January 23, 2018

Ironman Hawaii Talk with Sherry Rennard – Episode 28

A chat with Sherry Rennard to reflect her preparation and her experience at 2011 Ironman World Championships.

Sherry shared a memory that will be etched in her mind forever; pumping her arms in the air, the biggest smile on her face, and crossing the finish of the biggest race in the sport of triathlon…

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Ironman Arizona 2011 Race Report by Mark Arenal

After 20 plus years of aspiring to do an Ironman event, November 20, 2011 was my day. After first becoming involved with the sport of triathlon in 1989 and traveling to Kona to spectate with my wife Corinne and 1 year old daughter Michelle in 1990 I have aspired to complete the “Big Daddy” of all triathlons. While participating at Ironman Kona these days takes both amazing performance and luck at a qualifying event or possibly the luck of getting in via the lottery, Ironman triathlon events now exist all over the planet enabling us average age group triathletes the opportunity to participate.

Last November, I entered the Arizona Ironman event as I realized that I continued to wait for the “right time” to enter an Ironman and that maybe that time was NOW. Considering that timing is rarely if ever perfect for something like this and the fact that I am not getting any younger-it was time to go for it.

That decision combined with a year to prepare and some fairly consistent training and participation in running, cycling and triathlons over the years gave me my launching pad to make this happen. That said none of this would be possible without the tremendous support and encouragement from my family and friends.

After being blessed through the year with minimal training interruptions due to illness, I did encounter some challenges along the way in the form of a nagging and lingering hamstring injury, the passing of my father after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, moving from our home the week before IMAZ and an overall difficult business environment.

It would have been easy in some ways to throw in the towel after we found our house had sold and we had to be out by November 11th, but I was absolutely determined to make the starting line at IMAZ after all of the time and energy that had gone into preparing for the event. I am grateful that the timing was such that it happened during my taper phase of training! So we moved and literally a week later on Thursday, I was on the road heading to Arizona with my long time friend and triathlon mentor/coach Ron Saetermoe. Ron’s experience (and example) in triathlon and Ironman events in particular helped me tremendously in preparing for this event. I was very glad to have him along to make the experience as smooth as possible and for the great camaraderie!

The weather forecast was favorable for the weekend and Friday was perfect for a preview of the bike and run course. We drove a lap of the bike course then rode a portion of it followed by a short run along Tempe Town Lake. If race weather was like this-it would be awesome! The balance of Friday was taken up by figuring out the food plan, athlete registration and the almost mandatory Ironman souvenir shopping and expo visit. Friday evening we met up with fellow JSerra High School dad and first time Ironman participant, Alan Mariconda and attended the carbo load dinner and pre-race meeting hosted by Mike Reilly. While the food is average, the experience is part of doing an Ironman. It was amazing to see how many first-time Ironman participants were entered in the event when Mike Reilly asked those to stand. I was so glad to be in such good company!

Saturday turned out to be another nice morning and we started off the day with a huge breakfast feast at the hotel followed by a swim in COLD Tempe Town Lake. I was glad to have the opportunity to sample the water before race morning. While it was cold and I knew it would be, it seems that taking the surprise out of it really helps.

Ironman events are logistical challenges as well and on Saturday (or the day before the event) you need to place your bike and gear bags in the transition area. If you haven’t done an Ironman before, the transition area is slightly different from most triathlons as you don’t set up all of your gear at your bike. After the swim, you have to retrieve your “Bike Gear” from the sea of other bags in the transition area and head to the changing tent. After the bike you then grab your “Run Gear” bag and do the same. It is organized chaos at best. Determining what I was going to need on race day was made somewhat easier by a checklist and other triathlon experience but there is always this feeling that I am forgetting something or I did not pack enough. Must be the survivor mentality…

My daughter Michelle and son Michael arrived after driving in from Orange County and we went to Bucca Di Beppo for a nice Italian dinner. My aim was to get to bed by 8:30 and after mixing up my nutrition-in-a-bottle” and finishing my pre-race preparations, I got to bed about 9. It doesn’t matter because as good as I slept on Friday night, I could not get to sleep soundly on Saturday night. No matter, I woke before the alarm at about 3:30 and proceeded to get ready. I felt calm and ready to get to it.

We arrived to the transition area about 5am and proceeded to get body marked, put the final items in my bike and run bags, drop off my “Special Needs” bags for the bike and run and load up my bike with nutrition and inflated the tires. I put on my wetsuit and handed my backpack to my “Iron Sherpa” Ron and headed towards the swim course. I felt calm and ready and was enjoying the pre-race activity with the other participants. I felt comfortable with the decision to use neoprene booties and swim cap after yesterday’s pre-race swim. I had them with me and figured, “why wouldn’t I wear them”?

