Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hawaii Ironman 2007 “Shooting for the Pie in the Sky” A Race Report (Long)

As I sat in the audience at the awards dinner at the Hawaii Ironman last year, I started thinking about my goals for 2007. I just had to get back here to Hawaii. I would be racing in a new age group, the Male 45-49, and I knew that I could go faster.

I like to set my goals in a tiered manner. I set some I know I can achieve, then I put some way up there. I call those my “pie in the sky goals”. My first goal was to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman, and I did that at St. Croix in May. My “pie in the sky” goal was to make the top 5 in my age group and the podium at the Hawaii Ironman; the elite’s elite. I almost did it and I ended up 8th. I didn’t let anyone know about my “pie in the sky” but I think some got the idea when they saw how hard I was training.

Last year I came into the Ironman with a goal of not to melting down and to finish strong. It was my second Ironman and I wasn’t sure if the first one was a fluke. It wasn’t, and I just missed going under 10 hours. This time I was ready to take some risks and push the envelope a little. Historically, 9:54 was the average finishing time for the last podium finisher in my age group over the past 7 years. It was doable.

After it was all said and done, I finished 240th overall and 8th in the M45-49 age group(3rd American) with a time of 9:53:06. I met the average time, but the last podium slot went down to 9:45.

TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (55:41) 1:27/100m 93rd Overall, 2nd in the age group
FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 5 mi. (1:14:43) 18.91 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 28 mi. (2:20:21) 21.03 mph
THIRD BIKE SEGMENT 59 mi. (3:54:57) 19.66 mph
FOURTH BIKE SEGMENT 88 mi. (5:16:51) 21.25 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 112 mi. (6:28:49) 20.01 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:29:58) 20.37 mph 411th /15th age group

FIRST RUN SEGMENT 5.2 mi. (7:10:05) 7:18/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 17.6 mi. (8:46:11) 7:45/mile
RUN FINISH 26.2 mi. (9:53:06) 7:46/mile TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (3:20:59) 7:40/mile 250th /8th fastest run split in the age group


My average heart rate for the bike was 140 b/min and for the whole race the average was 144.

On Saturday morning I was up at 3:30 am for my prerace meal which included 3 scoops of Hammer perpetueum, 2 scoops of Heed, 2 gels, and a banana and peanut butter. Dana drove me down to the start area at 4:45. We kissed and said our good byes. I was walking toward the King K hotel when I discovered that I had forgotten my nutrition bottles in the refrigerator. Luckily I had my cell phone with me and I called Dana to bring them back to me. What an idiot. It was like forgetting to bring my bike.

I got numbered, set my gear up and my bike, then sat along the railing watching the orange sunlight begin to brighten behind Mount Hualalai. I called my mother at home and talked to my kids. Then I stuffed all my clothes in the prerace bag turned it in. I pulled on my Xterra Velocity speed suit, got the cap and goggles, and headed to the swim start.

I got down in the water pretty early and watched the Navy seals parachute into Kailua bay. That was quite a spectacle.

The pros got off at 6:45 then I eased my way out to the swim start line. The water felt good. My stroke felt good. I picked a spot right in the middle between the Ford sign and the pier. I held my ground in the front and watched the divers with cameras swim beneath me. I made a few “hang loose” hand gestures for the cameras to ease the tension. Guys on surf boards patrolled the starting line and paddling back and forth. “Come on guys stay back…Stay back” Mike Reilly was counting down the minutes. I looked out and saw the multitudes gathering behind me and the figures lining the sea wall. The helicopter was buzzing overhead. This was the Ironman World Championships and my moment was about begin. Then with out warning..”BOOM” we were off. I sprinted off pretty hard for the first 500 yards or so, I’m sure it was faster than 6:00, just to clear the crowds and get into a good group and catch some fast feet.

