February 24, 2018

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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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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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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Race Report: Vineman 70.3, Paul Nelson

Well, after months of preparation and training, I competed in the Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman today. Other than exhaustion, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment as this was my first 70.3.

While finishing a 70.3 was never a concern, I wanted to be able to put in as many training hours as I could. My plan was to use this race as a guide to judge my fitness level. I figured this was a solid race, and evaluating the results would help determine what I need to work on to continue to improve. I selected this race for a few of reasons. First was timing, with the summer days in the OC getting longer, I knew I would be able to get in longer morning workouts. Second, with my kid’s summer sports schedule and our family vacation schedule, I knew I needed a race before August, as training during our family summer vacation didn’t seem like a very good idea. Lastly, I figured I couldn’t go wrong competing in the beautiful California Wine Country. So with these considerations in minds, and some input from Ron, I picked Vineman as my “A” race.

RACE DAY…..When I signed up for the race, one of my biggest concerns was weather; I was concerned I would be racing in Napa Valley’s 100 F summer heat. I don’t do real well in heat, and was concerned about overheating. As it turned out, today’s weather could not have been more ideal for a race. Temperatures at the start were about 56, water temp was about 70, and the clouds stayed in place well into the run. The temperature at the end of the run was about 75F. I got up at 4:00 AM to give myself enough time to eat a bagel and get on the road. I was staying about 30 minutes from the swim start and wanted to allow enough time to find parking. It turned out that parking was not a problem, and getting to the start was uneventful.

THE SWIM…..Most of us has at least one strong leg in a triathlon. Some of us are swimmers, some are cyclists and some are runners. I am a swimmer, and I certainly wish this made up a bigger part of the race as my abilities go downhill from there. The swim is at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville. For summer recreational swimming, they put a small dam across the river. The swim start is in an incredible setting, swimming in the Russian River with the Redwoods as a backdrop. It turns out that this is also a very interesting swim. While the river is dammed which does slow the force of the current, there is still a noticeable current running; most noticeable when you make the turn to come back (you get a nice push). There are sections in the river that are very shallow, so shallow that some athletes actually stand up in sections and walk. In these shallow sections your hands are actually scrapping along the bottom of the river. I even attempted to use my hands to grab, or dig into the river bottom in hopes of extra speed, but it doesn’t work. In the end, I just swam thru the shallow sections. The swim coarse markings are great, no sighting issues at all. The course is well marked with buoys and with a very quick pop up with your head; you can see exactly where you are. Transition times are a bit long because you have to pack up your wet suit and anything else you don’t want left behind into a plastic bag the organizers supply as the bike transition and finish are actually in Windsor, about a 30 minute drive from the swim start. I blasted the swim; my goal time was 31 minutes, and I ended up completing the 1.2 mile swim in 29 minutes to end up 6th in my age group out of 130.

THE BIKE…..Ok, I use to think I was a pretty strong bike rider, but racing in triathlons has made be re-think this, some of these athletes are just animals on the bike. One of the disadvantages of being a fast swimmer is once I get to the bike leg, it seems like I watch all of my competition pass me. In actuality, they didn’t ALL pass me, but sometimes it sure seems like it. You have to keep your mind focused on your own race strategy and try not to pay too much attention to the athletes that are passing you. The bike course couldn’t be more incredible. It takes you thru the rolling hills and back roads on the Wine Country. It’s hilly enough to work your legs, however, with the downhills, you can still average a pretty quick speed. There is one hill everyone talks about, Chalk Hill, however if you are used to doing Bake Parkway or Glenn Ranch Road in Lake Forest/Foothill Ranch, Chalk Hill is a shorter version of these. It’s just that it hits you at mile 45 when you’re pretty much ready for the ride to be over. One word of caution, you have to be careful not to violate the course rules. I was hit with a 4 minute “drafting” penalty in the middle of the ride. While my intention was not to be drafting, I found myself stuck in a group on a section of road that had a bit of an incline. I was sitting behind a few riders waiting to get closer to the top before I passed when the coarse marshal came up beside me and Called-Me-Out. My fault – lesson learned. My goal time was 3:00 and I finished in 3:06. This put me 85th out of 130 on the bike. With all of the training time and miles I put in leading up to this race, Ron and I will have to evaluate what I need to do different in my training to keep improving.

