||Ironman World Championship
||Saturday, October 15, 2005
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
|Age Group Place:
[Alii Drive looked nothing like it had just three days prior, when I was close to seven hours into the Hawaii Ironman. I was out for my first run since the race. Forty-minutes sounded good. As I got started, I felt a slight bit of lingering soreness, but after about three or four minutes, I felt light and smooth. The chalk-sketched art of motivating words written by athlete supporters still covered the roads. Occasionally, I’d step over a small dot of reflective material stuck to the road that left an athlete’s shoe somewhere during their journey. My mind was filled with pictures of what that same road looked like a few days before. I thought about what got me to this point; to be in the midst of a recovery run on the famed Alii Drive with my mind drifting into memories of my day in one of the biggest sporting events in the world.]
The four D’s got me there: Determination, Discipline, Desire, and most importantly, the Dudes. When I began triathlon in the Fall of 1999, I didn’t have a background in any of the three disciplines - at least not at the high school or collegiate level. As a youngster, I did some running, rode my BMX bike, and swam in the Pacific Ocean just enough to get out and catch the next wave. But to arrive at the opportunity to race at what I consider the grandest triathlon event in the world, I needed some help, and I got that help from the Dudes. I’d like to formally thank these guys while I have the floor.
Mike Guzek - Better known by the two names I gave him: The Big Horse, Le Grand Cheval. His selflessness and good attitude have always been an encouragement to me. We could stock a bookcase of all of our during-training, off-training, and beer guzzling tri related conversations. We have progressed in a similar fashion. We both began with entry level road bikes and eventually splurged on the high dollar tri bikes (yes, the Big Horse used to ride a Schwin). Guz was (now in Boulder) my “go-to”. He once joined me for a 100 mile ride on a day that I couldn’t start until noon. It was June. It was hot and humid. I was at the peak of my training for Coeur d’Alene; he was only weeks away from his wedding day – training for nothing. After an hour, it began to pour. It was the kind of rain that hurt as we rode. By myself, I would’ve been turned around and heading back home - Guz wanted to go on. Its days like this that I’ll never forget. And that’s just one of many.
David Glover – A mentor. I sought out David for all his triathlon experience, and learned so much from him. He has also become a great friend along the way. I’ve adopted many of his training philosophies as my own; philosophies you will soon be able to read about in his soon to be published book.
Steve Smith – Similar to Dave, in that I knew I’d get better just but tagging along. Lunchtime 8-mile runs, some in the snow and too many to count in the sweltering heat. Steve puts consistency above all else, and that has become the most important aspect of any training plan I choose to follow.
Marc Nester and Howard Curtis – these guys helped me figure out the basics. Nester always knew the gear; Howard showed me how pure grit can get you through the most difficult times in racing.
On my travels to Hawaii, I began to read a book written by former college football coach Lou Holtz. The book is titled, “Winning Every Day, The Game Plan for Success”. The “game plan” is based on ten steps.
1. The Power of Attitude
2. Tackle Adversity
3. Have a Sense of Purpose
4. Make Sacrifice Your Ally
5. Adapt or Die
6. Chase Your Dreams
7. Nurture Your Self-Image
8. Foster Trust
9. Commit to Excellence
10. Handle with Care
For whatever the reason may be, I picked up this book that had been stuffed in a drawer to read on this trip. Each step, in my view, has a direct correlation to success in Ironman. The D’s helped me get to the start line. What would ultimately get me from that point to the finish was the one A: Attitude. Approaching this race with the right attitude, I thought, would give me the best chance at having a good day.
[I thought back to the minutes before the start of the race, standing at waters edge at 6:40am to see the pro’s begin their quest for a big pay day. I had a scary moment when my nose piece popped off my goggles, and had me standing there with my goggles in two pieces, and wondering if I still had time to go back and get my extra pair that had been checked in with my pre-swim gear bag. I managed to snap the nose piece back in place and very carefully pulled my goggles over my eyes.
Just five minutes later, I was treading water about 100 meters out while the rest of the age group field made their way to the start line (created by a handful of surfers holding up a rope from the pier to the start boat). I chatted with a guy from England. He asked me what I expected to swim. I told him around 1:10. He said he swam 1:01 with a wetsuit, so he expected 1:15-1:20. That scared me. My best wetsuit swim is 1:05 and change.
