Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ironman Hawaii 2009: Good practice

I just saw this quoted on Slowtwitch:

"Rule 5.10c): Right-of-Way: [in part] a cyclist shall not crowd the other participant and shall allow reasonable space for the other participant to make normal movement without making contact. "

I just thought I'd put that up there in case any of the multitudes of shamelessly cheating male age groupers happen to read my blog (doubtful, I know). It's bad enough that a "world championship" event is illegitimized by packs of 30+ guys riding together into the wind, but they could at least have the decency to not try to run the women they're overtaking off of the road in the process. I suppose I'm used to pro rules where it is required to move 2 meters to the left before entering the 10 meter draft zone, but it is insane how close these guys come in their efforts to suck as much wind as possible. Just for the record. It is considerate to at least make sure your rear tire has cleared the front tire of the person you're passing before moving right again. And I don't want you riding so close that I get splattered by the sweat blowing off your elbows.

Yep, there was a lot of getting passed in store for me on race day. But perhaps I should start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with "a-b-c." When you sing you begin with do re mi. I digress. And I respect the dorks who actually get the reference.
I showed up in Kona on September 22nd, grabbed my rental car, and headed for the Rubios place in Kailua. I stayed with the Rick and Karen for a spell in 2007, and I intended to do the same for a while this year. Little did I know that a "while" would end up being the entire 2.5 weeks I spent in Kona. Holy generosity! I settled in, went for a swim (my favorite thing to do in Kona) and called Aaron before going to bed. He started the conversation by telling me that he had a very interesting day. Apparently, while studying in a coffee shop, he knee went from looking and feeling normal to looking like this

He went to the ER, was diagnosed with a cellulitis, administered a course of IV antibiotics and sent home. The next day, sicker, and with his knee more inflamed and swollen, he returned to the ER. I, meanwhile, was beginning to tackle training in the steam room that is Kona. On the third day, Aaron was admitted to the hospital and prepped for surgery, and I rode the IM bike course. When I got back to the house that afternoon, I booked tickets back to Spokane. Attempting to fly back to Kona 1 week prior to the Ironman made for a very expensive plane ticket. But hey, he was my husband of two weeks, what else was I to do? I returned to Spokane to find this. . .

. . . and a significantly less sick spouse. I was only home for 5 days, so we had to find unvigorous activities that involved zero risk of falling on one's knee. Luckily, the honeycrisp apples had just come into season at Greenbluff, and we received a hard-core potato gun as a wedding gift (Aaron's favorite gift by far). After picking up lots of apples and squash, we stopped on a quiet dirt road to have some real hick fun.

Don't be fooled by the use of an innocent Joe Blow bike pump to power this thing. At 60 PSI a potato shot straight into the air can't even be seen. And it can be used up to 100 PSI. It put a hole in Aaron's cousin's fence and essentially atomizes any vegetable matter that it shoots into tree trunk or cement wall. Apparently, this is really fun for boys. I find it mildly entertaining. Note the rather entertaining looking squash we couldn't resist purchasing in the trunk. t

A side note; the morning before I flew back to Spokane, Rick and I got to do a really fun local tri - my first race since Canada. It was called the Mangoman, and it was a blast. Totally low key Kona local style. Naturally, I ran into Wee there, but her coach wouldn't let her do the whole race. Instead, she just obliterated the swim, and left the rest of us to bike and run up Hualalai 4 times total.

Back to Kona then. I got off the plane and squeaked in a 3 hour ride out to Kawaihai and back before dark. It may well have been the most fun ride I've ever had in Kona because I had a ridiculous tailwind on the way home. Like spinning out at 35 mph on the flats style tailwind. Yeehaw. I almost felt like I do when racing in Kona except that it was about a million times more fun.
The next day marked the beginning of the Lifesport Prep camp which made for some quality training opportunities, including getting to swim with Linsey and Wee (or watching Bree's bubbles grow ever more distant. Whatever).

As per usual, the camp was comprised of great people from disparate parts of the country and world. It was an insanely likable group of people. What fun.

Once camp ended, "race week" began. Race week is meant to be relaxing, but it tends to be anything but. I did a pretty good job of managing my obligations promptly and heading straight back to the sanctuary that was the Rubios' house, but there were still plenty of days when bedtime rolled around and I asked myself how it was possible to have been so busy. Nonetheless, I was lucky to have such a relaxing, quiet place to stay with hosts who really made me feel at home and kept me well fed, to boot.