THE RUN…..I was most concerned about the run. In early April and again in early June, I strained my Achilles tendon. As a result, I put in very little time running. It’s been feeling good the last few weeks so I put in as much time running as I thought was prudent. I kept the mileage under 4 miles per run, knowing that if I strained it again, my race would be over as there would be no recovery time. You have to understand, before I started doing triathlons last year, I had never even run a 10k. So the thought of running a half marathon, 3 1/2 hours into a race, with little training was a little intimidating. I had to come up with a strategy, which would allow me to get in a good run time, but not burn out. I decided that I would walk at each aid station, not a long break, but enough to get some Gatorade and water, then back to running. There are aid stations at every mile marker, so I really began to look forward to these; I actually used this as motivation not to walk between stations. I would just tell myself, just a little bit farther and I have earned my walk. For me, this was the right strategy. It gave me much needed time to properly hydrate and it gave me that little bit of rest to help me keep going. I was actually able to pick up my pace time a little in the last mile and finish strong. As for the run course itself, it has plenty of rolling hills, and one pretty tough, but short, climb. The turnaround is at the La Crème winery and actually takes you through the fields. I have to say, the highlight of the run was the winery, not just because it’s a beautiful winery, but also because you know you’re heading to the finish. My goal time was 2 hr – 10 minutes and I hit this finishing with a 2:10:23, 65th out of 130.

At the finish in Windsor, they did a great job with post race food and cold water and soda. The only drawback to having the swim at a completely different location than the start is retrieving your car and bike. The race organizers do a great job providing shuttles back to the swim start to retrieve your car. However you then have to drive back to Windsor to retrieve your bike. In all, this took nearly two hours. Having just finished a race, this was not how I had imagined my post race activities. This is not a reflection of poor management by the organizers; there is just a lot of distance to cover and a lot of traffic in Windsor.

I’ve heard many of my more experienced triathlete friends say that it takes a few years of training and competing to gain the experience needed to race in triathlons. There is a lot of strategy and experience required to understand how to properly pace yourself and know at what level of effort you can sustain. Just as important is to be able to overcome the mental part of a race. It’s easy to get discouraged as you watch your competition pass you on the bike. It’s also easy to start questioning your pace as you get to the middle of the bike leg and know you still have a 13.1 mile run ahead. In the end, I think you have to trust your training, keep pushing and stick to your strategy.

My goal for the race was for a top 50 finish and a finish time of 5:51:00. I ended up placing 51st with a finish time of 5:51:45. I was very happy with the race and now know what I need to work on to improve.

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Race Report: San Diego International Triathlon

Ron Saetemoe

If you’re a competitive triathlete keep this in mind: how you place may have everything to do with who shows up on race day!

As a competitive M55-59 age-grouper I’m used to finishing on the podium (most races this is 1st – 3rd, but some races have podium spots up to 5th). That said, I know plenty of guys that can beat me at every triathlon distance.

At the San Diego International Triathlon my main competition (as far as I know) would be Kim McDonald. Kim is a legendary sprint-course guy having won the world sprint championships in Australia a couple years ago. He raced the Olympic worlds the next day and took 4th! Clearly he’s in a totally different league.

The last time I did SD Intl. was in 2006. Guess who won? Yep, Kim McDonald!

No matter, these short races are great speed sessions for me as my next “A” race would actually be Ironman Louisville.

SD is a great race for those that aren’t that confident in ocean swimming because the entire swim takes place in the harbor – no waves. It’s also a great spectator event so bring the whole family.

The swim start is a deep water start and we go off in waves. Our wave probably had 200 people in it. My goal was to go hard all day and see how I felt.

I seeded myself at the front of our wave just a couple guys down from Kim. The gun went off and away we went.

Because the swim is in the harbor the water was perfectly flat. It made it easy to navigate, and to see your competition.

I got my swim into a fast groove but couldn’t find anyone to draft off of (do this anytime you can). I could see Kim out ahead of me, slowly pulling away.

My swim was fast and I felt great!

I ran into transition and there was Kim still getting out of his wetsuit. I got out of mine very quickly and left several seconds after him.
The bike course is quite hilly as it takes you to the top of Point Loma and you make a second loop. I went hard on the bike thinking I could catch Kim . . . guess again! He kept pulling away from me. Oh, I forgot to tell you, besides being one of the best sprint triathletes on the planet, he’s also about 5’ 6” and weighs about 130 pounds. His power to weight ratio is like “off the charts!”

While I didn’t pass anyone in my age group (according to their ages written on their calves), no one passed me either.

A good T-2 and I was off to the 10K run. Due to the lengths of the different events, this was going to be a “runner’s race.” I’m a good runner, but not a great one, so I knew I’d have to go hard in order to hold my place; whatever that was (I figured 2nd).

With my new Nike Free’s I was off. Amazingly, I felt really good on the run. I was clicking off 7:00 miles quite easily. I did see Kim on the run course but wasn’t able to close the gap. I got a few “atta boys” from other runners I was passing. I do have to admit I do enjoy passing guys that are 10, 20, 30 years younger than me!

I finished strong and ended up taking 2nd place. A really great training day for me, and I don’t feel the least bit bad finishing 2nd to Kim.


