Friday, October 14, 2011

The Race

Walking into transition was a real shock to the system...this is really here, this is going to happen right now! I immediately went from nervous and worried about flatting to 100% race mode. I checked my bike and everything was fine, I made sure I had everything i needed where I needed it, and I was off to the water.

Dipping my feet into the water felt great, and at that moment I knew I was in for a monumental race! 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.

As the cannon shot off, so did the agegroupers. nearly 1800 flopping 18-81 year old athletes all jockeying for position. Luckily for me I chose a pocket right by some women who didnt look like they belonged on the front line, and I had a smooth start. I got into a rhythm and was feeling smooth and relaxed. I hit the turn around with a large pack, and still was feeling stellar. as we made our final turn to head back to the bay, I was stung by something in the water. I never saw anything, and it wasnt bad enough for me to stop, but it was def a shock to my system. In the long run I think it helped a bit because after that moment I started to turn the screws a little bit more to try to bridge the gap to the next swim pack. I continued to make up ground the whole way back, but was unable to connect with the pack and had to swim solo for the final mile which seemed like it took forever! I exited the swim with a time of 56:43 and was happy with that. I felt fresh and ready to get out on the bike.

I had a quick transition, quick mount and I was off to the lava fields of Kona. I went in with the mentality that I was going to ride controlled for the first hour then start to loosen the reins and let the horses fly. Turns out I lasted 30 minutes before I got caught up in the fast bikers and started riding with them. I was feeling great and strong so I figured why not! We got to the base of the Hill leading up to Hawi, and was averaging 23.6 MPH. I started climbing and realized that there wasnt too much wind this morning and that I should press this hill because I have a nice huge long downhill coming back. I felt strong all the way up the hill and couldnt believe that I was riding as well as I was. I had hit a little over the halfway point holding just under 23MPH. I went in thinking that if i averaged 21-21.5 that would have been great for me, but 23, i was over the moon. I hit the downhill section and just took off. I was making this course my bitch and was loving every second of it.

It turns out that it isnt quite all downhill all the way back, and things started to get a little difficult. I hit mile 70, missed a water at an aid station and that hurt me. there was no aid station from 70-90 and I paid the price. I had a gel in there, but the lack of hydration really brought me down hard. I managed to get to the end of the bike holding 21.7, but lost a lot of time and places in that last 35 mile stretch. I finished with a bike split of 5:09:52.

Dismounting and running through transition I got uplifted spirits from all of the spectators cheering like crazy, and I thought, you are through 2 of the 3 legs here, now for the easiest one, the one you are most prepared for. The RUN!

After a mildly slow transition where I took my time to make sure I had my shoes on properly and my nutrition settled away, I was out for the run. I felt great! First mile I was through in 7:29 and I was trying to hold myself back because I knew it was going to be a long run.

Things quickly went south on Ali'i Drive. There was no circulation, and all you could feel was the heat of the sun melting your skin, your insides, your legs, your brain. It became so hard to run that I caved in to walking very early, just before mile 2. I looked at my watch and realized that All i had to run was a 3:45 and I would break my goal of 10 hours! That was a little uplifting and I started to run again, making it a little over a mile before I felt like i was going to blow up in the microwave. I was desperately throwing ice down my top, down my shorts, putting cold sponges on my temples, anything I could think of to cool down my core temperature, because I knew if i could do that I could run. I slowly realized that a sub 10 hour race was leaving the realm of possibility and survival mode kicked in. I kept telling myself if you have to walk the rest of this race then so be it, but you are making it to that finish line whatever means necessary.

Even though I was frustrated, the pressure of the sub 10 hour race was off, and I started to implement a run to the aid station walk for a minute. And that was actually really helping. My times per mile were dropping, and I was starting to cool off (thankfully it was starting to get a little overcast, so that helped big time). Once I went in and out of the energy lab I knew that finishing wasnt a question anymore. I had only 6 miles left. I looked at my watch and saw that I needed a 53 minute 6 mile and change in order to break 11 hours. I got myself back into a race mentality that I was going to make that happen, and I stuck to my run to the aid station, walk through for a minute, but my running pace was steadily getting quicker and quicker, feeding off the volunteers and spectators that were doing everything they could to help me out.

