About Me

Louisville, Colorado, United States
Born November 1946 and part of the leading edge of WWII Baby Boomers. Together with Ingrid since 1971, married '73. Both of us are from Europe, Ireland and Germany. We lived most of our lives in and around the Big Apple taking bites out of it when we worked there. My passion is obvious. I am trying hard to maintain the clock, can't turn it back and don't want to. Triathlon is my outlet. As of 2016 have finished 20 IronMan races, 11 of them at the World Championship in Hawaii. Ingrid's passion is her home and garden, very good for me after a long training day, and Hawaii. We are opposites but somehow it works. Hope you like my race reports and thoughts on training.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

USAT Nationals 2015: My Thoughts after being Absent for almost 15 years

USAT National Championship 2015, my thoughts from after 15 years of racing all distances.   (Published in D3 Multisport newsletter The Extra Mile and 303 Magazine)

The last time I raced a USAT Nationals was 2003. The races were well run back then, but could not compete with the atmosphere of the Ironman events back in the day. After a weekend in Milwaukee at this year’s Nationals, and it’s Ironman that has some catching up to do in my mind.
Part of it was Milwaukee, but by no means all. The venue was exceptional. I suspect that some of the IM venues in Europe rival the fun of racing in the middle of a big city like Milwaukee, but none of the NA events are quite like this weekend. Even Boulder, which is an awesome location, does not have everything happening in the middle of town (it helped to have a lake downtown). A huge part of the event success was the atmosphere and organization. It was first class!
I missed out on the excitement of Kona this year (12x finisher!), but I did volunteer and watch the Boulder IM and had athletes racing in Canada, Arizona, Boulder and Chattanooga in the past year as well as a number of friends. I also raced in and had athletes racing in shorter events around the country. Looking at the faces of finishers in local races and at Nationals got me thinking why do we, the general public and many triathletes, feel that completion of an Ironman event is a mark of some extraordinary achievement and other races, while impressive, really don’t count much.
Consider this. Is this year’s male Ironman World Championship achievement more significant than his Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics? Olympics are only once every 4 years and most athletes are at the peak performance in their lives for not much more than 4-6 years. So timing to reach your peak only comes around a few times. I think the Gold is more impressive.
Is anyone who decides to make a significant change to their health and fitness, and set out to not just finish, but finish well in a Sprint or Olympic race, and race at the National level any less inspirational? Here is some of the inspiration I got from the USAT Nationals this year.
The top men were running 33-36 10k with bike speeds over 26mph with even faster pacing in the sprint. The top women rode a bit slower, but Olympic winner Abby Levene (Boulder resident) was right up there with her male counterpart when she got her running shoes on, they went 34:53 and 33:47 respectively. The winner of my AG (65-69) in the sprint ran a 20 min 5k. If that was not enough we had 78-year-old Sheila Isaacs, a friend, winning the sprint and 85-year-old Winston Allen winning the 85+ category followed by 91-year-old Robert Powers. Winston swam 19 min, biked at 15mph and ran a 14 min mile. When Robert got on the stage I realized I had a good 20 more years in the sport.
Sheila incidentally set out in her late 50’s to race in a triathlon in every state of the Union. She finished that quest in grand style in Kona, in 2004. If you want to read more about Shelia go here.
Following are some other stats from the Olympic Nationals. To finish in the top 20% of an AG you would have had to go approximately under:
M85+ 3:30
M80-84 3:30
M75-79 2:43
F75-59 3:37
M70-74 2:43
F70-74 3:11
M65-69 2:35
F65-69 2:57
M60-64 2:28
F60-64 2:47
M55-59 2:21
F55-59 2:36
M50-54 2:16
F50-54 2:31
F35-39 2:24
M35-39 2:09
I did not list all AG because I think you get the idea, the performances are impressive. Can you complete an Olympic course (Nationals bike had a few short climbs, but was generally quite flat, the run was flat) at these speeds? This is no tea party!
Another way of looking at this is Ellen Hart, a very well known 55+ Colorado athlete finished 4th at Nationals and won her AG in Kona. The run course was too short for her always fast run splits.
So why do we put finishing an IM in such high regard? Ironman got its name by chance from the wonderful crazy Navy Seals in Hawaii who dreamed up the first competition. I don’t think any focus group has ever came up with such a perfect brand name. It also helped that the Championship evolved in Paradise, at least as far as a destination is concerned.
That brand name is polished hard every October and a marketing juggernaut has evolved over the years. Swimming, biking and running 140.6 miles is not enough in the minds of many, it has to be an Ironman branded event. But, I think many would be well advised to reset that thinking. You can just finish an Olympic or Sprint Tri as many set out to do when they tackle an Ironman, or you can set some serious goals to start moving that PR steadily upward in shorter events.
Doing that does not require the massive amount of time and resources it takes to tackle an Ironman. You can train and spend a good bit of the weekend with your family friends and kids! You do not have to drive yourself nuts, and those around you, as you make every second of your day count. Most importantly you are not stressing yourself so much that you are putting your health at risk.
And, when you do get to race at the levels I have been talking about, and you still want to do an Ironman, you may find yourself qualifying for Kona much easier than you might imagine. Shelia did on her first attempt!

