Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012 Ironman Hawaii Race Report

2012 Ironman World Championship
October 13th, 2012


Location: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Distance: 2.4-mile swim/112-mile bike/26.2-mile run
2012 Triathlon Race Number: 11
Career Triathlon Race Number: 125
Career Ironman Number: 10
Conditions: Mid-80s, Humid, Windy, Partly Sunny.  Water: 79 degrees with a noticeable swell.

When I left here in 2010, I did so feeling very satisfied that I had checked Kona off of my life list and had done so in fine style.  I certainly had no expectations of getting back here again as it took me 11 times to qualify for Kona in 2010.  Even with the XC program, I’m not getting any younger and with no new age groups above 50 years old, my advancing years are increasingly a liability.  However at IMAZ in 2011, I was fortunate once again to qualify for the Big Dance.  This time with my bud, Sparty and so once again we headed west for the Big Island they call Kona.

Being recent empty nesters, Judy and I decided to do Kona 2012 in style.  We rented a wonderful house in the Kona Estates section near race central.  This beautiful, open ocean front residence was to be our home for three full weeks from 10/1-10-22.  Sparty and his crew rented the house next to ours commencing a week later for ten days.

With the luxury of three full weeks we had a fantastic time doing all of the touristy things (helicopter tours, kayaking, snorkeling, volcano touring, coffee tasting, etc.) and also had ample time to just kick back and enjoy island living, Hawaii-style!  Plenty of fine meals at local establishments were well balanced with just kicking back in the pool and hot tub, grilling outside and watching the waves crash at our feet and the magnificent sunsets.

I did all of the usual pre-Ironman stuff—training and equipment wise—much of it with Sparty.  I had a bit of a scare early in week one as I had a significant malfunction in the seat-post internal locking cam that rendered my bike unusable.  With an absence of replacement parts anywhere in the world, it looked like my BMC’s racing days were over.  However, some Sierra Nevada inspired creativity lead to the fabrication of serviceable parts by the team at Bike Works and at the end of the day, my equipment worked splendidly.  Judy, Sparty and I did the PATH 5k, on the 7th, and I was fortunate enough to grab my first Kona victory—albeit, with my usual very slow run speed.  Still, I’ll take it!

All-in-all, I could not imagine a more enjoyable, relaxing, and productive pre-race build-up.  Kara, Jenny and my Mom joined us as well as friends Midge and Tim Kerr and Jonathan and Casey Silver, so I had quite a sizeable contingent on hand to cheer me on for the race itself.  Race morning was soon upon us.

Race Morning

I slept a solid 5-6 ours and awoke feeling very calm.  I had my PB&J sandwiches and some of Kona’s finest Java.  Soon the rest of the gang was up and we all made our way the short distance over to the race start.  I did all of my pre-race activities (body-marking, filling my bottles, pumping tires, etc.) smoothly and efficiently and spent a very relaxing time before the start with my fellow XC competitors and with my friends and family.

This morning reminded me of the 2010 race morning.  It was pretty clear and you could already feel the heat and humidity in the air.  It was unclear what the wind would be like—it had been strangely calm for the first 10 days we were here—especially up by Hawi—but the wind seemed to have picked up in the final few days leading up to the race.  One thing was noticeably different was the swell.  I had heard the waves crashing loudly on the lava in front of our home the night before and the morning light revealed pretty significant ocean swells.  These were long-period deep-water swells (not wind-driven waves) so not technically difficult to swim, but still looked to pose a bit more of a challenge than what we faced in 2010.

Like I did back in 2010, I lined up way off to the left, away from the pier.  The cannon did not fire when expected so we were sent off with Mike Reilly yelling: “Go, go, go”.  I felt pretty good right from the start and while I certainly had my fair-share of contact, it seemed to me to be a lot less contact than I experienced in 2010.  21 minutes into my swim, Andy Potts exited as the first pro out of the water (the pros start 30 minutes before the Ag’ers).  This was three minutes slower than back in 2010—of course, I didn’t know this and was quite uncertain of how fast I was going.  I was hopeful to break 80 minutes this year but with the swell this morning, I knew that might be difficult.

