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Archive for October 16th, 2008

Seen at Kickrunners.com as well:

The usual disclaimer:

This is so utterly long, you’ll go senseless. But if I wrote a short one, you’ll give me an F and will ask me to write it again. Anyway, full of trivial details including some of the thoughts that were percolating in my head at different times. If you can’t follow my train of thought, just ascribe it to gibberish. I’m not myself yet. This whole thing has also been a sensory overload for me, so I may be making more edits to this report later on as my thoughts get more organized.

The Thank You’s first:

Thanks to my coach for making it happen. Thanks to all my Tri-Peeps who were patient with me as I asked the stupid questions. Thanks to my family who endured long periods of no contact due to my training schedule. Thanks to all the volunteers especially Richard and the surfer dude. Thanks to all spectators who called my name and city (causing me to freak out several times). Thanks to all the Japanese nationals who cheered for me thinking I was one of them–too funny! Domo arigatu gozaimashta.

Outfit:

Black DeSoto Tri-shorts for the swim
Add a bright orange group jersey for the ride
Put on my favorite running hat for the run portion

Results:

Kona World Championships, October 11, 2008

Swim: 2:10:16 Bike: 7:26:55 Run: 4:48:42 Overall Time: 14:52:48

Overall Rank: 1521 of 1736 Division: 206 of 230

TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (2:10:16) 3:25/100m Overall 1730 Div 229
FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 5.5 mi. (2:40:08 ) 18.00 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 28 mi. (4:00:58 ) 16.70 mph
THIRD BIKE SEGMENT 59 mi. (6:10:30) 14.36 mph
FOURTH BIKE SEGMENT 88 mi. (8:08:24) 14.76 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 112 mi. (9:48:43) 14.35 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (7:26:55) 15.04 mph Overall 1667 Div 222

FIRST RUN SEGMENT 5.2 mi. (10:52:15) 9:15/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 10.3 mi. (11:47:22) 10:48/mile
THIRD RUN SEGMENT 17.6 mi. (13:17:33) 12:21/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 26.2 mi. (14:52:48 ) 11:04/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (4:48:42) 11:01/mile Overall 1521 Div 206

T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 11:32
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 15:23

Day -1 Pre-Race Meal:

Skipped lunch and dinner the night before. Snacking on biscuits and drinking Gatorade the entire day. I do better when my stomach is not full.

Pre-Race:

Woke up at 3AM and jumped into the shower. That’s just my routine. I put on my tri-shorts and a running top, grabbed my special needs bags and pre-swim bag, woke up the coach, and then we headed out for the 30-minute ride into Kona. We talked about more challenging races down the line, but the coach wisely brought me back to the event at hand. He seemed a little nervous about how I’ll do, although he tried not to show it. I was happy the time had come, wrapping up all the months of preparation into one long day.

The coach dropped me off as close to the transition area as possible. I had myself marked and deposited my special needs bags in the appropriate truck. I then headed out of the transition area and sat at a bench near the corner of Palani Drive and Ali’i Drive. Just watching the minutes tick off slowly. At 6:15, I headed into the transition area. Deposited my pre-swim bag and checked to make sure I had my goggles and swim cap with me. I stood by the transition bike mount/dismount area to watch the opening ceremonies. The pros were lined up at the start by the time the national anthem was played. At 6:45 the pros were off.

Swim:

Started walking behind all the age groupers making sure that I stay back and to the left. Was pleasantly surprised that I gained a foothold on the beach that was all mine. Unfortunately, I felt impatient standing there so I proceeded to swim up to the start line (back and left) where I treaded water for maybe 5 minutes. A local triathlete that I got to know found me and we had a short talk before the start. I wished her good luck. (I would see her again in the bike and run sections where we cheered for each other).

When the cannon went off, I started off with the entire field. Had a few run-ins, but nothing too bad. After a minute or two, I had clear water pretty much all around me. I would try to warm up for the first 200M; when I looked up and to the left, I sensed that a paddler was shadowing me. Surreal. Don’t know if it was a safety issue at first (he didn’t know how far I’d go) or he picked the right slow candidate for the day.

