Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kona Report 2014

Less than an hour after finished--barely managing to hide the pain!
We stayed again at the Royal Kona Resort, just a mile into the run and little less than that from the start/finish line. It is just outside Chaos Central with beautiful grounds to spend time at, complete with its own private lagoon to swim in on the ocean. There is food right next door at Bongo Ben’s or Hugo’s on the Rocks where many parties take place after the Ironman. This was the first time there with our son, he really enjoyed it so much and can’t wait to go back. The experiences he had such as going over 100 feet under the surface in the Atlantis Submarine, snorkeling at Turtle Bay, hiking the rim of a volcano at Volcano National Park and spending a lot of time in the pool were just invaluable. So much to see and do while we were there, it was a summer vacation in the fall!
My trusty but getting outdated steed!
  Below is basically a summary of the answer I gave a friend when he said he was worried when he saw I only had two water bottles on the bike. I felt it was a decent enough answer that also pretty much summed up the trip from a race perspective, with a few edits.

Volcano National Park

I've come to the conclusion that with aid stations every 10-15 miles (depending on the Ironman host site), that 2 is enough. By the time I finish 1 bottle I'm usually 45 minutes into the bike & still have one in reserve & just exchange at aid stations accordingly. The mix at the stations is less calories but I'm still getting my "special needs bag" half way through the race (56 miles). The other thing is: Who wants to drink hot liquids? In Hawaii, drinks get hot really quick so it doesn’t taste good or go down easy if you carry more than two bottles, they’ll just heat up and not cool you off.
#1--Fredrik Van Lierde's bike race morning (he's in the water swimming at this moment).
 Getting enough liquids on course isn't usually an issue. It also saves weight (1 bottle---large, is about 1.8 lbs full). My issues are strictly heat management. Just not good racing in anything above 71-73 F usually, I start falling apart from overheating as my sweat rate is 4 lbs per hour at an outside temperature of 85 F. That is an unusually high sweat rate.

Our Hotel Lobby: Royal Kona Resort
 In summary, the swim was I think my slowest ever & I have been swimming well I think this year. My biking was coming around at Ironman Boulder but had issues with vomiting on the bike causing me to not take in or absorb enough calories to run well off the bike. I have read that some people who have issues with too many liquid calories, should look into some solid foods along the way. Not much, just some. Liquids/gels absorb better and are broken down already to a point, but some people actually needs just a “tease of solid food” along the way. It’s just the way certain people are built. This is one thing I will look into for longer races and experiment with.

At Kona Brewery
This time I was just not moving from the start. The swim likely was the slowest in Hawaii (big waves but just had a slow swim all together). I’m not sure if it was because I had absolutely no coffee on race morning, or while I was there in Kona. I wanted to see if some of the issues I was having lately in races was due to too high of acidity in my stomach. Apparently, I can go back to drinking coffee race morning because I still had the issues.

Volcano National Park
 The bike…the legs never could produce the power & I'll have to investigate that further as I had what I think may have been my 2nd slowest bike ever there. Part of it was I’m sure, due to racing a second Ironman in one year on a little more than 12-13 hours on only a couple weeks as my larger volume weeks this year. You can race an Ironman off of that little volume if you’ve been consistent, but racing two in a year with only about two months between is a bit of a stretch. There are professional “age groupers” who do nothing more than train and call their “job” coaching a few athletes, but with a real full time job myself, as well as coaching, maintaining a house, HOA Board work, family and other projects mid-production, it is a huge undertaking and performance will eventually suffer. Things need to be streamlined and/or outsourced a little (okay, a lot more). In short, I’m out of balance and that drastically cuts into the focus of everything else. I’m too scattered, which is something I help identify with my athletes I coach. You need balance to perform well.

View from our Hotel balcony
Each Kona has been more of a reward just in getting there and I really do not think, I’ve gone there to actually RACE it before. It is the frosting on the cake. For some it is the main thing. For me, I automatically know the heat will destroy me so it becomes one of those “also-ran races” where you just do it but don’t focus on it much. Odd, I know. One would think it should be the opposite. Knowing yourself goes a long way to deciding which are key races for you though, what you would be best at. I’m thinking now that is the reason it really isn’t an issue for me to qualify traditionally. I know the races I go to qualify at, due to the demographics of the course and conditions, pretty well. I know what I race will be conditions typically in my favor. The reward is always something that traditionally does not suit me well…a race hotter than hell and humid like no other, often with winds equal to both of those. I’ve read up on every heat management preparation and training protocol I’ve found. I’ve trained in a sauna, in the middle of the day, in extra clothes, in super windy conditions, in 100 F heat in the dead of summer. That is just the start. Still, I suffer from overheating and shut down.

