Thursday, December 19, 2013


Well, the time has come.  I've had enough time to reflect and think back on my first shot at the Superbowl of the triathlon world.  So here it goes-

To start, my wife and I made it a goal in January of 2013 to see if we could qualify together for Kona.  We got married on October 13th, 2012 which was the day that the World Championships were on.  I told her, "how cool would it be to celebrate our 1 year anniversary racing out in Kona?"  I have been competing in tris for a while now while Jacqui has primarily focused on road racing (5k-marathon).  To my surprise, she agreed and said, "lets go for it!"  We hooked up with a great guy, Bill Bishop, to help us with our training plan. Bill is known for his superb swim background..something that Jacqui and I definitely needed work with.  We kept in touch which led us to work with him to see what we could do.  

Leading up to the race
First off, we needed to qualify!  Jacqui said that the only requirement was that she didn't want to do two full iron mans in the year.  She wanted to qualify from a half…so our options were limited.  We decided on Eagleman 70.3 out in Cambridge, MD in June.  This gave us a solid 5 months to train and get our fitness levels up.  Jacqui and I ended up doing the same exact training plan sometimes even riding side by side on the computrainers.  Due to our work schedules, a lot of our training was done at different times, but we were able to relate with each other talking about how the workout was or how we were feeling from the previous session.  June came and I could tell we were both a little nervous.  At Eagleman, our only chance to make it was to win our respective age groups…which is no easy task!  We didn't even want to talk about the possibility of what we would do if one of us qualified and the other didn't.  For me, the race didn't go very well, but somehow God was looking over me and I was able to grab the top spot in my age group.  My swim was weak and had me coming out of the water in 17th place.  I rode well and made my way to the top of the age group and came into transition practically tied with the leader.  We started the run and that was where I was really nervous.  The run, my strength and background, ended up going terribly wrong.  I wasn't sure if I rode too hard, didn't have the fitness, or didn't take in the right nutrition, but I ended up running a 1:28 half (PR in an open half is 1:08!) to finish up in 4:18.  Luckily for me, the others in my age group struggled just as badly allowing me to stay up front.  All I remember is praying the whole run that nobody would catch me as I would've had nothing left in the tank to go with.  I crossed the line and confirmed I was first in the age group and was going to KONA!  Now it was all on Jacqui…I wobbled my way back onto the run course to see where she was at.  I got to about the 11 mile mark and saw there was one girl in her age group up ahead.  Jacqui was flying though…and it wasn't long until she caught the leader and was in the lead.  She went from 23rd out the water, to 6th off the bike, and into 1st on the run finishing with a 1:27 run.  And yes…that was a faster run than me.  I have not heard the end of that to this day!  So we both punched our tickets and couldn't believe we accomplished what we had sought out to do.

Post Eagleman, Jacqui and I went into full blown training mode.  This was going to be her first Ironman distance race and my 2nd.  I raced Ironman Wisconsin a few years back out on a whim, with no specific training for it.  So this one I really wanted to see what I could do with proper training.  

All went well with the training and I felt ready to go come race day.  Race week was a bit hectic as we weren't able to get into Kona that early.  We flew out on Tuesday night and arrived Wednesday morning.  From there it was getting our bikes unpacked, checking in, and getting settled.  By the time we had that all done, the day was practically over.  Thursday we made our way over to the swim start to check out the course and got a practice swim in.  Post swim, we ran in the undie run with our custom made 'undies' from splish.  Friday was getting all the gear together and then bike check in.  Honestly, the time went way too quickly and we tried to squeeze in as much as we could in the short time we had.  I went to bed the Friday night before the race feeling exhausted, but I wouldn't change it as we were there getting the most out of our time.  Our next go at the race I will rest a little more :)

Onto the race report already!
Race morning!!!!  I woke up still feeling tired, but excited to see what the day would bring.  I ate some oatmeal and PowerBar, started hydrating, and packed up my race gear bags.  We got over to the pier pretty early in the morning, pumped the tires, double checked the bike, and then played the waiting game.  The atmosphere was surreal.  I still remember standing on the beach looking up at the Hawaiian drummers beating their drums thinking that this couldn't get any cooler.  It also started getting the nerves going as well!!!  Announcements were made for the athletes to start making their way into the water.  I looked at Jacqui, gave her a kiss of good look, and just about lost it right there.  I could feel the tears coming.  I'm not sure what kind of tears they were.  Most likely just a culmination of all the hard work we had put into this and the time was finally there.  

