A Kona Video

Sometimes I get so hung up on training hard, racing fast, reaching my potential, seeing what I'm capable of, etc.... that I forget to step back and just enjoy the moment.  Then I see a video like this, and it brings me back to reality.  Yes, I want to train hard and find out what my ultimate potential is in triathlon, but in the end it doesn't really matter as much as the overall experience. The fun.  The memories.  

They say those who focus only on results get burned out.  Results are great, and I'm definitely driven by them, but in the end there's a lot more going on and if you forget to take it in and enjoy the memories you'll soon find yourself looking for a new hobby.  

This is a video shot from a lottery winner, meaning he didn't qualify for Ironman Hawaii, but instead won his slot through the lottery system.  He has a GoPro and some video editing skills.  It's a very good video.




Race Report: Ironman Hawaii

Pre-race:  I got up at 4 and ate my breakfast.   My left calf was very stiff (no idea why).  I tried stretching it and massaging it, but that only made it sore so I left it alone and hoped it wouldn't bother me during the race.  I gathered all my things and left for the race around 5.

Once at the race site, I dropped off my run special needs (no special needs for the bike this time) got body marked (they stamp the numbers - very cool) and then pumped up the tires on my bike and added my nutrition to my bike.  You don't have access to your transition bags so I didn't spend much time in transition.  I tried to be calm and cool, like it's just any old race, but that's tough to do when you walk to transition next to Mirinda Carfrae and there are cameras everywhere.  I was nervous.

A little after the pro start, I got in line to get in the water.  My plan was to start over by the Ford banner.  I watched video from previous years and it didn't look as hectic over there.  

The Swim:  1:15

The cannon fired and I was prepared for the roughest swim of my life.  It was rough for the first few minutes, then I noticed the gap to my right that never really filled in so I moved over and had clean water for a while.  It was smooth going for a while, but then things bunched up again and it got rough again.  Later, I found some clean water again.  Overall, it was a rough swim at times, but not the worst I've experienced.

Right before the cannon.

I thought I might be capable of a 1:05, but thought I might be as slow as 1:10.  There were some swells that rolled in about halfway, and I've heard a lot of people mention they had slow swims.  It seems like the good swimmers still had fast swim times, but the mediocre swimmers struggled more and had very slow times.  I'm not really sure why my time was so slow.  The swells slowed me down some, but I think part of it was mental.  I was nervous and intimidated and I didn't get in there and mix it up enough.  Had I been more aggressive, I may have had a better swim.  It's hard to say.  Obviously, I have more work to do in the pool.  Every Ironman I do I swim slower than the first.  This is getting old.

One thing that's different about Hawaii, is that I've noticed swim times are all across the board.  The guy who won my age group swam a 1:09.  You wouldn't expect that from an age group winner.  It's a tough swim.  

Transition:  4:20

T1 was okay.  I was disappointed to see my swim time, but not surprised.  It felt like I was in the water a long time.  Transition was very busy and I had no help.  I washed the salt water off with the hose, and accidentally got a lot of water in my eyes and my contacts were very blurry as I tried to get ready for the bike.  I thought I might have to pull them out and ride without them but they cleared up before I left T1.  I put on my heart rate strap, tri top, arm coolers, watch, race belt, helmet and shoes.  I opted to play it safe and not keep my shoes on my bike.  There wasn't a lot of time to get in your shoes before the first hill, and I thought it would be crowded so I thought this might be faster overall and I think it was.

The Bike:  5:20

This was not a good ride for me.  Early on, my legs felt okay but never great.  People were riding so hard through town and I was riding 5-10 watts below my goal so I got passed a lot.  Once on the Queen K and away from the spectators, people calmed down and I was able to work my way through some of the packs as I stepped up my power to goal power.  I was concerned about having troubles avoiding drafting, but that wasn't really a problem.  I had to work at it from time to time, but most people were trying hard to ride legal so once things thinned out a bit it wasn't really a problem.

Coming into Hot Corner for the first time.

I settled in on the Queen K, hit the first aid station, drank some water and threw up.  Luckily, I had some practice vomiting on the bike so I've gotten pretty good at it.  I had a feeling this was a sign I was in for a very rough day.  I think I may have taken in too much salt water during the swim because after this I was fine.  My Perpetuem and Hammer bars sat well and never upset my stomach.  Weird.