Athlete Swim T-1 Bike T-2 Run Total
KIM MCDONALD 0:12:21 0:01:38 0:46:44 0:01:08 0:42:46 1:44:37
RON SAETERMOE 0:12:56 0:01:20 0:51:23 0:01:16 0:43:52 1:50:47
JON POWELL 0:15:04 0:02:16 0:48:17 0:02:22  0:45:48 1:53:47

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Buffalo Springs – Ironman 70.3

Race: Buffalo Springs-Ironman 70.3 (aka Half Ironman) Lubbock Texas – June 26, 2011
Athlete: Larry Davidson

I had given myself two shots at qualifying for the 2011 Hawaii Ironman earlier this year. In both cases I came up short. On the strong push of my friend Gary C., I got into the Buffalo Springs Long Course Triathlon (BSLT). I knew virtually nothing about this race; the course, the weather, or the area in general. The only thing I knew, it is one of only 5 Half Iron distance events in the world that have slots for the Hawaii Ironman. This would be my last attempt to get to Hawaii for this year, as I have many other commitments to attend to, and after already doing one half ironman, and a full ironman this year, I felt no need to burn myself out.

The good news is that this race has Kona slots. The bad news is that there is only one slot per age group. That meant I had to go for the win, which was a tall order. Many other top athletes converge on this race with the same aspirations. The overall field for this race is relatively small, but the competition is exceptionally fierce. After a somewhat disappointing Ironman race in St. George in early May, I wanted redemption. I craved redemption. I needed redemption. And, I really wanted to make it to Hawaii in October. My sweet wife Kim had already booked us a condo for the Ironman during Kona race week, and I didn’t want that to go to waste!


Flew to Lubbock Texas. Got off the plane. Walked outside. The stifling 105 degree furnace I was met with was a complete shock to my wimpy Southern Cal adjusted body. Immediately cursed Gary for telling me to race here. Checked in to a pretty cheesy Holiday Inn. Had dinner at a pretty decent Italian joint by myself, and could not resist the ice cold Stiner Bock on tap. It was one of the best beers I have ever had. Went back to the airport to pick up my friend Art (a young gun), who was also racing and doing the race with me. Got him at 10:30pm, still 95 degrees outside. Went to bed and sweated.


Slept in late. Did not want to go outside. Had an enormous breakfast. Watched Art eat twice what I ate. He is a machine. He is a strict Paleo-athlete diet guy, and he eats all day long, and even gets up at night to eat several times. Art drove me out to “preview” the swim/bike/run course. After this preview, it seemed like a fair course with 7 climbs on the bike, and 3 formidable climbs on the run. My assessment was that this would be a very fast race. After this, we drove to the lake and did a swim. Even with the oppressive heat, the lake is spring fed, and the water hovers between 74 and 76 degrees year round. If it is over 76 degrees, then competitors vying for a Hawaii slot are NOT allowed to wear a wetsuit. I like being able to use a wetsuit, as I swim much faster when wearing one. After our swim, we had no need for towels. The blistering 107 degrees it got to on Friday took care of that.


Slept in late again. Art kept getting up and eating, and saying how hungry he was. I kept eating too because I was bored. The air conditioning unit in the room could not keep up with the heat. It ran at 100% the entire time we were there, and I had to sleep with no covers at all. Art and I went out for a 40 minute bike and a 15 minute run at noon, and it was an absolute cooker. There were high heat warnings out, and I kept thinking, Gary is really a bad guy for sending me this Hell Hole out in the middle of nowhere. It is nasty hot, desolate, windy, and just about the worst place I have ever paid money to fly to and stay at! We did all of our registration crap, and prepped our bikes, equipment, and other race gear for what was going to be a Hellish…Hot…Windy day in beautiful Lubbock. The weatherman said it would get to 110 degrees on Sunday, so we were in for what was to be a very tough day from a weather perspective.

Art had a very restless night of sleep, and he was up every hour or so getting more food. It didn’t help that the hotel fire alarm was going off most of the night, but I think everyone was too hot to do anything about it. The air conditioner was not even coming close to cooling the room, and then it decided to make some horrible noises that sounded like a bad car engine ready to die.

Sunday/Race Day

Alarm went off at 4am. Pounded a banana and a protein shake. Headed to Buffalo Springs Lake at 4:45. My wave was set to go at 6:30am. We got our bikes, swim, running junk all organized in transition; a few porta-potty visits, and then off to the lake to warm up. The temperature was already 75 degrees, and they said it was going to 109 degrees as the day wore on.

I got my wetsuit on, and into the lake at 6:10am. It was still dark, and I conked heads with some guy, and got a knot on my forehead. It was a beach start where you run into the water, get to “dolphin” dive your way out to the first buoy with hundreds of others. The first turn buoy of any triathlon is really an adventure; and usually not a pleasant one.

The professional triathletes went off at 6:25am, and my wave at 6:31. Gary said I should swim hard, and to really push the pace, so I had that in my head. I also had in my head that my last triathlon swim was a disaster, where I was hyper-ventilating and thought I would not make it. I was also a little nervous to be in a full wetsuit in relatively warm water.