Coach Simon Butterworth believes winning does not have to mean being first. It was never more clear to me than Hawaii 2009 when circumstances conspired to put me out on the run with many for whom winning was just finishing. Being first in a triathlon is great for the lucky ones. I have been lucky at times, but “winning” for whatever reason can be just as much fun and many times even more rewarding. So my goal for anyone I coach is to help them win!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

IronMan Los Cabos 20015

My Father was a below the knee amputee (left Leg) and he had had an early technology hip replacement in the "good leg".   He was a typical over achieving challenged athlete for his day.  Swimming was his best sport but he could also deliver quite a fastball playing the sport he adopted and loved from living 15 years in Canada.  He was very dismissive of any complaints I had about pain when I was a child. I heard his words many times racing in Cabo.  I am sure I still don't know what "real pain", his words, is like but I came close enough thank you.  

Three weeks before the race my left knee started giving me trouble.  It has before and Doc Andy Pruitt suggested almost ten years ago (ironically another below the knee amputee) that I might consider sticking to shorter races.  But the stubborn streak in my Father had rubbed off on me and I am still at it.  

Acupuncture has been my cure in the past combined with visco supplementation and it will be at least part of the cure this time.  However four sessions of a acupuncture developed by a good friend Whitt Reeves, and applied by Lindsay Long (Modern Point Acupuncture) was not enough this time.  I thought it was working but Tuesday before the race proved it had been helped but far from fixed the problem.  I think I might have a meniscus tear this time.  I skipped my usual race week taper after that both running and biking.  It even hurt a bit while swimming. 

The Race Venue and Course:  
I would have loved the course under different circumstances.  It would be described as hard by many.  I don't think there is such a thing.  All IM races are hard; some are just slower than others.  That assumes you know what you are doing and adjust your pacing and fueling and hydration accordingly.   

Swim Venue:  Start is in the first cove from the top finish in the second
The swim is one loop with a beach start.  It can be rough but the start is in a somewhat protective cove.  Hurricane Philippe had just come assure to our south so surf was up but not terrible.  There is a current along the shore.  The only way to learn which way it is running and if it is a factor is to ask a local swimmer.  If they keep this race at the end of October this race will never allow wet suits if you want to podium or get a Kona Slot.  Most of the time it will not be wetsuit legal for anyone.  The race organizers claimed it was 82 this year, I know 82, my pool temp.  It was at least 86 and the local fishing forecast had it at 87.

The bike is hilly, Cabo has just under 7000ft of climbing but the highest elevation is just 750ft (a point on the road to the Airport just after you pass thru a toll booth on your way to town).  You need to adjust your target power, HR or perceived effort to match the extra time you are out there riding.  You also need to be careful you don't burn too many matches trying to crest the short hills.  If you don't it will be hard, if not at the end of the bike certainly on the run.  But do it right and it won't be any harder than any other race.  The climb to 750ft is at the end of each loop, two, means you make that climb at the end (you do go back down to T2).  It did not help to have a light wind in Sunday blowing up the hill.  There was no cooling breeze in the 90F heat.  I was prepared for this having reviewed the forecast the night before. 

I think it would be an accurate statement that there is no flat piece of road on this course, if there is it is very short.  Having electronic shifting is a huge advantage; you need to shift constantly on the aerobars and the hoods.  There is no traffic, other than bikes, on the course.  Much of it is one side of the Peninsular Highway, two lanes and the shoulder; the rest is on the closed road to the Airport and in San Jose.  In general the road is in good condition although the surface is rough in places.  The last 1/2 mile downhill to T2 is an ugly road with potholes and serious speed bumps.  There are other speed bumps along the course but nothing like those on that last bit.  

T2 and Finish are at the junction of the bridge over the
dried up river and the main road to the south.  The big hill
on the run is the ramp up to the bridge.
In contrast the run is quite flat, there are a few short ups and downs but you would not notice them on a training run.  Aide stations were well stocked with ice and seemed to be set up no more than a mile apart.  It is an out and back

One other topic about the race itself.  Two transition locations and you don't get to go to T2 race morning.  This means any food or liquids in your T2 bag sit in the afternoon sun on Saturday and Sunday until you finish the bike.  The solution is child's soft lunch cooler if you want to put food or fluids in there.

