"I like you. I'll gladly sit down and have dinner with you after the race. But when the gun goes off, I pretty much hate you, and I want to stomp your guts out. That's racing." -J Rapp

"the best night of my life.....
...in the most beautiful place on earth"

"It's just one, long, tedious conversation with yourself" -Paula Newby Fraser

"Have faith- trust in the plan - the breakthrough will come. I promise. " Woo

"You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” -Mark Allen

“The only time you can be brave is when you’re afraid.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ironman Arizona 2011 Prep...mojo in full effect

24 days to another installment of Ironman Racing for me...and I couldn't feel more ready.  With Kona behind us, I never lost sight of IMAZ 2011 in the run up to Kona...maybe because it is a hometown race, maybe because I had a good experience last year...who knows.  I think this race gives me the best chance at performing my best---sleep in my own bed, eat in my own kitchen, no planes, no bike logistics to deal with...the list goes on.  There is a bit of uncertainty in my mind (unwarranted I keep telling myself) that I will never have such a smooth day as I had at IMAZ 2010---if they were all that way, I would say I am one of the luckiest triathletes out there, but the sport would not be as rewarding.  Simply it's a lot like life can be: what do you do when your body/someone else tells you "NO,"  those are the moments/experiences where I think we tend to be the most alive.  Going in to this race, I know I am much fitter, faster, and more "veteran-ized" this time around, but that invites curve balls to be thrown my way for me to work through this time around.  The cramps in Kona on the run were the challenge there, and I have to say the cramps won--enough so to say if that was a qualifying race, I would not have qualified.  The mental junkie that I am, I think that was a good thing to have happen.   I think I would be too relaxed going into IMAZ if the day in Kona was uneventful...but I do have this "you're only as good as your last race" thing in my head...9:59 is good, but again, not for qualifying...yup, just looked, that would have put me 16th in 2010.  The concern is good to have...and I'm keeping the gas pedal floored.  Odd thing about being more fit...it tends to hurt more as you expect your body to go faster and further, for longer periods of time.  You simply don't have an easier time going faster...it tends to hurt more.  Prime example is in my goals for IMAZ this year:   59 minute swim last year?  This year, 56 is acceptable, and will hurt more.  5:02 bike last year?  4:55 I will accept as good progress (conditions permitting).  I'll stop before I bring up the run...0:56 + 4:55 = 5:51...add in transitions (4:31 + 2:52 = 0:07:23, then trim by 1:00 by putting some giddy up into T1 and T2), and I am sitting right at 5:57:23 to start the run.  If I run the same...finish time is 9:17:23ish.  IF, though, I go for it, what am I shooting for?  3:10 marathon = 9:07ish....so there's a good number, and now is my goal for IMAZ 2011 (I can't believe I am putting this out there).  Doable? Yes.  Hard? Extremely. Will it hurt?  A ton.  Chance in my mind of hitting it: 25%  Reason for not hitting it?  Pain yes, nutrition problems, also a likely thorn...other curveballs exist, but that's the game within the game.  I have a "pipe dream" of hitting 9:00...perfect conditions, perfect nutrition, a huge mental game to deal with the pain that comes with trying to go that fast.  And you know that if I am within reach of it, I'll be clawing.

Still can't believe that I am putting this out there...but I think it has to do with keeping myself accountable.  It's easy after the race to say "it was a good day" when you simply look at the numbers without putting out there what you think you can do--- I guess I am an open book when it comes to goals and IM racing.  In then end, racing for me is all about going to battle with myself...having a clock to record the outcome, a course to complete, rules to follow, aid to eliminate stopping, and an event on a certain day to allow for the "measuring" of "fitness."  Wow, I think I am turning into some sort of yogi ;-)  Joking aside, I am noticing that this sport is changing the way I look at a lot of things---results are great to work towards achieving, but why stop at qualifying in this case?  Why not go for finding what you can do...leave nothing, take everything, and just go for it.  The risk of failure I guess is why.  "Tin Cup"...why not lay up and take the EZ win versus going for the green on a almost impossible shot?  There are those who "lay up" and those who "go for the green," we know where I fall ;-)

So that's all a bit of hogwash ;-)  But it's how I am approaching IMAZ...the fire is lit, and I have the drive to go out there again and lay it on the line, and I don't think I am taking it for granted (which is a big worry of mine...this is "just" IMAZ...this is a huge race!).   If I could have just one goal this race, it will be to run well--so time to expand on that...  I feel like this entire year my run has oddly let me down a bit....every 70.3 and IM I have given in to the pain a bit more than I wanted to.  So my goal on the run is one of Chris' mantra's "Find It, Hold It, Push It, Survive It" (or something like that).   I think the fear of hitting the wall always creeps in there, but only on the run for some reason.  There's nothing like running the first half of a marathon in sub 1:30, then running the second half in 2:00 (which I have done).  The finishing time, 3:28 is a decent number (years ago), but looking at how I got there shows the failure.  I have that on my mind whenever I think about the IM run, and I've heard many more stories about this happening to people than hearing otherwise.  I guess the answer is stick to the physiology of Heart Rate Zones and stay on top of nutrition...that is your best bet!  Hitting the aid stations and fueling up on a Gel + Water at one, then alternating with Perform Drink at the next will be my nutrition plan again.  Throw in some No Doze (thanks Carlos for the tip!), and I just have to keep the Heart Rate steady at the top of zone 2, and be prepared to go for zone 3 as the marathon wears on---pain! The more I write, the more I end up looking at the swim and the bike as "they are what they are."  Bike: plug in the wattage and just keep in close contact to that number.  I'm curious if Chris will "up" this target a bit in response to me really wanting to push my limits.  I think if I it is up, and ends up being a bit too much, I can still fall back on a "decent" run and finish well...which brings up ANOTHER question.  If I am sitting in 4th place in my Age Group, and know I just need to trot in, will I dig in and still leave it all out there when that actual moment comes?  I am hoping I will dig, but every muscle in my body will be saying---coast it!  That is the battle...but such a good battle to have with yourself!