I hit the halfway point of the swim, mid-way between the two turn-boats, and glanced at my watch and saw a disappointing 43 minutes.  I knew I had been through this point in 2010 in just 38:30 so I quickly surmised that I was going to have a considerably slower swim.  This played in my head for a minute or two and then I just let the negative thoughts go—I was at Kona, the water was beautiful, I felt good and was enjoying the swim—ultimately, and this is probably the only race where this is true for me—my time is very much a secondary consideration.

On the way back I did a much better job tactically and was essentially able to get a very good draft off a solid group of swimmers all the way back to the pier.  It also seemed to me that the swell was pushing us in and I began to wonder if I might swim the second half faster than the first (in 2010 I had slowed on the return leg).

Soon enough I could see the pier coming near and I glanced at my watch and saw a mid 70s number!  Hey, maybe I could have a pretty solid swim split after all!  As I did in 2010, I veered to the left as we neared the pier so I could stop and wave to my support-team.  I even did a relatively poor version of a Usain Bolt pose in the water—a reoccurring theme of mine for this year’s race.  I hit the stairs in 81:20 (vs. 80:27 in 2010) and my official time was 81:38 (this was 71 seconds slower than 2010).

I was 1482nd OA, which was at the 27.4 %-tile (of the 2039 starters).  This was slightly better than the 25.4 %-tile I posted in 2010.  IN my AG, I was 53rd (out of 91), which translated into 42.9 %-tile (this was quite a bit better than the 35.7 %-tile I posted in 2010 in my AG). 

The fastest swim in my AG was 62:06.  The swim times seemed a minute or two slower than 2010 so my swim turned out to be pretty solid (for me).  Here is how the swim splits in my AG were distributed:

Under 65:        5 %
65-70:            9
70-75:            18
75-80:            19
80-85:            15
86-90:            15
90-95:            9
95-100:          4
100+/DNF:      5

I did not know it at the time but I was exiting the swim just a bit behind the median swim time of my AG.  Given I’m not a great swimmer and this is the IM World Championships, I’ll gladly take it!

Transition One

As I ran up the stairs, and towards the transition bag racks and changing tents, I was smiling and feeling pretty good about my swim.  I sensed that it was a pretty solid effort and in any event (and by-far most importantly) was successfully completed.  I unzipped my Torque Pro and quickly found an empty seat in T1.  Even though I was in the fat part of the bell-curve for my AG I was behind the big crush for the race overall.  Still, I was surprised to find an empty seat—it was harder to do so in 2010.  I had a nice volunteer who helped me and I made sure to get all of my exposed skin caked in suntan lotion.  I also had a “shrug” that I put on to cover my arms and shoulders on the bike.  I was methodical in my T1 and as I ran out I bumped into Nace Mullen, who was a bit behind me in the swim, but had gone faster in T1.  We exited the tent together and mugged for my family.  I did another Bolt pose, grabbed my bike and bid adieu to my family. 

My official T1 this year was 7:24, which was 32 seconds slower than my 6:52 in 2010.  I was now 1:43 behind where I was at this point in 2010.

The Bike

I mount up and head out near the junction of Palani and Ali’i with the crowd noise and blasting music in my ears.  I maneuver past the Old Airport and up Makala and then after a short stretch on the Queen Ku’ahumanu Highway I plunge down Palani onto Kuakini.  This first part of the bike always seems a bit frenetic here at Kona as there are a lot of slow swimmers/fast bikers intent on “catching the bus”—more on that later.  Also, everyone is pumped up and bursting with energy from their pre-race tapers.  I try to ignore this early madness as most of the Kona folks are better than me and I have no intention of getting involved in the drafting that does seem to plague this race.  I also want to pay special attention to avoiding any accidents—I surely do not want my day to end before 9 a.m.!