When we got to the turnaround boat, I could still see the leaders and they were pretty close. On the way in I just sat back and enjoyed a good draft. It felt so easy that at times I was one arm stroking just so I wouldn’t run into the guy in front. On the way in, I saw that our group was gapped. It would take too much effort for too little reward to bridge, so I just sat back and enjoyed the wonderful view of the ocean floor and stroked it in. I still had a long day ahead of me.

When I hit the pier I looked at my watch. 54 minutes…“Wow, it didn’t feel that fast“. My goal was to get my transitions done in 3 minutes or less and I was pretty close with a 3:10.

I got started on the bike and immediately I heard a clicking noise. It sounded like the kind you get when you put a playing card in your spokes. I looked all around to see where it was coming from and couldn’t locate it. Damn, that’s all I needed, a mechanical problem on the bike before I started. I also noticed that my wattage meter and speedometer wasn’t functioning either. All I had was my heart rate. Why does this always happen to me in a race?

I took it easy to the turnaround up Kuakini then picked it up a bit once I came to the downhill section into town and out to the Queen K. I was being passed like I was standing still. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of resistance to my wheels but the way people were passing me I’m sure there was. Madame Pale had thrown a curve ball at me. I just dealt with it. I found it to be annoying and maddening that I couldn’t find the source of the clicking and the noise became a constant reminder that burdened me through the entire ride.

The wind started to pick up out on the Queen K and reached a crescendo on the climb to Hawi. Laurent Jalabert, former Tour de France star, passed me here. I marveled at how easily he motored past me into this horrendous wind.

The turnaround and back down the Queen K was kind of scary. First we had a tailwind then it quickly changed to crosswind gusts. I could see cyclists being blown sideways up the road. I was unable to grab a water bottle at the aid station there for fear that a gust might blow me over while I had only one hand on the bar.

On the return trip on the Queen K, I felt the winds and the heat. Last year we had a tailwind and rain. This year the true Hawaii Ironman course reared its ugly head. I could see salt deposits forming on my shorts as well as those around me.

Dave Scott once said “Most people lose their concentration after about five hours. They give up. It’s not physical, it’s mental. When you come to Kona, it’s like racing on the moon.” I could feel this happening. I was frustrated with the bike, the wind, the heat and I just wanted it to be over. This is a section which I wanted to work but I totally lost concentration and, instead I fixated on my misfortunes. I finished the bike in 5:29. I was hoping for a 5:15-5:20.

T2 was a welcome site. I hit it fast and got through in 3:18 which included a Porto potty break. Once out on the run I felt at ease. This was a portion of the race which was totally under my control and I was still pretty mad about the bike issue. I was originally going to take it easy on the out and back section of Alii Drive but I decided to just go for it. If I ran well, I could still break 10 hours. I was willing to take the risk of blowing up somewhere down the road. I watched my heart rate hit L3 to L4 levels but I felt good and aerobic and just ignored it.

I began passing people off the bat. I came upon Michael Kruger, an athlete from Germany, whom I met on the awards stand at Ironman Florida in 2005. He had run a 3:00 marathon at IM Germany. He remembered me and said that he was shooting to run 3:15 here. I was cool with that so I mentioned that we should work together. Another German was running with us and some other German guy that wasn’t in the race was running along the other side of the road pacing them. They were all speaking to each other in German. This race has such an international flare to it. Oh yeah, it's the World Championship.

I saw Dana outside our condo. She had recruited an Aussie cheering section and it was pretty loud. I got a good rush from that. Glynn Turquand from Xterra wetsuits ran along beside me and told me that I looked great and that I was second out of the water in the age group. Geoff Cleveland was first and he had a Xterra Velocity on too. Mark VanAkkeren who also had an Xterra speed suit had the fastest overall swim and was leading the amateur division overall. Needless to say, Glenn was pretty happy with us.