Anyways, more pyscho babble from me here..nothing new.  Oh, and Chris, if you waste any of your time reading this..yes, I think WAY to much...can't help it, but I can't ever rest.  Ants in the pants!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Diarrhea of the Mental Game---My Version

I came across this statement in a Lava Magazine article this morning, and while the article itself sparked my interest (I am a mental focus junkie come race time...), "conquering the mental" is just as important as swim, bike, run, nutrition...

"Competition in and of itself can be daunting. You avail yourself to comparisons with others in a confined set of rules. Your abilities, be they strong or weak, are put forth for judgment. This can be a tremendous undertaking for the human ego. How an athlete perceives the environment of the competition, and how it makes them feel is fundamental to mental fitness. Those with strong mental fitness can adapt to any setting, and either take full advantage of it or, at the very least, be completely unaffected."   (Lava Magazine, "Mental Fitness," 9/21/2011) (don't question my bibliography skills, they always sucked...).

The mental game is huge but I've never really looked at triathlon in this way, which is why I posted this.  For me it has always been a mental battle within myself--what I can do to succeed and reach that finish line as fast as I can, period.  Racing, especially over the past year, has not been about winning, trying to win, or all the same, losing.  Yeah, it is fun to go fast and faster than "almost" everyone else, and I'm sure there have been a few times this year when, if the situation arose, that I wouldn't have dug deep to keep a position in a race...but I think the comparison to others, and the "ego issues" just don't enter the mental side of racing for me.  I follow pro triathlete blogs, and the one thing I have noticed a lot, is that they are mental studs...using songs, quotes, experiences, even having "folders" (Macca) that they draw upon at every turn of the race course.  I tend to use family, songs, and am developing a bit of a folder system to keep it organized in my wacky head.  Family is definitely the focus for me though.  After watching SOMA 70.3 with Jenny, Sophia, and Andrew (well, he slept ;-), I found out that, while it can be very boring to watch a triathlon, that my family is more amazing than I thought. When we woke up and I asked Sophia if she wanted to go watch a race, the first thing out of this little 3 year old was "are you racing papa?"  When I told her I wasn't, she wouldn't take "I'm not" for an answer, which really told me how big of an effect "her papa" racing has on her at 3 years old.  All the more reason to want to get back to Kona (= most exciting race event to watch anywhere!) so she can "watch papa."  The same goes for Jenny...after I put her through the ringer on saturday with all sorts of things, she was chipper for going, and we made a day of it, and get to see our brother in law Scott beat himself silly at SOMA while we were there.  We had a great day, and it was nice to "spectate" while my ONE teammates clinched the Team Championships as well.  So, if you can't tell, racing for me is to hear their cheers, see their faces, make them proud, and make all those hours away mean something...so, find out why you really race, and I imagine your performance will improve just by having a purpose---it works amazingly well for me and it IS my mental game.

A little off topic, but this past weekend I rode with a AIMP'er who came down to check out the IMAZ course, Joel Garza...and oddly enough, I was thinking about the following while riding.  For as long as I can remember, I've never been a good athlete when it comes "practicing."  Back in the heyday playing soccer and baseball, I always remember not really excelling on the practice field, which ultimately ended my baseball "career" after a week of tryouts at UC Davis.  I remember it vividly...how was this 5 foot nothing, 170 nothing going to compete for a spot on the team when I am rotating in at first base with 7 guys who were all 6 foot something, 200 something...I mentally checked out of baseball inside of the first day. BUT, that end brought on the beginning of running for me, which led to Triathlon in 1995.