There was much confusion before the race about the total altitude gain.  Two weeks before the race they told us in an email that it was 3800ft.  That by itself was odd as they had the first loop at more than half the total.  I created a Computrainer course, which came out at over 6000ft.  Finally at the race meeting they admitted that it was 3800+ meters, that's over 7000ft that was a bit too much but much closer to reality.  Then there was the miss info about the water temps.  They were telling us to bring our wet suits right up to race week.  Ave temp for the water here is 84 in October and as noted before was higher than that this year. 

So on to my day. 

Walking down to the hill to the beach on the road we would soon climb back up the sky was clear.  My Dad was fascinated by astronomy (his uncle was a famous British astronomer).  Mars and Venus were almost in an embrace.  All the stars in Orion were clear, I have not seen so many stars since my sailing days, usually too much background light.  I thought of him getting quite emotional.  He would have been doing IM races if they had been around and the carbon blades invented before he died.  My knee was hurting going down hill but I remembered his words. 

This race is not the best organized but I don't blame the volunteers.  They were doing their best but be aware of this if you race here.  I went thru a modified warm up, no running and got introduced again to the bathtub water.

You always make some kind of mistake in a race you just need to keep them to a minimum and not fret over them.  Mine was not self seeding myself at the 1 min/100 mark I lined up beside the 1:30 sign, I swim closer to 2 min.  It did have its benefits. The only other owner of a Dimond introduced himself.  What are those odds, good karma.  

I did not run thru the sand in deference to my knee.  I did not time the waves right and got knocked off my feet.  That happened to several people around me so it was not just me.  Quickly I discovered my seeding mistake, I was passing everyone.  

Two weeks before the race i decided that the latest bit of Triathlon tech would be useful in an open ocean race with the possibility of big rolling swells making navigation hard.  I bought the Iolite GPS device for swimming, more in the side bar. 

I was still regretting my seeding choice at the second turn 2/3 the way thru the swim.  I felt good progress was being made; little did I know how well.  We may have had a current carrying us back to the beach; I got knocked off my feet again and crawled ashore.  More memories of my Dad, that is how he got into the 60F water in Ireland.  

For the first time I did not cramp in an IM event.  I have historical always cramped in any swim event much over 1900 meters and often in training.  A major factor was a new anti cramping product called ItstheNerve that I used, more in sidebar.  It has not been 100% successful for me but I will not leave home without it in the future.  I have gone 3800 meters enough times cramp free since getting samples to convince me it works.  Thanks guys and Amy.  

Transition was slow.  Changing went quickly but no running in the sand.   I knew I was in a small race (about 800) looking at the bike racks, a throwback to the old days.  All went well until a volunteer made me look up.  I had forgotten to fasten my helmet strap.  That broke my concentration on the uneven sand and carpet, I tripped and my knee made it clear that it needed TLC for the entire race.  

I did not find out my swim split until the race was over.  When I got to my bike my Garmin read 8:48 and I thought OMG slow, I had forgotten that my start was sometime after 7:30 not the usual 7am. (Post race I discovered it was fast, 1:10, best ever.  Combination of ItstheNerve, possible current, and training)

The bike course starts on what is probably the steepest hill of the course.  The knee would not let me climb out of the saddle so it was slow.  It was the only place I was in my granny gear.  The on ramp to the Peninsular Highway was a short down and then it was up again for a bit of a slog.  I worried about the slow swim for a bit and then remembered that we did not start at 7am.  That seemed impossible and I focused in the task at hand.  Up down up down and so on to Cabo San Lucas, about 15 miles.  One of the few flat bits of the bike are down near the turnaround.  And it is not really flat.

I did well for the first 25 miles.  My new, in May, Dimond bike wanted to go faster but the connecting rod in the engine was creaky.
Gradually I backed off the power to compensate.  Power goal when healthy is in the low 170 range.  I held right at 170 for those first miles but over the next 80 odd miles it fell to 130. 

The bike is certainly a challenge.  Hottest part of the day, 90 on Sunday.  On the two climbs up to the airport a tail wind matched our speed, man that was hot.  For the first time ever I started dousing myself with cold water on the bike (lots of logistics problems with this race but they got the most important things right including aide stations). On the second climb in the heat an Eagle swooped low over my head.  I thought of Natasha Badman's comment after the windiest Kona event ever, my first, "you need to think you are soaring with Eagles when it is windy". Class lady, still racing.  I was inspired.  

