Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kona 2011

I was much more at ease going into this year’s race with one exception (explained below). My body was in much better shape this year thanks to the Trigger Point Massage products and a very talented massage therapist, Sue Fegelman. Leading into the 2010 race, I had experienced annoying plantar fasciitis. However, by using the calf roller from Trigger Point and getting a weekly sports massage from Sue, this year I was able to enter the race injury free. My sleep was much better this year as well. My weight was much more comfortable this year. In 2010 I overreached a bit with my weight and I went into the race a little too lean for me. I had a solid final swim prep. I was swimming at my personal best times heading into the race. My bike build was very focused towards Kona this year. I felt very confident about my bike fitness. My run endurance was at my personal best level. Due to these factors, I felt very good heading down to the pier on race morning.
Swim: 1:00:17

The one exception to my pre-race comfort was my anxiety for the swim start. The swim start in Kona cannot be explained properly unless you have experienced it in person. It is truly one of the most chaotic moments in sports. If you want to swim well there, you have to line up in front. However, by lining up in front, you are guaranteed to get thoroughly throttled during the first 200-400 meters unless you can swim sub 2 minutes for the first 200(I can’t).
I lined up towards the inside of the front row (I’m a glutton for punishment). When the cannon went off, I went out as fast as I could, but I kept my head above water as there were a few feet in front of me and they were kicking vigorously. I did not feel like getting one in the face. Once I saw the water in front of me calm down a bit, I stuck my face in and got into a decent rhythm. This year’s start was actually better than I had feared. Then the remainder of the swim was rather enjoyable. In 2010 I had really pushed the 1st half of the swim. That extra effort had caused a decent amount of fatigue on the 2nd half of the swim. This year I felt extremely comfortable the entire time, maybe too comfortable. I exited the water in a little over 1 hour.

It was not exactly the time I was looking for, but it was not horrible either. I was really looking forward to pushing the bike harder than I had before.
Bike: 4:51:52
[caption id="attachment_7522" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="The start of a long day"][/caption]
I planned on being more aggressive on the bike this year. I had my Orbea Ordu dialed in for the day thanks to Doug Berner (Timex Multisport Team: Technical Director/Chief Mechanic/Keeper of the Truck/Rock Star). In addition, I had attended the Lifesport Wind tunnel camp in May down in Charlotte, NC. The camp really helped set up my position so that I was very comfortable and aero (we had picked up 24 watts from the position and helmet adjustment).
[caption id="attachment_7523" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="Trying to stay aero"][/caption]
The conditions were very good at the beginning of the day. So I wanted to take advantage and get up to Hawi (59 mile turnaround point) as fast as I could without redlining. In hindsight I actually road this section with the exact same average heart rate as I had the year before. However, I was able to average more power (6 normalized watts higher) and I ended up 10 minutes faster than 2010 for that section. My main focus on the bike was to stay on top of my nutrition, electrolytes, and keep as cool as possible. I managed to do all three better than I had before throughout the race. I grabbed 2 water bottles at every aid station. I dumped one over my entire body and I used the other for my fluids.
The winds were kind to us on the day. However, we did pick up a nice typical headwind heading up to Hawi. We also got a decent headwind once we got back on the Queen K heading back into town. While the winds did pick up as the day went along, they were nothing out of the ordinary for this race. My 2nd half of the bike was all about staying as consistent as I could. I did drop off a bit with my power, but my heart rate was staying very close to my 1st half average. I went through some lows over the last 30 miles, but I was fortunate to avoid the GI issues and cramping that I had experienced every other time I had raced in Kona. I got off the bike feeling the best I have ever felt at this race. Now, that is a relative statement. I was still fatigued and HOT.
Run: 3:09:37
I quickly moved through transition. I grabbed my Timex Global trainer, Lifesport hat, Nathan hydration belt, Native sunglasses, and K Swiss Kwicky Blade Light running shoes.
[caption id="attachment_7525" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="syncing my Timex Global Trainer"][/caption]
I headed out trying to focus on my form and cadence. The first thing that I noticed was I did not have the severe lower back pain I have had in the past. I was moving along at a decent pace while I was trying to do all of my checks and balances. I hit the first mile @ 6:30. I was really hot at this point and I was really looking forward to the 1st aid station. I felt that I needed a change to my nutrition. So once I got to the aid station I stopped, walked and grabbed water, ice, cola, ice, and water. Yes I grabbed it all. I put the ice in my hat, shirt, shorts, and the palm of my hand. This fueling/cooling strategy worked, at least temporarily. I picked up my pace and hit the 2nd mile mark in 6:46. However, I was getting really hot again. So I repeated my aid station strategy again. In fact, I ended up doing this for the first 24 aid stations.
[caption id="attachment_7527" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="walking the aid station"][/caption]
I had not pre-planned this at all. It would be easy for me to say that I could have run faster if I had not done this. However, I truly believe I would have blown up if I had tried to run through the early aid stations. I was having a very hard time cooling down my core temperature. The aid stations served as a mini-respite from the sun and humidity. I came out of every aid station feeling better then I went in.
During any marathon one will experience some extreme highs and some very deep lows. While I was the hottest during the first 10 miles along Alii Drive, I experienced my lowest points once I got up onto the Queen K highway. At mile 11 I went into a LOW point. Fortunately my friend Tim Diseppio was up on the Queen K and he gave my some great pointers and encouragement. I was really happy that I had my Timex Global trainer on at this point. I focused on my cadence. My only goal for mile 11 was to run @ 85 cadence or higher.
[caption id="attachment_7526" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="As I got more tired, the hat came down further over my face"][/caption]
This helped me to get through the low patch and by mile 13 I started to feel better. I rolled along until I got to the Natural Energy Lab. At this point, I started to feel some real mental fatigue. I hit my 2nd real low point coming out of the Energy Lab. It took everything I had to keep moving forward up the slight elevation. I was determined to only walk at the aid stations.
[caption id="attachment_7528" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="coming out of the energy lab"][/caption]
Once I got back up onto the Queen K, I saw my coach. He gave me some form cues and emphasized that it was only 10k back into the finish. Only 10k can be good or bad depending on how one is feeling. I was not feeling great at this point, so I went back to focusing on my cadence. Fortunately, I was not breaking down muscularly yet. In 2010, my quads were screaming at mile 16 of the run. This year they did not start to ache until mile 23sh. I made it to the top of Palani, about 1.2 miles from the finish. I saw my coach again and he told me that there were a few guys in front of me in my age group. I had an outside chance of a podium if I could dig really deep into the finish. Well, I gave it all I had. It was not much, but I definitely left it out there. I ended up crossing the finish line in 9:07:08. It was a PR for me. I felt that I gave everything I had on the day.
[caption id="attachment_7529" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="Finished!"][/caption]

