I manage to stick to the plan early on by bringing my heart rate down as much as I can. By biting the bullet and going extremely slow at first my HR drops faster instead of going at a mediocre clip for much longer time and my HR never getting low enough. By the time I get back to the top of Palani where the long stretch on the Queen K begins, my HR is essentially where it needs to be and I settle into a comfortable aero position and continue drinking. Within the first hour I was able to get between 5 and 6 bottles down (and didn't have to pee yet). Many people have told me that everyone crushes the bike early on and pays for it much later. In fact, when I was in the expo a few days prior I saw the legendary Mark Allen (6 time Hawaii Champion!) and I had to approach him. I asked him for advice as a first timer and his response was, "...the race doesn't start until about mile 80 of the bike. If you go too hard early in the bike you will have a tough time getting home." I remained ultra conservative (although the tailwinds still allowed for a pretty nasty pace) and focused on fluids. This stretch on the Queen K is nothing more than rolling hills, lava rock all around, volcano to the right, ocean to the left, and
The wind and the heat aren't really bothering me as I clip off mile by mile on the Queen K (most likely because I can't feel the heat because the wind is pushing me around at 25mph). The aid stations come fast and frequently and as a result my nutrition intake is following suit. As I continue riding I hear someone passing me that shouts, "Paul? From Massachusetts?" Its Eric Hodska. Eric is a former pro from CT that I have raced numerous times. Had he not yelled my name I never would have known it was him; what can I say, our kits are just that much more noticeable! We exchange a few more words but I know I can't stick with him on the bike and I let him go. As the Queen K continues to meander I go back and forth between being focused on the race and experiencing these "pinch me" moments.
The race course approaches a sharp left turn at the end of the Queen K as you near the village of Kawaihae and I remembered another bit of advice from Pat...
"When you make the turn at Kawaihae and climb, if you can see white caps on the ocean, get ready for a crazy descent."After taking full advantage of the new found tailwind I continually looked to the ocean to my left. No white caps, still no white caps....nooooo white caps, this descent may not be so bad...one more chec....welp, there they are, those are definitely white caps...looks like the descent will be fun after all! One more right turn and it was up to Hawi. Hawi is at the top of a 7 mile climb that just keeps turning and turning. The more you turn the more the winds change. As I was making my way to Hawi I began to wonder about the pro race as I figured (hoping) I would be seeing them soon. Shortly after that thought I saw the lead vehicles along with the lead riders. For those of you that don't know, I am mildly obsessed with the pro races. I tend to identify them pretty easily whether they are in their race kits or street clothes. I usually know what type of bikes they ride and shoes they run in. As the mens' race came by I began to pick them out one by and bone and almost commentate the race and predict how it was going to play out. There were 2 things that stuck out in a very big way: the first was the absence of Macca, and the second was seeing Crowie in no man's land just like in 2010.
At the end of the descent we went back through Kawaihae and despite my hoping and praying, the winds had not changed and that climb out of town back to the Queen K also had a nasty headwind. Once that was over and I was back on the Queen K I got more and more excited to get off the bike and start the marathon. My average HR was hovering around 159-160 (which is much higher than planned, but I still felt like I was well in control) and the miles were still clicking off. With about 30 miles to go the winds became more noticeable and my pace began to decline. The good news was that Jim still hadn't caught me, the bad news is I was slowly down pretty significantly. At one point my average speed was 22.1, at this point in the race it was down to 20.6. I tried to stay positive and look for landmarks that told me I was close (these two giant mounds to the right between the Queen K and the ocean, the airport, and the energy lab). Eventually I saw all of those landmarks and my attitude never drifted anywhere close to where it did the second lap of LP. At this point however, I was feeling the heat more and more and trying to get as much water on myself as possible. To put it in perspective, I had consumed around 15-17 bottles at this point and still didn't have the urge to pee.
A right turn onto Makala boulevard, a left turn onto Kuakini
Next up, the run