That is the great thing about triathlon (for me)...there is no set "advantage" that I feel someone else has over another athlete, unless you are at the extremes (well, maybe this is my way at getting back at those 6 foot something, 200 lb something guys standing on first base...)  But, let's face it, your body in this sport is your weapon---I am 5'11" 165  lbs...I'm 10 pounds lighter than I was when i was cranking along in triathlon in the late 90's.  So, in the same breath, I guess I could say I found a sport that fits my build.  So, mental victory number one...you may be faster and have more talent, but we are both driving sports cars ;-) 

When it comes to training for triathlon, I kind of feel that I don't have much to show when practicing/training.  I feel I'm super steady, but I'm not the guy attacking on the bike (at all), swimming sub 1:20 in the pool (except for anaerobic intervals), and killing the run.  Everyone else can have those victories in training...it's not important to me, and actually is working against you if that is how you approach every workout.  I have recognized that IM training/racing is all about building an aerobic diesel engine.  If the goal was to simply get faster, then intervals would be the choice, but they would serve relatively little improvement for someone like me for IM training.  I am always thinking "build a huge aerobic platform" that allows me to train long, recover, and stay healthy.  When the short races come, Chris throws in some nasty intervals to get the speed going, but mostly, we focus on that platform of what IM racing is all about.  I feel like I have so much to "fall back on," so many "layers of endurance."  Mentally, I use this "platform idea" to my advantage, and has become one of my biggest "You Got This" supporters.  I think that is why IM racing becomes a lifestyle for those that are really into it...it's not just getting ready for a race, it's living it.  While that heads off that mental topic, nutrition day to day, taking care of your engine optimally, resting/recovering, offseason training all play into the mental game.  to quote Chris again (even though i am competing with myself...mostly ;-)  "What is your competition doing in the offseason??"  When it comes to qualifying for IM, your competition for that coveted qualifying spot is NOT taking it easy from here until 12 weeks before your first race in the spring.  They are base training, working on their mechanics (stroke, pedaling efficiency, running gait) to be as efficient as possible when the season arrives.  I've said this a ton (directed at Joel Gerber ;-) "every saturday is not race day."  I guess my point is: stick to your plan...nobody gets an award for winning that climb on the Saturday morning ride. 

I also hear a lot of triathletes say they need "offseason" to re-ignite the fire.  I don't get it!  You mean lose that base, then pick up and "get back to even" when the season starts?  Then you enter a race and that guy that you owned is now beating you?  It wasn't anything more than the offseason "break" catching up to you and making you pay for it.  I'm not saying you have to do 4-5 hour rides; 3 hour rides are plenty, 1 to 1.5 hour runs are more than enough, and of course keeping the feel in the water and stroke mechanics are huge.  Offseason running, I know, is not fun when it's freezing out, but remember, especially if you live in AZ with me; most triathletes are snow shoeing this time of year!  I guess what I am saying is ...check with yourself why you do triathlon (of course I am talking to those on the bubble versus those of you that do triathlon for fun/social and those that are "so type-A" like me ;-)  

If you haven't read Macca's book "I'm Here to Win,"  read it.  He dives into himself, as well as his competition, and what he has noticed and how he has used that information to his advantage.  His term, "mental milkshake," is definitely overused in my vocabulary nowadays.  His is a master mental edge junkie---"kill or be killed!"

So...a little diarrhea of the mind in this diary entry...I've been wanting to post something like this for a while...focus on your mental game!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Post Kona...looking back...

What if the winds were like this on Race Day ;-)

After 9 days of reflection, recovery, down time thoroughly enjoyed with Jenny, Sophia, and Andrew, I'm happy to not be feeling the "Post Kona Blues" that I have heard about.  I'm sure I would have them if I didn't have IMAZ coming up, but all in all the experience was amazing and I will take that through the rest of my life as one of the most fulfilling events in my life.   As a Kona rookie, and with it being only my second Ironman, I can "accept" the result  9:59:43 "as a good time."  I can only imagine it if had been 18 seconds longer---I think those 18 seconds (for me, which I will explain in a second!) were the difference between some success and failure.  I'm not being an arse, but I put A LOT into this race---100% dedicated, found purpose in every workout, and felt perfect going in.  I had a few goals in mind for the day, and the "easiest goal" was under 10...other than finishing.  Hearing that it was a "near-perfect" day, it couldn't have been set up any better for reaching my "more challenging" goals of 9:40 or even lower.  Yeah, I learned a tremendous amount about racing not only in Kona, but racing IM distance at this race.  My resume is one result...IMAZ 9:28..that's it.  It was a near perfect day there as well (at least in my mind it was---rain, sleet, gusty wind and all), and I never had those "downs" that you hear of.  I was all smiles, and just cruised..all day.  I had no expectations going into IMAZ, but came out with a Kona spot and felt like I was on to something...that I had found my favorite triathlon distance in Ironman Racing.  So that is my very short resume of IM racing.

In Kona, they don't award you your "place" by the amount or quality of your training...so for me to say (in a dopey voice), uh I trained "X" so my result should be "X" is naive if not completely ridiculous.  Anyways, this follow up post was brought on by reading TONS of other race reports from Kona this year...all of which were written by athletes far superior to me, and also those I learn the most from...two in particular are Chris Hauth Race Report and Leanda Cave's Race Report.  Chris and I had very similar days, although I went in to the day feeling perfect versus he who felt overtrained a bit.  We both had the "intercostal" cramps big time, and while his goal was an Age Group podium or better, we both had loftier goals in terms of finishing time as it related to the conditions AND our issues.    His RR prompted this entry...and mainly this line " accept mediocre results and quickly your success in athletics becomes a boring string of average results." That sums up my life in sports---except the definition of mediocrity is a subjective term (Divine Discontent).  While Chris is percolating over a 9:26ish finish, I am somewhat doing the same over a 9:59.  I know, this is my first Kona, I did enjoy it, my swim was good and learned a lot to get faster there(simply by a different start strategy) but if you told me I would swim a 1:03 pre-race, I'd be happy; my bike was okay and I know what I can do there as well (get those watts up, focus on nutrition---both a bigger breakfast and more calories, especially after mile 75), and just like the swim, if you said I'd ride a 5:07 I'd be ecstatic.  BUT, it's this run that I am a bit hung up on...I stopped racing at mile 2 and started surviving.  It was not my lack of training, giving up, not necessarily my nutrition to blame, it was just a thing that happens when you put yourself into ultra-endurance events...it's what makes IM a game.  Who knows, what if I never cramped up, but continued to push the pace, blowing up when I hit the Queen K, THEN walking for 16 miles like I saw a few athletes do---at least I chalked up my losses and put them behind me as I left Ali'i...I guess.  This is what makes this all so addicting (yeah I said it...).   

