.  Sportsoho Fail #2

The Bike - 60K (Actually 57K)

Since my legs were still carrying soreness from cycling 120K just 2 days prior, I made sure my bike was fully loaded with nutrition.  I had two full bottles of Nuun enhanced water and 6 SIS gels.  The bike leg consisted of 4 out and back loops on reasonably hilly terrain. As usual, I was making up quite a bit of ground passing the fast swimmers / crappy cyclists and having a blast.  About halfway into the second lap, I realized that I had already killed half of my water supply and was becoming increasingly thirsty.  Also, I had noticed that there was no aid station on the course so this meant I would have to ration what water I had left until I made it onto the run. Sportsoho Fail #3.  The further I got into the bike leg the more difficult it became to conserve water.  Finally, on my 3rd lap, someone realized that not having water on the course was health hazard (I'm assuming this was their conclusion) and they brought out a few cases of bottled water to be grabbed on the go.  The volunteer wasn't particularly wise about the spot he chose to hand over water as it was just a few meters in front of 2 timing-mat speed bumps.  I heard that this caused a couple of crashes since inexperienced cyclists were not able to navigate the speed bumps while holding a bottle of water at the same time.  Why the volunteer just didn't walk 10 meters down the road beyond the speed bumps to hand out water is beyond me.  My rant aside, I do appreciate his presence because without his help I would have been racing with cotton
mouth thirst.

In general, I raced the bike portion very hard as I planned on taking it easy on the run to avoid any chance of injury leading into Kona. I am pretty happy with how things went on this leg.  For the most part I wasn't able to catch any decent drafts and rode solo into the wind.  Anyhow, just a training race.

The Run - 15K (Actually 19K)

I finished the bike basically neck and neck with JoggerJoel and briefly, consider having a go at him on the run.  I stuck on his heels for the first kilometer but then decided to ease off and save myself for Kona.  It them just became a long slog to the finish--much longer and harder than I could have imagined.  The organizers botched up the course design and unknowingly added 4 kilometers to the route.  If that weren't enough, they didn't arrange to have enough water at the aid stations to support the race.  So after about 5K, I was running "dry" in blistering heat.  People were dropping out left and right.  What a sad display from a reasonably well known organizer (SportsSoho).  Anyhow, I ran and walked and hobbled on through to the finish.  Lame race but a good training day in the heat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 Ironman World Championship - Race Report

This is a placeholder blog post for my race report which will come as soon as I can find some time to sit down and put my thoughts together.  Immediately upon returning to Hong Kong following the race, I have been extremely busy in catching up with work and getting ready to move to London on October 28th.

So for now, I'll give the micro version of the day.  I finished with a good time by my standard and had an unforgettable day.  All the nutty details will come soon!

The run down Ali'i Drive

Sweet Completion

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Ironman World Championship – Training Comparison to 2011 Ironman France Build-up


  
The following is a comparison of training volume in my build up for the 2011 IM France and Kona 2012.  The figures are in hours and minutes and represent weekly averages over 30 weeks.


Swimming (Pool): France: 0:58  Kona: 1:04 (+11.5%)
Swimming (Open Water): France: 0:44  Kona :0:04 (-90.5%)
Swimming (Net Percentage Change):  -79%
Conclusion:  I’ll survive the swim but don’t expect to go any faster than in France.

Bike (Indoor): France: 0:57  Kona: 0:54 (-5.3%)
Bike (Road): France: 2:27  Kona: 4:05 (+66.9%)
Bike (Net Percentage Change): +61.6%
Conclusion:  Hoping the extra bike emphasis in training will give me the most bang for my buck come race day.


Running: France: 2:03  Kona: 2:42 (+31.7%)
Conclusion:  Provided I get my nutrition right, I should have a solid run as I’m coming in with a much stronger base of endurance than in France.

Other stats
Average hours per week training: France: 7:09  Kona: 9:14 (+29.2)
Some other possibly relevant stats (30 weeks prior to race):
Resting Heart Rate: 46  - same
Sleep: 35 hours / week  - same
Work: 45 hours / week - same
Commute: 10 hours / week - same
Longest Run: France: 2 hours 19 minutes Kona: 2 hours 45 minutes
Longest Swim: France: 3,800 meters Kona: 4,000 meters
Longest Bike: France: 5 hours 17 minutes Kona: 5 hours 42 minutes

I realize I’m geeking out on numbers here but why not take this a step farther and predict my swim, bike and run times in Kona by adjusting my IM France results by the percentage of change in training volume.  Obviously this is a drastically flawed method but I’m doing it anyway.

