Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ironman World Championship Kona Race Report

All my pre-race activities were covered in my previous blog entry (which includes bike/gear check).  So here I'm gonna jump right to raceday.

Saturday October 10th, 2015
I had the alarm set for 4:15 am, since transition opened at 4:45 am.  Although setting an alarm for my "A" race is useless.  I was up at 3:45am.  We headed out to transition about 15 minutes earlier than planned.  I had my wife drop me off there at the corner of Kuakani and Palani.  As I walked down the hill I saw everyone lining up around the side of the KBH.

There was a long line around the back for body marking.   Basically all the way around half the property.  Halfway through the line was special needs bag drop.  I dropped my bags, though I had no intention of stopping for them.  I just had an extra tube in my bike back, along with some extra nutrition.  Same thing for the run.

You know the race will be different when you see this.
Eventually we got back to the tents they had setup.  They had the fancy tats like the ones for Rev3/Challenge races.  You picked up your tat and then went over to another section and they had a person put it on you.  You do get treated like a rock star at Kona.  It's nice.

Then you walk towards the pier and they weigh you.  I guess if you pass out at the finish, they know how much food to give you?  Not really,  I have no idea why they weigh you.

So I finally get into transition and it was a little busy.  I was definitely ahead of the bulk of the crowd.  As anyone knows, at these "check your bike the day before" races, the first thing you do is find a bike pump.  Well, this is Kona.  They had like 3 or 4 bike pumps at the end of each row.  You just walk down, and get one.  No muss, no fuss.  #KonaRockStar
The Cheer Squad getting into position
Also since you have bike and run bag check, there really isn't much to setup at transition.  I filled my Speedfil BTA bottle.  I put my other bottle behind my seat.  Both had my malto mix in there, identical to what I did at Chattanooga.  I set up my helmet. And that's pretty much it.  I stood and stared at it for a minute, going through T1 in my head.  But like I said, I had all that figured out yesterday to organize my bags.  When I decided I was good, I headed over to check out the swim start.

There wasn't much to see over there. I sat down for a bit, and began drinking my pickle juice.  I had started using some pickle juice before my swims ever since I cramped up like crazy after the FS Series half race a few weeks ago.

Then I wandered over to the swim bag check.  I bumped into BSR teammate Jack, who is the only 'mate I had not met earlier in the week.  We hung out for quite a while by the stone fence at the back of the KBH.  It was cool, cause we got to talk some.  You know, get rid of some nervous energy. I kinda took my time to get my body glide on, and then my BlueSeventy swimskin.  Eventually, we decided that we would wander over.  So I threw the rest of my clothes and sandals in the swim bag and handed it off.

Crowds, Crowds, Everywhere
Just as we started walking over, the gun went off for the women.  So we had 20 minutes until our start.  The mass of men slowly started moving forward.  We came underneath the arch and I see Andrew Messick standing at the top of the steps.  You know, the CEO of all of Ironman.  I thought it was cool he was out there.  I went up to him and said "Mr. Messick, I just want to shake your hand.  Thank you." He looked me in the eye and very genuinely said, "Hey, have a good race out there today."

I walked down to the beach and kinda hung to the left.  I even sat down on some of the rocks and relieved myself.  I got my goggles ready and put my noseplug on.  I tried to take it all in.  The crowds were wrapped all the way around the bay.  It was impressive really.   They kept telling us to get to the start line, but I figured we had time.

I waited for a bit, but then very leisurely swam out to start.  Very leisurely.  I kinda swam off to the left.  I got out there near the start and you had a cool view of all the crowds lining the water.  It was awesome.  So I treaded water for a while, maybe 5 minutes.  Some guys were just jazzed to be doing Kona.  Some guys were complaining that they were narrowing the swim course and packing us all in the middle.  I wasn't nervous.  I guess when you know something is gonna be hard, it just is what it is.

There was no warning.  No countdown.  The canon just went off.

1:25:04 Officially 246th of 291 Male 40-44
It's pretty much what you see on TV. Arms, legs, splashing everywhere.  Lots of contact.  It was hard to really ever get clear water.  You always see those shots on TV from underwater where it's so clear you can see all the fish and coral.  Not during the race.  The water is all stirred up all you see is white bubbles.  And arms and legs.