The downhill back to town and T2 was nice but I was very worried about the run.  I knew to be careful the last 1/2 mile, two speed bumps that would launch a car and several ugly potholes.  Getting off the bike my worries were justified. I walked into the changing tent and after a slow change walked out.  I had cut a deal with my knee that if he got me thru the run I promised to get him the best medical attention when I got home.  The idea came from a very special friend Barry Siff.  Barry was on my mind for the next five hours along with my Dad, Mum, and two old close friends who died way before their time, Connor and Ralph.  Connor loaned me his bike when I was 10. Our town was on a hill; the Main Street averaged over 10% grade, no brakes.  It almost ended my life.  Ralph watched me race in my hometown in Ireland just before we both hit 50.  He died on his birthday.  

I tried running, no go.  Took three Tylenol and kept walking, fast.  The math said I would finish at this pace so I was now happy.  After two miles I was wondering if the pills would work.  Running was still impossible.  I took a fourth pill and hoped my stomach would not rebel.  Then I found my big fan, squeeze, Ingrid.  She was very worried about me and I was worried about her.  I told her to go back to the hotel and wait for me to come back, around midnight. 

Seeing her must have convinced my knee that I was going to go the distance and he might as well get it over with as quick as possible.  As I approached the changing tents at T2 I tried running again, this time it was a go.  Shortly later a voice beside me said, "How are you traveling". I asked for a translation and now realized my traveling partner was from Oz.  We hung out for the next 12 miles, I got to meet his family and our conversation took my mind off my knee.  He was a good bit younger and having a tough race.  There is no question being friendly pays dividends, I don't remember this often enough. 

So Garth arrived at his hotel earlier in the week on his own.  He has three grown children living all over the USA and they were waiting for him with his wife.  A plan she had hatched and never told him.  I will never forget this story.  It lightened my load again.

Warning, this paragraph is a bit gross but in keeping with Tri tradition I have to tell the story.  I lightened things up some more and lost Garth around mile 16, the Tylenol, I had now taken 6 kicked in, just made it to the next aide station.  No toilet paper.  I won't go further.  

I was having feelings that my Quaker schoolteachers would not approve, I was felling proud that I had pushed thru my troubles.  Things still hurt a bit but I was thinking that maybe by now I had polished up my knee joint and I might not need and treatment, no such luck I know now.  But I eased on down the road starting my third loop.  My biggest worry now was not tripping on the uneven parts of the road in the dark; some of the course was on dirt roads and some just very badly maintained roads.  

The last loop went fast, I was not going fast but was in a very happy place.  I have now finished two IM events were I get the emotions of someone who struggles to finish.  I am thinking of friends and athletes I coached like Susan McNamee doing her first IM seconds under the cut offs for all three events, watching people do the same thing in Kona, listening to Mindy describe finishing her first Race. "Only a Sprint". She said but you could have been mistaken if you thought she had just climbed Everest.  And my latest coaching success, Ann Robinson finishing her first 70.3 this summer.  

No Kona slot for me and I don't think I would have beaten a new friend Andrew Loeb even if healthy. I would have pushed him though.  Andrew and I have raced in Kona several times and he has always finished just ahead of me.  This time we stayed in the same hotel and got to know each other.   I was the second older competitor I the race, I had hoped that would happen someday but not quite this soon.  I was second out of 4 in my AG.  

There was a lot of carnage in this race.  I guess in one-way it is fair to call this a hard race.  Getting things right is harder and if you don't the pain is much harder.  The heat in the water, air and the hills means you have to have things figured out and adjusted for this race.  I think a lot of people did not do so.  They were not helped with some critical misinformation about the race mentioned earlier.    

Don't let all this discourage your from coming to race here.  The course is great even if hilly.  The Mexican spectators are great, I learned that in Cozumel.  And I learned a much better way to express your admiration for athletes than "Nice Job". Or "your almost home" always shouted when you on the first of multiple loops.  Its "You are an Animal". I am going to learn to say it in Spanish.  It really sounds great that way. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stashing Stuff (Where and some ideas of what to carry in an IronMan)

