Coach Simon’s 2014 Kona Journal
D3 Coach Simon Butterworth is days away from his 11th race at Kona!
He offered to share his journal with us as he prepares for the World Championship race. Enjoy the read!
These are raw notes I make each morning. I do not edit them so no comments about my grammar and what spell checker does to my spelling, wish I had that excuse in College, wish I had spell checker.
PostScript: The Real Race Summary
It’s almost 24 hours since the race started yesterday. I will be doing a lot more analysis of my day in the days to come but here are the first thoughts.The swim went much as expected. A bit slower because of choppy seas and a cramp in first my left and then not to be ignored, my right. Both in the calf. More research is needed on this topic.I could of course blame the big split entirely on the wind but that would be denying the fact that my average power was lower than anticipated. I did well for the first half but coming back the Queen K I fell off the wagon quite a bit. Not sure why, I will be comparing things with Boulder but two facts stand out. The wind, heat, and the hills made the bike over an hour longer. Boulder is not hilly by comparison. Even if I had managed my power goal it would have been at least 40-50 min longer and I did not factor that into my thinking for the fist part of the bike.Towards the end of the bike and during the waddle thru T2 I thought I had screwed up the nutrition. I drank more on the bike going thru all my Scratch, an average of about 30 oz an hour and I also picked up water, coke and Perform totalling about another 10oz an hour. I did not get thru all by race cakes and gels and unfortunate don’t know how many calories I consumed. But the run told me I got enough.The run went almost as planned. I may have gone a bit too fast out of the gate but was still going strong at 10 miles and below goal place. I ran up most of Palani, that was hard. On the way back to town on Alii I passed an outbound fellow AG athlete who when we passed I thought whistled at me, to say hi, strange. Going down the hill from Palani and out of town I was going great again. The gradual climb to the top of the energy lab road was slow as expected but by the turnaround I was at goal pace of about 6:20/km. Coming back from the turn around on the Energy lab road I hear the whistle again but now I realise that it is this athletes breathing. He is much closer. I figured I would wait to see if I could stay with him when he caught me. No such luck. He flew by, I asked him who he was and told him we were in the same AG. I am too nice.I got up the hill back to the QK slowly but much faster than some of my more recent races here. My friend passed me shortly after that. In the growing darkness my pace seems good but my watch showed I was slowing. My average speed was still in my goal range so I was happy but tired.As I approached the last big climb to the top of Palani I hear the whistle again. Then I see my adversary, he is walking, and not fast. What to do. I decide to risk emptying the tank and pick up the pace to a level I did not think was possible. As we hit the hill, a bit under mile long, I passed him. The whistle got louder and did not fade. I pushed even harder and for about a minute I did not think I was going to loose him. Thoughts of the IronWar passed thru my mind, this was close to where Mark Allen made his move in 1989. I did not think I could keep this pace up for long but kept on surprising myself. Then I could see the top of the hill and no longer hear the whistle. Just in case I kept it up. I did not want this effort to go to waste. The last few years there have been the same group of friends supporting us on this hill. They were dancing when I went out, and I had joined in. I may have been recognised, I got a great welcome.I did not let up going down Palini, risky as it is hard on my knees which are sore this morning. Now I was really on a roll and I kept the pace going to the finish. 2009 was my most exciting finish but this year it was most satisfying.I ended up about 90 min ahead of the whistler at the finish. He caught me with a 4:22 marathon to my 4:33. We rounded out the top 8 finishers who went under 13 hours. Ninth place finished over 50 min behind me. I ran the last 2 miles at a 6:06km pace, almost as fast as my first 10 miles. I learned something last night. I have a bigger tank than I thought.I was disappointed to not make it to the podium but the first 5 were way ahead of me. But I always look for a silver lining. I was the fastest athlete over 67. One goal I had had for this year was to stay ahead of Milos Kostic, 73. I did, for the first time. He still outran me but not like last year by almost an hour. He is amazing, lucky for me he does not swim or bike as well.My buddy and, training partner and athlete Brad Woodiel, who I taught to swim, finished strong, we met when I was at mile 15 and he past 20. He was up against competition off the charts. Winning time in his decision, 55-59 was just under 10 hours. Great Day.