KK, the "Real Starky" & Kevin Collington at breakfast


The run…couldn't absorb the liquids & started throwing up again. The worst of which left me keeling over 2 miles from the finish in standstill--losing about a quart of Coke right on the Queen K pavement for several minutes. I seem to be having a lot of these issues lately. Definitely need to change my approach and in race nutrition. Another possibility is the training. If you do not push a certain pace for certain amounts of time, in extreme similar conditions, minimal training hours may cause the body to not acclimate to digesting highly sugary substances. You will consume while racing, little more than some course drink that is nasty, gels, Coke—possibly very ripe bananas. Usually there is little else to eat along the way except maybe oranges and pretzels. I find the oranges too acidic to handle during a race. Pretzels, while great for the salt, are cake-like dry and not easy to eat.The body just rejects it because you are pushing too hard and the muscles need the blood flow while it is competing with the stomach for digestion. The combination seems to result in the old fashioned “up-chuck” (my observation).

At the King Kam Hotel two days after the race

About the only thing remotely "okay" was T2.  T1 was a disaster as my "helper-volunteer" was an elderly man who was moving very slow (God Bless him for trying though!) He had moved my bike jersey from the floor in front of me to the back of my chair I was in while I wasn't looking & it slid down under my butt & I couldn't find it. I honestly thought someone accidentally tossed it in a bag & shipped it out of the tent with all the other transition bags as they do, to keep things “tidy” once an athlete is finished. In the chaos he didn't remember where he put it. Ultimately, his job as I asked him--was to remove the small 2 inch piece of electrical tape on each rolled up arm cooler & he just couldn't do it. I didn't want to rip it from his hands as I just continued putting everything else—just because he was trying and I didn’t have the heart to even hint he wasn’t really helping—volunteers are the life blood of races so you MUST be thankful just for being there. Between looking for my jersey & him having issues with the tape, T1 was just over 8 minutes long (I think a new T1 record for slowness on my part). I am actually known to be very fast in transitions except for Ironman races--but this was ridiculous.

KK having a bad day (photo Jen Schaffner)
Building the transition at the pier days before

Long & short of it was a slow body. I never got going, physically or mentally. Heat & wind were issues sure, so was nutrition. Lots of stopping on the run to gather food/drinks/ice at aid stations--but stopped 2 x on the bike (once for a pee break) and once at Special Needs bag pickup. The run...lots of walking through the aid stations & to clear the gut. It seems like every time I drank that nasty Power Bar Perform drink, it came up minutes later. Thanks God Ironman will be going back to Gatorade starting next year.

Rachel Joyce at gear/bike check in

So it was a bust…the worst race all year long. Not that Boulder was a great race...Boulder was not up to what I expected. But Kona was worse yet. After having what I consider a highly successful season—not losing my age group in any multisport race all season until Ironman Boulder, it ended on not so good last couple races. I have a few ideas to fix the issues in 2016, so I'll be mulling that over & experimenting with new approaches in 2015 as I prepare for ÖTILLÖ in September 2015 & take a year off from Ironman.


10:41 is actually what I believe my 3rd worst Ironman ever. But it is what it is & some days just finishing is the goal. I'm not beating myself up about it, as I look forward to newer challenges & continue to try to solve the riddle of Ironman Hawaii. I can get there & race other Ironman races quite well, but in Kona...the heat, humidity & wind just chew me up & spit me out. Some are built for those conditions but I seem to be more geared for colder weather racing than the heat. I think my high sweat rate has a lot to do with it.

Looking towards Kona from the pier
You never get sick of seeing this in the morning--beauty!

My awesome escort on bag drop off day: Tim

Lastly, yes, the great American speed skater Apolo Ohno who was a “guest celebrity” competitor; kicked many folks’ arses. He was about 9:52, smashed my finish and many other top age group athletes. Even if being one of the best in the world is his job, it is impressive for his first Ironman. Final words, yes, I got “chicked” by age group women as well. I’m secure in myself in that, they went faster on a day that was clearly not so great for me. I don’t have a problem with that. They have two legs/arms and so do I, if a woman beats me then congratulations! Same thing goes for any other guy that finishes ahead of me. There is no difference, man or woman, we all toe the line and the fastest ones finish ahead of the slower ones, so put the egos away and get back at it, try to improve the next time around. If we find ourselves headed down the wrong road, we can always turn back to take the correct one!