France Swim: 1:27:15
Kona Swim Prediction by training volume:  1:33.29
Realistic estimate: 1:27:15
Even with limited training my swim speed should remain the same.  If I were to spend more time in the water I would definitely get faster; conversely however, not spending time in the water won’t necessarily make me slower.

France Bike: 7:20:21
Kona Bike Prediction by training volume: 2:49:05 (ha!)
Realistic estimate: 6:00:00
That’s a conservative estimate assuming the wind will play a major factor.  I should be able to go a few minutes quicker according to training data but let’s see what happens.

France Run: 4:45:04
Kona Run Prediction by training volume: 3:14:42
Realistic estimate: 4:30:00
This one is difficult to estimate since there are too many factors that could impact performance this late in the race.

France Overall: 13:46:47 (Including Transitions)
Kona Overall Prediction by training volume:  9:59:29 (Including Transitions)
Realistic estimate: 11:51:22

Ok so that was an interesting exercise in futility.  Anything can happen on game day.  Bring it on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bank of China (HK) 55th Festival of Sport – Age Group Triathlon - Race Report


May 6, 2012

This was a fun local race held in the same area where I regularly train.  I was looking forward to having a strong race on the bike since I know every inch of the route.

The Swim (1,500m Tai Mei Tuk)

After checking in and setting up my transition area, I headed over to the the water in hopes of having a short warm-up swim before my wave's start.  No such luck.  The entry and exit area to the water was very narrow and only had enough space to accommodate the waves that were already underway.  I resorted to stretching and arm rotations instead.  My swim training volume was considerably low leading into the race so I wasn't expecting much improvement with time.  The target was to stay reasonably relaxed to set me up for a hard effort on the bike.

Once my wave was up I swam out a few meters and positioned myself three quarters of the way to the outside and three quarters of the way back from the front for the deep water start.  The horn sounded and I set off swimming intentionally easy.  The water was calm, cool and murky--not what I'd describe as nice but at the same time not bad either.  There isn't much to report as I held a steady relaxed pace through the entire distance.  Occasionally I had to fight my way through congested swimmers at the turn buoys but quickly broke free into clear water.

Swim Time:  35:09
v. 2010 HK ITU: 36:42

The Bike (40K - Bride's Pool Road Loop x 4)

After a quick T1 I was on the bike (opted for my road bike on this hilly course) and hunting for a decent group to draft behind.  I quickly realized how hard it is to catch decent cyclists as a crap swimmer.  I figured I was roughly 5 to 7 minutes behind the leaders so I set off hammering and sling-shotting my way up through the field.  I was going at a pace I knew was unsustainable for 40K but decided it was worth the gamble to try to catch a decent draft and a bit of relief for the legs.

Each loop of the course included a 1.5K climb (avg 7-8% gradient).  I managed to ride these fairly well without getting passed more than a handful of times. In fact, overall I managed to do more passing than being passed.  I had hoped to really make up ground on the descents.  In training I'm able to rip through the downhills at full speed without ever touching the brakes.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that in the race.  There was simply too many competitors on the course that didn't look confident on the bike and decided to keep my speed in the low 50kph range.

About halfway into the second loop I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to catch any of the fast group ahead and would have to predominately tackle the course on my own--oh well.  I eased back the pace a bit but stayed just under threshold on through to the finish of the bike leg.

Bike Time:  1:18:31
v. 2010 HK ITU: 1:12:36 (much flatter bike course)


The Run (10K - Tai Mei Tuk Dam x 2)

I didn't waste any time in T2 and was quickly out onto the run.  My plan was simple: set into sub 5:00/K pace and hold steady for the first half then grind out a faster final lap. After the first couple of kilometers I developed a side stitch.  It wasn't debilitating but forced my pace to slower than target speed.  I skipped the first couple of aid stations hoping that whatever fluid I had sloshing around in my gut would be quickly absorbed.  Finally, at the halfway mark the side stitch started to ease up and I was able to pick up the pace and make a strong run to the finish.