When I wrote this I did not know I would soon have a new bike and new ways to stash my stuff.  Yesterday I sent off payment for a Dimond, TJ Tollakson's (and Dave Morse) Softride and Zipp inspired 21st century Beam Bike.  It has some interesting and great places to stuff things in a very aero fashion.  More on that in a future blog when I get the bike.
At the time I started competing in IronMan events in 2001, bikes designed for triathlons were still in their formative years of development. Some had been tested in wind tunnels, quite a few had aero tubing and we did have aerobars. But at that point in time, no thought had been given about what we needed to carry with us for anything much more than a Sprint event. As a result, unless you relied 100% on nutrition and hydration from the aide stations, your beautiful aero bike was no longer aero.
This bugged me to no end (I have an undergrad degree in aeronautical engineering), and I made and used some eye-catching add on to my Softride beam bike. My tubular spare was stuffed down the beam, after I had carefully reamed out all the internal burs and removed the construction bladder. I taped spare CO2 cartridges to the beam and modified a mount for my Never Reach Bottle to carry spare tools. I quickly learned that many pockets in my clothing were essential, leading me to DeSoto products which I have used ever since. I was also an early Fuel Belt user.
By 2009 I had a Cervelo P3, still do. The beam was gone, but now my tubular resided in a modified Arundel Water Bottle (cut open on the top and taped over once the tire was inside) on the down tube. A CO2/Sealant was taped to my top tube. I had several ideas for making storage products going through my head that year when I saw my first Trek Speed Concept sitting outside Lava Java. Finally someone, along with many others were addressing the problem of ‘Stashing Stuff’.
Great as these new bikes are they still can’t carry everything you need and not everyone, me included, have opened their piggy bank to buy one. So here are my thoughts about how to carry all that stuff, on the bike, and run.

General Comments
As mentioned above I have used a Never Reach bottle (a permanent aero shaped bottle that is mounted behind the saddle). It carries over 50 oz of fluid when stuffed full. It is a great product but over time I found lighter ways to carry what I needed. 74 oz of fluid (I also had a bottle between the aero bars) is over 5 lbs. That may not sound like much to some but how many of you are looking for that bike that is 1-2 lbs lighter than your current one?
In one of his blogs, Joe Friel, noted the following: “A 1kg (2.2 lbs) loss of weight (bike and/or body) allows you to climb a 1000m hill with a 10% grade about 3.5 sec faster than when heavier at the same power output. Another way of looking at this is that 1kg is about 3w on a climb (so 1lb is roughly 1.5w).” So I have gotten fussy about the weight I carry, and that has transferred over to my run stuff as well.
I think it is very important to test out the sports drinks and fuel given out at aide stations before the race (in training). If you can use what’s offered 100% that is great, even partial use can help the weight carry problem and is a savior if your stuff of choice is somehow lost, you happen to have a bottle ejection and/or loose your Special Needs Bag in an IM.
What and How Much
I’m OK with what is handed out in most races, but I don’t think it is always the best choice. For the past two years I have been using Scratch Labs sports drink and this year have been making my own rice cakes (Feed Zone recipes from Thomas Lim). The picture to the left shows a Denver Rice Cake mix, essentially a Denver Omelet mix with rice, yum. I also carry supplements in pill form.
Rice Cakes
Packaging any home made food presents problems. My solution is simple, small zip lock bags. They are a bit bigger than energy bars, but they do go in my DeSoto Tri Suit pockets.
Two rice cakes are in the back pocket in my DeSoto tri suit. Gels go in the pockets on the thigh. I also put one or two in my Bento Box but the main content of that is my supplements. I use very small zip lock bags for the supplements. See picture. I get them from Hobby Lobby in the jewelry section. I would guess any hobby store like that would have them; they are less than 2 inches. I like this better than the Salt Stick, it does not hold enough and getting the pills out of the small bags is easy. Rip off the top with your teeth and squeeze the pills out into your mouth.
For the Bike
These days I carry just two fluid containers. An X-Labs Torpedo up front between the aero bars and a standard single bottle cage behind the saddle. Both are full at the start of the race, but obviously that is not enough for an IM. I also carry Scratch Powder in a slightly bigger version of the pill bags, in my Bento Box. Once I work thru the premixed Scratch I start picking up water at the aide stations. Prior to arriving at one, I get out a zip lock bag with powder and dump it into the Torpedo Bottle. Leaving the top open (I do not use the top that lets you jam a bottle into a split piece of plastic because I loose too much water), I pour the water into and on top of the powder. Then let it shake a bit before drinking, if the road is smooth you might need to blow into the straw to mix. You can’t rip the powder bags open with your teeth; it would go all over the place. To make opening the bag easier cut a notch out of the flap above the zip so you can separate the two halves.
Tools and Spares
Tubes or Spare Tubular
If you carry most of your nutrition and fluids on the bike then there is not much room left for a tube and certainly none for a tubular. My tubular goes in the Arundel bottle. Tubes could probably be folded up real tight and put either under the saddle and or on the mount for the rear water bottle.
Water Bottle Bracket
Keeping weight to a minimum I go with four sizes of small Allen Keys, 2mm (needed for the Tri Rig brakes I use), 3, 4, and 5 for other critical bolts that might need adjustment. I have had my saddle get loose, seat post self adjust down and my aerobars slip (all mistakes that should not have happed, but it does, so I carry tools). These along with my CO2 cartridge go in my custom made water bottle bracket but can also be simply taped to the bracket (some brackets from X-Lab come designed to carry stuff).
I also carry a CO2/Sealant canister. It tapes easily with electricians tape to the top tube. I have made a carbon fiber holder, looks good but no better than the tape except it can be reused. Notice also the custom made mounting for the Bento Box, which also brings the bike up to integrated standards.
If you are getting the idea that I obsess about keeping the bike clean go back to the into, I do.
Special Needs Bag
The Special Needs bag for the bike holds enough Scratch for the second part of the bike along with a couple of rice cakes and back up supplements (I find I can carry all I need for supplements in my pockets for the entire ride). Up to now I have had two bottle of pre-mixed drink in the bag. I am going to just go with one in the future to save some time picking things up.

