Thursday, October 1, 2009


"As I walked from the pier/main transition area over to the area by the hotel where we were to drop our warm up / post race clothes bag off I witnessed a pretty cool scene. Craig Alexander ( Last year's Men's Champion) was doing his pre-race final bike check with about 15 photographers surrounding him. Mixed in with the crowd of media and onlookers was none other than 6 time winner Mark Allen. He was standing there quietly, focused squarely on Craig Alexander. Mark's gaze and his body language at first struck me as though he was sort confronting Craig, but the longer I observed Mark observing Craig, I think it was just Mark's way of taking in the whole situation, albeit from a very close vantage point, that probably only he or Dave Scott would be allowed to occupy. From the look on Mark's face, I speculated that he had thoughts like "I remember when it was me that was at the center of the spotlight" followed by "Man, am I glad I don't have to do an Ironman today!".

" I made my way out of the main transition area, and had a little over an hour to go before the start. I decided to do a little stretching. I was sitting on a patch of grass talking to some nice guys from the Bay Area of San Francisco, and got stung by a bee on my left butt cheek-Ouch!

"As it was getting lighter out, the excitement and tension was building. I was feeling anxious, just wanting to get the whole thing started, knowing what a long day lay ahead.

"I got my swim skin on and made my way to the pier along with 1750 or so other triathletes.

"I swam out to the start area and decided to try my luck on the right hand side of the course, with the idea of swimming along the buoy line. In 2004 I lined up wide left, thinking I would avoid some of the kicking/shoving/grabbing/biting that defines the start of the IM swim. LIning up wide left in 2004 did not work at all- I still got pretty beat up all the way to the 1.2 mile turnaround, so I was ready to try something different. As I got right up to the front of the pack I grabbed on to a surfboard right next to Mark Carey. We exchanged greetings and good luck's, and both decided we were going to try to swim a little inside the buoys on the way out to avoid the war zone. The gun went off and what ensued was the most frustrating, and physically injurious swim I have ever been a part of. As we approached the first orange buoy, (they seemed to be about 200-300 meters apart) there was an impenetrable line of surfboards/kayaks funneling us all to the inside of the buoy. This caused a congested cluster of swimmers that was far worse than the first 50 yards after the gun went off. I later learned from someone who started in the middle, that the current was pushing everybody to the right, toward the buoy line. After I made it through that first CLUSTER, (feel free to fill in your own appropriate word that sometimes follows quickly after the word CLUSTER, to form a profane phrase) I thought, to myself: OK there is no way that they will have another 50 boats at the next buoy, so I will be able to make my right and avoid some of the congestion. However, as I approached the next buoy the same thing happened again,and again at each buoy. I had my googles kicked or elbowed out of place 3 different times at these various buoy crossings or "CLUSTERS" as I preferred to call them. In hindsight it would have been much better to have swam directly left after that first buoy, and try to get way over to the left, because each one of those not only cost time, but it destroyed any rhythm I had gotten into. I looked at my watch as we finally made it to the turn buoy marking the half way point, and it read 34 minutes and change. UGH! The second half of the swim went better, and I was actually passing people continuously as I got into a good rhythm and found that I felt pretty good. My swim split was 1:04 and change, so I probably swam about 30 minutes for the second half which I was pretty happy with. As I made my way through transition, It already felt hot, and it was only about 8:05 or so.

"The Bike course begins with a short out and back loop of about 6 miles. It is a fun but dangerous loop as everyone is amped to be out of the water and onto their bikes. You quickly realize that it is way too congested on this section to worry about passing anyone, as there are often 3-4 cyclists abreast on one lane plus a wide shoulder. The bike leg really starts as you begin the climb up the famed Palani road which is about a four or five block long steep climb that takes you from the shoreline up onto the Queen K Hwy.

"As I began the long journey that is the bike leg of the Hawaiian IM, my self talk was something like this, "stay calm, don't go too hard, eat, re-apply sunsreen often" One of the great things about this race is the aid stations. At each aid station on the bike, you can get water, cola, gatorade, gel, bananas. It was hot right away and I soon began the routine of grabbing 2-3 water bottles at each aid station. I would drink one, and use the other 1-2 to douse myself a couple of times before the next station. The ride went pretty smoothly until we made the turn and started climbing to Hawi. The crosswind had now become a headwind, and was getting stronger by the minute. Multiple time Hawaii IM Age Group champion Joe Bonness went by me with about 8 miles to go to Hawi, and I decide to try to stay with him. I did stay with him until the turnaround, but it was really hard. On the way back down the long descent I was spinning out the 53-11 aided by gravity and a strong tailwind.

