Coach Patrick’s 2017 Ironman World Championship Race Report

595 572 Mariah Bridges

For those of you with short attention spans, I went 10:27 on the day. 

1:07 swim

5:02 bike

4:04 marathon

While it’s not even close to my personal best, the highlight of my day was being able to flex my mental toughness. Racing here is special, and I not only had a great time racing but the entire week as well. Bonus that I have quite a few lessons learned to implement as I continue my endurance journey – Always be learning!

Building the Endurance Nation Brand

We arrived here 10 days before as preparation for the race, but the true story was the expansion of Endurance Nation. During this time we had many events with the Team as well as promotional events for our industry partners.

This is one of the biggest work weeks of the entire year for the triathlon industry and it was great to meet old friends and make new ones. Members of Endurance Nation have access to incredible promotions and discounts not found anywhere else — here are some of our incredible partners that joined us for Kona Week.

Some of our amazing partners also send swag for our Kona racers. Infinit, Boco Gear, InsideTracker, Mile18, SBR Sports. Juice Performer, Zealos and more!

Roka Rocks with a PRO Swim Skin

Ventum Leads with a Group Ride

We can never say enough good things about the team at Ventum. Perfect customer service, immaculate attention to detail and downright cool!


Quarq Qonnects Coach P on Race Day

I had a brand new Quarq DZero power meter on my Ventum to complete my bike set up. After years of using a hub-based power meter, I went to the Quarq DZero as I could still integrate the Rotor QXL ovalized chainrings that I prefer to ride.

Not only did I have the reliability of the Quarq itself, but I was able to link it to the Quarq Qollector on race day  This incredible device broadcasted live power, heart rate, and pace data to the web while I was racing the entire Ironman®

Best Bike Split Dials In My Pacing

With atypical weather dominating the calendar, I relied extensively on Best Bike Split to make sure my power numbers would create the most optimal pacing for the bike. My bike split was a predicted 4:57 and I went 5:02….pretty darn close considering the unique microclimates that exist in Hawaii. I certainly have never felt stronger on the climb to Hawi or the Final leg of the bike, as reflected in my Race Day Strava file!

Stryd Powers the Run Prep & Early Miles

One of the Best uses of a power meter is to objectively Review your data. Heading out to the Big Island and running on the famous course in the infamous conditions can really throw you for a loop. Heart Rate and Perceived Exertion are all over the place, but the one thing that remains constant is your Power. I used my Stryd data during my taper on in Hawaii and on race day to make sure I was on track.

We also were able to sit down with co-founder Gus Pernetz and his partner in crime Matt Bevil to talk all things “Running with Power” on the EN Podcast with us.

Castelli Creates Race Day Speed & Comfort

Castelli has been a team favorite for quite some time and now exclusively holds our training and racing gear. Forget that they look super pro on, but the technology and function behind each garment is state of the art. Did we mention they have no seams, which means no chafing, which means the end of the post-race shower screams?!

Endurance Nation takes pride with only working with not only the best in the industry but the best in customer service. Castelli feels like family and that is just how we like it to be with our partners!

Coach Patrick has Breakfast with Bob

The biggest story of all was a guest appearance on Babbittville for Breakfast with Bob. This twenty-minute segment was an incredible opportunity to recognize our community, share our values, and commitment to the endurance lifestyle. Bob is an incredible host, and we shared quite a few good laughs.

Pre-Race Training and Preparation

When I got here on the island I was not only in the best fitness of my life, I had an incredible set of equipment and experience with this being my eighth World Championship. My early workouts gave me confidence on how I would perform. I swam a 1:07 in the practice swim, matching my fastest time here on the island (which would turn out to be prophetic). My bikes and runs were also sharp.

However, the weather was strangely different all week with clouds every day and even the occasional rainstorm. While the temperature and the humidity were high, we never really had true Hawaii heat until race day itself.

My unstated goal was to break my personal best time set several years ago on an incredibly perfect day – sub-9:52 was the goal and I felt confident it was within reach.


The Swim: 1:07

After an easy check-in and meeting with the team for our picture, it was into the water. I was able to line up on the buoys about five rows back from the front. When the gun went off I had pretty clean water. Most noticeably, I only swim inside the first and second buoys before getting on a good line.

