Monday, September 10, 2012


All I remember from 2004 in Kona is wind.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I remember the balls of my feet screaming in pain on the last stretch in on the bike.  I remember crosswinds and lots of headwind.  I remember feeling like I wasn't sure if I was going to finish the bike portion.  But somehow I ran ok.  Somehow I finished 222nd out of 1500+ with a 3:22 run split.  In retrospect, that 10:25 was probably my biggest accomplishment in six years of multisport racing.

I think this might be my lamest of many lame ironman race reports, but I dig the photos.  They seem to tell the story much better than the words do.

One of us is sweaty from a tough day.
Without question, 2003 was the best year of my life as I spent the vast majority of the year unemployed, unstressed, focused and fit.  At the very end of the year I somehow managed to convince to hire me as their dba.  So, I spent that winter eating, working, and every now and then commuting to work on my bike.  As spring rolled around I was heavy, 185+ lbs but ready to race again.  I hadn't signed up for any Ironman races because I made a deal with myself to avoid signing up for the next Ironman until after I've made it through the current one.  I had a mediocre start at the Carlsbad 5000, though it was a small PR, then I managed to pull off a pretty solid race at Ralphs Half Ironman in Oceanside, placing 4th amongst a pretty talented field and running as well as I ever have at that distance.  At Ralphs I took a spot to Ironman Florida and planned the rest of my year accordingly.  The results encouraged me to put a full effort into my training, so I started a pretty big weekly routine and as the water at the cove warmed up I spent more and more time swimming at lunch.  I naturally peak in mid to late summer, something about the sun really motivates me.  I watched this progression and was pleasantly surprised to receive a very unexpected slot to Kona at the Vineman Half Ironman in early August thanks to an error made by the staff in the rolldown process.  I withdrew from Ironman Florida and jumped into full Ironman training mode for September.  I slimmed down to sub 170 by the end of September, but unfortunately the taper kicked in and brought me back to 185 by the time I made it over to Oahu on October 6th.  Some last minute prep saw my weight fluctuate again, but by registration I was still hovering at 185 and wondering how that would play out.  I never used to pay much attention to my weight before, but I've begun to notice a difference in my ability to accellerate and climb better on the bike when I'm lighter.  Anyway, nutrition is definitely something I continue to struggle with, it has been a learning experience and I've made many positive changes, but I have plenty of work to do still.

I flew over to Kona on Thursday, registering in the last hour possible, it was so much less stressful being on Oahu at my dad's with a full kitchen, car, and no other super-lean, super-fit athletes to stress me out.  Race prep went fine, though some parts I tried to order last-minute for my bike never made it, but neither was really critical, just a new BB and RD, though the ones I had were certainly working well enough.  We had 6 of us in a 2 bedroom condo, so it was pretty tight, but lucky for me my dad likes to go out dancing the night before Ironman so I got the master bed for a few hours of fitfull sleep on Friday night.  The old man ended up waking me up at 3:30 saturday morning because he was worried I'd be late, that's my dad for you.  He's the type who has to be at the airport 3 hours early so he can sit and wait in the silly lounge they have for people who fly way too much.  Still, 7am comes quickly and I didn't really mind the extra time to get myself together, suck down my liquid breakfast, and gather my bags and bottles. When I arrived at the start I realized I was in for a bit of a wait getting through the bodymarking lines, so I was grateful for the extra time cushion.  I ended up needing almost 2 hours to get through everything despite being too lazy to pump my tires which felt right or fiddle with putting shoes on my bike since they were already there from Friday.  All I really had to do after getting marked was apply sunscreen and bodyglide, two tasks I ended up failing to do adequately, I guess that says something about the pre-IM state of mind I have, even though I knew exactly what I should be doing, I was unable to accomplish such simple and mundate tasks adequately.