I heard the winds in Hawi didn't start until late in the climb for the faster swimmers.  Unfortunately, I had a headwind the whole way up the climb and I watched my average speed go from 22.6 down to below 21.  The way out of Hawi was a blast.  I love going fast so I was doing 40+ mph and passing people like they were tied to a pole.  It was fun....and easier than expected.  We basically had a headwind, then a tailwind at Hawi.  We didn't really get the dreaded cross winds.  We did to an extent, but not bad and not nearly as bad as the day I trained up there.  

The way back from Kawaihae to the airport was a grind both mentally and physically.  Most of the way was into a headwind.  My watts dropped, my head ached, my legs ached and my average speed was dropping. I typically feel good at mile 100, but I didn't this time.  I was mentally exhausted, weak, tired and very humbled by the long line of athletes still in front of me.  The bike is my strength, and I didn't pass all that many people overall. Looking back, I don't think I drank enough water but I think there was more going on.  I'm not sure what exactly, but I don't think my problem was only dehydration.  I felt weak and mentally spent.  I was ready to be done. 

When I get like that, it typically means I'm low on electrolytes so I made sure to take in some extra salt pills, but that didn't bring me back.  I only averaged about 185 watts the final 90 minutes of the ride.  Based on what I trained for, I should have biked a 5:05-5:10 so I was off by quite a bit.

While I was suffering on the bike, the parents were enjoying smoothies by the ocean.

Coming off the bike into T2, my legs were stiff and sore and running was a struggle.  My left calf was tight.  My spirits were really low.  I didn't anticipate feeling this beat down coming off the bike.  I expected to be hot and possibly a little dehydrated, but I thought my legs would feel strong.

T2:  4:40

T2 was slower than it should have been because I really couldn't run around transition like I wanted.  I was moving very slow.  My legs didn't want to move.  Once I got into the change tent, I sprayed on some sunscreen, put on my running shoes, put on my fuel belt and grabbed my bike water bottle filled with water with an Endurolyte Fizz tablet in there.  

The Run:  3:42

Starting the run, I was mentally preparing to be out there a very long time.  I wasn't sure how I was going to run a marathon.  My legs felt like I was at mile 20 already.  But I didn't go to Hawaii to quit.  I kept telling myself that. 

At the start of the run I had two ziplock bags in my fuel belt - one with my salt pills and Fizz tablets, which I stuffed in my tri top pocket, and one with a pepto pill and Tylenol.  I take the pepto at the start of the run as a pre-caution.  It helps keep my stomach settled.  The Tylenol was what I really wanted, and, of course, I dropped one of the Tylenol pills and it disappeared.  Crap.  I soon remembered I had two extra Tylenol in my fuel belt so I took those, but now I was out of Tylenol less than a quarter mile into the run.  

I drank the water bottle (24 oz) within the first mile.  I was very thirsty.  Then I drank one of my fuel belt bottles of Red Bull and refilled it at the aid stations.  I took cold sponges and ice at the aid stations.  A couple of miles in and I was loosening up and starting to feel better.  Not good, but better.  My average pace was 8:20, not what I wanted but good considering. 

Early in the run on Ali'i.

I held the 8:20 pace for most of the marathon (if you looked at my splits on ironmanlive, they were wrong the whole day - I was never sub 8 and not slower than 8:30 until late in the marathon - I really wish they'd post accurate splits because Courtney thought I really came alive out there when she saw my second split).  

I made a huge mistake out there though.  I got away from my race plan.  I was tired, physically and mentally, and it felt easier to just drink a little from the aid stations from time to time than refill my bottles.  I had a plan that included filling my fuel belt bottles at the aid stations and only drinking from them so I could track my water intake and make sure I drank enough.  I needed to drink about 5-6 fuel belt bottles of water per hour.  I drank about 8-9 total for the entire marathon.  I took water at aid stations, but not enough, and by not using my bottles I had no idea how much I was drinking.  I felt like I was running in a fog.  I wasn't really focused like I typically am.  I wasn't executing my race plan.  I was just moving along the run course making things up as I went.   

On the Queen K, I felt okay (possibly because clouds had rolled in and covered the sun - it was still hot but not quite as bad) and pushed the pace a bit.  My legs had loosened up and I began to think I was going to negative split the marathon.  By the turn around at the energy lab, I was getting tired.  Then I hit special needs (about mile 17) where I got more gels for the second half of the run and more salt pills and more fuel belt bottles with Red Bull.  The way out of the energy lab is a gradual uphill.  We had a slight tailwind, which was absolute torture.  It wasn't enough to give you a push.  It felt like it was moving the same speed I was so that made the air feel dead, calm, and I could feel the heat radiating off the ground.  The group I was running with was running 8 minute miles into the energy lab and now we were all running a 9:10 pace.  