A major perk this year was not having to worry about my bike being race-ready. The Zoot Ultra team was provided with our own super-duper bike mechanic, Chris Davidson, who not only got my Orbea perfectly tuned and road-worthy, he washed it too. Like straight off the showroom floor clean. If only Kona was my real life . . .

so pretty

But all of these meeting and camps and flights and training sessions were intended to set me up for a great race, right? Unfortunately, despite all of this, my mind and body weren't totally invested in the race. I was certainly calm and focused, but I knew where I stood fitness-wise and recovery-wise, and neither of those were very good. I was confident that I could pull off a decent Ironman, but when a Kona slot makes itself available only 6 weeks prior to the race, it can't be an "A" race. Especially when the fitness was already much diminished those 6 weeks prior and there was a wedding thrown into the mix as well.

These aren't excuses as to why I had a mediocre race, but rather my understanding of the ramifications of structuring my season the way I chose to. I was honored to be able to participate in the race, and I was ready to take the steps necessary to prevent total disaster a la 2008, but it was my "dessert" race - a reward for having put in the hard yards during a relatively long season. Time to have fun and to practice the famed Hawaii Ironman. I won't lie and deny that I wasn't hoping for some undeserved flash of athletic genius that would propel me to a PR, but I was pretty realistic regarding my chances of that.

Race morning was smooth and fun. Rick dropped me off and walked me to transition. Then it was just a matter of preparing myself and my gear as I have done so many times. It was great to bump into so many friends. In fact, it was the fist time that I saw Eve all week.

The swim was pretty wretched. I got off to a great start (how many times have I said that this season?), and actually swam with a big fast pack for a long while. I think I got bumped off the back just a bit too soon because I swam alone for a LONG while before getting caught by a group of 6 or so near the far turn buoy. I would like to think that if I had just hung on to the fast pack a little longer I might have gotten spat out with some slightly stronger swimmers, but who knows. The group that caught me wasn't actually going that slowly, they were just going all over the place. After turning back towards the pier, the guy leading the group repeatedly sighted off of the buoys on the other side of the course and was oblivious to numerous water patrol volunteers who tried to steer him straight. A couple of times I left his wake and headed for the correct buoy, but it was always a lost cause because he was just that much faster than me and we usually reconvened at the next buoy anyway. Eventually, I resigned myself to being thankful for the tow and made the most of the tiki tour of the Ironman swim course.

I have to admit to being gutted when I saw my time though.

The bike wasn't a whole lot better, but at least it was done on my terms (except when sitting up and trying not to be run off the road by the aforementioned AG cheaters). I revisited my super-conservative bike strategy from Canada and mostly enjoyed the course, oblivious to how slow I was going. Again, it was my plan to be conservative, but it was not my plan to be so conservative that I sucked. A bit harsh, sure, but even given my relative lack of cycling fitness, that bike split was ugly! Once I start swimming better I'll have a better gauge of what the other girls are doing on the bike, and I won't be tooling around in lala land like I did.

Despite being slow, the bike felt like it flew by and then it was time to run. This was going to be my trump card. After such a conservative bike, I was going to slowly motor through the girls who pushed too hard early on. But it didn't happen. Despite a rock solid stomach, perfectly executed nutrition plan, and positive spirits, it just wasn't in me. The reality of my running form became evident fairly early on, but I promised myself that I would be nice to myself (lots of self love, eh?) and enjoy the day. And I did! After the sauna that was Ali'i, I got up to the Queen K and focused on how pretty the ocean was and how easy it actually was to put one foot in front of the other, albeit slowly. I had some good conversations with fellow competitors, some real bonding moments with aid station volunteers, and smiled about as much as I ever have during an IM marathon.

Of course, pulling out and saving myself for Arizona or Florida came to mind, but I knew realistically where my physical and mental fitness stood and that this would be my last Ironman of the season. Why not make it a party? The party really got started at mile 18 when I finally resorted to drinking Coke, which, it turns out, is a miracle beverage. I hate the taste (always have), I hate its role in diabetes and tooth decay around the world, and I hate how it feels against my teeth, but it instantly made me run 1 min/mi faster. Again, these weren't very fast miles to begin with, but those 8 minutes stood for 8 minutes sooner that I would be able to celebrate my day down the finish chute on Ali'i and get a post-race massage (one of my best ever, I might add).
It was the first Ironman that I finished feeling almost normal. No dizziness or nausea, just a roaring appetite for pizza, which was promptly satiated. Satiated by 6 pieces, in fact. Then I took the world's most blissful cold shower in the outdoor showers by the pier (Tyler Stewart planned ahead and brought soap) and stopped by the Lifesport lounge for a tad. The result was this:

