Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ready to look ahead to 2011

Although I'm still very much basking in the "glory" of my Kona experience I'm beginning to turn my attention to 2011. I have begun to map out a race plan for next year and will share that here in the next couple of weeks as I sort through all of my options.

I've taken it relatively easy the 3 weeks (since Kona) but now am motivated to begin pointing my training towards my 2011 campaign. Here is what last week and the month of October looked like training wise:

Last week:

154 miles on the bike
19 miles running
13 hours training

October:

14.5k swimming (nothing since Kona)
560 miles on the bike
87 miles running
55 hours training

I'll share a more detailed overview of my 2011 training plan in the next couple of weeks but a key component will be to really focus on intensity in both the bike and run. In fact, increasing my FTP on the bike will be the principle focus of my winter months. My "off-year" in 2009, my IM focus over the last few years, and my increasing age have all led to what is (in my honest judement) a pretty significant fall-off in my FTP on the bike. This has impacted my racing at all distances, from sprint to IM. In sprint races I used to always have a top 5 bike and occassionally have the fastest overall. This past year it's been more frequently top 10 or 15 with an occassional top 5. I'm still a strong cyclist but I've lost that edge that I once enjoyed. This costs me 1-2 minutes in sprints and probably 5-10 minutes in my half-IMs and more in my IMs.

I've decided I need to work aggressively to get it back. To do so I have launched "Project FTP300". In 2007, when I had the top FTP in the Cadence Kona Challenge (out of 100 finalists) I averaged 308 watts in a 20 minute CP test. This translates into a FTP of 293 watts. Over the next 4 months I intend to follow a very specific training protocol to get back to those levels or higher. I intend to execute 40 workouts that I believe collectively have a good chance of returning me to this prior level of cycling capability. Basically, I'll execute 2 cycles each month of the following 5 workouts (this does not include warm-up/warm-down, just the high intensity parts):

1: 20 minutes--highest possible average watts (set FTP=.95 of this number)
2. 2-3 X 20 minutes @90-95% of FTP with 5 min rest inbtw
3. 8-10 reps of 3 min @ 115% of FTP with 2 min rest inbtw
4. same as number 1
5. either 2 or 3

In the second week where I just do 2 of the hard workouts I'll substitute a full rest day.

I started this week and here are the results for workouts 1-3:

1. 20 minutes @ 275 average watts (FTP=261 watts)
2. 20 minutes @ 250 (96%)/5 min rest/10 minutes @ 250
3. 6 X 2 minutes @ 300 watts (115%)

On average this is 62 minutes @ 268 watts

I obviously have a long way to go--by March I want to be able to do:

1. 20 minutes @ 308-315 watts
2. 3 x 20 min@ 290-300 watts
3. 10 x 3min @ 335-345 watts

Stay tuned for future reports

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Ironman World Championship Race Report

2010 Ironman World Championship
October 9th, 2010


Background

The Big Dance—I’m finally here! It’s race number 100 of my triathlon career and number 14 of the 2010 campaign. It’s also my 8th Ironman. But really, it’s the most important triathlon I’ve ever competed in.

I arrived in Kailua-Kona on the big island of Hawaii a week in advance. Judy joined me on Tuesday and Anders and Jenny on Thursday of race week. My early arrival was to facilitate some acclimatization to the heat and humidity of Kona and to provide an opportunity for me to “soak it all in”. I certainly did the later! I visited the Volcanoes National Park and climbed Mauna Kea (13,796 feet) to see the sun set far below me. I hit Lava Java’s and watched the triathlon world stream by on Ali’i Drive. I swam down at the Pier and ventured out to the swim-up espresso bar. I ran at the Natural Energy Lab and rode on the Queen K. I tested the crosswinds on the climb to and from Hawi. Judy and I did the Underpants Run and the Parade of Nations. I really felt like I did it all but still had plenty of time to relax and get ready for the Ironman.

This is a race I first vowed I would do back in 1982 when I saw Julie Moss do her thing on that famous ABC broadcast. I started my triathlon career 10 years ago and in the interim I have finished 7 Ironman triathlons and another 92 triathlons of different flavors. Through the years, I repeatedly tried to qualify for Kona but always seemed to fall short. I came close a couple of times, but never quite made it. Finally, in my 11th attempt, in March of this year I broke through by winning the 50+ Executive Challenge (XC) Age Group at Ironman California70.3—a half-Ironman in Oceanside, California. My 2010 year has been focused on Kona ever since.

My objectives for the race were simply to enjoy the experience and to finish the race—everything else, including my time was secondary. My guiding values were: Perspective, Patience and Persistence. I wanted to remember to really look around and enjoy the race. I knew I needed to stay in the moment and deal with each challenge as it came. And above all, I needed to keep moving forward until I was rewarded with that climatic run down Ali’i Drive sometime on Saturday evening. What follows is a race report of my experiences competing in the 33rd annual Ironman World Championship.

Race Morning

We were staying in a nice two-bedroom suite about 15 miles from the race start. We awoke to a clear and moonless sky at 2:45 a.m. I did my usual pre-race breakfast stuff and the four of us were rolling at 3:30. We parked a little ways up Palani Hill and Judy and I went off towards transition while the kids went up to a room we had secured at the King Kam hotel, right at the race start area.

Judy and I parted and I wended my way through the body-marking area. I’d seen the TV version of this many times so it was a bit surreal to be part of the show myself! I had a nice and supportive Hawaiian body marker who was doing it for the 10th time and he rubbed alcohol on my arms and then stamped “1941” on each. There was some joking about whether or not this was my birth year (no, I’m not 69 yet!).

I exited the tent and went to chip check and as I beeped I quipped to the gentlemen: “Craig Alexander right?” They didn’t miss a beat and said: “Good to go Crowie”. The woman behind me said: “Excuse me” and then: “Oh you’re not Craig Alexander, I was going to ask for your autograph”. We both chuckled at what passes for humor at times like this.

I briefly reunited with Judy and told her I’d be back in 10-15 minutes after I made sure my bike was good to go. She happily stayed at the entrance to transition checking out the world’s greatest triathletes as they entered the bike holding area. It was still quite dark out but the lights were blazing and sparkling off about $15 million dollars of bicycles. For what would be well over a hundred times throughout the day I smiled and looked around—yes, I was here on the Pier in Kailua-Kona and I was indeed going to do the Hawaii Ironman.

I walked over to my bike and saw Troy from XC. He greeted me and helped me with my bike set up. I did this pretty quickly and as I was about to put my bike back in the rack I (in my usual anal way) checked once again the inflation of my tires and found that my front tire was low. I thought maybe we had messed up the first time so I re-inflated it and decided to wait a few minutes.

After about five minutes I checked again and sure enough it seemed noticeably soft to the touch. Troy volunteered to take my wheel off to get it changed (they have tremendous bike support at Kona so this was an easy thing to do). I sat down to wait and to watch the now very busy transition scene. I must say I felt totally calm. In fact leading up to this race I felt much more calm than I ever had before an Ironman. I slept well and really didn’t spend too much time thinking about the specifics of the race in the days that preceded it. This calmness seemed to carry over and the flat really didn’t bother me. (Of course it helped that I had planned for this contingency and was sporting carbon clincher 404s—very easy to change).

Soon Troy returned and as we pumped up the tire he noticed that something seemed “not quite right” so he took the wheel away again. As I was waiting we heard a loud “bang” of a tube exploding and there was a lot of nervous laughter and silent thanks that we weren’t “that guy”. I called Judy and told her to go on and get the kids with out me, as I would be tied up for a while—I told her I’d try to meet up with them somehow before the swim.

Finally, after about 15 minutes, Troy came trotting back with my wheel in hand. He casually mentioned that there had been a problem—a pinch in the new tube and that bang was my tube exploding—I was “that guy”! We pumped it up and waited a few and finally it seemed good to go. I left my bike and silently prayed that these two flats would be all the bike problems that I would encounter on this day.

It was now quite light out and a bit after 6 a.m.—less than an hour to go. I found Judy, Jenny and Anders and said my goodbyes. I felt a need to go to the bathroom (yet again) and after a quick glance at the line; I headed to our room—thankful that we had it. I was back down to transition just as the pros went off at 6:30 (half-hour head start) and I waved to my family as they stood on the pier in prime viewing location. I checked my bike again and it looked like I was good to go.

