There is something to be said about being one of the old age groups; there is less competition, which makes it much easier to research them. There are 28 in my 70-74 AG this year. Of that number 7 of us finished in the top ten in Kona 5 years ago when I finished 2nd. So the competition is good but not killer good. If I execute the plan I am starting to lay out well then the results should be good, perhaps as good as it can get.
I started to write an imagined race reports a couple of years into racing IronMan events. So this will be about my 10th time doing this for Kona.
My taper starts tomorrow with the 5430 Harvest Moon half ironman distance event in Boulder. The next 3 weeks and 5 days will not be much different from the past few years. One more long run (I actually may make it a long hike) next week and one long ride in Kona 2 weeks 4 days out from the race. Race week will be very mellow, we get to Kona on the 23rd, three weeks out.
Zipp came out with an extremely expensive set of wheels this year, list price is more than what I paid for my first Cervelo in 2005. Fortunately for our marriage Race Day Wheels are renting them, also expensive but tolerable for Ingrid. If they work as advertized and reported they will be I think a game changer for most people and especially old geezers.
While I will get to Kona in plenty of time to get adjusted to the heat I plan to try some Sauna heat acclimatization in the days before heading out there. I may not always have three weeks to spend in Kona.
Tomorrow I am going to race without my power display; I will capture the data. I wimped out on this idea and was glad I did. I want to see if I have learned to pace well by perceived exertion. I think I have. If that works I will do without power in Kona. Two of my fastest HIM events happened when my power meter failed.
Preparation – In Kona
Course Recon Bike
How much of this you can do depends obviously when you get to Kona. Here are my thoughts in order of importance.
1. The Windy bit, Waikoloa. Drive out to Waikoloa to get in a ride around 9 am, the time you should be out there on race day (usually the windiest time of day). Unfortunately it is not always windy out there so you will need to ask about the conditions. I have been there for two weeks with what would be great race conditions only to have to famous winds come back 1-2 days before the race (you don’t want to go out there at that point). When you are out there be sure to ride thru some of the cuts thru the big mounds of Lava. If it is blowing hard going thru these the first time is scary. You may be leaning into the cross wind the suddenly there is no wind. In the middle it can get totally confused with the wind buffeting you around. Then as you exit you get the full force of the wind again.
2. A ride thru Kona. Important to get an idea of the climbs you will experience over the first 5 miles. Don’t hammer them ride as if you are doing the race. Get comfortable with the speed and don’t try to go faster on race day.
3. Climb to Hawi. Great way to do this if you get there early enough, weekend before, is to drive to the end of the Queen K. Spencer State Park is a great starting point. Ride the rollers along the coast a bit below your IM pace, then when the road moves away from the immediate coast and you start a steady climb push the pace a bit above your IM pace goal. As the road starts to climb it also starts to turn east and with it the winds usually get stronger until your are not going anywhere fast. Winds can also be very gusty along this road. A warning and good news. The shoulder is narrow and it is scary with traffic. Race day there is none, be careful. Come back to Spencer down the long hill not working hard and pick it up a bit again along the rollers. Coming back down the hill with the wind at your back is very fast. As the road curves south it will get gusty, sometimes very gusty. You should stay in your aeorbars, make you lower and reduces the effect of the gusts. Look at the grass ahead of you to anticipate the gusts, or sudden lulls. Don’t ride beside any friends on the shoulder.
4. Hill Repeats. If you get to Kona soon enough thre is a great place to do Hill Repeats. Ride 6+ miles south on Alii Drive. You will find what I am talking about around that distance. Also of note is the Pit. At mile 5.5 you go up a short hill on Alii and the road turns right. On the next longer descent there is a road going of to the right, the Pit. It was part of the original run course. Picture yourself running up that hill before you a little over a mile after getting off the bike. That was tough course.
Course Recon Run
Unless you are out here 2-3 weeks in advance I would not recommend any long runs out in the hot part of the day. Too much stress too close to the race. I would run up Palani a couple of times. You can do a nice loop starting at the town pool on Kuakini heading south then up the hill. Or you can do the reverse to get a feel going up the climb on the Queen K and down Palani, mile 24 of the run. The other place to run is Alii to get a feel for the hills along that part. All this will feel horribly easy a week out from the race. You are in great physical condition. Be prepared for a shock on race day, the hills have become mountains.