Could I be a "One and Done" Konite?  I hope not...and that is what has me feeling the buzz for IMAZ 2011.  I'll have my NO-DOZE in hand, because I hear I am gonna need it just to stay awake in the late hours of the race ;-}

So I guess what I am saying is I am not unhappy with my finish or time, but wishing I just got to race the entire race with the fitness I had going in....race the entire race!  I could say I finished strong and passed a ton of people, but I could also say I passed a bunch of people who had passed me earlier in the run, and a 3:41 marathon was doable even if I would have left it all out on the bike course instead of riding correctly to be able to run the run I knew I could do, only to then lose that advantage with cramping issues.  Okay, done now...I am moving on from talking about "them."  Sorry for the rant and my need to post more on the subject, but I know I will read this post hopefully in 11 months in prep for Kona 2012...we can hope and dream, and it worked once, so why not again?  The definition of sanity is to do something the same way and get the same results...I think ;-)  

No matter the conditions on any given day, I just want to see what happens on a day where my fitness is truly tested...where my quads scream for me to stop, where there may be blood oozing from my shoes.  I think until I hit that kind of day, I will feel that I have not found that "inner core" of what I am made of, and what drives me to race the Ironman distance.

Here's my notes for the Kona's of the future:

Pre-Race:  get there Monday or Tuesday and stay after longer
Pre-Race Food: plan dinner the night before and pre-race breakfast A LOT better...being away from home affects you more than you think!  Ultragen---get lots of it!
Swim:  start in the front row unless my swim training has been less than adequate, and don't start on the inside unless I can beat the rush to the inside from the outside swimmers.  Some say start in front of the floating car, and go hard the first 200-400 yards, just gotta train for that.
T1: put your shoes on the pedals!  Flying mount!
Bike:  Nutrition/Hydration....construct a more solid plan and stick to it.  Always have calories on board, lots of them
Bike:  Don't be afraid to push the pain!  Keep the watts up, but of course you need the fuel on board to do that.
Ali'i Run:  take advantage of how I feel, but hold back plenty to make sure the body is in check off the bike, then start building into pace, knowing that you are going to push the pace on the Queen K and pass everyone you can coming back...as long as you haven't killed urself on the Ali'i section, this should be doable.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Kona Ironman Race Report...Got 'er Done!

Showing up late to the party, I've read quite a few race reports already from Kona...and I wish I could write one that was more nuts and bolts, without the "issues" I come across in almost every race.  Maybe I am just so Type-A that I discriminate every little detail, or maybe I just suck at decision making, race planning, and the likes.  Whatever it is, I try to tell a story that lets others learn from my discoveries...keep that in mind as you read this.   I am 100% happy with my result to start with--but that darn "Divine Discontent" always sneaks up on me---I think if I was 18 seconds slower I would not be saying I was 100% happy, and at the same time, I know my times are only important to me; but they are what drives me to keep pushing, keep training, and keep breaking through new levels of fitness in my training.   I learned so much about the race course once I was on there...I think I could write a much better plan for the next time, if there is one...I think just a smarter approach to all 3 legs would make a huge difference---but like I said, for the first time in Kona, I was ecstatic to go sub 10---I'm going for a IM resume without a 10 hour race on there---so to the IM Gods, please don't humble me any time soon ;-)  So with that out there, welcome to my diabolical diarrhea of a diary Kona Race Report:

Pre Race:  I arrived in Kona on Thursday, September 29...a mere 11 days after the birth of our first son Andrew.  To say leaving home was hard is the understatement of the year.  Jenny, Sophia, and Andrew dropped me off curbside, and I felt like we were in one of those movies where the "man" is leaving his girl to go off to war, not knowing if he is going to be coming home alive.  There were a lot of tears shed immediately by all of us (well, not Andrew..), and the race was the last thing on my mind.  I held it together, arrived in Kona to a warm welcome from my mom, and got organized in our huge house "Komohana" which was situated perfectly out of the way of the mayhem that was to arrive down on Ali'i over the next week.  The first few calls/Facetime's home were disastrous, and Jenny and I almost felt that communication was worse than no communication---it just reminded us of how long and how far away I was from them during this delicate time in our lives.  Thoughts of last minute ticket purchases were brought up, but we stuck it out, and things actually settled in and Sophia understood a little bit at least that papa would one day return home.  I don't know how our Armed Forces do it---leaving their families for months if not years at a time with no knowledge of when they will re-unite again...ugh, awful!!