Not sad, not happy, but done and badly tan-lined. Those beautiful bike short lines are still with me and will likely persist for the remainder of a cold, northwestern winter. Rick and Karen's friends had made balcony reservations at the Fish Hopper, a restaurant right above the finish line, so I got to spend another few hours eating and watching competitors in their final seconds of their races, completing what was for some a life-changing accomplishment. Even if my race wasn't brilliant, knowing that I had just shared the experience with 1800 others and that we had collectively undergone just about every possible physical and emotional sensation, well, that was cool.
Thanks are, of course, in order. Thanks firstly to Rick and Karen, who not only agreed to take in a relative stranger in a pickle 2 years ago, but who treated me like family for 2.5 weeks. Their hospitality and friendship were unparalleled. Thanks also to Aaron for sacrificing me to triathlon for yet another 2 weeks and for being endlessly supportive. And to Lifesport and Coach Dan - thanks for another brilliant camp in Kona and for letting me fully recline while "on duty" in the Lifesport Lounge. And many thanks to Zoot and to Team sports for treating us so well while in Kona. The dinners, goodies, and bike mechanic were invaluable.
Now it's on to 2010. A great year it will be. I have plans and they start with getting fully recovered earlier than I have in the past so that I can commence a quality "off-season" a little sooner. Should be fun. Thanks for reading.


Sue said...

Always fun to see you race!! We like it so much, that Chloe always spots you 1st :) Thanks for the chat @ the pier. You are a gem!!

TriMoot said...'re too hard on yourself. I thought your time was amazing! (yeah, I know..I'm an old guy so anything in the sub 14 hour would be amazing to me!) Loved your race report. The details are what I love to hear about.

So sorry about your husband's knee...yuck...looks very painful! I wish him well.

So, in regards to 2010...what races do you plan (I use that term loosely)on doing?

I signed up for my 1st IM this year so Coeur d'Alene is looming large for me.

Well, have a great off season, and try not to even THINK about Trixxxxx's. (See I didn't even say it!)

You're an amazing athlete and I love reading about your events.
Take care!

super carly said...

Coopsicle! Congrats on another Kona under your belt! As usual, you seem oblivious to your awesomeness. Enjoy your "off season" and email me already g'dammit! Carly xo ( said...

That gun does look super fun! It shoots potatoes?! Sounds like the boys may have their next Christmas present lined up :)
What a fun season, Coops!

Charisa said...

Glad you had fun and made the best of a hard day.

The knee - OH painful!! Hope he feels better!

Here's to a great 2010. I'm going to join you in the "pro" ranks and try to chase you around at races :)

Enjoy your off season - you earned it all!

Dee said...

What an entertaining Post! :-)Congrats on a super-solid season! Take it from isnt easy to accomplish! You should be proud of yourself! Ejoy your "off time"... Im looking forward to some about 6 weeks! :-)

Spokane Al said...

Wow - I wasn't prepared for the picture of your husband's knee - I trust he is feeling much better now.

Perhaps you could mount the potato gun on your bike and provide those close passers with a blast when they get a tad too close.

Congratulations on a great, great season. You always make is seem easier than it is. And if you come across any "flash[es] of athletic genius" could you send some my way?

Steve said...

It was great chatting with you in Hawaii. Your pre-race activites did all but get you focused on the race but you did awesome. As you said, this wasn't your A race but it was the World Championships and that is pretty awesome.

Hope 2010 is a great season. Now enjoy some down time and shoot some potatoes. And yes, that thing is FAWESOME!!!

ColoradoGeorge said...

Hi Haley,

Great account of your experience, I enjoyed reading it. AND, Aaron's knee was pretty scary looking. I have sent him an email to see how he is doing. Hope all is well with you.

Phaedra Cote said...

I really enjoyed reading that race report. Very enjoyable with good details. Excellent description of the cheaters.

And I've got to say, I think the potato gun would be more than mildly entertaining for me. That's just kewel.

If you change your mind for Arizona, you know you've got travel buddies ;)


jessithompson said...

Fun to see you out there... love your attitude about it all. Enjoyed reading this.

Matt said...

great race report, was hard to watch online, not very great coverage this year...great work out there, you had an amazing season, cant wait to see you destroy 'em in 2010!

Laura and company said...

I just recommended a few blogs, including yours, to a friend who needed some inspiration. Then I got to thinking about you, and about your blog, and about how I had just recommended it to a friend, and about how I had not actually read it since September. Aaron's knee looks disGUSTing. But you, on the other hand, look HOT, as usual. And I'm not going to whisper a word about "shut the f up about your crappy bike time or your snail-like run pace" because that has got to get old, all things being, of course, relative. But seriously, shut the f up about your crappy bike time and your snail-like run pace, ok? You know that my sarcasm is just love and deep, deep respect, in disguise. Once again, you are a rock star, and I wanna be you when I grow up. XOXOXO