What and How Much
Solid food does not work for me and many others on the run. Gels do work and I carry 4 for the early part of the run. I also start out with some pre-mixed Scratch and enough powder to get me thru at least half of the run. I also have supplements with me for the first half.
Mixed Sports drink is in two of four 7oz fuel belt bottles, powder is in the other two. The rest of the Scratch I need is again in zip long bags, but sized for the 7 oz bottles. Supplements are in two small pouches on my belt. Gels, again, go in my pockets.
I don’t carry enough gels for even half the run. When I run out of the first 4, I take a gel every other aide station, I start picking up gels at one aide station and consume it just before arriving at the next, followed by water. When not having a gel, I drink some Scratch.
One tablet that I carry worth mentioning is a Glucose tablet. I have 4 on the bike and at the start of the run. Glucose tablets can be absorbed by just letting them dissolve in the mouth. So if the digestive system gives you trouble they can, for a while, keep you going until you can get things to settle down and return to other nutrition. Thus, it is good for an emergency. It is also brain food; the only fuel the brain uses is glucose (if you are not eating raw glucose the digestive system converts other sugars). So when approaching the point when your mind starts to fail you on the run, try sucking on a Glucose tablet as it will wake it back up. More than once this has saved the day for me, allowing me to focus on taking the next step all the way to the finish.
Special Needs Bag
Much the same as on the bike. I put in there what I need for the last half of the run with some extra spares including serious drugs like Ibuprofen. I never take painkillers before things start hurting. I want to know what is hurting, but will take something when up against it.
Last Thoughts
Never try anything new on race day – it goes without saying. Even though I have followed the same routine many times in races, I still will practice on my long rides and runs what I will do on race day.
Making your own solid food will seem for some too much work on top of already a lot of time committed to this sport. If you have ever had any issues with what you do eat, try it. My first IM was a near disaster because by the time I was finishing the bike I was already getting tired of all the sweet stuff I was eating. Now with all the variety of rice cakes recipes from the Feed Zone books, you can truly have real meals as you spend your day pursuing your crazy goal.
Coach Simon recognizes that winning does not have to mean being the first. It’s great for the lucky ones, but winning can simply mean finishing. Simon is a 12 time Ironman World Championship Finisher!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

IM World Championship Race Report 2013

First, most important, all my friends and family for the well wishes before the race and congratulations after.  I was thinking of you in the swim and other times in the race.  There’s no question that support like that helps a bunch especially when thoughts of "this is too much I want to walk" raise their ugly face on the run.   I also need to thank a special segment of those friends, who have coached, sponsored, massaged, needled, and helped me keep my head screwed on for such great help.  What makes this sport so much fun is the way we all help each other including our fiercest rivals (on race day).

So in my mind I have now raced in the worst conditions and best in Kona.  Conditions for all three events were as good I think as they could get out here.  Treading water at the start line I could see the turnaround boats, a first.   That was a bit of a surprise as it had been blowing quite hard when we went to bed Friday night.  But visibility on this course is more determined by what's happening way off shore.  If you kept on swimming past the turn buoy (south) you might get lucky and hit a small island in the South Pacific. More likely it would eventually get very cold and you would be swimming in the icebergs off Antarctica.  It’s also a long way to Asia to the west.  So any big storm within probably 1000 miles can make for big swells along this shoreline.  With the wind dropping over night and no storms the bay was a billiard table.

It was a hectic start.  With 2200 athletes, so I had heard, the biggest yet, there were lots of arms and legs in my face.  I am more aggressive with my start position here than any other race as I have found that most of us swim a straight line, something to do with the talent level I guess. I could see the turn boat and it lined up perfectly with the hill 6 miles south.  No excuse for not staying on course this year. 

