Thursday, June 7, 2012

Honu Race Report Part III: The 70.3 Racening- Part II: The Bike and Run

Stay positive and keep moving forward.
-Dirtbag's Rule of Endurance
(For the Pre-Race and Swim portion click here)

I don't like opening on a negative, but the only complaint I had about the entire Honu experience that I think might have been controllable by the race director was how we got out of T1. There was a run from the bay to T1 which went up a decently steep hill. Then T1 happened in a parking lot. Then, to get from the parking lot to the road which leads to the Queen K highway, where we would be spending much of our time for the next few hours, we had to climb again. Like, immediately. And not kind of climb. It was a steep damn climb as soon as we hit the mount line. Not a long climb, but if you hadn't set your bike up in the right gearing you were kind of screwed. How bad was it? I got push started by a volunteer. And it wasn't a, "Oh, I see you're struggling, let me give you a hand." They were ready to help. Because clipping in while going from a dead stop to up isn't easy. So my complaint is that I bet there is a better way to start the bike. Small kine complaint, though.
As I hope I made clear in the last post, I felt solid after the swim. Paced it well, walked through transition, didn't feel any fatigue getting on to the bike. And once I got past that first little bump in the road I got to cranking. If I had to guess I would say that I probably spent the majority of the early part of the ride in too light a gear. I could have been pushing harder without losing cadence. In my defense, I didn't know what was coming, I didn't want to blow my legs out.
To my surprise, and his, I caught Diesel in the first five miles of riding. I was surprised because I never catch Diesel. He was surprised because I should have beaten him out of the water. Comparing splits later, he beat me by around twenty seconds. I accept that. *grumble* When I saw him I though he was having mechanical issues because he was pulled over and stopped. Then when he started he seemed distracted and slow. I pulled alongside to ask if he was ok and it turned out he was grabbing a small snack, which is why he was going slow, and his bike had felt funky, which is why he stopped. I actually was ahead of him for a good five, maybe ten seconds. That's right, I led Diesel during a 70.3!
Until he finished his snack and disappeared. Damnit.
The ride course went down towards the Fairmont Orchid, where we would eventually be getting off our bikes and running, and then made a U-turn all the way up Hawi, the climb I'd see every time I tackled Pineapple in training. The Queen K is not a flat road. It rolls with the landscape. To start, this was great for me. None of the rollers were long or steep enough to give me trouble and spirits were high.
Then HE blew by me. Remember the U-turn? That meant we got to see everyone ahead of us on the course for the first of two times. So I got to watch all the pros go flying by. And in the lead? Mr. Larmstrong himself. Of course. 
Mr. Larmstrong on course Honu 2012- from
I have been trying for days to think of a way to describe what it felt like to see him ride in the flesh. I've seen some powerful things in person. I've seen Albert Puljos hammer a home run. I've seen HHH pick up another man and throw him across the ring. I've seen jet fighters fly right by me at air shows. But I don't know if I've ever seen anything that gave me such an immediate feeling of, "Holy crap! Look at the power!" that I got from the two times he passed by me. The closest would be seeing a jet fly right over my head. It's there, then it's gone. His famous cadence, holding 100rpms at least, is a blur live. Seeing it on YouTube isn't the same. What is?
But I couldn't just let him go. As he flew by I turned to the lady currently passing me and shouted, "Hey! It was that one guy! What's his name?" She didn't laugh.
I ate once an hour on the bike, which meant three times over the course. And only tried to make myself throw up once. I had broken the Clif Bars up into easy pieces pre-race, but in my hurry to get one out and get back down on the hoods, I didn't want to get blown off the road, I crammed a whole bite into my mouth at once. Bjork! Lesson learned.
I continued to feel strong at the turn and back through most of the rollers, though here is where I ran into two minor mechanical problems one after another. My chain fell off the front rings. Twice! I was shifting from the big ring to the smaller one and, because my gearset isn't the fanciest on the block, it dropped right off. I think it's because I was in the wrong place on the cassette (the back group of rings). Easy, quick fixes. Stay positive, don't think about it. This is a race, but not really.
This was the first race where I discovered how we got water on the bike. Volunteers stand on the side of the road holding open water bottles. We zip by, reach out, grab one, I dump it into my quick fill aerobottle, pour the cool wonderfulness over my head, then toss the bottle as far to the roadside as I can. Check it out:

It was right before Hawi that I decided on anther Dirtbag Rule For 70.3 Racing- Dirtbag Don't Pedal Downhill. There were guys cranking down, and I simply tucked in, put my pedals parallel to the ground, and coasted, keeping up with some of them. "Hey guys, check out what I discovered! I'll call it 'Dirtbag's Theory of Downhill Pulling Force'. Or 'gravity' for short." Right before Hawi was also where I saw another person I knew. Obi Tri Kenobi, he who lent me his bike for my first tri two years ago, passed me after 12 miles. I like him, but dude needs to get his stroke together. No way I should swim that much ahead of him. When he does, he's going to be even more dangerous. And I can say that because he finished a day and a half ahead of me.

