Monday, October 13, 2014

Ironman Kona 2014

It was a great trip back to Kona for 2014.  My year off, getting married, starting a company, closing the company for a great opportunity with movecoach, and starting our family has been a whirlwind and nothing short of a miracle that it has all come together.  My wife deserves a lot of that credit;)  After Couer d'Alene, it was rough getting back into the swing of things.  Getting back into sales, little trip to Ireland and family time, but well worth it.  As with anything, my focus just wasn't there so Kona would be more of a "fun" experience for me to enjoy for a change.

Arriving Sunday it was the usual family fun heading through the week.  Coffee bar swims, rides on the Queen K, zip-line adventure (highly recommended by Kohala) and casual runs along Ali'i.  Nothing really compares to being around all the fit people around and it can get intimidating as well as easy to lose your cool leading to race day.  Luckily the family and Whitney did a great job of keeping me sane through the week.

Race morning arrives and I feel good.  Not expecting a breakthrough performance, but also trying to keep things respectable.  Wake up, normal breakfast and coffee and off to the start.  Head through body marking and do last minute tweaks to the bike.  My buddy One Hour Ironman/IronBob finds me and we find a good place to relax.  He has a great charity he supports and actually raced in 6 Ironman's on 6 continents over the span of 4 months.  Not an easy task, but it was to support Well Aware, a great charity that provides water wells and education to the people of Africa.  He always had great stories from his travels and it was great to pass the time.

Getting close to race start and I always need the last minute pottie break.  Funny run in with Lew Hollander and Sister Madonna in line.  Hopefully I get into the NBC broadcast as they wish each other luck.  Lew was slugging down a Red Bull at the time, I guess he has a good heart!

As we all trudge to the start line I catch up with my buddy Tim Smith who races for Everyman Jack (super stud, sub 9 hours).  He has been on a tear for the last few years and is always looking to push the envelope on a race.

Stepping into the water and everyone's focus sharpens.  Its a few hundred yards out to the start so I take it easy, not wanting to tread water for too long out there.  I think I see my family in their neon green gear which was great!  With the split AG Men and Women's starts, the crowd on the line wasn't too bad.  I line up about two thirds down the line from the pier and wait........

Cannon goes off and its a washing machine!  Surprised nobody was swimming over each other, but it takes a good 100 yards to get space to actually swim.  Settling into a good stroke, people played nice and were forming good groups to draft.  Visibility was perfect, and following feet and bubbles was easy.  Really no sighting required as if you veered right or left, someone was there to keep you going straight.  Cruising out to the turn was just amazing with the pack keeping things together.  Hitting the turn buoys things stayed mellow too!  We all made the turn and made our way back home.  No idea how long it was taking, felt long (time wise), but was hopeful to keep it under 1:10.  Little bit of water in the goggles I had to fix, no biggie, but then a cramp in my foot!  So painful, thankfully nothing to really keep me from going.  Just try to relax, pull the pace back slightly and stretch thing out in my stroke.  Luckily it goes away in a minute or so and it is back at it.  I'm veering a little bit now with the pack thinning out.  Staying on the buoy line, but getting close to the surfboards lining the inside.  Finally coming into the pier and the crowd is always just crazy!  Every breath you can see all the volunteers cheering and the rest of the water line is packed with people.  My hand hits sand, stand up and it is just overwhelming.  Make sure I stand up straight, get my bearings and up the stairs.  1:09!  Wahooo!

Cruise through T1 which is packed, and HOT!  Make sure I'm ready to head out on the road.  Jogging out with my bike and the little parade through town.  People are just hitting it hard already, but its a long day, no reason to win the first 20 miles.  Through "Hot Corner" and I catch my family cheering me on.  Out Kuakini and the road is lined with people cheering the whole way.  Flying back into town a few of us nearly run over some people running across the road.  I see my family again, but they weren't expecting me so soon, of course my personal photog Whitney was;)

Time for some TLC on the Queen K.  With the start staggered with the women, the road isn't as crowded as usual.  Maybe my faster swim helped too!  Rolling out there are still packs forming in the first 20 miles.  I end up fighting to get around packs that drop in front of me, and using up too many watts in the process.  Winds aren't as friendly as usual until after the airport, but then they switch to considerable cross winds at times.  Its really fun to watch the rider in front of you get hit and move a few feet sideways!  Ticking away the miles and rolling hills I'm trying to hold back for a good run.  Its a hard task as the bike is always my go-to.  In retrospect, I didn't do a good job at that.  I was out to have fun though!

Making the turn toward Hawi the winds weren't bad at first.  The road gradually turns East though and it just got worse and worse with just a defeating headwind.  Your mind can be decimated at this point as you watch time slip away while you approach the half way point.  Its a hard thing to keep in your head, but the way back is like a flash and makes it up.  Turn in Hawi is always fun.  The whole town must turn up to come cheer and the Special Needs group is a fun one too.  Load up with my frozen bottles, crest the hill and its a roller coaster down and out of Hawi.  Some nice tailwinds paired with cross blasts makes for tentative riders not letting loose.  I have a few extra pounds to stabilize and I'm good!  Cruising at 40 mph, spinning out my gears and loving it!  Making my way back to the Queen K I hit a dark spot though.