The long line of athlete’s getting into the water went slowly and now they were hurrying us to get in the water. No “slow in getting used to it” this morning-time to go! I had decided to start way to the left at the swim start to avoid the melee as this is a mass start. That plan changed as I realized I was too far back and it was not that crowded. I started swimming towards the start when I heard an air-horn blast. I mistook this for the official start and hit the start button on my Polar watch. After what seemed like a minute or so, a loud cannon blast was sounded and I realized that NOW the race was underway. Good thing I had started swimming a minute or so earlier. It wasn’t too crowded and I was able to get into a fairly decent rhythm from the beginning. The sun was now rising above the water, making visibility a bit difficult. As I approached the half way point, I was now encountering lots of other athletes and having to pay more attention to not being hit or hitting someone. I did nail a couple of others as we swam into each other but after a quick check and apologies, we motored on. At the turn around there was a loud yell. Everyone stopped and was looking around; a very strange and disconcerting situation. After a life guard on a paddle board headed for one of the swimmers everything seemed OK and we all started at it again. I felt as if I was going a bit too easily at this point and started to focus and push a bit harder. The swim finish was gradually getting closer. About 700 meters from the finish I experienced intense cramping in both calf muscles that caused me to curl up in pain. I relaxed and talked myself through the pain until it subsided. It seemed like only about a minute and I was OK, swimming towards the exit. I was glad for the swim to be over but it did not seem too far; just cold and I did not want to experience any more cramping! After exiting the water, two volunteers helped me out of my wetsuit and I ran towards the bike bag area with hundreds of my closest friends.

I entered the changing tent and immediately noted how crowded it was. The only silver lining was that it was warm! I clumsily changed from swimmer to cyclist once I found a clear spot to change and after what seemed like probably too long, exited the tent and headed for my bike. I inhaled a Hammer gel and put on my cycling shoes as a volunteer handed me my bike. I ran to the mounting area and proceeded to get started on the next 112 miles. As I started to ride, I noticed that I was freezing cold and my teeth were chattering. I tried to go with the flow and get aero and forget about how cold I was. About that time, Michelle and Michael spotted me and yelled out to me. For some reason, I wanted to turn and go over to them and realized it was not a good idea. That started me into a wobble on the bike that could have been really ugly. Fortunately, I recovered and motored on. Later they told me they felt bad for distracting me and they caught the whole thing on video! Nice! Not my most stellar moment of the race; two bullets dodged so far…

I was glad the sun was out even though it was a bit cold and after about mile 10, I started to warm up and dry out. At that point I started to revel in the moment as I realized what I was doing and appreciated being out there again. I began to focus on getting into my heart rate zone and stay aero, take fluids and nutrition. As I started up the grade towards the bike turn around I noticed a pretty good head wind. After making the turn around and heading back, the head wind became a tail wind and I was now making some good solid progress with bike speeds in the 27-28 mph range. On lap two, the winds had shifted and now the wind was at my back on the way up the grade to the turn around and in my face going back. Kind of a bummer as I didn’t get the benefit of the wind like I would have hoped. No matter. It was the same for all of us. I stopped to pick up my special needs bag and munch down my peanut butter and honey sandwich as I waited for my turn at the porta-potty. Yummy…

Just prior to the bike turn around, I caught up with Alan Mariconda and chatted with him for a bit. That seemed to get him moving faster as he went back by me as I entered the special needs area. Later, Alan shared with me that he crashed twice on the bike after that as he tried to avoid obstacles on the course.

I welcomed lap 3 on the bike with a nagging pain in my right knee and stomach cramping. I remembered the advice given to me by my doctor and fellow Triathlete, Dr. Sam Sunshine to pack some Pepto-Bismol tablets. That started to help as I headed back on the final leg of the bike. Fortunately, the wind had subsided a bit by lap three as well which was very welcome. Entering the final few miles on the bike course is very energizing as you see the people lining the course in increasing numbers as you near the transition area. I arrived at the dismount line and was thankful to hand off my bike to a volunteer! I felt a tiny bit like a pro for a fleeting moment as I have been a bike catcher at Kona before and now it was my turn for someone to take my bike at an Ironman event!

I quickly headed to the run bag area and into the changing tent one more time. I found a chair to sit in and dumped the contents of the run bag onto the ground. I changed my bike shorts for tri-shorts and rubbed Glide onto my toes and feet before putting on a fresh pair of socks and my running shoes. I stuffed my bike gear into the bag, handed it to a volunteer and blasted out of the tent (kind of), improving on the swim to bike transition earlier in the day by several minutes. As I headed out on the run course a volunteer rubbed sunscreen on both arms and shoulders – I thought it might be a waste as I would probably make only a lap and a half before the sun would start to set…

As I proceeded to run I discovered the remaining effects of the muscle cramps I experienced during the swim; my calf muscles were extremely tight and it was painful to run! I took it easy and ran as smoothly as possible to minimize the pain. About ½ mile into the run, Michelle, Michael and Ron were there cheering me on and running alongside of me taking pictures and video. You guys don’t know how good it was to see you all out there! It motivated me and kept me thinking that I could get through this! I kept running and felt half way decent the entire first lap and only walked minimally. The aid stations also helped keep me going both because they were an interesting distraction and because they had “stuff” that I wanted like salty potato chips, cola and ice cold sponges!
About half way through the second lap, I decided to stop at my special needs bag and change shoes and eat some of the power bagel I had stashed. As I began to run, I realized that the older shoes that I had just changed to were noticeably hard in landing. I decided to run the lap and change back to my previous pair of shoes when I came by again. The second lap was noticeably tougher and I walked more than on my first lap. I kept telling myself to run to the next aid station-then I could walk for a bit; that combined with the salty potato chips and cola kept me going.