I figured I'd pick it up again on the Queen K, but I never recovered from the energy lab.  My legs ached and I felt like I was in my first ironman willing my legs to keep running.  An 8:50 pace felt like absolute torture, and that was all I could manage so that was the new goal.  Run an 8:50 pace for nine minutes and thirty seconds and walk for 30 seconds.  Red Bull did nothing top pick me up and I had to force the water and gels.  I had no interest in food or water....or running, for that matter.

Mentally and physically, the final 6.2 miles of this race were the toughest I've ever run.  The bottoms of my feet hurt, my quads ached, my calf was tight, etc.  I wanted to admit defeat.  I wanted to walk it in.  This race had chewed me up and spit me out.  

But I said I was going to leave it all out there.  And, obviously, I was still able to run.  So I continued on and eventually I made it to Palini and down Kuakini and back on to Ali'i for the final time.  The crowd was loud and thick and I heard the finish line long before I made it there.  I was in absolute agony, but I told myself to take it in and cherish the moment.  Thinking about running down Ali'i got me through my training this year.  This was it.  This was the moment I dreamed about.  The crowd was the biggest I've ever run through.  They filled the street giving us only a narrow path to run through.  They were loud...very loud.

Coming down the finishing chute.

The finish line was very welcome.  I was ready to be done.  I heard Mike Riley call me an Ironman for the first time ever, but I didn't see my time.  I had lost interest in that hours ago.  

Volunteers grabbed me, threw a towel around me and forced me to keep walking.  They took me to a spot in transition where they dumped ice water over my head.  Then they took me over to the food tent and showed me where I can get my medal and t-shirt.  They asked if it was my first Kona.  I said it was and they asked how it went.  I told them it was a rough day for me.  One of them said, "well it couldn't have been too rough because you broke 10:30."  "I broke 10:30?"

10:27:51 is my official time.

They say you don't have your best race the first time you go to Kona.  I heard it before the race, but didn't believe it.  After the race, everyone I talked to said the same thing.  Your first Kona is tough.

So I didn't have as good of a day as I'd hoped for, but looking back it could have been much worse.  I was pretty steady all day, but a little slower everywhere than I wanted to be.  I broke 10:30 and finished in the top 50%.  Most importantly, I finished the Ironman World Championships and had a very memorable day.   It wasn't fun like I'd hoped or promised it would be, but it left me wanting more.  I've seen and experienced the next level.  I feel like I have unfinished business out there.  I want to go back.  I can't stop thinking about it.  

I need to go back.

After the finish.

It's hard to describe, but Kona is a very special race.  I had a tougher day than expected, but I'm not going to make excuses or complain about a 10:30.  I'm very proud of my accomplishment, and from the way it sounds finishing 12 minutes slower than your qualifying time isn't bad for a first timer.   This race was difficult, and it got the better of me.  

But the whole week was fun.  It's a completely different Ironman experience.  It's the biggest race of the year, yet at the same time it's a celebration. Everything is on a bigger level, over the top.  It's awesome.  

I thought this course would be easier than Wisconsin, and the only real difference would be tough competition and heat and possibly some strong winds.  But this race is a lot tougher than Wisconsin, physically and especially mentally.  The bike course has about as much climbing, it's just not as technical.  But it beats you down.  It's hot and desolate and the winds are relentless (the winds pick up later in the morning so it's very important to swim fast and get to Hawi quickly and start the journey back to Kona).  The run course is hot and has 50% more climbing and half of the run is on a lonely highway with no spectators. Everyone out there is fast and the second you let up, you get passed by a lot of people.  1,000 people went sub-11 out there.  It was a humbling day, that's for sure.


In my next post, I've got some photos and video of the finish line after dark and I might post some pics from the week I haven't posted yet and talk about what made Kona so different.  Then I'll stop going on and on about this race, I promise.  

It's time to start planning 2012.  



Kona Expectations

As I write this, it's less than 12 hours from the start of the race.  I'm sitting out on the deck, in the dark, listening to the ocean.  I guess you could say it's the calm before the storm.

I'm nervous, intimidated, scared, confident, excited, anxious....you name it.  I'm looking forward to the race, and I think it's going to be a very memorable day.  Yet at the same time, I can't help but feel a little out of my league.  I'm about to race against the best in the world.  I'm just some 36 year-old kid from Wisconsin who likes to train a lot.  Do I really deserve to line up and race against the best in the world?  Am I really ready for this?  