I ran with the Germans until the 9 mile mark and then they were gone. They were off the back and I continued to motor at 7:10 to 7:15 pace up to Palani hill. At home I had made a Ironman simulation course which included a hill 10 miles into it. My course hill had a steep 20% grade and was just about as long as Palani. Running up the real Palani was a lot easier. Dave LaTourette, my coach, was on the hill and told me that I was in 8th. He also gave me the condition of the athletes ahead of me. “Two look like they are cracking, Go!!!”.

I met up with Macca, the race leader, on the Queen K just as he was getting to the 25 mile mark. I yelled at him. I really wanted him to win this year.

Last year my pace seemed to fall off on the section going up to the energy lab. This year, I trained my body with my simulation runs to pick the pace up here. I began picking off blown up pros and age groupers on this section. I was feeling good and things were going well. One guy from my age group passed me, Dave Boyes, and he ended up running 3:05 for the fastest run split in the age group. I couldn’t touch his pace. He was really moving.

Every day at this time the cloud cover usually rolls in from the mountains and sometimes it rains. Today that didn’t happen. It was sunny and hot…. just how I like it.

Once I got to the energy lab, I could see the competitors coming out and I looked for those with my age group numbers. I needed to pick off more because this is the part of the race when most meltdowns occur. I made it up to the Queen K and continued up the road to Palani. The energy lab didn't seem so bad. I passed Rutger Beke there.

I came upon a familiar figure at 23 miles who appeared to be struggling. It was Ken Glah. This guy was pro last year who historically has finished top 10 overall in this race and I was about to pass him. Wow. I suppose I was salvaging my race or Kenny, uncharacteristically, was having a bad one. Dave had ridden down there to provide me some encouragement for my final push. He gave Kenny some as well. Kenny asked for the race time and Dave said 9:36. We were going to break ten hours.

I could feel my calves starting to tense up and I could tell I was on the verge of cramping. I continued to push pretty hard to get to the 25 mile mark at the top of Palani. After I got there I would be golden.

Once I hit the down hill I just let gravity do the rest. Dana, Dave, Amy were all there yelling for me. Dave yelled “pick off as many people as you can” and then I just started running as hard as I could. It must have looked like I was being chased by a bear. I was suffering pretty badly here.
Before I knew it the finish line was coming up on me. Instead of jogging in and savoring the moment, I pushed it like it was a 5K. I saw 9:52 on the finishing clock and I ran up the ramp crossed the line and as I walked down the ramp my legs buckled to the point that I almost fell. Lynne Smith was there to catch me and help me to the medical tent. It was good to see her. I looked at my watch and I couldn’t believe that I finished in that time. My run must have been 3:20. I guess Madame Pele had rewarded me for my perseverance on the bike.

Dana, Dave, and my friends Michael and Claudia Yatsko were there to hang out with me at the finish line as I drank chicken broth and ate potato chips to kick my sodium levels up. My right leg went into tetany and I had to have a volunteer hold it in stretch. Ouch. My legs were incredibly sore. I had really left it all out there.

It was a good day. I had almost reached the “pie in the sky”. I can’t complain with being 8th in my age group in the world, especially when I work a full time job, have three small kids at home, and a wife that does Ironmans too.

Now it’s time to go eat some real pie…and I’ll take some ice cream with that too ; )

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ironman Hawaii:Day 7 and 8 pre race

Yesterday was a day of rest for me. We had breakfast with Dave LaTourette and some representatives from Alcis and Fuel Belt at the Royal Kona Hotel. We got some schwag from those guys. There is so much give away stuff here. Next time I don’t think I am going to pack any T-Shirts. I have picked up five cool free ones here.

Later in the day, I packed up my transition bags and got my bike ready then kicked back and watched a movie. Scott Ostrem and an old buddy Tim Streb gave me a call. It was good to hear from them.

Glenn Turquand from Xterra wetsuits had a party at his house on Alii and we spent 3 hours there enjoying the company. I will be racing in the Xterra Velocity .02 this year. It is the fastest legal speed suit on the planet. It has a Yamamoto rubber coating and the drag coefficient is less than the Blue Seventy.