As I entered my third lap, I was feeling confident about finishing and enjoying the buildup to the finish. I tried to keep things light whenever possible throughout the day and enjoyed the surroundings and all of the people, participants, volunteers and spectators. As you have often heard, the volunteers are amazing as they stand out there all day for us! I truly appreciate their support! On my third and final lap, I noticed that I was now encountering more participants who were on their second lap and somehow that made my effort a bit easier knowing that I was headed to the finish! The last lap seemed to go by quickly however I know it was my slowest run lap of the day. I was finally approaching the entrance to the final quarter mile and finish line frenzy. Ron was there to greet me and told me that Michelle and Michael were up ahead on the right. I was so energized! I saw my kids and the huge crowd yelling support-what an amazing experience. I crossed the finish line and gave a prayer of thanks for being given the strength to complete my first Ironman. I was assisted by a gracious volunteer who made sure I was alright and awarded me with a finisher’s medal, hat and shirt before he went back to catch another finisher. I headed over to the fence where Michelle and Michael were and we had a big high five and hug-I was so glad they were there! I have never seen my kids so outright happy for me-it was truly a blessing! We then called my wife Corinne on the cell phone to let her know it was official; “I was an Ironman!”

My times:

Swim: 1:27:11 Bike: 6:44:53 Run: 6:04:42 Total: 14:43:17 Overall: 1976 Age Group: 131

While about an hour slower than I hoped for, I now have a base line to improve upon next time!

I want to thank all of the people that supported me in this quest-especially my wife who knew that it was an important goal for me. She was there all year and made the tough call to stay home, save the money for having to board three dogs and take care of getting us settled into our new home while we went to Arizona.

My daughter Michelle and son Michael who always supported & encouraged me and made the drive to Arizona to be there and be part of the experience. Wow!

For Ron Saetermoe who not only gave up his weekend but numerous times during the year met me for long rides, runs and weight training sessions. I often told him that there weren’t many people I knew who would be willing to head out for 6-7 hour bike rides and a run afterwards! In addition, his coaching and experience made things much easier and gave me confidence in what I was doing.

To the many others who have helped and encouraged me, including in no particular order;

  • Dr. Sam Sunshine for the great health care, Prolotherapy treatments and Ironman advice!
  • Dr. Scott Neubauer for his consultation and great therapy in diagnosing and treating my injury
  • Gabor the Muscle Doctor for the amazing massage therapy
  • Larry Davidson, Gary Clendenin and Dori Lewis for your advice, company on training rides, encouragement and great examples of commitment to your triathlon and cycling goals.

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Why Do You Race Triathlons?

Have you ever thought about WHY you race triathlons? That question
really perplexes people until they’ve actually done one, then the
answers start to fly. And those that have “braved” the Iron-distance
triathlons have an additional set of reasons.

Here are some we’ve heard:

  • The training helps keep me in shape.
  • I feel better about myself.
  • I like working out for a purpose rather than just stay in shape.
  • It’s fun!
  • I like trying to better my time from the last race.
  • I look forward to the race.
  • To feed my competitive spirit.
  • I don’t necessarily like to race but it feels good when I stop!
  • The races help push me to new limits.
  • The race itself is a test of my fitness.
  • I race to be at my best.
  • It’s something most people don’t do.
  • Because I like people to think I’m crazy!
  • I race because I can’t stop!
  • I enjoy the fellowship.

Post Your reason below . . .

The Triathica Academy is giving away a FREE set of running AND cycling
audio workouts
for the most creative reason from YOU!

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Interview with Jim Herkimer – Episode 27

In this installment of TriChatter Ron and Jim Herkimer, executive director of SCAR – sports medicine and general fitness facility, discuss improving performance, preventive exercises and treatment programs.

Along with physical therapy, Jim and his team develop sports conditioning programs for athletes of all levels and abilities to help them perform better while minimizing the risk for injury using our functional training exercises.

Please visit SCAR for more information.

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Ironman Hawaii 2011 – Sherry Rennard

KONA 2011 RACE REPORT by Sherry Rennard

I have had one week now to reflect on my experience at Kona, and since everyone else is filing their race reports, being the competitor that I am, I realized it was time to get busy.

The Ironman World Championships is definitely all it is cracked up to be, and then some! I learned things I will take with me for the rest of my racing days; met people who inspired me and made me realize what being BOLD and COURAGEOUS really means.

Throughout race week, every day hundreds of athletes would arrive and you could hear every language being spoken. I went to the race start every morning except once and did a swim (that obviously really paid off, hahaha!!!) in the AMAZING clear blue water, perfect temperature, many varieties of fish swimming about. My longest swim was on Saturday (one week prior to race day), for 1:20, we swam out to the next-to-last buoy for what seemed like forever. Based on how long it took me to get out there and back, without much stopping, I knew my swim goal of 1:30 was realistic. I was hoping the draft would help me out, but I knew that coming out of the water mid-pack in my age group would be a realistic goal at best.

