A bit overdue, but with all the post race vacationing and traveling back to Canada, I just really didn’t have the time to get this done in a timely manner.
We arrived in Kona on October 3rd, after a long travel day from Toronto. When arriving in Hawaii, we were met by Brian Keast and Kim Fabian who are also from the Waterloo area. It was nice to see some familiar faces so far from home!
I could go on and on about all the pre race activities and events, but if you are reading this blog you likely have seen much of it on the internet through Facebook, Twitter, etc. and already know how big and crazy it is. All I can say is that the race week totally lives up to all the hype. We arrived a full 9 days before the race and the time went by lightening quick! There was so much to do and see, it was great.
That being said, I made sure to get a few quality workouts in leading up to the race and tried to take it easy and not get all caught up in the craziness. I certainly didn’t think that I did too much and I felt like I went into race day pretty well rested.
We (the family) had been getting up a lot earlier than normal all week before the race, so getting up at 3:45 race morning did not prove to be very difficult. I had a decent enough sleep and was ready to get the show on the road.
I did my normal pre race routine of some coffee, half a bagel and some oatmeal and we headed down to the pier about 4:30am, as it was going to be a bit crazy trying to find a place to park. In the end, Deanna dropped me off and she went and parked the van while I did my thing in transition.
Upon arriving, I followed the bodies of athletes to body marking and then over to the transition area. I made a quick stop at the Vaseline and sunscreen station to get lubed up. As it turns out, using body glide or Vaseline is super important when swimming in a swimskin in salt water. I learned this the first time in the ocean. The rubbing is twice as bad in salt water compared to fresh water. Just going into the race I had burn/rubbing marks in all kinds of spots from the practice swims. I made sure to put a substantial amount of lube and body glide in these spots prior to getting in the water.
Once in transition, I got the bike all prepped and ready for action and then met Deanna just outside the transition zone to give her my pump and a few other things. After some hugs and kisses from the kids, I made my way over to the swim start entrance, as this typically gets busy fast. Sitting near the start, we all watched the male and female pro’s go off. I also had a nice chat with Harriet Anderson, an athlete that has previously been profiled on the NBC airing of the race. As it turns out, she ended up being the last finisher in this year’s race, finishing just under the 17 hour mark with only 30 seconds to spare or so.
Once the male and female pro’s were off, all of the AG athletes made their way down into the water. I got in early, and actually met up with Chris Kraemer, also from Waterloo, as we made our way over to the pier wall to hang out for a bit before jumping in the water.
A short bit later, we headed out to the start line to wait for the start. Chris and I swam out to one of the outrigger kayaks and hung on to it so we didn’t have to tread water the whole time. When we were hanging on to the kayak, we saw Brian Keast also hanging on to the same one, so we chatted a bit. With about 5 or 10 minutes to the start, we got off the kayak and made our way over to the start line. It was then that I saw Peter Buehlow from Bright for the first time. What a coincidence!
We were all over to the left hand side of the start, but not too far from the front really, as the starting area really did seem pretty spread out. Eventually, we all heard GO GO GO and we all started swimming. I hadn’t heard the cannon yet, but after a few short seconds, it went off and the race was ON!
I wanted to swim pretty hard for the first few hundred meters to hopefully get on some faster feet. I pretty much swam as fast as I could, but maybe not as hard as I could, as there wasn’t a lot of space to move around. I wouldn’t say the contact was anything worse than any other race, but what was different here, was that the congestion stayed throughout most of the swim. Unlike other races where the field eventually spreads out, there was only minimal spreading out in this race. Despite that, I never found it to be too bad.
The swim out to the first turn buoy didn’t seem nearly as long as it did when Chris, Brian, Kim and I did it a week or so before the race. It didn’t come quick, but eventually we made it out there and around both the first and second turn buoys and headed for home.
