With all my literary procrastinating out of the way, without further ado, here goes -- KONA 2009
The trip did not start off so well. I was supposed to leave at 8:20am, fly to Oahu, have a 1hr layover and get to Kona at 2pm. All was looking on schedule until we had boarded our plane, sat for a little longer than normal, then heard "This plane is being taken out of service." An hour and a half delay, and we were boarding our second plane. Of course, this meant we would miss our connecting flight in Oahu. Despite our flight attendant's assurances that they run inter-island flights every hour, upon landing we were greeted with the news that our new connecting flight would be leaving at 4:15, some 3hrs later. Needless to say, the day was filled with a bunch of "hurry up and wait" type situations and I barely made it to Kona in time to drop off our bags and get to the Zoot party. The rest of the pre-race was relatively uneventful. Charisa, Kevin and I went for some swims and a bike ride, and Kevin and I took a good run. Friday night Moms came up HUGE again and cooked an awesome meal for Charisa, Kevin & I and our entire support crew.
3:45 am couldn't have come soon enough. Moms and Pops dropped off Sean to grab his board for his water patrol duties and we picked up Brian and Nick for the drive to the King Kam. The body marking tent was actually much less stressful than I thought. Transition was a quick and easy trip with the help of an awesome volunteer (Judy), and before I knew it, Kevin, Charisa and I were watching the Navy jumpers and singing the National Anthem.
I had hoped that all the work I had done in the pool since IM CDA would pay off to the tune of a sub 56 swim. When I look back, I think I had that in me on race day. After some talking with Kona vets., I chose to line up in the middle/left, and in the first row or 2. I found a spot. It soon became over-crowded, so I found another. I started my heart rate monitor, and it read 00. I stopped it, started it again and 00. Repeat this process about 5x to no avail and I was a little frustrated and worried I would be riding without HR the whole ride. Finally I decided to just forget about it and try to get it working on the bike. Soon thereafter the cannon sounded and away we went. I swam with a fury for the first 500m or so and was pleasantly surprised to see I was still in the mix without any gap in front of me to the lead swimmers. I kept my head down, took the usual kicks, punches, and scrapes and just tried to keep the effort up. My plan/hope had been to find a pair of fast feet and cling to them for my life all the way through the swim. But after the first 500 was done, I found myself having to go around quite a few swimmers in front of me. Given that the swim went left, I tried to do most of my passing towards the left. This plan backfired soon though, as all my "head down" swimming had lead me off to the left, and much to my chagrin, out of the main draft. I saw the gap forming, but there was nothing I could do. I worked my way back into the pack by the first turn, and hoped to find some feet on the home stretch. On the way back it was clear to me that I had indeed missed the first pack and was right at the head of what was probably the 3rd or 4th pack. I couldn't find feet and the gap was way too big to close, so I just tried to stay out of the madness behind me and at the front of that group. Needless to say I wasn't very happy with the 58 on my watch when I exited.
Bike: 4:55: 20
My HRM began working on the bike and I was intent on following coach's advice of staying within my prescribed numbers. For the first couple miles before the Queen K I knew I was above my prescribed zone but not worried about it as coach said this would happen. Onto the Queen K I began to settle down a bit, and tried to find my rhythm. There was a good bit of passing going on for the first 20mi or so, with several of us trading passes. I was pleasantly surprised to see almost everyone riding legal however and tried to do the same. I was not so happy with the way my legs felt however. I was at the low end of my prescribed HR spectrum, but it felt like a big effort. Finally, about 35mi in the group had thinned out, and my legs really began to come to life. By the left turn toward the harbor I was feeling good and the surprise cheers from a familiar voice (thanks again Tawnee) all the way out there really lit a fire. I rode the rest of the way to Hawi feeling good and making up some lost time on the swim. Before Hawi, and for the last 10mi or so up to, we hit a pretty solid head wind and all I could hope for was that it would stick around to be a tail wind on the way back. After the turn, where I saw Steven & Jeff who had made the long trek to support, Jeff told me I was 2 minutes down on the next AGer. Special needs unfortunately was a little slow as they couldn't find my bag, and I was forced to slow to a crawling pace, waiting for them to find it and run it up to me. After I got my bag and food, I hit the 54x11 hard and tried to regain the ground lost in special needs. The tail wind held, and I was able to retake a few of the spots lost in special needs. The rest of the way back to town was somewhat uneventful. I was able to maintain a pretty good clip despite the inevitable; the wind shift and the headwind it left us with. The highlight of my ride back was catching Bree and getting to exchange some pleasantries with a friend on the lonely ride.
T2: 1:46 (Fastest in the entire field!!)