I hit the turn-around at the top of Kuakini Estates with an elapsed time of 1:47:02 (vs 1:44:58 in 2010—I have dropped another 21 seconds vs. 2010 in these first 5.3 miles or so—I am now 2:04 behind 2010….this is the first indication that the SW wind flow typical here in Kona, has been established much earlier today than in 2010).  The return back to the Hot Corner is a screamer and I lit it rip.  At one point I hit a big bump unexpectedly and after composing myself, I reach back to check and see if I lost either my rear drink bottle or my half-bottle containing my spare tire stuff.  At first it all seems to be in order but a few seconds later a lady comes by and tells me that I lost a bunch of spare tire stuff when I hit the bump.  I reach back and I can tell that my tire irons are gone for sure and maybe my CO2 cartridges.  My two spare tubes are still on-board—which is very good news.  As I continue screaming down Kuakani, I mull this new development over in my head.  I had thought before the race to put one run of duct tape over the top of my spare tire equipment bottle (which I’ve done in the past) and regret that I blew this important pre-race check-list item.  I mull this for a bit and just decide that this will not be the day that I get a flat.  I ask for some cover from my dad and the other powers above and I decide to just power on.

At the bottom of Palani, I make the turn and get up out of my saddle and head up the hill.  I see my support team yelling out to me from the side of the road, mid-way up the hill—I have to admit that this is a huge boost for me—even though we are so early in the race—how lucky am I to have so many folks here helping me—I surely don’t deserve this!

Soon, I’m on the Queen K again and settled in for the long tour through the lava fields.  I check my power meter and HR and see 180-200 watts on the former and wildly swinging nonsense on the latter.  It will take a while before I start to get reliable HR numbers so all of my HR data should be taken with a grain of salt.  I attend to my nutritional tasks on a regular schedule and I feel really-really good.  I soon realize that I must have a bit of a tailwind as I feel that I am making very good time.  Here is the Garmin data from my first five 5-mile splits on the bike (speed in mph/HR in bpm/cadence rpms/Average Power in watts/Normailized Power):

0-5:   16.0/115/84/196/200
6-10: 23.8/93/83/197/207
11-15: 21.7/144/86/172/177
20-25: 19.5/134/81/168/172

I go through Waikoloa with an elapsed time of 2:58:35 vs. 2:58:49—I now am 14 seconds ahead where I was in 2010!  I feel really good at this point and note that my power and heart rate are a little below my target but this seems fine.  I decide to push just a little bit harder but to still keep it conservative.  In this race, I know enough to know that you have to not extend yourself too much on the bike.  I pass a guy who I estimate to be in his mid-60s and he comments to me that this is the easiest of the 4 IM-Hawaii bike rides that he has done.  I agree that this is much easier than 2010 but I also know that things can change pretty quickly here on the Big Island.

On the descent leading into Kawaihae, I stand up and pee for the first time.  The old saying is “Pee by Hawi” so it seems all is well in this department.  I end up peeing twice on the bike, which strikes me as the correct amount.  As I make the turn at Kawaihae, it begins to get overcast and it looks like it might rain up by Hawi.  I take this as good news—anything to cool it down a bit.  As we begin the early climb and work around the SW point and begin to travel more directly north I’m blasted my a very strong (30+ mph) headwind blowing down from Hawi.  This makes for slower going but again, I take this as a plus.  Unlike 2010, the wind is not from the NE, so we don’t have the nasty side winds I had that year and driving the bike is no big deal at all this year.  I’m very psyched by this despite the slow going with the climb and wind.  The race leaders come by the other way but I don’t see the race helicopter like I did in 2010.  Here’s how my splits looked out through 50 miles:

26-30: 22.9/140/80/169/173
30-35: 20.4/116/81/170/173
36-40: 15.1/124/78/183/187
41-45: 18.5/133/79/178/187
46-50: 18.1/143/83/171/177

Soon I’m riding into Hawi.  I’m in much better shape this year than 2010 at this point.  I feel better and I’m not as mentally fried as the absence of side winds made this year’s climb to Hawi much, much easier from a bike safety point-of-view.  I hit the Hawi turnaround at 4:46:58 vs. 4:52:48 in 2010—I’m now almost 6 minutes faster at this point and close to 8 minutes faster on the bike.  I begin to believe that I can go sub 6 hours on the bike.