Obviously, I'm filled with some self-doubt tonight.  I guess that's to be expected.  I keep telling myself I deserve my place on the line and that I'm ready to tackle this course and race against the best.  I've improved my swimming and have swam a 1:03 for 4200 yards in the pool a couple of times now (that's really good for me).  I've put in a few of the best long bike rides of my life.  Some of them were downright brutal, and I hit numbers that I couldn't hit last year.  I've also had 3 of the best long runs of my life this year.  And I absolutely nailed my long brick 3 weeks ago. 

I'm stronger than I was in Wisconsin last year.  I'm 10 pounds lighter.  I'm more experienced.  I've learned a ton about nutrition and hydration this year.  Yet, I still question if I'm ready.

My expectations/goals:

I don't have any.  Seriously.  

Well....I don't have any time goals.  I do have one goal, and that's to race smart, race hard, and leave absolutely everything on the course.  If I do that, I'll be happy with my time regardless of what it is.

My Plan:

For the swim, I'm going to start to the left by the Ford banner.  I've watched the videos of previous years and it looks like there's less traffic over there.  I have no idea what to expect time-wise.  I don't have a speedsuit so I'm swimming in my tri shorts only (no top).  I'll be super happy with a 1:05, but I'm expecting another 1:10.  Until I prove otherwise, I appear to be a 1:10 swimmer.

Transition is going to be a little longer than usual, I think.  I'm putting on my heart rate monitor (I debated this, but I like to see the numbers when I race since I see them when I train), my tri top, my arm coolers, my watch, my race number, my helmet and my bike shoes.  You can keep your bike shoes clipped in here, but you don't have tons of time to get in your shoes before the first small hill on Palini and I think it will be very crowded so I'm playing it safe. 

For the bike, I'm going out conservative and I'm going to let people pass me.  My focus in the beginning will be hydration, electrolytes and getting in some food.  Once I hit the Queen K, I'll settle in, focus on hydration and bike toward Kawaihai.  Then it's climbing up to Hawi where the winds are so I need to be sure to eat and be well hydrated in case eating and drinking is tough in the winds.  On the way back, I'll keep my power steady and try to pass some of the people who may have over-biked in the beginning and passed me early on.  I love the second half of the bike, so my focus will be on that.  I have no idea what to expect for a bike time, but I'm thinking a 5:15 or better is possible if the winds aren't too bad.  

T2 shouldn't be bad.  Socks, shoes, fuel belt, sunscreen and visor.  I turn on my Garmin late in the bike so it can find satellites so I'll be all set to go as soon as I leave T2.  I also have a bike bottle with Endurolyte Fizz in my T2 bag so I'll grab that on my way out so I have that to drink from so I can get in plenty of water early in the run.  When it's gone, I'll ditch the bottle.  I have two bottles of Red Bull in my fuel belt along with Hammer gels, salt pills, Fizz tablets and Tylenol. 

The run is where things can fall apart so it's really hard to say how this will go.  I'll be doing my run/walk (9:30 running, :30 walking).  I'm shooting for a 7:45-8:00 average pace.  The heat will determine this.  I'll start out conservative and hope to pick things up around the mid-point.  Almost no one negative splits Ironman marathons so I'm not really aiming for that (although that would be the ultimate goal). I'll start out conservative, pick it up after a few miles throughout the middle portion of the marathon and hang on for dear life at the end.  I believe I'm capable of a 3:30 or better, but we'll see.  

I know that might sound like time goals, but those are just predictions based on my training.  I'm not setting goals for this race.  I'm just going to do my best and hope I can finish saying that was absolutely everything I had on this particular day.

Okay....one more goal:  have fun.  

My first Ironman was a fun, memorable experience.  You only get one first.  Kona is such a big deal that I'm hoping this experience ends up being similar to my first Ironman.  I'm hoping for a second first.   

The Problem With Kona....

The problem with being in Kona is that it's exhausting.  There's always something to do and see and Ali'i is very busy and there isn't much parking.  You end up parking far away and walking to the Pier....and walking to the shops....and walking back to the car....

Being out here, you want to see everything and take part in things, but it gets tiring.  The walking wears you out, the sightseeing wears you out, the heat wears you out, etc.  Not to mention you still have workouts to do.  Plus, it's hard to stay hydrated out here.  I've been drinking and drinking and drinking and I still don't have to go to the bathroom nearly as often as home. 

I've checked out the shops on Ali'i, I've swam at the Pier most mornings, I've been to the expo, I've been to the volcanoes, I've done my workouts....

I went to the Slowtwitch party at the Cytomax/Muscle Milk house where I won a pair of Specialized S-Works shoes.

The Slowtwitch party.

Sunset from the Cytomax/Muscle Milk house on Ali'i.

