Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Ironman Hawaii 2011

Hawaii was my fourth Ironman start, with a bunch of firsts attached to it - first time attempting two in a six-week time frame, first time approaching the race with a huge chunk of volume and a very short taper, and first time racing against such a deep field - in most Ironman races, a sub 10 hour performance places you comfortably in the top 50-75 racers overall, in 2010 there were 458 racers under ten hours in Hawaii.

To deal with the quick turnaround, I'd arrived early in Hawaii to get acclimatized to the weather and to lay down some good training in a low-stress environment free of 'life' distractions.  By race day I knew the course really well, was comfortable in the heat and humidity, and was excited to mix it up with some fast kids from around the globe.

Race Morning
The alarm was set for 4AM, but I was awake at 3:30, after sleeping pretty soundly through the night.  Breakfast was the same as Louisville - two cans of Ensure, a bowl of granola with almond milk, a banana, a multivitamin and a SaltStick cap.  Sipped 400ml of water and had a GU espresso love gel 30 minutes before race start.

Everything about the race in Hawaii is well organized and smooth - I arrived at 5:30, was body marked and had my bike loaded with food and tubes inflated by 5:50, final preps done and chatted with friends until the pro start at 6:30.  Shortly after we were all ushered into the water for our 7AM start.

Swim - 57:23, 106th overall
This was my first deep-water mass swim start, and because of the quality of the field, I was nervous about fighting my way to the front and dealing with a fast pace off the start.  It's not ideal to start a 9+ hour day with a few minutes of redlining your heart rate, but when battling the ocean currents and the chop in the bay on race morning, it was important to find a fast group and try to hang on for the duration.  Treading water at the front of the line was OK until two minutes to go, then it was chaos - people everywhere, getting kicked and punched by other swimmers fighting their way to the front, topped off by an Aussie in the third or fourth row yelling 'these guys all better be fast because if they're not they're right in my f*&^ing way!'.  The cannon fired at 7AM and the insanity began.
I'm the one in the blue cap.
About three minutes in I was close to having a panic attack...the pace was much higher than I wanted it to be, and quickly realized that I had no choice but to maintain the pace or I'd be run over from all sides. Things settled down slightly about 1500 metres into the swim, but there was contact the entire way.  Also contact from my blueseventy distance tri suit against my chest and neck as I forgot to bodyglide those areas up...salt water in open wounds is not fun.  Also no fun is swallowing a couple gallons of the salty pacific...
So happy to be done swimming.
T1 - 2:05, 48th overall
Smooth, shoes and helmet start on your bike here so my race bag had only my sunglasses, race belt, two gels and a flask of saltstick caps that I stuffed into my suit.  Didn't stop in the tent, ran straight through.  Downside to this was the sunscreen station was when you sat down, so headed out on the course with no SPF protection...

Bike - 4:56:43, 157th overall
There's two short, steep climbs with a steady climb thrown in the middle of them during the first 15K of the bike ride as you loop through town.  Tons of spectators, everybody is excited to be on the bike, and I'd been warned ahead of time that guys just gun it on this section.  I was holding around 260-300 watts going up the steep hills and closer to 240 on the steady one, and felt like I was walking my bike compared to everyone else.  Guys out of the saddle, just hammering, only minutes into a 4+ hour ride...yikes.  Couldn't possibly keep track of all of them, but I'm sure a bunch had trouble holding 200 watts on the way back into town at the end of the ride.
Taking it easy up Palani early in the ride.
My goal going in was to average 210 watts, in the end it was 215.  At times I was nervous it was too much power, but the effort felt easy.  I was blind on heart rate for the ride as my strap fell down to my waist during the swim and couldn't get a reading on my computer once I pulled it up.  There was a decent amount of drafting out on the course, but in my opinion the marshalls did a great job keeping things honest - lots of people in the penalty tent, and I saw the marshalls pull up on groups and take stock of the situation before handing out penalties.  I got passed by a bunch of people on the climb up to Hawi around the halfway point, but wasn't concerned as my power was where I wanted it and didn't want to cook the climb.  Absolutely flew on the downhill after the turnaround, passing everyone who went by me on the way up and a few more.  
Bombing along on the Kohala Coast
The winds were fair on the Queen K highway back into town, which led to some fast bike times.  I pushed a bit in the last 20K as I thought it would be close to break 5 hours, was happy to see 4:56 when I was done!  Garmin data:

Nutrition plan was similar to Kentucky, with a bit more calories and fluids: one 300 calorie bottle of Infinit, 6 bottles of Ironman Perform, 1 bottle of water, 6 GU roctane gels, 1 PowerGel, 5 SaltStick caps.

