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′
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′
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′
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.
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.