At 300M, I actually stopped a few seconds and introduced myself. I also asked for his name. He said that his name was Richard. I said, “Nice day for a swim, isn’t it?”. He smiled, and basically told me that he is trying to guide me through on a nice straight line. I said I don’t mind the company. At this point, the swimmers around me and their paddler escorts resembled a flotilla. The group stayed in close formation the entire way to the turnaround (the boat placed to be seen from the start). My pace at this point was pedestrian; was more concerned with the corrals and the sea floor than the race.

At the 1 mile mark, a referee actually flagged me and my paddler to stop. I knew he was a referee because he had a referee shirt on! He said I should start swimming in a straight line. Don’t know what prompted that, but Richard was quick to say that we already had that conversation.

I have to admit, the enormity of this race didn’t dawn on me until the turnaround point. The thought that entered my head then was “what the heck am I saving all this energy for?”. At that point, I started swimming like I meant it and proceeded to pass most of the swimmers in our flotilla. I could see Richard smile; maybe he was surprised that I could actually swim faster when I have a reason to.

I now had an extra paddler join in to bring me home. The surfer dude was smiling and in his silent way was encouraging me to keep going. It became apparent why when I stepped on the beach. The announcer was doing a 10-minute countdown to the cutoff and I just stepped out of the water at that moment. My name was announced and the crowd cheered. I felt like a rock star!

I did turn around and thank both Richard and the surfer dude for guiding me in. Sorta funny how someone had to wake me up in the swim!

Slowwwww 2:10:16 swim.

Swim-to-Bike Transition:

After high-fiving an endless row of volunteers and officials, I finally made it to the makeshift showers. Was careful about really rinsing off the salt water. Got my gear and went into the change tent. Wasn’t waited on, but I did have to ask a volunteer for some help with my top. I put on my bib, GPS and HR monitor, pocketed my salt tab bottle, put on copious sunblock, got my socks, and then put on my bike shoes last. Didn’t feel funny running down the artificial turf with my bike shoes. Had the whole bike rack area to myself, and there were only less than 30 bikes left. The volunteers tried their best to keep me moving, and encouraged me to go to the mount area as quick as possible. There was no urgency at all because the first goal for the day had been met (the swim cutoff). I walked to the bike to the mount area and got on it slowly. I was surprised at the size of the crowd at the Ali’i Drive bike start area. I was sure to wave to everyone, including a big smile and the Hang-Ten sign. The sign pleased the crowd and the cheering was loud!

Transition time 00:11:32.

Bike:

The ride up to Queen K highway was quiet, with a few vocal spectators cheering. The ride down Palani Drive and to the end of Kuakini Road was actually a bit harder to deal with. I couldn’t concentrate on the bike since I was acknowledging the crowd. Don’t know why I do it, but it seems like I smiled and waved to everybody. After Palani Drive, the prospect of riding the Queen K by myself was a welcome thought.

I would pass about five athletes in the in-town segment. They just got out of the water too, and most were dealing with seasickness. I settled into the work at hand right after the second light from Palani Drive. It was just long enough to get into a good rhythm.

Had about six gels and two bars in my bento box. Had a bottle of water and a bottle of Perpetuem on behind my saddle. I kept the two frame trays empty to accommodate water bottles as I got into each aid station. Ended up with about five bottles most of the time (water bottle in my hand). Used an aid station bottle to keep myself cool, and another for backup. In reality, I always had two bottles of water for backup. It would come in handy later on.

Had a gel every 30 minutes; was grabbing gels at the aid station too. I cooled myself continuously with water and made sure I was hydrated. I still took swigs of Perpetuem every 40 minutes or so.

I passed a few more athletes after the Four Seasons. Getting into Donkey Crossing made me smile. The name to me is really funny. I was feeling good. After passing Scenic Point, it was fun to look forward to passing the Waikoloa area where I was staying. After passing the heliport and Mauna Lani area, things started to get interesting.

Never biked this section into Kawaihae, so the hills here were a surprise. Not too technical but just long enough to disturb rhythm. I looked forward to the start of Highway 270 into Kawaihae and up to Haw’i.

Around mile 30, I started to see the pros come back. It was hard to miss them, because the media and support vehicles hugged the whole road. Cyclists going the other way had to go all the way to the shoulder. Annoying.

The referees on the bike course were easy to spot. They were always riding behind a motorcyclist and wore the referee shirts. They were more concerned with the main pack than the small group of stragglers in the back. They stopped a few.