When I first swam in the suit two weeks ago, I swam a 5:45 500 at a 6:20 effort. I called Glenn right away and told him” You are going to sell a lot of these suits”. Everybody has speed suits this year. After Normann had his breakthrough swim last year speed suit technology has taken off. It used to be illegal to have anything below the knee. This year I believe they are allowing the pros to have their suits extend below the knee.

After the Party we had dinner at Jameson’s with Mark Van Akkeren and his parents and Brandon Del Campo and his mother. Both those guys are going to have good races. Look for Mark to be in the amateur lead after the swim and possibly the bike.

This morning Dana went out on a ride to Waikoloa with Kevin Purcell and Dave LaTourette, while I went to the Kona Aquatic center for a short 20 min workout with Mitch Gold, Denny Meeker, Brandon, and Mark. Following the swim we took a short 20 min ride out on the Queen K. Boy, I felt really good with the race wheels on. I was hitting monster wattage very easily. I had to hold myself back. After the ride, it was a quick 15 min easy run followed by some strides on the grass.

That was it…. my last workout before the Ironman. I checked in my bike and bags at 1:30 and then went back to relax and prepare my body for what it is about to go through. At about 4:30 I realized that I had forgotten to put my run gels in my bag. I had to drive back to the transition and they let me put them in. Whew…

I am ready. I feel so good and rested right now. It’s hard to believe two days from now I will be so sore I’ll hardly be able to walk.

Thanks for tuning in. If you would like to follow my progress online you can go to and click on track an athlete. I am number 658. If you would like to program the cell phone to give you splits and text alerts on an athlete you can go to

I will post a race report later with all the details of the race no matter how it turns out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hawaii Ironman Blog Day 5: “The University of Triathlon at Kona”

I went for a run early this morning, and I was looking at the various sponsor’s houses along Alii drive, and I thought back to my old college days. In my analogy, Kona is like a little university campus. Alii Drive during Ironman week reminds me a lot of “fraternity row” in my college town. So I took some pictures to share with you.

Each “fraternity house” -- or house rented by various sponsors who didn’t snag a booth at the expo -- decorates their abode with banners, tables of free samples of their product, or other give-aways. The Zoot fraternity house, for example, even has some “celebrities”, well known on the college campus, but maybe not to the outside world, stop by at certain times. Andy Baldwin was there as I walked by today, but I’ve already met him.

And then, of course, is the central gathering place, or student union, known as Lava Java here at the University of Triathlon. Students at the University enjoy wearing their favorite fraternity’s gear at the student union, letting everyone know where they belong.

Lisa Wei-Haas, our triathlete master friend, told me when she dropped her youngest son off at college this fall; she felt he finally found his “tribe”. I smile when I think about triathletes, who sometimes stick out like sore thumbs in the world of unfit, unhealthy, and overweight “normal” Americans. Here in Kona this week, they can definitely fit in with their tribe.

Hawaii Ironman Week: Day 4 "It Blows"

Tuesday morning we drove out past the Kona airport to start our bike ride there, so we wouldn’t have to meander through town. Rob rode for an hour, easy with a few pick ups. Dave and I decided we wanted to go longer, so we headed out to Waikoloa. This is a resort area on the Queen K heading towards Hawi. The Mauna Lani Resort and the Fairmont Orchid Resort are there, with golf courses, restaurant, great shopping, and a gorgeous beach. I stayed there in June when I did the Honu half.

Well, let me tell you, this will probably not be a lovely site for the racers on Saturday. Some call Waikoloa “Waik -o-blow-a” because the wind is so strong there. I witnessed it first hand today. It was crazy windy out there. I couldn’t let go of my bars with one hand or I would lose control of the bike. The wind was so strong sometimes I felt like I was going backwards. Then coming back the other way, I could go about 30 miles an hour, without pedaling. But on race day, coming back won’t be so easy because the winds shift later in the day. I’m sure Rob will watch his power meter and ride a smart race, no matter what the island gods throw at the racers on race day.