You read that right. I came off the bike feeling good, not stiff (thanks Armondo at Ted's Manhattan Cycles for the fit adjustments), and ready to run. It was pretty awesome to come into T2 and see only a few bikes other than those of the pros. When I looked at my racking area it was pretty barren and I knew I was out on the pointy end of the age group race. I grabbed my bag and went into the tent with some intent. One good thing about being out in front, is that the changing tents are full of eager volunteers to help you. I think there were like 3 athletes in the tent. I grabbed a seat, emptied my bag, and threw on my Zoot Ali'i Kicks. I had prepared my Ali'is with some blister shield and a little body glide around the edges, and was confident that I would have no problems going sockless for the whole marathon. The shoes went on lickety split and I was out. You want a fast T2, get Zooted.
I went out on the run feeling great. I had wanted to run sub 3:05 and I was fairly confident I had it in me to do so. When I looked at my watch, I saw I had run the first mile in just over 6mins. I knew this was too fast and tried to reel it in to a very comfortable pace. I thought I was running pretty comfortable at the turn around on Ali'i and even though it was HOT, I still felt pretty good coming onto Palani. When I look back now I realize I should have taken in more calories early on the run. I failed to take in a gel before Palani, and despite some awesome cheering from Sean, when I hit the top, I quickly realized the hill had taken a BIG chunk of my mojo. On the Queen K it just got hotter and I became a super customer at the aid stations taking coke, water, gatorade, ice... whatever they were selling, I was buying. One thing I was happy with was that while I was definitely HOT out there, I never felt like "Ohh man, I can't run any farther/faster because I am too hot!!". I used the aid stations to manage the heat and tried to press on. At the first aid station on the Queen K I downed a gel and an orange slice and hoped to try and catch my caloric slide before it got too deep. Just before the Energy Lab Craig Alexander and Chris Lieto ran past me on the home stretch. It was awesome to see those guys in action. I had seen Craig on Ali'i but he looked even better out on the Queen K. His face was that of complete concentration and determination. Lieto, having just been passed, looked like he knew he had just lost his dream, but was determined to hold second. He was the picture of suffering. I am not sure who was more impressive and inspirational. Into the Energy Lab I knew I had the real race in front of me. That place is BRUTAL. I hit a real rough patch in the lab, and was hoping the boiling hot Red Bull I was about to suck down would help. Unfortunately, the Red Bull didn't lead to the sprouting of wings as the commercials promise, and I struggled on. At the top of the Lab my friend, and many time Kona Vet, Patrick Baldwin passed me on his way in. Patrick is a stud athlete and someone I look up to. He could see the pain on my face and yelled "This is the race of your life Ian!". This fired me up and made me even more determined to finish strong. I knew I had 6mi left and was going to do all I could to keep going and finish on absolute empty. Maggs was spectathlete superstar and had ridden her bike out on the Queen K and was stopping every mile or so to yell encouragement. Having her there on those last few miles was huge. However, all my determination couldn't keep me ahead of the eventual age group winner and I lost 1st place in the age group at about mile 23. The dude ran a 2:55, and thus we see where Ian needs to be in the near future. A friend, pro-triathlete and US Marine, Billy Edwards, passed me moments after I lost 1st and thankfully so. Despite struggling through an off-day for him, he used a bunch of energy to scream his ass off at me, demanding that I pick up the pace and "Get Back On IT!!" This was a huge moment. It sent a charge through me and I was revived (to some extent) and again determined to dig as deep as I possibly could, no matter what happened the rest of the way. Coming up the final rise on Palani Maggs gave me one last cheer and headed off to the finish. Never has anything felt so far yet so close before. At the bottom of the hill I was caught by another AGer but was adamant with myself that I would not surrender the spot. We ran shoulder to shoulder for a brief moment but I was able to pick it up slightly and maintain my position. Down Palani I just tried to let my legs go and stay upright. On the last stretch on Kuakini, I knew I was literally "running on empty" and right at the turn I was passed by the eventual 2nd place in my AG. I had nothing with which to respond. From then on it was survive and hold my spot. Sean greeted me on Ali'i and I was so mentally numb, I could only concentrate on one thing, staying in front of the guy behind me that I had battled up the Queen K. Coming down the chute I gave one last look back and saw I had time to enjoy the finish as much as possible. I saw my Dad and got to high five him, and then soaked in as much of the finish as I could.
Final Results: 9:09:51; 3rd in M25-29; 8th Amateur; 1st American Amateur; 4th American Overall; 43rd Overall.
I had long imagined what it would feel like to cross that line on Ali'i Drive, but my dreams had fallen miles short of the true experience. Simply put, I don't have the words. I don't think a language exists in which it would be possible to fully capture the multitude of emotions that were pulsing through my being at that moment. I have never been happier, more exhilarated, more exhausted and more ALIVE than I was standing on that line. It was quite an experience. To be the top American Amateur is quite an honor and something I am proud of.
I owe huge "Thank Yous" to many people for all their support and help along the way. It means more than most of you will ever know. Like I said before, from those who simply read and/or comment on this blog, to the awesome support I recieve from Zoot, TriSports.com and Ted's Manhattan cycles, to those who make sacrifices of their own to train with me and help me be a better athlete, and to those who go above and beyond, I am filled with gratitude to you all.