Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kona 2010 Race Report

[Based on great feedback from my friends and teammates, I have a slighlty different take my performance and have adjusted this report accordingly.  Thank you to those of you that reached out to me with your thoughts.]

I had to let the dust settle a little before writing this one. After most races I'm fired up about something and need to cool off a bit. This time was different though as it was the first time I have been disappointed in myself and emotional.

Before I share the details, I am incredibly honored and grateful that I had this experience. Please understand that this is my honest assessment of what I did on this day. I write it to share my journey with others, but also for my reference later on. Overall it was a very positive experience and the whole week was just amazing. I am very thankful to Theresa, my family, friends and sponsors for supporting me and giving me this opportunity. All that said, I am disappointed in myself, I am driven by always trying to do my best and I did not do my best on this day. Mechanical issues happen and I am not upset about that. I made a choice during the race that I regret. Anyway, here's what happened:

Swim – 1:08:58
I started with a teammate that has done this race 10 times and we were going to start off to the left (but inside the floating Ford Edge as the previous year they did not let people go to the left of the car). However, it was really crowded where we wanted to be, we moved a little more to the right and before we knew it we had pretty much drifted to the center. The cannon went off and I took a deep breath and the beating began. It was by far the roughest start I have ever been in and there where people everywhere. I found some good feet and stayed on them for about 5 minutes, the beating became more of bumping and nudging so I thought things were good. A few minutes later I realized that I was working way too hard and hadn't sighted yet. I looked up and I could still see the lead paddlers…crap I know I'm not that fast. I was swimming way too hard and knew I needed to slow down. Well slowing down when you are swimming with 1800 people who all swim about the same speed is not fun. In hindsight I may have just been better swimming way too hard as the underwater beating then continued for the rest of the swim probably exhausted me more than the actual swim. I even got hit in the head about 100 meters from the stairs while we were next to the pier.

It was pretty cool to see divers below with camera, helicopters above, and the mountains while sighting. There really is no other swim like it and as much being stuck in a crowd the whole time sucked, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Based on two race simulation swims of 1:04 I expected I would swim between 1:05 to 1:10 at this race due to current/swells that I'm not used to. Looks like I was pretty close as I came out in 1:08 and felt really good considering the beating I took. I still have some work to do in the swim but I am continuing to make steady progress.

Lessons learned for next time:
  • People were not kidding when they said everyone is swims the same speed at this race and it is a pack the entire time
  • Next time I either need to start on the left like planned or go to the right, but I'm not trying the center again
  • I really think I would have been better off starting even further up and going a little too hard as I would have preferred to put the extra energy into forward progress then survival of a beating
  • Once you are moving forward and have settled into a group, don't try to slow down or move over… it's not worth it
  • My swim is still my weakest discipline and I will continue to work on it

T1 – 2:58
Coming out of the water, I was relieved that the beating was over and actually pleased with my swim. Sure I want to be a 1:00 IM swimmer but 1:08 is good progress. I took my time in T1 and headed out. The change tent was literally packed and there was barely room to get through it. All I had to do was drop my cap/goggles, and grab my arm coolers which I put on while running to the bike.

Bike – 5:17:57 (Actual ride time ~5:03)
I knew the beginning of the bike was going to be crowded so I took all the riding around Kona super easy. In fact I think half of the people racing passed me up the Kuakini climb as I was just spinning my way up. Once we hit the Queen K I started to settle in and I was slowly passing people. I was surprised as I was expecting more drafting but most people were riding very clean and there were three officials that were around quite a bit.

When I passed the airport I decided it was time to start working a little and kicked it up to my goal watts. The ride from there and through the first 56 miles was pretty uneventful. There was a strong head/crosswind going into Hawi and I just hoped I would make in time to get the tail wind back. I felt great, was well hydrated (peed twice already), under my watt and HR target and had completed the first 56 miles in 2:28.
A little after 58 miles the crosswinds were crazy and people were getting blown around as we were just pulling into Hawi. I was trying to pass on the left but it was starting to be a challenge. To avoid getting hit by a cyclist I had to make a sharp turn and I hit one of the reflectors in the road. I had hit a few of these before and while not comfortable it was no big deal. This time was different though, I felt the impact all the way up my arms and into my body, and about 2 seconds later I was riding on a flat tire. It was probably the hardest impact I ever had on my tri bike and the tire blew out instantly.

