I arrived on the Big Island a week before the race and stayed in a condo with Stephanie Stevens about 2.5 miles from the pier. We rode the majority of the bike course, ran on Ali’i Dr and the Queen K and swam in the ocean. We went snorkelling, Steph went cliff jumping from 11ft. (I climbed down a ladder and jumped from 4ft), went downtown for the parade of nations where I met some fellow Utahans who were racing, participated in the underpants run, went to the athlete dinner and the EN team breakfast. And the food, it was so GOOD! Poke, acai bowls, sushi, fish tacos, curry, it was all yummy! There were a few days where we felt like we didn’t get much accomplished but we made sure that we didn’t miss a meal. Why is it that when you’re at a race everything takes longer to accomplish than usual. I wanted to take in the whole experience and I think we did. It was a fun week!!!
A week and a half before leaving for Kona I had a cold. When I left for Kona I thought that I had finally gotten over it. Good timing! On Wed. mornings I woke up with a sore throat. You’ve got to be kidding me! I tried to ignore it, thinking that if I did, it would just go away. By that evening I decided that I needed to do something about it. We went to the store and got some Emergen-C and Echinacea. I took those over the next few days. I don’t know if it was because of the cold but Wed and Thurs night I could not sleep. I didn’t want to take a nap during the day in the hope that I’d be tired enough to sleep at night. I was a little worried about Sat. To be honest I wasn’t feeling that great for those 2 days. I knew that if I didn’t get some sleep Fri night I would be in really bad shape for race day. Steph suggested taking some Benadryl, so after the team breakfast we went to Safeway to pick some up. I took 2 Benadryl’s at 6 pm and shortly after 8pm I was asleep. I slept well until about 2:30am. From 2:30 – 4:00am, I just laid in bed with my eyes closed trying to relax and go back to sleep. Even though I was up early I felt the most rested I think I’ve ever been before a big race. At 4am I was up eating breakfast which consisted of a frozen waffle with almond butter, a Generation UCAN chocolate drink and then I sipped on a bottle of Perform. Although we were 2.5 miles from the pier, I had Steph drive me downtown, and then I walked 5 blocks to the pier. By 5:45 I was body marked, weighed, special needs bag checked, tires pumped, and had my nutrition on the on bike. I walked over to the front of the King Kam hotel where we planned to meet @ 6:15 to take a team picture. I was early so I found a place to sit and relax. While doing this I realized that I forgot to calibrate my quarq so I walked back into transition to get this done. My computer didn’t detect another power meter so it didn’t take long to calibrate. Then it was back to the front of the hotel for a few pictures.
SWIM – 1:00:12
The pros were off and then it was time for the age groupers to start getting into the water. I entered the water with probably 20 minutes to go before the start. Leading up to the race I had been thinking about where to start butI never really decided where I would start. I would see how things looked on race morning. After walking down the steps to the water I looked out to the start and it didn’t look very crowded, probably because the majority of racers were still on the beach waiting to get in the water. There was an orange buoy that looked to be about the center so I started swimming to the right of that and ended up half way between the pier and the orange buoy. I found a surfboard to hang onto but with about 10 min to go we had to let go. The surfboarders formed a line in front of us and paddled from one end to the other to keep everyone from moving forward. The section that I was in kept drifting forward due to the current and had to be pushed back. Everyone was anxious to get the swim started. We were just waiting, not knowing how much longer we had before the start. All of a sudden, Mike Riley just yelled Go, Go, Go and we were off, no cannon. What no cannon? Apparently the cannon went off about 10 seconds later. It was total chaos! People were swimming on top of me and my arms were getting tangled with their arms. It was a whitewater washing machine. I thought Coeur d’Alene was bad, but this was worse! I had a moment where I panicked and felt my heart rate soar. It would have been interesting to see how high it spiked. This was shear madness! How long is this going to last? Just keep swimming or else it will be much worse. I didn’t even bother to look up and try to sight. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; I had no control over the direction I was going. The madness continued until about half way to the sailboat. Even then I felt I was bumping into people. I tried to stay on someone’s feet but it is harder to do than when you are in a lake or reservoir. A lot of the time I felt like I was going sideways rather than forward. I didn’t bother looking up and sighting on my own. I just followed those around me. When I would breath I would see the buoys and luckily we were right next to them every time. The majority of the time I was on someone’s feet, when I wasn’t, I was swimming right next to someone. On the way back to the pier I made sure I stayed on someone’s feet, no matter what. There was one time where I had to pick up the pace for short bit because I was by myself and there was someone a few yards ahead. The extra effort was worth it to be able to draft and not have to worry about sighting. I worked on keeping my stroke nice and long and getting a good underwater pull. This section went by much faster than on the way out. Before I knew it I could hear noise coming from the pier. Finally I could see the bottom. Soon my hands were touching the sand. I kept going until my arms were touching. Then I was up and running to the stairs and then to the shower. I was able to glance at the clock and I knew I was off to a great start. Everyone else was bypassing the showers but I took the extra 15-20 sec to rinse the salt water off.
T2 – 3:08
I easily found a chair, took off my swim skin and had them put on some sunscreen. Put on my sunglasses, grabbed my shoes and GU and was off running. I had a GU as I was running around the pier to my bike. I put my shoes on, then unracked my bike and was ready to go. Oops, I forgot my helmet, so I had to stop at the end of my row to put it on. I don’t know why, but I had a hard time getting my helmet on, so I had to loosen it up before trying again. It felt tight but didn’t think much of it at the time. My bike was near the exit so I didn’t have far to run in my shoes. I’ve tried leaving my shoes on my bike before but it is more challenging for me to get going on the bike then when I already have my shoes on.
