Seven weeks before this race, I was not planning on competing. But things worked out and I was fortunate to sign up and get over to this unbelievable destination race. I flew in on the Thursday before the race, just in time to assemble my bike, shake out the legs, get a couple nights of good sleep and pick up my race packet. I was very grateful to be with my good friends at this year's race. Adrian, Faron, Vlad, Pablo, Andrea and Renata all made this year's race awesome! Being around positive and motivating people truly helps your mindset.
Leading into this race, my Coach Jim Lubinski had me doing LOTS of bricks. For those of you that do not know, a brick workout is a bike followed by a run. Over the last 2 months, I completed somewhere around 15 brick workouts. This teaches the legs to get used to running off the bike as that is a hard skill to master. We also did a lot of tempo and medium intensity efforts to build my race pace endurance. I was feeling very strong coming into this race. Consistency is my weapon. I may not be genetically gifted in this sport, but my consistent work ethic and relentless attitude makes up for the natural DNA I may not have.
I woke up race morning ready and excited for the day ahead. No nerves, just excitement to see what I can do. The goal was to break 5 hours (last year I went 5:00:41). Going into the race, I knew managing the heat would be key to a good performance.
After a good night of sleep, we arrived to the race start at 5:45. My swim wave would start at 6:45, so I had plenty of time to set up my bike gear, warm up and take a quick selfie for social media! LOL
My warm up consisted of a light 5 minute run, dynamic warm up drills, and a few 20 second pick ups to get the heart rate up and the body sweating. Mission accomplished.
I made my way down to the beach and jumped in the water for a quick warm up swim. Swimming in Hawaii is something else. Clear, blue and warm water, fish swimming next to you, and beautiful rocks on the bottom. I hadn’t been swimming too much leading up to this race but I felt strong and efficient with my swimming, so the goal was to go out fast, settle into a good pace and draft when I could find some good feet.
At 6:44, the cannon went off and the “human washer machine” was on. Arms flying, legs kicking, and splashing all around. I went out in a full sprint. I needed to get away from the chaos as quick as possible. I am not the fastest swimmer but my experience helps me to stay calm and stick to the plan. Once we got out a few hundred yards, I found some clear water and decided this was a good time to get into my rhythm. But within 10 minutes of the swim, I felt my new 559 Multisport speed suit starting to rub my neck. Then my left arm pit. I totally forgot to apply body glide on my neck and arm pits and I felt the affects of that mistake. New suit and salt water equates to chaffing. That bugged me the rest of the swim but it didn’t stop me from execution. During the swim, I drafted when I could and kept my form intact. For me, the swim is all about managing my energy. I know it’s a long day so I do my best to stay within myself during this first leg of the event. Once we made the turn around to the last buoy, I increased my arm cadence, kicked the legs out and started to focus on the bike.
Swim time: 36:59
I exited the water and ran hard to the transition area. Since I was not wearing a wetsuit, it was an easy and fast transition. I ran my bike to the mount area, but instead of getting on my bike right at the line, I passed the congestion of athletes and I ran my bike up the short hill and then hopped on.
Transition 1: 2:41
Once on the bike, I got in my bike shoes (since they were already clipped on my bike) and started to spin the legs. And immediately needed to sip some water and get in some calories. I quickly realized that my rear bike mount that I had put on a few weeks before was not easy to get a bottle in and out. Once I grabbed my water bottle, I had trouble putting it back into the bottle cage, so I quickly stopped and put it back in. I knew that would be a hassle the whole bike so I figured I wouldn’t really use it the rest of the ride. I would stick to my front bottle cage for easy access. Immediately, my legs felt a bit deflated so I took my time to warm them up.
Side note: I did not wear a watch and raced completely by feel for this race. I have been training this way and have been enjoying this process. Mentally, I feel this creates grit and a good sense of feel for racing. I am definitely the minority here as most triathletes swear by all of their technology. But again, my experience gives me the ability to race by feel and still perform to my standards.
My goal was to manage the heat on the bike and be conservative the first half and open it up the second half. At the 10 mile mark, rain clouds rolled in and it started to come down on us. This actually made for ideal biking weather, because the normal cross winds did not show their face and a little rain kept us cool. The last 5 or 6 miles before the turnaround gave us a steady 2% ascent that you just have to put your head down and crank away. But once you turnaround, you know you can fly for a few miles. And that is what I did. Here I wanted to open it up and push the legs a bit.
The clouds started to move away and that intense Hawaii sun came out the final 10 miles of the bike. A little discomfort presented itself due to my aero position most of the ride. I would go through intervals of staying in aero and sitting up on my bike to stretch out my back and legs. But I felt good still and knew the run was approaching. Since I was not wearing my watch, I didn’t know exactly where I was at coming off the bike. I just knew that it was time to throw down a good run.
Bike: 2:35:20 (21.6 mph average)
As I approached the dismount line, I was already out of my bike shoes ready to put my running shoes on and go. That’s exactly what I did, socks and shoes on, grab race belt and nutrition and go.
Transition 2: 2:20
Right off the bike, I had a deep side ache that I had to manage the first mile of the run. I think it was just from being in the aero position so long on the bike and then going right into the run. But once the first mile was done, the side ache dissipated and now it was time to do my thing. The goal was to run strong to each aide station, take my time and get in the fluids and cool my body and then keep going. The first half of the run, I felt very strong. Running with good form, head down and was doing my best to stay cool. Every aide station entailed water in my fisherman’s hat that I wore, sips of fluids and sponges to soak the body. Then right back into the rhythm. I carried a small flask that was mixed with gel and honey. Having that on me was very crucial to keep a steady stream of calories coming in.
The run was 2 loops and once the second loop was starting, I hit a low point for 2 miles. Just flat legs and a mental weak spot. It also didn't help that these miles were on a golf course, slow and soft grass to run on and short and steep undulating hills. I did what I needed to do at the aide stations and I was able to revive my mindset and my legs. Once I hit the 9-mile mark, I started to surge into a good pace once again. I stayed consistent with taking my time at every aide station and kept my body cool. Last year, I faded the last 3 miles and I did not want that same outcome. This year was different. I actually started to feel strong and confident heading into the last 5k. My legs were clicking over and my pace was strong. “Keep the body cool and keep the calories coming in”, I told myself. Many times, we forget to do this over the last stretch of a long triathlon and it can really slow down an athlete. I did not forget to do this!
When I hit the last aide station at mile 12, I put on the jets and started to run as fast as I could handle. I passed at least 20 people over the final mile. It felt good to do that. When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I put my hands in the air. I saw the clock and it read 4 hours 56 minutes. Mission accomplished.
Run: 1:39:19 (7:34 per mile)
Total time: 4:56:39
1600 athletes, I was 56th overall.
170 athletes in my age group, I was 13th.
When I was done, I quickly called Coach Jim and he told me my splits. I was surprised to hear that my run was actually slower this year than last. I felt tremendously better this year during the run but I took more time at aide stations and that affected my cumulative run time. You figure if I took 30-40 seconds at 12 aide stations that can add up to 6-8 minutes. That will be something that I will improve upon in races to come.
Overall, I was satisfied with my race. I broke 5 hours, had a faster swim and bike and executed a strong run. I know I can get faster and I will do what it takes to make that happen. Next, I have Vineman Half Ironman July 10th and the goal is to get as close as I can to the 4:30 mark. Let's go!
Thank you to Coach Jim Lubinski for all the guidance and mentorship.
Thank you to my wife and daughters for putting up with my craziness.
Thank you to my 559 MultiSport teammates for the fellowship and friendships.
Thank you to California Fitness Academy for their sponsorship and support.