 I wanted to check out the pro start which was 15 minutes early this year so I found a spot at the edge of the pier.  I intended to jump off into the water once the pros started, but then I remembered that there was a timing mat at the entrance to the beach last year and I was not about to get DQ'd before the race even started, so I wandered back to the beach and watched from the wall as a few small waves threw sand at my legs.  I didn't end up seeing much of the pro start since it was so far away, but I also had plenty of time to swim into position near the start boat on the far left side of the line and evaluate my position.  I wound up behind 4 red caps (women) who were talking about swimming an hour flat, seemed like the right place to be and I was happy to be in the water early because looking back at the beach it seemed as though not everyone was able to get into the water in time to make swim out to the line before the canon went off.  I guess I'll trade inadequate bodyglide and sunscreen for a good start position any time. I had tweaked my shoulder the weekend before, from swimming 4k/day in two sessions and trying to keep up with a few of the faster swimmers at Ala Moana.  So I didn't swim much the last 4 days and I wasn't sure what to expect on Saturday.  I got some ARTdone on it on Friday and it ended up feeling great right from the start, so I definitely dodged a bullet with that one.  In fact, the start almost felt too easy, though I knew I wasn't strong enough to get around the large pack in front of me, so I just let the others dictate the pace and was happy to rummage about for a good combination of clear water with as many feet as possible in front.  I felt like I could have gone much harder if I needed to which seemed like a good thing at the time, though I'm still not sure how I will be able to shrink my swim split in the future with that approach. The wierd part about the swim in kona is that I am just not strong enough to pull around the large packs that form, but it takes very little effort to hang in and draft, so I wind up zoning out a bit and just playing a waiting game.  When I reached the turn boat I looked at the people on board to try to see Kervin and Megan, but I didn't stop and it was really difficult to make much of the people yelling and screaming at us.  At the turn boat was when I really started to realize how much I had goofed with the bodyglide. This year I got my pits really well but forgot my neck. Last year it was a pretty sharp cut under my arm from forgetting to lube my pits enough. I suppose I am destined to get rashed up at the kona swim. Perhaps one of these years I will try swimming with a bare torso.  The water was warm, especially with a cap on, almost too warm, but I wasn't going to complain after the last few cove swims which were close to 65. Anyway, immediately after rounding the 2nd turn boat and heading home, I got dealt my first problem as someone grabbed my ankle and yanked my timing chip off (it is secured by velcro.)  I had thought that this might happen even though it didn't last year, and I have seen friends use a safety pin to keep the strap from coming off, but just like lubing my neck I had forgotten to take care of this little detail.  So, I stopped, turned around, and swam back a stroke or two to find my chip floating right in front of me.  Apparently neoprene chip straps float in water, something I was subliminally hoping might be the case but had never tested out.  I shoved the chip down my suit leg and kept swimming, didn't really lose much time at all and managed to find one of the four girls I had started with quickly and tuck in behind her for the ride back to the pier.
 At the end of the swim I paused for a pee break.  I did the same thing at Vineman, and it helped calm me down as well as take care of the pee issue for a while.  I had spent some time in the cove learning how to swim and pee at the same time, it's not all that hard to make reasonable forward progress and I knew the group in front of me would bunch up on the ramp anyway so I had a little bit of time if I wanted a clear path to my bike.  Once up the ramp I ran my chip over the mat with my hand, noticed the timing people saying something about my bare ankle but then realizing I had the chip in my hand.  I paused under one of the last hoses to wrap my chip back around my ankle and spray some cool water down my back.  It took a bit longer to put the chip on than I expected, I suppose I never really practiced doing that, but I was still reasonably calm.  Once I was out of the showers I turned the corner to see 1:01 on the clock which was a bit of a bummer since I felt stronger in open water than last year but I knew I hadn't burned up too much so I was happy enough with the split.  I ran pretty quickly to my bag, grabbed my glasses and bib out, and ran to my bike, dodging people as well as I could.  I hate stopping in the tent in T1 at Ironman because it is such a traffic mess and the bike is always my achilles heel so once I am out of the water I want every advantage I can get.  I reached my bike, donned my helmet, and ran to the mount line. Last year I almost dropped a shoe on the first hill so this year I got into my shoes early and had no trouble.