Swim 1.2 miles:

Off we went. I lined up wide left to try and avoid the usual traffic jam, and full on body contact assault that can happen if you line up straight on to the first buoy. Great choice! I had clean water all the way out to the first turn. This was fantastic, and I was warm, but not burning up. I had a few moments of contact with a couple other swimmers, but this was by far the cleanest swim I have ever experienced. I ended up with a personal best swim, and came out of the water 6th in my age group. At the time, I had no idea how I did on the swim, but when I got to my bike, the guy (Mike), who I felt was my major competition for this race was already gone. Swim time: 30’49″.

Bike 56 miles:

I had sized this course up as NOT overly difficult. I was flat out wrong. The bike begins with a nasty climb out of transition, and it does not let up for several miles. High heart rate, burning thighs, and still a long day in front of me. The wind was already blowing hard, and the heat seemed to be increasing, but it was not terrible. I got into rhythm, and was really pushing pretty hard early in the race. I questioned myself if I was going too hard, too soon in the race. My early assessment of the race was from an air conditioned SUV, and did not factor in the rising heat, and the building wind. If you have never been to West Texas, it is a barren wasteland of oil fields, and wide open, treeless, shade less big country. The climbs that seemed so benign in the car were more difficult than I had thought. The wind which was already blowing when we woke up that morning was really going strong. As I pedaled along, into a relentless headwind, I was a bit discouraged and wondered why I was doing this race in the first place. At mile 30, Art came by me, and tried to get me to go with him. He is just too strong for me, and after a couple of miles, he pulled away from me. At this point of the ride, I was asking myself, do I really want to go to Kona that bad? Is it worth this kind of suffering? I fully admit, this was the farthest thing from fun, and I wish I was back at the Italian joint having a Stiner Bock.

I forged ahead, sometimes a tailwind, but the damn headwinds were really obnoxious. At mile 50, a referee on a motorcycle pulls up next to me, and I received a penalty for “blocking”. I had passed someone, and did not move to my right, so I was forced to go to the next “penalty tent” and register, and tell them I got a “yellow card” for blocking. I kept thinking that “uber biker” Mike was going to get so damn far ahead of me, I would have no chance. I was very demoralized at this point. It cost me 1 to 2 minutes to get off my bike at the tent and go through this process, but I just complied and got into T2 shortly thereafter. It turns out I had the 3rd best bike split in my age group, and unbeknown to me, I had moved up to 3rd pace.

Bike time: 2h47’14″.

Run 13.1 miles:

I had “spent” myself on the bike. I was cramping and I was NOT looking forward to running a half marathon. I zoomed through T2, deciding that running sock less would save me precious seconds. My legs felt like they weighed 100 lbs. a piece and I knew I better get a move on if I was to have any kind of chance. The mercury was climbing, and fortunately, they have aid stations every mile to douse yourself with water, ice, and replenish your depleted body with hydration and electrolytes. There are 3 “bad boy” hills to navigate, or should I say “survive” on this course. I am a self-proclaimed “great” hill runner, so this should be good. My quads were really screaming and my hamstrings not much better. I kept running, and I was passing people, and some “young guns” were passing me. I struggled to run the first hill, and that was a really bad sign. I felt some twinges in my calves and hammies, and that is a precursor to full on cramp city! I kept moving, and thought why am I out here? I cursed Gary a couple of more times, and then thought, the quicker I run, the sooner this misery will be over. I plowed ahead and at mile 6, I saw Mike who was already at mile 7… he was a full mile ahead of me. He was running like Frankenstein’s Monster, but even so, it would be tough to make up the mile that he was ahead of me by. After seeing him, I started to push about as hard as I possibly could, but was struck with cramps, and had to stop several times on the run to stretch them, and get them to cooperate.

At mile 10, I saw Mike, and said to myself, “HOLY SHIT, I can catch this guy.” I can win this thing! I blew by Mike like he was standing still. After a few minutes, I looked back, and he was long gone. I thought to myself, wow, I am going to win this thing. That turned out to be an erroneous assumption! I eased up a bit, as I was on the edge of cramping again, as my dehydrated body was “spent”. I kept running, and was damn glad to get to the finish line. As it turned out, I was the fastest runner in my age group, and after crossing the finish line, I was taken right to the med tent for an IV.
Run time: 1h46’16″.

After a nice soak in the lake, I was curious about how I had finished, but not in a big hurry, as it is what it is. The IV was “money”. And this race had beer on ice for the finishers. After a nice cold brew, I chatted up some guys and told them I may have won my age group, but I was not certain. I was quickly informed that a guy named Scott Hammond had finished just a minute ahead of me. I couldn’t believe it. They went on to say that Scott had “already” qualified for Kona earlier in the year, and that I would get the Kona slot! He beat me by 1′ 10″. The bike penalty would have likely neutralized that margin. I am relieved that was not a factor.