With that being said, one thing I always kept in mind was the sage advice of friends who have raced at Kona. They all reminded me that it would be smart to not “race” my first year here, but to “experience” the event, always keep my head about me as my best resource, and finish no matter what. I wanted to set race goals that were realistic for me if I raced smart, while maintaining the balance of savoring this fantastic experience, feeling well trained and tapered (which I was!!), pushing myself at the right times, and especially not getting caught up in everything else that was going on around me. I had a plan to accept whatever my time was on the swim and leave that behind me, then play my strengths on the bike and run to reach my finish goal. I know there were people who had their own goals set for me, and I often reminded them that this is the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, and most of these competitors are very fast and have a lot of Ironman race experience that I don’t have…although, can I just say that I think I was one of the better-looking and better-dressed competitors!! Kona 2011 is my third Ironman (Lake Placid in 2006 @ 12:33, Ironman Canada 2009 @ 11:54). This experience is humbling, to say the least. The woman who won the 50-54 y/o AG, Teresa Rider, has done 24 Ironmans. She has been World Champion twice. She finished in 10:44 and there were several women who were not that far behind her. That is the caliber of athlete who shows up here. There is a lot to be said for Ironman racing experience. Here in Kona, having experience racing this course in the past is a huge asset. With all of these factors in mind, my goal was to finish the race in under 12 hours, and anything under 11:54 would be even better. I figured I had a chance to get in the top 25%, and a top 10 finish would be icing on the cake. When I broke it down to swim/bike/run, I knew my goal time would be attainable if I raced strong & smart.

I was one of the first to arrive on race morning. Every moment was special, from getting the numbers stamped on both arms, to stepping on the scale for the pre-race weigh in. My only complaint was that they were playing “Inya” music during the set up, and it was downright depressing!!!! I called my niece in PA., then sat under a palm tree, taking in all the scenes, and cried for a bit… a sense of awe, relief, anticipation, joy, thankfulness and humility; it was a very intense time for me. I said a prayer that I would be safe that day, for courage and strength, and gave thanks that I was able to be in that place, at that moment.

I had a flat in my rear tire before the race start. I saw some latex leaking out after I had pumped up the tires in the morning. I found a staple, probably picked up on the walk over to the bike check-in (it rained a lot two nights previous). After my two flats in Canada, I decided to have the tire changed. By 6:45 it was done and I was one of the last to get in the water at 6:50. I now had no spare, but did have Pit Stop and lots of C02, and a husband who was a volunteer bike tech on the course, so I felt OK about that. Before I knew it, I was trying to find a spot to start the swim, and off the gun went!!

The swim was crowded and chaotic in the beginning, but really not that bad. Everyone did seem to be swimming “right”, no breast stroking, stopping, etc. I stayed in the draft as much as I could and hoped everyone in front of me knew where they were going. The buoys are not very big, and when I did look up, we were all headed to the same place. At the turn around, I glanced at my watch, 42 minutes, so I knew I was on goal pace. OK, so I probably was not going as fast as I could have been, but I tried to keep a good turnover cadence and constantly thought about my form. I had the voices of all the best swimmers I know: Julie Ertel, Camille, Julia and Angie, in my head, telling me to keep the elbows high, get the chest down and butt up, cup the hand properly, wave “bye bye”, swim over the barrel, push the water back, etc.

I knew there was a bit of a current on the way back so I anticipated a bit slower of a split there… After the turn around, the pack thinned out considerably, with all the fast swimmers way out in front of me by that point. Not being in a draft against the current is not good, so I tried to stay behind at least one person as much as I could, but my navigational skills would often tell me this person was NOT swimming straight, and I would go on my own to try to get into a faster stream. Shortly after the turn around, I suppose because the water was not churning so much, I became aware of the plethora of sea life around us; schools of beautiful fish, coral, and suddenly spinner dolphins everywhere. Anyone who has been with me in the ocean knows I am crazy about dolphins!!! I get ecstatic when I see them anywhere nearby, and to have them frolicking underneath me, swimming along with me for at least ten minutes, was bliss!! I slowly but surely made my way back to the beach, came out of the water at 1:33, a bit slower than goal pace, but I felt fresh and ready to go.

T1 was quick, got out of there in 1 minute less than I had anticipated, and I quickly settled in on the bike for the first ten miles through town. The first 35 miles of the ride were comfortable and I felt strong/fast, worked on hydration, and before long I was making the turn for the 18 mile climb to Hawi. I had practiced this earlier in the week and knew it was a long, gradual climb, with some rollers, but the winds for the seven miles at the top could be brutal, and very scary. My friend Jerry had advised me to try to stay in the aerobars, no matter what, and I knew it would help to be spinning at a high cadence. I had a strong ride here, and when the winds would gust at me from the side, I would lean into them, allow myself to be moved a bit, but would not turn into them or give up. I kept repeating the same scripture over and over in my head (…be bold and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you at all times…), gritted my teeth, and DUG IN!!! After the turn around, on the long descent it is important to maintain control against the wind, while trying to make up for some of the time lost on the climb. I made it back to the Queen K, having passed many in my age group at that point, and settled in for the ride back to town.

At mile 80 I started to hit the legendary head-winds which continued for the next 30 miles. I remained as aero as possible, continued to drink copious amounts of water and electrolytes, and taking in nutrition, which was hard to do in this heat. Dr. Sam Sunshine told me the temp. was 115 or something like that with the heat. My bike shorts were covered in salt. I still question whether I should have used my aero helmet. It may have made me a bit faster, but I was able to douse my head & body with water at every aid station, so this did help me stay cooler. What I did not realize, however, was how soaking wet my shorts and socks would get. By the time I got to mile 70, my crotch was screaming, and when I would occasionally get out of the saddle, I had horrible searing pain in my right foot (I think I’m getting a neuroma…). Since we all know that pain is to be expected in the Ironman, I just pushed through it… suffice it to say, I was so happy to get off that bike, it made me look forward to running a marathon!! My goal was to finish the bike in under 6:05 and I finished at 6:03. I did not want to push too hard to get under 6 hours, only to lose a lot more time than that on the run. I had learned in Ironman Canada that it always does come down to the run.