I felt pretty good, almost great on that first little insignificant bit through town on Kuakini.  I remember a girl near me wearing green who was breathing very hard on many of the small climbs, expending far more effort than I thought reasonable for the distance, but I suppose everyone has their own game plan and pain threshold.  Eventually I got away from the heavy breather and settled into my pace on the Queen K.  A few people passed me early on but I could tell they were superior riders so I wasn't terribly concerned about anything for those first 20 miles.  It all felt pretty easy and smooth, I remember thinking that it'd be so nice to have an Ironman bike leg that didn't leave me completely broken by T2.  I assumed we must have had a bit of a tailwind on that stretch but I wasn't sure how much since I was really hoping I was superman this year. At the Waikaloa, though, things got ugly and what I remembered as a pretty challenging section last year became a downright brutal survival struggle to Hawi.  I was already very tired by the "26 miles to Hawi" sign and I was started to lose a bit of my confidence and to use my small chainring more.  I simply wasn't feeling very strong on that stretch, I couldn't really grasp the concept of how much more I had to struggle just to get to the turnaround. Then the trains started rolling and all the male age groupers started passing me. Many in large packs with blatant drafting where each rider comes past in 1 second intervals. I couldn't help but get a bit peeved by all the drafting, you might think guys in the world championship would ride cleaner, but they just don't. It just goes to show that drafting is still the biggest problem in the sport.  And I suppose to some degree I take the drafting rules too literally, but the upside to doing so is that I didn't feel like I was riding anyone else's pace buy my own, however slow that might be. I came up on Blair Canon and asked him if he had seen Andy Baldwin. Blair said he hadn't yet which was a surprise because I didn't notice passing him on the bike, and I certainly didn't expect to be riding faster than him.  He ended up swimming about 3 minutes faster than me and then pulling over on the bike very early to adjust his tire clearance, but eventually he got rolling and blew past me somewhere near the 40 or 45 mile marker.  I was left for road kill, though he did at least smile and exchange pleasantries as he spanked me.  After a somewhat desolate section through Kawaihae and the start of some of the more substantial climbs, I finally got to see what was happening at the front as the leaders started streaming back towards Kona.  Norman Stadler was of course in front by now and blowing everyone away with what had to be at least 10 minutes worth of a lead by that point.  I was a bit surprised to see Nina ahead of Natascha and also to see Lori so far back, but by the time we reached the pro women I was also spending a great deal of time recruiting the desire to keep moving forward up the hill to Hawi. Heading up that final climb, in my small chainring and barely making any progress, my UCSD track coach, Terry Martin-Duvall passed by without even noticing me as I was on the shoulder trying to avoid blocking any of the stronger climbers.  Right after that I saw that Andy had built up a sizeable lead on me already, but I was honestly too concerned with keeping my bike upright and moving forward to care all that much.  The funny thing about a little friendly competition in Ironman is that while it can help you through some rough spots every now and then, in general it's pretty hard to fathom that you are racing someone when you are only 4 hours into a 10 hour day.  I finally made it to the turnaround mat, popped the chain onto the big cookie, and settle in for a fast and scary descent through the crosswinds.  I didn't push it very hard on that section out of fear of crashing, but I did try to keep the effort at a reasonable level because I knew I had to try to salvage some time after a dismal start.

At Kawaihae I caught coach Terry again, I guess that I roll downhill much better than she does. I shadowed her up the hill to the right turn and saw her husband, Billy yell at her that she was doing great.  At the top we got a momentary clean tailwind so I decided to forge ahead while my only power play option was open after a few words of encouragement to my idol.  I also didn't relish the idea of getting beaten by a 40 year old woman, even one as amazing as Terry.  A little shame can go a long way in Ironman, whatever gets you through the rough patches.  I made up a little bit of ground from Kawaihae to the Waikaloa, but quickly the tailwind disappeared and left me with 25 miles of headwind to get back to town, just like last year only I was in much worse shape. I struggled to finish up those last few miles.  My feet were burning from constant pressue on the pedals.  I noticed later, while packing my bike, that my seatpost had slipped about 1-2cm over the course of the ride.  I am usually very anal about my bike, so I was pretty surprised at this relatively substantial blunder.  I think I just didn't crank down on the seatpost clamp hard enough, but I will have to pay close attention to that issue on that bike in the future.  I felt like my saddle was a tiny bit low during that stretch, but not so off that I knew for sure something was wrong and I didn't have any wrenches with me anyway so stopping wasn't an option.  I took a few 5 second coasting breaks along the way back, some to dump water on my scorched head and neck, and some just to let my feet stop throbbing momentarily.  I was so ready to get off the bike that I didn't even check to see if anyone was there to take it, I just kind of let it go into a sea of orange shirts at t2. I had quite a bit of trouble running barefoot, even on the carpet/astroturf they put out for us, because my feet hurt so bad.  So, once I got my run bag and made it into the change tent I naturally sat down and breathed a sigh of relief.  From there I managed to wipe my feet dry, and put my socks and shoes on, but both feet still felt really sore and I was a bit worried what running would feel like.  It ended up being one of my slowest IM T2's ever, though I had a similarly slow T2 in 2000 when I pulled off a 10:12, so I was still calm even though I knew I was throwing time away.  I stopped to pee on my way out, noticing how dark my urine was despite a pretty good effort trying to stay hydrated.  Getting enough fluid in on a hot day just might be one of the biggest challenges of racing in Kona, you have to be right on the edge with your stomach, too much one way or another and you're in trouble.  I stumbled out of the tent and off onto the run course, hoping for the best and expecting quite a bit less.
 I did manage to catch some people rather quickly as I settled into my pace as best as I could.  I was very thankful at this point that I had chosen to race without my HRM or watch, I really didn't need to know anything except how I felt and if I could go faster.  It was still very hot for those first 8 miles on Alii Drive and I wasn't running as well as I would have liked to, but at least I wasn't walking. I was just pretty exhausted from the bike effort, so I went into survival mode on that first stretch, just tried to keep the legs moving and the fluids going in.  I saw my dad at about mile 3, he was lying down taking a nap so I waved to him and continued along on my path of misery.  I saw Andy near the turn and figured he had at least a mile on me at that point.  I resigned myself to defeat, despite a reasonable amount of confidence in my run, I really didn't think I had much chance of taking back 7 or 8 minutes from him over the next 20 miles.  He looked pretty strong at that point despite what he felt like, and the thought of trying to give chase was simply too much to comprehend.  So I slogged on, content with the scenery of ocean, a few pro women, and some scattered spectators including a few locals drinking beer at the turnaround.