I instantly thought how brilliant my friend Gary was for recommending this race to me!
I wanted verification of all this, but thought they must be right. Turns out they were.

World Championship Bound:

It will be a busy fall. I am in two championship events now. The 70.3 AND Hawaii Ironman Worlds. I couldn’t be happier.

It was sweet to go the awards ceremony, chat with Dave Scott (6 time Ironman champ), and pay for my Hawaii slot. Art was very happy for me, as he is a Kona veteran too.

My training posse are such cool dudes; they were peppering me with congratulations, via email, text, email, and phone calls. We are a band of brothers who really care about each other. My pal Scott deserves a special call out, as he and I train together a lot, and he is always helping me out, and giving me great advice.

I flew into John Wayne Airport on Monday night, Kim picked me up, shuttled me home, and I was welcomed with a congratulatory banner on the garage door (made by my son Tony), and a group of my good friends. The root beer floats Kim made were fantastic.

My faithful, and biggest fan Kim Marie; wife of 30+ years is my biggest support mechanism. She was tracking me all day, and I know she was on “pins and needles”. Quietly she does it all behind the scenes. Couldn’t do it without it Kimmie.


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Race Report: Ironman Hawaii 70.3 (Honu)

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Honu
Athlete: Ron Saetermoe

As promised, I’m making an attempt at getting caught up on my race reports.

Last newsletter I reported on my Ironman St. George race. I DNF’d at that race – my first ever! It was a calculated DNF, however, as if I couldn’t qualify for Kona I was going to pull the plug after one loop of the two loop run course. That’s exactly what I did after determining my probable finish would have been 7th when there were only three Kona slots.

Since Honu was only four weeks after IMSG I would save my energy and hope to have a good race there. It was a good plan and I felt confident, that if I put a good race together, I could qualify.

Several of my pals were also racing including Charlie Brockus who finished 4th behind me last year. I wouldn’t have to worry about Charlie this year because he aged-up out of my age group. What a relief!
However, just like last year, the winner, Kevin Moats was registered but like last year I wouldn’t have to worry about him because he already had his Kona slot. And, like last year, the #2 finisher Nicholas Kaiser was there, but since he lives in Honolulu he’d take an “islander slot.”

Not that it would be easy but I felt like I had a good shot. I researched everyone doing the race at www.athlinks.com and noticed there would be a couple of additional contenders. The problem with Athlinks is that not everyone shows up with a race history. I learned this lesson the hard way last year at IM Arizona where the eventual winner didn’t have an Athlinks history!

Anyway, I was going to give it all I had no matter who showed up.

I got some bad news at registration. Seems they changed the “islander slot” process. In years past the islanders got 44 slots total (between Hawaii and all of the other islands’ residents) and the slots went to the fastest people in their age group. This year the slots were allocated based on a lottery. In other words, it didn’t matter how you finished, you just had to finish to get a slot if you won the lottery. Guess what? Nick Kaiser didn’t get in on the lottery.

This was bad news for me because Nick kicked my butt last year by nine minutes and I would have to race him head-to-head this year! He would be my main competition.

Honu is probably my favorite race after Kona. I love the Hawaiian islands and would eventually like to spend a couple months a year there. The beach for the swim start is one of the best in all of the islands – it’s called Hapuna Beach.

There were threats of big waves race morning as there was a storm offshore but they never materialized. Good for the poorer swimmers, not as good for us better swimmers.

The race start is a deep-water start and the water was flat, warm and clear. I’m guessing there were about 1,800 triathletes there so it was quite crowded.

We were all treading water and the gun went off! I’d been practicing my starts leading up to this race by going out hard and counting100 right-hand strokes before settling into my race pace. That was the plan, and that’s what I did.

Naturally, there were plenty of fast guys out ahead of me but I missed the pile-up at the first turn buoy. I had a very nice pace going for me and managed to find clear water for most of the race. Last year I got boxed in and didn’t go as fast as I wanted. I hoped to catch a draft but that didn’t happen.

Swim split: 31:46. Last year was 34:14. Off to a great start!

T1: 2:35. Last year was 3:35. Even better!

The bike course heads out of the Hapuna Beach area on to the Queen K – same highway as the Ironman World Championships. You head south for a couple miles before turning 180 degrees and heading toward Hawi.

My plan was to go hard on the bike and maintain a heart rate of about 155. I was focused on heart rate this year more than my power because that is how I’ve been training.

I felt good on the bike but wasn’t passing anyone in my age group. Of course, at this race, like IM Worlds, your age isn’t stamped on your calf. However, the competitor numbers are in sequence based on your age group. I was number 168 so people with race numbers just below and above would probably be in my age group.

Anyway, I didn’t pass anyone that could have been in my age group but I figured my swim was good so there may not be anyone out in front of me. Turns out, there was one guy that beat me on the swim, but I never caught him on the bike . . . or did I?

Bike split: 2:41:50 (20.76 MPH). Last year was 2:47:36 (20.05 MPH). This is good!