I was able to hang on a few people's feet on the way out.  I got knocked in the right side goggle and it filled with water.  I rotated over to pull it out and empty the water.  I got back and took 2 strokes and I got hit in the left goggle.  So it was full of water.  I went for a about 10 minutes before I got hit again on the left side.  That all kinda slows you down a little bit.
Elbows, Arms, Feet, Hands

It wasn't too bad overall on the way out.  I seemed to sight pretty well.  I just kept plugging away at it.  Trying to hang on feet, moving along when I could.  I hit the turn around boat and its only a short bottom section of the "U" shape that you have to navigate.  I got around there and snuck a peak at my watch.  It said 38 minutes.  I felt pretty good about that.  I mean I didn't think I would come back in 38, but I thought that a 1:20 swim was attainable at that point.

On the way back, I started to feel the current.  It was tough sledding at times.  I did not do as well of a job of drafting on the way back either.  A couple of times I came up on a guy that had people flanking him on both sides.  One time I went around them.  Another time I just barreled through the middle.  I even ran into a breaststroker that I had a hard time getting around because of all the traffic.  Really? I can understand breaststroke at my local tri.  Heck even a newbie at an Ironman 70.3, but Kona?  What in theeee hell is going on around here?  I kinda barreled over him just because I was so stinkin' annoyed.

As I got within a couple hundred yards from the pier, I could feel the top of my shoulders rubbing.  Right where your neck meets your shoulder.  I was a bad rub spot.  I don't know if it was because of the salt water or the length of time I was out there.  Either way, I just tried to get to the finish.  The length of the pier seems really long after you've been swimming for 80 minutes, but eventually my hand scrapped the sand and I popped up. I saw the 1:25 on my watch and then knew there definitely was some current on the way back.  I just thought, now it's time to have some fun.
The Mass Start
4:12 Officially
I ran up the steps and used the washdown hoses on my face and to rinse out my mouth.  I went down the right row of bags and yelled out my number.  A guy was holding my bag for me and I grabbed it.  As i got into the tent, it was packed.  Absolutely no where to sit down.  I got my stuff quickly enough and headed out.

I had the lady lather me with sunscreen.  I spent a few extra seconds to make sure she had it everywhere.  Then I began the trek.  It really is a long way around the end of the pier.  There is not much room to get around people either.  You would think there would be with most people finishing the swim ahead of me.  I got to Green Lightning and put on my bike shoes and headed toward the bike out.  I mounted easily enough and I was off.

5:10:27 Officially 86th of 291 (14th American) M40-44
Garmin had 111.82 miles and a 21.7 mph average on 180 watts.
I felt good at the start.  It was a pretty good climb out the end of Kuakani before the turnaround (more than I thought it would be).  I mean 335 feet of gain the first 5 miles.  My speed was slow, but my watts were at 197, so I knew my speed average would jump up.  It was kinda packed on Kuakani, but it was like a normal race for me, just passing people left and right because my swim was so slow.

I made the climb up Palani, which honestly wasn't too bad.  So already by 10 miles, I was over a 23 mph average.  At this point, you are out on the Queen K cruising along.  This is where the marshals appear.  There aren't any on Kuakani because there is no room.  But here, you need to stay legal.  Again, this race is different than any other race.

There are tons of people of similar abilities.  You have to work to stay legal.  I mean people are spaced out legally, so when you go to pass someone, you kinda have to pass 3, 4, or 6 people before you can tuck back to the right.  People would pass you and you would have to ease up and drop back to stay legal.  This was pretty much going on all day long.  It takes a lot of energy out of you.  My VI (variability index or normal power divided by average power) was almost 1.04.  It is usually 1.01 or 1.02.  This means my power was up and down and not as steady.  That is not as efficient and ends up taking more out of you.  Not all watts are created equal.
Crowds down Kuakini

I kept plugging along.  I saw the lead pace car and then saw Tim O'Donnell in the lead.  I'm like TO! Yeah Baby!  An American leading Kona!  That jacked me up for a little bit.  A bit later I saw the women, and Daniela Ryf was leading to absolutely no surprise.  I looked for Rinny, but didn't see here.  Evidently she dropped out before the turn in Hawi.

