Sunday, June 16, 2013

Honoulu Tri '13 Race Report

Here we are, my last and final triathlon in Hawaii. Also, the only race I've done three times as a solo. Also, the worst run I've ever had during a race (save maybe 2011's Ko'Olina Sprint). But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I registered for Honolulu ages ago, back when the early registration price was still reasonable. I figured I needed to do it, even if I wasn't trained up. This was before Dirtbag Baby was born, so I didn't yet realize how much my training was about to be impacted. Which was a lot.
I barely trained for this race. Barely barely barely. I hadn't really been in the water. I'd done a few rides over 25 miles, but not much over and not often. I hadn't run further than 3.5 miles since probably the Honu. I was not ready. If you went back and told 2011 me how I was preparing for this race he'd have freaked out. I was training like crazy back then. Not so much.
That meant mentally I was in a completely different place come Sunday morning. I talked about this in my last two race reports- I felt no pressure to perform at all. I was putting no expectations on myself other than finish the race and try to enjoy it. I knew it was going to hurt. I also knew that as far as courses go it is pretty easy. The swim is in a protected lagoon (basically, it's not really a lagoon). The ride is as flat as you can ask for, and not in a typically windy part of the island. The run is even flatter than that, and there is pretty decent shade. I can get through this on minimum training as long as I do it right. The big question was how long would it take for that lack of preparedness to catch up to me? Hopefully not until the run, because if I bonked on the bike I'd be miserable.
Dirtbag Mom was on island to visit with us and (mostly) Dirtbag Baby, so she drove us down to Ala Moana park Sunday morning, dark and early. Tiny human was so good the whole day. It was crazy early for all of us and we weren't sure how he would react to getting up and going in the car like that but he was great. Slept, no fussing, just a good boy.

I was feeling good, found Diesel and The Grey prior to the start, so we got to chat a little. Nice to have friends at the race with you. The Grey was complaining about his Achilles tendon, saying he'd probably have to walk the course so he didn't injure himself before the Honu. And Diesel was at the tail end of a cold that had knocked him on his ass all week. We were a couple of right strong triathletes, us. 
There were technical difficulties before the off, so we didn't get to hear the national anthem or Hawai'i Pono'i, the Hawaii state song, and I thought that was a bummer. I'm not a big fan of nationalistic chest thumping, but those songs start big events. They just do. We did get thirty seconds of silence for Boston, which I liked. And which was almost observed in silence, but not quite. Not quite because, well..ok, let's do this now.
The Honolulu Triathlon has become quite the travel race for Japanese triathletes. More and more visitors come every year to compete with us. Probably because the course is beautiful. Probably because they like coming to Hawaii anyway. Probably because they get some kind of deal- there are entire sections of the race staging area set up specifically for Japanese athletes. And I have no problem with Japanese athletes, I don't. I have a problem with the race becoming geared away from the people who live in Hawaii and towards the people who fly in for the race. This isn't a complaint about having everything translated into Japanese- I don't care. I really don't. America doesn't have a national language and I want everyone to know what's going on. But I no longer feel catered to when it comes to the Honololo Triathlon. I'm not the target athlete, but I'm the one who lives here. I'm the one here doing every other event the race director puts on. So when Japanese athletes do a cheer during the thirty seconds of silence for Boston I'm a little irritated. Don't believe me that the race is becoming more focused on Japanese imports than locals? Here is the race shirt from this year-
See? Look closer.
 Really look at it.