On the swim back, I felt quite comfortable and just tried to stay in a draft all the way. If I had to guess, the second part of the swim was quicker than the first, and I actually thought my time might actually be a bit of an hour. Therefore, I was a bit surprised to see 1:09 on my Garmin when I finally stood up to get out of the water. Wow I thought to myself, that swim “seemed” quicker than that. Nevertheless, I made my way up the stairs, through the fresh water hoses (which felt great to get the salt water off me) and then through the bike bags and into the change tent.
I was contemplating whether I’d spend the time to put on calf sleeves and arm coolers, but in the end, I decided to just skip them and leave them in my swim to bike bag. Since we were allowed to have our shoes and helmet on our bikes, I really didn’t have anything to get out of my swim to bike bag. I just had to get my swimskin off and put it and my goggles and swim cap in the bag and run to my bike, but not before getting rubbed down with a good amount of sunscreen by one of the many great volunteers on the day. In the end, T1 took 3:36, which I figured wasn’t too bad given how far we had to actually run around to get to our bikes.
Onto the bike, we had to make our way up Palani to the “hot” corner before turning left and doing a short block around town, before coming back down Palani to the Kuakini Hwy out and back section. It was very important to be extra careful here, as everyone was pumped up and just letting go on the bike, It was easy to get carried away with all the excitement, especially due to the fact that at this point, everyone feels great and fresh. I didn’t really have any issues, except one guy who yelled at me for not calling out “On your left” when I passed him. It’s not like it was even close or if he had to move, so I’m not sure what he was getting all excited about. I wasn’t about to do that every time unless it was necessary.
Eventually, we made our way back to Palani and the nasty little climb up to the Queen K where the real meat and potatoes of the bike would begin. Once on the Queen K, and heading out of town, things seemed to be going along really well. I felt great and was flying along apparently with a nice tailwind helping us out. Unlike Tremblant, where I was flying past riders for the first 30K, here, EVERYONE is fast and passing people took a bit more effort. I was closely watching my power, and as normal, it was a bit high at the start, which it normally is, so I thought that was ok. I think that might have come back to hurt me later on, as matches burned early in this race, have a habit of hurting you later.
Also during this stretch, there were definitely times in which I found myself in some packs and forced to unintentionally be drafting. When you get in a group of 20 riders or so, all not willing to back off that much, this is going to happen. There were plenty of marshals out on the course and I saw my fair share of drafting penalties being handed out, so the officials were doing everything they could to keep things on the up and up.
Once we hit Waikoloa at about 40K, things seemed to spread out pretty good and my average power was about 258 with an average speed of about 38.5kph. My nutrition plan was the same as Tremblant, which meant a normal concentrate Infinite up front in my aerodrink and two bottles of 2x concentrate on my bike. I’d say I finished the first normal concentrate in about 40 minutes, so that gives you a bit of indication how much fluid I was taking in.
The aid stations were plentiful on the course with lots of fluids and other snacks. I basically took a water at every one and if the bottle I was tossing wasn’t empty, I’d empty it on me to keep cool. One lesson I did learn that day though, was that I need to use a different water bottle holder on my frame. The one I was using (and have used before) opens to the side to make it easy to get water out. However, the opening was too big to properly hold the water bottles they were handing out on the course, as they would fall right out. As a result, I was forced to store all my water bottles behind my saddle in my rear hydration carrier. This was less than ideal, but I dealt with it nonetheless. Throughout the ride, I would also supplement with some gels, bananas and the odd bonk breaker bar as I felt like it. Under normal conditions, the Infinite would be close to enough, but these weren’t normal conditions, so I made sure to take on enough calories, as long as my body was feeling up to it.
Once off the Queen K we flew down into Kawaihae where we would begin our long climb up to Hawi. The ride down to Kawaihae was super fast and fun, but it was clear we would pay for that later in the day. I actually hit my fastest speed on this descent going 73.3kph at one point. Climbing up to Hawi was tough, as the wind was very strong at this point, and pretty much a dead headwind into us. It was at this point that Chris Kramer passed me. He looked like he was riding well, so I didn’t even both attempting to stay with him. Despite that, during the climb to Hawi, I likely passed more riders than those that passed me. Once at the top, I made my way around the turnaround and headed back to town.