I headed over to the swim start at about 6:45 with John O’Brien—one of my over 50 XC competitors (we had raced at NOLA where he easily beat me). The volunteers instructed me to pin the Velcro on my chip strap to avoid it getting ripped off my leg during the swim, apparently something that frequently happened—I didn’t like the sound of that!

I stood (a bit timidly) on the shore for a few minutes and watched the stream of AGers entering the water and swimming out to the swim start—some 50+ yards distant—to join the water-treading masses. Some one sang the national anthem and at 6:55 I entered the water. After determining that my goggles were indeed working I jettisoned my spare set and swam to the extreme left (away from the Pier and the buoy line) of the racecourse and positioned myself just a few feet from the start line. It was 6:59, my HR was up at 140 (where I wanted it) and I was locked and loaded. As I treaded water that last minute I gave thanks and asked the Big Guy for protection. I looked around and smiled and I said to myself: “OK, let’s do this!”


The Swim

At 7 a.m. the cannon fired and it was Game On. There was a surge of energy that was palpable. I went hard right from the bang and continued to push it for the first 200 yards or so. (I had originally planned to go slow for the first 400 yards but as I swam out to the start I changed my mind and decided to just go for it at the start). There was some modest contact but I was far enough left and doing a good job of keeping pace with those around me so it wasn’t that bad. My “new” plan was to go out hard and then settle into my pace and try to “latch on” to various groups as they passed--to benefit from their draft. By staying to the left I hoped to avoid a lot of the contact that this swim is notorious for and yet swim reasonably aggressively (for me). I had no illusions about where I stood relative to the group in a non-wetsuit swim (probably bottom 25%) but while I was focused on a “drama-free” swim I was also thinking it would be nice to swim somewhere around 80 minutes.

As we settled in I was struck by how competent this group of athletes was. I was constantly getting soft hits on my feet and legs up to my hips but no one seemed intent to just plow over me. Part of this may be due to how I dealt with the constant hits I felt. When I felt hands on my feet I kicked harder and when I felt hands on my sides I flared out and made more of a splash. Another thing that was probably working for me was something I noticed during the lead-up week practice swims. I am clearly a lot bigger than the typical IM-Hawaii participant…in fact I felt like I was the slug that ate Cleveland! In the early swim scrum this was to my advantage and I found (at least in the early going) that I was holding my own amidst the fray.

At nineteen minutes into my swim (although I did not know this at the time), Andy Potts was running into T1 leading the race. This was no surprise as Andy is a former National swim champion (800 meters) and a 6 time All-American swimmer from Michigan. It took Andy just 48:48 to complete the Kona swim. No other swimmer even broke 51 minutes on this morning. Macca and Andreas Raelert (who finished 1-2) were both in the mid 51s and about 4 minutes slower than they swam at IM Germany (which was also non-wetsuit and in a fresh-water lake). I knew Kona was a relatively slow swim. A female pro over in Germany had told me that the Kona swim was longer than 2.4 miles but I had never heard that before. The conditions on this morning seemed just fine to swim fast so maybe there is some truth to the swim being long. In any event, everyone’s times seemed slow compared to other IM races that they had completed.

After about 20-25 minutes of swimming it occurred to me that I was thriving in this swim. Yes, I was still overmatched talent wise but I was really swimming well for me. I reveled in the clear water. It was easy to follow the bubbles of the feet in front of me. I saw all the psychedelic fish and at one point I began to laugh and then sob (a little). I felt amazingly positive about where I was at and my prospects for the rest of the swim. I knew that I belonged here and that I was indeed getting it done.

Several times I was surrounded by a group of strong swimmers who overwhelmed me by swimming up on all sides of me. I tried to stay in the moment and deal with the arm hits to my legs, butt and back. Tactically I was occupied with fending off many (hundreds) of arm strikes so that they didn’t hit my head (at least too hard) and take my goggles off. I have to say it was fully absorbing but not overwhelming…I felt like I was holding my own.

Finally, I could clearly see the boat that marked the first turning point of the swim. I positioned myself to the left and swung wide as we made the right turn. I took the opportunity to glance at my watch and I was right on 37 minutes. I knew this time was short of the true halfway point and I estimate I hit the half right around 38:30. I was thrilled with this and figured with a bit of fatigue in the back half of the swim I was probably looking at right around 80 minutes. I felt very, very good at this point.

We made the 2nd right-hand turn and headed back towards the Pier. I couldn’t really see the Pier as there was a 3-4 foot swell but the Hawaii swim is very straightforward and I could easily see the radio tower that I had selected as a sighting guide during my practice swims.

While the crowds had thinned somewhat, I was surprised several times on the swim back when I was swallowed up by another group of swimmers and banged around a bit. I actually had a rougher time of it on the way back then the way out. I sensed a growing fatigue in my shoulders and that I was probably slowing just a bit. I was aware of my swim stroke beginning to shorten up as well. Still I continued to feel good and I was very optimistic throughout.

As we neared the Pier I began to cut across traffic to try to position myself close to the Pier. There was no tactical advantage in this but I wanted to see if I could see my family up there. I drew even with the Pier and began to lift my head up out of the water to see if I could see them. I spotted Anders with his backward turned hat and big lens on his camera. I yelled to him and I could see that he had heard me. I practically stopped and waved and then he saw me. Soon Judy and Jenny joined him and I continued to lift my head, wave and yell to them. Not really the best racing strategy and I clearly threw away a sub 80-minute swim leg but it didn’t matter—I wanted them to see me and share at least this little bit of my swim.

I put my head down and swam strong over the last 100 yards or so and soon folks were helping me stumble up the carpeted stairs on the side of the Pier. I looked at the clock and was mildly (and only briefly) disappointed to see a 80:21 and I passed over the timing mat a few seconds later with an official swim split of 80:27. This was the 5th fastest of my 8 IM swims. More importantly, it was almost 5 minutes faster than my only other non-wetsuit IM swim at IM Germany this year. Given what others did here and in Germany my swim was considerably stronger this morning at Kona. Further, I felt much, much better than I did in that race back in July. I averaged 155 bpm, which is high for a swim for me—especially for an IM swim—so despite how comfortable I felt during the swim, I definitely worked pretty hard out there.

I was 84th of the 129 in my AG (35.7 %-tile) as I finished some 21 minutes behind Larry Black—a perennial All American from Ft. Meyers and the leader after the swim in my AG. Overall, I was 1379th out of the 1849 that actually started (there were over 1950 entered)—this was at the 25.4 %-tile. I was in 2nd in XC 50+ group about 2 minutes off the lead (John O’Brien). As modest as these numbers sound, I am very pleased with this performance given that this is the Ironman World Championship.





Transition One

I’ve watched the videos of T1 at Kona so many times I pretty much knew the drill even though I was seeing it for the first time in person. I pulled my TYR Torque halfway off and ran in under the freshwater hoses and took a few seconds to wash much of the saltwater off me. I went to the far left and I ran almost to the end of the rack holding the hanging T1 bags and grabbed my 1941 bag—several volunteers were standing around—maybe a bit fatigued from what no doubt was a very crazy scene during the crush of a few minutes earlier.

I ran into the changing tent and was shocked to see it completely packed—I had expected it to be somewhat empty given the relative slowness of my swim. By experience I knew to run to the far end and sure enough I found an empty seat. A volunteer was there immediately to help me. I dumped my stuff out on the ground and did my T1 thing. I had my tri trunks underneath my swim skin so I just had to put the top on. One nifty innovation that Judy thought of was to preload my tri top with all my nutrition and salt tabs and duct tape the pockets shut. This worked great and my helper pulled the tape off. I lathered up the sunscreen but neglected to get my lats—a mistake I would regret later.

Out of the tent I saw my family and told them that I thought the swim was real fun. They told me I was doing great and I jogged as best as I could with my bike shoes on around to the backside of transition and then into the area where the bikes are kept. When I reached my bike the first thing I did was check my front tire and found it hard as a rock—sweet! (Anders later told me that while we were swimming volunteers go around and check everyone’s tires and even replaced a few tubes). I put my helmet on and found it too tight—they had cinched it up during the night to keep it on the bike—should have checked this morning!

I was good and go and I waved goodbye to my support group and jogged over to the bike mounting area. I was grinning like an idiot as I finally mounted my bike with a 7:17 (6:52 officially) T1—a little slow but well within expectations.