So as we got closer to Hawi, the wind and the hills picked up.  It was pretty tough sledding there for awhile. The last 10 miles to Hawi, I averaged over 196 watts, but only 18.3 mph because of the 575 feet of elevation gain and the wind.  As we got closer to Hawi the clouds got darker and darker.  It started to spit rain a little bit.  And then sprinkle.  By the time I got in town it was raining like crazy.  I mean it was pouring as I made the turnaround.  I even said to someone as I was turning, It's not supposed to rain!
Turnaround at Hawi

Elevation and Power

Then you are going down hill with the wind. My next 5 mile split, I averaged 35.4 mph. Yeah 8 minutes and 30 seconds to go 5 miles.  That carried me a ways.  Through 75 miles I was averaging 22.7 mph.  So I was very pleased with that.  But that's where I kinda hit the wall.  I couldn't seem to push any watts without it feeling really hard.  Up until then I had averaged 190 watts.  Now, 175 watts was killing me.  I just tried to keep it going.  It was more mental at that point than anything else.
The "Hot Corner" on the bike: Palani and Kuakini
No Pass Zone down Palani

No Passing!
OK, Pass!

By mile 90 I was relegated to doing about 165 watts.  Honestly however I didn't try to push that hard.  I didn't want to kill myself and end up walking the Queen K.  So I kept the 165 watts and cruised on in.

In an Ironman you have to disconnect the three disciplines.  At mile 90 you can't be thinking about how much you are dying and want to stop because there is a marathon looming.  You just think about finishing the bike.  When you start running, that's when you think about the marathon.  When you swim for 85 minutes, then you are 4 hours into the bike, you can't think "another hour in the saddle, then 26.2".  You just think: finish the bike.

So I was happy to hit Makala and be back in town.  I did not see any penalties given out, but when I came by that last penalty tent, it was packed.  I did see a lot of marshals on the course.  The drafting I saw wasn't too bad (nothing like the 70.3 WC).  I did give some people my 'no-no' finger wag to tell them to stop drafting.
The Dismount

5:28 Officially
When I came across the dismount line, it was packed.  I mean all the way across the width of the chute.  I couldn't find a bike catcher.  So I just kept running with my bike yelling Bike, Bike!  Eventually I handed it off and started the long trek around the pier.  Again I got my bag easily enough and headed in to the tent.

Unlike my Chattanooga T2, there was no room in this T2 tent.  And it was hot and sweaty.  An enclosed canvas tent full of guys that just rode 112 miles in the Hawaiian sun.  Alex, give me "The Most Pungent Smells in the World" for 400.  On my way out they had a table with water and I grabbed a cup and just took a quick swig.  Then I was off.

3:30:10,  45th of 291 (2nd American, 11 seconds behind 1st) M40-44
Garmin had 26.19 miles and a 8:01 average
As I came out of the chute, I saw what seemed like all my cheering section.  So much adrenaline kicking in at that point.  I gave the hang loose Hawaiian sign and just smiled.  We were on the final leg!  The crowds were still packed, it was awesome.  I came around that first loop, Palani to Kaukini to Hualalai and eventually to Ali'i.

You go down Ali'i with all the people cheering for you, and then as you get past the commercial district, you see the ocean.  It's actually more humid there by the water.  The first 2 miles, it really hit me.  I should have taken on more water coming out of T2.  I felt a little dizzy and light headed.

For a little bit I thought I was really in trouble.  Like I was gonna blow up by mile 2.  But they had good aid stations and people had water hoses out spraying people down.  Through 3 miles I had averaged 7:30's so I wasn't doing too bad.

About the 5 mile mark you hit the turnaround and start heading back toward town.  Along this stretch, I just tried to run what felt comfortable.  Luckily that was a pace that had me passing people.

 I saw fellow Chattanooga qualifiers Brian Lowman and Bill Beecher.  As I passed them, we exchanged handshakes and said 'Hey, we're doing Kona!'  That 5 mile stretch back to Palani was at an 8 flat pace.  I came through 10 miles with an overall average of 7:52.