As I struggled back into town I felt pretty lousy, very hot, and heavy/slow during the shuffle up the rollers, but started feeling a tiny bit better on some of the descents.  Those 3 miles seemed to be a bit easier than the 4 to get to the turn, perhaps because the condos are so much more familiar on the way back in to town and because the crowd gets bigger and noisier as you head back compared to thinner and quieter on the way out.  I hit the turn at Palani and the crowd really helped me pick it up a bit right there. The irony is that I remember feeling pretty much the same way last year, those first few miles are tough, then things get a bit better before the real test waiting out on the Queen K.  I think that perhaps some of those rollers are just a bit tougher than I realize, either that or I go through some kind of metamorphosis afer 30-40 minutes of running off the bike.  I got out to the highway and started working extra hard to slog my way up the never-ending hill to the Energy Lab.  I was running on coke and water, if I missed the coke at an aid station I really felt myself slow down, but at the same time my stomach wasn't too happy taking burp duty.  Somewhere on the Queen K I caught Andy, which was a surprise, but I guess he was having more trouble than me by that point, so we exchanged pleasantries and we both continued on our way. I finally saw the solar panels of the energy lab and made the turn after what seemed like an eternity to get there.  I had been hoping to see sarah Reinerstein riding in on my way out, but figured she still had some time to make the bike cutoff so I tried to not be worried about her.  I ran down the hill into the energy lab as it really started to cool off, so I dropped off my hat at the degree tent much to their delight at having a gross sweaty hat, just like I did last year.  Lucky for me that the Degree tent is staffed by my colleages at Active, thanks Lauren! Somehow I reached the turnaround mat, though it always seems so much father than you'd like it to be.  I was very happy to be heading back in the right direction now.  I grabbed a gel out of my special needs bag and started the shuffle back up the hill. That part just plain hurt, I was on damage control, and I think someone may have passed me going up that hill, but I couldn't think about anything other than forward progress for that stretch.  And it was kind of hot again, though I knew that was just from climbing.  None of the hills on the run course really look all that bad, but perhaps the cumulative sum of all of them tends to beat me up.  I am simply not a great uphill runner, but I can usually make up some ground on the descents.  Still, I was just really cooked by then.  I saw John Dougery at the top of the hill where we get back onto the Queen K for the stretch home and he told me to pick it up for the last 10k.  I laughed at that thought but Kervin gave me some similar encouragement so I stumbled on trying to pick up the pace. I worked myself as hard as I dared during the last 4 miles to town, I really felt like I was right on the edge of a meltdown but I've played that game many times before so I thought I knew what I could get away with.  I could feel my feet screaming and it always seems to take so long to get back to Palani, though not anywhere near as long as getting out to the Energy Lab seems.  As I came up the last hill I saw Kevin Purcell trudging out laughing about his race.  I figured he was ok since he was chuckling, but I was also worried about how far back he was, he should have come off the bike very close to me if not ahead of me.  I finally reached Palani and madethe turn, immediately kicking into my finish line sprint with over a mile left to go.  I knew it was going to hurt, but once I know it's all downhill or flat I can handle quite a bit more pain than when I know I still have some climbing to do.  I saw Rob Klingensmith on Palani and I told him he better finish it up, which it looked like he was going to do just fine.  Then I ran pass Billy who yelled "go Psycho Dave" at me.  I was excited to see how spread out the field was near me, I finally had a shot at a decent finish line photo without anyone else in it.  So, fueled by excitement and relief, I cranked down Alii, through the chute, and gave a bit of a hop at the tape.  My day was done, my sacrifices had been made, and now it was time to relax, rest, and enjoy.

I can't help but remember Kona 2004 as a year that was brutal on the bike and still plenty tough on the run.  The swim was nice if not almost pleasant.  I hope to be back again sometime soon, but you never know where your journey will take you. 


  1. Wow there were a lot of words there! From the pictures it seems like you did some kind of triathalon. How did it go?