BIKE – 6:26:59
Coming out of T1 was a little crazy with everyone racing to get on their bike and the crowd yelling. At the same time It was amazing to have so many people all the cheering for you. This would have to last for the next 6 hours. I saw Steph (my awesome friend and Sherpa) and then it was on to Kuakini Hwy for a short out and back. Immediately I was being passed by what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of people. The climb up Palani is short and steep. Everyone was standing up and hammering up the hill. Being a good EN peep, I put it in an easier gear, stayed in my seat and just peddled up the hill.
Once on the Queen K the passing continued. It wasn’t just a few riders at a time, it was both big and small groups. There seemed to be more marshals than normal, the first 35 miles. Madame Pele was not very kind to us this day. The tailwinds on the Queen K did not last long before the crosswinds picked up and then a headwind. The head headwinds were especially strong on the climb to Hawi. After the turnaround in Hawi we had a tailwind and that was fun but it was short lived before turning into a headwind that lasted what seemed like the rest of the way. As I got closer to town, you could see a helicopter hovering and when I passed the energy lab the some of the pro men were already coming out and heading back into town. There was a buzz of energy, another reminder of where I was, this was not just another IM. Those last 25 miles or so were agonizingly slow. I was ready to get off the bike and start running. My stomach felt fine but I was also getting tired of my nutrition. One of the things I was really focusing on for this race was my nutrition. I wanted to have at least 1 ½ bottles of perform per hour. I wasn’t going to get dehydrated. Mission accomplished. I peed 3 times on the way to Hawi and another 3 times on the way back to T2. Yes, 6 times on the bike. It’s a good thing I learned to pee on the bike. Oh yeah, on the ride back some guy passed me and he said “Rich would be proud”. At first I didn’t hear him because I didn’t say anything so he turned around and said it again. I guess that’s a good thing considering I I wasn’t having a good bike.
T2 – 3:58
I was glad to hand off my bike to a volunteer. My legs weren’t feeling that great as I ran around the pier to get my run bag. I quickly put on my socks and shoes. I had stuff in a baggy to put on while running but they emptied my bag before I noticed. So I put my visor on then grabbed my watch, a flask of EFS and a GU before another port-a-potty stop, #7. On my way out of the tent I remembered to grab a cup of perform.
RUN – 4:18:28
My legs felt better starting the run then they did immediately after getting off the bike. It took my 910xt about ½ mile before it could locate a satellite signal. I was watching my pace for the first couple of miles and it was good. After that I stopped looking at my watch. I didn’t want to worry about chasing a certain number, so I ran based on RPE. Heading out on Ali drive, it was hot. I usually don’t walk at aid stations because I feel like this gets me out of my rhythm but I did this time. I wanted to make sure I stayed hydrated and get the fluids that I needed. Before each aid station I had some EFS then it was water on my head, perform, sponges and then 2 or 3 cups of ice. By mile 6 I was so sick of the my EFS but I forced it down anyway for the next couple of miles before tossing it around mile 12. Then it was just perform for a couple miles before having some GU chomps and then another GU the rest of the way. I just took it one mile at a time. The energy lab was where I struggled a bit. Where is the turn around? It just felt like it would never end. There were two places where I walked on the run outside of the aid stations, the first was going up Palani and the second was coming up out of the energy lab. I didn’t walk for long in the energy lab because I knew the longer I walked, the longer it would take me to finish. One thing I noticed was that there weren’t very many port-a-potties. I needed to use one on Ali’i Dr. so I stopped at an aid station but there was only one. Someone was using it and I didn’t want to wait. So what did I do, just like on the bike, I peed on myself (#8). Luckily my shoes drain very well and I didn’t get a blister from getting them wet. I ended up peeing another three more times, for a total of 11 times the whole race. I never pee that much! The last 6 miles I kept telling myself I can do anything for an hour, than 50 min, 40 min and so on. Before I knew it I was running down Palani and then making that last turn onto Ali Drive. There were so many people lining the street. Before running into the finishing chute I saw Steph and gave her a quick hug. Ali’i Drive is amazing, it was everything I imagined it would be like and more. It felt so good to cross the finish line and to hear Mike Riley call out my name.
I felt ok after I finished other than feeling fatigued and sore legs. It felt good to have a cold, wet towel over my shoulders and to wipe my face clean. As two volunteers walked with me to the finishers’ area I started dry heaving right outside of medical. There was a doctor by the front of medical and told that I needed to go into medical. The first thing I did was get weighed. I gained 4 lbs. What? Yeah, I gained weight. By then my arms, legs and face were all tingly so they had me lay down on a cot with my legs elevated. Then my hands started to cramp. I didn’t want an IV so I had 2 cups of chicken broth. They thought I might have a calcium deficiency due to tingling in my extremities so they did a quick test but it was normal. My symptoms were the same so they decided to give me a ½ a liter IV fluid so I get out of there. They drew some blood before starting the IV and it came back normal. By the time the IV was finished I was feeling fine.
People say you shouldn’t have any expectations your first time in Kona and just enjoy the day. That’s not me; I like to have a goal. Although I didn’t get the time I envisioned I did enjoy the day and I am happy with my race. It was a tough day, but I fought for it and finished. This was a dream to get to this race. But it wasn’t just about this one day, it was about the journey and how I made it to this point.