Monday, October 22, 2012

The Race of a Lifetime - Part 1

          As I have mentioned in previous blogs, racing in Kona was a lifetime dream and goal and one that I am thrilled to have achieved this past weekend.  There were many variables that added to the greatness of this race, a few of which included the presence of my family on the sidelines as well as the friends and teammates I had on course with me.  Jim is somebody that I credit with teaching me many of the skills pertinent to successful triathlon training and racing since I joined the Cyclonauts back in 2005.  Since then he has been a tremendous role model and training partner on a very frequent basis.  Andy has been a consistent competitor over that last few years and unfortunately due to our differing home bases, somebody that I haven't had the pleasure of training with as much as I would have liked.  Andy pushes me in any race we are in together because I know that any lead I may have on him leading into the run will likely be short lived as he is a very strong and very fast runner.  Racing with Elena was excellent because she is always such a positive person.  She was easy to spot during the race thanks to her pink and black kit, helmet, bike, etc.  Even though she expressed her nervousness more than anyone else before the canon blasted, she was also one of the most exuberant when it was all over.
          I arrived on the big island the Monday before race day (Saturday).  I had flown down with Jake and his girlfriend Laura which made the trip easier.  We opted for an 11 hour flight from JFK to Oahu, then a 45 minute flight from Oahu to Kona.  The good news is there is less chance of a missed connection when your first flight ends in Hawaii, the downside is 11 hours is a very long time on a plane.  Hawaiin Air was exceptional as each seat had its own tv, and the flight included 2 meals (that you didn't have to pay for).  The service was great and the travel went very smoothly.  We stayed at the Wyndham Kona Hawaiin Village leading up to race day.  When Jim and Kelly arrived on Wednesday they joined us for a few nights before my family arrived the night before race day.
          From a tourist perspective the first week pretty mellow since the focus was on getting in the workouts, staying hydrated, and resting whenever possible.  Because I am not a perennial qualifier, I took this focus with a grain of salt.  I was going to be treating Kona as a bonus race which meant I wasn't going to be as strict in the days leading up to the race.  Tuesday I went for a swim at the Kona Community Aquatic Center.  I am very much a pool person, so it was wonderful to be able to swim outside while still having the structure of the time clock and black line on the bottom.  This pool is on Kuakini Highway and is free leading up to race day.  Wednesday I met up with Andy for our ride and run at Z1/Z2 intensity.  We got an early start to the morning in order to limit our exposure to the heat and sun which meant rolling at 6:15, just as there was enough light.  We rode out on the Queen K to meet his brother Matt who would be riding down from Waikaloa.  While the intensity was pretty much where it needed to be, Andy and I were sure to take in the sights around us.  We agreed that it was a pinch me sort of moment.  Nothing but desolate black lava rock all around.  The mountains to the right, the pacific to the left, and rolling pavement for miles.
          After about 2 or so hours we hopped off the bikes for our transition run.  We decided to avoid the crowds of downtown Kona and headed south on Ali'i Drive towards the first out and back on the run.  Andy was setting the pace, and since he is a stronger runner than I, we were moving along pretty well and starting to feel the heat.  Just to give you an idea, the sun gets hot so early in the day that I was starting to sweat just standing still, even on mornings that I wasn't working out.  Sunscreen and a hat/visor are an absolute must.  Another cool thing about this run was the fact that there were aid stations out in a few different places in the days leading up to the race.  On the bike there was a GU stop, and on the run there was a powerbar, cytomax, and muscle milk aid station.  Once the run was finished, we wrapped up our morning with a swim at dig me beach.  Dig Me Beach is the small beach on the south side of the Kona Pier and the starting point for the Ironman swim.  Andy and I swam out to the second buoy and came back as the swim was just to keep loose and get an idea of what the water would be like on race day.  I should inform everyone that this water is beyond clear.  I am not one to open my eyes when my head is down (yes even with goggles) for fear of seeing something I won't like beneath me.  Every time I swam in Kona my eyes were never closed!  It was like swimming in an aquarium.  There were neon fish everywhere!  The water is also much saltier than the Atlantic which means use plenty of body glide and try not to swallow too much of it.  Workouts were done upon setting foot back on Dig Me and it was off to enjoy the rest of the day (relax).
          Jim and Kelly arrived Wednesday night which meant Jim would build his bike and we could do a quick spin on Thursday, but not before a rather unusal run....the Kona Underpants Run!!  Jim had designed some custom Cyclonaut Speedos so that he, Kelly, Matt, Elena, and I could all match.  As a result we got some serious coverage on slowtwitch and!  We also were luck enough to snag a pic with the Wattie Ink ladies.


After the run, we all went for a swim at Dig Me Beach.  This time, instead of swimming out to the buoys, we ended up swimming out to the Kini Kini, a boat that offers coffee during the week leading up to race day.  The captain was nice enough to take a photo for us.  This is truly a unique experience and one that you have to do if in Kona during race week...along with the underpants run.

            Once we were through with the swim it was time to get off the feet.  I headed back to the condo and the rest of the day was pretty quiet with the exception of Kara's arrival Thursday night.  Knowing she had a long day of travel I made tentative plans with Jim, Kelly, Jake, and Laura to meet them at Boston Basil's for some pasta on the way home from the airport.  Upon picking up Kara, she confirmed my suspicion of being exhausted was still agreed to get a quick bit with everyone before hitting the hay.  Boston Basil's was pretty good food, but apparently they change their menu during race week.
          Friday arrived and with it came a huge breakfast at Denny's followed by lots of eating, drinking, and resting.  I was even able to spend some time in the NormaTec boots thanks to Gilad making a special trip to the condo for me.  Gilad is the CEO of NormaTec and we had crossed paths the Wednesday evening while awaiting Crowie's arrival at the Newton booth.  He approached me asking if I was Andy's brother (since I was wearing my new Salmon Health and retirement mesh back hat) and we continued talking about the boots as well as Crowie for the next few minutes.  Friday evening brought the arrival of my parents and brothers Tim and Brian.  I stayed up long enough to say hello then it was off to bed (still by 9:00 pm).  Next up was the big day itself...

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