I made my way into the water and swam right into the middle.  I wasn't sure where to start.  I heard the left side was where there is least contact, but it also looked like a whole lot more swimming that needed to be done.  So I opted for right in the middle.  I was about 3 rows deep, but people kept coming and inching their way up.  I was getting nervous that I was going to be pummeled and end up at the bottom of the ocean.  I moved back a few people and was really right in the middle of the masses.  

I wasn't paying attention when the cannon was fired.  I just remember thinking, 'oh shoot, I need to get moving!'  The swim was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Arms, legs, bodies, body blows for 2.4 miles.  I spoke with a lot of people before the race and they were telling me how cool the swim was since you see all the ocean life right below you.  Honestly, I did not see one fish.  All I saw were white bubbles and body parts flailing.  I swam guarded trying to protect my face.  The last thing I wanted was to get knocked out cold in the middle of the ocean.  I couldn't tell if I was swimming fast as I was just going with the flow of the 1000s of others surrounding me.  And just when I would think I had some open swim space, it would get filled with another body.  I made it to the turn around boat feeling ok, just wanting to be done and had no clue on how I was doing.  I didn't want to check my watch in fear of getting kicked or punched.  Shortly after making the turn around is where I started to worry about making it through the race.  I had pushed my goggles tightly before the start so that they wouldn't come off or leak.  The problem was that this was giving me a massive migraine.  My head was throbbing and all I wanted to be was done.  At the same time I didn't want to stop and take them off to re-adjust because the hundreds behind me would come swallow me up.  The last 20 minutes of the swim were the longest I've ever experienced.  My form started to get terrible, I was kicking harder and more than I should, and I was expecting a 1:20 on the clock IF I was able to make it out!  I had to do a lot of digging deep just in that swim to make it through.  I finally touched sand, stood up, and was shocked to see my swim time of 1:04.  It definitely gave me a moral boost heading out to grab my bike.

Official swim
52nd place in AG
578th place overall

Pretty sure this is my salt water face

Nothing too exciting here.  I ran through the hoses, rinsed off, and grabbed my bike.  I didn't even put sunscreen on because I was in another world and ran right past the sunscreen latherers.  Luckily we had some cloud coverage that day or else I would've been fried.  

The start of the bike was practically a parade.  Tons of riders everywhere.  I was flying past people, people were flying past me.  I wasn't sure what to do or what to think.  I just told myself to relax, enjoy the experience, and make sure my watts weren't through the roof.  I definitely did this as I looked around a lot at all the spectators and couldn't help myself but to not smile. 

                          Packs of riders everywhere at the start                          Coming out of transition

 I made my way through town and started to get settled with a few others around me.  My goal was to drink…and drink a lot.  I am a very heavy sweater and need a lot of fluids to replace what I've lost.  There are aid stations every 7 miles, so the goal was to finish a full bottle of water within each of those 7 mile chunks.  Once out on the Queen K Highway, I tried to get into a good rhythm, but started to get too anxious.  I would see groups of riders up ahead and make it a goal to catch up to them.  Once I would catch them I could see the next group and set my sights on them.  I did this all the way out to the turn around at Hawi.  The climb up didn't feel too bad at all, and I was still feeling great.  

Cruising along the Queen K (now without the drafters!)

It was at about 75 that things started to unravel.  I was getting lightheaded, weak, and couldn't stay in my aerobars.  Riders that I had passed early in the ride were now re-passing me.  I was having doubts in my head and didn't want to even think about the run that I had to do.  I thought that if I am already tired, how in the world am I supposed to run a full marathon???  

Stuggle fest - no aero bars for me

 Still no aero- just wanting to be done

The last 30 miles of the ride were a whole range of emotions and thoughts.  It didn't help that the wind had decided to show up and blow full force right into our faces.  What had been averaging 25-26 mph went down to 17-18mph.  At the aid station around mile 85, I took two PowerGels in hopes that taking in a few extra calories and salt would get me back on track.  To my surprise, the legs and body responded and my power started coming back.  I wasn't as worried about not even finishing the bike, rather I was excited that I was going to have a great bike split.  