Okay, so that paints the picture of what was on my mind early in the week, but I managed to settle in well...good foods from local markets, good training sessions, legs really started to wake up around wednesday before the race, and I was getting comfortable with the South Swell that was rumbling the swim course and the winds that we would face on the bike.  I did very little running by design, and as race day approached, I could not wait to race.  Doug Thralls did some amazing bodywork on me on two occasions, really freeing up my "always" tight hip rotation...I was zinging Thursday, and worked my best to save that energy for race morning.  Maybe I peaked a bit early, but some bike intervals on thursday kept me feeling "zingy" to race morning.  A quick swim friday morning felt awesome---I felt like I was flying through the water.  So going in to race day, again Chris had me feeling perfect...now it was up to me to execute the plan.  I managed to get a lot of rest going into the race, staying away from the commotion down on the race course and at the Expo.  Dinner friday night consisted of A LOT of brown rice, a Lentil Soup concoction, Ezekial bread, Nut Butter, Quinou.  All good carbs, some protein, and almost no gluten.  I also was on the water all day, and added in EFS after lunch as my "electrolyte loading beverage."   I was in bed early, as the 12 "other" occupants of the house avoided me knowing that I wanted to be alone (thank you all, I was in race mode!).  I ended up watching ""The Last Lecture"  by Randy Pausch on YouTube, and I carried the key points into my race---brick walls (they are there to separate those who really want something versus those that just "say" they want something), the reason behind his decision to do the lecture (his kids)...they all were invaluable tools for the race for me.  Randy died of pancreatic cancer shortly after this lecture...but you would never guess that he was terminally ill with cancer...he was more alive than 99% of the people on this planet...no "poor me," no "why me,"  he was an amazing person.  I didn't finish the video that night, but when I woke up at 3:30am race morning, I finished it...and I was full of Randy Puasch-isms---nothing was going to get in my way on this day.

Breakfast was surprising small, as I had a hard time getting my breakfast down probably due to the amount of food I ate the night before (I ate dinner at 4:30pm by design).  2 servings of oatmeal, half a bagel with nut butter was all I could muster, and I made a mental note there:  this is NOT enough.  It may have played into the race a few times, as I would have liked to get in twice as much as I did.  My family was up with me, and there was a good feeling in the kitchen having them all with me---it was not the norm for me to have so many people there to "sherpa" for me (thanks Jordan again for the use of the term---it's so fitting).
4:30 am Race Day..My Sherpas all in Orange!
The short drive down was uneventful, parking was easy, and I was off to get numbered up and fine tune my bike and nutrition for the day ahead.  iPod started, the first song was a GREAT sign Eminem's "'Till I Collapse"...my engine was revving.  The number guy was a guy I met at the awards banquet at IMAZ, Eric...another good sign.  Then I ran into Yi---always good to run into her!  Off to transition to attend to tires, bottles, and the likes---then it was time to chill.  I made my way to the King Kam Hotel Pool, and by luck, I found a lounge chair to rest one last time on.  After gathering myself, sending some texts and Facebook posts, I started to well up...I was here, I was ready, and I was going to make a dream come true.  Then things got "really real."  I sat up looked around, and realized I was surrounded by the Gods of Triathlon.  Crowie, Lieto, Wellington, Twelsik, Cave, Abel, Van Lierde, Mackenzie, Carfrae...you name it, they were poolside going through their routines.  I fed off of this...but I ended up not watching the Pro start at all--I had my own race to deal with.  Bathroom trips done ;-), final prep done, TYR Torque Pro suit on, TYR Nest Pro Goggles and race cap on, and before I new it, I was treading water on an inside line close to the pier wall....I was there early, but I had a spot in mind, and the treading was a nice warmup regardless.  The Hawaiian Drum lead in to the race was electric---I thought the IMAZ start was amazing...well, this one put that to shame.  The setup of the swim start in Kona is the coolest...you have the Pier on one side, the Finish "stage" behind you, and a long wall on the left side...loaded with 1,000's of cheering spectators...it has almost a "Super Bowl" feeling with the Pre-Race chants and anthems...and of course the best sports announcer around (Mike Reilly!).
Electric Swim Start
Swim:  1:03:38   415th overall but 77th in my Age Group
I decided to line up on the inside, but not right on the pier as I knew I would get pummeled not only by the swimmers, but by the kayaks and surfboards that "hold the line" along the buoys.

First Mistake that I would change for next time:  I decided to be in the "third/fourth row"---I'll spell out why in a second, but I should have gone for the front row---being a first timer, I was conservative, but now I know that I belong in the front row.  The canon was to my immediate right, and I watched the canonizer intently as I figured there would be no warning to the start.  BAM..let the mayhem begin...