I felt I flew down the first leg with a great sucking sound.  Rounding the two boats that made up the 200-meter separation between the outbound and inbound legs was as rough as it could get without serious damage.  As I headed back to Kona thoughts of my constant cramping problems crept into my brain even thought I did not want to think negative.  It worked for quite a while and then my right leg cramped.  At first I thought I would have to abandon the great draft I was still getting but the intensity of the cramp was not as bad as some in the past and I was able to shake it out.  This raised my spirits and while I did have a few more cramps, both legs they were all less than in the firs and quickly released.  

I can't tell you exactly why this happened; I did a totally uncontrolled experiment before the race throwing everything at the problem I could think of.  Lots of great massages from my new go to dynamite therapist in Louisville, Jeremy at Sea Grape Day Spa, Kona massage therapist Juliet (Body by Juliet), my good friend and Acupuncture Guru Whit Reaves, ART specialist Daniel and a new drug "The Right Stuff", and a few minutes before I got in the water a thick layer of Lasting Touch (an Analgesic Gel).   I think it all helped and my swim tied my best performance of the past 4 races and 4 min faster than last year.

In 2001, my first race here we glided out the first 25 or so miles to the top of the long hill overlooking the big resorts on the North Kona coast.  Then we got slammed with 55mph cross winds.  This year the gentle southerly breeze kept on pushing and my average speed was approaching 22 mph when we passed Waikoloa and it kept on pushing all the way to the end of the Queen K.  If I had trusted the NOAA wind forecast I would not have been surprised but they are not always right.  Today it was spot on and it continued to be so the rest of the bike rides. 

Those of you who have raced here you probably can’t imagine going up the last long climb to Hawi at times in excess of 20mph.  I was yesterday.  Until the last 2 miles the wind was pushing not stopping us. 

I do have to make one observation.  The draft packs coming back down this hill were insane.  I saw at least 4 with 10-20 riders almost all on each other’s wheels.  Under normal circumstances this would have been impossible as the crosswind gusts would have cause massive multi bike train wrecks but the wind was off the water, not gusty but strong.  Perfect conditions to help a pack of riders

So after about 2 miles of fast downhill downwind riding it was into a headwind.  It was not bad at first as it was not directly on the nose and the trip to Kawaihae saw a small increase in my speed.  It even helped the assent out of Kawaihae.  The hill is a bit under a mile and the wind always seems to be going up the hill.  It’s an oven.  On the Queen K the nice gentle southerly breeze had got much stronger.  I met one first timer after the race that thought that it was a hard windy race.  Not true, but it was mentally tough to face the breeze the last 33 miles and see the average speed drop steadily.

I kept telling myself that this was a good ride but one piece of data was disappointing.  I had nailed my power goals up to this point and was looking at Norm Power of 174 on my display.  My recent FT test suggested that I would be able to raise the Norm Power over the last 30 miles; it quickly became obvious that attempting that would be a bad idea. 

I was still doing OK with the power passing Waikoloa and shouting out to Whit and Mary.  But slowing the NP was dropping.  I did make one discovery that helped.  The shoulder is very wide on this part of the road everyone was riding on the road itself.  It occurred to me that getting closer to the embankment might lower the heading wind.  I crossed over the rumble strips and I was right.  It may not have been much but when the embankment was about as high as I was on the bike there was a noticeable drop in headwind. 

One longer hill to climb, probably about a mile with a 2.4% grade into the wind.  It passed quickly, I was thinking of getting home. 

I was also thinking that this could be my last race out here, who knows how much longer I can do this.  Also that a years work was coming to an end.  It felt a bit sad.  I was also thinking of the run that was a bit depressing.  I was breaking the rules and thinking way to far ahead. 

Rounding the corner and looking at the airport I saw a gathering haze and negative thoughts vanished.  More accurate forecasting by NOAA, perhaps I should put more trust in them.  We had cloud cover on the way.  Speed picked up.

Passing the Energy Lab road my focus shifted to the Pro race for a bit.  I saw the male leader but did not recognize.  I heard someone comment about the beauty of Rinni’s running form so I figured she must be in the lead.  That made me feel good.  I have got to know her in Boulder, great athlete, and great person.  By the time I got off the Queen K an rode the last 2 miles I realized that it was going to be a day for a very fast run.  If there was something left in my legs. 

That did not seem to be the case as I shuffled bare foot all the way around the bikes in Transition.  The pier does not allow for a straight thru passage so they make everyone go around the perimeter to make things fair.  It’s daunting. 

I got thru transition quite quickly considering I stopped for my first pee.  That was weird.  When I came out of the water my bladder felt like it would burst.  I ignored that figuring I would pee soon on the bike.  That never happened. I tried a couple of times near the end of the bike but no result and not big urge.  But as soon as I started my shuffle around the pier I knew a pee in T2 was essential.  I only peed once more on the run.  That was a huge change from last year when it seemed I was walking to pee every 4 miles. 