On to the second thing that blows.… Rob picked up his race packet today, with a list of all the race participants. I was looking through my age group, and discovered that the girl who won 2nd place at St. Croix, just in front of my 3rd place, who took the last Kona slot in my age group, is not here. She took the slot, and then didn’t sign up for the race. I don’t know the story, but I think if she wasn’t intending on racing that she should have passed on the slot. I know of situations where the next person in line for the slot was notified later that the slot was passed down to them -- I sure wish someone didn’t drop the ball in my case because I would have jumped at the chance to race here again. All I can say is that it blows!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Kona Circus: Hawaii Ironman Day 3

This year for this little blog I would like to highlight some of the attractions in Kona during race week. I plan on mostly resting and relaxing in the condo conserving energy for the big day. So writing these gives me something to do while my wife Dana is out training.

I would like to start with my favorite place in Kona; The Kailua pier, other wise known as “Dig Me Beach” This is ground zero and there is a lot of athletic energy here. From the pier you see all the familiar sites you catch on the TV broadcast, the church steeple, Alii Drive and finish line, the banyan trees, The Royal Kona Hotel as it juts out in the distance and the waves as they crash into the sea wall. The atmosphere here is electric and it builds as race day gets closer.
So why do they call it “Dig Me Beach”? You quickly find out why when you show up for the morning swims. There is a multitude of athletes with physiques like Greek gods mingling in the swim area. There are photographers with cameras with telephoto lenses more expensive than my bike snapping photos everywhere. Speedos, foreign languages…. it is pretty intimidating, but this is the Ironman World Championships and these are the fittest and most talented triathletes in the world. You get the idea.

I have tried to capture the circus in a slide show which will be posted above. There are some shots of Dana and Lynne with Andy Baldwin, Normann Stadler, Natasha Badman, Fernanada Keller, Some Australian dude with a Speedo and a beam bike everyone was going gaga over.

I really enjoy swimming at the pier. The ocean is so clear. You are able to see 70 feet or so to the bottom and catch glimpses of all kinds of sea life. Every time I swim here I feel I am so lucky to be here and be racing in this great race. However, today, I was stung on the neck by a Portuguese Man O’War. Let me tell ya …it burns! Anyway, despite that, I have done a lot of triathlons and been to quite a few venues but nothing compares to Kona. It’s not surprising that it is so competitive to get here.

Another one of my favorite places is “Lava Java”. This is a coffee shop on Alii drive just up the road from the pier and a block or so down from the Royal Kona hotel. This is another favorite hang out spot for many athletes. You might be sitting next to Peter Reid or Sister Madonna while you sip on a cup of Kona Coffee at an outdoor table watching athletes ride by in their perfect aero positions. The sea wall and ocean view is the perfect backdrop. It is truly a nice environment. I captured a shot of my breakfast in the slide show. Mitch Thrower, from Triathlete Magazine, was there with his laptop as were many other athletes taking in the Kona experience.

So there are a few of my favorite places. Later in the day I went for a run in the humidity on Alii Drive. Last year I stashed a few of my CO2 cartridges in a stone wall just in case I might need them again; ) During my run went to the wall that I hid them and they were still there.

I got a massage by a guy from Boulder whose name is Jeff Jewel. He really worked out the kinks. Eddie Garrott gave me his contact number. It was a great massage. When I walked out I saw that pro Chris Lieto was up next.

Hawaii Ironman Week: Day 2

Rob and I got up early this morning, because our body clocks are still on Tulsa time, not Kona time, which is 5 hours later. We put our bikes together and went out for a ride on the Queen K highway with Dave Latourette, our coach. He lives in Santa Rosa, California, so it was fun to hang out with him a bit.