Run Time:  47:58
v. 2010 HK ITU: 48:56

Overall Time:  2:48:10 (New OD PR)
v. 2010 HK ITU: 2:49:50

13 hours after the race I was on a plane headed to London.  5 days later I set a half marathon PR (1:42) in Hyde Park, London.  Happy days.  Training is looking like it is headed in the right direction for Kona.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Ironman World Championship - Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi

Since I already broke the news on Facebook and Twitter, this blog entry won't be such a surprise to most. [Drum roll]..I landed a entry to Kona in the general lottery!!! (as opposed to the new legacy lottery).

I want to rewind for a few minutes and bring us back to January, 2012. I'm sitting on the sofa with my wife and we are having a conversation about the financial impact of Ironman racing. We did some quick math to estimate how much we spent in 2011 for 70.3 Phuket, Singapore and Taiwan and Ironman France. Flights, hotels, meals, entry fees, equipment purchases, bike maintenance****sigh******$$$$$$$. We agreed on a plan to bring our budget back to health that, conceptually, is similar to the way antibiotics are taken: start with a high dose to kick-start recovery and then maintain a reasonable dosage over time. We agreed that with the exception of 70.3 Singapore that I had already entered, I would not do any other international triathlon in 2012, UNLESS, by some random crazy strike of luck my name was drawn in the Kona lottery. We both figured that my chances of winning were like those of throwing a quarter in a vending machine coin-slot from 100m away. No-brainer, deal done: time to focus on work and family and let triathlon take a back seat for the year. I still planned on training but nothing more than an hour a day.

Fast forward to April 15. The lottery results were announced at midnight while I was sound asleep. I knew the drawing was taking place but didn't bother to stay awake since I didn't have any real faith that my name would be drawn. I woke up in the morning and stumbled toward the coffee machine as usual. On the way down the dark hallway, I hit the power button on my iPhone and was semi-blinded by the light but saw a Facebook update on my lock screen. I saw the words "congrats" and "Kona" in the middle of blah blah blah blah and I thought to myself, "yeah..right." I decided to put the phone down because it was killing my eyes and focused on getting a cup of coffee.  As the machine grinded the beans I started to wake up and think more about Kona. My first thought was, "if I'm in, my wife will be pissed!" and then I thought, "In? Kona? Me?, Crowie, Stadler, Dave, Mark, Chrissie, Carfrae, Cave, Steffen, LANCE, Macca, Steph, Ellis, Lieto, Marino, Granger, Raelert, Jacobs, Dirk, Timo, Tissink, Faris, Henning, Potts, Joyce, Catriona, Amanda, ...the Mecca of Triathlon...and me?!". Third thought, "Where the hell is my laptop?"  The beans finish grinding and the coffee starts to dribble into my cup. 

I grabbed my coffee and flipped open the computer.  I browsed through a few congratulatory messages I received on Facebook and then when to ironman.com to confirm myself that I was in fact a lottery winner.  I scrolled up and down the list of names several times but in my general state of anxiety failed to recognize my own name.  Finally I ran a text search and voila!--found my name.  So much for our savings plan.  The Ironman mantra "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" is sooooooo true!

A couple of days later I received the confirmation email from the WTC that included instructions on registering for the race.  I immediately signed up, paid the $750 entry fee and emailed my recent 70.3 results to validate my entry. Done, done and done.  Next stop Kona.

I know that there are mixed views in the triathlon community regarding the Kona lottery.  The lottery was created in 1983 with the intention of opening up a window of opportunity for a lucky few to experience the championship event.  While there are many that support this program and believe that it is good for the promotion of the sport, others feel that Kona should be exclusively limited to athletes that have qualified through competition thereby creating a pure championship event with only the world's best Iron distance triathletes.  Professional triathletes also have an interest in keeping the size of the field as small as possible so that they can race more effectively over an uncrowded course.  I have been on the fence with this issue for quite some time but I think I am leaning more toward the idea that the World Championship race should be among the best that qualified to be there through competition.  Does this mean I would consider abandoning my lottery slot? Oh hell no.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for the professionals that race to feed themselves and the age-groupers that qualified through blood, sweat and tears.  As such I have every intention of redeeming my "backdoor entry" into this Championship by finishing in a time competitive with the real qualifiers in the 35-39 age group.  Enough said on that.  It is time to talk with my feet.