Coming up the short steep hill, seems steep, out of T2 was oh so slow but I got moving as the road leveled.  The run on Kuakini is ever so slightly uphill.  I ran that section several times in training at a 5:30 pace, it was over 6 yesterday, not great but I was not concerned.  I could not help thinking that were it not for the cloud cover this would be a death march. 

Down Hualalai to Alii was a breeze and the running legs started to feel a bit more normal as I passed Lava Java.  Going up the first hill on Alii I started looking for Ingrid, there was my long-suffering wife with a bit smile, a few seconds lost for an important kiss.  I was in 4th place but not for long. 

The first 9 miles went well but I was not going quite fast enough even though it felt fast.  I found my angel at about mile 3, Rocky Campbell.   Rocky loaned me his bike in 2009, when mine failed, and which lead to a race I will never forget.  Other friends on Alii included my old head Coach (Long Island Tri Coach) Jose Lopez, friend Ted Tierney and later on newish friend Cory Foulk (AKA Elvis).  

I wimped out again at running up Palani but I made good use of the time to refill my water bottles with Scratch power that I was carrying in very small zip lock bags (purchased at Hobby Lobby in the jewelry section).  Then I added water at the aide station on the hill.  I think this was the right decision but made my now 5th position very tenuous. 

The Queen K.  Normally this is a very hard part of the run course.  Just past the 10-mile mark it starts nice with a long downhill, which you have to climb up at mile 24, and up and down to the Harbor turn off, about 2 miles.   Then it’s a rolling climb to the top of the Energy Lab road at mile 16.  It seems to take forever.  I try to segment it by the turnoffs, Harbor, traffic light before the Costco turnoff, Costco turnoff and the final long normally no big deal climb to the Energy Lab.  Thoughts of the Marathon Wall come a bit early in an IM Marathon. 

Then it’s a nice descent, buggered by the idea that you have to come back.  Normally the growing temperature of the air less Energy Lab also buggers this nice descent.  However, with the sea breeze that hurt us coming home on the bike still blowing (a bit easier) it was cool and the sun was still behind the haze.  I had seen no sign of my friend William Wren and I found out why later and the other three leaders.  I was not looking out for them soon enough.  He was so far ahead that several friends had missed him and thought I was still in the podium group.  I did see two of my closer competition that passed me on the down in the Energy Lab. 

With temps dropping and amazing cool breezes coming down from Mona Loa I certainly gained strength the last 7 miles.  I was not faster than earlier but I was not slowing as much as normal.  This for sure should be a record day for the Pro’s and indeed it was.

I met Rinni Carfare when she first came to Boulder 7 years ago.  She was already doing well in 70.3 events I asked when/if she was going to do an IM distance.  Then answer was when she and her coach (Sheri Linley) thought she was ready, the best kind of thinking.  Today’s results certainly prove that they work together perfectly.  Even with great conditions a 2:50 marathon!  She outran the male winner and all but three of the men.  Perhaps you should do some Marathons Rinni. 

As for me I finished strong but my run was not as good as I had hoped for. I missed Ingrid in the glare of the the lights at in the finish shute but did Hi Five Whit who was under the Banyon Tree.   I thought a sub 4:30 marathon was possible.  Nighttime thinking has me planning better strength training (I don’t practice what I preach).  I felt I worked as hard as I could on the run but I knew that not all the stability muscles were working or working like they should and that is what slowed me down.

Harriet Anderson finished at 79 just under the cut off.  When you look at here you know she works on strength training.  She would make Jack LaLane smile.  I need to look like that at her age if I am to keep this sport up. 

As always I was not thinking positively about a return next year right after the race.  I am signed up for the Boulder IM and my only strong competition qualified in Tahoe three weeks ago (he is crazy, said so to him, Rob Ladewig) right after he finished, he agreed.  When he finishes this season he will have done 4 IM’s this year.  So my chances of qualifying are very good.  As my mind raced some more in the bed I concluded I wanted to come back for another go.  William Wren crushed everyone so badly perhaps it will scare off some of the good competition for next year.  More importantly I was thinking how I could get better.  That is always the lure for another go. 

Ingrid did think I would podium and was disappointed.  It’s great to have such a great fan.  I finished my 10th in Kona and now have 4 top 10 AG finishes including a 2nd and 3rd.  There is certainly no room for any regerts.  Can’t wait to age up and leave the six 65 year olds that beat me this year in this AG, dam kids spoiled my fun.

Simon Butterworth