This year we front-loaded Kona for an entire week flying in on a Saturday. This was a lesson learned from my last Kona in 2014. The more time you can spend on the island acclimating to the heat, humidity, and the energy of the Championships, the better! Arriving a week out we were easily able to put together a great mix of beach and sight-seeing excursions with the family, training, and the numerous Kona events inevitably popping up on the calendar without it becoming too hectic. The events were magically spaced out throughout the week that I really didn't have to say "no" to too many get-togethers but I do apologize again to anybody whom I didn't connect with. The week was filled with a luau, half-day snorkeling with dolphins, 5 different beaches, trip across the island to Hilo's mid-week farmer's market for the best musubi, and meet-ups with Stryd (Running with Power and great supporter of MP Multisport), Cervelo (complimentary bike-work), World Military athletes (hosted by Ironman CEO Andrew Messick), Colorado Athletes (thanks 303 Tri for the awesome gifts), and USAT (won the door prize with new Jaybird headphones). Along with the must-dos of race-week training...swimming the course X 3, ride up to Hawi, ride the rollers along the Queen K's last 25 miles, and Tuesday intervals with MP athlete Brent Phinney on Ali'i it still was extremely relaxing.
Kona goals (Nutrition and Pacing):
- Follow Nutrition Plan: My "on the bike" plan was 400 cal, 40g Carbs, 1K mg Na, and 30oz of liquid PER HOUR. For the run, keep up the Sodium #s, shift all my calories/carbs to liquids or chewies.
- Follow Pacing Plan
Bike: Keep VI less than 1.05, Avg Watts of .75IF (225W) and keep 2nd half Watts w/in 3% of 1st half (less than 7W difference).
Run: Stay low 7:00s on Ali'i first 10-miles. Average 7:59 or better.
- Goals for Splits:
Swim: I wanted sub 1:00 but knew I didn't have as much control due to chop/currents, etc
Bike: BestBikeSplit with my biometrics, bike setup, and FTP Watts along with "typical" weather conditions calculated 5:10. I would be content with sub 5:15
Run: Demanded of myself sub 3:30. Would not be satisfied with this race if it didn't happen.
Kona Goal: Breaking 10:00 and taking the time to really enjoy the key moments would be a dream race.
Swim: After a very relaxed morning and a short 200m swim warmup, I lined up to the right of the mass treading water and about 15 men deep. Immediately after the cannon went off it was the typical wash-machine of fingernails on my body, kicking, and punching. This lasted for about 5:00-10:00 but I kept veering to the right intentionally and quickly found very clean (and fast) water at the very right edge by the SUP water patrol. Every once in awhile they would yell at us to move left but otherwise we kept it pretty straight all the way to the turn-around. Turn-around was 28-low and felt very conservative so felt fast but who knew what the currents would do once we turned around. Way back home maintained contact with a group of at least 20-30 swimmers 4-wide like battering rams ahead of me (thanks guys!). Out of the water in 58:20 feeling very fresh!! Goal complete.
Bike: Patience, patience, patience. 225W average at this race means I would get passed by over 270 men before the day was done...and still have a great day of pacing! Just told myself that I would be seeing the majority of these guys again before the finish line. Kept the nutrition plan going throughout, but my recipe of pancakes with PB&J from my special-needs bag was very messy. I crave real food while riding and it gave me the right ratios along with Trader Joes dried mango and dried baby bananas and the prescribed Base Salt intake. Liquids nutrition amounted to two Skratch bottles with heavy dosage and two bottles Gatorade Endurance to Hawi, way back home was two more Skratch and 2-3 Gatorade endurance along with water sprayed all over me. It was getting hot, the Wahoo Bolt was showing mid-90s and I felt like I needed to drink to taste but start forcing the issue the last hour near the airport. Hard to measure exactly how many bottles I had but at least 9 for the entirety of the bike. Winds weren't really an issue until the climb to Hawi where we had a strong crosswind that turned into a tough headwind as usual. Never was too scared for my life on the decent with the crosswinds and it quickly turned into a 15-20kt annoying headwind all the way back into town. Main highlights during the bike was seeing Air Force teammate Scott Tonder very early on and riding back and forth with him for 75+ miles. Scott, I owe you a beer for beating me up Hawi. Another huge highlight was having my athlete, Brent, on my butt the entire way and closing. A very real motivator when you know he can out bike you about five minutes and him being within a couple minutes in Hawi. Loved seeing all the familiar faces out there! Averaged 226W...229 1st half, 222 2nd half and VI of 1.03 (NP of 234). Bike split of 5:15:02 was close enough. Check, check, and check.