Getting to the start was a easy this year with help from our former neighbor who will be staying with us. As in the past we get there shortly before the gates open.
The Bike Special needs bag has my new arrangement for a fast pick up. One bottle of Scratch and an elastic fanny pack with all my supplies (Three Rice Cakes, three gels and supplements). Run Special needs are two Scratch bottles and three gels.
Getting the bike and run transition bags backed with Rice Cakes and fluids goes smoothly. Tires check out, no sign of leaks, and they take 10psi to get them to 100. Lots of time left to relax and warm up.
I found Bill Bell, good Karma.
Contingency plans are basic, a spare tube in my warm up bag.
Warming up I think once again of a good friend and coach Bobby McGee who helped me learn how to run in an IronMan. I follow his warm up drills. Time to head to the start
Today is a first. Ingrid and Nora are on the sea wall close to me. Barry Siff is up in the stands. This is going to be a good day.
I pick my position carefully. It’s a bit closer to the pier than prior years and 3-4 bodies behind the front row. Water temp is comfortable. Three is a bit of pushing but nothing worrisome.
The gun always catches me by surprise in this race; this year is no different but also again no problem. There is a bit more pushing closer to the pier but so far so good, I keep the hand entry wide and the neighbors away from my face. I have picked an aggressive position as there are a lot of hands on my feet and I am sure I am getting a good draft.
I don’t bother to sight for the first five minutes, I am in the middle of the pack and if they are going off course there is nothing I could do about it.
They are not. When I look up for the first time we are heading to the first buoy about a pool length ahead, just right. I start sighting more often and attempt slowing a bit passing the second buoy.
As we pass the Royal Kona Resort the confusion of the start is gone but there are still plenty of feet to draft off. I am focusing on Karlyn’s advice, exhale as soon as I am finished inhaling, arms wide on entry, pop in the middle and short follow thru; I am on some nice feet. Not enough room to go around and see if I can swim faster. I add in my own cramp remedy, a bit more hip flex and less knee lock, floppy feet.
There is a storm somewhere to the south. Rollers are coming in and sighting is just a bit challenging. About halfway to the turnaround and cant see it but can see the next buoy easily. Everything still feels good but I am going to have some chafe with this new TYR suit.
Finally the mast of the turning boat is in sight, 400 meters to go, no sign of calf cramps yet. Still getting some draft from the crowd, things looking good
A right turn onto a short crosswind leg then another onto final. As I round the second boat two friends hop into the water and join me. Connor Malloy (Connor was my childhood friend who was cut down at 19, a passionate swimmer and he owned a really cool 8 speed bike) moves in front and I get a good draft, my father comes in along side and reminds me of his long ago comment (when I was complaining about a sore something) “You know nothing about pain, so I will make sure you hustle”).
I see some fast women have caught me, good news, I held them off to this point last year so must mean I am on track for a 1:20 something swim.
With the women starting 20 min after us they had not caught up yet. But Connor and my PaPa kept me right on the buoy line and I still got a lift from other swimmer. At this point most were swimming at my pace but that was fine, tucked in behind I was saving calories for later.
Connor helps me get in a position to get the most out of the faster women, cant stay with them but I do get a few seconds of drafting as they go by. I run thru my mantra on stroke and kicking.
Crowd is thinning out; Royal Kona is visible when I sight but still a long way off. I am getting some longer draft sessions but the ladies are still too fast for me. More important the legs still feel fine. I have to stay focused now on good form, must be getting a bit tired but don’t really feel it.
Royal Kona is now visible when I breathe, 200 yards to go. I have had a few twitches in the legs, nothing bad. Time to really focus on keeping the kick nice and soft.
Home stretch. Royal Kona slides by, the pier is in sight covered with bikes. Twitches are a bit more frequent. Nothing I can do except relax as much as possible and think positive. I have been swimming a bit wide from the buoy line and move over.
Women are all around me now but still passing.
The fastest women showed up about 500 from the finish and for the last 2-300 they were all around me. I had cramped and stopped to massage my leg about 700 meters out and continued to get lesser cramps for the rest of the swim. Cost me I suspect 2-3 minutes.
Last 200 are mentally the toughest for me when no big cramps have happened up to now. Not the time to kick hard, stay focused on navigation, and keep clear of the pier.
