Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Honu Race Report Part II: The 70.3 Racening- Part I: Pre-Race and The Swim

(If you missed Part I, click here)

Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.
-Dr. Seuss

We woke up at 3:40 for a 7am race start. There was a lot to do before the cannon. 
The first and most important thing was breakfast. One does not swim bike run for 70.3 miles on an empty stomach. Regular readers know that my stomach and I have had a tumultuous relationship on normal days, and on race days in particular, which means I don't normally eat a whole lot. But after my trip to the doctor a few months ago I've been feeling much better and wasn't concerned. That, coupled with my race plan, made the morning go surprisingly smoothly. A banana and half a peanut butter-covered bagel and I'm ready to head out the door.
Ah, the race plan. I thought you'd focus on that. My race plan and goal for the Honu were very simple: Finish. Have a good swim, know I had the ride, and get through the run however I needed to. That's all. I had a general finishing time in mind but couldn't have told you what it was once I was out on the course. I knew basically what each of the three splits should have been. But I didn't know how bad the wind would be on the bike, which would be a huge factor (and was), and I didn't know how my foot would hold up on the run or how badly I would melt in the sun. So no pressure.
This was a great way to look at my first 70.3. Why add any more pressure than I needed to? This was already going to be the hardest day out I've ever had. I have no ego, for once, riding on the result aside from the unthinkable DNF, so I was going to go out, work hard, have a good day, and try to work hard enough to stagger across the finish line but not so hard I stagger across mile six. More on this once we get to the bike and the run. That's where the plan really solidified.
To get to the race start we drove to the race finish, then got on a very nice coach bus which took us the extra four or so miles down the road to the race start, Hapuna Bay. Diesel claims its normally a fleet of school buses. Nicer buses = Lance Effect. Thanks, dude who won't be riding any bus. We appreciate you causing this to sell out. Helps us.
Once at Hapuna Bay the first order of business is bike check. We left our bikes in T1 yesterday, but they aren't quite ready to mount and go yet. For one, no water in the bottles. This would be tragically bad. Super Awesome Wife, who got up at 3:40 with the rest of us because she's super and awesome, and she wanted to see the off, helped me fill my bottles. This was the first time we got a good impression of the wind on the course. Namely, that if the water came out of the fountain in one place, you should hold the bottle waaay over here, otherwise you're watering the lawn. It was nice to laugh that early in the morning. The sun was already up. It was looking to be a great, hot, windy, hot, windy day.
For two, the day before we had all let air out of our tires. It gets hot on the Kona side, and anyone who passed high school science knows that heat does what to air. Yes, in the back? No, you may not go to the bathroom, sit down. Ah, the stereotype in the front row, yes? Right, heat causes air to expand. So if we had left our bikes sitting in the hot sun all day yesterday with fully filled tires, the tubes may have exploded. Which would have sucked. Changing a flat when I should be doing all my other pre-race stuff is not great. Luckily, that was not a problem, I borrowed a pump, and just like that Kratos was ready. 
Ready for battle
The next step was body marking. This was down the hill. Oh yeah, there was a hill. The difference between the Bay and T1 was, according to my Garmin, was only 36 feet. Yeah, well it was a steep 36 feet. Anyway, body marking. This is always interesting, because you really get to see how organized the event is by how well they handle numbering so many athletes. Ironman IS organization. A huge number of volunteers, a dozen lines of athletes, and the lines moved, if not swiftly, at least regularly. As I tweeted after getting marked, my guy was more concerned about making a mistake than some tattoo artists I've had. "1-5-5-3, right? 1-5-5-3."

Once I was body marked, I sun screened up and I was ready. Super Awesome Wife decided that rather than wait for the off on the beach she was going to head back up by T1 so that she could see the whole bay, and it would be easier for her to get pictures of the four of us coming through T1. This event was too big for her normal Picture Coming Out of the Water-Run to T1- Picture in T1. She had to choose. I'd rather see her as I was leaving on the bike than coming out of the water anyway. Helps. I kissed her and Dirtbag Fetus, then we went our ways.

So now I was alone. Kinda. Alone with nearly 2,000 of my closest friends. You know what was crazy though? Down on that beach, I didn't feel nervous in the least. I felt ready, secure in my plan and my training. What else could I do? It was too late to work harder, too late to back out, not that that was ever an option. It was time to do the thing. And no one around me felt all that nervous either. There was a ton of laughing and smiling. I dove into the crystal waters for a few hundred yards of warm-up and felt smooth. I rarely swim with my tri top on, so that was pully, but other than that everything was clicking nicely. Ran into a friend from Oahu and chatted, saw the Grey and MamaSaid, and suddenly the pros were heading towards the starting buoys. And I feel like again I should stress, this start line was full of happy, smiling, relaxed people. I'm sure there were balls of stress out there, twisting themselves into knots. But I didn't see many. I saw cool people. It was, without a doubt, the most positive starting line I've ever toed. And that helps. Positive feeds positive. A wonderful endorphin loop.
Pro start
 I don't know if the pros would have started three minutes before us anyway, of if the Lance Effect meant they got their own wave, but I appreciated it. Gave me time to realize I hadn't gotten my Garmin set up correctly. And, in my pre-race jitters, I forgot how to get it to Multi-Sport mode. D'oh! Looked around, there has to be someone on the beach wearing one...found a nice woman who hooked me up, and I was ready, but for real this time. The three minutes were also good because I figured that was a fair head start for Mr. Larmstrong. 
The announcer told us to take our places between the buoys, I waded out to what looked like a good spot, to just where I had to tread. No one was right in front of me but I wasn't on the leading edge either. I wasn't sure how far to the front I should be. Normally I get right up there, but in a field this big? Might get swum over. I settled in.
We wait for the pros off, I search for a Garmin