Another lesson I learned that day was to put on fresh, dry socks for the run, and some Vaseline would help also. I had worn compression socks on the bike, which I planned to wear for the run as well. As soon as I started running, I realized that my feet were already raw in spots on the bottom from being in the bike shoes for six hours. Ouch. I had already knocked on the door of the House of Pain, and I was running through the threshold!! I was focused on running on target pace to finish in under 4:10 and reminded myself that the sooner I got to the finish, the sooner I could take off those wet shoes & socks!! The feet continued to get wet as I used ice and sponges throughout the run to try to cool off. I held ice cubes in my hand, put ice in the hat & bra, and even in my shorts a couple of times. It was HOT!!!

I made my way down to the turn around on Ali’I Drive, then back through town and up the long, steep hill on Pilani. In my opinion, this area, and the run north on the Queen K toward the Energy Lab, was the toughest part of the course. This hill takes a lot out of you, and the rollers on the Queen K really start to take a toll on your body. I started drinking Coke at mile 11 and with every mile I started to feel just a little faster/stronger. I saw Pete at mile 10 and he tried to run with me a bit/talk to me. I put my hand up and said nothing….”Don’t talk to me now. I’m in the House of Pain and really don’t want to hear or say a word… it’s time to focus… dig deep….remind myself of what this is all about… how hard I’ve worked to get to this very point… a PR right around the corner if I keep this up”.… At the turn around, I felt solid and knew I would be able to pick up the pace a bit for the next nine miles. I saw lots of people walking/puking/and generally in a bad way by this point in the race.

By mile 22, I was starting to push myself a bit faster with each mile, wanting to feel when I crossed the line that I had gone as hard as I possibly could without bonking, cramping, or having some catastrophic occurrence out there. My legs were feeling strong, I had absolutely no stomach problems or cramping, and with each person I passed, I felt a renewed sense of strength. The last two miles were incredible, unbelievable and unforgettable!! The downhill on Pilani killed my quads, but the roar of applause and encouragement from the crowd kept me running strong! I turned the corner on Ali’i drive and there I was, running toward the finish line!!!

This is a memory that will be etched in my mind forever, pumping my arms in the air, the biggest smile on my face, and crossing the finish of the biggest race in the sport of triathlon… I did a little dance at the end, got the crowd all pumped up, then Rhonda and I realized that Mike Reilly had not called out my name!!! WHAT??? Well, I was not going to leave that finish area until I heard him SAY MY NAME!!! Camille claims she could hear Rhonda and me on the live broadcast, and a few minutes later Mike did announce to me, “Sherry Rennard, You are an Ironman”…!! I finished at 11 hours, 48 minutes, which was not only below my goal time, it was a new P.R.

One week later, the blisters on my feet have almost healed, some of my toenails are dying a slow death, but I am feeling strong and rested and very blessed. I am taking it very easy for the next couple of weeks, allowing my muscles to repair, my soul & body to rest, and savoring this wonderful experience called KONA…. and, of course, making some plans for 2012.


Sherry provides training plans and coaching for all levels of triathletes. Click here to visit CoachSBR.com

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Ironman Hawaii 2011- Larry Davidson

I have now completed:

9 Ironman races

2 of them in Kona at the World Championships.

All 9 have been done between 10h42′ and 11h36′

In those races I have swam a total of 21.6 miles, biked 1008 miles, and run 235.8 miles.

I have logged in countless hours in the pool, on my bike, and on the road running to train for these events. What I do might be considered extreme by some. After being in the sport for a while now, I have to admit that it is a little extreme, but that is one of the reasons why I am attracted to it. I consider myself unconditionally blessed to be able to participate and compete in this sport. Beyond the competition, it is really a lifestyle choice where I place a high value on physical fitness, and mental tenacity.

Most of you know my story, but here is the Readers Digest version:

Kim and I visited the Big Island in 2004 for a vacation, and we took in the Hawaii Ironman by volunteering for the event. We were “catchers” at the finish line. I admit I was swept up in the moment, and felt an awakening of sorts. I made a decision that I would attempt to do a triathlon, but knew I would never EVER do an Ironman, and of course that meant the Hawaii Ironman was not even something within the realm of possibilities.

The story has played out in an amazing way, and you all know too well that I have made it to the Super Bowl of triathlons, the World Championships in Kailua-Kona twice now, and I have to say, I am not ready to retire from what I love to do just yet!

Here is my Kona Race Report for 2011:

Pre-race, Kim always asks me to tell her what I am hoping to swim, bike, run. That way she can follow me, and see how I am doing throughout the long day. I told her that best case scenario for me was:


If I did the above, I could break 11 hours. That is the “best case” if everything goes perfectly; which they seldom do.

The 3:45am wake up call did not startle me because I had not slept since about 12:30am. I spent the night tossing and turning and thinking about the fact that I was going to be doing the Hawaii Ironman. I had slept well the night before, so I knew this would not be a problem for me.

The minor details of eating, drinking, getting to the race start, body marking, final bathroom stop, etc…all went without incident.

Best case: 1h20′
Actual: 1h19′

The swim in Kona is the best swim ever. It is hard. The water is warm. It has swells. It has currents. It has loads of fish, and on race day, 2,000 triathletes swimming for Ironman glory. I entered the water with my friend Gary, and quickly lost him as he swam out to the start line. The start line is manned by a platoon of paddle boarders holding the mass of swimmers back.