T2 - 3:05, 314th overall
After a slow T2 in Louisville I wanted to blitz this one, unfortunately the volunteer couldn't find my bag which cost me a few seconds, then once in the tent I stopped at the first chair I saw (in the future run right to the end of the tent) and once my shoes were on and I was ready to go, the whole row was congested resulting in having to wait for the other guys to finish up before I could get through.  When I sat down, I did get sunscreen this time!

Run - 3:03:43, 46th overall
Similar to the start of the bike, guys were just crushing it out of transition.  I waited until about 1KM in before checking my pace, what felt like 4:30/K was actually 3:45...and that included running 400 metres up a hill, and getting passed like I was standing still by almost everyone.  The goal was to run 7 minute miles as long as I had to drop the pace back.  One of the guys I finished the bike with was just up the road - Patrick Shuster ( - was running a sensible pace, so I bridged up to him around mile 3 and we ran together for a bit.  He'd biked 4:42 (!!!) and didn't think he could hold the 7 minute pace for long.  I stopped for a portapotty visit at mile 5 and lost a minute. 
Cruising along Alii Drive
The 7 minute mile pace continued, and at the mile 10 marker I met up with Steve Johnson (, who had some pretty amazing support out on the course, I'd been hearing 'Go Steve!!' and 'Go Johnson!!!' for a few miles before he bridged up.  We ran together for basically the rest of the marathon, which was a huge help for pacing and mental focus to have someone to lean on.  After falling apart at mile 19 in Louisville, I was determined to push through that section of the course this time around, which happened to fall in the Natural Energy Lab that everyone dreads.  I wasn't intimidated by it though as I'd run it in training and it was just another piece of road, and we caught our first bit of cloud cover for the day as we entered, making it feel not that hot.  We had a tailwind the whole way back to town after that which was a nice mental boost. 

I started the run in 97th and finished in 44th, so passed a net of 53 people which was fun.  The only person to pass us after Steve and I met up at mile 10 was Joe Thorne, who coming into the race had stated publicly he was going to beat the marathon course record in Hawaii (2:40.04 -  He didn't quite get the record, but he ran 2:43 and had the second fastest marathon of the day behind the pro runner-up Pete Jacobs.  Garmin data:

My nutrition plan for the run was simple - one cup of Perform, one cup of Coke, and one SaltStick pill each mile, with a sip of water if there was time to grab an extra water cup (first water cup went over the head, sponges into the top, cup of ice down the pants...a lot to get done in a 10 second time frame).  Wasn't sure if going completely liquid would work, but energy levels were high and was able to push the pace in the last two miles.  Around mile 24 I passed the only Canadian male pro in the race, Mike Neill ( who told me there were some guys up the road who were running slower than I was, which helped me push the pace and catch a few more in the final miles.

Total: 9:02:53, 44th overall, 14th in amateur race, 7th in M30-34
This was the race I knew I could have based on my training over the past nine months.  While Louisville was a 'good' race, this was a 'great' race where there was a plan, the plan was executed well, and adjusted where required based on conditions during the race.  Being able to run a consistent pace throughout the marathon and finish strong was very satisfying.  Goals coming into the race were to aim for 55-5:00-3:05, run the whole marathon, and hope that the result would produce a top 50 overall placing and be the fastest Canadian performance on the day.
Race hardware and the battered flippers that did most of the work.
Super fun to share the race with Team Imrie - they were all over the course and it was great to share the day with them.  Also fun to be racing with familiar faces - Phil, Matt and Glen were here after qualifying in Louisville, and met up with Fred and Brooke in transition on race morning. 
Rockstar support crew.
Officially into the off season now - 2011 was a super successful season, will enjoy some downtime to recharge the batteries and build some motivation for 2012...

1 comment:

  1. congratulations on a GREAT finishing race of the season.
    i look forward to more cheering in 2012 :)
    love, your sister.