T2: 1:35. Last year was 1:16. What happened?

The run is tough. By this time of day the temperature is going up and the course is hilly. Not only is it hilly but a lot of it takes place on a golf course. That’s right; you’re actually running on the grass of the golf course! Now you’ve got the heat, the hills and the EXTRA humidity coming off the grass.

My goal for the run was to keep my heart rate in the 160 – 165 range, which I did. The pace felt hard throughout the race but one that I felt I could maintain.

Again, I wasn’t passing anyone but no one was passing me that could have been in my age group. I did see Charlie out on the course. It looked like he was really working hard.

I also saw my main competitor, Nick Kaiser. Nick was about five minutes back and not gaining on me. Was I actually in first place? Turns out, I was!

I don’t think I could have gone much faster when competitor 182 blew by me. As soon as he went by me at about mile 10 I said “uh oh” I’ll bet he’s in my age group.

He looked completely fresh as he went by at about a minute a mile faster than me. There was no way I could have hung on. Oh well, nothing I can do about it other than hope he’s NOT in my age group or hope he’s an islander with a lottery slot.

Turns out he was in my age group and from La Jolla, California. He beat me, and took the Kona slot.

Run split: 1:48:42. Last year was 1:52:33. Great job, but not good enough.

I beat Nick Kaiser – the guy I thought would be my main completion, but got beat by a guy I never heard of before – Chris Vargas. Again, no real Athlinks history to reveal.

Keep this in mind when you go to these races: there is usually someone there you never heard of or someone that really steps up on the day you didn’t expect. For that reason, you’ve always got to do your best.

Overall: 5:06:28. Last year was 5:19:14. 12 minutes and 46 seconds faster than last year and only took 2nd.

Actually, I’m very happy my performance improved so much, but bummed I didn’t get my slot.

Better luck at IM Louisville!

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What happened at St. George?, Ron Saetermoe

This race report is long overdue. I’m going to try to get caught up on my race reports but you know how it goes . . .
I had no business racing Ironman St. George. This course goes totally against my strengths . . . again; maybe that’s why I did it.

My pal Larry (Lar Dog) Davidson coaxed a bunch of us into this race; a race he had a great shot at getting his Kona slot at. I enjoy the company of my mates so I signed up as well.

About a month prior to the race several of us drove up to St. George for a recon mission of the course. Since most of the guys had already been there a couple of times, including to race there in 2010, it was to be a great training weekend.

Among the crew were Larry Davidson, Gary Clendenin, Quinton Berry and Jeff Rhodes.

Last year Jeff crashed on a downhill turn during the race and broke his collarbone. Quinton, and another pal that didn’t make the trip, Scott Callender, walked the entire marathon with him. Quite an endorsement of the race, huh!

Anyway, the trip up there was fun and the training was great. We did two loops of the bike course and ran one loop of the run course the following day. The race would be challenging!

Our mates Scott and Jeff would not be making the trip with us, sadly. Jeff decided to do IM Brazil this year instead and Scott was still recovering from a nasty fall earlier in the year.

We got to St. George a couple days early to do all of the normal pre-Ironman activities. We were able to get in a swim at the Sand Hollow Reservoir which is where the swim takes place. The water was cold, but not too bad.
Dinner the night before was a group affair at a local eatery and the mood was positive. We were all going to race hard the next day, with the exception of Gary, as he already has his Kona slot (from IM California 70.3). Gary committed to doing the swim, bike and maybe some of the run. The rest of us were going for our Kona slots.

Race morning was clear and crisp with only a wisp of wind. It looked like the weather gods were with us so far.
As we entered the water at the start of the swim it felt colder than our previous swim. Maybe that’s just because of the nerves or the colder air temperature in the morning.

I swam out to the far left and took my usual place at the front of the pack. We treaded water for a few minutes and the cannon went off!

I started out slowly and planned on building my pace. That was my plan. What actually happened is that about 200 yards into the race I couldn’t breathe. I tried to keep going but was literally hyperventilating and couldn’t go on.

Just ahead was a float so I breast stroked to it and held on to it for dear life. What the heck! This felt like IM Arizona all over again but without the cramping.

I guess I was hanging there for about two minutes and thought about quitting but decided to take it REALLY slow and see what happens. I did, and the situation improved after a while.

It could have been the cold water. It could have been the adrenaline. But, a contributing factor was probably the altitude. At about 3,000 feet the air is a little thinner.

During our reconnaissance mission we also swam at the community pool and it was weird that I couldn’t catch my breath when we swam there either. 3,000 feet isn’t much, and I never felt it on the bike or the run but it was definitely impacting my swim.

As the swim progressed I was able to speed things up a little and finished with a respectable 1:07 – respectable, given the circumstances.

Transition was uneventful and I was off on the bike. The ride out of town includes a good climb just to get your blood pumping. My plan (there’s that word again) was to keep my heart rate around 150 for the bike portion of the race so I’d have something left for the run.