If you've ever ever been somewhere surrounded by tourists from that little island nation you know light blue and pink (PINK!?! ON BLUE?!? WITH YELLOW!?! WTF?) is their jam. It's the ugliest race shirt I have.
Anyway, there are a lot of Japanese racers here. They race differently than American racers do. They bunch. A swim start is always a washing machine mosh pit of bodies, and I like fighting through that and finding open water. But the numbers of guys in my wave made that very difficult. Not to mention (ok, this and one more complaint about Japanese athletes- I hope I don't sound racist because that's not it) they all wore their wetsuits. Now, according to USAT rules the water temperature was a wetsuit legal 77*. Except there was no way the water was that cold. I think the race director fudged the numbers because all those paying customers flew their wetsuits all the way to Hawaii and he didn't want to tell them to take 'em off or be ineligible for medals (not that we got medals, ohh I have so much to complain about I guess. Quick version in this tangent within a tangent- The Race Director, who nobody likes, has decided the event is going green. That means no awards for anyone but the overall winners. If you won your age group he will email you your certificate and personalized picture. Yeah, fucking digital awards for a race you paid nearly $200 to register for. Fuck that guy.). Anyway, wetsuits make crappy swimmers better because they float. That means crappy swimmers get in the way more.
I seeded myself near the front of my wave on the beach, mostly because I didn't want to get stuck behind too many people. Fidget, wiggle, shake, check goggles for the 12th time, wait- GO! The elite wave got a gun. We got a guy yelling at us. Whatever.
And I immediately got converged upon. This mass start was much more full than I remember from the last two years. Maybe because the last two years I was more confident in my swim so I charged harder right away. Either way, lots of bodies dropping to swim right in front of me, then standing back up, then dropping again. In my way. Come on, fellas, get on with it. There was probably 75 yards of this foolishness before we actually were able to get under-weigh.
It took longer than normal to find open water, and I spent quite a lot of the swim out right next to a dude who liked me a bunch. He didn't swim straight, so we kept bumping into each other. There's a difference between drafting and actually sitting on someone's hip, but he didn't know that. We were friends.
I chilled the swim out for the most part, concentrating on keeping a strong, steady, smooth stroke. Not spending too much energy, just get it done. Keep the heart rate under control and swim straight. The turn-around came quicker than I expected and I was feeling good. But I had forgotten about salt water chafing. Oh, the chafing. Right in the armpits it grinds and grinds, making the skin there raw. I normally put some type of Body Glide on my skin to prevent that, but had forgotten because it had been too long since I'd done a long swim. My bad. That stuff hurts, man. I couldn't wait to be done with the swim, not because I was tired but because I was raw.
Hit the beach and cruised to T1. I'm not in a hurry, I will take my time. No stress. Didn't see Wife, Mom, and Baby on my way up the beach  but that didn't mean they weren't there. The Grey and Diesel were in a wave way behind my own, so they hadn't been through transition either. I wondered if I would see them on the bike or not until the run. Expected Diesel on the bike. Changed, trotted out to the line, mounted and got to the going.
Even cruising the swim I was still pretty fast. You can do a lot with good technique, and I do.
The ride was smooth sailing. Because I was slightly slower on my swim than normal I was out on the road with a few more people. Last year and the year before I didn't have any friends for a while. I was out of T1 this year with two or three other guys, who left me in the dust pretty quick.
I had no illusions about how badly under-trained I was for the bike, so I was determined not to go crazy. Got down in aero, tucked in, and found my rhythm. I did pass one or two guys and played leap frog too, but mostly it was pass pass pass the Dirtbag. Still, I felt surprisingly strong out on the road. I knew I didn't have any sudden speed in my legs, there would be no sprinting, but I had a constant strength. Smooth and steady, that's the way to do it. Felt completely different from last year, when I had a great big distance engine. But it would do.
Since I'm all about complaining it seems like, here's another one- Where were the course marshals stopping the drafting and group riding? Our races are non-drafting events, meaning you need x number of bike lengths between you and the guy ahead of you. If you're passing then pass and the person passed has gotta drop back. There shouldn't be a massive peloton. There shouldn't be a line of three guys drafting off each other like they do on training rides. There was so much of that going on. I passed massive groups of riders clumped together. At the risk of sounding whatever, the biggest clumps were the Japanese riders, taking up the entire road and making passing impossible. No race awareness at all. No consideration for the athletes around them. Where was the people zipping around on motorcycles who are supposed to flag and fix that? Totally and completely frustrating.
 The one part of the course that normally gives me trouble, the out-and-back on Lagoon Dr. wasn't a problem. It wasn't any fun either. You see, normally there's a strong tailwind on the out and a strong headwind on the back. I was looking forward to the tailwind. You hit Lagoon around mile 19 and by then I was ready for a little natural boost. Twas not to be. On the plus side, that meant no headwind.
Pulled my feet out of my shoes for my amateur take on the flying squirrel dismount the super-fast guys use and rolled into T2 feeling ok. I knew there was pain ahead. I could feel it in the legs. I took my time in transition, got set, tried to get a but more water in me (thought I'd hydrated well on the bike, but it never hurts and the sun was hotting up).