I added Kona to my schedule at 2peak.com and generated my training plan specifically periodized to have me in top form by October 13th.  Training for this race will not be so simple as I will moving from Hong Kong to London in late May or early June.  International moves are a pain in the butt and I will need to carefully fit in my training around a gazillion other important priorities.  Again, anything is possible, provided one is sufficiently determined and focused.  The question I have yet to answer is, which flag or combination of flags should I carry across the finish?



2012 Ironman 70.3 Singapore - Race Report


I am extremely late in getting this report done and posted because life, as of late, has gotten in the way.  I have quite a bit of interesting news to report in the blog posts to follow so stay tuned!

Last year I gave the race organizers for this event a bit of a hard time for a number of things that I found frustrating and poorly arranged.  You can find that report HERE.  I was really happy to see that this year they made several changes for the better.  Hats off to the organizers for their dedication to improving the entire race experience.

Improvements (2011 v. 2012):
  • 2011: Registration/Expo and Transition in different parts of town. (2012: Registration, Expo and Transition all in one location)
  • 2011:  Expo was jammed into two tiny rooms. (2012:  Bigger and better venue)
  • 2011:  Swim course design led to head-on collisions. (2012:  Course was altered to have safer isolation of the swim start and exit points.)
Changes to the Bike Course: 

From what I understand, the organizers worked very hard in negotiating with various local authorities to improve the bike course.  They were attentive to participant feedback about problems with narrow roads causing forced drafting, blocking and safety issues.  Accordingly they set out to open up the route to wider roads.  To a certain extent they accomplished this but also at the cost of including several sharp turns and a Jerry-rigged wood/carpet ramp crossing over a traffic island.
In my opinion the inclusion of sharp turns takes away from the terrain's natural propensity for speed.  Excluding climate, the elements of a bike course boil down to climbs, flats and technical difficulty.  As such, bike courses typically become categorized by their predominant element or as hybrid of sorts. So, to toss in a bunch of random sharp turns in a course that is begging to be left wide open seems like an unnecessary blemish on an otherwise perfect TT (minus the damn speed strips--more on that later). Alternatively, they could veer away from the flat and lean toward the technical. This would make for a fun ride twisting and turning through downtown Singapore streets. I doubt this could ever happen though since local authorities would probably not grant permission for the road blockage needed. My gut tells me the organizers want to make this flat, fast and open but are up against a nightmare of red tape. Anyhow, if they at least replicate their improvement efforts over the last year, you can expect one hell of an amazing race in 2013.

The Day Before

My alarm went off at 4am and I woke up and ran through a replication of what I would do for race morning.  After a couple of coffees and a visit to the facilities I was out the door for a short run.  I ran for 35 minutes and included 3 x 5 second sprint efforts to get the fast twitch muscle fibers firing and ready for racing speed.


Then I took the bike out for a very relaxed slow 1 hour spin.  My aim was to make sure that my machine was mechanically in order and all of my gearing was smooth.


After a quick shower I rode over to registration and bike check-in.  This year the process was super simple since they had consolidated everything in one location.  In about 45 minutes I had registered and set up my bike in transition for the night.  I decided not to leave anything other than my bike in transition overnight and I would deal with setting up hydration, nutrition, helmet, run shoes, etc., in the morning. 


Then I went out to the sea for a very short 10 minute swim with the intention of just getting a feel for the water's temperature and salinity.

I walked back to the hotel and spent about an hour setting up everything I would need for the race so that in the morning I would not have to reply at all on my brain.  I walked through the morning process at least three times.  Wake up, make coffee, use bathroom, have another coffee, shoes on, grab pre-packed bag, leave room.  As I was going through this routine I heard a loud crack of thunder.  I looked out the window just as the black could filled sky opened up a torrential downpour--great. 

I had an unusually difficult time in getting to sleep the night before the race.  Finally at around 10pm I managed to pass out.  This would give me a total of 6 hours sleep before the race which was definitely not ideal but, at the same time,  was more than I tend to get on any given training day.


Race Morning

At 4am I was up and ready to go.

Physical condition:  My leg muscles felt tighter than usual.  My hamstrings were felt as tight as piano strings.  I tried to do a bit of stretching but it didn't seem to help much.  I also had a strange niggle in my right elbow.  It felt like what I would imagine arthritis feels like.  I tried to just ignore it telling myself that this was just pre-race jitters manifesting itself as hypochondria. 