I positioned myself far left at the start. This strategy worked great. I avoided the crush of swimmers. The swim in Hawaii can beat you up and spit you out. The athletes aren’t trying to do it, but it is simply too many people going to the same place at the same time; thus the carnage.

I swam comfortably hard throughout, and was excited to exit the water right on my goal time.

Best case: 5h45′
Actual: 5h43′

Was stoked to get on the bike and start the epic 112 journey. This was my second Hawaii race, so I know the course pretty well now. I purposely went out easy at the start. People were passing me like crazy. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. I kept telling myself that if I was patient, I would “reel in” a lot of the people who were hammering early on the bike. More on that later. I broke the bike up mentally into sections. Seems to make it easier to bike that far a distance, by chopping it up in smaller bites.

It was typical Kona weather; warm, humid, and some wind, but not horrible. The course has you do a quick out and back in town, then out to the Queen K for a 35 mile stretch from Kona to the town of Kawaihae. The terrain is rolling hills, where you have to work the hills pretty good, then take the the free speed on the downhills. I continued to be patient. At Kawaaihae, you make the turn for the 18 mile journey up to the town of Hawi (pronounced HAAVEE). I have ridden this section numerous times before, and the wind is generally brutal and unforgiving. The winds for the first 10 miles of the climb were fine, but the last 8 miles up to Hawi, I rode into headwinds un like any I have ever ridden before. People were being crushed by the hill climb and the gale force Hawi winds. I kept a good pace and I was steadily passing loads of people. Not a single rider passed me on the climb.

The turnaround for the bike course occurs in Hawi, and then you have 18 miles of VERY fast downhill riding, as the tailwind pushes you faster and faster. The only wild card are the sometimes horrific side winds that have blown more than a few cyclists totally off their bikes in years past. Fortunately, the side winds were not bad, and it was pretty easy to descend this cool hill.

After arriving back to Kawaihae, you have another 35-40 miles back to town. This is where I kept a solid steady and strong pace, and began passing countless triathletes that had evidently gone out too hard. I was a passing machine; where I passed hundreds of people and felt damn good doing it.

Best Case: 3h45′
Actual: 4h21′

Historically, running is my strongest discipline. In Hawaii it is polar opposite.

I took my time getting through transition and I eased into a comfortable running pace. The first 10 miles are an out/back on Ali’i Drive where there are lots of spectators and you run right next to the ocean. I hooked up with a fellow triathlete and we ran side by side for 10 miles. We kept our pace per mile around 8’45″ the best we could, and this was working great until I hit the hill on Palani Road. I could feel the energy drain in my body, and I slowed my pace down. I had to walk up half of Palani Road and told my running mate to carry on.

Ever get a hamstring cramp? My first one was at mile 11, and the only way to get it to dissipate is to stop and stretch, then try to resume running. This was going to play havoc with trying to run under 4 hours in the marathon segment!

I came upon my pal Gary around mile 12 or 13 and he was suffering badly. He had a side stitch he couldn’t clear and his calf was cramping. I offered him some encouragement and told him to not give up; no matter what!

By the half marathon mark, I was toast. I was ready to stop running as I really did not want to be out there. I was hurting, and I had limited energy to keep moving forward. After my pity party, I kept telling myself that I WILL finish this thing no matter how much it hurts. The down, then back up from the Energy Lab sucked. The only redeeming thought was that it is 6.5 miles to the finish after you have climbed out and made the turn from the lab.

I then dedicated my final miles to my family. Mile 20-21 was for Erik, 21-22 for Tony, and 22-23 for Kim. Repeat for miles 24-26, and then it’s .2 miles to the finish. This helped get me through one of the most difficult runs I have ever had.

The Finish:

Some say Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth. The finish line on Ali’i Drive is my Happiest Place on Earth.

I cannot explain adequately the euphoric feeling I had on Saturday night when I turned from Hualailai to Ali’i. The last few hundred yards of this race is fantastic to behold. I was so glad to have been able to participate in this race. I crossed the finish line, and it was seconds later, Kim threw a beautiful lei around my neck and planted a huge kiss on my sweaty face.

I will take away many positive things from the Hawaiian Islands this trip.

  • The time socializing, training and racing with my friends is one of them.
  • Meeting new folks like Raj the “double” amputee Ironman.
  • Getting to know Dr. Mark and his family was terrific (he raced to a personal best this year at age 60!).
  • Seeing Bob and Sally Crawford (Sally has qualified 8 times for Hawaii!)
  • Spending time at the beach, and hangin with Gary and Judy (Gary did his first Hawaii Ironman!) Gary and I will be planning our next adventure soon.
  • My First American colleagues Pat and Jeff who came to Hawaii to golf, AND cheer me on at the Ironman. Both will do a triathlon someday soon I predict!
  • Meeting with Ben and Miwa who have watched this race 20 times and took some awesome pictures.

If you would have asked me in 2004 if I would ever do an Ironman, the answer would have been no way, no how. I would never have dreamed I would ever have the ability to qualify for Hawaii twice.

Take a page from my book if you have read this far. If you are already pursuing “your” Ironman, great. What I mean about pursuing your Ironman is this: Define or decide on something that is fun, hard, tough, and that will stretch you way beyond what you currently think you are capable of.