"The winds and the heat were awful on the way back to Kona. I had made it to Hawi in about 2:36 (Hawi is slightly farther than half way of the bike) so I thought it was in reach to do a 5:00 bike split. As I checked my watch on the way back, I was realizing that this was quickly becoming a non-reality. I felt like I could have pushed harder and gone faster, but I knew how hot and difficult the run was going to be, so I tried to just maintain a good rhythm, and stay cool by drenching myself with water at each aid station. On the positive side, my stomach was feeling pretty good. On the bike I ate 6 Clif Shot Block packages, and 3 Hammer Nutrition Almond Raisin Bars- totaling about 2000 calories plus a little more calories from the Gatorade that I drank. I was really wishing I had something different to eat on the run, than the 5 packages of Clif Shot Blocks I had packed into my run race suit.

"I got to the transition area finishing with a 5:17 and change bike split. I felt exhausted and hot as I handed off my bike and started the long run around the transition area. The heat coming off the blue and green carpet gave blisters to many of the athletes who were barefoot! Luckily I had socks on. I changed out of my super comfortable Gear West TT suit and into my Gear West Tri suit, and made my way out on to the run. Immediately I felt overwhelmed by the stifling heat and humidity. As I struggled along, my legs felt like they weighed about 100 pounds each. The 5 packages of Clif shot blocks that I had in my back pocket felt like they weighed about 10 pounds, and I had to resist my urge to jettison all except for one of them. As I hit the first mile marker, I looked at my watch- 7:20 for the first mile- OK I thought, this was right about what I thought I could do. My pre-race plan had been to try to do 7:30 miles for the first 8 or so miles, then hopefully be able to hold 8:00 minute mile pace for the next 8 miles, and then hopefully hold onto 8:30 pace for the last 10 miles, giving me about a 3:15-3:20 marathon. This plan only worked for the first 3 miles, Actually I stopped at the beginning of the second mile to take a pee, so my second mile was 8:52, but my 3rd mile was right on 7:30. the 4th mile was when my wheels began to fall off. Despite dousing myself with water, putting ice in my hat and down the back and front of my tri suit, I still felt absolutely crushed by the heat. It was all I could do to keep running. My next mile split was 8:10 or so. With each mile I got slower and slower. I was briefly energized by seeing my family cheering me on at about mile 8, but this quickly faded as my thoughts turned to: "wouldn't it be nice to just quit right now and go swim at the pool with my family?" As I approached the base of the Palani Road climb out of town, (about mile 9-10) the heat was just unbelievable. As I got about half way up Palani, I saw the soon to be Champion - Craig Alexander cruising down Palani. He looked fast but definitely weary. I managed to jog up the rest of the steep climb, but probably could have walked just as fast. As soon as I got up onto the Queen K, it felt like there was some wind coming off the ocean, that took the temperature down a couple of degrees. As I made my way along the long straight section of the Queen K toward the Energy Lab, it felt like it took all of my strength to just keep shuffling along.

"Once I made it to the Energy Lab I actually started feeling a little bit better. As I hit the turnaround of the energy lab, I realized I was going to make it. I tried to stuff my disappointment at only being able to do an "Ironman Shuffle" instead of running, and focus on keeping moving forward, trying to have good form. I was now passing a few people here and there. (not as many people as were passing me, but it still felt good). There is a long gradual climb of about 3/4 of a mile as you head back into town just before you make the right hand turn to go down Palani. As the sun was sinking lower in the sky, the temperature was dropping, and I could hear the cheers and the buzz coming from town. From this point on I was like the cow that could smell the barn. My pace picked up, the pains in both my hips seemed to lessen, and I went as fast as I could for that last mile and a half or so, feeling waves of goosebumps as I hit Alii Drive. As I cruised onto the carpet through the finish line I felt quite a bit of relief, and then joy as I was greeted by my significant other Laurie Anderson, my 9 y/o daughter Becca, and my 3y/o son Aaron. It felt great to be done!

"As I now look back over the race and the season I feel extremely fortunate to have the love and support of my family and to still be healthy at the end of a race season that started with base training in March, and ended with my 7th race being the big Kahuna- the Hawaiian Ironman! I am truly blessed to have such a great family and such a great triathlon community and a great triathlon team (Gear West).