I took my usual 2 cups of coffee but my GI system was not responding as usual.  I forced out what I could but this left me wondering if somewhere on the bike or run I would find myself in serious trouble.

Despite my trial runs of race morning the night before, I felt completely scatter-brained.  After leaving the hotel room I decided to go back (twice) to check if I had forgotten anything.

Finally I was on the way to the transition area with a 4 kilometer walk ahead of me.  I had my ear buds in listening to music and felt relaxed yet still scatter-brained.  On the walk over I remember seeing camping tents set up all over the beach.  At one site I saw  guy roasting hot dogs on the grill while a group of toddlers were playing in sand--in the dark.  Call me crazy but shouldn't they have be asleep?

I arrived at transition and went straight to body marking.  That was over and done with in a flash and then I headed over to slowly set up everything in transition:

-added a water bottle (with Nuun enhanced water) to my XLab cage on the aero bars.
-added a water bottle (with Nuun enhanced water) to my down tube.
-added gels/salt tablets to top-tube E-pack
-set helmet, shades and race belt on the bike
-Shoes, Vaseline, Spibelt with gels/salt tablets on the ground next to my bike.
-re-checked gears, brakes, quick-release levers, etc.
-dried off the entire bike with a rag and re-oiled the chain.
-pumped the tires up to 140psi (broke my speed chuck in the process).

With the bike all set I then dropped off my street wear bag at the collection tent and headed down to the water for a warmup swim.  With the blood flowing in my arms now I came back to shore and ran into JoggerJoel.  As we stood there chatting on the beach, I was taken off guard by a sudden "pop" sound.  My goggles, which were up on my forehead, busted at the nose bridge.  Time check: 15 minutes until my wave was scheduled to start.  I ran over to the exhibition tent but noticed that they had not opened yet.  I waved down one of the nearby staff and he was gracious enough to pull a pair of Barracuda goggles off the rack for me.  He took down my race number and I promised to pay for the goggles after finishing (which I did).  I told the guy he was my hero and then rushed back to the water to test out the new goggles.  Aree bhaiyaa aal izz well!, Aree chachu aal izz well!, Aree bhaiyaa aal izz well!!!

The goggles seemed to work well so I made my way to queue up for the swim start.  I decided to put myself 3/4 of the way to the outside and roughly halfway between the front and back of the crowd.  The idea was to be ahead of the breastrokers that hopefully congregated toward the back and just enough to the outside to avoid the melee at the start but still have a reasonable line to the first turn.

Swim - Singapore Straight (1,900m)

 The swim start was much less chaotic than the year before.  Other than some minor pushing and shoving for position, it wasn't much of a washing machine and I was able to get quickly into a decent rhythm.  At the first turn I crashed into a pile of flailing bodies.  I had to fight quite hard to get beyond the mess and when I finally came through my heart-rate was skyrocketing.  I knew that If I didn't find a way calm down quickly, I'd end up in a panic and have to break from the freestyle stroke.  In order to stop the snowball effect of panic I decided on taking exactly 10 long over-gliding strokes.  Doing so reduced my speed considerably and I was passed by several others but in the end it paid off.  Shortly after I was back in control and starting to move my way up through the field.

For the first lap I tried to keep the pace relaxed.  The plan was to increase effort on the final lap and finish strong.  Unfortunately, things started to get increasingly congested the further I got into the swim.  The compact swim course contains 8 turns and not a single one of them went smoothly.  Also, I was not able to find a decent set of feet to draft behind or clear stretch of water to swim solo for more than a minute or two.  In short, it was a crowded swim throughout.  I spent much more time concentrating on weaving through the crowd than about swim technique.

Somewhere in the middle of the second lap I took a quick look around to note the color of the swim caps around me.  I was happy to discover that I was surrounded by swimmers that started 5 minutes before me.  Granted, these were "one and done" athletes but nevertheless it helped to boost my spirits a bit. I also saw a couple of swim caps from the wave after mine reminding me that I'm no Phelps.

Exiting the water after the final lap I glanced at my watch and saw 48 minutes.  Not great but not a disaster either.  I ran strong into T1 ready to get to work on the bike.

Swim Time: 48:53
Last year: 53:09

T1

As I ran into T1 I had a hell of a time getting my swim skin off.  The BlueSeventy zipper has a self locking mechanism and it usually unzips very easily--usually.  After 10 seconds of tugging and yanking I decided to just open the zipper by brute force.  This was a painful decision to make having shelled out USD$250 for the suit.  I guessed that I had ripped/ruined it in the removal process but was happy to discover after the race that it was still in one piece.