11th Go at the World Championship
Another October has arrived and we are on our way west again for the 11th time in the past 14 years. Ingrid has got over her perennial complaint about going to Hawaii, again, and is looking forward to beach time. I am coming off one of my best race seasons ever. I’m slower but I not slowing down as much as my competition.I have been thinking the past few weeks of what I might do different than the past few years in the race. I believe I have the pacing well in hand, nutrition is close to as good as it gets but the mental game is still off, probably quite a bit off looking back at the last few races. Not surprisingly it comes down to the mental game around mile 10 of the run.The Boulder IM really hammered that home. I was on home turf running on trails I have covered countless times. Many of those times were after a 90 min swim session with BAM and a 100+ mile ride up to Horsetooth Lake and back. In those training sessions I held just over a 6m/km pace (a 4:15 marathon). I managed just a bit slower than that for about the first 6k in the Boulder race and slid off the wagon after that.With the lessons of recent years and Boulder in particular along with some hoped for improvement in my mental game my goals for this years race are, Swim 1:18, Bike 6:00 run 4:30. With about 10 min total transition time just under 12 hours, lest hope.That’s of course subject to the weather. Last year if I had done a bit better with the mental game I would have gone faster. In 2001 it would have been a lot slower, on the bike. Assuming a normal Bi Island day here is how I think it will go.The Swim:It is a bit different this year, nothing but men to jockey with for a good starting position, we, men are starting at 6:50 with the women in a second wave at 7:00. I find a familiar spot, 1-2 rows back from the front and about half way out from the buoy line. As always the boat marking the halfway point and turnaround ( the course is a rectangle with one side about 100 yards) looks a very long way off and I focus on the two volcano cones on the horizon. There is a modest swell, just enough to make sighting the buoys difficult. The sun is getting close to making its presence felt still hiding just behind Hualalai, the volcano, the gun goes offIt’s not different without the women. With most athletes in skin suits you can’t even tell they are missing. As always most everyone is swimming in a straight line and contact, while still considerable, is nothing like other mass start races. I am able to settle into a good rhythm quickly and happy to be racing.I don’t see much of the first half dozen buoys which is good as it means I am not working my way towards the line too fast. I focus on relaxing my feet and kick easy from the hips and keep my back rounded (the answer i believe to my chronic cramping problems). I wonder if Ingrid can see me from the balconyof our condo, if she is up, about 1/2 mile down the course. With the turn boat now easily spotted I find myself on the buoy line. I am still able to find some faster feet and take advantage of that.The first turn is a bit hectic but not terrible. Ditto for the second 100 yards or so out to sea. I get back to focusing on my technique rotating from what’s happening up front and to out back. I try not to dwell on the camping thinking mind over matter.I can clearly see our condo again and no cramps, I stay focused on the job. The other nice thing is that I have some female company, all of them faster than me and I take advantage of it. I had been waiting for them.Passing the end of the pier with minimal cramping raises my already high spirits. There should be a good photo of me coming up the steps, I must have been smiling, the clock indicated a 1:17 swim.T 1:A hard left, a quick rinse under the showers, find my bag and into the changing tent. This time I have things well organised and I am running around 2000+ bikes in no time. There is a perk in being an old geezer, our bikes are racked near the exit, behind the pros ( also makes for some diversions before the start).My Specialised Tri Vent shoes with the BOA lacing system are waiting clipped on. Transition felt fast but probably no better than my best prior years.The Bike:I think back at my near DNF in 2009, broken derailleur hanger and rescue loaner bike from Rocky Campbell, race Construction manager. I am alway happy to make it past the first half mile of the bike after that. Once past the tree I got shade from 5 years ago I get down to business, making sure I do not get beyond my power goals. It is so easy to do that. You are the fittest you have ever been, well rested and surrounded by bikes, many of whom are going too hard.Even at an excessive power output HR always seem low those first 10 miles. It is also the hilliest part of the bike course in terms of multiple short but steep climbs. So if you focus on speed you can get concerned and then look at your HR and conclude I can hammer a bit.I stick to my to my power goals nicely in town. Not easy as I am passed by a lot of bikes. Still I make it back to the top of Palini right around the 25 min mark, the same time I have done it many times on the Computrainer. It feels good flying down the Queen K and out of town.The forecast is for typical weather from here north. Exactly how strong the winds are depends. You prepare for the worst mentally and pack your rabbits foot. While I don’t like strong winds. I have learned that I do well in them, more mass keeps me glued to the road better than smaller competition.The familiar early land marks pass by quickly. Between racing here and riding the Computrainer course in my basement I must have covered this road almost as often as the ride to Carter Lake or in years past to Mattatuck. After letting the Pacific Ocean settle in my stomach i get down to some serious and consistent hydration and fuelling. I have