As I ride by special needs I see a fine gentlemen holding my bag out and I easily grab it while still rolling.  As I ride out of town, I grab my baggie of 9 boiled and salted mini Yukon potatoes out of my special needs bag and stash them in my tri-top near my open zipper.  I grab one and eat it and it is amazing!!!!  I first had these tasty tots during RAMROD this year and I can’t believe how good it tastes to get some much needed carbos that aren’t sweet!  The texture and the saltiness are also very much appreciated.  I take great delight in eating all of them over the next 20 miles or so.

In 2010, the descent from Hawi was terrifying.  I sat up and used my brakes a lot as the howling side winds made controlling the bike very sketchy.  This year it’s mostly a tailwind and this leads to an extremely fast descent—I hit 37.4 mph on this section.  It starts to rain a bit but I never get more than just a few drops—after the race I learn that those behind me got quite a bit more of a soaking.

Soon I’m back at the harbor in Kawaihae and I make the right turn onto the Queen K.  Here, at mile 80 or so, the party grinds to a halt.  I’m somewhat surprised to turn into very hard headwinds—I’m guessing well above 20 mph here.  This combined with the climbs between 80 and 85 miles puts a damper on my here-to-for high-flying spirits.  I had headwinds on the way back in 2010 as well, but today these winds are a whole lot worse.  If they continue unabated all the way back to Kailua then my bike split is really going to suffer.  Here are the next 25 miles of bike splits:

51-55: 15.9/134/84/186/189
55-60: 12.1/136/79/185/188
61-65: 29.4/104/84/149/149
66-70: 21.5/124/84/177/184
70-75: 19.4/136/80/174/178

The winds continue to howl and by the time I hit Waikoloa again it’s pretty obvious to me that the winds are going to be a real problem all the way back—they are fierce.  The sun is back out and I’m climbing the hills at 6-10 mph.  On some of the descents, I have to keep it in my small chain ring.  At one point on a 4% downgrade, I stop pedaling for a second or five to see what would happen and I watch my speed quickly bleed off.  The wind is so strong that even on a fairly significant downhill my bike would grind to a stop without continued pedaling!  At this stage in the race, this is all very tough to take.  However, before the race, I had mentally prepared myself for something like this and I think I kept a pretty positive attitude for the most part.  I did seem to be passing a few more folks here and there. 

My elapsed time through Waikoloa this year was 6:17:42 vs. 6:26:40 in 2010.  I had gained almost 9 minutes on 2010 at this point although it was clear that I was losing time now and would continue to do so all the way until the end of the bike.  Here were my splits between 75 and 100 miles:

75-80: 16.6/133/77/176/182
80-85: 18.4/147/79/169/173
86-90: 15.9/147/78/167/171
90-95: 13.2/147/76/172/174
95-100: 13.1/136/78/162/165

At this point, with my last 10 miles barely being covered in 13 mph, I’ve really had just about enough.  I say out loud that I need this ride to be over soon.  I run the math and conclude that I’ll be hard pressed to beat my bike split from last year.  This is a bit disappointing given my earlier success on the ride, but I try to put a positive spin on things and decide to try to push harder the last 12 miles:

100-105: 15.4/154/78/160/163
105-110: 18.0/154/81/174/177
110-112: 19.6/157/82/171/173

I finally roll back into the transition area—very pleased and more than willing to exchange my bike for my running shoes.  Over the last 22 miles or so I lose almost 11 minutes vs. 2010, which is pretty astounding.  My final bike split is 6:22:56 vs. 6:21:01 in 2010.  I’m now 3:38 in total behind 2010.  (My Garmin has the bike split at 6:21:57 and the distance was measured as 112.08 miles).  I record 4,478 feet of climbing and my caloric burn on the bike was estimated at 2,339 calories.  The average temperature recorded by my computer was 85 degrees with a max of 95 degrees.  My average speed was 17.6 mph.  My average power in 2010 was 170 watts, but was 174 watts this year (Normalized Power was 180 watts).  My cadence this year was a healthy 80-rpm—much better than the 73 I recorded in 2010.  My HR was 138 both years but as I mentioned, I think the 2012 data is a bit suspect.  Competitively, I have the 54th fastest bike split in my AG.  At 41.8 %-tile, this is almost identical to my swim.  In 2010, I was only at the 21.7 %-tile, so despite my slower split, I was much more competitive this year. 