The Bike

I run up to the bike mount zone and hop on and begin my 112-mile journey. I ride through the chute that I hope to return to in the early afternoon and notice the huge crowds of people. The music is blaring and the sky is a crystal clear blue in that early morning way.

I ride up the bottom part of Palani and make a left turn onto Kuakini Highway and a short ways north towards the Old Airport. We make a quick right on Makala and head through the shopping area (where I had dinner one night) and up a small rise to the Queen Ku’ahumanu Highway where we turn right—back towards transition. The Queen K will be my “home” for much of the day but this first exposure is short as quickly I find myself at the top of Palani and make the steep descent back towards transition. This is a “no-pass” zone though it seems quite modest from a technical point of view. At the bottom of Palani I make the left onto Kuakini again, although now I am heading south.

This beginning two miles or so of the bike ride has a lot of maneuvering so I now finally settle in and ride up the slope on Kuakini towards the first turnaround. People are riding hard and aggressively and I’m very careful in this section as it seems most bike accidents occur in either this first 6-8 mile section or on the slopes leading to and leaving from Hawi. Just 3 miles in, a huge glop of suntan lotion drips off my forehead and completely obscures the right lens of my sunglasses. This is an issue I must deal with and I try spraying some Ironman Perform on it to remove the lotion. This helps a little but my view is quite blurred on the right side.

The climb up to the turnaround at Kuakini Estates is over 300 feet and I’m pleased when I hit the turnaround. I reach the 5.5-mile point of the ride in 17:39, which translates into 18.7 mph, which isn’t bad given the climb. My glasses are bothering me and I decide that since I’ll be heading mostly north and that the sun will mostly be behind me that I can take them off—at least until I reach Hawi.

I’m cruising at 25-35 mph back towards the start--pulling right around 200 watts (which is my power limit for the first portion of the bike) and everybody and their sister are blowing by me. I know people ride the first section too aggressively but I would have thought exiting the water where I did that it would be I that was doing the passing—one of many illusions to be smashed on this day.

I fly into the “Hot Corner” and climb up Palani—I see Bill Price who has come to cheer me on with Eva and his new daughter Alana—I high five him and make the turn onto the Queen K—this time in earnest. I settle in and attend to eating and drinking. On the latter I’m trying to be very aggressive with my front mounted water bottle. The sun is out and it’s about 80 degrees already (at 9 a.m.) but it feels very comfortable with the airflow on the bike.

In this early section heading out of town we are enjoying a bit of a tailwind and I note that I’m feeling awesome at this point. I also note that I’ll likely have a headwind over the last portion of the bike. This is all very familiar territory by now as I have driven back and forth on this section of the Queen K many times in the lead up to the race. Like pretty much the entirety of the ride, it’s seldom flat but is just a series of modest, rolling hills as we slice through the various lava flows that cover the flanks of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Kohala volcanoes.

I soon pass the Energy Lab, the airport and the turn-off to our hotel and the reality of pushing 112 miles through the lava fields of Hawaii takes center stage in my consciousness. I’m surprised, as I come parallel to the “saddle” between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, that I am hit with a substantial side/headwind. The winds here are confounding because as I look left out over the Pacific I can clearly see that the wind is blowing out of the southwest—this is the tailwind that I should have. However, the easterly trade winds are blasting through the gap between the two volcanoes and overwhelming the southwest flow. Despite the 20-25 mph winds I still seem to comfortably crank out 18 mph with my modest wattage limit.

I hit the 28-mile checkpoint out by Waikoloa having ridden another 73:51 since the last checkpoint (22.5 miles) and this averages 18.3 mph for the second section. It’s still early but I’m aware that I am averaging less than 19 mph and this will translate into a very long bike ride. I know there is still the chance that coming back will be faster but the “I’ve seen this movie before” part of me is beginning to adjust to the idea of a 6+ hour bike ride. Still, I think I’m making the right tactical choice by going easy. Less and less people are passing me but I’m still dropping places—this is very different than my other Ironman experiences. At IMFL for example I gained over 900 places on the bike. Today, I am falling back on the bike.

The next section out to Kawaihae has some bigger hills and the wind seems to be intensifying. I make the turn onto 270 off of the Queen K and begin the 20-mile run into Hawi. This initially is a screaming decent that I sit up on to keep things safe in the swirling wind. I look up the road trying to see the helicopters that I know will be shadowing the lead riders. Soon enough I see them rising above a hill in front of me and in short order Chris Lieto comes streaming by with another rider in close pursuit. The next 10-15 minutes are very entertaining as one famous triathlete after another goes by (“There’s Macca, Andreas, Faris, Crowie, Norman, Tim, TJ….). This was quite fun to the triathlon groupie inside me.

As I continued up the coast I could see big white caps out in the bay being obviously pushed by very strong easterly winds. We were moving out of the wind shadow of Kohala and the winds were picking up dramatically. Soon the very strong side/headwinds were absorbing all of my attention. Since I had been up here on one of my pre-race training rides I knew that the final 10-12 miles leading up to Hawi were going to be very demanding. My pace began to slow dramatically and the wind gusts began moving my bike several feet at a time to the side. I was sitting up on the “hoods” of my pursuit bar and just focusing very intently on saying upright.

After a while, I saw the road sign that said that Hawi was 7 miles and I knew the real crux of my ride was now on. I’ve learned a great deal about bike handling over the last 10 years in this sport and I pride myself on the skills that I’ve developed. I know that it’s better for me to be down in the aero position (less body for the side winds to push) and really relax my arms and shoulders to better absorb the gusts. Despite this knowledge, I stay upright because it’s just too frightening to ride aero. My hands, arms, shoulders and neck are all very tense and beginning to fatigue as I hang on for dear life.

The last seven miles up to Hawi involve a fair bit of climbing and as I curve around the NW flank of Kohala the exposure to the Easterlies increases and the buffeting of the wind intensifies. My speed drops down very close to 10 mph at points. Normally, when a ride demands my attention like this one, time seems to pass quickly as I become totally absorbed in the effort. This time however, time seems to expand as I am continually subjected to sudden gusts. The minutes drag on. Some gusts draw a verbal response from me: “What?”; “Come On!”; “Jeez”; or a few times an unintelligible guttural sound.

Parts of the way up the final climb an XC competitor rode smartly by me and he called out. I barely registered that he was in my AG (given his number). In fact it was Ray Brown, having a strong bike on his brand new $18,000 Pinarello, pushing it in a race he had trained especially hard for over the last eleven months. Ray unfortunately was rapidly approaching an unpleasant destiny not too far up the road. In fact the two 50+XCers in front of me (John and Ray) would not finish the race today.

The wind was very unpredictable. The road in many places slices through 200-400 feet long cutout sections of lava—the lava having been removed to smooth out the grade. The wind would blow down these chutes and bounce in different directions. As I would near the exit of the chute I would frequently get a strong (20 mph) gust going east as it deflected off the wall of the chute. Then as I exited the shoot I’d be hit by a 40+ mph gust out of the east heading west. I soon learned to lean east (right) into the wind to help counteract the gusts, but to then change and get more upright as I approached each cutout section. This required enormous concentration.

I kept stealing glances at the faces and bodies of people on the other side of the road in their descents. Almost of them looked very focused and quite concerned. Many were sitting up and I saw several get buffeted by the wind and go into mini-wobbles, as the riders would struggle to regain control.

Finally, the climb began of ameliorate and the wind was deflected a bit by rows of tall trees planted on the sides of the road. I was entering Hawi and I knew I had survived what I judged to be the toughest segment on the course. I see a “melee” in front of me towards the center of the road--lots of people crowding around something. Suddenly, a triathlete stands up and flings his helmet across the road and into a ditch. I ride by and notice a bike crumpled on the ground. It turns out to be Ray who a minute or less in front of me smashed into a motorcycle at 25mph as the motorcycle suddenly veered in front of him. His bike was broken in four places, he suffered contusions and scrapes, and his Kona dream was over. All of this barely hit my consciousness as I was in a bit of shock from the climb and winds.

For this 21-mile segment I was only able to average 16.3 mph. As slow as that is I can say that this 21-mile segment was hands-down the hardest riding I have ever experienced.

I made the turn in the tiny, somewhat run-down, village of Hawi. I pulled to the side and attended to my glasses. I chatted with a volunteer there. The topic was the wind and how strong it was today when yesterday it was virtually calm. Oh well—I latter reflected—I’d rather do Kona when conditions were more “Kona-like”.

