This race is never easy…and it can be, more than any other ironman, unpredictable. This was my third year in a row competing on the Big Island. I really love it here…but this was probably my last time racing here, so I really wanted to put in a good effort. And, truth be told, I wanted to go sub-10 hours….preferably sub-9:50, depending on what the day threw at us. The weeks leading up to the race were very stressful and busy at work, and I definitely didn’t get all of my workouts in. It took me a few days of being in Kona before I wasn’t completely stressed out. Then on Thursday, I had curveball thrown at me. I woke up feeling extra tired and groggy….and by the end of the day, my throat was sore. Friday wasn’t much better….even worse as the symptoms of a head cold settled in. However, I miraculously felt much, much better on race morning. Anyway, barring all of the above, I really think that I arrived at the starting line, ready to go.
I woke up just before 4am to start getting my nutrition in….pretty seamless. I applied lots of sunscreen in preparation for the scorching heat. We headed down to transition about 5:15. Alii Drive was already buzzing with people. We made it through body marking and down to transition. Everything about this race is different than every other triathlon I’ve ever done. For instance, body marking has an organized tent with volunteers who use number blocks to stamp your number on (not people with markers). After making it into transition, I got everything set up with my bike and got ready to race. One thing that I didn’t do on race morning, which I’ve done for every other ironman, is take Advil. I usually take it the day before the race, morning of the race and after the bike. I had planned to do this here as well, but it just slipped. After we dropped off our morning swim bags, we headed down to the swim start to figure out where we were going to seed ourselves among the masses. Since this was my third year, Matt Pokress decided to let me choose the start placement for him.
Matt and I made our way to the left of the field and started treading water. I noticed that the swim buoys were over to the right (that’s where most people will gravitate). I figured that we could just swim straight out and then begin to veer to the right. There was also a basic line of rope and buoys off to the left (which had nothing to do with the swim). When the cannon went off, I swam straight out, went under the buoys and rope and had 300 meters of clean swimming, because the majority of the field either went hard left or hard right. Since swimming is not my strength, it really didn’t matter, because it didn’t take long to get swallowed up by the field. Then it’s just a mashing of elbows, feet and legs. However, I remember thinking on the way out to the turnaround that it wasn’t “too bad”….for Kona. In the midst of 1800+ people, I saw Matt Pokress at the swim turnaround. I tried to follow him, but was lucky I didn’t. He got pushed inside, and I went outside. Although I still got beat up on the outside, I must have had a cleaner swim, as I put a minute on him on the way back. I’m fairly certain that I saw my buddy, Tim Tapply, out there as well….regardless, we finished within 7 seconds of each other on the swim. All I remember thinking about out in the swim was please get this over and get me on the bike!
I was pretty methodical through transition. I had purchased sunscreen, and put it in my bag, so I could reapply before heading out on the bike. Note to self, don’t use aerosol sunscreen after chaffing for an hour in the swim! As soon as I sprayed it, it was burning like hell. What was I thinking! Anyway, out of T-1 and onto the bike. I began the bike with my shoes clipped in already (something that was illegal at IMLP). This was great. I also decided to go with the road helmet, which was a good choice for me. Other than a dropped chain 1.5 miles in, the first 30 miles were uneventful. There were definitely some draft packs forming….but I thought the officials did a good job of breaking them up. Every time I rode by a penalty tent, it was full. I felt decent on the bike. I was trying to nail my nutrition plan. However, I was having one problem….I have trouble with Powerbar Ironman Perform, which is what they now serve on the course (they formerly used Gatorade). I had similar difficulty in Lake Placid, but it’s nowhere near as hot as Kona. Anyway, I thought that I had a decent alternative plan which was to take as much Perform as I could, but also to take more straight water and supplement it with salt/sodium capsules. I’m not sure this plan was great, as I realized later, during the run, that I was pretty damn dehydrated. Back to the bike….the ride was going pretty well. I could tell my lower back was getting a bit tweaked…but this happens at any IM race I do. As we began our climb into Hawi, I was thinking, jeeze, the conditions aren’t too bad. Then, I looked down at the ocean (which is approx. 2 miles away), and saw two things: One section that looked calm and glassy, and another section that was waves and huge whitecaps….which is where we were heading! I could see the wind gusts coming based on the riders in front, so I just held on for dear life. Lots of people ask about the winds in Kona…..and there’s just no real way to describe it. When it’s windy up there you’re literally holding onto your bike and hoping you don’t get blown off the road, period. After 10 miles of fighting the crosswinds, I made it to Hawi and the turnaround. We had a nice, short reprieve, when it began to rain…but it was short lived. Even though we had the crosswinds on the way down, it was definitely easier to handle. I was hitting the 40s at times on the way down. However, once back onto the Queen K, the heat really got turned up, as the day came. After the race, people had said that the Queen K was in the 120s. It felt like it. I knew that I was having a decent ride. I don’t think that I cracked 5:40 in my previous two attempts….and I was on track to go 5:20 here. This was promising considering that I didn’t ride as hard (Power and HR) as my coach had prescribed. But, I just didn’t feel like I could ride the higher numbers and be able to have a strong run off the bike. I rode back into Kona and felt decent and ready to get off the damn bike.