I’ll have to take a more detailed look at the numbers but my guess is that the bike was 6-12 minutes slower this year than it was in 2010, so on balance, I feel pretty good about my bike!  Here is the distribution of bike times in my AG (the fastest was 5:16:37):

5:15-5:30:   8%
5:30-5:45:  16
5:45-6:00:  14
6:00-6:15:  13
6:15-6:30:  14
6:30-6:45:  10
6:45-7:00:   8
7:00-7:15:   9
7:15-7:30:   2
7:30+/DNF:  8

One last comment on the bike.  There were reports of wide-spread drafting on the bike this year.  Back where I was, I really didn’t see any but up towards the front—where people were swimming 60-70 minutes or so, apparently is was an issue.  “Getting on the bus” is appears to be a real phenomenon.  Some 243 penalties are handed out, which is mind-boggling—probably more than 10% of the field is affected.  I’ve wondered why my bike splits are worse than my swim splits (percentage wise) here at Kona and this may explain some of it.  At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter to me—other people drafting really is of no concern to me—I’m just doing my thing and enjoying being a part of this great race!

Transition Two

All things considered, I feel pretty good as I pass my bike off to a volunteer.  I take my shoes off and jog slowly around the transition zone.  I see Jen across the pier and wave to her.  Soon, I see Kara and Midge and they give me a nice cheer.  As I come around the transition area my Mom and Judy are there as well.

I grab my T2 bag and head into transition.  Not surprisingly, T2 is far less crowded than T1 was.  I sit down and enjoy the support of two transition volunteers.  I’m methodical but reasonably efficient.  I thank my helpers and head outside again and once again hear the cheers of my team—it’s a real boost to have folks out cheering for you—it definitely helps.

I complete my T2 in 7:44, which is a bit better than the 8:28 I recorded in 2010.  My total elapsed time now stands at 7:59:42, which is 2:54 behind where I was in 2010.  I’m aware of this and quickly reassess my goals for the run.  Coming into the race, I was hopeful of going sub 13 hours.  To do so, I figured I needed to go sub 6 on the bike and to leave T2 around 7:30-7:40.  As it stands, I’ll need to go sub 5 hours on the run to break 13 hours.  I know this is possible, but unlikely—especially given the punishment I just endured on the bike.  I decide to stick to my run strategy (which I’ll describe momentarily) and if I see that a sub 5 marathon is unlikely, then I’ll just shoot to beat my 2010 time (13:49:17).

The Run

As I run out of T2 I see Jonathan and Casey who have been involved in passing out sponges to people leaving T2 for the last couple of hours.  Casey asks me how I feel and I reply: “Good enough to get this done”.  I slap fives and I’m on my way.  I run up the short little hill to the bottom of Palani and I note that I do indeed feel pretty good-at least given the context.

My run strategy is to run to the next Aid Station (which are about 1 mile apart), walk through the Aid Station and make sure I hydrate, eat and pour water over my head and put ice in my hat (and other places).  Then, when I’m done, I’ll look at my watch and walk exactly 1 minute more.  Then repeat as long as I can.  I hopeful I can do 11-12 minute miles this way (11 min/mi= 4:48 and 12 min/mi=5:14).  This is what I do right from the start.

I feel pretty good as I wend my way over to Ali’i and I head south out towards “The Pit”.  I’m able to keep my HR in the low 140s, which I think is critical for me here in Hawaii—in 2010 my HR bloomed out of control around mile 6-7, which forced me to walk for quite a while.  I was hoping to avoid that fate this year.

Around 3 miles into the run my race almost ended.  I had just left an Aid Station and I was chatting to a guy to my left when I heard a frantic: “Stay outside the white line!”  I looked down and I was outside the white line but the fellow to my left was about 2-3 feet away—well inside the white line.  I had no chance to process any of this (indeed, I’m not really sure what is inside vs. outside the white line) when a wheel chair athlete blazed between us at a very high rate of speed (we were on a downhill section).  When he passed I was looking at my feet and the white line and his right most wheel literally rubbed the outside of my left foot.