After just a couple of minutes or so I was on my way and focusing intensely on the descent that I was facing. The first 7 miles are the main attraction but there are significant descending sections almost all the way back to the Queen K at Kawaihae. I soon was moving at 30-35 mph sitting-up. I feathered my breaks to keep things sane and then the wind gusts came again. For some reason (I discovered this on my earlier training ride) the gusts are more challenging on the climb than the descent—probably something to do with all the momentum I have created as I turn potential into kinetic energy.

I’m screaming down the hill and I have to admit part of me likes this experience. However, every 10-15 seconds another gust hits me and reminds me that I’m balancing on a razor thin like. I’m riding much more conservatively than most of the field. This 7-mile section goes by very quickly (probably less than 16-17 minutes) given my speed. As I begin to get some blocking benefit from the volcano the wind speeds die and I know the worst of the dangerous part is over. I get a few more gusts but the rest of the ride down is relatively uneventful. I’m even able to get some food and drink in me. I average 19 mph for this section (includes my wait at the top and the slower sections near Kawaihae).

I turn right on the Queen K and I have covered 88 miles in just under 5 hours. With another 24 miles to go I knew I was going to be significantly over 6 hours. I was also aware that I was way behind in my drinking and eating (due to the winds) and that it now was quite warm (later, Triathlete Magazine would report that the ambient air temperatures out on the Queen K hit a measured 127 degrees). I really focused on trying to play catch-up on hydration all the rest of the way in.

As Mauna Kea came into view I was hit by very strong (20-25 mph) head winds. I had expected a tailwind here but the strong SW wind has blown out the trade winds that had been sweeping across the saddle. Soon the reality of riding 20+ miles, at the end of an Ironman, into a huge headwind begins to sit in. I sigh and resign myself to it. I know I’m going to be slow and very tired at the end of the ride but I’m here at Kona and I feel more than prepared, both physically and mentally, to deal with it.

I catch up to Mark Moses, an XC guy from one of the younger age groups. We talk for a while (generally lamenting the wind) and then a woman rides up besides us and (upon seeing our identical tri tops) asks: “Which one of you is the guide?” This catches us off-guard for a moment but then Mark realizing that she thinks one of us is a blind athlete and barely missing a beat says: “No, this is a case of the blind leading the blind.” Best line of the day! I bid adieu to Mark knowing that he’ll catch me on the run and begin to drive harder towards T2.

I pass the airport and then the turnoff to the Energy Lab and I pass these last few miles on the Queen K by looking at the leading male runners. I wanted to see who was winning but as I made the turn onto Makala Street, Maaca and Raelert (with the benefit of their 30-minute head-start) were dueling in the final mile of the race.

I made the final sweeping right down the hill, under the pedestrian bridge and down the finishing corral. Finally I coasted up to the dismount line and a kindly volunteer took my bicycle from me. I had averaged 17.6 mph over the last 24 miles, most of it into a very tough headwind. I had my total bike spit at 6:20:20 (6:21:01 officially), which averages 17.7 mph. This was by over 12 minutes, my slowest IM bike split. My HR was a modest 138 (well below the 150-152 I expect in an IM bike leg). My average cadence was only 73, which reflects the grinding on the climbs and the coasting on the descents. I averaged 170 watts, which is not surprising given the significant coasting, and the overall conservative nature of my ride.

I had only the 102nd fastest bike in my AG as I dropped to 100th place. I’m not sure how my bike stacks up against the whole field but it clearly was weaker than my swim as I dropped to 1462nd place during the bike. I was satisfied with my effort and happy to be getting off the bike—even though I still had that marathon in front of me.

Transition Two

I moved to the side and took my bike shoes off. I decided to walk through most of transition to stretch out my legs. I was very stiff—especially in my left hip and lower back but I sensed this stiffness would likely abate as I moved through transition. I noticed it was very hot and I could feel that my shoulders were burned to a crisp.

I heard a “RC” and a “Randy” and I looked over, somewhat surprised, to see my family waiting besides transition out on the Pier. I had told them if I came in close to the male winners (which I did) that they should not watch me slug through transition but rather go and see the finish. They had ignored this and at this moment I was glad that they did. I waved and smiled—happy to see familiar faces. I walked all the way around and told them a thing or two about my ride. They were encouraging me and then told me I had better put sun block on my back. I grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the changing tent intent to do so (among other things).

Once inside I was greeted with a wide array of seats to choose from. Much less crowded now than in T1. Two volunteers immediately descended on me. I could tell by the way they were looking at me that part of the drill was an appraisal on their part of whether or not I was fit enough to go do a marathon. I smiled and asked them how they were doing and told them that I thought it was a fine day for a marathon. They turned their attention to getting all my T2 tasks done as quickly as possible (they were more motivated in this regard than I).

One of the helpers grabbed a huge jug of suntan lotion and began to slather it all over my body including my bright red shoulders and lats. I put new socks on and slipped into my bright Red K-Ona shoes. I ate some shot blocks and went into the restroom where I was thankful that I could pee—it was quite dark but at least I wasn’t so dehydrated that I couldn’t pee. I said thanks, and feeling much better than when I entered the tent, I jogged on outside.

My family cheered and called out. I smiled and waved and ran at what felt like a reasonable clip towards the start of the marathon. I had my T2 at 9:03 but it was officially recorded as 8:28. I think the official time is probably the accurate one as I hit the lap button a little past the true start of the run.

The Run

I run out of transition with my family’s good cheer ringing in my ears. I must say that I feel confident at this point that I will get done what I need to get done. Please don’t mistake this for arrogance or false confidence because nothing could be further from the truth. Truth is, I am very concerned about my run. My injuries leading up to this race left me less than ideally prepared. I know that the bike has crushed me. I know I have significant challenges in front of me. Still I am elated. I’m smiling and waving—this is my time and while I know I am going to be very slow today I am supremely confident in my ability to persevere.

I run up Palani to the first turn. I feel pretty good but I have an uneasy feeling in my gut. I could run faster but it’s already evident that I’ll have some significant challenges in my not so distant future. I try to drink some water at the first aid station but nothing says down. I don’t know it yet but my stomach has shut down, most likely due to over ingestion, relative to fluid, of salt tablets on the bike. I’m running well but I can only sip a little bit at the aid stations just past miles 2 and 3. Mike Esposito passes me in this phase of the run on the way to winning my XC age group. It’s very clear to me, even at this point that my run is going to prove problematic. Still, it makes sense for me to keep pushing on. My first six miles of the run look like this:

Mile 1:…..9:39/mile…..145 bpm
Mile 2:…..10:33……146
Mile 3:…..10:11…..148
Mile 4:…..11:02…..148
Mile 5:…..11:05…..149
Mile 6:…..11:38…..149

I’m increasingly feeling overwhelmed by what will be the most significant barrier to achieving my goal of finishing Kona. My legs feel great but I’m having trouble ingesting fluids and I’m beginning to feel light headed. In the 6th mile I have a couple of incidents where my HR spikes up to 160 bpm and I feel sick and light-headed.

This is strange because it really does not feel that hot and my legs are definitely ready to go but I decide that if I keep running I’m going to run into serious trouble, and pretty soon at that. So I decide to walk for a while. I checked my ego at the door when I started this race and there is no way, if I can help it, that I’m not going to finish. I try to run a few times in the next couple of miles but my HR soars and it’s real clear to me that I’m on the edge of having to take a seat. My next three mile splits are:

Mile 7…..14:14…..136
Mile 8…..14:30…..130
Mile 9…..14:45…..129

Despite walking I go from bad to worse. I’m very concerned about my ability to stay upright. Mentally, I feel extremely positive and “on it” from a race management perspective but my body is in a bit of a crisis now. I try jogging up to the hot corner and almost pass out—the heck with my ego—I need to walk for a while, especially with Palani hill in front of me. My 10th mile passes in 15:34 (124 bpm) and I start the climb up Palani.

Climbing Palani I am amazed to find that even walking is a challenge. Wow—I’m in trouble here. I see my family about half way up and I bust out my best smile. Jen and Anders walk with me and I tell them to grab some beers because this going to take a while. I don’t want them to worry about me but at the same time, they need to know that I’m getting hyper conservative in an attempt to salvage my race.

