January 23, 2018

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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  1. Chris Vargas says:

    Hey Ron!

    Thanks for the mention in the report!



    “If you’re not injured, you’re not training hard enough!”

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