It was over in a fraction of a second and the wheel chair guy sped away waving at us.  The other guy next to me looked at me and we both shook our heads.  If I had been a few inches to my left I’m sure I would have had a broken leg or worse….Whew!  It always amazes me when things like this happen in an Ironman, how quickly you let the incident go and refocus on the (challenging) task at hand—which is what I did.

I ran steadily out to the turnaround just past five miles—here is what my first 5 miles looked like (time/HR):

1.    9:44/144
2.    11:20/144
3.    12:01/140
4.    11:50/142
5.    11:42/143

At this point, I had lost time every mile compared to 2010 when I was just running.  I this point I was 4:07 behind 2010 on the run and over 7 minutes behind 2010 in total elapsed time.  However, my HR was quite a bit lower and I felt completely in control.  In fact, for each of the next ten miles I was going to be faster this year than 2010.

As I ran the miles back to the Hot Corner I began to look for Sparty.  I was concerned about him as I had not seen him since before the race.  I figured I’d get to the Hot Corner sometime around 10 hours into the race and if I didn’t see him before then I was worried that he might not make the 10:30 bike cut-off.  However, just past Lava Java about 9 or so miles into my run (about a mile into his) I saw him and I told him that he was “golden” and to “just execute your run plan”.  I took worrying about Sparty off the list as he is a savvy and experienced triathlete and I was sure he would have plenty of time to spare versus the 17-hour cut-off.

Shortly before the bottom of Palani Hill, Nace Mullen from New Jersey caught me and we walked and ran together as we went past the Hot Corner and looked up Palani.  Here were my next five one-mile splits:

6.    11:10/146
7.    12:41/138
8.    11:31/145
9.    11:05/145
10.   11:51/144

During this five mile segment my race strategy began to pay dividends as I picked up 12:23 vs. 2010 and I was now 8:16 ahead of 2010 on the run and was 5+ minutes ahead of where I was in 2010 overall.  Importantly, my margin of improvement was growing with each passing mile and I still felt great—like I could keep this up for quite a bit longer.

Nace trys to get me to run up Palani but I’ll have none of it as I’m not even looking forward to walking up it!  Fortunately, my support team is there to welcome me and as I walk a bit with Judy, Jen and Kara; Nace heads off on his way.  I whip out another “Bolt” and tell everyone that I feel really good.  Jen and Kara continue walking with me up onto the Queen K, but this short climb up Palani really kicks my butt!  It seems like someone threw the power switch to “off”.  I tell the girls that I need to walk a bit longer.  Jen peels off and Midge joins Kara and I.  I try to get back on my program and the three of us run for a mile or so—quite slowly.  Midge and Kara bid adieu and I’m on my own for pretty much the duration.  It feels quite warm up on the Queen K even as I watch the sun plunging into the Pacific to my left.  I’m not feeling that great now.  I can’t seem to get much down my throat—I gag when I try to swallow the Electrolyte tablets.  My stomach feels fine but for some reason, my throat is quite cranky about all the stuff I’ve been pouring down it all day.  (Even when I eventually get my boiled potatoes at mile 17 I’m not able to swallow them).  I walk more than run now and keep looking up the road for the turn to the Energy Lab.  I remember from 2010 that these 5 miles out to the Lab can be quite maddening.  I’m still going faster than 2010 but by mile 15 the delta is shrinking quickly.  Here are my next five splits:

11:  16:17/131
12:  13:55/130
13:  14:42/123
14:  15:33/117
15:  15:14/115

I manage to put another 11:25 on 2010 and at this point I am now 19:41 ahead of my pace in 2010—unfortunately, my body does not like the current state of affairs!

The sun is down and it’s quite dark now.  I finally reach the turnoff to the Energy Lab and head down towards the beach.  I run the math and know I’ll need to average around 14 minutes/mile or so to beat my 2010 time.  It’s dark (and my eyes are getting pretty bad) and I have trouble reading my Garmin but it seems to me that even hitting 14 min/mile is a challenge.  I remember that I averaged mid 11s in 2010 over the last nine miles—that appears unlikely this time around.  Mark Moses catches me around 16 or so and we walk/jog/chat for a while—I usually catch Mark around 100 miles or so on the but apparently I passed him up by Hawi this year, although neither of us was aware of it at the time.  He encourages me to run with him but I decline as I’m struggling to keep things even-keeled at this point—in fact, I feel a little light-headed. 