Anders walks on with me and I finally crest Palani—my 11th mile is 18:37 (125 bpm). Anders and I somehow just decide to walk together for a while. We talk about lots of things related to the race. He wants to know how I feel and what my plans are. “Really bad and I’ll walk as long as I have to until I can run again.” He walks with me through my next two miles, which look like this:

Mile 12:…..16:52…..(114 bpm)
Mile 13:…..18:12…..(108)

At mile 13 I tell him he should head back—he has a bad knee and if I can ever start running again he won’t be able to and he’ll be in for a long walk back. Also, I need to really focus and see if I can’t fix things—I certainly don’t want to walk all the way to the finish.

At the aid station just past 13 I drink a little chicken broth and it goes down easy. I stop and drink another two cups and I’m also able to get some coke and water down. This is encouraging. I try running a little bit in miles 14 and 15 as the sun sets to my left and it gets dramatically darker in a hurry. Miles 14 and 15:

Mile 14:…..17:44…..(109)
Mile 15:…..15:31…..(113)

I continue to put down chicken broth and other fluids and as I approach the turnoff from the Queen K into the Energy Lab it occurs to me that I feel pretty darn good (all things considered). As I enter the Energy Lab I begin to run in earnest again (the downhill to the turnaround helps). During miles 16 and 17 my pace quickens and my spirits begin to soar:

Mile 16:…..13:40…..(128)
Mile 17:…..13:09…..(130)
I hit the turnaround at the bottom of the Energy Lab and I decide that I’m good to go. I pump my fist and start passing runners for the first time in a long time. I decide that I feel good enough to run all the way back and I basically do this for most of the last 9 miles. (I do walk through the aid stations and up a couple of the steeper hills).

I officially move past John O’Brien, the original leader in my XC AG as he basically collapsed with dry heaves at 17. Another XC’er in my AG passes me and I drop to 3rd. Also in this last stretch I pass Larry Black (on his way to a 14+ hour finish), the fellow that led my 50-54 AG out of the water and who has been in the mid 10:20s/top 15 in my AG the last few years—this race is tough—even for those with true talent.

The last 9+ miles are magical. First off, I average 11:35/mile—even walking the aid stations and staying very conservative. When I’m running I’m probably averaging 9-10 minute miles. It’s pitch black and the sky is alive with stars. The Milky Way is like a white swath through the sky. The only noise is the soft patter of my feet and my rhythmic and controlled breathing. Occasionally I see other runners coming the other way, usually with heads bent—they’ll have a very difficult time getting home before the 17 hour cut-off. I say a few words of encouragement to them but they are mostly silent—a cloud of grimness seems to envelop them. However, it doesn’t bring me down.

Mentally, I am absolutely on cloud nine. I’m building in strength and I know I’m going to finish this thing. I feel good about everything that has happened and I know I did a good job in dealing with the issues that I’ve faced today. A couple of times I let a “yes” and a little sob—I’m doing this!!!!

About mile 23 I come through an aid station and the music is absolutely blasting. We runners are fewer and farther between now and they seem genuinely glad to see me. The DJ calls out for me to bust a move and since they are playing “Twist and Shout” I comply and I dance my way through the aid station to raging applause and many high fives and back slaps. I head off into the dark again with a big smile, an elevated heart rate and a determination to focus on driving to the finish line—I’ll save my dancing for later.

While it took a while, and I was aware of the passage of time, the last couple of miles up to the top of Palani were very easy for me. My body seemed to just float along (albeit, at a leisurely pace). I kept looking around and trying to absorb it all in. It was impossible to keep a smile off of my face.

Finally I hit the right turn at the top of Palani and I pumped my fist—I just knew that this next part was going to be great! I cruised down the hill slapping fives and hearing people tell me that I was an Ironman (yes I know, but thank-you!). Towards the bottom I looked over and saw Anders squinting up the hill (he had been following me on the GPS and was patiently waiting for my arrival). I called out to him and he came over and ran down the rest of the hill with me, carrying his big camera and lens. Near the bottom, Judy called out and cheered me on and told me Jenny was waiting at the finish line.

I waved and tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to control my excitement. I was running pretty “hard” at this point. Up Kuakini I just try to compose myself. I make the right turn at Hualalai and run down the hill to Ali’i and then I make that awesome right turn.

I’m not sure how far that last bit on Ali’i is but I can tell you it is amazing. The street is packed and the 2nd floors of the bars lining the street are crowded with folks cheering and calling out. I slap five with everyone and dodge some folks who are wandering (very happily) across the street (it’s late and IM traffic is not so dense now). I’ve seen all of this before and I recognize it at one level but tonight everything is fresh and new and so alive!

I hit the little bend pass the Palace and I look out over the harbor at the Pier. All of a sudden, my friend Bill jumps out and slaps me five and we run together for a few yards. I want to tell him so much but all I can manage is a smile. The chute opens up and I can see the finish line. Yes. It is brilliantly lit. I look around and say thanks to the strangers in attendance and the friends and family not. I touch my heart and look skyward and thank the Big Guy for watching over me.

I accelerate to the line and I hear Mile Reilly announce my name, call me an Ironman and proceed to tell every one that I am the only person in this race from the State of Delaware—that’s pretty cool I think to myself. And then I run up the little ramp and let the joy of the moment take control. I see Jenny and we embrace and kiss and she puts the lei around me. I hear Anders and Judy call and I turn and wave to them. Then I almost pass out as my blood pressure drops. My “catchers” grab me and start asking me all sorts of things to see if I’m going to be making a detour to the med tent. I assure them I’m OK and I’m pretty confident that I’m right.

I see Troy from XC and I thank him for this extraordinary opportunity and I go down a narrow chute where some crazed, tattooed guy screams at me: “That just effin’ happened dude!” Yes it did—I know, I was there; I was truly all here.

The catchers tell Jen to hold my arm and keep an eye on me. I grab some ice and am reunited with Judy and Anders. LIFE IS SO AMAZINGLY GOOD RIGHT NOW!!!! We laugh and Anders cracks some jokes. I get my finisher T-shirt (which is very cool) and my medal (which weighs about 20 pounds) and then we all get our pics taken together over by the finisher banner.

We are all so up and sharing with each other everything that has happened. We head up to our hotel room at the King Kam and I discover that Anders has already retrieved my bike and everything else (Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!). I shower and we head out of the King Kam for the trip back up to our resort. We trudge back up Palani as others head down to their joy on Ali’i. This is a slow trudge as I am whipped.

Anders drives and I am co-pilot and we work around the racecourse and find our way back to the hotel. Bill comes over and we break out the beer and order room service. I have two sips of my beer and one or two bites of my burger and that’s that. I’m content to just lay back and put my feet up. I’ve had all that I can have from life today!


Post Race

So, the stat man will tell you the obvious, this was my slowest Ironman. There were quite a few others slower (over 250 and 20+ in my AG) so not so bad given this is the Ironman World Championship. Officially I finish 1584th and 106th in my AG. My marathon is 5:52:24 and my finish time is 13:49:17--my slowest IM to date. Overall 79 athletes do not finish (about 4.3%). The triathlete in me wants to come back and do better—and I know I could. Maybe even get into the middle of the pack!

What the stat man can’t tell you is how incredibly fantastic this experience was. Hands down one of the best of my life. I am so thrilled with what happened and that my family and some friends were there to experience it with me.

I am filled with a positive energy and my body feels fantastic as I write this some 15 days after the race. I’m hungry and looking forward to the 2011 season. I’d sure like to get back to Kona but if I never do again I am so thankful for what happened here on October 9th and the days leading up to it. I feel, from a triathlon perspective, like I’ve been reborn, and I’m excited about what my triathlon experiences in the future will bring.

Of-course, I am so thankful for all the support that I have received from Judy, my family and my friends—I know I would not have made it to Kona without them and it certainly wouldn’t have mattered nearly as much if I had.

Let’s do it again!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kona Race Report almost done

sorry for the delay...a long report for a long race! the Phillies have occupied a fair bit of our time recently but that distraction has now passed!

I must say I feel very strong post Kona. I have been very unstructured over the last week just doing what I wanted to. I've felt stronger in this past week on the run than at any point this year. I had my best run of the year on Wednesday slicing almost 5 minutes off one of my standard 5.5 mile courses....

I still haven't completely ruled out IMFL although I would say the odds are less than 5%. I think that what I'd like to do is run a bunch of running races between now and IMCA70.3 in april and see if I can't gin up my run enough to qualify for kona again--a long shot I know but I'd really like to get back there.

