Friday, July 04, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Hawai'i (Honu)

Finally here, tho has been the main focus of training since last fall.  It's amazing to think about how much effort, both physical and mental, went into the training, especially with having a baby along the way.  A year ago I didn't own a road bike, I had just recently started open water swimming, and I had finished a well-interrupted golden gate swim.  I had signed up for a triathlon to try it out (Malibu), but was far from finishing one.

Then PL and I vacationed in Hawaii, staying in a small town in North Kohala, and we discovered a couple notable triathlons were here.  I knew nothing about them until finding a sign at the harbor in Kailua-Kona marking the world championship start.  Researching it later, the Honu 70.3 caught my attention as something that would be a challenge to finish, but quite doable.  I was ready in terms of swimming and running, but cycling had a long way to go.  Again, I still didn't own a bike.  It turned out a few friends were doing this too, so I was in.

Then we found out we had a baby on the way, so I had no clue what would happen.  But these kinds of life challenges are fun, and keep me really engaged.  A few key months of training would be really disrupted, especially for cycling, since it's easier to fit impromptu swims and runs into my schedule.  

MC came along, and all went well, so we made our first family vacation out of it.  After  a few days of exploring south-western big island, race logistics took over everything.  Bike pickup, small bike upgrades to handle the distance, paperwork, more paperwork, race bags, briefings, etc.  

Saturday dawned early; I slept four solid hours, much more than I expected.  Juggling baby care and learning how to travel with a baby had me completely not-nervous about the race, but it was time to start.

The second wave was all age-group men, in a mass start from the water, at Hapuna Beach.  I expected chaos, and had positioned myself somewhere in the middle, but found the packed swim to be fairly easy to deal with.  Swimming over sand and coral reefs in unbelievably clear water, I had mostly cleared my head of the race effort itself and let my thoughts wonder.  These moments in races are my favorite, when you're not even thinking and just going, knowing what to do subconsciously.  
Hapuna Beach, a couple days before.

The swim finished, I was at 43:53, slightly faster than I expected.  I had some chafing on my shoulders, unexpectedly.  I washed the salt off, packed on sunscreen and vaseline to protected the chafed shoulders, and got through T1 fairly easily.

T1 prep the day before.

The bike portion would be hardest, I just don't have the experience and technical skills to either ride through gusty wind well or take downhills at full speed, so I set out to just finish it.  The start of the ride was an out and back on the Queen Kaahumanu highway to Mauna Lani.  This was all through vast lava fields on long slow subtle hills, with enough wind to keep me holding back speed in favor of stability.  The course continued north through Kawaihae, where the cross-island wind died off, and the mostly uphill route to Hawi begins.  

Riding to Hawi, I kept a steady, but conservative pace.  The route is gorgeous; it was driving this road a year ago that made me want to finish this course. Getting further north, the Alenuihaha channel winds picked up, as a long steady uphill to the turnaround begins.  This was the long part.  I would say hard, but it wasn't really, since I just kept my effort steady.  And I knew that a mostly downhill reward was coming.  

We turned around as we got into Hawi, to head back to Mauna Lani.  The first downhill was a welcome relief, and the remaining hills in North Kohala all went well.  Getting past Kawaihae, the heat from the lava fields started to come into play, and I picked up my fluid intake significantly.  My left foot was feeling sore near the ball, which has happened before.  Since I had a number of miles left, I adjusted form a number of times before realizing that I stretch one heel down too far.  Concentrating on this for the rest of the ride, it let up and didn't bother me the rest of the race.  I passed a group of enthusiastically cheering friends as I wrapped up the ride and headed into T2.  The ride was 4:08:43, comfortably under my just-get-it-done goal.

Getting through T2 was a relief; I had just finished my longest ride and was getting started on a sport I understand better.  The run course passes through a golf course and along roads through the lava fields of the resort.  The first few miles went well, I kept up a pace better than my best half marathon.  Then two things happened: the heat got me and hamstring tightness from the ride set in.  I could have pushed through the hamstring tightness, but not the heat.  I backed off the pace a lot, using timed walking breaks, stretch short breaks, along with many cups of ice and cold sponges from the copious amount of aid stations to keep the heat and muscle tightness in check.  Never have I taken advantage of so many aid stations in such a short run.  But even with the slow-for-me pace, I spent the entire run passing people, one phychological benefit of being a much more experienced runner than cyclist.  

After mile 12, I started keeping pace with a local in his 60's who was doing this race for his third time.  He missed a year due to cancer, but he was back out and finishing it again.  After talking a while, and hearing his turn-by-turn take on the last part of the course, he told me to go ahead.  I was enjoying the conversation, but took off, since I wanted to finish strong after the generally slow run.  I finished the run in 2:37:19, with an overall time of 7:45:26.  Right about where I thought I would be, but with a faster cycling time and slower run than I expected.  Friends and family were at the finish cheering us all in, and they hand-made leis for us while we were out on the course for the day!  A quick shower, some food, and family time followed.  A key highlight was collectively cheering in RR as he finished.  

Awesome photo by AN.

Of all the races I've done, this is the only one I've seriously trained and seriously tapered for, even with backing off on intended training plans to welcome a new baby into our lives.  Everything worked, and nothing was really sore after; just muscle stiffness, shoulder chafing, and sunburn.  Everyone's friends and family provided amazing support, getting us moved around and fed and cheering us on.  The numerous volunteers were amazingly helpful; I had been at registration for only a few minutes before a volunteer was telling me what it meant to him to have everyone here at this race.  

Finishing this race has given me a lot to reflect on--in some ways it was as much a mental challenge to logically plan a new level of training and my first race with significant travel while learning how to wrangle a newborn, as it was a physical challenge.  The race itself was amazing, a time to move and to reflect and to take everything in.  

Thing learned:
Really hot run = back off pace from beginning.
More uphill east ridge trail or diablo runs in the afternoon at home to better handle the heat.
Tailwind worked awesome.  I need a better way to refill running bottle with it.
More sunscreen.  Carry some during the bike and run.
I need a better swim top.  Maintaining a consistently strong stroke increases chafing.
Sunscreen in both transitions 
Pick up pace on brick runs, and move them to roads.  Hamstring tightness was a frustrating hit on the run.
Move cleats on bike shoes back to balance out form.
Work on downhill speed and handling in wind on the bike

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