I make the turnaround at the bottom of the Lab and this lifts my spirits.  But not my pace, as I struggle even up the modest incline leading back to the Queen K.  Here are my next five splits:

16:  15:05/116
17:  13:53/119
18:  14:50/117
19:  15:59/116
20:  14:19/130

Up on the Queen K I keep mentally urging myself to run more and faster as at this point I really want to go faster than 2010.  I want to stay at or slightly below 14 min/mile and I expect that I’ll be able to pick it up over the last mile with the crowd support.

Somewhere around 22 miles or so, Sparty passes me coming the other way, heading out to the Lab.  He seems and good spirits and well on his way to a 16-hour effort.  I wish him well.  Even though I’m slow, I feel pretty good now.  My mood is very upbeat and I take care to soak everything in—there is a good chance I won’t be back here for a long time, if ever.  I thank the volunteers and keep plugging along.  Pretty soon I’m at the top of Palani.  My next five splits:

21:  13:25/151
22:  12:08/136
23:  13:56/126
24:  13:23/126
25:  13:53/127

I make the turn and head down the hill—I’m running quite a bit faster now (9:30 pace over the final 1.2 miles).  As expected, some of my support team is at the bottom and their cheers lift me even higher.  I know Kara and my Mom are waiting to greet me just past the finish line.  There is no one near me—in front or behind so I know I’ll have the final run to the finish line to myself.  I also know, given how fast (and easily) I’m now running that I will easily beat my time from 2010.

I make the turn on Ali’I and I slap fives with at least a 100 people.  I’m a little choked up but not as much as 2010.  I look around and soak everything in—I think I’m more aware of everything than back in 2010.  Finally, I make the final bend and there it is, the prettiest sight in all of triathlon.  I run up the ramp and at the finish line give a “What’s Up?” shrug and then once again (and for the last time) my Usain Bolt pose.  I laugh and run down the ramp and am hugged by Kara and my Mom.  Kara puts the lei around me and I soon see and go over and hug the rest of my team.  My final run time is 5:43:17, which is about 13:06/mile.  I have the 74th best run in my AG (19.8 %-tile).  This was a little more than 9 minutes better than in 2010 and my overall time of 13:42:59 is 6:18 better than 2010.  I finish 65th in my AG (29.7 %-tile) and 1615th OA (20.8 %-tile).  This is modestly better than the 17.8 %-tile level I was at in 2010.

I’m escorted out of the finish area (which by the way is just rocking) and collect myself and my finisher’s medal and t-shirt.  We take pictures and talk for a while and then Casey and Jon make a dash for the airport to catch their plane.  It was really awesome to have them along for the ride this year.  We head up to the King Kam and I grab a shower and change of clothes.  We all lay down for about 45 minutes or so and then we rouse ourselves to head back down to the finisher area.

We get into the stands behind the finish line and wait for Sparty to finish.  About 10 minutes before 16 he fulfills his Kona dream as his whole family is there to meet him.  We cheer for him and I slap him 5 as he goes by—on his way to the med tent.  He did a great job today and managed his race really well!

We decide to wait for the last finisher and are rewarded with one amazing finish after another.  The last lady—over 75 years old, just finishes about 20 seconds before 17 hours.  Then it’s off to our nearby house where I actually manage to drink a full beer (a first for me after an IM!).  Then it’s time to rest, which I do quite easily!

With the help and support of my friends and family, as well as the 2000 other competitors and 5000 volunteers I’ve finished my 2nd Hawaii Ironman and my 10th full IM in my career.  I realize how truly blessed I am to have been able to experience this.  I hope to do more in the future (including IMAZ just five weeks later) and I’d surely like to get back to Kona, but at this point, it’s all just icing on a very sweet cake!

Thanks for reading!!!!

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