I pulled off the road a little before special needs (on the other side of the road). I could not see the turnaround but knew I was close as I could see the town. To make a long story short, I thought it was a simple pinch flat, tried fix a flat and that worked about 30 seconds before white goo was coming out of a cut in the tire. On the second repair I spent much more time inspecting and found a decent size cut in the tire and put an inner tube patch on the inside to keep it together. Then I found a dent/crack in the brake track that had a sharp edge going into the bead of the tire, so I used the remaining patches to cover that, probably about 4 of them. While it was not ideal I just hoped it would keep the sharp edge from puncturing the tire/tube.  I got everything mounted again, crossed my fingers and slowly inflated the tire with CO2 to make sure it held. It held up fine but I had to open my rear brake up as the patches were hitting the brake pad every revolution of the wheel.

Luckily this happened before special needs so I was able to get my bag and another tube before leaving. Also, I was fortunate to be near two wonderful spectators that had both done the race before and kept me calm. Unfortunately while I was standing there for about 12 minutes the weather changed. There was a light rain and the wind appeared to die, then a few minutes later the rain stopped and the wind came back.
When I jumped back on the bike I was determined to make up time (hey Chrissie won the race with a flat once). I figured I got a short break to stretch and rest and was going to fly down hill and back to Kona. Less than 5 minutes later I was riding out of Hawi and as soon as I went over 30 mph I would get a horrible wobble in my back wheel. I tried to slow down but realized my rear brake had no stopping power now (since I opened it up), so I tried to suck it up and just go full speed like I did earlier in the week. That lasted maybe 1 minute and the wobbling and thumping of my rear wheel at high speed combined with the crazy crosswind had me more scared than I have ever been on a bike, and I use to ride BMW Freestyle. The rest of the descent I rode sitting up with the front brake on, just praying I didn't crash. In my practice ride earlier in the week, I was flying in this descent (averaged 36 mph) but this time I was getting passed continuously.

Quick Side Note: Funny how during the race the dent/crack looked huge but after the race it really isn't that bad. My lesson learned here is to relax as things always seem worse during a race then they really are. The real problem was the speed wobble it created which probably has something to do with the 6 inner tube patches that went on the tire and rim. Even with those, the sharp end wore through them and put a second hole in the tire, right next to the bead.

Next came the mind games and the thoughts of quitting or pulling over and waiting for tech support to get a different rear wheel. I then realized two good friends of mine from Endurance Nation would give anything to be in Kona doing this race right now. Both should have been here but due to situations out of their control they were not able to race. Trent and Al would never quit or give up, so there was no way I was going to quit. I came to an internal agreement that I would keep going until I saw tech support and finish the race no matter what. I pushed the rest of the descent and was thrilled when I was back to Kawaihae.

I finally saw a support vehicle but it was behind another car and as we passed each other probably doing 20mph in opposite directions. So I decide it just wasn't meant to be and I was going to ride this one in myself.

After some more ups and downs on the emotional roller coaster, I stopped as my rear wheel felt weird again; the wobble had gone away a little but the thumping got worse. My tire felt low as I could squeeze it pretty far so I filled the back tire, probably lost about 2 minutes here, but more importantly I mentally reset. At that point I decided I was going to just enjoy the rest of the day and the experience. Next time I race an ironman my time and placing will matter, but today it does not matter if I am 10th or 100th in my AG, so I might as well enjoy the experience. I felt like the weight got lifted off my back and was relieved, as I am always so driven to perform to my potential.

When I started riding again I noticed my head was getting warm and realized that I had not peed since before the turn around. Crap, in the whole survival ride out of Hawi I didn't take in nearly enough water or nutrition. For the rest of the bike I focused on getting water, nutrition and salt in.