We rode for about two hours. It was a nice ride, and the weather seemed a bit cooler than it was last year. Rob did a few pick ups on the bike to keep his legs fresh, then tucked in behind me and drafted a bit to make sure the rest of the ride was easy.

The rest of the day was spent poolside -- I was working on my tan and Rob was surfing the web. For dinner, we ate at a great restaurant called Jameson’s By the Sea. It is right on the Disappearing Sands Beach, and we had a great table where we could watch the sunset over the water. Very nice and relaxing.

In Kona the week before Ironman, you have to make an effort to try to relax. It would be very easy to get caught up in the crazy vibe that is here right now. For example, this morning when we woke up, we walked outside to the lanai, which has a great view of the swim course, to see dozens of people swimming. The entire 2.4 mile course. On the bike course, dozens of small packs of very aero, lean, and tri-suit clad triathletes were hammering up and down the Queen K. There is also a constant stream of runners up and down Alii drive, where our condo is. I kid you not, even in the dark as we were coming home from dinner, we continued to see people up and down Alii Drive, running or riding with headlamps on.

It really makes me wonder -- why are they running or riding in the dark? Did they not have enough time today -- maybe they spent the day traveling. But if that is the case, would it not be OK to just take a rest day? We can be pretty intense at times, but I believe we are definitely amateurs in the intensity department compared to the people I see in Kona right now.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Second Annual Ironman World Championship Kona Blog Day One

That is quite an auspicious title, who knows how many annual Kona blogs there will be. Maybe this will be the last one, and they will fall away into the archives of wherever old blog entries go. Or maybe this will continue on, a tradition carried on for the entertainment of all the triathletes in Tulsa -- if not by us, then by someone else. But for 2007, the Chance blog continues on -- but by Dana this time.

Last year our first day started out uneventfully, but when we arrived in Hawaii we soon learned that while we were flying over the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii had experienced an earthquake. This year, the shake up started before we left for the airport. About a month ago, Rob and I had a little too much time on our hands (tapering for a race can sometimes have long reaching effects into other aspects of our lives). We found a house that we fell in love with, bought it, and put our house up on the market.

Thankfully we sold our house quickly, but with unfortunate timing. We have to be out of our house on the 15th of October. Yes, that is the Tuesday after the Ironman in Kona. So we have furiously been packing up as much as we could, and we will have a moving company pack everything else up Ironman weekend, while we are miles and miles away in Hawaii. Rob’s mother, who is always up for an adventure, has generously agreed to take care of the kids, animals, and oversee the move in Tulsa. I don’t know if she has any idea what she is getting into -- and we are thankful for that or she might have reconsidered!

Our flight to Kona was uneventful except we were delayed leaving Denver because the plane was too heavy. Instead of unloading all the cases of bicycles they unloaded some extra fuel and began asking for volunteers to get off and be placed on another flight. After an hour and a half just sitting there on the plane going nowhere we finally got away. The pilot, being a triathlete, made his predictions for the weather at Ironman this year. He apparently has been riding his bike on the Queen K and he was calling for a windy ride.

United airlines have a game called “Halfway to Hawaii”. The pilot gives the passenger’s information which includes, time we left, total distance, airspeed, and wind resistance in mph. The object of the game is to calculate the exact time (Kona or Denver time) to the second when we are at the midway point in the flight. Well, Rob put down the Su doku tablet and started the calculations. On our approach to Kona they announced the winner. Rob was the first place winner and was just 4 seconds off the actual time. What a geek!

On our arrival to Kona, we noticed the weather to be pretty nice. It never has really cooled down in Oklahoma yet so there really isn’t much difference in the climate. Diving from the airport to the condo the familiar packs of triathletes on the Queen K with aero gear was ever present. Welcome to Kona, home of the Ironman World Championship.

So here it is Day One, and hopefully we are leaving the chaos behind so Rob can have a nice week of rest and recovery before the Big Day.