We take our places, with the less confident swimmers waiting on shore for the mosh pit to thin
Didn't have to wait long, though no one around me was prepared for the start. Talking about it later, no one heard a countdown. One second you were floating/standing/waiting, and the next CANNON! GOGOGO!
This was a washing machine, more so than any other race I've done. I immediately realized I overestimated my start position, but only slightly. I did get swum over a little. I got elbowed and kicked, there was white water everywhere, bodies everywhere, no clear water to be found. As a swimmer, it was exhilarating. Yes, I grew up loving the pool, everyone in their own lanes, everyone with space. But the physicality and aggression of a good mass start is awesome. A great way to being a day. I know many who would disagree. But they like running, and that makes them crazypants.
Eventually the crowd thinned some and I had open water. As open as water gets in a race like this. Which actually means I was in the middle of a group all heading towards a fixed point in the water. What is nice about this is I didn't pop my head up to sight but once for the first half of the race. I, like a fish, swam with my school and trusted that whomever was leading us had a bead on where we were all going. I watched the hips of the dude (chick? full body suits on skinny people are hard) next to me, occasionally avoided kicking feet, and found my rhythm.
 After the race, around the many tables among many different athletes where we had many blow-by-blow conversations about each leg, I would state that I loved this swim. And I truly truly did. It felt as good as I could have hoped. The water in Hapuna Bay is clear and calm, I could see all the way to the ocean floor an unknown number of feet below me. By the time I'd gotten there all the sealife had scattered, but there was coral and white sand and I loved it. I could have swum all day long. This is the positive of open water swimming. You don't get that in the pool. This sightseeing may have slowed me down some, but I don't think so. In mass start swims you group quickly. The first 200-300 yards or so is a sprint, then the lead group breaks away and everyone else forms their own schools and you pretty much stay there for the remainder. It takes too much energy to bridge a gap. Better to settle in. I didn't think too much about the coming bike, and the run never even entered my mind. There is no reason to dwell on the future pain during a triathlon like this. I had enough to think about. Constantly doing stroke checks, body position checks, and maintaining positive thoughts. I knew that the one thing that was going get me through this more than anything else was staying positive in my thinking all the way through. Letting negative energy in would kill me. So even though I'm a swimmer and I can get through a 1.2mi swim without too much struggle, I activated the positive and held on to it. It would be one of my rocks for the next six hours.
The field stretched across Hapuna Bay
I guess a buoy broke away from its moorings because of the wind, because lifeguards were waving groups back at one point. A few of the leaders started chasing the rogue buoy out to sea, and we had to be stopped. Looking at my Garmin data, as funky as it is with the problems it has tracking while swimming, you can kind of see that I did the same thing in my group. That course should be a rectangle, but there's a little dogleg in there. Whatcha gonna do?
I hit the beach feeling great. As far as you know, Lance was pulling on my feet the whole swim and I just barely beat him out of the water. Dude must have sprinted up the hill to be second into transition.
Swim Time- 32:55. I expected somewhere around 30 minutes. I'm happy.
It was here that one of my first Rules about the 70.3 came into effect. I will not run uphill. Not much. Why? It's going to spike my heartrate and make me tired. I'm not looking to save a minute here. So I walked up to T1. Better to be calm in transition. Got out my bag, poured a big water bottle over my head to get some salt off, put on my shoes, helmet, race belt with number, and shades, and grabbed Kratos. Ready for the fun part? Here we go!
T1 was hugely packed with bikes
Greg Bennett into T1 in the lead

Lance and Chris Lieto in 2nd and 3rd

The pros rush through T1
Diesel on his way out

Dirtbag always finds time to blow kisses to Super Awesome Wife
How did the bike and run go? Read about them in Part III.


  1. The swimmer in me loved that. Sounds like it was amazing.

    The feed I was reading said something about some of the age groupers missing a buoy and having to go back. Glad that didn't seem to be you!

  2. Yeah, that rouge buoy messed me up. Took the outside and didn't realize it until I saw a boat out there. Apparently I led a bunch of people followed me out there. Must have wasted at least 5min swimming back in.

  3. I was looking at a lot of swim times and your time is decent... Even with the traveling buoy. Ok, so now the bike! Can't wait to read about it.