I must say, I was worried about Hawi. When Super Awesome Wife and I drove it in March it seemed really steep and long. Especially the opening miles. This helped motivate. And once I got on the road I was really confused. I felt so good on those opening climbs. I was bouncing up them, making passes, and feeling strong. Was this what I was worried about?
I can see that I've neglected to mention what would be the most important part of the ride. The Wind. So let me say this; Oh dear sweet science, it was freaking windy. Climbing Hawi you have wind whipping down at you, so you're climbing into a headwind, and wind whipping down the side of the mountain on your right, so you've got a cross wind. On the way up, the headwind was brutal.
Eventually the rolling steepness stopped. We would climb, then descend, then climb more, then descend. Yay for coasting downhill! But then it stopped and the grind began. This is where Hawi brought the pain. Steep climbs almost aren't that bad. You can see the top. But long shallow climbs are awful. Soon I just wanted it it end. I wasn't sure how far I had to go until the turn-around, but I would have killed a basket full of hobos just to have known. Stay Postive became Once We Make the Turn, It's Downhill. That thought got me the rest of the way up Hawi. Big U-turn and down we go!
Oh my. It was beautiful. If you had asked me in the next five miles what the greatest thing in the history of ever was I would have told you, "Downhill. Downhill is the greatest thing in the history of ever." And it was. Then the cut-outs started. The cross-winds were worst when the side of the mountain dipped away, leaving nothing to block the wind coming down it. Oh yeah, did I mention it was raining at the top of Hawi too? So wicked bad crosswinds on rain-slicked roads while you're trying to race downhill. Weeeeeee!
You could tell when a cross was going to hit you because the line of cyclists ahead would suddenly jerk to the left and then lean at what seemed like 45* angles the other way. A dude next to me got blasted so hard one of his feet came unclipped. I heard that some of the smaller girls, and therefore more susceptible to getting pushed around, we being treated like kites. It was kind of scary-to-really scary depending on who you ask. Including the pros. These quotes make me feel tougher:
“I had to stop to put water in my water bottle at the aid stations,” Ironman World Champion and Kona veteran Laura Sophiea said. ”I’ve done over 300 races and this was by far the toughest conditions I’ve ever experienced.”
“I’ve never raced in conditions like this … With this wind there were points where you were running on the spot,” said runner-up finisher, Australia’s Greg Bennett. “It was, without a doubt, the most brutal thing I’ve ever done.”
The second time I got to see the blur that was Lance was while I was going up and he was coming down, and Diesel too, who shouted, "DIRTBAG!" as he went by. That did help me get the next few miles done. And when the pro in second place, Greg Bennett I think, went by, I shouted, "Go get him!" Not sure he heard me. Things like this help the miles go. But my mile 40 I was done and just wanted to get off the bike. The winds had been so tough coming down that I was having to pedal downhill to maintain speed. Which made me mad at the wind. And there was a mile long climb coming out of the harbor that sucked as hard as any climb I've ever done. Diesel told me once that riding is fun but at the end you just want them to, "take this evil torture device away." That's where I was come mile 40. You know it hurts when you just want to be able to get off the bike so you can run a half marathon. But that was the thought that got me through the end of the ride. We went from Get Me To The Turn-to- Get Me To The Run. 
Palm trees mark the right turn into the Fairmont Orchard and the small group around me cheered when we saw them. At some point during this Matt, of Tri Cook, passed me and we had a nice short chat, and one of Kepa's friends did too. And that ride into T2 was as windy as any other part. Almost felt bad because the last mile was a no passing zone, and I'm sure the one or two guys behind me would have passed. Tough luck, boys. What did surprise me about the ride was the Grey never caught me. He climbs better than I do and I was sure he would have. That will change.
Bike Split- 3:19.46
T2 went smoothly. My spot was way in the back so I had a long run, but I'd taken my feet out of my shoes without unclipping, my one fancy tri-trick, so the barefoot jog/walk through transition wasn't bad. And having Super Awesome Wife waiting and cheering helped too. There was a bank of Port-a-Potties right before T2's exit and, because I'd been hydrating ok I took a quick pee. (Not all of us can go while riding, MamaSaid.) Kinda dark, so I knew I needed to be drinking more. And then I'm off on the run.