After reviewing my power file, my actual moving time was 5:03 and that includes running in transition with the bike. My power was about 10 watts lower than targeted and my heart rate was lower as well. My goal was to ride just under 5 hours and I think I could have easily done that if I didn't have the issues coming out of Hawi or if I would have hit my power target instead of taking it easy.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't hit reflectors in the road J
  • Riding with people all day makes it much harder to keep a low VI. I was 1.02 in my two race sims and 1.05 in the race.  I've been spoiled over the last two years as I could ride away from the packs
  • Things always seem worse during a race then they really are.  I need to relax, just keep going and not get worried or worked up.  For example, after sitting on the side of the road for about 14 minutes total and going slow out of Hawi, I was convinced my race was over as I no longer had a chance to place well or hit the time I wanted.
  • Don't at anytime stop taking in fluid/nutrition there is no room for error in the hot/humid conditions
T2 – 4:31
I did a very easy jog through T2 and for the first time actually stopped to pee in transition. Unfortunately, I was dehydrated as I barely peed and it was bright yellow. I guess the 45 minutes or so of not drinking much and the hotter conditions on the way back on the bike took their toll. I felt like I spent an hour in T2 as I sat down in a chair and put my shoes on, let a volunteer help me with sun block and then put all my other stuff on and in pockets before leaving the tent. It was kind of nice to not be so rushed for once J

Run – 3:33:47
I felt great. It was probably because I didn't have any pressure on myself to make a time and I was just enjoying myself. I didn't even look at my watch and went as slow as I could in the first mile. After that I just kept jogging. I saw Carrie, the Zoot Crew, Theresa, Abigail and my Mom all within the first two miles.

Usually I just run by and barely acknowledge people due to my focus but this time I actually stopped to talk for a second and even gave Abigail and Theresa hugs. It was nice to be able to do this and not try to squeeze every second out of my race. It was kind of fun just to be enjoying the run and I was getting tons of compliments from the spectators on how good I looked.

My original plan was to jog easy for the first 10 miles then pick it up on the Queen K. I actually ended up
running all 10 miles effortlessly and ran up Palani strong. I was never warm or uncomfortable and having a great time.

After making the turn onto the Queen K, I once again thought about racing. I figured since I ran the first 10 miles basically per my plan anyway that maybe I could pull of a great marathon. I dropped my pace to my target and made it about a mile. In that mile the slightly warm jog I was on became hot and my perceived effort when up significantly to only see my pace drop by 30 seconds. With 15 miles left to go, I made a very tough decision, a decision that I have thought about and in many ways regretted every day since the race.

For the first time ever in a race, it got tough and instead of pushing through it, I gave in and backed off.  My body was hot, I wasn't feeling it after the one mile of picking the pace up, and my mind gave in. I convinced myself that my race was over because of the bike mechanicals, I had no chance in placing, and I should just enjoy the day. 

[In hindsight and after a few great conversations with friends, I realize I did not quit or give up.  I did however give up on racing and instead became just a participate or finisher for the first time.  Although a small difference to most people this is a big difference and a big deal to me.]

The remaining 15 miles were one heck of a roller coaster. For the about 6 miles to the energy lab, I basically did nothing but try to convince myself that I had made the right decision. Seeing the pros going the other way that looked horrible or were walking, it was easy to justify what I did. My pace slowed to about 8:00 min/miles and I felt fine physical so I just keep slowly moving forward.

I hit the energy lab and found out they were not kidding at it gets hot down there. Even my ultra relaxed pace (which was continuing to slow mile after mile) was tough to hold and I was getting warm again. So I slowed down a little more and started to walk the aid stations.  At least I made it to the energy lab without walking. Since I had already given in when it got tough, it was easy to do it again and I went really slow the whole time in the energy lab.

At the end of the Energy Lab I had a little less than 7 miles left and crossed the motivational mile sign. It said "m.ancona what's your one thing". It then hit me, for the first time I didn't have a one thing for this race.

I had tried to convince myself for the last year that I was doing this race just for fun, but inside I was still competitive and had goals. They were not aggressive goals that I was committed too, but I was definitely there to do more then just finish.

I thought once more about trying to pick up the pace, but I didn't have the desire to and within a minute I slowed again. I continued to walk the aid stations and jog around 8:00 min/miles in between. I was now being passed by people and my mood had changed significantly. I was upset about the flat and in a world of pity and at the same time I was even more upset at myself for giving up for the first time. I felt sorry for myself but also incredibly disappointed in myself. I was embarrassed as people spend years and years trying to earn the opportunity to do this race and I had just given in when it got tough. I was even more upset that I didn't have a clear goal in my mind and didn't even know what my one biggest reason for being out there was.