My 16th 2.4-mile swim in Kona is over, 13th in an IM. No idea of time but must have been good, no cramps. Now I am ready to rock and roll.
Hustle, Hustle, Hustle, my dad has chased me into the changing tent and out and around the bikes. My Transitions in Kona have always been slow compared to my competition. This is not going to happen this year.
PaPa did a great job keeping me moving and even with a pee I got thru in a bit over 6 minutes. Compared to my early days of 10-11 min , which included a much shorter run around fewer bikes, was light speed. The Amphipod belt contributed a lot. Grab the belt with all my Rice Cakes in it and go. No stuffing pockets.
New arrangement with the Amphipod belt works wonderful. Could use a pee as always but this year it has to happen on the bike. Somehow Ingrid and Nora have found a spot at the exit, no time to chat.
First 5-6 miles in town
I have a secret weapon; Zipp 454 wheels (rented from Race Day Wheels). If they work as advertized will significantly reduce the effort of staying upright in the windy Kona conditions.
Power goal is 185 thru town. I seem to be doing fine as bikes are passing me down Kuakini even though I am not dawdling. As we start the slight climb to the Queen K more bikes go by and on the Queen K some are out of the saddle, great, see you later.
Fast descent on Palani. My Mum tells me to be careful and safe as I round the hot corner and settle in for the long haul up the Kuakini hill. HR is a bit high, 100, but respiration is not, I am excited.
It’s a fast back down so I ease off the gas. Between racing here and riding the Computrainer I must have gone down this hill 100’s of times, its better in reality. The Stomach suggests its ready to start hydrating. Ingrid and Nora have made it to the Hot corner, amazing that I spot them. I can’t miss my Mum who tells me I look terrific.
Sadly Nora and Ingrid were not there in person but they were there in my head. Nora is helping Huston recover (heading up an team of engineers repairing their infrastructure). The conditions in Kona have proved to much for Ingrid and she is following me on line in our condo
I stay in the saddle going up Palani except for a few second to stretch out. The clock reads 27 min and change as I roll onto the Queen K, right on my target.
Time at the top of Palani was 25 min in. Could have been worrying except my power was right on track and my perceived exertion to that point was, this is so easy.
Kona to Donkey Crossing
The Donkey Crossing is a sign on the Queen K a bit before the long descent of the course and 17 from the top of Palani.
A little spike in power gets me going fast down to the edge of town. Time to start getting in some calories, Alan Lim recipe Rice Cake, REAL FOOD!!!
My NP is a bit high so I settle in for some easy riding. As we roll out past the Harbor and Costco the HR gets into a very nice zone and ave speed is going up slowly.
Construction is a danger and I keep my eyes wide open as we get to the Energy Lab. Connor swings onto the road on his vintage 8 speed going fast. The race marshals will have to be very visionary to realize I am drafting. Makes the slight headwind nonexistent.
We were lucky for the first part of the Queen K, we were on a broad reach, sailing term for wind in this case coming from the 6-7 o’clock position. We were all flying. I was up over 20mph by the time we reached the West Hawaii Vet Cemetry (a land mark of special significance for me and my old training buddy Barry Siff.)
Donkey Crossing fly’s by, speed is up to 30kph, on target. Finish off my first rice cake. It was better than that.
DK to End of Queen K
Wind, it will not be an easy day wind looks significant as we crest the hill overlooking the Resorts.
This did not happen. The sea breeze from the WSW pushed along past Waikoloa. We only got some head wind and cross wind gusts near the end of the Queen K.
After the descent this segment is a series of long rollers and a very slight altitude gain to the end of the highway. Moving well under the conditions.
It looks like it will be a typical day in the Lava Fields, in other words windy. Ralph is out there with his camera catching the action and encouraging me to steady down, “it’s a long day ahead”. Ralph left this earth way too soon at 50; he remained a friend long after I left Ireland).
Ralph was with me and I had been was working thru my second rice cake. I finally have figured out how to make the right consistency sticky rice. I tneed to be a bit undercooked because it cooks on your back as soon as you get out into the Laval Fields.
The digestive system is working well so far. I am working on my food schedule but for the moment drinking to thirst. This worked very well in the Harvest Moon three weeks ago.
Gusts are quite strong. The 454’s are working. Its still a challenge to hold a line but clearly easier than the 404, I made a good choice.