I had a good group and we swam almost alone the buoys the entire way which is a big change for me. I recently started bilateral swimming this year and it has proven to really hold me straight in the water which is a big confidence booster and speed advantage.

I never check my watch at halfway but I felt good and confident on the return trip. My goal on the way back to stay with the group which I did. Heading back to the bay itself things got a little tricky. This is where the currents play with the water; I usually fall apart here, losing my form and becoming frustrated with myself and the others around me. But not this year!

I have to believe the time spent on my Vasa Swim Ergometer helped with a balanced swim stroke as well as maintaining higher swim cadence. No fading meant a strong finish. And shout out to Roka for my PRO swimskin that keep me hydrodynamic and slipping through the salt water.

Getting out of the water I never saw the clock but looking around me in the tent and in transition, I could tell that I had had a good swim. I also saw several people very early in the day who are good swimmers which also let me know I swam a good time.

The Bike: 5:02

The bike here in Hawaii is really a tale of two rides. You have the first 60 miles which can be a race to get to the turnaround in Hawi. This is where the wind builds all day and the later you get there the harder the climb will be.

Given the climb is approximately 18 miles from bottom to top, you want to beat as much wind as possible. On top of that, the tailwind that brought you out there eventually becomes a headwind on the way home…so you have to play your cards right!

The first 10 miles in town — which is an administrative loop — went very well with no issues. Out on the Queen K Highway. I was moving along at a good clip with the group I was in. There were not very many new people who came along but a core group of people who rode together for most of the way out.

Bike Part One: Outbound

As usual, it was very crowded early on. Every year people who watch the coverage on TV and see pictures of bike packs get very frustrated with the draft action. In all fairness, given how well everyone swims and how strong they are cyclists, it’s very hard to break away from the group and still follow your pace plan for the day. 2017 was no different than previous years.

It might have been exacerbated by the fact I did not see a Marshal on a motorcycle until mile 85 on the day. There was nobody to monitor progress and on the way out this certainly embolden some of my fellow racers. At mile 30 on the day, we got to Waikoloa (mile 30) where there’s a chance for some wind. Race Day didn’t disappoint; it brought the strong, gusting crosswinds that really slowed everybody down. This effectively nullified any break and brought the group back together. In fact, we basically stuck together in the headwinds even through the climb to Hawi.

There were quite a few times where I was sitting at the back of riders unable to make a pass. The headwinds were in full effect on this climb; there were quite a few times where I had to sit up and grab the handlebars to keep my balance. The descent was also treacherous but not terrible.

Special Needs

I did not stop at Special Needs even though my lower back was bothering me, opting instead to stretch while I rode and continue trying to hold on to the group. In past years I have had a very lonely ride on the way back to Kona, unable to catch up to people over the final 30 miles. My decision not to stop was to make sure that it didn’t happen again this time.

Ironman Kona Bike

Bike Part Two

Once you are down to the bottom of the climb to Hawi, about mile 80, the real work begins. When we got to the bottom and started riding back towards Kailua-Kona I knew we were in trouble: the headwinds were fairly strong. Even in places where we typically have a break or some kind of tailwind, we were still struggling to keep up the pace. In fact, I was not able to pass many people on the flats, instead of passing most folks when we were sitting up and climbing into the wind.

It was clear that by mile 80 most of the people I was riding with were toast. They were unprepared for how hard it was coming back into a headwind. Even the final 10 miles past the airport, which is typically fast, took a lot of work to get done.

In retrospect, I probably should have backed off in the last half hour of this ride but instead, I continued pushing the finish and aiming for a five-hour bike split. All day my power numbers were decent and my heart rate was fine. The only indication of trouble for me was that I was unable to really digest a lot of the fluids and was burping most of the day.

Transition Two

I hit the second transition and had to stop and go pee. It was the first time I had peed since the start of the race — not a good sign! Even worse, it was not very much pee…another warning sign that despite drinking every single thing I could find, I was somehow behind.

I took my time in transition to get everything right and to hit the first aid station so that I was ready for the run. Heading out of the tent onto the run course I knew right away things were going to be hard just by feeling how hot it was. 

The Run: 4:04

My goal here was to run just over eight-minute miles, including time at the aid stations. And for the first 10 miles, despite the incredible heat, I was pretty successful.

I had my RaceSaver Bag and another Ziploc bag I was using to carry ice between the aid stations which were both lifesavers. I got wet every chance I could with no regard for my sneakers and simply tried to keep my heart rate in a good place.