Once I hit Palani all those thoughts disappeared as there were more spectators and I could see the finish area. I continued to jog and took it all in with a big smile on my face. For that last 5 minutes or so, I completely forgot about everything that happened and for the first time since my first race (2004 Chicago Marathon), I just enjoyed finishing and the finish line. It was truly an amazing experience to cross that finish line on Ali'i.

I ended up finishing in 10:08:11, 54th in my age group and 524th overall.

Post Race
The post race high that usually lasts at least a few days only lasted about 10 minutes this time around. By the time I made it out of finish area and found Theresa, I was an emotional mess. I am a pretty thick skinned person and usually do not let things get to me, but this did. It was one of the only times in my life that I was truly disappointed in something I did.

After eating and drinking a ton we went back to the condo and I weight myself. I was more than 6 pounds (4.5%) lighter than before the race. I felt fine and never had an issue during the race but obviously I was not nearly as on top of my hydration as I though. Lesson learned I still have to take in even more water. I guess the silver lining to jogging the marathon is that I don't push myself enough to expose the dehydration and I was lucky for that.

I tried very hard that evening and the next week to convince myself that it was ok to give up and just enjoy the day. I told so many people that I was still happy with my race and tried to convince myself I was. Three weeks later, I have accepted what happened and moved on, however I will likely always be disappointed that I allowed myself to give in when it got tough.

Some closing thoughts
  • I'm impressed if anyone actually read this far … thank you to anyone that spent the time reading all of this.
  • As usual I will not even pretend that I could do this on my own. I appreciate the amazing continued support from my wife, daughter, family, friends and sponsors as you are all very important to me.
  • Kona is different and unique, sure the Boston Marathon and Clearwater are amazing events, but Kona is in a whole different league. Even if you never get the chance to race there, I really recommend going race week, in fact I want to go back sometime and not race just so I can enjoy being there and not have to worry about the race.
  • Ironman racing is a roller coast of emotions, I hit more highs and lows in one day than I do in many weeks or months
  • Shit happens on race day, but I'm proud of how I handled the mechanicals and that I made the best of it
  • I know I should have performed much better but at least my first Kona experience was still positive and a decent time
  • I've finished three ironman and I have still not run well or executed well …. Looks like I know what to work on next year!
  • I will never again race an ironman without first knowing what my one thing is BEFORE the race. Never give up has new meaning to me now.
  • Finishing MOP (525th OA/54th AG) earned me a finisher's photo with 9 people in it all within about 20 feet. Sure was humbling when I saw that.
  • Somehow I thought making it to Kona was going to be satisfying and end this quest, instead I'm now even more motivated to get back and have the race I know I am capable of having.
  • While I have fun participating in this sport, fun or enjoyment is not why I participate.  I am driven to improve and perform to my potential.  I've tried a few time to just go out and race for fun and it hardly ever works.  My type-A personality is what drives me and I cannot hide from that no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I can.  No matter what happens with anyone else out there I am always competing with myself and this was the first time I lost.

Race Week In Kona

I'm really late to post this but hope you still enjoy. Here is the quick day by day summary of week leading up to the race in Kona. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, now I want to go to Kona race week and not race just so I have time to do everything.

Travel Day. We left our house around 11 Central and got to our Condo in Kona at about 9 PM (2AM at home). It was a long and actually uneventful day. Abigail did not have much interest in sleeping on the flights, but she did an amazing job and was awesome the whole time. The first flight (ORD-LAX) had a few athletes on it but was mostly the normal travelers. However when we got to LAX things started to look different. The number of Mdot logos went up drastically and almost as much as the average body size decreased. On the plane, it looked like every other person was an athlete and we saw bags and shirts from Ironman races all over the world. Sitting behind us were two men from the NBC crew that were talking about the last few years for the race. It started to sink in that this was going to be a different experience.

The Kona airport made this even more apparent as the baggage claim was packed with people, who now had less clothes on and looked more fit. Not to mention tri bag and tri bag and many different languages being spoken.