If you are not doing so, now is the time to figure out an adventure that will challenge you, and take you out of your comfort zone. Something you can be proud of for the rest of your life!
Do it now, because the clock is ticking for each of us. Take a chance, and go make some memories.


Lar Dog

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An Open Letter to the Worldwide Triathlon and Endurance Communities

From Mark Allen and Dave Scott

We’re writing this because we believe that the soon-to-be-published book from VeloPress, entitled Iron War, inaccurately and inappropriately portrays us. As an example, in the advance copy sent to the media for review, the author stated, “In a sober, clinical sense of the term, Dave and Mark are both somewhat psychologically unbalanced.” We have never been diagnosed as “psychologically unbalanced” by any medical or mental health professional.Photo Credit Rich Cruise

And there’s a lot more where that came from – too much more for us to simply look the other way. Indeed, Iron War author Matt Fitzgerald has written an endless stream of inaccurate and defamatory assertions about our lives, our thoughts, our motivations and what drove us to such a high level of athletic excellence in what he spitefully and negatively describes as “the showdown that left one battling his inner demons to emerge victorious and one devastated on the pavement and unable to forgive his loss.” In fact, the massive degree of inaccuracy in the advanced reading copy has necessitated that we file a lawsuit against VeloPress and Fitzgerald in response to the defamation and privacy issues that were breached.

As most of you know, our intense racing rivalry in the 1980s was prime fuel for countless debates each October when triathletes around the globe gathered to predict who would become the next Ironman Champion. And perhaps the greatest race to ever come out of our rivalry was the 1989 Ironman World Championship – the so-called Iron War – during which we raced toe to toe for close to eight hours, never separated by more than a few scant seconds.

That rivalry, which was built on a great mutual respect for each other as athletes and as individuals, ended long ago, and we are now united in expressing our deep concern over the portrayal of our individual journeys to become such tenacious competitors in Fitzgerald’s Iron War.

While some might applaud Fitzgerald for his creative writing, we must express our deep disappointment over the many falsehoods and errors in his book. He has very little respect for journalistic integrity, the essence of which is truth. Fitzgerald also shows no respect for our privacy by disclosing and discussing very personal information that has nothing to do with our rivalry or accomplishments as triathletes. His goal appears to be to embarrass and discredit us. We also have to wonder, what’s the point? . . . other than book sales for VeloPress, of course!

You should know that we were asked by Fitzgerald to provide in-depth background information about our personal lives and to deliver the exhaustive detail necessary to understand what made us tick as athletes. This time-consuming request, however, was made without any offer to share the benefits that would be considered normal when one is asked to divulge a lifetime of detail.

But more importantly, by his refusal to have us be cooperative partners in the book, we had overwhelming concern that our stories, if told to him, would not be recounted with accuracy and, in the end, we did not participate in the project. The result of that decision: Fitzgerald has created an endless string of seemingly personal anecdotes that because of his deceptive writing style leave the reader with the perception that they came directly from our mouths.

Unfortunately, Fitzgerald and VeloPress have reduced our 1989 test of wills on the Big Island to a flawed and sadly shaded depiction of its protagonists. Our hope is that you, as intelligent and discerning athletes, will know and remember our battle in 1989 for its grit, and use that as inspiration to explore and break through your own limits to find greatness in both your racing and in your personal lives. And if you do decide to read Iron War be prepared to wade through fiction, fantasy and fabrication.

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Interview with Steve Sponagle and Liz – Episode #26

This time we visit with Steve Sponagle and his sister Liz. Both are amazing triathletes in their own right — Steve mostly focuses on the sprint distance and Liz on Ironman. They’ll give us some of their secrets on how to excel in the sport and what it’s like living in a hyper-competitive family.

iTunes Podcast

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Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon

Living in southern California means not having a lot of places to ride your bike without a bunch of cars, stop signs and traffic lights. One of the few places around is the ride south of San Clemente through the park and on the base at Camp Pendleton.

Every time I ride through Camp Pendleton I think of my dad. He was a marine and was stationed here. He’s been gone for over 30 years now and I still think of him often.

Anyway, Camp Pendleton isn’t just a great place to ride/train but it’s also a great place to race. Several years ago I did the Olympic distance race there and really enjoyed it (they don’t have this race any longer). The great thing about the sprint triathlon is that it’s cheap but really well organized! With the cost of racing skyrocketing, this is one that fits anyone’s budget.

When you arrive at the Camp you’re directed to park your car on the tarmac for these huge hovercraft-like assault vehicles – in fact, you have to run up and over one after the finish line! Very cool!

The Marines staff the event and it seems like there are two marines for every racer. The check-in opened right on time and the obligatory packet pick-up went as smooth as I’ve ever seen.

Another good thing about this race is that it’s a late start. I think my wave went off at 8:30! That’s late, and a huge benefit for those that like to sleep in.

This would be a tough race for me for several reasons:

1. I have been training for IM Louisville and hadn’t taken any time off my training schedule to prepare for this race. I had a lot of miles in my legs come race day.
2. This “sprint” triathlon has an unusually long bike leg – 18 miles. This race really favors the strong cyclists (which I’m not).
3. Both Russ Jones and Rich Pfeiffer would be there. They’re both sprint-course specialists.
It was never more beneficial than this race to experience the swim of the earlier waves. The surf was very high race morning and they were coming in very close together. This would be a challenging swim!

The first wave of younger men went off. Since they didn’t have the benefit of seeing any of the other competitors swim they simply lined up on the beach at the designated start and headed for the first turn buoy. Unfortunately, there wasn’t just big surf but there was also a huge current.