Mentally, I am very energized about triathlon and beginning to think about 2011. Alreay I have these thoughts:

1. I'd like to train very seriously for short races--especially Oly distance--I've never done this before (2009 I just raced short but did not train hard) and I'd like to do a lot of short races and always be ready to go at a "B+" level or better.

2. I'll take a couple of shots at Kona--IMCA70.3 in april and IMAZ in November are on the initial list...we'll see. I'll just train short for CA and see what happens and in about September of 2011 I'll go through an IM training build to give IMAZ a helathy shot.

3. I'm going to set a goal of 10 AG wins in 2011. My best so far is 8 (2009) but I'm 54 and at the upper end of the AG so could be tough--I'll race a lot to try to make it happen.

4. I want to run a lot of half marathons in 2011--I think it's a great training distance for me....

Anyways, just by showing up I did the following this week:

170 miles on the bike

22 miles running

14 hours training.

I feel great and will get back into the pool either this coming week or the next. I'm going to do some Yoga/Pilates but mostly I'm going to try to get faster running over the next two months....

I'm pumped!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recovery Land

All is well back here in Delaware as my body recovers from Kona. I must say I've felt fantastic (though I did have a bit of a cold for a few days) and I've begun some light spinning on my bike and started some short easy runs again. I seem to have no lingering biomechanical issues and I don't even note any fatigue (though from experience I know its there).

Both sets of parents were visiting over the last few days but now that they have left I've started to compose my race report which I'll post in the next couple of days. Until then check out some more photos from October 9th:











Tuesday, October 12, 2010

back home!

what a wonderful surprise when we rolled up to our home (after 12 hours of travel) and saw a 20 ft Congratulation banner and assorted other recognitions on our front porch--it's great to have such nice friends!

I spent some time going through all the pics my team took and they are amazing! I'll post soon and also write a race report--it was a glorious experience....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting ready to head home

Judy and I took Anders and Jenny to the airport yesterday and sent them back to civilian life. Many a triathlete at the airport. Yesterday was a nice day of relaxation and reflection. The XC folks had a nice award ceremony. I finished 3rd of the over 50 executives and will be bringing back a little bling for the mantle back home. We lounged around our room and pool back at the hotel. There was a fantastic sunset and Judy and I sat by the water and enjoyed a bottle of champagne that our friends the Baums had sent us. The wind was really howling--even more so than race day. We had a nice dinner and sat out on our porch listening to the band and later music from my computer--very nice.

Today is a day totally dedicated to relaxing. I must say that I feel fantastic--very little residual soreness from Saturday--with the exception of a bad sunburn in a couple of spots where I missed applying sunscreen. My legs feel very good and as I reflect on how strong I felt over the last 10-12 miles I have become convinced that I probably have a nutritional riddle to solve to be able to fully race to my potential at the IM distance. i think i took too many salt tablets on the bike and this eventually caused my stomach to "shut-down" and I wasn't able to get much down my throat for an hour or two on the run. I was severely dehydrated as a result and I had to walk to let my stomach catch up. I did not take any salt tablets on the run and I think this finally allowed me to resume normal hydration and eating around the mid-point of the run. From there I felt really good and over the last 5-10 miles I ran stronger than anywhere else in the race. I talked to a couple of other folks and i think it's a good bet I need to take far less salt on the bike--we'll test that out at the next one!

Anyways, we leave tonight and will be back in Delaware tomorrow afternoon. I have about 1300 photos to go through and an hour 0f video. Plus a million memories and I'll tie it all together in a race report in the near future...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Celebration Time!

Quite the day. I had a wonderful and truly enjoyable swim. The bike was extraordinarily difficult--I've never seen wind even remotely similar to what I saw yesterday. The cross-winds climbing to Hawi were gusting north of 40 mph. Frankly, I wasn't stong enough to excel on the bike yesterday and I arrived in T2 pretty fried. I ran reasonably well for the first 6 miles and then from 7-14 fought to just stay upright--everytime i tried to run my HR would surge and I would get very dizzy--so I just walked and focused on moving forward. Finally, a bunch of chicken soup revived me and I was able to run pretty well, and I felt good over the back half of the run.

The finish was extraordinary--a peak experience for me. Jenny was waiting for me at the line to give me my finishers lei--a perfect finish to one of the great experiences of my life.....


Friday, October 8, 2010

Almost game time.....

Last night Judy and I went to the welcome banquet, which was fun. Lots of Hawaian dancing and people throwing things on fire at each other. We left early to pick up Jen and Anders and had a late dinner....




Today saw me up early for 30 minutes on the bike, 15 running, and another 30 or so with Judy down at the Pier. we both swam out to the expresso bar--good fun. Jenny came down with us and checked out the "hot triathletes" (which is a redundant phrase of-course). We all had a big breakfast buffet and then did a little snorkeling and chilling by the pool. Later, Anders and I went down to Race Central and dropped off my bike, helmet and T1/T2 stuff...quite the scene:






Having dinner tonight with the family and our good friends Bill and Eva (and their new baby Alana) who have flown in to cheer me on tomorrow....looking to get to bed pretty early and then up at 3 am tomorrow to face what tomorrow will bring. I have all the funky taper body feeling--both of my knees are especially sore--still I feel very calm--I slept like a log last night. While all of my physical limitations are still in place, mentally I'm in a good place for tomorrow.

Beam me energy tomorrow when you think about it--I'll soak it up!

rc

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Undy Pants Run!

Judy and I donned our underwear snd headed down to Ali'i for the 13th Annual Underpants Run. Probably 500 or so other folks joined us. Lots of nutty attire. We ran around the pier area, did some jumping jacks and other exercises and then returned for a run up and down Ali'i again--a real blast although even at 8:00 am i could feel the heat--yikes!!!! Some pics:










Back at the hotel they had some problems getting our connecting room for Jen and Anders who arrive later today so we had Judy go have a talk with them--net result we were moved to an awesome suite!!!!

We are excited to see the kids tonight!

I spent a couple of hours getting everything ready for check-in tomorrow and I'm locked and loaded! Complete rest day so just hanging this afternoon....


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday in Kona

Judy and I went down to "The Freak Show" early and we both did a nice little swim. Judy really liked it--loved the pretty fish. I swam out to the expresso bar and had an expresso mid-swim...hard to beat that! I just did 30 minutes today. Afterwards we gawked a bit and took some pics and video....



Here is a little clip of Chrissie...she looks pretty ripped!

I went to an XC breakfast. Paula Newbie-Fraser, Lindsay Corbin, and Jon McDonald were there to give us some pointers. A couple of the folks who participated from the first IM were there as well...




Later I went out towards Hawi and then rode the last 10 miles of the bike course out and back to see how bad the wind was. It was BAD. Probably 40 mph+ gusts today. I could only average about 9-10 mph on the 7-mile climb and I sat up to deal with the cross-winds on the descent...even sitting up i was going 30 mph+ for 5-6 miles....Its going to be interesting on the ride on Saturday if the conditions are like this...the ride did give me confidence though--if I concentrate and stay very conservative I should be able to stay rightside up....

Underpants Run in the morning!

Rolling along on Tuesday

Morning found me down at the Pier for another 1750 yard swim--feeling very comfortable in the water now--very pleasant swim--water was exceptionally clear this morning.


This will be a bit shorter post--busy day and I need my beauty rest.

It was noticeably more hopping this morning--Saw TJ and bumped into Macca plus a host of others. Talked to Dave Mulaney from PA--he is friends with Nace and Sully and I raced with him at NOLA. He is the defending XC champ.

After swim went back to hotel and had a huge brunch and hung by the pool. At 1 I was able to get my bike and register for the race. I picked up Judy at the airport (yea!).

I then took the bike out for a short spin on the queen K. It was VERY hot today and quite windy--a good 25+ mph--mostly crosswind where I was but I know up by Hawi it would be a headwind. My bike performed like a champ and I had no problem on any of the climbs--even into more of a headwind--I think my 42/27 will prove to be fine. I was solid on most of the descents--comfortably spinning my 55/13 and cruising at 35 mph. On one steeper descent, however, with big crosswinds and several huge trucks blasting past I did have some speed wobbles--mostly due to my tenseness i think. I'm hoping the abscense of trucks will make it less likely to happen on Saturday--but the crosswinds will make it tricky for sure.