We ran into Matt Samojeden at LAX and we decided to go for a Monday morning swim. So about 6:45 we pull out of our Condo and drove to the pier. In the 1.5 mile drive we had to have seen literally hundreds of people running and riding on Ali'i. As expected, Lava Java was packed and parking was already hard to find on Monday.

Matt and I wanted to just swim easy and do the whole course so we swam buoy to buoy and then would re-group and enjoy the sights. I hate swimming, but was loving every minute of this as we could see so much in every direction. The mountains looked awesome when I would breath and the sea life below the water was even cooler to watch. Not to mention the incredible swimmers everywhere. The only issue was the buoys only went about half way and then there was a kayak at the turn around another 1/2 mile away. The water was calm but there were still swells that prevented us from keeping our eye on the kayak, but we decided to swim the full course anyway. We swam for a while, and I swear the kayak was moving, but we keep going. When we finally caught the kayak the guy asked if we were going to Maui and then pointed to where the turnaround kayak was. We had just experienced the current that pushes you out to sea and the guy we found was out to make sure no one keep going. We ended up swimming about 1:20 and definitely well over 2.4 miles, but it was fun and a very good lesson learned about the current.

The rest of the morning Theresa, Abigail and I spend together exploring and shopping. We visited the Zoot store on Ali'i and Dave pointed out that there was a picture of me on the Zoot history wall… very cool!

The whole town really embraces the race as we quickly found out at Walmart:

After lunch I went for a 2 PM run from our Condo. I wanted hot and sunny, instead I got cloudy and cool. I ended up doing 6.5 miles through town, up Palini, and back

I wanted to swim at 7 again, but this time I did the 1.5 mile run to the pier, which took significantly less time than driving there. I swam just over 1.3 miles – out was very easily and comfortable at 18', back started easy then Macca was right next to me so I tried to hang on to his feet as long as I could. Made it back in just under 15' for 32' total. Much more in line with what I was expecting compared to yesterday's 1:20 swim. However I was killing myself staying on Macca's feet and I'm pretty sure he was just messing around. I finished up with another easy run back to the condo.

For Abigail's 8 month birthday we took pictures of her by the ocean and then headed to the race registration.

We wandered around town a little and then I went to Tri Bike Transport to pick up my bike…

I have a bike box and fully planned to pack and bring my own bike with us on our flights. However about a month before the race we found out TBT was going to Kona this year and I had such a good experience with them last year that I decided it was worth it to do that instead. The cost was about the same and this way I did not have to worry about my bike after the race when we went on vacation. The downside was that we got to Kona on Sunday and my bike didn't make it until Tuesday afternoon, but I figured that was still worth it.

So I get to TBT to pick up my bike at about 1:30 on Tuesday and there is a long line (20+ people) waiting for bikes. I stand around for a while, finally get to the front of line and they can't find my bike. They have me come back and walk all the racks with them. Sure enough there are at least 4 other Orbea Ordus in the same color, but not mine. There is still one other bike that came from EndureIT assembled and on rack but mine is not. So the guy helping me gets one of the guys in charge and he asks which shop and when I said EndureIT, he says "Oh, follow me". We get back to the large freight containers and in the corner is a bike bag that he opens up and there is my frame. Yeah, I paid to have my bike shipped to Kona in one piece so I could hop right on and ride it and instead I get a bag of parts. The worst part is it was not taken apart by me and TBT did not have anyone to assemble it. The TBT guys were helpful and tried to help me put it together but they were busy and he was doing a number of other things, so I sat there and re-assembled my bike myself in a parking lot in Kona with a multi tool. Everything went together ok other then the fit being not quite right and the shifter and brake cables needing some tuning as I had them routed a certain way with zip ties but that was all messed up now. At least there was no damage and I am able to assemble my bike myself.  TBT and EndureIT have both appologized for the mix up.

Anyway, I got back to the condo, did another once over on the entire bike and went for a ride. The fit and shifting were a little off, but a nothing a few stops and a multi tool couldn't fix. About 4 in the afternoon I was off for my 1:30 ride and now I missed the keiki race and being able to cheer on a friends daugther…but all in all it could have went much worse. I did, however, make it back in time to see the Parade of Nations

Maybe it was because I was frustrated or maybe because the wind was calm, but I hammered from the condo to the airport and back. I was actually over 30 mph almost the entire way to the airport and still stayed over 26 the way back.