Run: Always the biggest challenge for me is to slow the roll at the beginning of the run. The Kona course makes this even more difficult due to the first 10 miles being on the famous Ali'i out-and-back. Hundreds of partying spectators, family, and friends lining the course...and all I could think of is keep it in the 7:00s, keep it in the 7:00s. Dang it! 6:45. In fact, I screwed up the first 3 miles all under 7:00. OK, I'm walking the aid station to stop this nonsense. Ok, back to comfortable 7:30s. Looking up in the sky, I knew it was going to be a brutal day out on the Queen K...hardly a cloud above and to the west with all the clouds hugging Mt Hualalai. At the 5 mile turnaround, saw the train of friends and NoCo athletes behind with Scott still just a few hundred yards behind and Brent not much further back. Would have to maintain pace. By the time we got up Palani hill and near the mile 11 high point on the run course, my toes were unusually sore and stabbing pain throughout my little toes. This was a new occurrence for me but running in wet shoes from dousing myself every aid station along with ice in the hat and down my crotch was not helping the situation. Miles 12-16 on the Queen K and to the Energy Lab was completely miserable even for my personal Ironman standards and experiences. I was doing everything I could to hold the 7:59 pace which only minutes before felt like a walk...and now I was walking. Told myself, OK pace to each aid station and that would be my small victory and my reward would be to walk the entire aid station getting as much nutrients as possible. Mile 14 I had a Coke...it was the most amazing thing EVER. I usually wait to the very last minute before I begin to take Coke in as once you ride that roller-coaster...you have to continue or the sugar high is going to come crashing down. It wasn't part of the plan that early but now I was going to have 12+ miles of Coke and praying that my stomach doesn't fight back. At the mile 17+ turnaround in the Energy Lab, I got a good glimpse of the competition ahead of me and quickly noticed two key men in my AG that I knew I had to beat who were a couple minutes up. With the Coke increasingly working magic and my pace back into form, I set out for the climb out of the Energy Lab and the slog back into town on the Queen K. Energy levels were going up and every aid station I walked through to get as much water, ice, and cola as possible, sometimes even sticking my head in the bucket of ice. The sun was still out, high in the sky without a cloud. At Mile 20, the 10K to go point, I glanced at my overall time and run split on the Garmin 920 and actually became a little emotional...it was just past 9:00 overall and 2:40 run...if I could average low 8:00s I knew that all the goals of the day would be completed. Five of us (two from Germany, two from U.S., and an individual from Russia) paced each other, taking turns blocking the wind, walking each aid station to stay together and they got me through to finish within my goals, and shattering my expectations. Run: 3:27:47. Total time: 9:49:36.
- I am honored to be able to represent the U.S. Military and the USAF in the capacity of triathlon and having the support of my Active Duty Unit (18th Weather Squadron, Fort Bragg, N.C.)! I cherish the time I spend at the unit each year with amazing military members at the very tip of the spear and am very lucky to also be able to spend a couple trips each year representing them and the Air Force in triathlon. I placed 3rd in the Military Division at Kona! In the world...all age-groups...very satisfying for this 42 year old. I was pretty disappointed that Ironman chose to only hand out an award to the top military member as I believe they've done Top-3 in the past but have recently diminished it to a solo member. I believe consistency and communication could be better between the military representatives and Ironman and I'd be willing to continue this discussion at the appropriate time. Overall, I'm very positive with my experience as a military triathlete in Kona and believe Mr. Messick genuinely took an opportunity to get to know us, thank us, and requested our opinions on many topics.
- Thankful for the Rocky Mountain Multisport, Northern Colorado Triathlon Club, and Colorado State University triathlon community and support in Northern Colorado and MP Multisport athletes all over the country checking in and giving me love when it really matters. You guys make training for triathlon a blast and social time even more fun! Training should not be solitaire, we really aren't wired that way, and as I always say "Iron Sharpens Iron". You guys push me almost every day and the results this year have proven that we all can get much better together.
- Family time ALWAYS comes first and is ALWAYS the priority! One of the most exciting things of 2017 was being able to say we were heading back to Kona and being able to plan the trip, the excursions, what ice-cream shops and restaurants we would go back to and make lasting memories and introduce these experiences to my in-laws who got to travel with us this year. It was a very rewarding for the whole family and I loved seeing them on Ali'i right before the finish line. That being said, there was a lot of sacrifice by my family the last few months with training for an Ironman and if you have a spouse and children, signing up for one of these events should not be taken lightly. That is why I will be shifting my focus the next several years on Sprint and Olympic distance ITU racing. I still find myself needing to check off some big goals in the shorter/faster racing and it's much more conducive for training with a busy lifestyle and a focus on the family. I'm glad I finished this year's Ironman World Championship with a very sweet taste in my mouth...it could very well be a long time before I taste it again.