a goal for this, see sidebar.The QK rolls uphill for about the next 12 miles, then stops gaining altitude at the West Hawaii Vet Cemetery, AKA the Pet Cemetery between me and friend Barry Siff. I work on keeping the power between 175 And 185 with a goal of getting the NP back to around 180 before the big descent to Waikola. I pick up my first bottle of water, to mix with my on board Scratch, just before that descent. Conditions have been very mild to this point but I know that we are entering the realm of the famous “ho’omumuku” winds, these blew with 55 mph gusts in 2001. Progress so far is good with average speed flirting with 19mph at the bottom of the hill. I believe I am pacing this well.Nothing like 2001 welcomed us at Waikola but the newbies in the race are probably wondering what hit them. I stay low, on the aero bars nd close to the side of the road to minimise the wind hitting me. I also keep the legs moving at all times, my theory is the gyroscopic effect helps stabilise the bike. The grass up ahead and or bikes alert me to stronger gusts. The wind is strong enough to make passage thru the cuts thru the small hills of Lava exciting. Thewind changes direction almost 180 at the entrance then suddenly stops as you get into the middle. The exit is like the entrance. It is nasty. Oh and in the middle when the wind dies you feel the radiated heat off the road and black lava walls, getting over 100 by now.These condition are with you to the end of the QK. After a while you do get used to it.Passing thru Waikola I spot my friends Jim and Carol. I wonder what they are thinking of this madness. I hope they come in later to Kona to see some of the finishers. They are on vacation and by chance here race week. I pick up some more water to add to my scratch.Puako slides by off to the left, one of our favourite beaches, a few miles from the end of the QK. NP is now 176, right were I want it. It will drop a bit more on the descent to Kawaihae.That can be a very scary fast descent if the winds are blowing hard. Usually they are not and today is usual but it is still fast. The next 19 miles in my mind can make or break your race. Rolling hills take you along the coast some with grades that get your attention. Go too hard up them and you will pay later. Staying within your goals is hard as you are still reasonably fresh, I get passed but even now often catch up on the descents.With about 6 miles to go to Hawi the road slowly trends to the east and starts a steady climb. Those who have gone too hard up to now will start to discover the error they have made. It is not just the hill but also the wind. For the last couple of miles into Hawi you have the full Trade winds in your face, it is slow going and you better not push hard. My NP does go up a bit but it is still just under 185′ perfect.Hawi is a welcome site, no huge crowds but they are enthusiastic. It’s about 5 miles past the halfway point. I pick up two mixed bottles of scratch and three rice cakes. The cakes are warm but not spoiled.Coming up the hill to Hawi is hard, going back down is scary. It’s like coming down a canyon near Boulder with a screaming breeze at your back, which halfway down gets gusty and prone to sudden changes in wind direction. By the time I reach other rollers along the coast I am back to almost 19mph the more important NP is spot on target.Coming back along the rollers on the coast is an early test of how well you determined your pacing. So far so good for me. I test my legs on one or two of the hills just before Kawaihae, short effort near threshold, it’s not too hard.The hill out of Kawaihae is not a place to push the power. It’s too steep, too long and too hot. Normally, and today is normal, there is a light sea breeze going up hill which eliminates any breeze over the body. Your fry and the sweat soaks the pavement, it is after all right around noon. It is the hardest hill on the course for the above reasons.At the top of the climb you are hoping that the cross winds have diminished a bit on the QK. If you counted on that you are in trouble. What is typical is they have diminished some but they are now coming out of the south, in your face. Your at mile 70 and as they say for all IM races the event is starting.I can feel the first 70 and the swim but I am on top of the nutrition. This is the point in the race that I have often come unglued with motivation. You start to feel it is a long time in the saddle, maybe your pacing is too optimistic and you back off just a tad. I have seen my NP drop 5-10 watts over the last two hours. I am feeling good and determined to stick to the plan. If the run comes unglued then I have learned something for next time but training and the Boulder race tell me I should be fine.The north end of the QK seems to be going up hill but in reality it is just a lot of long rolling hills. 185-9 going up 170-75 going down, with spikes to get up to speed. I am passing bikes, a good sign and I am now furling with caffeine (Green tea Scratch, their latest flavour, great for anyone who tires of sweet stuff). Jim and Carol are our in the heat again at Waikola.There is a head wind but not horrible, holding my power is starting to take some concentration, I stick with it. I am motivated by knowing that I am on target for a 6 hr finish, assuming no surprises down the road. We are approaching the last long climb of the course that takes us around a point of land where the weather can change. I clear the two big rollers before the long climb and start up at a steady 180. This is not the easy 180 at the start of the bike but it is not killing me, HR is climbing but is still a comfortable 105, for me. We pass the Scenic View, a great place to ride to before the race to survey the Top end of the QK.The aide station looms at the top of the hill, a welcome sight, about an hour left in the saddle, I load up with water.