To finish the day up I went and met Brooke from Gu and she hooked me up with everything I needed for the week and the race. It sure was nice not to have to bring nutrition with me.

I originally wanted to swim every morning but decided that I was probably better off just getting to Hawi early on as that was my main goal for the day. I drove out to Kawaihae and parked, set up my bike and right about the time I estimated I would ride. I was a little worried for the first 10 miles as there was not much wind at all. Then I started to get confident as the wind picked up but I still thought it was no big deal. The wind was a about 15 mph wind from the left (ocean) and I was just cruising along comfortably when out of no where a huge gust hit me from the right and pushed me into the road. WTF… the wind was coming from the left, nailed me from the right and then went back to the right. I instantly understood why everyone said to go ride Hawi. The remaining 8-10 miles up hill continued to get more windy and provided even worst gusts. To make it even more fun, as I turned towards Hawi the last 5 miles was into a head wind with the crazy gusts and cross winds. It took about 32 minutes to climb up and 11 minutes to get back down with a tail wind. As annoying as the cross winds were on the way up at 12-15 mph riding speed, they scared the crap out of me at 36+ mph riding speed back down. All I can say is I'm REALLY glad I got out there and road to/from Hawi and experienced the wind first hand before race day.
The rest of the day was one social event after another starting with a TeamEN Lunch, SpiderTech gathering in the afternoon, and Zoot dinner in the evening. The SpiderTech gathering was particularly interesting as Chris from SpiderTech did an assessment of my legs and showed me how I had limited range of motion in my big toe on the foot/calf that I have been having issues with. He went over multiple ways to stretch it and completely explained why it causes the issues with my foot/calf.

We drove into town so that Theresa and Abigail could join me for the underwear run, but first I did another quick easy swim and stopped for coffee at the Coffee of Hawaii boat.

By the time we got to the underwear run it was getting ready to start and so I decided to just watch the fun with Theresa and Abigail.

We then visited the expo area. Chris from SpiderTech treated my foot and calf some more while Abigail and Theresa wandered around. Chris from Team Sports did a quick tune up on my bike as I knocked my chain off while calibrating my Quarq during Wednesday's ride. I showed him what was happening and the nice thing about being in Kona is within minutes we were able to go talk to someone at SRAM. It ends up that the open glide tooth design in the RED cassette does not allow you to backpedal with the chain and large angles. In other words the chain line has to be straight when you backpedal with a SRAM RED cassette. Once I knew this I could not get the chain to fall off no matter how hard I tried, but if I went to an extreme gear combination and back pedaled, sure enough it would come off within a few revolutions. We also ran into Jake from Zoot and he took care of getting Theresa and I Zoot Kona 2010 visors, shirts, and compression socks to match our Ali'i shoes.

That afternoon I drove out to and ran in the Energy Lab. Every run I did so far in Kona was overcast and cool, but at least this time the weather gave me what I wanted for a portion of the run. I went about 5 miles and 3 of them were sunny. It sure did get hot quick and gave me a good idea what I could expect on race day.  The Athlete meeting was pretty uneventfully and standard. I'm glad that we skipped the dinner and I only went to catch the meeting.

My plan was to do a few very short workouts but my body was feeling really tired so I decided to do nothing at all and just sit around with my feet up. Poor Abigail had her first cold and was coughing, sneezing and was congested. Luckily, our Endurance Nation extended family got word of this and we found out Lynn (a pediatrician from EN) was volunteering at the medical tent.

That afternoon when I checked my bike in Lynn checked out Abigail and confirmed it was just a head cold and not in her chest which at least made Theresa feel better. Bike check in was fast and easy. While I was on the way in Chrissie was on the way out so the entire crowd went the other way and I was able to walk right in and take care of everything. One of the joys of being number 1731 was my bike was basically all the way out to sea and at the far end of the pier.

The last stop of the day was to get my Jamba Juice dinner and take a picture for Al!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quick Kona Recap

Yesterday was an eventful day and I learned more about myself than I ever have before.  I also learned that Kona is legit and was earned the reputation for being the hardest single day race in the world.