At mile 40, I saw my fast teammate headed back to Waikoloa. He maintained an almost impossible 21 mph average over the whole course! He called my name as he was zipping by. That was cool.

When I got into Kawaihae, I noticed the main pack coming back. To the last person, everyone had a look of relief. The winds in Haw’i are legendary and did cause white-knuckle reaction in cyclists who didn’t train there in the days leading. Saw at least one bike crash in those hills.

The ride up to Haw’i was actually better than my practice ride days before. There were sections where I could go 18mph, but most of the climbs were in the 14mph range. The headwinds and crosswinds didn’t cause too much problems going up. On the climb up, I passed another 10 cyclists. Some were young, most were older. Thank goodness for that practice ride.

The turnaround point happened almost suddenly, even though I knew where it was. Got there at 3:40 something. Stopped at the special needs area and found they had misplaced my bag. The volunteer was apologetic, but I was doing well at keeping my stores up so no big deal. A young woman also stopped at the same time I did, and proceeded to declare that she was putting on some of that “butt” butter. It made everyone laugh. She had passed me in the first section of the swim and for some reason remembered what I looked like. I left her for the downhill section as she asked the volunteers to smear more sunblock on her fair skin.

The trip down from Haw’i was a joy. I averaged over 23 mph, and in certain sections got to 32 mph. I instinctively remembered where the crosswinds picked up my front wheel during my practice ride, so I did a conservative 28 mph in those sections. Too bad the downhills didn’t last.

When I got to the aid station coming down from Haw’i, I found out that they ran out of water. Had used up my two aid station bottles at this point, so had to rely on my third backup for the rest of the way down. Got back to full strength a few aid stations later.

Have you ever seen a hand-cyclist go up a hill? Man, they struggle at it. I made the mistake of overtaking a hand-cyclist as the hill up to the Queen K highway crested; I thought that he would keep going, but he actually slowed down to maintain following distance. I felt bad for him for the next two miles.

Was looking forward to the trip back to Kona after mile 80. Had successfully avoided any penalty and I was feeling good. Wouldn’t you know it, this last section became the toughest part of the bike. I was on track for a 6+ bike, but with the winds here I knew it would be 7+ so I accepted it early on.

It rained a little bit, giving a brief relief from the heat. The headwinds picked up though. There were sections where it was impossible to go 8mph, and I made do with 14mph max. I would pass more cyclists in this section. Had made peace with my aerobar, and for this section it was the only way to go. Stay up and you lose 2mph.

Saw the youngest girl competitor (18 ) struggling between Kawaihae and Mauna Lani. I tried to encourage her to keep at it, but I think she was deep into her thoughts. What does a girl think about anyway? I knew her race number and what she looked like because she was onstage during the welcome ceremony.

Fighting the wind and trying to stay in the aero position took a lot of concentration, so the trip back to Kona was a blur. It did get easier pass the airport, allowing speeds of 18mph at some points.

The light before Palani Drive never looked so good! I made a quick trip of it down to the transition area and actually took my feet out of my bike shoes. First time. At the bike dismount area, two catchers came up to me and I easily dismounted and ran into the transition gate. Very proud of myself for that pulling that dismount off.

Looooonnnng day, but I made it. 7:26:55. Wall-time I think was around 9:56, so 38 minutes early from the cutoff point. Saw the coach at the Palani Drive and Kuakini Road corner—he had that look of relief on his face. Too funny.

Bike-to-Run Transition:

A volunteer waited on me hand-and-foot. He took my run stuff and handed it to me one at a time. He even wanted to loosen my shoes for me. That was cool. It felt good to put on my favorite running hat. The run is my thing, so the only thing left for me to do was finish. I kept my tri-top on to represent my team (photo-op at the finish). I was careful to wash off the salt marks though. Had to go to the bathroom because I was feeling nauseous at this point (too much GU?).

I looked up and noted that the wall-time was showing 10:17. Lost some minutes there somewhere.

Transition time 00:15:23.

Run:

When I left the transition area, there was the same big crowd cheering. I acknowledged them and after a number of Hang-Ten signs I was off. They were announcing the finishes at this point for the main pack, so I just turned a deaf ear to the commotion and kept right on running.