The start was not as bad as I expected, but I expected the worst.  I learned to NEVER stop swimming freestyle, that the head up drill is invaluable, and to fight for it.   Immdeiately, I was pushed to the buoy line and the line of boards and kayaks but the 1700+ swimmers to the left of me, so I was not only fighting other swimmers (all of whom seemed so slow!), but also these things with sharp fins on them (luckily no interactions with them).  And the early "crawl" was so slow!  It seemed like a lot of slow swimmers mis-seeded themselves, I think the opening 500 yards must have been at 2:00 pace, ugh.  Had I started a bit more in the middle, and in the front row, I would have sailed with the faster swimmers.  Approaching buoys was the worst, as the line from buoy to buoy was not maintained by the kayaks and boards, so it created a "crunch" at the buoys, and they wouldn't let anyone swim inside of them.  I fought hard on the first two, but developed a new strategy that was brilliant (if I say so myself...).  As I approached the next buoy, I was 5 feet inside of the buoy, and I was gonna have to hammer someone to get around the buoy.  Instead, I went submarine style...swimming about 10 yards under 2 kayaks, the buoy, and coming out the other side in undisturbed water---AWESOME!  If you were near me, you would have heard my excitement underwater ;-) The rest of the way out opened up a bit, but I couldn't figure out how so many people got in front of me off the start position I had.  I swam though group after group, sighting open water lanes and "intervalling" into them to catch the next group.  I felt great, under control, but flustered as I knew I was wasting energy with all of the maneuvering.  At the first turn, I glanced at my watch---30:00 on the dot.  With all of the extra "work" to get there, I was happy that I hadn't lost too much time in the process, but now we were turning back into the swell, and thus, slower swimming.  I rounded the second buoy at the turn, and headed home.  It finally opened up, and I started to take in this beautiful swim course.  You could see everyone around you against a brilliant blue background.  I grabbed a set of feet here and there, but continued working my way through swimmers.  With 300 to go, I settled in on some feet again to rest a bit, watched the coral reef get shallower and shallower, felt my hand hit the sand, and popped up---thinking, what's my time!!  1:03...happy with the time, but with all the commotion, I knew I could do better...next time ;-) I say this because I never felt like I exerted myself on the swim, I never got to really stretch it out and swim until about 2500 yards into the swim...

T1:  3:50

Up the stairs you dream about running up, through the hoses you also dream about going through (I was craving a quick mouthful of fresh water), I grabbed my swim to bike bag, into the tent, packed with athletes..ugh---again thought about how the starting position decision did NOT pay off.  Changed methodically to make sure I had all the goods for the bike, and was off, running all the way around the dock to finally arrive at my bike (threw down a Gel in the process...).  Hit the mount line, jumped on, and spun away.

Bike:  5:07:20  376th overall but 8th in my age group--tough age group!!
I heeded the advice of Bryan Dunn, stud triathlete, for my bike setup and some course knowledge.  I established a plan to settle in on the "trip" through town which was crowded and a bit technical from time to time.  Threw down another gel, and kicked into my nutrition plan of 300+ cals/hr based on how I felt, plus as much water as I could handle.  I actually sighted my family in the Hot Corner, buzzed on up Palani to the Queen K, and started the crusade to Hawi...in a long single file line of cyclists that stretched on down the road into the distance.  So many people say there is rampant drafting in this race, but kudos to the race officials, who were everywhere.  Stop watches timing passes, watching for blocks, and breaking up the occasional "pile" of riders that happens when you stick that many high caliber racers on the same course.  There was an Official every 1/2 mile, buzzing up and down the line watching for obvious offenders and handing out red or yellow cards, and writing numbers of those who were "close" to heeding a penalty for future reference.  We quickly learned what a "safe" gap was.  The closest I came to any attention was when an Official took her hands and said with them "give it a "little" more room."  The conditions for the day seemed to be less than what I had prepared for...the climb to Hawi was of course straight into a headwind.  Hit the turnaround, grabbed my Special Needs Bag, and conveniently dropped the contents...no biggie, and young boy picked em up, and I was on my way.  On the way out I had put down 800 cals in the form of 1 EFS Liquid Shot, and 2 bottles of EFS (2 scoops each, 1 with a full scoop of Pre Race).  My needs bag had another EFS Liquid Shot, 2 more bottles of EFS set up the same way, a pack of Honey Stingers, and a Salty Sweet Bar.  I nixed the non-pre-race bottle and the Salty Sweet Bar---Mistake #2!  After the drop and the stop, I hammered the return from Hawi section, spinning out of my 53 x 11 at 95 rpms.  At this point, I was riding with a group of very respected triathletes, including Troy Jacobson.   I studied his moves as he backed off a bit coming down from Hawi, and was curious why.  I found out when we reached the Queen K, as he and the other 5 guys I was in contact with left me for the wolves ;-).  I settled into my wattage goal, and just put my head in an aero position (meaning: down!) and rode the never ending road back towards Kona.  The bike spacing had definitely opened up, and as I was approaching the Waikaloa area I saw a familiar face in the Penalty Tent..and said "THAT'S BULLSHIT" loud and clear---it was Rich Blanco who had passed me with the most authority on the bike course--how the hell was he drafting someone when he clearly was riding at a different level than anyone else?   I started looking at race numbers, and I noticed that more numbers had marks on them than didn't---the Officials were making a statement I think on this day.  I hit a bit of a lull, due to a lack of calories (stemming from that small breakie, and leaving that food in my Needs Bag of course!), so from mile 80 to about mile 87 I started to conserve energy (meaning: back off the pedal pressure).   I hit an aid station, hit the gels and Perform, and recovered, but I think I was in the hole now...shit.  As I approached Kona, I got to take in a bit of the Men's Pro race...Crowie had distanced himself on the Queen K on his way to the Energy Lab--it was in the bag.  I found myself sitting up and watching versus racing--oh well, this was a WC, and I was on the same course with the Elite of the Elite, and I was "taking the experience in" as Bryan told me to do ;-).  I pulled my feet out of the shoes, did the old flying dismount, and was off into T2, so happy with my bike split!  I was estimating 5:15, and all depended on the conditions of course, but with a 203W average, my coaches response after the race:  "also - 5:06 / 203??  THIS file I need to see!  great!!!"  So I guess I pulled something out of my arse ;-)