Final Results: 8th M35-39 / 28th Amateur / 60th Overall
The highlight of any significant race for me is having my Timex teammates racing along with me. I got an extra highlight this year as I was able to race with my friend and teammate Tim Hola towards the end of the bike and along Alii Drive. While I was not exactly in the most talkative mood at the time, it was a huge lift to be out there with my teammate.
The strange thing about this sport is that one can always do something better. I still feel that I have a better day in me at this event. I learned more at this race that I can work on going forward. So the 2012 campaign will begin soon, ugh.

70.3 World Championships: Vegas

The new race venue for the 70.3 World Championships definitely lived up to the hype. The course just outside of Las Vegas offered heat, wind, and plenty of hills. This is a very fair course.
I was very excited to go out and race the new venue. Another bonus was having the opportunity to race with several of my Timex Multi-sport teammates. I always find it a huge lift to race with my teammates and have the support of our team management as well.

Swim: 30:12 Ouch!
I was in the 10th swim wave of the morning. The race organizers had all the athletes enter the water 10 minutes prior to their wave starts. While the water was 80 degrees, I still felt a bit chilled when I jumped into the water. I tried to warm up. I’ve learned that it is always better to do a few race start simulations prior to the actual start to get the body ready for the initial surge and hypoxic feelings. However, I did not do a good job of getting my intensity up prior to starting the race.
I lined up in the middle of my wave and focused on holding a good position to start the race. The horn went off to start our wave and I got boxed in right away. Then I got hit in the head and swallowed a nice mouthful of water. This is part of racing, but it affected me a bit more this time. I had a moment of high anxiety and thought about pulling off to the side. Fortunately I was able to get the anxiety under control quickly and I was on my way. The remainder of the swim I just focused on keeping a decent body posture (a little more important with the non-wetsuit swim) and staying consistent. I exited the water feeling good and ready to hit the bike.

Bike: 2:26:00
My goal for the bike was to build into the first 10 miles and then ride a little higher effort than normal. The bike course was set up to be much more challenging than the flat roads of Clearwater, FL. and it lived up to the hype. I felt like we were either climbing or descending the entire day. The course did not offer any real opportunities to settle in. I actually really enjoyed the challenge of the terrain. The landscape surrounding the course was very picturesque. My nutrition and salt intake for the bike worked well for the most part. I did not experience any cramping throughout. I felt very controlled for the first 35 miles. In hindsight I think I got a little behind on calories in the middle of the bike as I did suffer a bit of a lull during the last 10 miles. My heart rate dipped into low Z2 during this time. I tried to push a bit harder to get my heart rate back into Z3, but I just could not make it happen. I gave what I had on the day and I was not the only one losing steam at the end of the bike.

Run: 1:21:42
The run course is set up as a 3 loop course. The start is flat for the first .5 mile then descends for 1 mile. A 2 mile climb is next, then another 1 mile descent.
I sported my K-Swiss Konas with American flag colors. I love these shoes.
My legs did feel a little heavy heading out of T2. Fortunately the terrain helped to get my cadence up and settle into a decent rhythm. My heart rate was still running lower than usual. I ended up running the first 7 miles in Z2 and finally reached Z3 on the 2nd half of the run. I really enjoyed the profile of the run course. I felt that the 2 mile climb was all about keeping steady and strong, while the descent allowed for recovery and cadence. I was able to run without cramps and my energy levels stayed high. At the 10 mile mark I started taking cola for a little extra push for the last 5k of the run. I felt confident that it would not cause me GI distress that late in the race. I finished up as strong as I could. I will definitely try to participate in this race going forward. The logistics prior to the race were a bit messy, but the race itself was worthy of a championship course.
Final Results: 4:21:36 2nd M35-39 / 7th Amateur / 38th Overall
[caption id="attachment_7268" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Timex representing well in the 35-39 Age Group - Tim Hola and I on Stage"][/caption]