A total of 11 days have passed since racing the IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and I’m finally ready to reflect how my race-day unfolded.
This was my second time to the island and I really wanted to do much better than my 2014 result. But more importantly, I was looking to have a strong performance – something that I have been building up to for almost a year. Unfortunately, just a couple days before the race, I came down with a fever and chills that lasted nearly 24 hours. I knew something was wrong when the water in Dig Me beach felt cold…not even the delicious coffee from the coffee boat helped warm me up. This sudden turn of events left me with one option – to rest as much as I can and to head into race day knowing that I will try my best.
And so I did just that. It wasn’t pretty but in the end, I got myself to the finish line in 10 hours and 47 minutes.
Swim – 1:11:34
If you have been following my progression throughout the year, you might already know that my weakest part of a triathlon is the swim. With half ironman swims ranging from 34 minutes to 39 minutes this season, I had predicted that I would swim close to 1:16 in Kona. So imagine the surprise when I exited the water nearly 5 minutes under my expected goal! I drafted off the swimmers in front of me for the majority of the swim and exited the water feeling good; pumped that I had taken 11 minutes off my 2014 Kona swim. I took my time in transition to put on sunscreen before heading off to grab my bike.
Bike – 5:19:06 (21.06 mph avg)
Anything can happen on the Kona bike course. The first two hours were fine; power was a little lower than expected and I was passing lots of faster swimmers along the way. It wasn’t until about 50 miles into the ride that I realized that the nutrition was not going down (or staying down) so I made the switch to try and take in more liquid nutrition at the subsequent aid stations. The approach to Hawi and the climb to the turnaround was met with a cross-wind coming over the right shoulder so I sat up during the climb to gain some more power.
I hit the turnaround, ditched my bottles and grabbed two new ones before the descent. Things were heating up and my nutrition plan had been compromised, either by the heat or the residual effects of my fever earlier in the week (or a combination of both).
Nonetheless, I hammered away as best as I could, knowing that I can still overcome a bad day by playing it smart. After descending from Hawi, I made sure that I would fuel up at each aid station since none of the solid foods were going down. At one of the last aid stations, I saw a volunteer hold up a bottle of Coke and I couldn’t resist. Coke never tasted so good after four and a half hours of drinking orange flavored Gatorade and water. With about 15 miles left, it was all headwind, a pretty steady one that forced me to stay tucked into aero-position in an effort to minimize drag.
I rolled into T2 feeling very hot, a little overcooked and ready to tackle the marathon run.
Marathon – 4:06:13
The original plan for the run was to negative split it by running the first half very easy. That plan went out the door at the very first aid station on the run when I felt light-headed and out of energy. My stomach was not having it today and I tried to nibble on some pretzels and bananas. At that point, I was hoping that this feeling would pass and that I would feel better. I decided to run between aid stations and walk through aid stations to grab enough water and nutrition.
Around mile 4, a guy ran up to me and told me to run with him. He introduced himself as Craig, wearing a Team Timex kit. We ran together for a couple of miles before he had to stop to take care of nature’s calling. But before we split up, he reassured me that “We will get to the finish line”. I used his words to motivate me at times when I wanted to just quit.
After walking up Palani Road towards Mile 11, lots of clouds rolled in providing some relief from the sun and heat. By this point of the marathon, some pretty nasty blisters had formed in under the balls of my feet. To remedy it, I took off my socks – which worked briefly but the pain from the blisters came back every time I ran longer than a couple of minutes.
There wasn’t much I could do to get rid of the blister pain and there was no medical tent along the Queen K. Along the highway, I saw some familiar faces…first Hugh and then Talbot, both of whom where not racing and were out cheering and taking photos.
After passing the point where spectators were not allowed on the Queen K, I made my best effort to not stop running until the aid stations. I hit the energy lab and grabbed an entire can of Red Bull, chugged it and maintained a slow but steady shuffle. For the first time during the marathon, I did not stop to walk at an aid station. Exiting the energy lab meant I had about an hour left on the run (at my current pace). The blisters were killing my feet and I tried to focus on the runners ahead of me to take my mind off the pain. Eventually, I got to Palani Road and it was all downhill to the finishing line.
With all I had left, I ran as fast as I could down Alii Drive and across the finish.
Ironman Kona was yet another humbling experience that heavily tested my mental ability to keep going forward when all seems to go wrong. I certainly did not materialize my training on race day, but was able to dig deep mentally and not give up.
Thank you to my family and friends that helped make this endeavor possible.
The next blog post will include more about Kona, some more take-aways, and what is up next.
Thanks for reading!