Gear wise, the Storck was amazing as it always is...I feel blessed to be riding such a nice, fast bike, with the Di2, the SRM...all was great there.  I would also highly recommend a helmet with a front shield---I used the ONE Elite LG Superleggara...I will never race without a shield again, and the visibility is twice that of wearing sunglasses (I can look out of the top of my eyes with a full view versus being limited by the frame of the glasses---FYI.  Di2---game changer.  DMT shoes were perfect again as well--no hot spots at all, no socks, just a very good pair of cycling shoes!

T2:  3:24
Again made the trek around the perimeter of the pier, grabbed my bike to run bag, into the tent, Castelli socks on, Orange Nike Lunarracers on, EFS Liquid Shot in hand, Visor and glasses on, and off to the run I go.
JD and Lisa working...looks like they were having fun!
Run:  3:41:36
So, let me show you the splits first, then I'll explain this disaster that came out okay in the end!  Something is "off" when I run 9 miles faster than 7 miles---ugh!  So hard to look at those splits, but "it is what it is" when cramps force you to stop racing. 

Split NameDistanceSplit TimeRace TimePaceDiv. RankOverall RankGender Rank
5 mi5 mi42:207:00:328:28/mi
10.2 middd5.2 mi47:497:48:219:11/mi
17.2 mi7 mi1:06:438:55:049:31/mi
26.2 mi9 mi1:04:449:59:487:11/mi
Total26.2 mi3:41:369:59:488:27/mi115459431