Then came the Palani hill.  I saw some more family (tried to give my niece a high five, but was denied).
Elevation and Cadence

The "Hot Corner" on the Run
I ran up about 1/4 of it then saw my sister.  She's like "80% of the people are walking this hill".  So I did.  We talked for a bit.  I was hurting.  She could tell.  Mentally I was there, though.  I walked to and through the aid station and got plenty of water and ice.  When I hit the Queen K at the top of the hill, I started running again.
Palani Hill

At that point I was running between the aid stations, but walking through them.  I wanted to make sure I got enough water and ice.  As I got onto the Queen K, I actually began to feel better.  There was a little breeze up there and it wasn't as humid.  My right foot was kinda hurting in my shoe, but it was just pain that I needed to ignore.

On that stretch going out the Queen K, I saw all the women leaders coming through. I cheered the ones I recognized and knew that Daniela had it in the bag.  Midway through that stretch from town to the Energy Lab you hit the half marathon point.  I came through in 1:46:21 (an 8:07 avg).
The Energy Lab

"The Sherpa"

As I went along I started to see the Energy Lab off in the distance.  I felt OK at that point.  I knew I wasn't dead as I had feared at mile 2.  I started doing all this math.  Like if I average 9 min miles for the second half, what's my marathon and overall time.

Energy Lab Entrance
I made the turn into the Energy Lab and there was a huge aid station there.  I walked through it and started feeling better.  At the EL entrance, you have about 10 miles to go.  I started feeling stronger.  And stronger.  Overall I got stronger as the as the race went on.  I came down the road for the EL straight towards the water.   You think that's the turnaround.  But it's not, Psyche!  You hang a right and go another 1/2 mile to the turnaround.  Mentally you're like, we're in the home stretch.  Straight back to town now.

I saw several friend coming into the EL as I was headed out.  I hit the Queen K and I felt awesome.  I was still just trying to get from aid station to aid station.  But I would hit them, and start walking.  I would take water and ice, and mix it up.  I'd drink some and pour the rest on my head or down my back.  Most of the aid stations had gels that they had already opened for you #rockstar.  I would grab one and down it and keep going.  I saw several Big Sexies after the turnaround and cheered them all on.

The 5 mile stretch back to Palani, I average 7:52's.  That was with walking for 30 seconds about every mile at the aid station.  I would walk, then just start running and feel great.  I no longer noticed any pain in my foot. I've never walked in a race like that before.  I always thought that if I stopped to walk, I wouldn't be able to start running again.

I hit Palani and came down that hill like I was gonna win the freakin' race.  I zipped up my top so I would look badass.  Heat? Humidity?  Please. I'm from South Carolina.  I lengthened my stride and hit Kuakani feeling great.  I cruised that stretch and onto Hualalai still feeling awesome.  Then it was the final turn onto Ali'i.  I slowed my pace a little bit.  I wasn't in a hurry at that point.
Coming down Palani . . .

Giving Jan a run for his money

Finish down Ali'i

Did I mention the crowds?

I just tried to soak it all in.  In Chattanooga, I was just trying to finish.  Here, I was giving high fives with permagrin on my face.  It was more like my finish at Boston in 2013.  I came up on the finish line and just milked it for all I was worth.  This was my moment.  The adrenaline was off the charts.  I felt incredible.  I didn't want it to end!

I zoomed through Mile 26 in a 6:29!  That gave me a 47:08 final 10K (7:36 avg) and a negative split for the marathon. First half in 1:46:21 (8:07 avg), 2nd half was 1:43:51 (7:56 avg)

10:15:21 Officially 86th of 291 (11th American) M40-44
I came down the ramp and a volunteer threw a towel over my shoulders.  It felt really hot, so I took it off.  I felt good.  I walked fine and stayed out of the medical tent.  The volunteer escorted me to the finish area.

They had a separate tent setup for your finisher stuff (hat, medal, shirt).   I got my swim bag, but I didn't get any food.  I just didn't feel hungry at that point. I did grab several cups of water.

I wandered through the KBH and out other side trying to find family.  As I came out on the lawn I saw them on the other side of Palani.  I crossed over and got a huge hug and kiss from my wife.  Both my boys were smiling and gave me hugs as well.

  It's funny, that's probably one of my best memories.  I mean my older son is a teenager, so you know how that relationship is.  But he had a huge smile for me and gave me a great big hug.  It kinda makes everything worthwhile.  I was pretty much bursting over my whole sherpa squad.

