Monday, October 20, 2008

THE BIG TIME


Mahalo to all my family and friends who followed me through this experience of the Ironman World Championships. From the moment the plane landed in Hawaii through the 10 days we spent on the big island, the warm people of Kona welcomed us and athletes from around the world joined me it what would be the experience of lifetime.

This would be the 30th anniversary Ironman Hawaii and it was hard not to get wrapped up in the energy and activities offered during race week. Regardless of all that is written about staying off your feet and resting for most of the week leading up to race day, I was not going to miss out on seeing what this place was all about. I had a pre race week training agenda that included getting in a couple ocean swims, an easy bike ride, and a few short runs. Swimming in the ocean was my biggest hang up going into this race and it was quickly erased as I found the water to be ultra clear and calming. Brian Rossi and Keith Adams both made the trip to Kona this year so we all took advantage of the demo bikes offered down at the expo. I rode a new Ridley Dean while they both rode Cervelo. Even the running shoe guys were offering up demos. I laced up a pair of Newtons, a pair of Zoots, and the new K-Swiss tri shoe. Mix that with a lot of pro watching and I had a great time leading up to race day.

Pre Race
The opening ceremony for the race was an incredible feeling. Three Navy Seals parachuted out of a C130 cargo plane into the water, where they stripped their gear, got body marked, and swam to the starting line. Hawaiian drums pounded in the background and the stage was being set for a perfect day. Tension began to thicken as the Hawaiian blessing was given and the national anthem was sung. Thousands of people lined the sea wall to watch the chaotic mass swim start of almost 1700 swimmers. I found NK Martin at the start and we focused in on the big day ahead.


Swim 2.4 miles
The pro start began at 6:45am, and then age groupers would get their chance to swim out and toe the line for this amazing race. I had no strategy for where to start. Most of the strong swimmers would line up in front or hug the pier and jockey for inside position. I decided to hang in the back, let the fast guys get out in front, then hope it would clear up a little. I thought closer to the pier would be a good spot, hoping this section of swimmers would pull ahead and I could follow with good inside position. Worked like a dream… until about 10-15 minutes into it. There was a good pack forming and clean water ahead. Then in an instant a shit-storm of people began moving toward the inside. Body surfing and head bobbing, I tried to move toward open water. Guys were grabbing and pulling. I seemed to be moving backwards and almost panicked. Instead, I fought my way toward the inside line along the buoys. Finally reaching clean and clear water, the 1.2 mile swim out to the turn around boat seemed to get a little choppy but nothing major.


I really felt good for the remainder of the swim and I just tried to soak up the atmosphere by watching the clear ocean water, a few fish here and there, awesome coast line, and splashing the stand up paddlers who were watching over the athletes. After awhile I felt the Point Zero Three Skinsuit Keith graciously let me borrow, digging into my back. I would end up with a pretty nasty rash and noticed plenty of other athletes after the race with similar war wounds around their neck and arms. Picking up the pace for the last quarter of the swim, I was hoping to exit within a few minutes over one hour, but to no avail. Swim time: 1:09. Sub par for what I expected but not fully disappointed. It was gonna be a long day, and a few minutes wasn’t going to dampen my spirits.

T1
It’s hard not to rush through and feed off the energy that is transition. It was all surreal hosing off and grabbing my bike gear bag running into the changing tent. Soaking in the organized chaos was the objective and it was pretty cool to be on the inside. The transition set up in Hawaii allows you to clip your shoes onto your pedals and leave your helmet and sunglasses on the bike. It was a great mix of big Ironman racing and genuine grass roots triathlon. T1 time: 3:53

Bike 112 miles
The long ride begins with a quick jaunt through downtown with fans lining the streets going bananas and the announcer screaming in the loudspeaker. I was so pumped to get on the Queen K and see this famous bike course first hand. This desolate highway would lead us approximately 50 miles along the west coast through long rolling hills into the small town of Hawi, and the turnaround. Lava flows created centuries ago and white coral graffiti is pretty much all that was visible along with a few resorts built up like oases in the desert. Vacationers and locals dotted the course to offer their support. This was the only sign of life out there as the mid day heat started to beat down on the steady flow of bikers.