The wind is not super strong but it is now out of the west, no longer a head wind. This will be good if it stays in that direction as we curve southward. The most expensive, I think, real estate on the big Island slides by to the west, annual maintenance was 250,000 in 2004 when it opened.The hardest part of the course is behind us and the wind is being nice and staying westerly, speed is picking up and I work to maintain 175 power.The airport road comes into view, 8 miles to go, downhill. Next up the top of the Energy Lab Road. I have not done the math to figure out where the pros might be on the run but for sure many will be on this stretch of road by now. I try not to get distracted. I am going to finish right at the 6 hr mark and I don’t want to loose any time at this point.As I pass the turnoff to Costco thoughts turn to the run. I up the cadence a wee bit. It has been very good and I hope bodes well for the run. For the first time it is in the high 80′s and in have been holding that over the last 20 miles, something I have not done before. It has been a focus of my indoor training this summer. I am hoping this will help the run.The last slight climb at the start of the 4 lane road is certainly harder than coming back from training rides. I keep it mellow and get back to speed quickly into Kona. The last few miles are a blur, I am on target well fuelled and feeling as good as you could expect after 112 miles in the sun. Speaking of which there is a modest cloud cover in Kona, yahoo.I slide out of my BOA equipped Specialized Shoes, thank you Garett.T2:I learned two years ago socks were not a bad idea on the bike and that was reinforced in Boulder. If you expect a long run without shoes thru transition check out the surface for heat and texture. Running in bike shoes in my mind is NG, running barefoot with no socks on a hot or rough surface is also NG. I have socks on. I change them for the run.It’s a long way around the bikes, I walk with a fast cadence for about 30 sec then run, slow. It is hard but not terrible, way better than some races. I am encouraged.I switched running shoes this year to the Hoka Cliften. Garett (BOA) presented me with a second pair with their closure system installed. You might not think seconds count in an IM but you would be wrong. Twice I have finished seconds ahead of the same athlete in Kona so I welcome the time savings of the BOA system. The rest of T2 also went smoothly.The Run:Getting out of T2 is easy as is the first 200 meters past the King Kam hotel, it’s flat. Then you get reminded that there are hills on this course, the bottom of Palani Hill. Not long not too steep but a rough test of shaky running legs. I cope with it but it is not pretty. I have done this before and know it is not time to panic. Better to look up for friends on the Hot Corner.It’s hard to get a rhythm going on Kuikini as there is still a slight uphill. Again I have learned not to fret at this point, it is very early on the run. I get down into a boxers crouch for 20 sec of walking. I find this helps get the glutes firing properly. Finally the grade goes negative approaching the turn down to Alii Dr. I start to loosen up on going down hualalai. The top male pros must be close to finishing I can hear Mike Riley getting would up. A left onto Alii. It’s not good to look like death running along Alii past the Lava Java (the place to be seen during race week). I certainly did in 2001 and a few times after that. I straighten up and Fly Right.The Mile 1 marker passes by I am on pace but slowing on the first hill on Alii. It’s not like a training day on the hill but I still get up in good form after a crouching walk thru my first aide station. It is a hot afternoon. There are some clouds but they are thin and the radiant heat is pushing thru. The ice down my back feels good. I settle down for the long haul and focus on the next mile and start focusing on the next step.Body is tired but feeling good. Motivation is high. I am in a position to contend for a podium slot if I hold things together but there is a lot of work to be done. How I do it will determine the outcome.It’s alway good to see Ingrid looking out for me. This year with friend and fellow stroke victim Melinda and Carol. I learn the husband Brad is doing well and a good 30 min ahead of me. With his run speed he might make it home in 11 hours.The big hill on Alii looms. This year I have no worries about being forced to walk. Pace is actually a bit high and I am determined not to over do it in the early stages. So I take a 15 sec fast crouching walk just before the hill and get the cadence up when I start running just before the grade kicks up. It works this feels almost like some earlier training days, almost. Going down the other side feels fast and it is. I fuel and hydrate on the fly and just pick up some more ice at the aide station. I am carrying enough fuel, gels, and fluids, Scratch, to get me to about mile 12 then it will be Gatorade and coke to mile 16 and special needs.Back on the flats I get things back under control. The Garmin tells be my cadence is 87, just a bit off goal but OK. I go to work on it passing mile 3. Pace is also good, just over 6:15/ km. it’s a bit below overall goal but fine at this point. Another aide station just for ice and a power walk of 30 sec.Another body check approaching mile 4. Cadence 88 average pace still 6:15 pace for last k 6:00. HR is no longer operational, never is for me in this heat. I can’t keep the chest strap in place with all the sweat. In any event my HR is so low running in these races I just go on respiration and feel.A major