I was calmer than expected. Looking back to the sea wall, I noticed it lined with some native Hawaiian’s playing their drums, and the rest filled with spectators. I had a half-grin, thinking that the hard part was over. I was here. I was at the start of the Hawaii Ironman World Championship. I was treading water amidst the best in the world. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to be where I was. I hoped for a day with no meltdowns, no race-ending mechanicals, no crashes, and a strong stomach. I wanted to have a good day. I wanted this journey to end on a good note – it was a long journey with so much invested. I wanted to do well for my family who made the long trip. There would be friends and family clicking the ‘refresh’ button on ironmanlive.com all day, and I hoped to avoid having them wonder if I was ok. At 7am, race announcer Mike Riley sent 1745 athletes off into Kailua Bay.]
:: 2.4 to Swim ::
I’ve recently read a few of the pro’s race reports. Whenever they mention the swim, it’s normally about “getting up to the next group”, or, “staying off the front”. What you don’t read is how they got totally pummeled, bashed, and battered - how lucky they are.
I felt great swimming in the days leading up to the race. The salt water didn’t bother me much and I felt fine without a wetsuit. But slam 1800 others around you and the dynamics change a bit. Without a wetsuit, I felt the constant nicks of a swimmer’s watch or finger nail. It was rough. Regardless, my effort had me feeling comfortable. My heart rate never really spiked up like I’m used to. My breathing felt steady and not too labored. There were very few strokes that were not impeded in some way by another swimmer. I frequently found myself in a good drafting position, but had trouble holding it before battling out of another spot of heavy congestion. Often, the draftee didn’t appreciate the tips of my fingers swiping the bottom of their feet with each stroke. I don’t purposely do this, but it happens, and it really seems to aggravate some folks. In return, I’d get a few hard, loud kicks and move off to the side. “Fine dude, have YOUR space”.
At the boat turn, I felt like I had swum to Maui. There were folks out on the boat yelling and screaming as we turned to head in the direction of the pier. This part of the swim felt all uphill. I felt the affect of the swells coming in much more. The combination of my tired stroke and the currents had me constantly drifting right, and having to battle back to the pack. Still, I was calm. But now, I was tired and calm. Every so often, someone’s stroke would come crashing down on my legs or feet, sending them vertical and putting strain on my lower back. Frustrating.
Finally, the huge, blown-up, Gatorade bottle sitting on the edge of the pier we left from came into sight – I was almost home. Each breath I took gave me a quick glance at the spectator lined pier as I made my way through the final 200 meters. I was relieved that my goggles held together. After a 72-minute battle royale in Kailua Bay, one leg down, two to go.
I exited up the carpeted steps to the pier. After quick splash from the shower hoses to rinse off some of the salt water, I made way to my swim-to-bike bag and the changing tent. I got all my gear in order, picked up some nutrition for the guy behind me that had dropped from his pockets. I patiently made my way out. While running along the pier to my bike rack, a bag of salt tablets fell out of the jersey pocket of the guy running in front of me. I picked them up, and yelled his number. I yelled it four or five times, until finally, a volunteer grabbed his attention. I told him, “You may need these”. He was grateful, and said that he’d be sure to buy me a beer after the race.
[There are noticeably more people out spinning on their bikes than running. Many pass by on the opposite side of the road. I like bikes, and all the different gear, so I have my eyes peeled on each as they pass. Some still have their race number attached; some have replaced race wheels with training wheels. It’s pretty hot, so I have my water bottle along. Swig, then I squirt on my neck to cool down.
I can’t help but laugh, thinking about my mishap about 75-miles into the bike, when I mistakenly took a green Gatorade water bottle for ice cold water, when in fact, it was ice cold cola, disguised as ice cold water. Dave Cascio made it very clear how important it was to stay cool. So, at each aid station, I’d grab ice-cold water and squirt through the holes in my helmet, a little on my neck and back, and finish off with a refreshing squirt to the face. That was my system to keep my body cool. Somewhere beyond mid-way, they began serving cola in addition to water and Gatorade. So, after 75-miles of being salty and sweaty, I was also sticky from dousing myself with cola.]
:: 112 to Bike ::
I did try to exercise a slight bit of conservatism. Not so much by reducing effort, but by being conscious of the heat and taking in cold fluids any time I could. With that approach, I slowed quite a bit at the aid stations to grab cold fluid and cool off. With the exception of the first 11-mile no-feed zone, aid stations were 5-miles apart.
I lost my one higher calorie bottle of Accelerade (sports drink) sometime in the first few miles. I would’ve stopped if I would’ve known it popped out, but I didn’t realize this until I went to grab my water and had only one rear bottle. I knew I’d have to get down more solid calories than I had planned without having the Accelerade. The winds were gentle. Sometimes a slight cross wind, sometimes a tail wind, and rarely a head wind going through the first 45-miles.