The winds have been howling--several Germans were blow off their bikes up by Hawi 2 days ago and one broke his collarbone. If it gets crazy I'll just sit up and go slower....I'm going up to Hawi tomorrow to take a look at the tiger--the big descent leaving the turnaround point....

Parade of nations tonight and then they opened the Ironman Village--lots of famous types there like Mark Allen....



sleep time!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday was another fun day!

Beginning to settle in nicely to this Kona Ironman life. I told Judy today that I decided that this was the only triathlon I wanted to do in the future (just a joke)...but it truly is a fun experience.

I slept in to 3:30 which is basically what I'll want to do come Saturday--it's much easier to adjust to time zones going east to west.

I hit the pier around 7:30 and swam for a little longer than 40 minutes. I broke out my TYR Torque Pro and I have to say that it passed the test--it will be my swim uniform on Saturday. The swell seemed less as well today. Also, I knew what to do this morning. In any event, I thought the swim was much easier today--I'm not worried about getting around the course come Saturday--I'll be relatively slow on the swim but it should be enjoyable. I'm swimming again tomorrow and I'll take some pics and post tomorrow.

I learned that my bike would not show up until tomorrow so i substituted another short run in place of my first ride here in Kona. i ran from transition up Palani hill and out onto the Queen K for a bit (and back)--all in-all about 4 miles. Very warm this morning but I felt fine--a little bit of a memory in my legs from yesterday's 5K but nothing much.

I probably won't run Palani hill on Saturday (thinking about a strategic walk) but I had no trouble this morning--as you can see from this pic (click to enlarge) it's really not that bad of a hill:


This is what I'll see at mile 24.5 of the run--well, it will probably be a lot darker but you get the point. This is the last climb to the top of Palani hill--from there it will be all down hill....



Here is what the end of Ali'i Drive looks like--in the day with traffic....I'm sure it will look very different on Saturday evening:


You've probably seen this before:


After my run I jumped in the ocean again to cool off and then headed over to Lava Java for breakfast. I bought a couple of presents and then repaired to my hotel room to chill out for a several hours. Then I geared up and headed for Mauna Kea....

Mauna Key is the largest mountain in Hawaii. It's summit stands 13,796 above seas level. It is also the "tallest" mountain in the world rising some 32,000 feet from the ocean floor. Mauna Key is unique for a couple of other reasons as well. First, one (as I did) can hop in a car at one's sea level hotel and drive almost all the way to the summit in about 2 hours. Second, Mauna Kea is the site of the greatest concentration of astronomical observatories in the world--due to the fact that the air is so clear at this lofty altitude. Here is a little blurb on the Observatories:

Mauna Kea astronomical observatory complex located on Mauna Kea peak, the “white mountain” on the island of Hawaii. Because of its height and excellent seeing, this site supports by far the largest astronomical facility in the world. It is operated by the Institute for Astronomy of the Univ. of Hawaii. The largest telescopes are the 33-ft (10-m) W. M. Keck telescopes (Keck I and II), each consisting of an array of 36 segmented mirrors; a computer adjusts each small mirror many times per second so that a single image is formed of the object under study. Keck I began observations in 1993, Keck II in 1996. The Subaru telescope, featuring a 327-in. (8.3-m) one-piece mirror, was formerly called the Japanese National Large Telescope. The 320-in. (8.1-m) Gemini telescope is one of an identical pair, the other being constructed atop Chile's Cerro Pachon. Together they will provide complete unobstructed optical and infrared coverage of both the northern and southern skies. Other instruments include the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (142 in./3.6 m), the United Kingdom Infrared telescope (150 in./3.8 m), and the Infrared Telescope Facility (120 in./3 m), as well as two telescopes—the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope—used for observations in the submillimeter portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Also part of the complex is the Hawaii Antenna of the Very Long Baseline Array, which is used for observations in radio astronomy.

In any event, the drive out to the summit was awesome. Along the way I stopped and bought a couple of sheep--because they were cheap!:



Actually, I'm kidding. I like my sheep with shorter legs and I hate to pay extra bag fees on the plane so I figured I couldn't beat the price of sheep back in Delaware anyways.

The drive up to the summit was hairy--definitely bring your 4WD! I was blown away by the awesome Observatories. I talked to a couple of the astonomers as they checked in for a night of work--i almost asked if I could be a helper for one night (almost better than doing Kona) but I hate rejection so i didn't. I saw the true summit and hiked the 10 minutes or so up a small trail to bag it. This was radically easier than Shasta or Rainier but let me tell you that going from 0 to 13.7 in two hours does leave you a little dizzy--i had to stop a couple of times to stay checked into planet reality.

I met (and passed) a nice couple from Australia on the way up. On the summit, we took each others' pics and i regaled them with my exploits on Kosi last year--they admitted it was a peak they wanted to climb as well. It turned out he had qualified in China (2nd in the 35-39 AG) and was also racing Kona.

The telescopes opened up for business and the stars came out--amazing! The ride down was intense. On the way down I picked up a hiker (who flagged me down) from Columbia named Eduardo who had become very cold on his descent from the summit (it was 41 degrees at the top)--he had been hiking for 7 hours. I gave him a lift down--which he was very thankful for--hopefully some good karma for me on Saturday...

Here are some pics of my adventure on Mauna Kea:










Tomorrow I (hope to) get my bike--I'll rest easier after that. Judy also comes and I'm very excited to have her here--this is something best done with someone close to you....

good night!

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to track me live on race day

Several of you have asked how best to track my race progress at Kona on Saturday. There are two ways:

First, the "old-fashioned" way is to go to Ironman.com on race day and you will find links to live video, text updates (focused on the leaders of the race), and a search function that allows you to track individual athletes or different Age Group divisions. With the later link, you can see my splits at various points during the race. My bid # is 1941 so you can enter that or my name (if you forget the bid number) and see how I'm progressing throughout the day. For you east coasters the race starts at 1pm and given the challenging conditions in Kona you can be sure that I will finish well after midnight...2am?

The "new-fashioned" way to track me is something we tried out at IM Germany and it seemed to work great. I'll be wearing a GPS device during the bike and run segments and you can go to a website and you will get real-time telemetry data (my location and current speed) on a continuous basis. Those who followed me in Germany said this was a great way to go. There are a couple of ways you can display my progress--vs a map or satellite imagery including a bird's eye view from several hundred feet over my head.

You can track me on your computer or iPhone/iPad by entering:

http://www.trackmyathlete.com/vemap.aspx?name=050414

You can track me via PDA/Blackberry/Palm by entering:

www.TrackMyAthlete.com/pda.aspx?name=050414

If you enter the above now you will see where I'm staying--just a stone's throw from the Pacific!

Mahalo!

Race Strategy

Kona 2010 Race Strategy


Perspective, Patience and Perseverance

My race at Kona will be guided by these three overarching themes. I will judge my performance here more by how well I measure up against these three virtues than by my final time or how well I execute the tactics that I outline below.

Perspective. It is a really big deal for me to get to race the Ironman World Championship in Kona. My first exposure to Ironman Hawaii was the ABC TV broadcast of Julie Moss’ famous 1982 struggle to cross the finish line. As I watched the TV I vowed that I would do the Ironman before I turned 40. At that time I was a marathoner and the idea of ultimately competing at the Hawaiian Ironman seemed like a natural extension of my running. Ultimately, I would not complete my first Ironman until 2004, when I was 47, but it certainly did not feel like a failed vision when I did. I unsuccessfully tried to qualify for Kona ten times before I finally made it this year. I recognize that this opportunity is very likely a once in a lifetime event for me.

I want to make sure, as I compete in this race, that I constantly soak it all in and appreciate what a great opportunity this represents for me. I want to relish the pre-race time in the water, the feeling of strength in the early goings of the bike, and the struggle that will surely come in the run.

I want to proceed through the day with a feeling of gratitude. It is a great thing that I can share this with my family and friends! I want to thank the volunteers and my fellow competitors. No matter how much pain I experience I want to reflect on how lucky I am to get this chance.

I know that I am fortunate to be in such strong physical shape. Yes, I am a Ford Explorer among the Ferraris and Porsches (you know the typical 32 year old, 5’ 9”, 150-pounder with 3% body-fat that mostly populate this event). And yes, my run fitness (post hamstring-tear) is nowhere near ready for primetime. But, I am ridiculously healthy and fit by normal standards and I know this is something I should never take for granted. I am truly blessed to be here and I want to hold that thought every moment of the race—especially during the difficult times.