milestone passes, I am on my way back to Kona. Still progress is good. I am feeling the heat, everyone must be but between the clouds and some tree shade it is manageable. Mile 6 passes, 20 to go. I let myself dwell on this for just a bit. That’s just over my longest training run distance to go and that not hard and more importantly very doable. I don’t let negative thoughts intrude.The “big” hills on Alii approach. I am now trying to up the pace just a tiny bit so I have at the hill. It does not kill me indeed it felt good. My confidence for Palani goes up, that was the idea. Mile 8 slides by and up ahead is my fan club. Ingrid gets a sweaty kiss. I look forward to the next one.I am proud of myself. I have not been aggressively/obsessively looking for competition on this out and back. I did see two, not sure who but made sure I looked good when we got close. I would guess that my friend Chris Wren is way up front but lots of stuff can happen in the next 17 miles.Coming back thru town I am going thru my first bad patch. The last hill on Alii was hard. I am keeping the pace going by just focusing on form. The run up Hualalai Rd is tough, it’s only a slight climb. A lot can change in even 1000 yards. I work on it and decide on a very short walk before Pilani. That does wonders, cadence is back up and I am feeling strong rounding the hot corner. Lots of encouragement helps. I punt and keep running up to steep section, I am feeling that good.It does get the breathing going hard but I believe I can handle a spike on this hill, done it often enough in training and at the Boulder IM. I make to to the aide station on the hill running and take a short ice break and load up an empty bottle with water. Up Palani running almost the entire way. Perhaps I have a age adjusted run PR in me. This is very good.It’s a long 1000+ descent to the edge of town and mile 11. I use it to recover from the climb. I passed a lot of people in that last mile, which gives me a great mental boost. .I turn my mind to not thinking about what is ahead. The road gets lonely for the first time on the Queen K, few if any spectators, and it is a long stretch of unshaded road. No steep hills but very little flat and a constant trend up to the Energy Lab turnoff.I have run out of my own gels by now and am picking up one at every other aide station, consuming it as I approach the next still running. I still have some bags of scratch with I am loading into bottles on the fly and getting water in the aide stations. It’s working well but slowing me a bit. Depending on how I am feeling in the last miles I may switch to the local brew.Mile 14, the Costco turnoff. Past the halfway point. I always feel a bit sad at this point, telling myself that the race is almost over. Helps put the last half in perspective. There is a tough 2 miles ahead gradually going uphill the whole time. I have lost time here in the past and am determined not to do so this year.Halfway up I spot Chris. He must be in the lead and must be close to an hour ahead of me. Still if I keep going well perhaps I can narrow the gap from last year. Good motivation. Brad passes shortly behind Chris, he is doing very well for a first timer.As I turnoff down the energy lab road I have a mental picture of Bobby McGee, my running guru, appearing out of nowhere in 2007 to ask me had I been taking my Glucose tablets. Back then I had not, I have been this year since mile 10 and it has sure helped keep me focused.You know you are doing well in this race if you can take advantage of the hill down to the Energy Lab. I do and get a great mental lift. The sun is now low in the sky so the infamous Lab is not going to be the killer it is earlier in the day. But the road is still stinking hot and you can feel it.Turning right along the beach I am still running fast, relatively. There is no wind down here as is often the case. I get some extra ice down my back and front and hold some in my hands.I will never forget the first time I made the turnaround out here. I have a video of it. I don’t like looking at it. I know I look much better today.I pick up a new supply of Scratch at the special needs and some caffeinated gels. Around the corner and up the hill. This is really where you find out what’s left. It’s mile 18 at the bottom and almost a mile uphill. It starts out to be a challenge. I walk For 20 sec and then start running with very short fast strides. It works, in 100 yards I am moving well again and make it to the aide station at the top of the hill before another short walk.Mile 19 slides under my feet. I still could go under 12 hours might even make 11:45 but that is a long shot. I will only start thinking about it if it is still in reach at by the Harbour. Now I need to focus on running well down to Costco. I also need to focus on my transitions thru the aide stations. The last one was too slow, too much walking. There is less then 7 miles to go, a short walk in the park, no time for dilly dawdling, seconds count. It certainly is getting hard and the brain wants to think of a rest, I suck on another glucose tablet. I look down the road and start visualising picking off the competition up ahead. It starts to work I am passing people10k to go this should be a breeze. I know the rails can still come off but at this point I am gaining confidence. I get thru the aide station quickly and am still going well. Same at the Costco aide station. Now just 5 miles to go. Now I can let myself think about those last miles and it seems short and I feel sad again.I do need to prepare mentally for this last bit. It is short but it is getting harder and will get worse. It is light is going and this bit always is hard in the dark. I stay focused get thru the aide station at the harbour aide station well and can see the mile 23 marker up ahead. 