Gusts at the end of the Queen K made it clear that the Biomimicry idea is works. I realized I was ready for anything.
Approaching Waikola the gusts get stronger, the windsock at the Heliport is horizontal. Speed is good, HR and respiration seems well under control, but no longer improving the ave speed. Its getting hot.
I start work on my second cake finishing before the end of the Queen K.
A wild ride down the hill to Kawaihae. It does not take much effort to get over 40kpm and then 70+. This is a bit scary, but way better than going down with cars and trucks on the shoulder. Stephen Smith joins us, another friend who we lost far too soon. His last communication to me 5 years ago was “Simon go get a big Bowl” referring to the first place trophy. My pace at this point would suggest I have a shot this year.
No this was the most benign ride down that hill ever. The wind was from behind; there were some gusts and the speed closed on 40mph. The 454 held a straight line with almost no effort.
Rollers on Kohala Coast
I start rolling up and down right along the shore. Wind is light off the water and down a gel. And go to work on my third Cake
I got these conditions right in my visualization. I think the way the road was cut into the side of the mountain and the shape of the volcano along this part of the coast keeps the trades at bay. Only if there are no trades and a strong onshore breeze is is gusty here and that is rare.
I keep the effort well in control on the up rollers, I get passed, and I power off the top for a few seconds and pass bikes. One more gel in the last section before we start to get buffeted by the winds.
I am nailing the power right around 180 NP at this point. Based on my Threshold test a week ago this is right on the money for an IM.
Climb to Hawi
Without a doubt the toughest part of the course, up and down.
Not this time. Might have been the easiest.
Winds are still not as bad as 2001 but they are going to get the attention of first timers. As the gusts start to hit some of my Scottish ancestors are on the side of the road telling me that its nothing compared to a gale in the Highlands. Stay low is the advice. There will be no eating on this assent and little drinking.
I am passing a lot of bikes going up the hill and I am not going too hard on the gas. I start to get the sense that I am pacing this very well, and others are not. Many of the bikes had passed me earlier.
Looking up the road I see cyclists getting a break from the wind, I get out of the saddle to stretch and back down in a hurry as the grass goes wild just ahead. It is slow going but no one is going past me.
As we turn east the gusts diminish and now we have a steady 25+mph headwind, AKA Trade Winds. It is refreshing. More of the family raises a glass of the best single malt to my success as the road levels out a bit and I know Hawi is close.
The wind does pick up as we gradually turn more easterly but not even close to the forescast 25mph for the morning. My understanding from slower swimmers/bikers who got here later that changed as the day progressed.
I work a bit to finish off the last of my scratch. So far I have consumed a little over 50oz of Scratch and some water. My Rice Cakes are gone as are some of my gels.
Finally some excitement in Hawi and now the wind is at my back. The new Special Needs set up works wonderfully; I am stationary for less than 20 sec. All for the cost of a $25 Amphipod Belt.
Fast Descent from Hawi
30, 40 50 60kph its almost effortless. Its great until the road starts curving to the left and then the gusts return. They were a mild nuisance on the way up, they sure get your attention going down. I avoid other bikes at all costs.
I could have comfortable ridden in a large pack of other cyclists on this descent with the 454. Strangely I did not even have the opportunity. In the past I have had a lot of bikes around me at this point.
Things are going well, average speed is a bit over 30kph at the bottom of the hill. It would have been nice to be a bit higher but at this point I should be home in about 6:15.
Fatague is beginning to just be noticeable.
I did do a mental body check at the bottom of the hill. If there was any fatigue it was very hard to detect.
Rollers on Kohala Coast
It is tempting to push on the hills along the coast but not this time. I want to arrive back on the Queen K feeling strong. I hold a steady power up and down the rollers. The average speed creeps up a bit after the first two hills when the trend is down to sea level at Kawaihae.
I followed this plan and some bikes started passing me again, not many.
No troubles with digestion, or worrisome niggles…yet. I finish up a rice cake. The last few downhill’s are fast and I am close to 31kpn average at the harbor.
Coming back up this hill is as always frustrating and hot. Frustration is the speed and what it is doing to my average. But I expected this and at the top feel great that we have just 30 miles to go.
More good luck, the wind only died around me as we reached to top, easiest climb up this hill ever.
