This year, an old friend showed up unexpectedly in Kona this year 24 hours before race day and wanted to catch-up. I made the time, found my way down to Kona Brewing Co—no beer for me— and met Marty and his wife. Marty asked me the quintessential question you can ask any world-class “Ironman Athlete” on the eve of world championships: “What motivates you to do this event?” It wasn’t so much what Marty asked, but what I could hear behind his question, the question he really wanted to ask: “Why do something so hard and want to do it repeatedly?”
The answer: ”How much time do you have, Marty?” There are three types of triathletes in Kona—1) the curious one; 2) the one who believes he/she can race this event c) the one who loves this event. I answered, “This year— 2013— I’m all of the above.”
Ten minutes before the cannon fired in Kailua Bay was the most intense time of any sporting event I have ever experienced. If you want to race, start at the front. That’s how you set your intention. This year, as I’m waiting for the cannon to fire, Andrew McNaughton’s little voice plays in my head, “You’ll know you’re having a good start in the swim when you’re are smiling at the chaos, remembering to keep your elbows high in the water, and finding the right group to sit in with. Swim fast until you finish the swim course. It’s pretty easy, mate.”
This year’s Ironman was the first year I raced the bike leg without any data—no HR, no watch for splits, no watts….no feedback except the information my body was giving. Not by design, mind you. Things just stopped working – so I rolled with it. So it’s the same blue print I used last year….
1st hour only water. Keep cool at every aid station. Thank you to the locals for being out there— it’s an enormous positive energy.
If someone passes, let them pass. Say, “great job mate/love!” Continue this to Waikoloa.
Groups of riders form quickly, so be at the front or the back, but not in the middle. Drafting costs four minutes.
I begin my fuel for the climb up to Havi. I’ve peed (Sorry to Gross you out, Laura) five times already. I’m good.
I’m mesmerized by the Pro Field coming by from the turnaround. These are my heroes…..and they are bombing down the road— Luke, Kienle, Crowie!!! Love that guy, Pete, Vanlerde, Faris. I have to keep my excitement contained back to focus. How the F*** are they riding so fast?! I recognize warfare when I see it.
I set up my nutrition for 70 miles and home so I resist the temptation to push the pace. Havi comes and goes, it’s downhill to the Queen K…. peeing again! Sweet. I see a rider limping back to town: Andy Raelert. I’ve learnt not to judge out there.
Good news is I’m still present. We are back on the Queen K; I’m in the moment, nearly done. With two miles to go, I have asked a fellow Aussie, “Mate, what’s your Garmin say on the bike split?” I hear his Garmin Beep. ”That was five hours, mate.” I’m happy, then I’m sad…breaking five hours went begging. It is what it is. I see my Mum with a Poster that says “Go, Thunda!” I’m happy again. She’s been out here all day, since 4.30am supporting me, encouraging. I give her a wave. I’m so humbled and happy. I want to run.
Giving it everything.
I can only try and tell Marty what it feels to start a marathon after racing my bike for a little over five hours, throw in a swim for an hour or so before that. And then do it on one of the hottest islands on the planet. He wouldn’t get it. So, the run starts with one mile at a time.
The first three aid stations on the run are crucial. Drink, drink, drink, fuel up, keep cool.
Be patient for the Ali’i drive. Resist pushing the pace. Relax and keep your form.
“Smile, you’re in the Hawaiian Ironman. Not everyone gets here. So be proud,” is what I tell myself.
There are four parts to the Kona run course. 1) the first 10 miles; 2) the hot corner up Palani; 3) the energy lab; and 4) the finish.
My favorite was the hot corner up Palani hill this year. My friend Andrew bet my Mum $100 if she could stay with me up the 1 mile climb. “Roy… Andrew, huff! Will give me, puff! $100….if I keep up with you on the climb…puff!” She deserves a hug for that. I give her one; it’s our tradition. I crest Palani, with my crew going nuts. Andrew yells, “You just dropped your mum on the climb!” I could have split a $100 with Judy. F***k….what was I thinking?!
Running on the Queen K is so beautiful, because it’s so hard. I see Crowie coming back from the turn around. I can’t help it, I cross over to his side of the road put my hand out, he puts his hand out. “Hang in there, Crowie…you’re alright mate!” I’ve learnt not to judge out there, only respect.
The energy lab: no doubt you’ve looked at my run splits. I won’t bother explaining.
I’m getting passed by a guy with 10km to go. I convince myself, will myself to at least fight a little. We start running together. “What pace are we on mate?” He replies, “If we keep this pace we’ll break ten hours.” I think a little. Now, there’s an idea worth fighting for. I shake his hand, “Let’s do it. I’ll help you if you help me.”
As we run up Mark and Dave hill, of course, I have to be the first up. I’m sprinting down hot corner. I’ve done this several time before, but never sprinting. It’s all will down Palani. I see Andrew, Mum, all my friends. They are yelling: ”Break 10!!!! Come on!!! It’s 5.52 pace for the last mile!”
I reach Alii Drive with my mate from 10 km to go, I might as well be back at Prospect HS with Peter and my friends. Still the upper end of nine hours and counting on the clock. It’s too noisy, too much to take in, Mike Reilly, Blah Blah Blah, the Blue Carpet, the big screen. It went by so fast.
The real question is, “Was it worth it?”
All the early morning training sessions, the long rides, the weekends away from loved ones, the “Watching what I eat moments,” the travel, the equipment, the coaching, the planning, the stress on my body, mentally and physically. For me, well, how much time do you have, Marty?
By Coach Leroy Thomas