Ironmans are hard. And this one is no exception.
Race morning went as planned. Got there early and body marking and bike set up went quickly. Everyone gets marked with block numbers, and noone has numbers marked on their legs for some reason. Watched the pros start then just laid down and waited. Jim Burke and I met up and entered the water together. Jim was a college track teammate and roommate of my great high school friend Brett Attebery, and I'd met Jim when I went to Tulane to visit Brett in 1989 but hadn't seen him since. This was the first Kona for both of us. He and his wife were, randomly, staying in the room next door to us, and on the other side of them, randomly, was my parents' room. We waded into the bay together, swam out and hung onto a kayak for a couple of minutes, then scooted on out near the start line, seeding ourselves toward the left and about 3-5 rows back. I don't think either of us could actually believe it was happening. I didn't know until after that my family spotted me with binoculars. The swim parallels shore, and they were actually pretty close to us.
The swim was awesome. Not my fastest, but the best and by far most enjoyable I've ever had. The weather was great. Water had cleared up and I never noticed waves or swells. Perfect temperature - never hot or cold. I only had to sight maybe 15 times during the entire swim because everyone was swimming straight - these people knew what they were doing. There was physical contact, but nothing like other IMs. When someone made contact, they corrected. I drafted about 80% of the time, which is just phenomenal. There were tons of swimmers about my ability, and you could see them in the clear ocean water, and scoot in behind them. Once or twice when I had gaps, I surged ahead to catch feet. After doing that a couple of times, I realized I was burning a lot of energy to gain maybe 5 seconds, so after that, whenever I lost a draft, I just slowed down and veered left or right to the nearest feet. Thought I saw turtles at the turn, but it was a scuba diver. Heard later that a momma and baby dolphins were playing out by our turn. The swim went by super fast, and I felt great coming out of the water, like I could swim all day. Swam at 1:13, or 5 mins slower than my fastest IM swim, which is about the best I could have expected.
Swim to bike transition
No issues. Lots of volunteer support. I kept this very simple. I swim with my HR monitor on, so all I needed was socks and arm coolers. My helmet, glasses, shoes, and all nutrition were already on the bike.
I rode exactly to plan. With everything I'd read about this race - heat, humidity, winds - and never having raced this before, I wanted to take it very easy on the first half of the ride, coasting whenever possible with the tailwinds going out of town, and on all downhills when I got above 32mph or so. That's exactly what I did, saving my power for the last of the ride and for the marathon. Saw family and friends a couple of times on the quick loops through town, then out on the Queen K Highway for a fast first 30 miles. My power meter doesn't factor out the "zeros" for the periods you're coasting so you have to guess at your effort level a bit. I was exceeding 20mph, so I felt my power was solid. Then on the climb up into the headwinds of Hawi I just rode my goal power. This was miles 55-62 or so, and was tough. Plenty of sections where I was riding only about 10mph right into strong headwinds. I think the bike course record was set, but the talk the next day was that the pros (who started 30 minues before us) had very light winds into Hawi, but by the time we got to Hawi 90 minutes later, it was blowing 20+mph. The first 12-15 miles after the Hawi turnaround (especially the first 5-6) were screaming fast downhill and with the wind, and I coasted whenever I could. Then, after about a one mile climb back up to the Queen K Highway, we turned south into a 15-20mph quartering SW wind for miles 80-100. This is where being patient early paid off. I passed a lot of people on this section. From the official results, I only moved up 5 places on the entire ride (weird), but I passed at least 50 riders in the last 30 miles, so many riders must have passed me in the first 80 (or more likely the first 50). The ride pointed out, though, how different this race is. Almost no one was "blowing up" - everyone at Kona can ride. I'd written my friend Matt's (who has cancer) name on my hand, and prayed for him a lot during this stretch. Blissfully, 10 miles or so from town (near the airport), we veered to the SE. The wind was behind us at this point and we just flew back to town. I drank loads of water, hammered the electrolytes, and took in about 2000 calories throughout the ride. At every aid station I poured an entire water bottle all over me, and picked up a 2nd bottle that I poured on me between aid stations. I rode a full 15 watts lower than at my qualifying race in Wisconsin. But this was also my hottest and most humid race ever. I rode solid throughout the day, finishing with a 5:39 (about 10 minutes off my usual) and going into T2 feeling good.
Bike to run transition
A volunteer took my bike, and we ran the entire way around the pier to pick our run gear bags. Quite a few things to do in T2, but it went quickly. Put on shoes, lap belt with calories, cap, Garmin and salt. I'd packed a soft-sided insulated lunch bag for T2 with pickle juice and a RedBull, so grabbed both of those, and I was off.