Queen K to DK
This bit of road separates those who have gone to hard at the start and those who have not. It is a typical day in the Lava fields. A SW sea breeze is filling in and it puts a dent in my progress.
I am however reasonably sure that I am in the lead. Some of my competitions are faster runners but historically I am the fastest cyclist. This does wonders to confidence. And, more importantly helps me relax. The wind will only get stronger as the afternoon wares on.
Again this does not happen. My average speed starts to creep up as we go up and down the bike rollers at the north end of the Queen K. I don’t really remember what the wind was doing at this point but is certainly was not slowing me down. Now I was passing every bike that popped up ahead on my radar. A few much younger studs did go by, men and women, obviously faster than I and also executing a great plan.
East, drink and be merry, Soar with Eagles.
You are right Natasha Badman you do need to enjoy the experience whatever the conditions. I am sure Eagles like days like this just as much as windy days. And as I thought of that I realize they would be enjoying the thermals coming off the Lava. Dam it was hot and most apparent when the wind come in from behind at my forward velocity.
The land marks are very familiar, Puako and our favorite beach, Waikoloa, and the most barren part of the ride thru the lava fields of Mauna Loa. One last big climb is just up the road. I stay inside the rumble strips trying to get the most out of the wind shadow created by the small embankment along the side of the road.
I have always wanted to power up this last hill to the Donkey Crossing, I never made it. This year is different; I must have done something right up to this point.
There are some bikes about halfway up the hill when I start climbing, I go by a 100 yards pat the top. I have truly aced this power thing this year. I wonder if the conditions had been more like 2001 would I have been able to take the very slow progress at time and not go too hard. Perhaps I will find out next year.
DK to Airport
Over the top of the hill, pick up some fluids and carry on. The wind starts out in our face but the road gradually turns from SW to South and its impact diminishes. Finally almost immeasurably my average speed trends up, just shy of 30
I am now trying very hard to pee on the descents, its not going too well, I remind myself that peeing even at 5mph is better than peeing stationary in the hot changing tent.
The man made oasis that is the airport, in the middle a lava field, is now visible. The home stretch, I make the most of my remaining fuel and food.
It’s always sad along here for me. My favorite part of the race is almost over. But this time its different. There is a sense of excitement in me about the run. The old body is not struggling up the small grades as we roll up and down to Kona. My perceived exertion is not high but I am moving well.
I cannot describe my feeling at this point better than how I visualized it. I have not been able to pee yet and I make an all out effort. Success but by the time I was finished I was starting to wobble on the bike at about 3mph, I had moved as far right as possible.
An old friend pulls along side with advice, Stephen Smith. Relax, get the cadence up and start the run easy. I am almost certainly in the lead after a 6:10 bike split so have a good lead.
The top men are running home to the finish and the women are working their way out to the Energy Lab. They are where I had hoped to find them. Its almost a cross wind the last miles into town. I up the cadence just a bit and lower the effort.
I was a little bit off with the top male finishers. Who knew we would have such great conditions and a new course record.
In farness to those behind me conditions apparently changed quite a bit as the day wore on. Slower swimmers and cyclists were challenged with stronger headwinds coming home on the Queen K and I believe in other places. This is not untypical and it is why I will be spening a lot of time this coming year to hold onto my swim speed and hopefully improve it a bit.
Cutting it close I slow almost to a stop to relax and pee on the last down grade before getting into town.
A careful right off the Queen K, it is very easy to get up on the sidewalk on this corner. Then a short descent sets me up for an easy fast ½ mile to Kuakini. Left and it’s the home stretch. Feet out of the shoes right down Palani and into Transition.
There are far too many people on the hot corner for me to look for you Ingrid but I know you are there. Lest see if I can set a PR for T2
I part with my rocket ship, 6:10 bike split. That guess was based on what I would consider somewhat benign weather. It was 6:30 last year with some nasty headwinds. 5:57 had me all excited. The pavement is hot and motivating. It not comfortable running in bare feet, and shoes would not help much. But I am moving and quite well.. Have I put enough distance on the fast feet in my AG, hope to find out soon.
I got a shock when I put one foot down; I was shaky. I was worried, had I been kidding myself about my pacing on the bike. It was hard to accept that I might have given the last 2 hours of feeling so good. Up until I tried to walk I thought I had done what Wendy Ingram had advised years ago. “Make the bike a warm up for the run”. So I walked for what seemed forever then tried to run. Surprise, it was not fast or pretty but my feet were moving while the body asked what do you thing your doing.