The swim was about an hour of underwater boxing. I had a great start, got on fast feet and was maybe 10 people back from the lead SUP, but about 5 minutes in I realized I was going way to hard and would not be able to hold that pace for the entire time so I backed off and got swam over and on top of for the next hour.  It's true that everyone swims fast and the pack never broke up at all.  I was literally still getting kicked and hit 50 meters from the finish.

Bike started out great. I came out of the water pleased with my swim and got on the bike happy and was going to execute to plan. I hit 56 miles in about 2:28 and was under my power and HR targets feeling awesome and passed a ton of people. I was actually averaging 23.1 mph until the Hawi climb into a cross/head wind but I was ok with the head wind thinking I was earlier enough to get a tail wind on the way back.

At around mile 58, the crazy gusts and other cyclist caused me to hit the reflectors in the middle of the road.  My back tire blew out and went flat instantly even though it didn't feel like that hard of an impact.  To make a long story short the tire had a good sized hole in it were it hit the reflector and the brake track was dented and now hard a sharp edge.  A combination of a new tube, fix a flat, a bunch of patches on the tube/rim and CO2 got me back on the road.  Thank You to the wonderful spectators that came to keep me clam and help me out.

So only about 16 to 18 minutes of down time as the tire was really low again and I had to make a second stop to refill it, but that's not the worse part. While I was there a quick rain storm moved in and the winds shifted directions. This meant that I missed the tail wind out of Hawi that I go earlier in the week and had a cross/head wind again.  The even worse part was my wheel was thumping with every rotation thanks to the dented wheel, multiple patches, and my rear brakes barely worked because of the patches...and bike tech was no where to be found. I was the most scared I have ever been on a bike going down hill out of Hawi. With a head/crosswind pushing me all over the road, basically no rear brake, the thumping and a wonderful speed wobble if I went over 30 mph. So I sat up with a death grip on the bars and my front brake on the entire way down.  It was the slowest I have even gone down hill but I was just in survival mode.  I made it and the rest of the ride was just hot and windy.
I felt great on the run, probably because I was finally off the bike and didn't crash.  However after the bike mess and all the time I lost I decide I just wanted to enjoy the day and not suffer on the run. I jogged the entire marathon, stopped to hug and talk to Theresa, Abigail, and my Mom twice. Thanked every volunteer, and smiled about 22 miles of the marathon. The energy lab was direct sun and really hot, so it got hard there and I just slowed down and took it easy. After that I just didn't have the desire to push myself and jogged it in on the Queen K and back to town.

I have mixed emotions and need to think a few things through over the next few days before I share my thoughts and a full report. That said, it could have been so much worse and I am thankful I was not injured and enjoyed most of the day. The finish was truly magical and I am glad I was able to smile and enjoy it.
The good news is once again I didn't actually run the marathon so my legs feel fine and I can now enjoy a week of vacation without limping around.  Some day I will actually run an ironman marathon.
Thank you for following me and for your support throughout the year!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pre-Kona Update

As usual, I've checked out of many things over the last few weeks to focus on what I needed to. I apologize if I have been distant, it's not you, it's me. It's just who I am and what I have to do before a big race. More on that in a minute, but first I wanted to check in with a quick update to all my family, friends, sponsors and supporters.

I'm Ready!!!
The training is done, my race plan is done, my gear perfect and I'm ready to go. All I have left to do now is get to Kona, enjoy the week before the race. As I have said before this is an off year for me and I am going to Kona to enjoy the experience. I will be attending as many events as I can, and there are so many, thanks to my great sponsors. Of course I have trained hard but I do not have performance expectations or goals.

For the tri-athletes reading even with less focus than last year, I may have just had my best build up ever. I pretty much nailed every single workout in my Endurance Nation 12 week ironman training plan. I set PRs on my long run, long bike, and even in the pool! I also had my two best race simulations ever. Both including the full swim in a pool in 1:04, 4:58 112 miles rides, and 8 miles in ~55 minutes on both brick runs. The first was sunny and hot, I felt great but lost too much weight. Lesson learned and I did much better hydrating the 2nd one even though it was cooler.