Often the wind in the descent from Hawi can be very tricky, as it normally comes from the side, but during our race, it was mostly a tailwind heading downhill, so we were flying. I hit a max speed of 69kph at one point, and actually set a new 5K lap record of 5 minutes and 21 seconds with an average speed of 56kph during this descent.
Things were going along pretty well as we headed back to Kawaihae and the Queen K, but I began to notice a bit of tiredness starting to kick in as we made the long climb up from Kawaihae to get back on the Queen K. I was hoping that it was just due to the long uphill, but as I began to head back along the Queen K, I noticed the power beginning to drop despite what still felt like a good deal of effort. By this time, my average power had come down to about 240, which I thought was totally reasonable, given my 249 average power in Tremblant for the whole race. This however, was NOT Tremblant, it was Kona, and it was HOT. If fact, the average temperature according to my Garmin 500 for the ride was 34 degrees celsius.
So at this point on the Queen K with about 50K left in the race, things started to get a bit dark. We were all facing a pretty stiff cross/headwind coming in off the ocean that was really slowing the pace down. With the wind and the net uphill throughout this section, the average speed for the next 40K was only just over 30kph. I was getting passed by lot’s of riders throughout this section, which only proved what I already knew, that I was getting pretty tired. Not a good feeling given what was left on the bike and of course a marathon still to run.
With about 40K to go in the bike, I actually ran out of Infinite, which is the first time this has ever happened in any race I’ve done. I grabbed some Powerbar Perform and some Coke at the next few aid stations to keep the fluids coming in.
Eventually, I reached the airport, where it was a bit of a downhill back to transition. I actually started feeling a bit better at this point as I watched some of the lead male racers making their run out to the Energy Lab. They were already 20-25K into the run!
I finally made it back to T2 with a bike time of 5:16, a full 10 minutes slower than Tremblant. I handed my bike off to another one of the great volunteers and again made the long run around transition to grab my run bag and get into the change tent. I grabbed a chair and started pulling my gear out when the lid to my salt container fell off and I had to pick up all my salt pills. Oh well, at this point, I had pretty much given up on any sort of time goal and just wanted to keep things in check. I had some more sunscreen put on me and grabbed a few cups of Perform before heading out on the marathon. T2 took a leisurely 4:12.
Right off the bat on the marathon, we had to start running up Palani. The lower section isn’t too bad, but it’s still a hill. I surprisingly didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would for the first few K of the run as we made our way through town and back to Alli drive and past Lava Java out to the turn-around. At about the 3K mark of the run, I ran past our condo where Deanna and the kids were hanging out. It was great to see them and I gave the kids a bit of a high five. Some parts of Alli Drive out in the sun were smoking hot, as you don’t get much wind to help cool things down. Pretty much from the first aid station, I was stuffing sponges in my shirt and squeezing water on my head.
With about 1K to the turnaround, I saw Jeff Beech and not far behind him Chris Kraemer coming back. I figured I was at least 10 minutes behind Chris at this point, but given how I was feeling, I had no idea if I could even make that up. Eventually I hit the turnaround and started running back towards town.
Up to this point, I was pretty much just walking through the aid stations to make sure I got what I needed, but on the return trip to town is when I think I gave up a bit mentally, and started walking whenever I just felt too tired. The closer I got to town, the more frequent this would become. It was never for long stretches, but it was beginning to have more and more.
With the additional crowd support in town, I think I managed to run all the way back to Palani which seemed like a mountain to climb at this point. It was tough to run up that hill during my stand alone training run, so I knew there was no way I was going to make it all the way up during the race without walking. I pretty much ran for 10 seconds and walked for 5 seconds until I reached the top and the Queen K again.
The Queen K and Energy Lab section of the run is often said to be the hottest part, as there is absolutely zero shade to be had once you were up there, but at least the wind was still blowing, so that provided some degree of comfort. I actually never thought to myself that I was really hot out there, just totally tired as hell!
