Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 Hawaii Ironman Race Report

2009 Ironman Hawaii Race Report/KK

The week leading up to race day went well, no blips in the radar to think anything would have affected me one way or another. I arrived in Kona lean and feeling quite prepared (but not quite as much as IM CDA). The run was “on” as I just finished 2nd overall in a mountain trail race three weeks before IM Hawaii. The swim has been quite “on” compared to the past as well, yet my confidence on the bike wasn’t there despite spending a lot of time in the saddle this year. My recovery from a two-year long injury just wasn’t 100%, so no matter what I did this year my biking hasn’t been too powerful (may next year eh?)

The issues that brought down the roof on this edition of Hawaii were largely self-imposed. #1, NEVER start next to the pier. I’ve started there only once and it worked out as I could swim “inside” the buoys, but this year there were nearly 100 surfboards linked together forming a barrier so swimmers couldn’t swim inside the buoys. When the gun went off, I was smashed up against the boards—starting in the third row. Immediately I was kicked, submerged, punched and forced to go into breast-stroke mode for several minutes. Briefly I contemplating grabbing a surf board just to get some air as this was the most cruel/rude group I’ve been with in Hawaii in eight attempts. It was as if safety and courtesy didn’t matter to anyone. Eventually, before the turn around I was kicked or punched in the nose which led to a slight nosebleed. Note to self next time around…start FAR left by the Body Glove boat and avoid the congestion. Better to lose a big of swim draft and have the freedom to swim AROUND the congestion in open water. I think this has been a common strategy for me in most Ironman races and it worked well. I can swim faster on my own in open water than with a group that is always fighting for someone’s feet—there seems to be a yo-yo effect in a line of swimmers. Plus, there seems to be a lot of dangerous elbowing and kicking by someone in a group because they don’t like their toes touched when someone swims behind them too closely. This ended up being a rather slow swim for me despite my new Blue Seventy speed suit (I’m sure it would have been much slower without it in fact.) The large amount of breast-stroke done this time around pretty much put the kabash on everything in the first leg due to congestion—there just wasn’t any open water to go to left or right. Right—surfboards. Left—about a few hundred swimmers…thus, trapped. Exiting the water there were carpeted steps (different from the ramp on the other side of the pier last time I raced here.) There were steps underwater and before anyone said anything such as, “Watch the steps underwater!” BOOM! I had tripped, ripping a 2-inch portion of skin off my right shin—falling to the ground. What a great way to start the day…slow swim, bloody nose and now a gash in my leg with an instant bruise. It has been a week now and has been healing quickly.

T1: Uneventful, as entertainment was provided by my decision to use DeSoto Cool Wings. Basically they are sleeves connected by material over the upper back, which you pour water over during the race in order to keep cool and keep the sun stay off your back. Try putting those on with wet skin—it doesn’t work so well. It must have taken a clear 45 seconds alone to put those on. Next time, I’ll use a full Craft Sun Shirt or something. At least I didn’t get burned during the bike all over my shoulders as I usually do.

Bike: There must have been around 600 bikers passing me—most all in packs. The groups of approximately 5-20 were common all the way to Hawi. Not much to say here other than if those passing me in the packs feel like they actually beat me this day, more power to them. There were marshals that would ride up to a pack of 20, nobody broke it up, and then the marshals just drove off on their motorbikes without taking a number or flashing a penalty card. Clearly, WTC did an extra, extra poor job of marshalling the AG athletes. I have plenty of video footage to prove my point as well. In addition, I saw the shadow of one guy for around a mile, practically so close to me that he was nearly on the same bike. I turned around and told him that if I wanted to ride so close with someone, I would have packed a tandem bicycle for the race. He muttered some expletives and peeled off my wheel. This is where I think the other part of my bike leg went in the drain: I missed my Infinit Nutrition “Special Needs Bag” bottle at Hawi. There was nearly 400 calories in that bottle, compared to nearly 150 I could take in/stomach through Gatorade Endurance and other aid station hand-offs. I simply ran out of steam from caloric deficit. In hindsight I should have stopped for the Infinit until they could run it to me…especially since I stopped for a bathroom break right at the turn around (there was a minute right there). I used Salt Stick tabs in addition to Infinit, this all worked well until I ran out of both of them on the bike. From Hawi back there was a constant headwind but the gusts weren’t bad this year. It was simply steady with 13 mph on some sections of flat in aero position. Tough, tough bike when you bike it fairly.

T2: Stopped for a bathroom break again but not much exciting here aside from a tough time standing up to run just after dismounting the bike. The old back was a bit stiff. At least heading out onto the run course…I saw two athletes just walking right out of T2. Methinks they went too hard on the bike.

Run: This went well at a 7:08 pace for the first six or so miles. Then my issues with heat management set in. I began to walk the aid stations after 10K, just to grab what I could to keep myself going. Figure about 20 aid stations (that’s a LOT of lost time). However, it went much better than the bike leg went. I was able to pass hundreds of athletes with few passing me. There were a few in my AG from IM CDA that I saw in the energy lab who I managed to gain a lot of time on here. The AG winner from CDA ended up being only 3 minutes ahead of me at the end of the day while gaining around 20 on the bike alone. To think—if I just hopped on the group of cyclists like everyone else seemed to be doing all day long, I may have gone sub-10 hrs. But I couldn’t enjoy my placing knowing I didn’t do it on my own. During the run, I was able to pass Andreas Neidrig (a pro) who has won Ironman races outside of the USA. There were some other notables I finished ahead of, but there were some not-so-notables who finished high today as well. Depends on how you choose to race a championship race I guess (draft or not). I finished in a 3:26 marathon with a final mile of 6:22. Pulled off an “okay” run considering how the day started. As the run went on, I felt better and better, wondering where all my power went on the bike and in the middle of the run. My lighter weight this season helped my running no doubt, However I may have lost a bit on my cycling leg due to that. I did not lift many weights this season due to recovery of the leg injury, so that will be something to look at for ’10. It was really a victory in itself getting back to Kona after so many years of turning down slots, and it was enjoyable this time around without the pressure. Sure some of the other competitors ticked me off in how they chose to curb the rules for their own gain, but it was fun getting back to Kona nonetheless. My main goal was reached this year, getting to Kona. My second goal of winning my AG in CDA didn’t happen (but I was 3rd so that was close!). My third goal of setting a Kona PR didn’t happen either (but those were tactical, nutritional, and strategic errors on my part). At least the #1 goal was reached, so with lofty goals it was a very successful but short season.

Notes for 2010 & lessons learned: Start AWAY from the pier to find clear water in Kona. Stop to get your race nutrition at Hawi, it is VITAL. Move down a tooth from 54 to 53 (too large of a gear given the terrain). Do NOT use DeSoto cool wings, instead use a moisture wicking light colored shirt like the CRAFT shirt Tbjorn Sindeballe used—it’ll be easier to put on & pull down rather than slip an arm through and get it around the backside. Ride close to the LEGAL limit of the draft zone and don’t get carried away with too much distance as that will cause you to drop back much faster. Be careful coming up the steps at the end of the swim. Finally, wear LIGHT colored clothes on the run, it could keep you from overheating early on along the coast where the humidity is high on Alii Drive. Besides that, keep reaching high and never give up. We all learn each and every Ironman, even the top pros—it is a continual process and is never completed until the last time we race. I’ve set some new goals for 2010, different from this year, and hopefully these will start taking shape in a matter of months. The season is over, it’s family time, they’ve made a lot of sacrifices for this trip so it is payback time.