I knew the clan from Bloomington was headed out to some point on the course but wasn’t sure where I would spot them. I was feeling pretty fresh and taking in my nutrition on schedule, grabbing water at each aide station, drinking as much as I could in the process. It felt like we were going down hill most of the way. I would ultimately realize there was a nice tail wind pushing us along. Turning left into the port town of Kawaihae I see my wife Sloan and the rest of the crazies in their Get Fast Or Quit gear. The red shirts were easy to spot throughout the day and would bring me some reassurance and restored confidence each time I saw everyone.

Presence of the pro pack was just over the next hill as the sound of the helicopter reverberated in the distance. Press cars and motorcycles began zooming by and the first peak at the real race was nearing. Torbjorn Sindballe would lead the pack followed by Chris Lieto and Normann Staddler. Goosebumps covered my body as the string of pros continued their race back to town. They were flying!! I wish I was watching!!

Big white caps were visible in the ocean along the coast and it became very gusty as the winds blasted inland, causing bikers to wobble and clutch their aero bars to avoid being knocked over. The long climb into Hawi started and the wind direction shifted to a headwind. It was apparent everyone was slowing way down and the rapid pace of before turned out to be the slowest section of the course.

I was happy to finally see the turnaround and a big celebration had collected in the quiet artistic town of Hawi. Again, I tried to soak up the energy that was few and far between on this long out and back bike course. A quick look at my time showed right at three hours and I was thrilled to be averaging 20mph to this point. I knew a good downhill tailwind approached. Nutrition was still clicking and I felt my hydration was still good although I didn’t have to pee up to this point. I just needed to continue drinking and not fall behind since the temperatures seemed to reach the upper 80’s if not low 90’s.


Making our way back down hill toward Kawaihae we were again confronted with blasting crosswinds as speeds approached 30+mph. Scary stuff for sure. Ron Greene, Dennis Killian, and Tricia Madey were waiting at the turn back onto the Queen K. This would be my last grasp of energy as the next 30 miles back to town gave way to an insidious headwind that would literally suck the energy right out of me. It was hard to imagine peddling downhill just to keep a good pace. I got into a group of riders that seemed to be passing each other back and forth so I knew at this point I wasn’t keeping a consistent pace. My back began to tighten up and I spent most of the last 10 miles sitting up. My legs were tired and I was ready to be off the bike. Madame Pele had her way with me but I still had something to prove on the run course. I was certainly happy with my bike time of 5:42/19.6mph avg.

T2
Pulling into the bike/run transition and jogging toward my run gear bag I felt my nutrition and electrolyte intake was right on but my quads were fatigued and I could feel a slight cramping coming on. Not enough Endurolytes? I probably took 3-5 per hour. Not enough water? I didn’t have to pee yet so maybe so. This planted a bad seed in my brain as it was the hottest part of the day and I still had a long way to go. I pretty much walked out of transition to make sure I got my legs and a couple cups of water. T2 time: 3:29

Run 26.2 miles
Just out of transition you face the short hill up Palani. It’s a prelude to the tough marathon ahead. I saw my Mom for the first time of the day and gave her a wave. She didn’t know how much I was beginning to hurt. The plan was to get my legs and run the first 5 mile out and back section easy so I could get a good rhythm. I couldn’t even run the first mile without walking. My legs were FRIED. Thoughts of the long marathon ahead swirled in my head and I began to second guess whether I would be able to finish this thing. It was really hot and I really didn’t want to go out on the Queen K let alone the Energy Lab and walk the marathon, finishing in the dark with a glow stick around my neck.

Thoughts like these are inevitable in any Ironman. The run is by far the most excruciating part of the whole race. I tried to put on a good face but underneath it all I was suffering a bit.


The short out and back section along Alii Drive is sheltered from the sun and there are a lot of people watching, partying, and cheering everyone on. This helped a little by keeping my mind off my aching legs. Hammer Nutrition had rented a house at about mile 2½ and they were pretty jazzed to see me sporting their kit and I gave them a big thank you back. By the turn around, I thought my race was coming back around and I could possibly pick up the pace a bit. It felt like I had a small stone in my shoe and it was bugging me so I took my shoe off. Finding nothing I lifted my foot up to see if there was something on it. That’s when my groin muscle and hamstring both locked up solid in a painful cramp. I almost fell over. I couldn’t take a step without it cramping up again and I tried my hardest to relax and stretch it out. I was able to keep moving and walk a lot during the next 5 miles back to town.