Well, I looked good here...
So the first thing I have to mention is I went against what I ALWAYS do...I went without an HRM all day.  I simply had a Timex watch that had my overall time on it versus the full Garmin setup giving me lots (meaning: too much!) information for me to play mind games with.  I immediately found my legs out of T2, as if I hadn't ridden at all---AWESOME.  I was running with 2 other guys, and we were picking people off right and left...I was a happy kid in summer camp and ready to crush this thing--swim and bike were both practically perfect, and had me right on my "best case" projections.  When you hit Ali'i Drive to start the 5 mile out and back, things get REAL, really REAL.  On the bike there was of course always a breeze/wind, but Ali'i was stale, hot, and felt like a swamp.  I was still feeling great though, saw my cheering squad in their awesome orange shirts in front of Humpys...they were right where I needed them!  I left them, and POW, ribcage (intercostal) muscle cramps..straight to a 10 out of 10 in pain.  We still hadn't hit the first aid station (am still curious why there isn't one at mile one??).  I was buckling---and digging for the first aid station..it seemed to never come!  I eventually got there, and immediately went into emergency mode...how do I get rid of this?  The answer was probably right there in my hand (the EFS Liquid Shot), but I couldn't muster a swig of that hot gel.  Instead I tried Coke--of course the wrong thing!  I was walking out of this aid station still buckled in pain as Chris approaches on his way back into town, shaking his head---my heart sank, as I knew he was disappointed to see me give in.  I kept my mind focused though, thinking this will pass, and when it does, you need to RUN! This section forced me to stop racing, and start surviving the race---I didn't train to have it go this way, but there was nothing I could do when I hobbled between aid stations as I tried to find a solution.  Finally, at about mile 7, things started to turn as I went to orange slices and Perform---lots of it.  Between aid stations I was getting better, but was still limited in speed fearing they would come back with a vengeance.  I made it back to my crew, and John gave me a much needed pep talk...
but not here on the Ali'i return...John's pep talk...
I walked a bit after, mumbling nonsense to myself and told myself to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back into this thing---but the damage had been done.  I went from my "perfect day" target to geez, I may finish in 11 hours....ugh, NOT a feeling I had imagined going into this race feeling as good as I did physically and mentally, but I didn't let it crack me.  Chris has told me many times that you can recover from a "bad patch" and to just work with it, trouble shoot it, and come out of it stronger than ever.  After making my way up to Palani, I was welcomed by this guy with his young daughter on his shoulders---RUSS BRANDT!  He was saying everything I needed to hear, and along with what John had said to me 5 minutes earlier, I hit the Queen K, felt the breeze, and joined the race again.  Welcome back Mr. Svans, you are now in hunting mode---Chris, you are always right!  I "hit the proverbial RESET button" as Russ was screaming at me to do as he ran up Palani as I walked.  I took the momentum of running out and down " Mark and Dave Hill" to regain entry into the race.  The cramps were still there but tolerable, but I just kept on the orange slices and Perform, and they were gone by the time I hit the top of the Energy Lab.  Chris played a trick on me by saying the turnaround was another half mile into the Lab, so when I turned, I was all smiles.  I picked up my little note of motivation (the only thing in my Run Special Needs Bag...), and cycled through the names and quotes I had written on it...including "It's go time" and "put the women and children to bed and go hunting for dinner."  I was breaking down those walls that Randy Pausch mentioned, and was doing this for my kids...to get this done and to get "home"...as fast as I could put this chapter behind me as I could so I could move on to packing to go home to them.  Quite frankly, I think a lot is made of the Energy Lab stent, and  I agree 100% with what Bryan told me going in...it's really not the big deal that everyone makes it out to be.  Yes, the air is stale running up and out, but nothing compared to the Ali'i stretch, and you are now running back to "home."  Then there is the Ford Inspiration Sign with the notes from your cheering section. In my case, I asked my family if they could ask Jenny for something to put on there---I don't think my feet were touching the ground as I approached, so I would say the Sign worked wonders for me.  I hit the mat that triggers the sign, and glued my eyes to the digital sign..waiting, waiting, and then there it was...."You Got This Papa!"  So, I had lost it a few times before the race, but I had tears rolling down my cheeks and was almost uncontrollable with the sniffles---I just couldn't hold it back, and didn't want to.  Luckily I was alone through there, and that little note meant so much, they were right there in the middle of the war with me, cheering me on, feeding my positive reinforcement that I did in fact "HAVE THIS!"   I re-composed myself and was back on the Queen K, knowing that this section was tough, boring, and rolling.  None of that mattered...I became a man on a mission, and after a few checks of the watch, I had sub 10 back as attainable, but it was gonna take a huge effort.  By the time I reached Mark and Dave Hill, I was flying---I guess walking all that way on Ali'i saved my legs for this effort I was putting in, and I felt no effects of the 20+ miles I had already covered on the run.  I picked a guy way up ahead---about 40 people were between the two of us...he was my "goal catch."  As I reached the top of the hill to head down Palani, I was greeted by Russ again, and I told him he was my new best friend (well, he is "one" of my best friends now...don't worry Ponch and JD ;-)   That reset button was a charm to hit, and I ended up catching my "goal catch as I made the turn onto Kuakini Hwy, but now my goal was bigger, very specific, and very close...getting to the line sub 10.  I must have been running 6:30's from the bottom of Mark and Dave Hill to the final turn on Ali'i...I was on Holy Ground now, and there was no way I was going 10+, but I still had work to do.
on Holy Ground
There was one thing that was going to keep me from celebrating the final section with my family, and here I am trying to go sub 10 with seconds to spare as I approach my family---sorry family, I said screw it, and put out another surge to get me down the shoot, as I wasn't quite sure how far the finish line was...Mike Reilly was right on cue saying "these guys are fighting for sub 10 hours---give em all you got!"  I was fist pumping while sprinting with no one but me and that line..and a clock reading 9:59:43 as I crossed the line into a dream I have had 1,00's of times, watched on TV hundreds of times, and into my personal catchers:  My mom and sister Inta who's shift ended at 5 pm, and I was finishing at 4:59:43pm...PERFECT!  My dream of 15 years DONE!  My Bucket List contained one item, and this was it...maybe time to add some new targets on there.

Carlos Sue and I at Dinner Sunday night...Champions!
I felt so fortunate to share the course with so many athlete-friends of mine...we all kept each other going out there.  Carlos and Sue, you define Ironman for what you overcame on this day---a huge congrats to you for the perseverance you showed us all by reaching that finish line.  Dad, I have to say that hug on the beach after the race was the best father son moment of my life....I knew you knew how big of a deal this race was to me, and I am so glad you were there to see me "finish what I started" over 15 years ago.  Remember watching the race every year?  Well, watching it this December will hopefully bring on a whole new meaning.  And Mom, you have always been right there cheering me on, and of course it was no different this time--sometimes I even think you are more excited about races than I am!  to my sis's and bro, thanks for making it over to Kona; I know it was a challenge, but every one of you made it and made the trip that much more special...it has been way too long since we were all in the "same room" together...let's try to make it a more frequent occurrence (well, I am probably the guilty one here...).  And to JD and Cyndi..thanks for showing my family around when I was too busy being selfish---well, racing ;-)  You two continue to prove that you are very special friends, thanks for everything you are!

I think I made them proud parents on this day ;-)
Me and the Deans Post Race..Love em!

Jenny, simply, you are amazing.  I missed you more than I ever want to miss you...you have been behind me on this journey, putting up with the long hours, the nights with "no Papa" at home.  The calls after my failures, a crash...and you have been there unconditionally for me every step of the way.  I don't know what's next (or after IMAZ...), but I know you have given me much more than you have received, and I can't compete with your heart and unselfishness that you have exuded over the past 18 months....I feel like the luckiest man alive to have you as my wife.  You are my rock.
Calling Home...