Finally I get the transition I want, practice makes perfect. I am on my way off the pier and up Palani, in 5 minuts, its hard as always.
The Jaunt thru Kona Village.
I walked a bit more coming out of T2 and then the shouts of you can do it got to me and I started shuffling again. I even ran part way up to Kuakini. Slowly after I began to feel like I was really running.
The climb is hard but its been much harder and slower, I ran! I start looking for Ingrid and Nora on Kukini and there they are about 400 yards down the road. I get the news I was hoping for. At Waikoloa I was 15 min up on second. Now the monkey is on my back.
I try hard to stay calm, not easy but now is not the time to stretch the legs. Instead I focus on form when a vision appears. My Dad running with two good legs is beside me. He would have been a good runner had he not had an accident at 6 and lived in more modern times. He reminds me that pain can be motivating and mine will only last as long as it takes me to finish this thing. Not long at all in the big scheme of things.
I am moving nicely as I round onto Alii and head south but still don’t feel fluid. Looking at my watch gives me encouragement. I am holding a 6:40 pace (KM). If I can notch that up a bit in a mile or two to under 6:30 I will be on a high.
I was running a 6:40 pace for the first 2k. I did not obviously get a time check with Nora and Ingrid at the Hot corner but there on Alii was Carol Woodiel with some staggering news. I was 44 min up on second. I could not quite believe that but I did accept that I had a big lead.
Out and Back to Kahaluu Bay (AKA Turtle Beach) 5 miles
I will always think of Ingrid as I leave Kona. In 2001 I felt close to death walking up the hill at the end of town. Ingrid was on the other side, she said “you look like Shit” I did but I today it is much different. I am hot, tired but far from over. I stretch the legs as I approach the next hill and a friend pulls along side on his vintage 8 speed bike (with no brakes). “What too you so long, you had better hurry up Butts” (my childhood nickname). I do and it feels good.
This bit sure came true. By the time I was heading up the second hill my pace was down to 6:30. But I knew this could not last. The radiant heat from the sun was intense, it seemed much worse that the past week. Of course there was probably a reason for this, a 112 mile bike ride and I was not quite so well adapted at this point. The shade along Alii made it just bearable but I could already tell that things could get ugly back out on the Queen K. Ice was going to be my salvation.
Fuel consists of Gu Rocktane and for while it lasts Scratch. I running for 1:45 and walking 15-20 sec. Lots of practice has make this work well. After the first two bigger hills I am holing 6:20 on the flats, with the walks.
I am not home free yet and I am reminded of that fact with a cramp in my left hamstring. I get it unknotted quickly and walk a bit more than usual. I had one of these in the half ironman even 4 weeks ago but still managed a 2:06 so not to worry.
The one hammy cramp happed a bit sooner about a ½ mile from the start. At this point a body check came back all OK.
I get back up to running at just over a 6min pace pushing aside that little nuisance that tells me I cant hold this speed. I get so zoned out I miss a walk break, must not loose focus. Magic Sands, I say hello to my landload in Kona, that water looks nice a cool. It is hot.
I missed my landlord but he did see me coming and going. Lou of course was easier to spot.
Lou Hollander is sipping a cool one under a Banyan tree near the turnaround right were we parted company in 2009. He reminds me I am still young and look good.
Now the oncoming runners have my attention. I have memorized the most important competition and know the rage of numbers given to our AG. I should be able to recognize at least some of the best competition.
So far so good, the mile 6 maker goes by and no signs of anyone, that I am interested in. Now I need to look strong as I will almost certainly start seeing someone soon and they may see me.
It’s not easy to spot them and I must not loose focus on what is important. Mile marker 7 approaches along with a number in the range. So 18 or so minutes up. Assuming I did not miss anyone.
Somewhere around this point I spot 184, Jorgen Bauerie. I had thought he might be the biggest threat. Not sure if he spotted me. My mental arithmetic skills were suffering and it seemed he had to be closer than 44 min behind. But either way he sure had a lot of catching up to do.