5k to go. Cresting the hill just past the harbour the light breeze is carrying the sounds of the finish line out of town. I can also see the lights. Now I am motivated.Mile 24 and the most evil hill is head. I can run up this on fresh legs at a 5:45/ k pace. I won’t manage 6 tonight but I am going 6:30 which is great.As the road level just before Palani I work hard to build the pace, cadence then stride length. There is still some speed left in me. I have no idea where the competition is but I tell myself someone is close up front and there are some on my heals. That worked in 2011 and 12 and kept me in 3rd and 2 nd. I fly down Pilani as fast as I dare stopping for just one last shot of coke. My quads are going to pay for that.The run along Kukini is hard as always, so near and yet so far. You can hear Mike welcoming those up front to the IronMan Club but you are running in the wrong direction. There is now lots of support on the sides of the road. As the road starts down to Alii I search to see what is left in me If I do get passed by competition at this point they will have to be good.Support at Boulder was really amazing. Overall it was better than any Kona race I have done. But there is nothing like the the last 500 yards in Kona. The noise is overpowering, the lights make it like the daytime except you have trouble seeing who is screaming at you and of course it is Kona. If I am not on the podium no worries I am finishing under 12 hours for the first time in 7 years.I am clearly not as strong when I did go under 12 before. Conditions were average so no advantage there. I was a wee bit faster in the water. My bike split was close to the last few years. My run was over 20 min faster. I sure feel that effort as I look for Ingrid, it won’t be pretty tomorrow and for the next few days. I wonder what made the difference. It will be fun analysing that but Yogi Berra’s famous quote about Baseball comes to mind, “half the sport is 90% mental”. I also think of another Baseball Great Satchel Page Who said ” don’t look behind you something may be catching up with you”. I obviously have ignored one of his other pieces of advice, ” avoid running just jangle around loosely to loosen up your bones”. I will take that advice for a few weeks.
Sunday Sept 28
Arrived yesterday on an old United bird. You can gets an idea of the age of a plane by the construction of the toilet bowl. Stainless Steal means old. But she got us here with some great views of the Rockies, clear sky to Utah, and then another breath gave us a great view of SF bay. Hawaii was cloudy, with massive thunder heads off shore. Most unusual for he “dry” side of the island. A race yesterday would have been a wet one, high humidity but relatively cool. It looked like the winds were blowing hard at Hawi but not along the Queen K.
We almost learned very unpleasant lesson checking in our bags. We borrowed a Tri All sports three wheeled bike box, the kind that looks like it contains wheels. The United agent defined it as sporting equipment, even though it is smaller than most standard luggage, a $100 fee. This was in addition to he $100 for the bike box. We protested and got extremely lucky, the supervisor turned out to be a competitive bike racer and the case was re-defined as standard luggage, $35, my second bag. I suspect the the first agent was following the intent of the United policy so beware if you travel with that kind of box.
Never before have I felt so much like I had been here before, this is our 11th time here in 14 years. I think we may have added a new tradition to the day. The past few years we had our last meal at the Bite Me fish shack and restaurant beside the marina travel lift. We had our first meal here yesterday at Bite Me, very good fresh caught fish and they know how to cook it. Also reasonably priced compared to many Kona favourites. Now we will have our first and last meal at Bite Me.
Picked up food basics at Target and headed to our condo. Same place we stayed in last year adding to the feeling we I have been here before. Unpacked the minimum and went to bed.
Jet Lag had me up at 4, now I need to get busy and assemble my bike, important things first.
Monday September 29
Yesterday would have been another odd weather day for IM. No rain at least in Kona and mostly cloudy. Not that you would have noticed much in a race. Humidity was high and the strength of the sun, almost directly overhead, has to be felt to be appreciated. Even thru a thin could cover black pavement was almost to hot to walk on barefoot around noon.
Untitled1Water temps are also unusually warm. My Kona friend Cory told me 84. That’s hot enough to have some impact on the race and might explain my rather slow swim yesterday. I did not need my Garmin to tell me I was going slow. I had a hard time catching up with someone doing the doggy paddle. She did have an advantage Working with webbed feet and a ttail for a rudder. She was not interested in a chat when I caught her, too busy trying to stay up with her friend on a paddle board. Our dog Rita would share like life out here.
Got the bike set up before sunrise. Love my new bike case, a Thule. The bike stand comes with it. The base clips in to the bottom of the case and the legs dissemble to stow nicely. It makes th box a bit heaver than otherwise but worth it. The only down side to the box, it almost did not make it into the Ford Fusion we have rented (across the back seat).