As usual, I was being passed by what seemed everybody in the race that wasn’t already ahead of me, but I was determined to take it easy. The scenery is just beautiful there so it’s a great race to do from that perspective. And, if you’re a good cyclist, and like the hills, it’s a great race for you.

At about mile 25 my pal Larry caught up to me. On a good day he wouldn’t have caught me so quickly but because of my poor swim he caught me quite early. The problem is that Larry choked on the swim as well. Tough day for both of us.

He looked really strong as he blew by me so it appeared his Kona dreams were still in tact . . . mine? Not so much!

The bike course is two loops with a couple of really good climbs. The most famous is called The Wall, but all things considered not that bad. I think the climb took about eight minutes. It seems like forever but it’s not.
The wind started to pick up a bit but based on stories, not too bad by St. George standards. The problem is that the wind can be in your face as you’re climbing The Wall which makes it just that much tougher.

I could tell it wasn’t going to be my day. I just couldn’t generate enough power on the bike to put in a competitive performance. Oh well, it would be a great training day, anyway.

My total time on the bike was 6:20. Totally pedestrian.

At this point I had given up on qualifying for Kona at this race but decided to see what I could do on one loop of the two loop run course.

T-2 went smoothly and I felt quite good. Ready to see what my running legs could do.

It started to heat up at this point. While the bike course is what I would call “challenging” the run course is “tough.” It is very hilly and the heat just made things worse.

There are a few out-and-back sections so if you have friends out there you can usually catch a glimpse of them at some point. I did see, and subsequently pass, Quinton, out by the golf course. A devious turn off the main road up a hill and back. I think they added this section just to piss me off.

Anyway, Quinton waved me by. This wouldn’t be his best Ironman effort either.

I felt good on the run although I wasn’t fast. I did see Larry out there a couple times with his head buried in his work. Very focused!

Since Gary didn’t do any of the run (wise man) he was waiting at the end of the first loop of the two-loop run course. He borrowed Larry’s iPad so he was keeping up on the race progress.

Halfway through the run I was in about seventh place. Gary and I talked about it for a few minutes and decided the best thing would be to stop and save my legs for my next Kona qualifying race, IM Hawaii 70.3. Since there would either be only two or three Kona slots there wasn’t any way I was going to qualify here anyway.

While it felt good to stop, I did feel quite strong, and never close to bonking. This has been my bane in all of my previous Ironman attempts. The dreaded “bonk.” I felt like I could have easily continued to finish the marathon. That would be the highlight of my day.

While you never know what’s going to happen during the course of an Ironman I think you can always learn from it. I have quite a few “take-aways” from this race.

Larry had a good day, but later said he just didn’t have it. He finished fifth. Another pal of ours Mark Stoner dropped out after the bike portion because he couldn’t keep any fluids down. Tough day all around.

Now it’s time to look forward to Ironman Hawaii 70.3 on June 4th.

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Race Report – Ironman St. George, Larry Davidson

Ironman St. George – May 7, 2011

Ironman number 8 is in the books, and I continue to be thankful to participate in these events.  I never imagined 6 years ago that I would ever even do an Ironman, as the distances seemed kind of ridiculous. This was my 2nd time at Ironman St. George, and it was a very successful day for me out there in the Southern Utah desert.

St. George is perched at 3,000 feet above sea level, and is a short 2 hour drive north of Las Vegas.  There is a Mormon church on every street corner it seems, and it is a clean and pretty small town.  The locals embrace the race, and there were street signs, banners, and lots of welcome smiles in the days leading up to the race.

Three weeks prior to the event, I made a weekend trip to St. George with my training posse and we swam, biked, and ran various parts of the course.  I have a great group of friends who share a passion for endurance events, and competition.  I  trained really hard for this event as I had high hopes to finish in first or second place in my age group, which would guarantee me getting a slot to the Hawaii Ironman in October.  I have recently aged “up” to the 55-59 year old age group, so now I am one of the younger guys in that category.

My wife Kim and I made the drive to St. George on Wednesday, giving me time to go through the incredible logistical challenges as one preps to travel 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running.  All Ironman competitions start at 7AM with a mass swim start, and each participant has until midnight to finish.  

The weather forecast was looking a bit scary, with the mercury expected to get into the 90′s.  I don’t feel I am a particularly good hot weather racer, and would much rather work my butt off in cool weather.  I would be lying if I said I was not concerned about running in 90 degree plus heat!

Our group from Orange county included Slater, Monique, Max, Greg, Art, Gary, Ron, Quinton, Anna, and me.  They are all great athletes and I admire their abilities and dedication.  We also had some great support from friends and family to help cheer us on during the event.

We all gathered for our “Last Supper” at the Brick Oven restaurant on Friday night, then off to early bed, as I put in for a 3:30AM wake up call.  