Every so often, I’d glance left and enjoy the view of the ocean and the coast line. They close the Queen K to traffic for the race. Still, there was a plethora of media, bike support, and medical vehicles roaming the course. Sometime before I hit the left turn to head to the town of Hawi and the bike turn around, the leaders passed by on the opposite side of the Queen K on their way back to Kona. I recognized Al Sutan (the eventual winner) as the race leader. He had a gap of over five minutes on the next couple (possibly Stadler and Lieto at this point?), then another few minutes to a large group of chasers.
Water tasted the best, but I tried to drink Gatorade continuously. I ate one Cliff bar (high calorie solid food) over the course of the first hour and thirty minutes. I supplemented with Endurolytes (pills used to replace electrolytes), and polished off 1.5 flasks of gel (syrupy-like calories quickly absorbed).
The road from Kawaihae to Hawi is 18-miles. Slightly stronger winds and constant uphill grade really seemed to slow things down. I hoped that the winds would keep their direction and give me a “ride” after turning in Hawi. They did.
My special needs had two full bottles of Accelerade and two full gel flasks. I took one bottle of Accelerade and the two flasks and started my way back to Kona.
There was nice tailwind coming out of Hawi that lasted 5-6 miles. Back onto the Queen K, the weather remained calm compared to what I’ve heard and expected from other years. I was hot, though. I started to get some headaches from the effort and heat. I kept strict with my plan to keep my body temperature in check. I went through a tough stretch for about 10 miles (75-85ish). I had the onset of some lower quad cramps that had me worried about dehydration. I went for a couple Endurolytes and got down some water and Gatorade.
For the most part, I remained with the same group. The long, low grade stretches didn’t cause pain, but they took the wind out of my sail pretty quick. I had a big sense of relief heading back down Palani and passing the “hot corner” on my way to transition. I’d no longer have to worry about something out of my control ending my race (bike mechanicals, etc). I felt pretty good, although it’s tough to gauge how you *really* feel in the final minutes of the bike. There’s a potential false sense of feeling “good”, physically, because you feel so good mentally with the thought of getting off the bike.
In T2, I sat down. I dumped my bag, unloaded my food from my jersey, tossed on the runners, hat ... Go.
[I tried to remember exactly how I felt covering the same miles in the race (miles 7-9). I felt pretty solid, but the signs to Fadeville were on the horizon. I wished I had felt like I did now. I wish I hadn’t slowed down so much. The heat of those first 10-miles was pretty brutal. But the pain and fatigue of the miles thereafter was worse. I needed that spark at mile 10 from my Mom, Deidre, and Kyle. I’m also glad to have caught up with Alex Sherwood. It was nice to have a running partner for the toughest miles of the race (17-22).]
:: 26.2 to Run ::
From previous results and my run training, I thought I had a good chance at a 3:30 +/- 10 minutes. Anything can happen out there, though - I keep that in mind. I have goals of running sub 3:20 in Ironman, but not here .. not this day. This wasn’t a day for PR’s. This was a day to finish solid. If a PR was had, icing. So, I asked my aching legs to stay strong for a 3:30 marathon, putting me at the finish right around 10:10. The range I set for what I’d label a solid day was 10-10:30, so I was on target. I could do this.
“Run on feel. Run at an effort that seems maintainable”.
This turned out to be 7:35 miles for the first 5-miles. I cruised along the out of the out-and-back on Alii drive, right alongside the ocean and fighting the heat. I grabbed a PowerGel coming out of T2 that I carried with me and planned to gulp down and immediately chase with water at the 2nd aid station. I don’t do well with gel during the run - usually just cola, water, Gatorade, and whatever else I think my stomach can manage and hold down. With the ice-cold sponges served first at each station, I’d squeeze them on my head, face, and back. Each stride played the tune of “squish-squish” as my soaked shoes hit the pavement.
The first familiar face I came across was Dan Frost. This was just around 3-miles into my run, but closer to Frosty’s 7th or 8th mile - what a great race he was having. I hoped he’d be able to hold it together and put the nail in the coffin for an exceptional season of racing and a great send-off to his new home in Greece. Daniel Labarca was next. He always looks the same when I see him in Ironman; strong. I believe this was his 12th race in Kona. Alex Sherwood was next, shortly before the run turn around at Keauhou Beach. I formally met Alex waiting for my luggage upon arrival to Kona. I knew [of] Alex from previous races we had both competed in; primarily because he was always in front of me. In the three days I was in Kona without my family, I palled around with Alex and his crew. I thought there’d be a good chance we’d meet somewhere on the course. This meeting would not happen, though, for another 12 miles.