Did I mention I was feeling nauseous? That would stay with me in the run. Avoided the GU which was a bad thing. Got lightheaded in places, which I attributed to the heat. Anyway, the aid stations became a solid distraction for me because I was using these as water stops to cool off. Thinking back now, I was alright temp-wise but was just out of energy. I needed what I was avoiding.

I ran the first part at around an 8:45 pace. Add the aid station slowdowns and you get the average pace. I pass about 12 athletes to the Ali’i turnaround. Most were walking at this point. The sun went down after the turnaround. Don’t think I ever ran a race at night, and the nocturnal instincts were taking over. I was falling asleep! So miles 6-10 were a bit rough. It was a new thing for me. The spectators were still cheering, but it was getting harder to acknowledge them (was I getting tired?).

The run up on Palani Drive became a walk. Decided that raising my heart rate was the wrong thing to do at this point. Started running again when I got to Queen K.

Many athletes on the way back were making a concerted effort to run. But you know the scene—more walkers than runners at this point. My main issue was the nausea that seemed to come when I go faster than 8:45. Weird, but it seemed almost self-imposed. My GPS also died at this point, so am just not good at running by feel at night. My running average (when I wasn’t walking) was around 10:00.

Some of the walkers took my cue and decided to run when I was running. Very cool. But the trip to the Energy Labs area was so dark, giving you the impression that this run was never going to end. I kept trucking along until I got to the turnaround point. I asked the official what the turnaround represented in miles. He said 17.5. I asked him what time it was, he said 8:20. I thought, good—if I ran from this point I’d make it in about 1:30.

It was after mile 19, that I discovered that the aid stations were just slowing me down. Forced myself to ingest GU even if it was revolting (Yeech!). I decided that I was going to run until there was no more road to cover; after all, what’s a 10K? Passed a few more walkers/runners in the final segment. I knew that when I get to Palani Drive, the final mile and 326 yards would take care of itself.

Slower run time: 4:48:42

Finish:

As I ran pass two guys on Palani, they asked what my race number was. One guy called it in—they were spotters. The spectators on either side of Palani and Kuakini came alive, and they cheered for the fact that someone was actually running! Funny. As I turned into Hualalai going into Ali’i, spectators raced into the streets and were high-fiving me on both sides. I actually needed to get pass the crowd to finish!

Right before the finish line chute, I saw my coach and friends. I stopped to acknowledge them, but had to excuse myself soon enough. My faster teammate (who had already been to the Outback Steakhouse at this point) ran into the street, yelled my name, and gave me the hardest high-five of all!

Did you notice that the finish line chute is not actually straight–it curves slightly to the right? From the timing mat, you can see the timer but not straight on. At this point, I was just glad it was done. In the same celebratory fashion as in any other marathon, I was absolutely goofing off at the finish.

After a few more Hang-Ten signs revved the crowd, I made a fun 180-twisty turn to arrive at the finish facing backwards. When I turned around to face the finish line dignitaries and volunteers, I was just soaking it all in. In that instant, I stood at the finish–frozen with the biggest smile on my face.

I started out with a sputter in the swim, fought the winds into Kona, and made it in with a decent time for a newbie. I soaked in the fact that I was in the finish line chute by myself, in the world stage. And I didn’t make a fool of myself.

Don’t know if I’ll ever be back as an athlete, but having done it once was definitely worth the struggle to get to Kona trained and ready. I know now how priceless it is when the announcer finally says “You are Ironman!”.

Overall finish time: 14:52:48

Post-Race:

After the getting the medal and photos taken, I found a volunteer who showed me the way to the massage tent. Very nice!

My coach and friends took my stuff so I could go with my teammate to the bar overlooking the finish. It’s like an open secret—the view from the second floor is to die for.

Had myself two servings of blended margaritas while we waited for the final finishers. The crowd was simply electric, and the margarita made me forget what a long day I just had. In those two hours at that bar, I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but right where I was. The imagery at the finish will remain a vivid memory for the rest of my life.

After all, this is Ford Ironman Kona!

Additional information:

I got the photos and will post them when I get home. Had a photo taken with Craig Alexander, which was cool too. My coach asked me to stand next to him and took a shot. I asked respectfully of course. I’ll post that one as well when I get a copy. Oh, the awards banquet got rained on; so I’m actually somewhat miserable with a head cold just before I take off from Kona.

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