I was ready to get off the bike and see how the legs would hold up!

Official Bike
23.06 mph avg
24th place in AG (passed 28)
211th place overall (passed 367 people!)

I hopped off the bike and started the run into transition.  My legs definitely felt beat up but I tried to stay optimistic.  All I knew is that I REALLLLLY needed to pee.  I wasn't able to pee during the bike ride so told myself I would just go while in transition.  I changed into my run gear and then jumped into the portapotty.  I sat down and it just kept coming out.  I just wanted to get out and start running.  I timed it and I had peed for 2.5 minutes straight.  I do think this helped though because it gave my legs a rest!

The run starts out going up.  Up Palani and around the hot corner to make the stretch on Alii drive for about 5 miles, then turn around and come back.  

Coming out of transition to start the run---not looking so great!

I wasn't sure what to think when I started the run.  I knew that I was tired, but I tried to block that out and focus on the things that I could, like nutrition and fluids.  At mile 1, I was shocked to see a 6:32.  I secretly had two goals coming into Kona.  

1- Run a sub 3hr marathon 
2- Run faster than my wife :)

So to see that first mile at 6:32, I knew I was on track.  I didn't feel like I was going fast, so just went with the flow.  The first stretch going out I was passing athletes at a good rate.  Here are the next few miles-

2- 6:35
3- 6:28
4- 6:39
5- 6:36

Running along Ali'i Drive

I was getting pretty excited to see the miles keep rolling by, but around mile 8 I could tell that my breathing was becoming a little more labored and the legs didn't want to move as quickly

6- 6:45
7- 6:46
8- 7:05
9- 7:15
10- 7:18

And this is where it started to get really hard.  The hill up Palani Dr was bigger than I could've imagined.  Not many people told me how hard this hill is.  I told myself the old trick that my wife taught me and told myself that if I needed to walk, I could walk when I got to the top of the hill.  Of course as soon as I made it up, I didn't have the urge as much to walk, but the mile split time definitely showed the slowing from the hill.  The miles after the hill were rough and I was ready to be done.  Every step was PAIN.  My quads were the problem as each step down I could feel them lock up.  

11- 8:17
12- 8:32
13- 7:43
14- 7:41
15- 8:33

It was around here that I started to see the top pros coming back out of the energy lab and heading back towards town.  I'm not sure if it gave me a boost but I tried to mentally just tell myself not to walk and not worry about what each mile split would be.

16- 7:39
17- 7:31
18- 7:33
19- 8:15
20- 8:17

Miles 18-20 were through the energy lab.  Looking back, I really do not remember much of the run after about 15 miles.  I think I was in another mental state and was just concentrating on not walking.  I didn't care how bad the pain was, I just didn't want to walk.  

21- 8:10
22- 8:03
23- 8:23
24- 8:33
25- 9:08
26- 7:41

I wish I remembered more of the run, but I was in a world of pain and ready to finish.  I knew that I would have a great finish time if I didn't completely blow up and walk it in, so that was the one and only goal I had.  

My run time ended up at 3:19.  Far from the 3:00 marathon that I wanted…but I did beat my 2nd goal of finishing faster that Jacqui.  Not by much though as she did a 3:22 :)

The feeling of coming down that finish stretch was unlike any other finish I have ever experienced.  I was overwhelmed with feelings of joy, pain, satisfaction, and even sadness that is was all over with.  I had spent the past year training with that moment on my mind, and it was all worth it.  It is a moment that I will reflect back on when I'm unmotivated or not wanting to finish a tough session.  

Official Run

19th Overall in AG (passed 6)
160th Overall (passed 51)

Jacqui ended up doing phenomenal finishing up with a 10:20 in her first every Ironman and 13th in her AG.  13th in the world is mighty impressive and things are looking promising for her future in the triathlon world.  

Below is a video recap of our week in Kona.  Already dreaming of being there again!
Thanks for reading and get ready for more updates in 2014!!!

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