After a short period of feeling pretty smooth, and a little earlier than I wanted, I started to fade; the kind of fading you know you won’t rebound from. But I was okay with it. Attitude. It wasn’t drastic, but I definitely was slowing down. I tried to stay focused and use other runners to pull me along.
Spectators and fans were cheering loud back in town and all down Kuakini Hwy. I figured it wasn’t long until I’d pass by Deidre, Kyle, and my Mom; I looked forward to it. I needed a little spark … a little something extra. Sometimes it’s just the extra effort of a random spectator finding your name in the program … that actually happened quite a bit. But I knew that seeing my “team” (Team-D) would give me a little more juice - even if it was short-lived.
Just after the turn onto Kuakini Hwy and heading towards Palani Rd, I was relieved to hear the cheers of “Go Brady. We love you”. It was my Mom, jumping up and down like her cheerleading days of old.
“Deidre and Kyle are just up ahead”, she said. “You look great”.
All the sudden, I got a rush of emotion. This is not uncommon during a long day filled with ups and downs. I thought about the few seconds I’d have to remove myself from this one-dimensional trance and converse with Deidre and Kyle. No PR’s today. I cut across the road to say hello and complimented it with a quick kiss to Deidre. My legs tightened as I bent down to greet Kyle during his afternoon nap in the stroller.
Going up Palani Rd was tough, but I was ready to get onto the Queen K and start knocking off the remaining miles. My shoulders really started to feel the effects of the scorching heat from the tropical sun. I knew the Queen K miles would be pretty sparse of spectators, so I entered back into my one-dimensional mindset and sludged on. Squish-squish.
I did come across one familiar face out there. It was Amy Sherwood, Alex’s wife. I asked how Alex was doing.
“He’s just up ahead”, she said. “You can probably catch him”.
At the 16th mile, I finally made a left turn off the Queen K and into the Natural Energy Lab. The Energy Lab is known to be a really tough section of the run. Aside from the fact that it covers some of the toughest miles (16-20), it’s hot, desolate, and slightly uphill on the way out.
Similar to the order of familiar faces 12 miles earlier, I saw Dan Frost, then Daniel Labarca. Dan was now just a couple miles ahead. I had no idea he was in the midst of such a struggle and serious gastro issues. Daniel looked liked Daniel … strong.
Just after the turn at the bottom of the Energy Lab, I finally met up with Alex. He was easy to spot with the word “MOM” written vertically on the back of his running jersey. It was also what was written on the top-tube of his bike. Alex’s mom had recently finished up treatment for breast cancer. The trip to Kona was not only to support Alex during his first Hawaii Ironman, but also to celebrate his Mom’s new title of cancer survivor.
We chatted most of the way out of the Energy Lab. Alex was on a system of running to each aid station, then walking while he ate and drank fluids. I chose to walk only a few steps to get the fluid down, but my running pace was a little slower. I’d pull away through the aid stations, he’d catch up, we’d run together, then separate again through the next aid station. Just around the 23 mile mark, Alex started to pull away. As much as I wanted to keep up, I just couldn’t. I was starting to check out and think about the finish; I knew I’d get there. As I watched him pull away, I was grateful for the 6-miles we were able to run together. I was glad to see Alex was going to finish strong for his Mom.
Going through the aid station around mile 23, I dunked. I grabbed the sides of a trash can filled with ice-cold water and submerged my head. Nothing else seemed more refreshing after 23 running miles and close to 10 hours of racing in the heat. The remaining 5k seemed so close, but yet, so far. Squish, squish. I traded positions often with others who chose to walk more but run faster. I was worried that too much walking would give my legs mixed messages of “You’re done. You can stop now”.
Palani Rd was once an uphill, now it’s all downhill … the final 2-miles. I passed on the final aid station. The spectators lined the road. They cheered me on, and I’d respond with an extended arm with my finger pointed as if to say, “I’ve got this in the bag. Thanks”.
Finally, Alii Drive … the part of Alii Drive I’d been waiting for; the finish of the Ironman World Championships. Embrace it. I slowed down a little to allow an athlete from Japan to have her space and wave her country’s flag. I got a glimpse of Team-D … my team. Embrace it. I half-turned to them as I ran down the carpeted finish chute - two arms extended.
10:23, solid. A season over, relieving. A long journey complete, spectacular.