Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pre-Kona 2010

Countdown 23 days until Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman World Championship, the top of the iceberg in triathlon. This will be my 9th time competing though I have qualified 14x.

I have been lucky enough to qualify all years I have attempted to get to this race except for 2007 when I suffered a mechanical on the bike at Ironman Arizona. I qualified at IM Couer D’Alene this year, taking 2nd in the largest age group, 40-44 (up one spot from my 3rd last year). All the training and past four years of injury are behind me for the most part, which is new to me. Some of the best years of my racing have had to give way to a hamstring/gluteus tear which left me virtually decimated on the bike and run—taking nearly all four years to recover. Although not 100%, I’m getting close.

Part of the proof was a recent race called Harvest Moon in Colorado. Starting third wave in the biggest wave, I was first out of the water, and only one person caught me on the bike from my wave, although I headed out first onto the run—and then a quick bathroom break just a few feet outside of transition. I had caught the lead woman who started 10 minutes ahead of me. Near the one mile mark, we were steered off course by a volunteer onto a dirt path. The lead woman turned first onto the trail and I said, “You sure?” to the volunteer, who insisted to go down the trail. Long story short, we ran back to the start and amid the confusion had to run back to where we hopped off course, adding another mile to our race. It was setting up to be a personal best half ironman distance (although I don’t recall if it was actually advertised as a half iron officially). Regardless, the volunteer made a mistake and there were some other logistical problems with the race which I brought up in person and via email to the race director. After all, it is hard to improve on things if you don’t know about them right? I was more verbal than the other two who were sent off course with me. Being at the front of a race has its downside as well sometimes. I had “cut the jets” on the run after getting back where we were steered off course & jogged the rest of the run. I still ended up winning the age group by 9 minutes, but add 7 minutes to that & the 20 seconds we stood back at the start of the run asking how we got back there, that is nearly 17 minutes. Then figure in my run time had I raced it would likely be another 4 minutes faster, you have 21 minutes faster than second place. Why was there a problem? Because I went into the race expecting to give it my all but there were issues which shut down the race for me when after paying nearly $200 for the race you would expect to get what you paid for. As I said the race director now knows about all the issues I’ve encountered and for 2011 will try to incorporate my suggestions. I have no doubt this can be one of the finest races in Colorado. The race wasn’t all that bad overall, but the issues certainly should have been prevented with a little more attention to detail. In the end, it was great to slide across a 40-foot water slide (Slip & Slide) at the end then land up in a pool of cold water. That is unique and something I’ve never experienced before, so kudos to Lance of Without Limits Productions for having that in the race. That is something I’ll always remember. He did offer to let me into any of his races for free that I wanted in the future, to which I told him no because I had already “been there & done that”. I was steamed after the race being basically penalized through no fault of my own by at least 7 minutes. In hindsight I should have taken him up on his offer to enter in 2011. If he offers it again I think I’ll take it to try to vindicate this year’s race. Maybe a good alternative would be to take the distance from leaving the course & back, and my per mile pace then calculate the amount of time to deduct from my run time and use that as the official time. This would be pretty much one mile extra (I’d have to GPS the exact distance but the other guy behind us said he went .8 of a mile but turned around well before we did). All in all it was an experience and I wish Harvest Moon much growth, I think the race has many, many positives to offer in the future. They nearly have it nailed. Although if I were them they ought to use me as a consultant to “tweak” the race—I certainly know the weak links that would make this a killer of a race.

Some of my suggestions: Sweep the corners on the bike. Keep local farmers from buzzing racers somehow. Accurate run course with full signage & make it idiot proof. More volunteers. Better security in the bike corral (nobody saw/checked my number on my arms upon leaving the race sight so I could have been walking out with anyone’s bike). Aside from those points I would say this is would be a fantastic course and race to be in. I’ve always felt that if you speak up (whether someone likes it or not), you should be thanked and go on your way. If there are words which are “pointed” because of bringing up issues, then so be it & good luck with that view—because it certainly sounds defensive more than anything rather than constructive. If you were one of the three onto the run course with the pros far out of sight, I’d say you may want to wait to race here until this race has its bugs worked out to the point of flawlessness. If you were one of the 399 other racers in the race, you will likely be just fine and have a fun, challenging time that will bring you back for more year after year. Will I go back? Well…Lance, make that offer to me one more time about letting me race a race of yours one more time—I think I’ll take it. Chances are these issues will NOT happen again, with this edition being a quirk/one-off by chance stroke of multiple bad luck and oversights. So decide for yourself, take in my review here and mull it over. You may just have the time of your life.

Onto pre-Kona prep. The Harvest Moon went great for 2/3 of the race and some indicators are that things are fine with the minimal training I’ve been getting. Only an average of 11 hours per week with 19 & 17 hours being the peak weeks. The mission this week is to recover and take it easy, as I have new clients coming on board in the next few weeks so there is lots of preparation time to get them up and running (literally). The season is almost over but it is my hope to not let my fitness slide too much, there is a lot of work to be done to improve by next April which isn’t too far off. I’ve got both “plans” and back up plans for racing next season in case things don’t go as planned. ALWAYS have a back up plan for your season. I’m looking forward to the vacation in Hawaii with the wife and racing Ironman Hawaii again. Swimming with the fish/dolphins, drinking some genuine Kona Coffee when I swim out to the Coffees of Hawaii catamaran, and just relaxing on our own private beach. Of course, there will be some parties during the trip as well. I’m looking forward to the entire trip before returning to the daily grind, which is really not that bad for the most part. Letting loose and taking a short break from training will be fun however, it will only be a matter of a few weeks before chomping at the bit for some 120 mile bike ride or something. Seems to be a crazy addiction though a healthy one, but nothing like getting out there and pounding your body into the ground hour after hour coming home totally spent. Follow that up with a shower, food, then a couch---zzzz time in the most peaceful slumber! THAT is my idea of a relaxing day. It sounds crazy I know, but it is the lifestyle I’ve chosen and the one I intend on keeping as long as the body holds up. I’ll keep trying to push myself in races against myself to do battle within rather than others. It is fun going faster against your past efforts and not get too caught up in racing others. This is part of why I suppose I tend to finish closer to the pointy end of results than others—because the race is against myself for the most part. The others are a byproduct of that race and they are a reminder to not let myself down by pushing myself harder (if they are in front of me). Although on that note, it is nice to win, but if you finish second place, you are technically the first place loser. I’ve been there many times on the podium but not at the top as often as I’d like. I suppose that is part of why I head out the door each day in rain or shine, snow or dark, to search out my best so nothing is left at the end of the day to say I should have, could have, would have if only I trained a little better. Prepare the best you can consistently with the time you have, give it your best shot and if you fall short, someone beat you fair and square. At least you hope they did.