Overall I felt pretty strong through here and returning to town at mile 9 I was pretty confident I that things were going to be okay. After seeing my friends I headed for Palani, and I knew right away I was in trouble with the sun. We had zero cloud cover all day, and there was just no break from the relentless heat.

Kona Run File

When I hit Palani and took just 10 steps up the road my heart rate spiked beyond 145 bpms and I decided to power walk the hill. When I got to the top to start running again, I felt the customary tailwind and new that things were not to be pretty — running with a tailwind makes you “feel” even hotter!

I continued to focus on not drinking too much, as I didn’t want to upset my stomach. But the second half of the run had other plans for me with some pretty solid stomach discomfort. In retrospect, I believe this was due to a late carbo-loading session the day before as I made three separate trips to the porta potty with diarrhea.

This is the first time in sixteen years of my Ironman racing that I have had diarrhea while racing, and I instantly sympathize with anyone who ever told me about having diarrhea because it was awful.

I was able to run between aid stations keeping my general pace up but at these stations, I had to slow down to drink and then walk a little further to make sure my stomach had time to digest what I had just taken in. I had a pretty good cramp/stitch that I couldn’t tell if it was good to be a burp or a disaster, so I just managed my effort as best I could.

This part with the mental toughness is what I was proudest of because there were quite a few minutes where I was thinking about not continuing. Not that I was in terrible pain, or that I was disappointed, just because it was just crazy uncomfortable.

Coming out of the Energy Lab and turning back on the Queen K Highway, I had just 10 km to go and I was confident that I could successfully make it back to the finish. I was getting passed left and right but I was able to stay positive and forward-focused.

All the volunteers were taking great care of the athletes; I probably would’ve had a good time if not for the fact that the Sun was just crushing everyone’s spirits and ability to communicate. I was able to run up Mark and Dave Hill and down Palani into the finish.

Despite my slower time, there is no such thing that compares to the magic of the Ironman® Hawaii Finish. It was great to cross the line and blow kisses to my family, and even better to STOP RUNNING!

Ironman Finish Line

Lessons Learned

Lesson Number One: Follow your carbo load protocol, keeping to the plan proven to be successful! I did not enjoy that run and while I don’t think it would’ve made a massive difference, not having the stomach discomfort or the frequent stops certainly would’ve made for a slightly faster race and a more enjoyable experience.

Lesson Number Two: Do a better job of assessing your run health at the end of the bike. Because I usually race in cooler conditions I don’t face a similar set of consequences like we do here in Hawaii. I think that pushing the last portion of the bike was likely part of my undoing.

Lesson Number Three: Better heat acclimation. While there was not much I could do with the weather, I certainly could have kept up those hotter workouts in the last few days leading to the race as part of my preparation. I’m not sure if that made a big difference, but in retrospect, I feel as though I lost that focus during the week. Fixing this imbalance will likely help in the future.

Lesson Number Four: A good swim makes all the difference at the start of the bike in Hawaii. I was in a better group from the outset and had very little adjusting to do for the whole ride out. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the people I was riding with were good bike handlers, it did cut down on all of the logistical stuff I usually have to worry about at the start of the bike which just allowed me to ride.

Lesson Number Five: Aerobar time is not readily available. I am fastest when I am in that aero bars with my head down, but there’s very little time for that to happen here on the Big Island – given how big the group is and the relative strength of everyone who is racing. As such, there were very few places I felt like I could really go fast and it was more a game of higher watts versus my typical slippery speed. I need to be ready to handle higher watts and to find better intermediary aero or speed opportunities if at all possible.

Lesson Number Six: Intermediary goals on the run. I had a goal for the first and second half of the run and the pacing strategy to execute, but in retrospect, I didn’t have a lot to keep me going within those spaces. Aside from “doing something to stop the pain,” or “going to the bathroom” there was very little else for me to focus on. I think my race probably suffered because of that.

Final Words

Overall I was pleased with my performance and very excited about what we were able to accomplish here on the Big Island as a brand. Huge shout out to our Marketing Director Mariah Bridges who makes doing the impossible look easy — we killed it!!!!

I look forward to enjoying some downtime when I get back home to the family. Hawaii is a special place for many reasons and I hope to make it back to race again another day!

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