Off the bike into T-2. After a quick bathroom stop, I made it through transition and out onto the run course. My legs were definitely there….I felt very good. Goal was to keep the HR 150-155 for the first 5 miles, 155-158 the second five miles, and then hold 157-163 for the rest. I cruised the first five miles….hit the turnaround and cruised the second 5. The only thing I noticed was that my knees were a bit achy. For a little background, I began to have patellar tendon issues with my knees just before IM Lake Placid. This pain is excruciating. Anyway, I’ve been able to keep in check and get my long runs in….but on occasion, I have relied on Advil. And, I’ve always raced with Advil. Anyway, on my way out of town, up Palani Drive and out onto the Queen K, my stride began to shorten and my hamstrings tightened up….and my knees began to hurt more than usual. I held on okay for a bit….but it just got worse….and I just kept getting slower. Matt Pokress passed me at about 12 or 13 miles (I think). I had passed him earlier on Palani Drive. He was running well, and I did all I could to run with him. I stayed with him for a bit, but I could see the writing on the wall. I was done. He pulled away from me as we approached the Energy Lab. The frustrating thing for me is that I was running so well….and by no means “blew up”. In fact, my HR was probably around 130 when I was running with Matt. This was the first time where my body just didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. I’m not sure if the Advil would have made that much of a difference, but I think it would have helped some. I do think that I was pretty dehydrated, and that added to the physical issues. So, who knows, even with my physical issues, I may have blown up at some point. Anyway, this turned out to be the hardest IM I’ve ever done. It took all of my power to my ass out of the Energy Lab…and lots of walking. By the time I was in the EL, I was reduced to a shuffle, when I could run at all. For a while, I still had hopes of going under 10 hours….but I just started doing the math and realized that with the way I was moving, it was very unlikely. When I got back up onto the Queen K, I was dealing with hip and lower back tightness, super tight hamstrings, excruciating knee pain and Achilles heel tightness…..not to mention a crushed ego. The end of the run just took me forever. Mostly walking…but I tried to run as much as I could. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I made it back into Kona (running downhill on Palani was like sticking pins in my knees). I saw Dede Greisbauer walking up ahead (she also had a rough day), and coaxed her to run home w/me. We ran down Alii to the finish (although she stopped to say hello to someone). I did my best to enjoy the finish line, but I was in some difficulty.
I’m happy this race is over. And, while I would have preferred a better outcome, 10:09 in Hawaii is nothing to shake your head at. I’ve just never had the “issues” like this before….at least to the point where I can’t run like I’m capable. I would say…” I need to get these resolved and come back”….but I have no desire to do another Ironman for a long time. I had a good race in Lake Placid…and that was the goal. Kona was icing on the cake. I only wish that I could have run the way I’m capable…..since I’m in better running shape now than when I ran my 3:07 in LP. Hell, the way I felt last night and, to some extent still feel today, I don’t want to put myself through that pain again (I had trouble sitting at a restaurant last night my knees hurt so bad). I love triathlon, I love competing….and Ironman is a great race. But, I don’t love the distance…I never have. It’s just too long. Too many variables. For me, the tough thing is saying goodbye to Kona. After several years to chasing the Kona dream, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the race here for the past 3 years. Jenn and I love the island. Someday, maybe I’ll compete here again. But, it won’t be for a long, long time. Next year I hope to be tearing up the shorter course races! Okay…Jenn has been a trooper for the past week (and most of my time training). It’s time to start her vacation. I’ll leave you with some pictures from yesterday:
|Mass Swim Start|
|Still feeling decent coming off the bike|
|Tim Tapply starting the run|
|Starting the run and still feeling good|
|Heading back on Alii Drive....still cruising|
|Finishing up with the "Nothing I could do" gesture to Jenn.|
|Mexican food and beers post race|