Running down Palani Rd, and knowing i only had one mile left was the second best feeling of that race. I saw my family and gave them high fives as i ran down the hill, and headed down for my last 3/4 mile. Things really started to get foggy there, I had been running for 2 miles straight because of all the support of people on the queen k, and I desperately wanted to walk, but deep inside I told myself, even the finishers who finish in 17 hours run this last stretch because of all the support, and if they can do it, so can I! So i somehow found the strength to get to Ali'i without walking. Once I was on Ali'i it was like the crowd dragged me down the final stretch. My body was numb and I was on the verge of just dropping, but somehow I made it to that finish line. That was the greatest feeling of the day, knowing I made it to the line through the deeepest and darkest moments of my life, I found a way to push through and achieve my ultimate goal of finishing Ironman World Championships in Kona!

After finishing my family came up and congratulated me which was amazing to have them there! And they asked me if I was going to ever come back to do it again. Really? you are going to ask me that right after I finished! They have hearts of gold, but come on use your heads! I told them F*$% no, but after analyzing everything, and rethinking how great of an experience that was, I am changing my mind. If it were easy everyone would do it. This is the world championships, you have to do well here in order to have the feeling that you accomplished what you wanted in the sport. I have not done that yet and still have the itch to press my limits. I'LL BE BACK!

Ironman World Championships 2011

Being in Kona, HI the week of the Ironman World Championships was an experience I will never forget. The venue was unbelievable, the sponsors were everywhere, and best of all, you saw a well known pro every corner you turned on. The clear hot spot for all the big named athletes was the Lava Java right on Ali'i Dr. This place definitely lived up to the hype, the food was Spectacular! The very first day I was there I went to get breakfast at Lava Java, and ran into Jan Frodeno and Javier Gomez, two of the top ITU olympic distance athletes in the world one of which won the gold medal in the last olympics. Some other guys I ran into there were Norman Stadler (2x ironman world champion), marino vanhoenacker (3rd place last year), and Jordan Rapp (multiple ironman winner). It was unbelievable to see how these guys were just normal every day guys out for breakfast, and it made me realize that even though you see them on tv, they are just like you and I, but much more athletic!

Throughout the week I ran into many other professionals both current and retired, and it was awesome to see just how fit they all still were! This was the motivation that I needed leading up to the big race.

My buddy Sev and I went out for a ride one day and decided to go check out the turn around point on the bike at Hawi. This was a big mistake, and eventually made me more scared to race this race then to go see paranormal activity at the movies. We got out of the car at a side street 5 or so miles from the true turnaround and we could barely keep our bikes upright. It must have been 50 mile gusts, with constant 25-30 mph winds. It was a straight head/head cross wind, and it was miserable. I had never worked so hard to go 12 mph and be so scared in my life. about 15 minutes in i looked down cause something didnt feel right, my buddy was pulling away from me hard, and I knew there was something wrong. I had a flat tire. I yelled up to him and told him to go get the car and to come back and get me, and i sort of threw my bike in the lava on the side of the road (similar to norman stadler the year after he won 2 years in a row)
and was very frustrated. The worst part about flatting pre race week is that you get it in your head that you are for sure going to flat in the race.

Sev and I ended up getting back to the car and were talking about how horrible that was and he told me that he nearly died descending with the wind at his back. He was going 50 mph and his handlebars just started to shake and rattle like crazy and he had to lay on the brakes and slow down or he would have been added to the casualty list in the lava fields. I am glad he was ok.

We ended up going to get a beer in frustration after that ride and vent to each other.

The rest of the week was very uneventful leading up to the race. Our one goal leading up to the race was to not get sunburnt, because if you are sunburnt for before the race, that gonna be a miserable day! So we were constantly lathering each other up. We went for a couple swims, and a run, and felt pretty good there. All we were wishing for was no winds and no flats out at hawi!

Race morning came very quickly and things became very real! We got up at 4, thankfully we were still on west coast time so getting up at 4 felt super easy. We got some breakfast in, and headed down to transition. Taking in the race morning scene was very overwhelming, but exciting. It was everything you see on tv and more! The other cool part for me was to get marked with the official stamped on numbers. I had never had the luxury of having such awesome numbers.

After the body marking tent we were hearded off to transition to do one final bike check before we got in the water at Kailua Kona Bay...