On the way out to the Energy Lab, was back and forth with a bunch of people. I’d jump ahead when I was running and they’d catch up when I walked. Chrissie Wellington gave me some words of encouragement at one point that picked my spirits up, but overall, at this point, I was suffering and just kept thinking of getting to the finish line.
I finally reached the Energy Lab which was a nice downhill into a bit of a breeze. I saw Jeff and Chris again as I made my way out to the turnaround point, and it was clear that I hadn’t made up any time on them and in fact, I was pretty sure I was losing time. I made the turn and was now officially heading back to town and the finish line, despite the fact that it was still about 14K away. I passed the special needs station, and athletes were grabbing stuff that I wish I had packed away. If I get here again, I’m definitely packing a Red Bull in my run special needs and likely something else to eat too, as I was sick of gels at this point and had probably already had the equivalent of 4 cans of coke.
I finally got back up the hill out of the Energy Lab and was now on the Queen K again heading for home. Not too long after this, Peter Buehlow passed me and we talked for a short bit before he ran ahead. By now, I was playing games with myself, as running was becoming very uncomfortable. So much so, my form was becoming very inefficient, as I battled with fatigue and cramping in my quads and calfs. On the way home, I was picking targets or signs to run to before taking a little break. It was like “OK, run to that yellow sign up the road and then we’ll take a short break” or “OK, let’s run 10 telephone poles and then we’ll walk one of them”. Whatever would keep me moving was what I would do.
When I made it to the 23 mile marker and with only 5K to go on the run, I decided to take a short walk and my legs completely locked up. My entire leg from my foot to my hip was totally seized up. I couldn’t walk or even move hardly. At that point, I spent at least 2 minutes working this out while people continued to run on by. After a bit of stretching and squatting I was able to walk, then eventually jog again.
Luckily, it didn’t happen again, and I finally reached the top of Palani again, and it was almost all downhill from there to the finish line.
It should be noted that for almost the entire run, I totally ignored my Garmin and didn’t care what my splits were or anything, as I knew it would just be totally disappointing. However, with a few K to go, I started looking at my watch to make sure I got in under 10:30. Running along Kuakini Hwy, I knew it was going to be pretty close, but I really wanted a strong (relative at this point) finish, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit as I made the turn off Kuakini onto Hualaliai Rd and eventually Alli Drive again for the final few hundred meters to the finish line.
I was at least able to think straight enough to try and get ahead of a few people to ensure that I got a nice clean finish shot at the line, so with about 100m left, I made my was past 2 other guys and luckily I had the finish line all to myself where I raised my hands in the air and was super thankful just to be done. The crowds at the finish were amazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time hanging out, as the volunteers quickly funneled everyone over the recovery area.
I finished the run with a very disappointing time of 3:54:49, which is well off the pace that I felt I was capable of doing. This basically completely took away any shot I had at going sub 10, which was the only “goal” I had there. In the end, I finished in 10:29, which I guess is still a respectable Ironman time, but just not what I was hoping for.
The whole experience from race week to the race itself was truly amazing, and I definitely want to come back at some point.
After getting a massage and 3 bottles of chocolate milk and bit of food, I exited and started looking for my family. I eventually connected up with them and then got all my gear out of transition before making the long walk back to the van.
The finish line area was crazy busy and I really wasn’t feeling much like hanging out at that point, so we headed back to the condo. I still wasn’t feeling very hungry and going to sleep didn’t work out so well once again after an Ironman. I eventually got up and logged onto the computer to watch the final finishers online and finally grab something to eat.
The next day, we checked out of our condo in town and drove up to Waikoloa for 4 nights which was a nice change of scenery. It was great to just chill out and hang with the family with no expectations of training or working out. It was purely rest and recovery at this point.
So for next year, I think I might set my sights on a 70.3 Worlds qualification and head to Vegas, I just need to find a good qualifying event. I’m thinking Syracuse?? We’ll see.