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


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


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"  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.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job dude! Hope I get the chance to do the same at some point ;)