As I mentioned swimming was slow yesterday, I also felt a bit sluggish on the bike for 45 min but went to bed with a smile. At 5 I rolled out of the house for a 30 min run and felt great. We are stay near the original host hotel in Keauhou and T2. When they moved T2 to the new location at the pier in Kona they eliminated the Pit making the run course considerably easier. I like to do one training run into the Pit when I am here. It is ugly but on fresh legs and a cool evening, no big deal. But it does make you smile when you do it below your goal race pace. From where we are it’s down a steep hill to sea level to a place were there never seems to be a breath of fresh air and is surrounded by black everything and back up. The old race course first went up then down and back up. Mark Allen’s run record, 2:40 still holds on that course in the 1989 Iron War. Dave’s is still the second fastest.
Funny how things people say, do or suggest stick with you forever and remind you of them A sailing friend taught me to wipe my self down after a shower to reduce the amount of water that the towel soaks up, handy in this climate. Another friend suggested running my face under the tap before shaving to soften the bristles. No need out here but I think of Dave often, he has raced out here. Then there was my funny cousin, smart economist, recruited from England to form the World Bank. Every time I soften butter in the microwave I think of him, he was an early adopter of the technology in 1967. Finally Benny,one of my new Recruits to my masters swim program. Benny I predict will become a Special Olympics Champion, he already cleans up at Colorado events. A favourite expression of his is Oh Good, with a big smile, always uttered when I tell him his workout is over. When I finished my run yesterday I thought of Benny.
Tuesday September 30
Yesterday was Ingrid’s day. Not that I did not get in the workouts I needed but the day, most of it was hers. Never underestimate the importance of keeping the spouse happy while you stress out over an IM. When you are in paradise it becomes even more important.
So the day was swim for an hour at 7, then drive to the best Black Sand Beach on the South side of the Island, 50 miles. The is the route to the Volcano, the active one. It is also the bike route for day one of UltraMan, after a 6 mile swim. That is one tough ride and we did not drive the last 30 miles which has over 4000 ft of climbing.
UntitledThe Black Sand Beach is worth a visit but not to sit on. Nice place to stop on the way to see the Volcano or in our case visit South Point. We thought that visiting the most southerly point in Hawaii. We, or at least I discovered, there are a few more reasons. Awesome place to run. Amazing place to swim, if you have the courage to jump off a cliff. This one.
There is another way to get into the water but probably only for the ultimate thrill seekers. Jumping into a blow hole to the right of the picture. Not much room between the rocks but several kids showed it could be done.
The ocean behind me stretches almost uninterrupted to Antarctica. Perhaps you might hit Pitcarn Island, resting place of the ship Bounty and some of her mutineers.
If you like running along almost uninhabited oceanfront then this would be your idea of great fun. I suspect on the weekend this is not the place to be as one inhabitant is obviously Dune Buggy’s and other off road vehicles. They do make great running paths though.
Untitled2It was not a long run, there was nothing for Ingrid to do except watch the crazy kids. I thought this would be a bucket list visit but I want to go back and do a little cliff jumping.
Time for some training. My last run over an hour.
Wednesday October 1
That went well, or at least it did until I got to the hill at the south end of Alii Dr at the end of the run. My workout was one. I learned from Gordo Bryn. Very simple, first third easy, second third IM pace, last third HIM pace or a bit better. I got the pacing near perfect until I made it up the steepest piece of the hill, then the humidity and increasingly hot sun seemed to get to me and the last mile was slow.
The plan for the rest of the day was some relaxed beach time and shopping at Costco on the way home. There is certainly no excuse for not finding a way to relax around Kona and ther is nothing like a nap in the shade of a palm tree. Just make sure it’s not a coconut palm.
This morning I had good company swimming in Kahalua Bay, my friend and multiple IronMan and UltraMan Finisher, Laurie Beers. She is training for another UltraMan in November. Surf is up a bit today making for some interesting moments getting thru a few breakers. A bit later I met the biggest fish I have seen in this bay, not sure what they were but about 2-3 feet in length. Swimming out here sure beats following a lane line, I may have said this before.
Time for some more relaxation.
Thursday October 2
The days leading up to the Boulder IronMan seemed to take forever. The first 4 days out here have flown by. I think it has something to do with how much I like this place and don’t want it to end. Perhaps it also has something to do with the pressure I felt racing in front of a home town crowd and how badly I wanted to qualify again. Now that I made it I can relax a bit, but not too much.
Yesterday’s swim might turn out to be a breakthrough for me. I did not cramp, unusual for a swim over an hour for me. I almost always get at least a minor cramp, sometimes, like Monday, it stops me in my tracks. The explanation may be I have I finally found the cause of this curse. Too soon to say but it left me feeling upbeat. Add to that a great ride in the late afternoon, 3×15 min at threshold power, and the positive vibes for race day are flowing.