Race morning’s are not without a fair amount of hustling around, and for this race, we had to get to the main square in St. George to catch the 5:15AM shuttle bus for the 20 mile ride out to the Sand Hollow Reservoir.

The early morning air had the makings for a warm day, but the water temperature in the mountain fed reservoir was a cold 58 degrees.

Swim for 2.4 miles:

The water at 58 degrees shocks your body, especially your face.  
That said, after a short while it doesn’t feel bad at all.  As the mass of 1,600 athletes surged towards the first buoy, I felt fine.  That fine feeling left me abruptly at about 500 meters, and I was unable to breath.  I was beyond being in oxygen debt, I was groping for any air, and thought I may have to DNF!  This had never happened to me before, and I was scared.  I flipped to my back and tried to breath, not much luck.  I continued to “try” and swim, but what a chore.  After about 15 minutes, I miraculously felt good again, and was able to swim in relative comfort the rest of the way.  Basically, this was a bad situation that fortunately didn’t halt my race.  I came out of the water in 18th place in my age group with a swim time of 1h14’26″.

Bike for 112 miles:

I felt ok starting out on the bike, but not like I was going to ride like Lance.  I had decided to try and pace myself smartly on the bike as it was going to be a sufferfest on the marathon, and wasting too much energy on the bike would be a mistake.  I kept a steady effort, and navigated this tough bike course of over 6,000 feet of climbing in what I think was a disciplined approach. I saw my friends Jorge, Carla, and Jeff out on the course.  They had ridden their bikes out to the town of Veyo, where each athlete has to climb the dreaded “Veyo Wall” twice.  It is a monster climb that is just under a mile, but has grade pitches to 14%.  That is VERY steep.  It was great to hear them cheering me on, and it helped a lot!

I know I was hydrating properly as I had to pee a couple of times on the bike (yup, while riding).
I took many opportunities to douse my body with water to cool myself.  I got off the bike feeling tired, but not completely cooked.  I got off the bike and I had moved up 7 places to 11th. My bike segment was 9th best in my age group, and my bike time was 6h6′.

Run for 26.2 miles:

As I was descending on the bike from Snow Canyon, the heat blasts felt like someone had opened up the Gates of Hell.  I was NOT relishing the idea of trying to run a marathon.  The people watching and cheering us come in off the bike looked like they were cooking.
When I got into T2, my wife Kim was right there to hand me my run gear bag; that was a great surprise.  I loaded my feet up with Hydro-Pel to avoid blistering, and slipped on my running shoes.  

I started running, and the 90 degree plus dry air had my mouth parched before I had run a half a mile.  This was going to be fun.  I decided I would run this thing one mile at a time, and just stay in the moment.  I also was going to find every opportunity to cool myself down. 

As tough as the bike was, the run on this course is far worse.  It features 2,000 feet of climbing, so you are either running up or running down.  No flat parts at all.  

Each mile had a fantastically staffed aid station with ice cold sponges, ice, water, gatorade, gels, bananas, grapes, pretzels, chips. chicken soup, coke.  It is a veritable smorgasbord out there.  At each aid station I took ice and put it in my cap, my shorts, my top, down my back.  I grabbed sponges, and doused myself with water.  I started sucking down coke and some water, but mostly coke.  

I passed a few guys in my age group, but I wasn’t thinking that clearly, so I couldn’t remember how many guys I passed in my age group.  I was passing people like crazy on this hilly run, and just kept moving forward.  It turned out I passed 198 athletes on the run.

I did a good job of keeping my body cooled down, and it allowed me to keep running when the masses were reduced to a pretty pathetic Ironman Shuffle, or walking.  I felt I was running for a Hawaii slot, but no clue what position I was in. I had the 3rd best run in my age group, with a run time of 4h00’36″.

I finished the last 6 miles very strong and was pumped up as Kim caught me and kissed me as the “voice of Ironman”, Mike Reilly, said:

“Larry Davidson, 55 years old from Dana Point, California, who has completed 7 previous Ironman races….YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

I later found out I had moved up to 5th place and would have a spot on the podium for my age group.  I also knew there would be a maximum of 3 slots to Hawaii in my age group, so I was certain I would be out of contention for that honor.

The competition for this event was absolutely brutal. The top 3 guys in my age group happened to all be doctors. One from the U.K, another from N.Y., and the other from South Dakota. This represented the 2nd time I have been on the podium (top 5), in my eight Ironman races.

I have not thrown in the towel on attempting one more race this year to qualify for Hawaii, but no decision made yet. I have already qualified for the 70.3 World Championships at Lake Las Vegas in September, so I am looking forward to that with great anticipation.

I feel absolutely great writing this 2 days after the race, and I am looking forward to getting back to moving my body and recovering from this race. Do yourself a favor, and go for a walk, a run, a swim; just move it baby, move it!

“Do today what others won’t, so you can do tomorrow what others can’t”

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