Around 35 miles left and my mind takes a bit of a turn with sore feet and the crazy winds picking up.  I really need to find a new cycling shoe for IM's as I get "hot spots" under the knuckles of my pinky toes.  Such a pain for a small part of the foot.  Watts and speed are down and I just need to get off my bike.  I figure the lower watts will do good for the run, but the damage was already done.  Trying to keep positive thoughts as I start to see the familiar landmarks and things get better.  Winds aren't as bad, and I'm going to hit my time of 5:10!  I should have figured it was a "slower" day out there for everyone.

Slowly through T2, trying to make sure my legs don't seize up like they normally do, I'm just excited to be off my bike and out of my shoes!  Sit down in the changing tent, get my gear together and out on the run.

Out on the first few miles I manage to keep my pace down, but at a good clip.  All smiles running through the crowds along Ali'i.  So much fun seeing the lead women runners heading the other way.  Rinny goes blowing by, looking like she will reel in the pack of women ahead.  I'm always worried about my abs seizing up, its a problem I've had in the past few IM's when I try to dig deep.  The rollers on Ali'i don't give much trouble and the pace is nice and consistent between 7:00 and 7:30 and feels easy.  Hitting the 2 mile mark and my family is just ahead.  They are great about giving me a good show when I go by.  The kids have some great chalk work done too.  Down to the turnaround is great and much better than last time with a bum knee where I was walking a good part of the marathon in 2012.  Coming back towards my family and I'm still full of energy.  Smiling and enjoying the day unfold.  Running back into town is great as usual.  Everyone is on the street cheering you on, it is such a sight.  There was nice overcast most of the time so far and heading up Palani to the Queen K has a monster crowd.  Making the turn and downhill and I was thinking my goal of 3:15 was in reach!

The Queen K has a tendency to bury you.  It's such a long stretch of road with nearly no end in sight.  With the sun coming out, and the heat rising, this was a bad place for me.  The energy just left me at this point.  Pace started to slow and everything turned south.

The biggest part of a race is that you know what you are racing for.  In the past it was completing my journey to lose weight and regain my health.  My last race here was about pushing as hard as I could, but injury didn't let that happen.  This time with so many other great things happening in my life, there really wasn't anything I was out to prove.  It's amazing how having that drive in your head can help you train and push your body to new limits.  That spark in my head just wasn't there for this race.  I knew it going in, but was somewhat ignorant to that fact.  Fitness and drive can take you to great places, my place was just to finish and be happy.

Grinding out the final ten miles was a chore.  Heading into the Energy Lab and I was beat.  Luckily its downhill first, unluckily it uphill out.  Down to the turnaround I see an old competitor from a duel at the end of the Pittsburgh Triathlon a few years ago.  It is one of my favorite tri experiences, chasing down people on the run in that race.  I got within 10 feet of him that day and we pretty much sprinted the final mile in.  He kept up the pace though and held me off.  He has had a great year this year on his run to Kona and it was great to see him.  I let off "don't let me catch you" as I saw him going the other way.  There was no chance of a heated finish this day though.  Heading back was a chore to say the least.  Trudging out of the lab took a big toll.  Walking aid stations, but still smiling at everyone trying to urge me along.  I can't believe how the volunteers are out there all day and still love to be there.  Turning back to the Queen K and I know its about an hour home!

About a mile back I see my Dad.  He rode out to cheer me on and make sure I was doing OK.  He know it was a rough day, but we always have the right things to say to each other.  He loves to see everyone out doing what they love, and if he can help anyone and be a part of it, that has become his purpose.  Putting some work in and my spirits lift for a mile then back to grinding.  My favorite aid station of the day came up and they are playing this goofy song "What does the fox say!" and it makes me run faster for a mile.  It was a fun mile though it nearly had my hamstrings seizing up!

The last miles are always a blur.  Trying to hold things together and make it in.  The final turn down Ali'i and into the shoot the family is back to see me in.  It was a rough day out there and emotions start to get me.  This is the last time for a while I'll be here and I know my family, especially my wife have all done so much for me to chase triathlon dreams.  I just hope there is something I can do to repay all the love they put my way.

Taking my time down the finish shoot and enjoying the crowd.  Crossing the line and the relief was amazing.  Done and done.  The last time doing that for a while!  It has been a great, but long eight years of my life that probably took over much of it for a good period.  Its time to mellow out for a few years and do some normal life things like have a baby, lol.  Not closing a door on Ironman, but a well deserved break.  You'll see me soon enough taking on the stroller division in a few road races next summer, and of course I have the Miller Family Florida Ironman next November, but that will really be for fun and cheering the next future Miller Ironmen, Ashley and Mom!

Aloha from Kona!

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