For relaxation we headed up to Coffee Country and our favourite hang out in the cool air at around 2000ft, Holuakoa Cafe. Visiting this place is a ritual for us. Not too many athletes make it up here, we have only met one or two in over 11 visits but it make for a nice drive or as I did once a great hill climb workout.
Untitled3I lost Ingrid after we finished our coffee and drifted into a new Art Gallery, there are several up here. So new that I was their first customer. I have been looking for a special piece of Koa carving since we first came here and I found it yesterday. Koa is an amazing wood. Sand and polish it enough with tung oil and it looks varnished. Sadly the trees have been over harvested and the only wood now available is from dead trees. The few left standing are being protected.
A good day yesterday, off for a run this morning and another ride this afternoon, the first up the Queen K.
Friday October 3
Untitled4This was the view from our condo last night and on the next page this morning. This time at least the old sailors way of forecasting the next day seems to have worked. Sure feels good. Humidity is down and there is a light northerly breeze. What I would call a more normal day compared to the last 6.
That of course may mean that the trade winds are back and the ride I have planned from the end of the Queen K to Hawi will be a windy one. More about that when it is over.I did two loops into the Pit yesterday. No question this tapering business works. I felt great. I kept the effort low except on the steepest grades. No question this old run route must have been rough on all and a killer to those not fully prepared. It would be interesting to see the drop out rate from those days. Back then for man it must have been their first IM. Their were at least 5 NA half I m qualifiers and several Olympic races got you in. The grade on the hill 200 meters out of T2 was/is 10% for about 100m. The grade coming out of the Pit is nearly 6% and that hill is over 500m.
Untitled6For fun Ingrid spent a couple of hours at the Keiki (Children’s) Beach. So named because of its popularity with parents. Best sand in Kona and a totally protected big tidal pool. So long in fact that my local friends use it sometimes to do laps, it’s about 100m long. The only downside is the view, often blocked by a floating hotel. Actually I insult hotels, many are much better looking.
Untitled7I am still suffering mentally from all the training of the summer. I did not want to go off for a ride while Ingrid relaxed. But I did and once underway felt good about it. Conditions on the Queen K were typical for a mid afternoon, no shade from the clouds and a SW sea breeze. It was a fast ride going out, a slow elevation gain, and not so fast coming home. Then I did relax, floating on my back in the Tidal pool.
I had an old friend in NY who we had lost a touch with since we left. She is a believer of things spooky and perhaps I should believe as well. Wednesday I thought of her when we were in the art gallery, a place she would have loved. Around the same time she was in Madrid on vacation looking for old friends on Facebook, she found me and we reconnected. That was the best part of the day.
Time to get going.
Saturday Oct 4 Seven more days
Some Colorado company made the ride from Spenser State Park to Hawi and back, 40 miles much more fun than my last two solo rides up there. The day was much closer to Kona normal than any so far. No clouds and a very intense sun, humidity on that part of the course about normal with the only sub par conditions being the wind. Judging from our time going up vs down, 1:10 vs 54 min it was not very windy. It was there however and Brad got a small taste of what could be. He looks ready to race, his fist out here.
Traffic was very bad coming back to Kona. The backup started just after passing the airport, 7 miles out from town. It’s as bad as the Long Island Expressway at rush hour, that’s worse than any jam in the Denver area. I took the short/long cut up to the Mamalahoa Highway avoiding Kona.
Not much time this morning. The 2.4 mile swim on the IM course starts at 7. There should be lots to talk about later. Did not sleep nearly as well last night as the first 6 nights. Perhaps I am a bit more wound up about the big race than I am admitting to myself. This swim will be an important test of how that will go next week.
1pm: Well the swim went well but my cramping is still with me. Still if the swim next Saturday goes as well I will be happy. The course today was long according to my Garmin 910, it showed 4100 meters, should be 3800. It also felt long. If that was correct I swam 2.4 miles in about 1:16. Same time as the boulder IM in a wet suit. Put me in 4th place behind two local speed daemons, the winner going 59:39 and one of my competitors in next Saturdays race. Harry was 4 min up on me if I remember correctly. He will be a hard case to beat as he bikes and runs well to boot. Apart from the one big cramp in both calfs at the same time I felt good. Brad came out of the water a couple of seconds ahead of Paula Newby-Frazer. Nothing like rubbing shoulders with the champions before a race.
We are in our race week condo now. It’s about a mile to the pier and 1/4 mile to Lava Java and several good restaurants. Perfect place for Ingrid to watch the race and walk to the finish. We also had a birds eye view on some of the locals who live just outside the surf line, a big tribe of spinner dolphins. I hope they will grace me with a visit sometime this week on a training swim. Got to go shopping.