And I did the Underpants Run:

Ready for the Underpants Run.

They make you take an oath not to wear your speedo in public before the run.

It's pretty crowded.

The start of the Underpants Run.

Even the pups take part.

If you want some better pics of the Underpants Run, check out Slowtwitch or Xtri or Ben Greenfield's website (he took some video).  

In the middle of all that, I didn't forget to register for the race.

See the 1319 on the left?  That's my bike number.  It's a plastic number.  Very pro. I like it.

They even gave us a real backpack with registration.

Thursday was a day off.  I did the Underpants Run in the morning and stayed away from the hype the rest of the day and just hung out at the house and ran a few last minute errands. 

Friday was a very short swim at the Pier, a short bike with a couple of hard efforts and a short run.  Then bike check in, gear check in and dinner (steak and potatoes) and hopefully some sleep.


I wanted to do a post with all my numbers to show what it took to get here, but I'm having a hard time putting the numbers together since my 2008 log was an excel spreadsheet that got lost in a computer crash.  But I put some of my numbers on my blog so I added those to the numbers I have in Trainingpeaks and I've trained more than 2600 hours since signing up for my first Ironman in September 2007.  That's a lot of training.  

This year, I've trained about 600 hours since Jan 3.  

Maybe after the race I'll put together a post with some numbers.


More Pics from Hawaii

One of my favorite shots so far.  Courtney took this one while I was swimming.

Lots of papaya and mangoes at the farmer's market on Ali'i.

Me and Courtney at Magic Sands Beach.

Honu. Like the Honey Badger, Honu don't give a shit.

Me and my parents eating dinner at Humpy's.  Mmmm....grass-fed burgers.

Volcano National Park.  That's lava steam in the background. 

The trail at Volcano National Park.  Nothing special.  I just like this pic.

Part of the expo.  This expo is crazy.  Lots to look at and very busy.

Lots of pros signing autographs at the expo.


Me and Mark Allen.  He couldn't have had less interest in having his picture taken with me.

The new Shiv.  Eh.  I'd rather have a Felt.

I finally saw a sunset over the Pacific.  I wanted a picture with palm trees and the red sky.  Maybe later in the week.


Kona Town (Pictures)

Kona is a busy little town this time of year.  Here are some pics I've taken the past couple of days:

These signs are all over the Queen K between Kona and the airport.

How barren is the bike course?  In some spots, it's pretty barren.

The banyon tree on Ali'i Drive (not far from the finish).

The donkey crossing sign on the Queen K.  This is what I'll be looking for on the way back after Kawaihae.  It's just North of the airport so after this you know you're getting close to town.  I may head out there at dawn or twilight and see if I can find some wild donkeys.

If I can't find wild donkeys, I'll just buy some donkey balls (macadamia nuts).


Sign by the Pier. 

Here's a sign you don't see in Wisconsin.

Honu.  They're easy to find at the beach.  You actually have to get out of their way because they just hang out and ride the waves and aren't afraid of people.

Lava Java.  I thought I'd be hanging out here a lot, but it's so busy I've been avoiding it.  It looks like they have good breakfast so I might eat there one of these mornings.

Me and Chris Lieto.  He was at the PATH 5K Courtney ran on Sunday (her first age group win).

Courtney always comments that she sees these two at every race she does.  Imagine our surprise when we saw them at the PATH 5K in Kona.

Natural Energy Lab.  It's smoking hot out there (lots of lava rock so the sun heats up the rock all day so by the time we hit this point on the run it should be smoking hot).

The run turnaround on Ali'i.  We start out running down Ali'i, turn around here, run back and then out the Queen K to the Natural Energy Lab and back. 

Lieto riding down Ali'i out to the Queen K on Tuesday.  


Swimming at the Pier

Monday morning was busy.

One of the things I've looked forward to the most about coming to Kona was swimming at the Pier.  So far I've been out on the course 3 times.  The salt water takes getting used to, but I'm feeling more comfortable swimming in the ocean every day.  The taste of the salt water gets to me after about 40 minutes, and I don't think that's going to change by Saturday, but other than that I'm getting pretty comfortable out there.

Monday morning we had some big waves with more on the way Tuesday and Wednesday.  

Big waves Monday morning.

They don't really have the swim course set up.  Just a line of buoys and you can only swim on one side so people are swimming in and out on the same side of the buoys.  You have to pay attention or you'll run into someone.

It's amazing how clean the water is. 

I'm swimming out.  They're swimming in.  You really have to pay attention.

Dog fish.  Courtney said he was out there as long as I was - an hour.
Me swimming.

Post swim.