My wife and kids had a flight out that evening so they soon took off towards the airport.  By this time I started to get hungry.  The rest of us wandered over to Splashers Grill.  I got some nachos and an avocado burger.  And beer.  Of course, beer.

We eventually walked back to the condo.  That's when I was able to take a look at the two huge blisters on my right foot.  I showered, and was hungry again, so I ate the rest of my burger.  Then my sisters and brother in law headed back over to the finish a little after 11pm.  It was packed.  The people were crazy.  Everyone was so into it.  Cheering the finishers and dancing to the music.  It was a huge party.  We headed upstairs to Paradise Brewing and had some beers and watched from the 2nd floor balcony.  I ran into fellow Big Sexy Vanessa and talked to her some.  She had 2 flats and still finished!
Midnight Finish Party
The last official finisher came in (a woman).  Then it was midnight and they brought the fire twirlers out.  Race winners Jan and Daniela were there as well as they had a little ceremony with them and Mike Reilly (The voice of Ironman), and Andrew Messick and Greg Welch (1994 winner).  There were about 3 people that came though after the cutoff.  They had volunteers help them and got a towel, but I'm not sure what else.
Mike Reilly
We headed home.  I surfed around on my phone a bit.  I wasn't really tired.  I had some more beer and eventually turned in around 2am.

Sunday October 11th
Of course I was still up at 6am.  4 hours post Ironman sleep is about the most I can hope for.  I got some coffee and felt pretty sore all over.  We took a last trip down to the wading pool for some swimming with my niece and one last snorkel.

I took the snorkel equipment back and dropped my bike off with Tribike.  The lady seemed a bit flustered, like she had worked all night checking in bikes.  Maybe she was.  I had a very no hassle dropoff.  I did see someone dropping off Rinny's bike. Evidently it didn't get but 40 race miles put on it.
Rinny's Felt
With the remaining crew, we headed on over to Huggos for lunch.  We got there right when they opened so we had our pick of tables.  It's a pretty neat little place right there on the water.  Or on the rocks as they say.  That section of tables is just on sand.  I did see Jim Felt come in for lunch, but I didn't say anything to him.  Anyways the food and beer were good.
View from Huggo's
I dropped off another group at the airport after lunch.  My sister and parents were heading over to Oahu for another 5 days, so they just had a short flight over there.  That afternoon, we just kinda relaxed.  I was obviously tired, but I did get some swimming in at the pool with my niece.  I did enjoy that quite a bit.

So my other sister and her family had a late flight that night.  We drove over to Kona Brewing for dinner again.  They really do have good food.  Especially the pizza.  So I had some pizza and few of their beers on tap that you can't get anywhere else.  Heather Jackson (5th female, 1st American) was at the bar with her Wattie people.  I guess getting ready for the awards ceremony.
After dinner, I said good-byes to my sister, and they headed to the airport.  So I was the last one on the island.
Dessert Table

Awards Banquet
I walked over to the awards banquet at the KBH to check it out. I had missed the dinner, but they had the desserts out and were handing out beer.  I just kinda hung in the back and drank some beers.  I found a chair and sat down.
Free Beer!
They went through all the age groups, which wasn't really that interesting.  Then they went through the top 10 pros.  So that was kinda cool.  I got to see all of them and hear Jan and Daniela's victory speeches.  They showed the video from race day, then the party broke up.  I walked home and felt pretty tired.
My Little Sherpa
Monday October 12th
You always hear so much about Lava Java.  Some people love it, and others say it is overrated.  Anyway you look at it, I would have regretted not going.  So for breakfast this morning, I rode the mountain bike over there.  I got a coffee and some egg, bacon, toast, avocado thing.  It was really good.  The view is very nice as well.