Around 90 degrees at the start, but got some filtered sun in the 2nd half. Ran fairly close to plan through about 10 miles. Went the first 5 in 8:50, which was about 30 seconds slower than plan, but my Garmin was reading 8:20s or so, so I thought I was right on target. I burned a bit too much time in the aid stations trying to fill a water bottle I was carrying (which must have been what pushed me up to 8:50s), which I shagged at about mile 5. At mile 6 I dropped the pace to 7:45s, which seemed about right, and my heart rate was fine. Then at mile 10, Palani Hill just crushed me. I crept up the steep 1/4+ mile hill at about a 10:00 pace. Then after cresting Palani, the Queen K continues on a moderate uphill grade for what feels like forever, and I could just never get back to 7:30s. Averaged 8:37s on this section (miles 10-17). I promise you the Queen K Highway is uphill both ways to and from the Natural Energy Lab. I'd forgotten to put Body Glide on my feet which started blistering about mile 6, and by mile 12 or so were hurting pretty bad. At every aid station I put cold sponges in my shirt, ice in my hat, poured water all over me, and drank as much water as I could. Started dropping ice in my tri-shorts about mile 15 and it would melt before the next aid station. I finished my Enervitine about mile 13 but then somehow missed my run special foods bag, which is at the half marathon point. Thought I'd see it at 14, but no. 15, no. 16, no. What an idiot! My stomach was full and starting to turn sour too. How could I have missed my special foods bag! Then in the Energy Lab at mile 18, there it was! Finally! I'm sure they covered this quirk in the literature but I never read it (and the mandatory athlete meeting was rained out). I picked up what I'd stored in my bag (pickle juice and Enervitie) for the run back to town, which was just insufferably long (beginning with the Natural Energy Lab, which is as tough as advertised). Got some calories down and felt better in miles 20-23, but my power was fading, and my quads were just pounding. Averaged just under 8:00s for the last 9 miles. I prayed a lot about the cross in this section, which I'm thinking hurt a bit worse. It was a choice He made for me, and I was making this choice for Him. Held a fairly good pace from about 17-23, but just couldn't hang on for the last 2-3 miles. Probably needed more calories, but my stomach was full. Still, overall I ran within about 5-10 mins of my best estimate, so I'll take it. I gained 250 places on the run - from 1051st after the bike to 795th at the end. Very few passed me, but these people can run - I only passed a fraction of what I ordinarily do. And I passed very few walkers - maybe 15-20 total. At mile 24 I ran up on Jim Burke, who I'd started the day with. What are the odds of that? We'd started the swim together 10 hours earlier, and now, two miles from the finish, we were together again! We ran together for a couple of minutes, but he wanted to take longer stops at the aid stations, so I went on. We finished 20 seconds apart. Freaky. I ended up running a 3:35 – about 20 minutes off my previous IM best.
The finish was as advertised. Fantastic! The last mile is packed with crowds. With about 1/4 mile to go, you make the final right turn onto Alii Drive and it's just a special thing. Shellie and my family and friends were right along the finishing chute, holding a bright green sign so I saw them from quite a ways away. Stopped in there for some high fives and a smooch. A bit emotional, actually, thinking about all the sacrifice and work it took to get to this point. Then scooted on through across the line to hear the announcer call out my name. I heard they treat an average of 600 out of the 1900 or so athletes in the medical tent. Jim and I decided to give it a whirl. He managed to act sicker than me, and got the lucky IV. I just got some chicken soup. They weighed me, and I'd lost almost no weight all day. Remarkable - all that drinking water I'm sure paid off. Got an awesome post race massage, and a few finishers photos, including one with the family.
So how’d I do? Well, the world is sorta big, and there are a lot of fast dudes out there. I finished 92nd in my age group (out of 209), and 795th overall (out of about 1918). When I qualified at Wisconsin, I was 3rd out of 7 Kona qualifiers in my age group, or about in the middle. At Wisconsin I was 50th overall, and a total of about 80 qualified for Kona, so again I was about in the middle. As it turns out, at Kona, I finished about in the middle of my age group, and about mid-pack overall. So I did about as expected. My time was right where it should have been too. A rule of thumb tossed around out there is you can add 5-10 mins to your swim time, 15 mins to your bike and 15 mins to your run from your previous best (depending on conditions where you qualified, and conditions on race day at Kona, which were good - pretty hot/humid, but not as windy as is possible out there). My previous best was a 10:00, which would put me around 10:35-10:40. The prediction sheet I gave Shellie said to expect me to finish between 5:35-6pm (or a total race time of 10:35-11:00). I finished at 5:35pm, with a race time of 10:35. So, net, I did right about expected. Still, pretty humbling.
Last edited by Don G.
on Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"There are no shortcuts."