Ice is now very important at aide stations. Slow me down a bit but it is worth it. I see another number in my AG. At this point I stop looking and focus on me, the first of the two bigger hills south of Kona is in sight. I am still feeling good and most important my form feels good. Just in time to as there is Bobby McGee (my running coach who got me to a 4:12 marathon here 10 years earlier. He reminds me to start taking my glucose tablets soon and keep the arms moving, lean and push.
The first hill goes well and I feel light on my feet passing our former timeshare. The next hill and I start to have my first bad patch. Piss poor timing; I want to look good going thru town. I add in an extra 15 sec walk, does the trick, I cruse past Lava Java. Turning off Alii I am ready for the slight up ahead and then Palani.
I had not thought this all out in complete detail but somewhere along this section we had a gap in the shade and going up that hill suddenly felt terrible. I can picture it now as I write. There is a building under construction on that hill that stopped construction 8 or more years ago with the basement, no shade. It nearly crushed me.
Ingrid and Nora are in the same place on the others side of the road. I get confirmation that I still have a decent lead but not enough to get complacent. Now the game will be who slows down and by how much. We all will to some degree. Then next 16 miles have the most elevation gain of the run and we are slowing running out of motivation.
Once again it was Carol confirming the 44 min lead. I was starting to believe.
Climb up Palani
I have been trying to adjust my walks so that I get one shortly after starting up the hill. Its not spot on but close, I run, slowly, up the first 50 yards walk run another 50 walk 50 and then as the grade diminishes make a determined effort to run the rest of the way, success.
Essentially I did as planned, perhaps a bit more walking. I was 44 min up but I did not want to get complacent.
Out to the Energy Lab
A motivational boost pounds the ears on the down slope to the edge of town. The rock group is back for another year. They are good. Then it’s all-quiet. This is without a doubt the hardest part of the race. We are heading away from the noise, away from the finish and climbing a series of false flats that seem like mountains. Unless you can overcome the doubts here you are not going to finish strong.
They were there and as noisy as ever. It got louder when I told one of them I was in the lead of my AG. What a happy day but I knew what was ahead, the fat lady had not sung yet.
I have been here before good days and bad. On the good ones I did a lot of looking up and around, not down. It all started when Bobby Spina saw me heading out as he was heading home. I see him again with his mantra; look up, I Straighten up and Fly Right. It worked before it works again, for a while. My Sister and Father start a tune, Send in the Clowns.
I am not quite managing a 6:30 pace but it is way better than the 7 min pace of many earlier races. Singing to myself has worked before and I give it a go. I also pop my first Glucose pill as I pass the Harbor. Let hope it lights up the sky as it did in 2006.
Pace was no longer 6:30 more like 7 min and getting slower. I have started to cramp in my right adductor. It not a bad cramp but considering I have such a lead I don’t try to run thru it and start a walk/massage routine, just 8-10 strides. What is a surprise is the strength of the sun at this late time in the afternoon, you can see it in my face.
Costco is on the horizon I am feeling better. The sun has lost some of its punch that has been hammering the faster athletes. To my surprise it had not lost its punch and at times it felt like I was on fire If they can run 4-5 min per km in 100 deg heat I can hold 6:30 in these moderating conditions. I tell my demon to bugger off, have a Rocktane and get moving again.
Just before Costco there are my friends from HotShot Amy walks with me for a bit trying to get an update for me on my competition. After risking a DQ for outside help I tell her to figure it out for me when I get back.
The last rise to the Energy lab is the longest of the rollers and requires the most mentally. I picture sliding down the Lab road into a setting sun and tell myself hurry up before it sets.
I told myself to keep running until I saw the big Solar Panel array at the entrance. I gave into a walk and seconds later saw the tops of a panel.
The Energy Lab Down
. The sun is almost touching the sea as I round the corner to the Lab road and find Nora, Yea and Bobby McGee. Nora has great news I am holding my relative position. Bobby watched me run for a minute and says I will make it. That’s all I need to hear. I am flying downhill., singing again.
I look for the present I brought back to Madame Pele last year. Years ago Ingrid stole some of her rocks for her garden. She must have forgiven her or I would not be racing here for the 13th time. I think she was very happy that I returned them. I had placed them on a big boulder outside one of the facilities on the hill were I could see them. Last year I was too slow, it was too dark. This year there they were.
The Energy Lab Up
. Reality sets in along the waterfront. I its getting mentally hard. I walk a bit longer gathering strength for the climb back to the Queen K. Connor appears with a pitchfork, threatening to use it soon if I dawdle too much. It did not work.