By the time I was on the Queen K, it was overcast and the temperatures had dropped. This made it a bit more tolerable and I figured I could gut it out for the rest of the race. My nutrition plan was still on target and I was only taking in Espresso flavored Hammer gel for fuel. I was basically walking through each aide station and running slow in between. I ran out of Gel and by mile 14 I was wondering where in the heck my Special Needs Food Bag was. I guess I forgot it would be at mile 18, the end of the Natural Energy Lab.

I saw NK Martin just before I got to the Energy Lab. He appeared to be doing well and I gave him a high five with some encouragement to finish strong. I always envisioned the Energy Lab to be this desolate place with searing heat and a tough 4 miles out and back. I was pleasantly surprised when I got there and found the aide stations to be a big celebration with music and tons of support. It was only a 2 mile out and back, the temp was “only” 84 degrees and I finally got my Special Needs Food Bag. I had two gel flasks which I ended up pitching one since it was beginning to annoy me carrying both. Once out of the Energy Lab I had some renewed energy and tried to pick it up between each aide station. I was probably running sub 8 minute miles and by the time I got the next aide station, my legs were beginning to cramp and ache with fatigue. It took all I could muster to get moving each time.

With about 2 miles to go, I saw Keith in the median with a big yellow sign that said “DON’T SUCK”. I was certainly trying not to. He gave me some words of encouragement and I told him I tried my hardest to break 11hrs but it just wasn’t going to happen. All of a sudden this guy from Germany who was walking next to me grabbed me and said “let’s go”. We began to run together at a pretty quick pace and we tried to chit-chat a little but the language barrier was a little hard to get past, especially at mile 25 of the marathon. I tailed off and made the turn onto Palani which meant a little more than a mile to go. A jolt of adrenaline came over me and I nearly sprinted down the hill. At the bottom I got a pretty nasty side stitch and had to stop and walk for a minute. It was then a turn onto Hualalai. One more block and another right onto Alii Drive. This is it, the famous finish to the biggest triathlon on the planet. As I approached the finish line the lights were bright, the music was loud, and the crowd was going crazy. I searched side to side for Sloan and my Mom but couldn’t spot them. Dang It!! I looked up on the jumbo-tron and stared at myself crossing the line and gave a big double fist pump. I DID IT!
Run time: 4:18/9:52 per mi avg :(


Total time ended up being 11:17 148/226 in M40-44 Age Group & 889/1732 Overall.

Post race
I finally found Sloan at the greeting area behind the finish line and just about collapsed in relief. What a day for me and what great support she had given me not only during the race but throughout the year leading up to this day. I almost cried as the emotions came flooding down. I was done and it was finally time to relax and have some fun.

As I look back to my performance on the day, I keep thinking about the time goals that loomed in the back of my head all day. The thing is I never really cared so much that I was behind schedule or off pace the whole day. Each time check got me frustrated which soon turned toward a focus on just finishing. What became important was collecting glances of the other athletes, the faces of the volunteers, soaking in the race, and enjoying it all. The race really does go by in the blink of an eye and although it was one of the toughest things I had ever accomplished, I wanted so much to go back and relive every instant. Do I want to go back to Kona? Not next year or maybe not even the next, but I do feel like island is a calling me for another challenge.

Post Race Party
Thanks to my buddy Chris Sweet who has the real hook-ups when it comes to sponsors. He was invited to the K-Swiss post party at Huggos on the Rocks and he got us all on the VIP list. Although the awards banquet was a bust with a steady downpour of rain, the party did not disappoint. Anyone who was anyone in the triathlon world was there celebrating the end of a great season. Chrissie Wellington (women’s champion) just happened to sit next to us for awhile and I bumped into another champion to shoot the breeze about a great race (Crowie!). We all had a blast. Thanks Sweet!!


My sincere thanks go out to my family for supporting me on this journey. Without you I would have never made it. Huge thanks to my friends who kept me going all season with the training, social events, races, and overall good times.

See some additional pictures HERE

See me finish HERE and enter my name.

later, cd

4 comments:

P-Dawg said...

Nice job MAN!! Way to represent the old (er) guys from central illinois. Great Stuff!!
Phil

earnd193 said...

Great job!! Congrats, you did awesome.

AJ said...

Awesome job CD!

Jalee & Kai said...

Congratulations Chris! You may not have obtained your own personal goal, but you are a winner in my book every day:-) We tracked you all day and watched on the computer and about 30 seconds before you crossed the finish line, my computer locked up:-( I was so pissed! I'm glad you've got the photo of you crossing on your website. I have been watching it to read what your experienced.

We are all very proud of you, Chris!!!