Kona 2008 Race Recap
It was a fantastic day in the lava fields as Madam Pele threw everything at us from head winds, to cross winds, to full blown sunshine. It would have been nice if she had remembered how cyclists like a tail wind after all the head winds, but on October 11th , 2008 that was not to be.
All was calm in Kona at 5:00 a.m. The weather, race week, had been overcast, voggy, and calm winds so I thought we were in for more of the same…but I was a bit wrong on that one. In fact I was a little disappointed , since I believed a windy day would benefit me since I had so much experience of riding the howling trade winds with the 20 to 30 MPH cross gusts. A hard day helps the cyclists and hurts the stronger runners, since hard conditions take the “sting” out of the runners. Be careful for what you wish for!!!
I had set my phone to wake me up at 3:45 a.m. for breakfast. That was a new plan for me. I had spent about 90 minutes early in the week with Steve Born from Hammer Nutrition going over my race day calories and pre-race breakfast. I learned eating 3 hours before the race is optimal for capping off my liver glycogen stores. Two hours before the race is my normal time to eat, as I love sleeping but thought I would try his plan. It worked perfect for my race day. (More on that in a bit) I finished my breakfast by 4:00 and then rested until 4:30. We left for the Pier and body marking at 5:15. Body marking was a breeze unlike previous years where it took as long as 30 minutes to get marked. Incredible volunteers happily marked out bodies with our age on the calf and race number in big block letters on my arm…which you are still able to see 24 hours later J
Although this is my 18th Ironman, I always worry about the start of the swim. It is ALWAYS a fist fight, and never seems to clear out. It was a beautiful morning for a swim with 1800 of your closest friends and I mean close. I was always tapping someone’s feet, or swinging arms, or rubbing shoulders. This was the first time I was not swum over and come up gasping for air. I must be learning to fight my way through the mix a bit better than previous swims in the bay. I came out in 1:06:17 for 2nd in my age group. I am always happy when my feet touch the ground.
My wish came true. To everyone’s surprise, by mile 20 of the bike we began to face stiff winds and hot temperatures…a return to the conditions that make Kona so famous and brutalize so many athletes.. My plan was to keep my power output below 200 at all times. I was mostly successful riding and paying attention to the watts. I had the fastest bike in my age group at 5:36:26 and felt strong the entire ride. I used 2 bottles of Perpetum and Hammer Gels to make it though the bike. Mile 65 feeling hungry, I ate a Hammer bar and within 5 miles promptly threw it back up. I guess when Steve told me no solids, I should have listened but real food just sounded good at the time. I am glad I didn’t opt for a PBJ in my special needs bag. Oh, did I mention the cross winds? While riding down from Hawi you are able to experience great speeds. I got up to 39mph but along with that speed comes the cross winds. I was able to watch the cyclist in front of me go from riding upright to being blown 5 feet to the left and riding at a 45 degree angle and I just knew I was next! I kept repeating my mantra: RELAX”. All counter intuitive when you are riding at a 45 degree angle to the ground and veering into the wind. I felt comfortable actually and loved the challenge of the day!
No matter how strong and well prepared I am, the Run is ALWAYS a “death march”. PURE SURVIVAL. The run is my least favorite of the three events as I am just trying to protect my lead and hang on to the finish. This year, I was injury free which is a bonus when getting to the start of any ironman and I had a plan to run fast…well fast for me.. Running out of T2 you run up a short hill and on to Kuakini surrounded by hundreds of people and then down Hualali road to Alii Drive and more people cheering you along. When I came to the Mile 1 sign and checked my watch I had run a 7:47 pace…way to fast and I knew I needed to back off or I would blow up before I made it out to the Queen K highway. Mile 5 of the run at the Alii turnaround, is the first opportunity I get to see where I am vis a vis my competitors. At the turn around I push my lap timer and start counting. I check my watch every few minutes, seeing my margin increase, until finally at 7 minutes (double it to 14 minutes) I see the my next age group competitor, then the next competitor at 14 minutes (double to 28 minutes) . But instead of relaxing I start doing the math. If they run 30 seconds per mile faster, #2 could catch me, so I keep telling myself,”keep it going. Stay focused. Don’t let up”.
I had my 2nd fastest run of my 18 races in Kona. I was able to stay focused and mentally strong and keep running. The cloud cover about mile 13 helped bring the temperatures down as they told us it was about 100 in the Energy Lab, the last turn around point and 7 miles to the finish.
Finishing on Alii Drive still gives me goose bumps and tears as I run the last 200 yards to the cheering crowd of thousands of people. Smiling and waving my arms in the air, I finished the race in my second fastest time of 10:38:46. Good for first in my age group and the chance to keep the Age Group Champion title for one more year. The 30th anniversary ironman is over and I am looking forward to 2009 Ironman World Championships.
A quick thank you to the people who made this day so special.
Gary Shields, the best massage therapist in Kona hands down. For all the work he did on my body to get me ready to race, with your work and encouragement I knew my legs were ready to withstand the challenges of the day…Thanks Gary.
Steve Born and Hammer Nutrition without your help I could not of met and exceed my marathon time, let alone my bike split. The 90 minutes we spent going over my plan was money in the bank. You understood what I needed and Perpetuem, Endurolytes, Energy Surge, as well as Recoverite leading up to the race and during the race were key to my victory. I would not have been able to ride strong, and run that pace without all of people from Hammer Nutrition being behind me. You are all so amazing and you understand what we crazy athletes do for fun! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
All3Sports…you guys are TERRIFIC!
Darren Broome (from CO who for the past 8 years does the final check of my bike!) and all the people at HP Bike Works in Kona.. I know my bike is ready to ride on race day!
Talking to Tom, while running, is truly an amazing part of my day. Katie, he is always there for me. J
Finally Kevin…your encouragement and support, were the cornerstones of my day