And finally, I want to reconnect with that little boy that used to love swimming in Ten Mile Lake, tearing around the neighborhood on my bike in Flint, and running away from everyone in the backyard keep-away games in Grosse Pointe. Par of me still is that boy and I need to remember how lucky I am to still be able to play like that guy.

Patience. I have crossed the finish line on Ali’i drive many times in my training runs and dreams. I know on October 9th that the drive to get there will be a primal force inside of me. Still, with my 7 Ironman finishes, I know that my day will be long and difficult. I need to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead.

In my Ironman races I have found that I frequently cycle through periods of feeling very strong and quite weak as well. I know that I have to restrain myself when I feel great and comfort myself when things are not going so well.

I have studied the course intensely. I already “rode” the course on my Computrainer. I know on race day I will constantly be aware of what is coming next but I still have to restrict my focus as much as possible to my very next swim stroke. To staying on that guys feet. To avoiding that obstacle on the bike. To not worrying about the wind. Or the heat. Or the humidity. Or how much I want the pain to be over with. I need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and doing it again. And again. And again. Until they tell me I can stop. And then I can celebrate. Until then, I need to be patient and stay focused in the moment.

Perseverance. Anyone who thinks about Ironman knows this one. The definition of perseverance is: “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” An Ironman is one of the ultimate tests of human perseverance—and the Hawaii Ironman even more so. But perseverance is something that is earned a hundred times in a race like this. It is the ultimate test of my virtue as a triathlete.

I know the bad times, the pain, and the worry will come during my race. I have enough experience to not be (at least at an intellectual level) surprised by this. But the challenges of an Ironman (and I can only imagine what it will be like in Kona) are truly “look into your heart and see what you are made of” challenges. I know there will be many times that my mind screams out to bail, to slow down, to sit down, to quit. I look forward to those moments because in the final analysis, they are the best part of an Ironman. I hope to be the best part of an Ironman, and step to the plate when they happen. Ultimately, my quest on this day is to persevere.

The Swim

No drama is what this swim is all about. While I’ve recently grown into the best wetsuit swimmer of my triathlon career, I still am (and probably always will be) a pretty poor non-wetsuit swimmer. My 85+ minute swim in Germany is but the latest example of my travails without a wetsuit.

I plan to start way out to the left—close to shore and furthest away from the Pier. This is sub-optimal from a sighting perspective as I predominately breathe on my left side but I feel being further away from the buoy line (and the mayhem there) is the right call for me.

I’m clearly in the bottom half (probably bottom quarter) of this field given the lack of a wetsuit. I’ll start well off the start line and take it easy for the first 400 yards. After that I hope to settle into a nice easy stroke. I want to enjoy the underwater scenery and focus on feeling comfortable and under control.

Once I reach the turnaround sailboat, if I feel OK, I’ll pick it up a bit. I’ll focus on finding some friendly feet to catch a draft. As I near the shore I’ll up my kick cadence to get my legs ready for the bike to come. As I exit the water I’ll be sure to congratulate myself on a nice open-water, non-wetsuit swim. And then, I’ll turn my attention to T1.

Transition One

Ironman transitions are relatively simple. Upon exiting the water, I’ll get my bearings and head for the fresh water shower. I’ll efficiently find my T1 bag (#1941) and head into the changing tent. There I want to make sure to change into my bike/run attire, slather on lots of suntan lotion, gather all of my swim/bike transition stuff and put it in it’s proper place on my body and in the pockets of my tri-suit.

After I make sure to do everything on my list, including a long drink of water and 200 calories of ShotBloks, I’ll easy over to the bike ready to fully engage in my Kona bike ride.

The Bike

I’m going to be very conservative on the bike—especially during the first 80 miles. I’ll ride relatively easy—probably 190-200 watts (or about 25-35 watts below what I’m capable of) all the way to Hawi and back to the 270 turn-off. If I feel good (I mean really good) I’ll begin to push it a bit (205-225 watts) as long as the winds are manageable. If (when?) the winds come-up then I’ll back off and ride comfortably all the way back to T2. If I need to, I’ll be happy to log a 6-hour bike. The key thing is for me to exit the bike in reasonable enough shape so that I can run a significant portion of the marathon.

Throughout the ride I’m going to try to suck down close to two bottles of fluid every hour. I’ll also eat one pack of ShotBloks and 6 Enduralytes each hour.

Transition Two

Pretty much the same plan as with T1. I want to be slow and deliberate and make sure that I do everything that I need to do to ready myself for my marathon. When I’m ready, I’ll thank the volunteers and head out of the changing tent with a smile on my face.

The Run

I think about the run in six segments: 1. The run south to the first turnaround (5 mile mark); 2. The turnaround back to the top of Palani hill (11 mile mark); 3. The run from Palani to the entrance to the Energy Lab (16); 4. The run through the Energy Lab (20); 5. The run from the exit of the Energy Lab to the top of Palani (25); and 6. The glorious run to the finish.

My plan is to try to run around 9:30-10:00 minute miles at the outset. I know that this is faster than I’ll probably end up averaging but I think a positive split profile is probably unavoidable.

I plan to walk through every aid station to make sure I take on adequate fluids and nutrition. When I get to the Palani hill, I plan to walk up it to save my legs for the latter stages of the run. I hope to predominantly run all the way out to the entrance to the Energy Lab. If I have to mix walking and running before then I’ll deal with it but it would be a great boost if I can get all the way out to the Energy Lab first.

In any event, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how slowly I’m doing it. I have no idea what I’ll do as I head back down Ali’i drive but I’m sure it will come to me when the moment arises.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

OK--so it was hot today....

My first full day in Kona. I was awake at 2am. Watched a little of the Ryder Cup and left at 6 for the PATH 5k down on Ali'i drive. I had a positive race. I went out pretty easy and hit the turn at 11:20 and decided I felt pretty good so I picked it up a bit and did the return portion of the out-and-back in 10:55 for a 22:15 (7:11/mile). I'm quite pleased with that--it was very warm, even at 7:30 am--much warmer than yesterday. The course has a few rolling hills in it--nothing major, but definitely much tougher than the Delaware 5k I did in 22:32 last weekend. I'm getting faster by the week and beginning to recover some of my lost form from the injury.

Surprisingly, I finished 2nd in my AG--so I at least will go home with one Kona podium! I won a nice little carved wooden bowl for my efforts. The award ceremony was picture perfect (you can click on the pics to blow them up!):


There were a few pros in the race--Chris Leigh and Heather Fuhr won:





I then walked over to the pier and did an easy 30 minute swim. The water is quite pleasant--about 78 degrees and noticeably buoyant (yes!). There seemed to be a pretty significant swell and a noticeable current. I found this to be a bit challenging to swim in. There were several times when I took 2-3 strokes and kept looking at the same spot on the bottom. The water is clear by my standards but it was a bit stirred up from the swell--not is crystal clear as i imagine it gets. Lots of brighly colored fish. I felt pretty good and will breakout my swimskin and swim a bit longer tomorrow--and try to push a little bit harder.

After all of these activities I hit Lava Java for a Joe and a bran muffin--did a little gawking as well....



I did a quick return to the hotel and then did the 110 mile drive out to Volcanoes National Park. I went through about 50 weather zone changes (I'm not exaggerating here). It was 86 when I left Kailua and I found myself at times in driving rain and 62 degrees as I climbed around the southern end of the Island and up the flanks of Mauna Koa. As I emerged from the wind shadow of Mauna Koa i was blasted by 30-40 mph winds. The waves were huge on the southern side of the Island.

The weather was not great when i got to the Park and the Volcano was spewing deadly (literally) gas so a fair amount of the Park was off-limits for safety reasons. I did enjoy what turned out to be a 7 hour trip. The views of the active caldera and a walk through a lava tube were highlights:






On the way back I hit the Black Sand Beach turnoff--yes it truly is black sand. Saw a big Honu turtle taking a nap on the beach. They are supposed to be good luck--I hope so!



On the way back home the clouds parted over Mauna Lea and I could clearly see the observatories perched up at 13.7K feet. I plan to head up there tomorrow afternoon to catch the sunset and then do some star-gazing in what is considered the best place on Earth to do so.

My bike (hopefully) arrives tomorrow and I hope to pick it up and take it out for at least an hour or two to make sure all is well on the bike front.

Don't worry about all the activities--I feel like my taper is working well.

I'll update you with more tomorrow!

rc