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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.