As the guys in that first wave took off you could immediately see they were being pulled north of the buoy. Some of the guys quite literally had to swim due south just to get around the first buoy.

Well none of the waves after them made that same mistake! It seemed everyone else ran down the beach 500 yards so they wouldn’t have to swim upstream!

As I stood there on the beach with two of my tri-mates, Quinton Berry and Scott Callendar, we plotted our course. We’d run down the beach but not quite that far.

It was great having Q (Quinton) and Scooter (Scott) there. They both crashed months ago and this would be Scott’s first race after the crash (a broken collar bone and wrist surgery).

My wave was about to start (50+ men) and I had my eye on both Russ and Rich. I thought I’d beat Russ out of the water but Rich was a Navy Seal and a very good swimmer. I’ve beaten him on the swim at other races but he’d be the one to beat on the swim today.

The gun went off and I ran to the point I’d previously calculated would be my point-of-entry. I had to swim under some the large breaking waves but because they were coming so fast it was difficult to get your breath before the next one was on you!

I swam hard and finally made it through the surf and popped up about 15’ from the turn buoy. I couldn’t have planned that any better!

I got into a groove and swam to the next buoy and headed in. The challenge now was coming in from the same surf without getting pummeled!

The trick here is to constantly be looking over your shoulder so you can see it coming. If you don’t you’ll end up tossed and probably totally out of breath. My entry was good but I was tired.

I ran up the beach to the transition area to my bike and made a quick escape.

The bike portion of the race was probably the toughest for me because I really wanted to push it but just didn’t have the legs. I revved my heart rate up to 155 and kept it there. My legs were screaming!

Then, it finally happened . . . at about mile four Russ passed me. He yelled out some words of encouragement before blowing by and proceeded to chase down a pickup truck that passed me just seconds before! Damn, he’s good!

So now I figure I’m in 2nd place, unless someone beat me on the swim. If someone did it would probably be Rich.

I kept pushing on the bike and didn’t have anyone else in my age group pass me. I did see Scott out on the bike course and he was just yards ahead of one of his primary competitors, Sergio Burges. Way to go Scott!

My transition from bike to run was also smooth but my legs felt really wobbly. I settled into a pace right around 7:00 per mile. It felt about as fast as I would be able to push it.

At about mile two there’s Rich coming back the other way! NO WAY!!! Rich isn’t a fast runner but there was no way I was going to be able to close a gap of ½ mile!

Then, just a couple hundred yards behind Rich is Russ. I yelled out to Russ that Rich was just ahead of him. He was in another world at this point and later would tell me he never even heard me!

I finished strong and was quite happy with the race. Here were the times:

There is a problem with these times, however. I did finish the swim ahead of Russ so this swim time is actually higher than my actual time. No matter, both guys definitely beat me.

The real funny part about this day is what I did later that afternoon. In order to keep on my Ironman training plan I rode 60:00 on my CompuTrainer then followed that up with a 19 mile run. That’s right; the same day!

What we won’t do for our sport!

By the way, Scott took 1st in his age group and Quinton took 4th. A really great day all the way around!


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The Art of the Ice Bath

We’ve all heard about the ice bath but very few of us have tried it. Just the sound of it congers up images of Houdini practicing for his famous escape from underneath the frozen Detroit River.

Great movie by the way! Houdini spends hours in an ice bath to prepare himself for another of his great escapes. They cut a hole in the ice in the Detroit River and they handcuff him and seal him in a box and dump it in the river. The unfortunate thing is that Houdini didn’t figure on the current dragging him and the box downstream. He barely escapes by breathing little air pockets beneath the ice.

Cryotherapy (ice bath) can really help you recover from your long and hard bike and run efforts. So much so that you may be able to eliminate going for the jar of your favorite nsaids (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) in the middle of the night!

It is said that ice baths reduce swelling, decrease muscle breakdown and help flush out metabolic debris.

Anyway, your ice bath needn’t be quite so dramatic but there are a few “tricks” I can give you to make it tolerable.

1. Fill your tub with cold water (duh!).

2. Fill it enough so you can stretch out your legs and that you’ll be submerged to just above your thighs.

3. Use ice cubes if possible. It’s a pain to run down to the 7-11 every time but your typical ice trays won’t yield enough ice to make the water cold enough. Therefore, you can make and store enough ice or do what I do which is I freeze blocks of ice in some large Tupperware containers. Admittedly this is not the best because the blocks take longer to melt. I break them up so they melt quicker.

4. I like to wear my swimsuit – don’t know why, I just do (hide the shrinkage?). On top it’s not a bad idea to wear a sweatshirt or jacket. Personally, I don’t because I keep getting it all wet. Maybe you’ll have better success.

5. Get a stop watch so you can see how long you’ve been in the water.

6. Get something to read.

7. Get something hot to drink.

8. Take the plunge! I jump right in rather than “inch” in. As soon as I do I hit my stop watch. I usually stay in for 15 minutes but 20 may be better if you really beat yourself up.

9. It’ll take your breath away if you’ve made the water cold enough but the numbness comes on pretty quickly and it becomes tolerable.

10. The cold water will constrict your blood vessels and reduce the swelling.

11. Now take a hot shower to warm up as well as dilate the blood vessels.

Good luck with your ice bath. You’ll hate me for it now, but love me for it later!

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