I walked around a little and picked up some last minute gifts and some Hawaii flower stickers I had seen other people had put on their bikes.  Then it was time to pack up and head out.  Good thing I got that extra backpack, cause I had everything packed to the hilt.  I stopped and grabbed lunch at Ultimate Burger on my way out of town to the airport.
Finisher Swag
One last glimpse of the Energy Lab and I was at the airport.  Luckily no drama at the car rental place.  I saw Mark Allen (6 time winner) grab some food and Andreas Raelert (2nd male) scramble around as he misplaced his wallet.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the same flights back to the CLT.  This plane was headed to San Francisco.  I was one of the last ones on and had to stuff one of my carryons behind me.  No food, of course, 'cause it's a United flight.  But I did get to watch Mad Max Fury Road and Ant-Man, so that passed the time pretty well.
More Finisher Swag (well plus the back of the shirt)
One good thing about getting into SFO was that it was still Monday night there, so I was able to get some beers! #offseason They made me check one of my carryons, which worried me.  She asked it I wanted to check the other (my Kona backpack) I politely said 'Absolutely Not'. The flight from SFO to Chicago was rough.  I kinda slept on and off the whole time.  My quads were quite painful.  I was glad to get off there. I grabbed an omelette at Wolfgang Puck and hopped on the final flight to Charlotte.  My wife picked me up at the airport.  It was good to be home.

As the days after I was back went on, I felt better and better about my race.  I didn't realize at the time, but people were really dying on the run.  I ran 11 minutes slower than Chattanooga.  I knew guys that ran 30 to 45 minutes slower than Chatty.  There was even an article done on how much slower people were in Kona.   I also looked back to see how my fellow Chatt Qualifiers did.  Of the 10 age groupers that beat me in Chattanooga, only 2 of them beat me in Kona.  The guy who won my AG in Chatt, beat me by 21 minutes in Tennessee.  He only beat me by 4 minutes in Kona. I'm a runner.  There's never been any doubt about that.
My Sherpa Crew
So it could be argued I had a great race, despite my swim.  I really don't know what happened there.  My time was a little slow, but my ranking was abysmal (sorry Coach Patty!).  I didn't even have any cramping, so no excuse there.  My bike time ended up being pretty competitive.  I definitely did the right thing not trying to kill myself the last 30 miles.  At the time I was thinking, where the hell is all my training?!? I can't hold watts, I should be able to ride these watts easy.  Well, the second half of the run is where all the training kicked in.  I really enjoyed feeling great coming back down the Queen K and I was able to really enjoy the finish.  And stay out of the med tent.
And their Sweet Shirts
So what's next? I've completed my own personal "Endurance Trifecta" with the Boston Marathon, Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and the Kona Hawaii Ironman World Championships.  I'm going to focus on the half distance moving forward.  I have no plans to do another full.  I guess I'm two and done (better than one and done).  Although when your two races are a 9:29 and Kona, it's not a bad 140.6 resume, just short.  The training is just so much time and effort.  Those 300 mile bike and 60 mile run weeks begin to wear on an old body like mine.  Also, I had a bit of an epiphany at mile 90 of the bike: Ironman Races are too long.  It's ridiculous.  So I'm retiring from 140.6 racing.

The half is my best distance.  That's were I feel I can do the most damage.  So like everyone and their brother who I have talked to, we all want to qualify for Worlds in Chattanooga in 2017.  It's gonna be tough.  Honestly it would have been easier if they put it in Utah.  All the races around here are gonna be crazy packed because of the geographical proximity to Chattanooga.  Especially Augusta, Raleigh and of course Chattanooga 70.3.  But you gotta have goals, right?  I have some unfinished business at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

I definitely would not have been able to do all this without my amazing support crew: My wife and kids, Mom, Dad, Marcie, Greg, Cathy, Carl and Lydia.  They were amazing all week.  They really supported me, and of course I did give them an excuse to come to Hawaii.

Chris and Erika McDonald and all of Big Sexy Racing have been amazingly great the whole year.  The positive energy that you get from this team has to be experienced to be believed.  Then there is my Blue Seventy Swimskin, Finis Swimwear and Goggles, Zoca Gear Tri/Cycling Kit, Rudy Helmet, Quintana Roo PRsix Bike, Cobb Saddle, Speedfil Hydration, Ruby's Lube, Newton Shoes, SLS Compression Sleeves, and Inside Out Sports of Charlotte.  All of them helped my get to the finish line in style.
I wish that Bike pace was true.
So Kona is a lot of fun.  If you have the means, I highly recommend racing it.
Okay, so I bought some crap. Maybe she won't see the credit card bill.
They crowds are just so Awesome!