The last time I looked happy on the run (15 meters in)
 The run fell apart pretty damn quick. I knew two steps in that it was going to be bad. How bad I wasn't sure, but bad.
It was worse.
It occurred to me not long into the 10k that I hadn't run more than 3.5mi since...oh probably the Honu last year. Crap. Swimming is easy. Cycling isn't hard, not on the flats (I'd have died if there were any significant climbs on the ride). But running, for yours truly, that's brutal in the best of situations.
I walked. I walked so much. I bonked like nobodies business. It was the hurt. I hadn't fueled well the morning of the race and I hadn't used my brain and bought some Gu before race day for during the race. What I had done was found a Hammer Gel from last year and stashed it in my back pocket in case I needed it. But I didn't know if those things go bad. What would they do? By mile 3 I didn't care. I needed calories. I took the Hammer. It was kind of gross. Still prefer Gu. I walked all of mile 3, waiting to see what the tummy made of the gel. Would I feel better or feel sick? Better, it turned out. Well enough to trot more than I walked for the last two miles. But I was miserable in the middle there. It was swiftly becoming a hot, windless day. Probably the worst run leg I've ever had. Lots of walking. Lots of fighting the negative. It didn't help that the run course is pretty dumbly laid-out. Lots of loops and turns and double-backs because the race director is too cheap to reserve the park next to Ala Moana as well, so it's a mess.
The Grey met me for the last quarter mile, having finished well ahead of me (and having run most of the race, contrary to what he said he was going to do). Actually, he and Diesel didn't catch me until the run, which was cool. They started with the old guys, waves and waves behind me, but still. We trotted to the finish line together, then he peeled off and I got to do something I've been waiting to do for five months.
The Grey, mocking me into the finish
 I took my son from his mom and held him in my sweaty, stinky, gross arms and ran through the finish.

Pretty much the coolest way to finish a race ever
 When they handed me my finisher medal (plate) I had them put it around the boy's neck. That was a pretty cool moment. Tiny human's first triathlon finish.

After the race the boys, my mom, and Super Awesome Wife hung out in the shade for a while. We rinsed off in the ocean, getting the sweat clear. And we watched the millions of tourist triathletes roam.
Final race thoughts-
Swim- 27:22
T1- 1:50
Bike- 1:15.07
T2- 2:07
Run- 1:18.36
Total- 3:05.20 
My splits, aside from my run, weren't that far off last year's. I didn't get a ton slower by not training like a crazy person. I did lose a lot of the confidence I'd gone into the previous races with. I didn't ever feel strong. I don't like racing like that and I need to fix it.
I am very disappointed in what the Honolulu Triathlon has turned in to. The digital awards, the massive medals, the hideous shirts, the overly fancy number tattoos, the blocked up and over-crowded bike course, the ridiculous run course, the lack of Hawaii Pono'i or the National Anthem, it's just not a fun environment to race in any more. And the parking. For a price you can get cherry parking, something I like taking advantage of. The website said passes were $10. Diesel picked one up for himself and one for me. They charged him $15, said there had been a change. Later we found out they cut the price back down to $10 the next day. I don't know what's up with that, but it smells fishy. No announcements were made about, "Hey, if you over-paid for parking we'd like to refund you your five buck." Just screw you, sucker. I don't think I would do it again next year. Which is too bad, because it's the only Olympic-distance race on the island. I'm not a fan of the Race Director, who's other race is the Ko'Olina Sprint, another poorly organized and over-priced event. I'm sorry this report focused so much on the negative, I don't like to do that and it isn't what this blog is about, but that's the taste that the whole race experience left in my mouth. I'm finally finishing this race report weeks after I crossed the line and I'm still put off by the whole thing. I know it's not just me, at least The Grey and Diesel feel the same.
We are moving to the mainland at the end of this month, where I'm looking forward to new races and new challenges. I want to thank thank thank Background Profiles for their incredible continued support.