New to me this year was heat acclimation which is a challenge when the fall weather quickly moved into Chicago in August. For the last two weeks every one of my key workouts has been inside with zero air movement, this sure has simulated some heat and forced me to sweat more than I ever have before. Next time you are looking for a challenge try riding for 3 hours at an IF of .84 inside on a trainer with no fan or air movement. It was significantly harder than I expected, but I did it and ran after. Additionally, I have gotten to know the steam room and sauna at my gym very well. It's pretty crazy that 15 minutes in the sauna feels like nothing now and is relaxing. This morning I went for 36' at 182 degrees and only got out because all of my water bottles were empty and my key to my locker was so hot I had to pick it up with a towel.

For the data geeks, here is how the year has looked for me. I was so concerned about not running Dec-Feb because of the foot injury, but in hindsight it seems to have worked out just fine.

Click to Enlarge

The Taper
 For the non-athletes reading this, I progressively build my fitness over about 10 months of the year with a goal of arriving at my A-race in peak shape. This means that about 2-3 weeks before the race I have to taper or reduce the volume of my workouts. I know this is critical as my body needs time to recover from the 10 months of stress I put it through, however this is by far the worst part of the year for me.

Prior to last year, I pretty much never tapered and if I did I ended up doing extra ad hoc workouts. Last year, based on the advice of EN I actually tapered prior to Ironman Wisconsin and did not do extra work. It worked and on race day my body felt great and had my easiest bike ride of the year (also my fastest ever). The two weeks I was tapering was hell. I absolutely hated every minute of it. I guess it has something to do with my type-A personality but after years of building my fitness and enjoying working out every single day, the last thing I want to do is stop. That combined with my body feeling weird while recovering and other pre-race anxiety makes me pretty high strung and not fun to be around.

So far this year my taper has gone significantly better and it's actually a longer taper. So what's changed?
Well, I doubt I will ever like to taper, but I have learned it is needed and therefore instead of fighting it this year, I decided to make the best of it. Therefore I shifted my focus to swimming and heat acclimation for the last three weeks of my build. This does two things, first and foremost it helps me with two of my weaknesses, but secondly it gives me something to focus my thought and time on (i.e. obsess over) so that I don't mind cycling and running less (my normal obsessions). This is working really well as I have found my body reacts very well to more frequent shorter swims. Therefore I have been in the pool and steam/room or sauna just about every day for at least two weeks now.

My swim is feeling great as I am focusing on my form and feeling the water instead of swimming long. The heat acclimation is going well as I used to make it 10-15' in the sauna, now I go over 30 most days and am pretty much always cold if I am not in the sauna.

Thank You
Of course none of this would be possible without the never ending support and encouragement from Theresa and Abigail. I'm so fortunate to have them embrace my hobby. Right after Kona we are taking a week to vacation and just enjoy each other and NOT talk triathlon for once. In addition to Theresa and Abigail I want to thank all of my sponsors that have helped me this year.

Jake at Zoot has continued to make sure I have everything I need for Kona including multiple pairs the exact shoes I wanted to race in and other shoes/clothes for the week. BTW, the new Thermal compression stuff is awesome and just what I need now that it is fall.

Orbea, Zipp, Fuel Belt, ALCIS, and Gu have all provided awesome gear for training and racing. If you are in Kona, make sure to find the Gu house on Ali'I just south of town as they will be giving out special edition Hawaii flavored products.

The guys at Get a Grip Cycle have ensured that my bike fit is right and I have all the gear I needed.

My newest sponsor, SpiderTech Taping, came along at the perfect time. Early in my IM build I started to have arch and achilles issues, the SpiderTech team has provided me with Calf and Arch spiders that have dramatically reduce any pain and allowed me to continue my training with no further issues.

Road ID hooked me up so I have an ID for all occasions and even multiple colors. With all of the unfortunate cycling accidents this year I never leave home without a Road ID them. If you don't have one (or want another), use the coupon ThanksMatthew844172 .

The Endurance Nation team continues to motivate me and provide invaluable advice on my training and racing. More importantly, Theresa and I have so many great triathlon friends now because of EN and triathlon has become part of our live.