The rest of transition was quick and smooth. Helmet on, glasses on, race belt on, un-rack bike, go.

T1 Time: 2:28
Last Year: 3:52


Bike (90K)

I launched into the bike aggressively ready to get to work on my target of holding 36Kph.  My legs weren't exactly feeling great but I knew they would feel better after warming up for a few kilometers.  On the second kilometer, the wind visor on my helmet blew off violently in the wind.  Agggh!  This was a minor event but I couldn't help but to be surprised by the growing list of small problems I was encountering.  If I had taken 2 seconds to check and tighten the fastening screws on the visor before the race this wouldn't have happened.  It was turning out to be a day of rookie mistakes--sad considering I'm not really a rookie at this point.

I averaged 33.10Kph over the first 30K lap.  Although this was under my target speed I was feeling good and guessed that I could pick it up a bit over the next 2 laps.

Despite my optimism after the first lap, I started to feel awkward in the saddle.  I had a bike fit done 3 weeks before the race but due to a business trip only had a few training rides in the new position. Once again: rookie mistake.  As I approached the turn around to complete the second lap, I heard a "pssssshhhhhh" sound.  I was riding in between two concrete road dividers and sounds from the cyclists in front and behind were echoing all over.  I looked down at my wheels and everything seemed to be in order.  At the sharp u-turn, I noticed that my front wheel was not hugging the road well.  Now, here is where I am impressed by my own stupidity.  Any nimwit could figure out that pssssshhhhhh + loss of traction on a turn = flat tire.  My overage speed on the second lap was 31.1Kph.

I simply didn't want to admit the possibility to myself (probably because I wasn't carrying a spare tire).  So here I was facing another 30 kilometers of cycling with a completely flat front tire.  My efforts to ignore the problem became impossible when I reached the series of speed strips on the road adjacent to the airport.  These are not gentle rolling speed bumps.  These little buggers are 3-4cm high and come in rows of 5.  I can't describe in words how horrible the sound of my all-carbon front rim cracking against these strips was.  I tried my best to keep my speed up but no matter what gear I went to it was clear that my legs were having to work much harder to ride with a flat.  At the turn around halfway through the final lap I pulled into a Shimano bike aid station and asked to have my front tire pumped up.  I was in and out in less than a minute and prayed that the air would last until the finish line.  No dice.  After a few minutes my tire was completely flat again.  Pissed off and feeling stupid for not carrying a spare tire, I struggled on through to the finish.  Enter the next rookie mistake.  I realized that for the last hour my mind had been completely wrapped around the flat tire and I had completely abandoned my nutrition plan. This left me under-fueled and dehydrated going into the run.  On the final lap I averaged 28.72Kph.  That's not a bad speed for cycling on a flat but it came at a cost which I would soon discover on the run.

Bike Time: 2:52:30
Last Year: 2:33:34

T2

Transition was quick and to the point.  I took a little extra time than usual to smear some Vaseline on my feet in order to avoid the blisters that I experienced at 70.3 Taiwan.

T2 Time: 03:08
Last Year: 02:13

Run (21.1K)

I set off running aiming at a 5:15/k pace.  Although my first two kilometers were close to target pace,I knew that something didn't feel right.  Then suddenly it was if I was slammed by a wave of exhaustion bringing me to a walk.  I've never had this happen so quickly in any endurance race.  I've faced fatigue, exhaustion and pain but they typically come on gradually which gives me time to think through it and overcome the desire to slow down.  But this time it came in a rush without warning as if something flipped a switch controlling my brain and body: flick-power off.

After walking the 3rd kilometer feeling sorry for myself, I finally hashed together a plan to get me to the finish line.  I settled on running 500m intervals over the remaining 18 kilometers.  Run 500, walk 500, repeat.  This was a miserable way to finish a race but I figured it was better than quitting or walking the entire distance.

Eventually I glumly came across the finish line ending a crap day of racing.  I can only point the finger of blame at myself though since the course and conditions were great.  Anyhow, live and learn, onwards and upwards.

Run time: 2:41:05
Last Year: 2:12:36

Total Race Time: 6:28:05
Last Year: 5:45:24