Always Dirtbag Tough

And we're off!
Here was my run plan: run when I could, walk every aid station and uphill, don't stop moving forward. That is all.
The run was almost comforting because I knew I could walk. I had no ego invested in the half marathon. I didn't know how my foot was going to hold up (there had been twinging coming out of the water, so I was nervous about it, but it was actually fine the whole time), I hadn't run regularly in three weeks, it was a big mystery.
Aid stations on the run were long and went Water, Perform (the IM-brand of sport drink), Food, Coke, Water, Sponge. And I loved them. There were 12 on course, one just about every mile, so each time I hit one I'd slow to a walk and grab, at least, water, water, ice, sponge. The sponges were soaked in the ice water and felt soooooo good to cram into my tri top. Ice got dumped on my head, in my top, and even into my shorts. Anything to stay cool.
We all thought the heat would be killer on the run because it normally is. There isn't much shade on a golf course. But it was still windy, so we traded hot and still for running into headwinds and, trust me, this is a good deal. It was on the run course that I got back to Stay Postive and Keep Moving Forward. There was never a time that I wanted to stop completely, and never a time when I questioned my sanity or hated life, but I certainly didn't enjoy the run. Who does? I tried lots of tricks for staying positive, including asking the people I was running near (read: who were passing me) if they knew how far back Lance was. "Hey, you know how far behind us Armstrong is? That guy was totally drafting off me." Most people laughed and played along. Was nice to see friends on the course. I also kept telling the aid station people, a lot of whom were very positive kids, "Oh, you are my favorite. I told the kid with ice a mile ago he was my favorite, but I totally lied. You are my favorite!" I said it really fast. It's not like I was cruising through.
Many people didn't like the grass sections. I loved them.

Stay positive. Stay positive. Look good for picture. Stay positive.

Yep. Totally walking here. They caught me. Still tough though.
 At some point early on during one of the many out-and-backs on the run course I finally spotted the Grey. He and Diesel had expected the Grey to be able to catch Diesel on the run, but he'd struggled more on the bike than expected. So when I saw him going out while I was coming back I started shouting at him, "Come get me, old man! Come get me!" (Dirtbag Racing Note: Shouting in the middle of a 70.3's half marathon will make your head hurt.) He did eventually, but it took longer than we expected. And he raped me when he caught me. Well, ok, here's the thing- earlier in the weekend I may have snuck up on him in an ice cream shop and given him a massive hug from behind when he wasn't expecting it. I may also have gently cupped his pectoral muscle when I did so. So I maaaaay have deserved to get jumped on from behind when he passed me on the run. Laughing helps the run go by. And after he went by I reached out an smacked him on the ass, "You are so sexy when you run by me!" A course volunteer on a bicycle near us nearly crashed laughing. 
I made a friend about mile seven who pulled up next to me and said, "I've been chasing you for seven miles." He was cool and I'm not making fun, but he was a big dude. Heavier. He said it was his first triathlon ever. Well, I walked with him for about half a mile, that middle section is the hardest mentally, and we chatted a little, but there was no way I was hanging out with him the rest of the run. I didn't have much ego or competitive fire, but I had some. Thanks for the motivation. 
There isn't much more to say about the run. There was an out-and-back called The Road To Nowhere right at the end that sucked worse than the rest of the run put together. Looking at the run course, it's easy to see what part I mean. It is so long that there is an aid station halfway down, but you don't know its halfway down if you've never been on it before. So you think, "Oh good, this isn't that far." That thought is followed quickly by, "Oh...damnit." 

Headwind going down means tailwind coming back though, and once you're done with the Death March (Diesel's name for it), you're practically done. One more aid station, past the 12 mile marker, where Obi Tri was standing and cheering us on, and the finish line is close enough to taste. "I am not walking any part of the last mile," I decided. I hadn't looked at my watch for elapsed time the entire race, it does no good midway through the bike to see, "Oh, three and a half hours. Only three hours to go." But now I was looking. I knew I should be able to come in under seven hours. I wanted 6:45, but walked too much for it. I did the math and decided to see how far under seven I could finish. I didn't sprint to the finish, that last mile was longer than just about any mile I've ever run. I barely had any kick to my stride. Once, my toes had gotten sore and I knew that if I cracked it, something you can do in funny toe shoes, it would stop hurting. So I stopped and bent over to crack it my my hamstrings went, "Woah! You don't want to be bending over right now! We will cramp and fail if you do." So there was no more of that. It was IronShuffle in. I could see the finish, hear the crowd getting louder, there were more people on course now, finishers already done standing by cheering, spectators, volunteers. I could hear the announcer calling out the names of those in front of me as they crossed the line. I just needed to get there.
Stride- IronShuffle
Down the chute


Run Split- 2:53.37

Finish Time- 6:56.24 
For Race Report Part IV- The Reflection click here


  1. I love it!! I want to just follow you on a moped next time. Can I do that? It sounded like so much fun, which is honestly the last thing I expected from your race report.

  2. Good job! It will be easier next year with or without the wind! Oh and I think that everyone calls that section the "Death March". Haha.

  3. Great race report! Sounds like you had a great time. You had a good run strategy. I learned a lot from your report as well as others. If I ever do a 70.3 I will be thankful for folks like you who posted the Honu race reports.

  4. As I was the guy who caught you on Mile 7 (Big Dude, Heavier #1480) you helped me get through that run as I was wiped out trying to even stay near you in my first triathalon.


    1. Hey, you found me! Right on. Awesome race, man. The run got pretty brutal.

    2. Yeah, it took alot out of me. I will be better prepared for next year. I am also doing the Half Ironman in Austin as my second race ever. Hoping for better conditions.