Connor gets me going again as I approach the turn after picking up my Special Needs treats. Nothing special, more Rocktane and two bottles of Scratch.
His encouragement start to work and I am running up the hill inbetween more frequent leg massages.
I wave to Madame Pele sitting on the rocks I returned to her last year.
I am running up a hill I so often have walked. Its rapidly getting dark but I have met a goal, top of the Lab road before complete darkness. Nora is at the top with some worrying news. I must keep the pace up or possibly get caught. One of my competitors is uncorking a super run.
Nora does not have information obviously but better is the realization that is is 15 min before darkness; I have not been here at that time in quite a few years.
Short and Hard run back to Kona
I think back to 2014 when I discovered I had much more in the tank than I thought as I climbed the hill to Palani. In the dark I hustle down the hill towards Costco and some furry friends join me. Rita and Hanna are having a race out in front; gentle Jamie is loyally by my side. We have had some wonderful dogs and still do.
For the past 12 years at this point I was questioning my sanity doing these races and started thinking this would be my last. As I closed in on the Costco turnoff I realized those thoughts were not with me for the first time. Just after the aide station my HotShot friends were still there, long day. I got confirmation of my huge lead, 55 min at that point. I knew I was coming back and I was singing and reciting a childhood rhyme in my head, “The Owl and the Pussycat when to sea in a beautiful Pea Green Boat….” Ingrid and I had gone to sea 32 years ago on a beautiful light blue boat. I was on my way home to another milestone in my life.
I can start to taste the finish but cant here it yet. I push hard to run fast so I can walk a bit longer. Pace has slowed again but not by much as I reach the Costco turnoff. I focus on my form, speed picks up. As soon as I stop doing that I slow. I feel a pitchfork.
It was lucky for me that I had such a huge lead. My cramp is weird. I’ve had nothing like it before. I massage it and it releases, I am fine for 90 sec or so and then it tightens up again. But when I am running I feel like I am going fast. It is pleasantly warm now with the sun gone.
I am looking at the lights of the Harbor. About 4 miles left. My first race as an adult in the US was a 4 miler. I can do that and quickly. A woman with nice cadence passes me and I latch on. It’s hard at first but then we strike up a conversation and forget about the effort. We are up the hill past the Harbor and Kona is now in full view. It’s easy to the next challenge.
I do actually make use of several women who are running just a bit faster than I am but I can hear the patter of their feet for a minute of so and then I have to massage that leg again.
Climb to Palani
Mark Allen won here in the IronWar and I held off a competitor 3 years ago. I have also walked up this hill too often, no way this time. There is still some noise halfway up from the crowd that was listening to music earlier. Fans along the road give me strength, I dig and it feels good. My partner stays with me, as do the dogs.
If I had to hold off a competitor at this point they would have been able to take me easy. But I did run up the hill motivated by the music up ahead and my mind starting to go into overdrive.
My quads are certainly not their best now and I decide to take it easy going downhill. My companion, younger, has at it and disappears. The furry friends are with me but I am zoned out. I am going achieve a dream. I get some Gatorade at the last aide station.
Executed as planned. I even had to ignore the many “you can do it” coming from the side of the road as I ran/walked to about a 30/30 routine.
At the Hot Corner Barry, Nora and Ingrid are together, beaming.
No, my entire family was no with me and my fellow clansmen had come down from the Highlands near Hawi.
Mad dash to the Finish
Running away from the finish like and the Hot Corner crowd has been hard in the past but not now. I am thinking of all my friends who have helped me on this journey. I start to fly, at least it feels that way on the down grade to Alii. I am flying on Alii, not physically for sure but mentally.
The feeling at this point is hard to describe but there is still some work to be done. . The slight grade up Kuakini to Hualalai got my attention just a bit. Then suddenly it seemed like all downhill. If were not for the need to continue the massage I would have been flying, I ws mentally. But a few more massages were needed. I did my last one just before the finish Shute getting some more unnecessary words of encouragement to keep going. The rest is a bit of a blur until I saw Barry Siff with one finger in the air and one of his best smiles.
2009 when I almost DNF’s and took 15:30 to finish will always be the race that made me feel I was really an IronMan. This year was put the icing on that cake.