Monday, June 1, 2009

QUALIFYING



Three days post Honu (Hawaii Half Ironman) and I'm feeling great. First and foremost, we got Karen's biopsy results back and our cancer scare is over — Praise the Lord! That is the biggest relief.

(Karen with our Great Dane of a daughter, Camilla and her fiance, Allan.)

Also, our Danish daughter and her fiance came all the way from Denmark to watch me race: Technically, she's not our daughter but that's another story. Also, they came to visit us and it just happened to be at race time. But a good coincidence.

THE RACE
I was a lot more confident race morning this year. Last year I was begging Karen to take me home before the race started. I was convinced that I could not swim that far. That's how nervous I was last year. But this year I knew I could go the distance, the question was, "how fast?"

THE SWIM


(And we are off! That's me in the blue swim cap right over there ... Special thanks to Karen for taking photos throughout the day.)

I forced myself to start upfront and just left of center. That gave me a straight line to the first turn buoy. While waiting for the canon to go off I tried not to look behind me at the 1,300 swimmers breathing down my neck but I couldn't help it. Yikes! My heart jumped into my throat. A lot of them were still on shore so I figured I only had to worry about 500 of them crawling over me at the start.

When the canon went off, a huge burst of adrenaline churned the ocean white. I remember it sounding like I was swimming in a waterfall. I started out way too fast but I was determined to not get swallowed up by the beast chasing me — the pack of hundreds of swimmers, that is.

About 200 yards out my lungs were burning and my arms were screaming at me to slow down. As soon as let up a little I got pounced on by a couple of swimmers behind me so I forced my arms to keep moving. Panic and a terrific amount of claustrophobia would begin to set in every time I would think about how many swimmers were around me.

So my main goal was to just try to stay calm and swim smart. I planned each turn so I would be just to the outside and still have a draft. I was shooting for a sub 35 minute swim but hoping I could get it down to around 30 minutes. Coach Steve and I figured 33 to 34 minutes if the course was accurate.

I had a great swim except I got boxed in after the last right hand turn. It was so crowded I could not get past the swimmers in front when I was ready to sprint.

A TENSION BREAKER
With about 200 yards to go, as the pack was beginning to pick up the pace, Things were getting really tight. Arms, feet, hands and torsos were everywhere. The noise intensified like at the start. Suddenly, I spotted a blue Hawaii Ironman 70.3 swim cap gently floating down to the sea floor, totally in contrast to the chaos on the surface of the water. For some reason, in all the insanity of the moment, seeing that swim cap sinking slowly down to the sand below us made me smile and relax. I think I was still smiling when I exited the water a minute or so later. Swim time 34:03. I beat last year's time by 11 minutes.


(Uh, that's my shoulder on the left of the picture. I was so fast coming out of the water I ran past Karen before she could take the picture. Well, that's her excuse anyhow.)

THE BIKE
I wanted to ride the first 10 miles or so easy to give myself a chance to warm up and relax. Those first 10 miles were anything but relaxing. Fortunately, the referees weren't enforcing the no drafting rule. There were so many bikes on the road you couldn't help being close to other riders.

There were packs of 20, 30, and 40 riders at a time depending on if it was up hill or down hill. Near the end of the Queen K the pack I was in probably reached 50 or 60 riders. As we headed downhill on the highway to Kawaihae, we reached speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour.
That's when it happened.

THE WRECK
What I heard: Even with the wind howling like it does at that speed I could hear the nonmetalic sound of carbon fiber hitting the pavement and a woman scream. It happened so fast but seemed to be happening in slow motion all at the same time.

What I saw: Through about 15 cyclist who were right in front of me I saw a bike and a body hit the pavement -- hard and fast -- and bikes barely missing the sliding carnage. The girl and the bike seemed to slide forever before coming to a stop.

What I thought: "This is it -- I'm going down, and hard." Nowhere to go. She was right in front of me. Her bike sliding just to the right and her body sliding directly in front of me. Riders were tight on each side of me and who knows how close they were right behind me.

What I did: We were going too fast and were to tightly packed to even think about touching the brakes. For an instant I thought about squeezing in between her and her sliding bike but it looked to tight so I leaned to the left until I was rubbing shoulders with the rider next to me.

Just before I got to her she stopped sliding and sat up facing the onslaught of speeding bikes. I can only imagine the terror of what she saw coming at her. And I was the one heading right for her.

She looked me dead in the eyes and let out this helpless scream as I flew by her. I have no idea how I missed hitting her. Thinking back though, maybe it was me who screamed ... All I know is my heart was in my throat for quite a while after that and I wondered if anyone hit her after I passed.

After that we hit the main portion of the climb to Hawi. I felt like I was going slower than my practice rides which were averaging about 3 hours. When I hit the final climb at mile marker 15, 5 miles before Hawi turn around I did some quick calculating and figured I was at a 2 hour, 30 minute pace, which would be a personal record for me. The nice thing is I was feeling really good except for a nagging hamstring cramp every so often.

I kept up with my hydration and nutrition plans, even eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich right on time. I had a little bit of a mechanical problem on the climb out of Kawaihae to Queen K on the way back. My chain came off but jumped back on. But with about 6 miles to go I could not keep it in gear. The chain kept jumping from one gear to the next. But that was tolerable. As I got back to the resort I jumped up on my pedals to get my legs used to carrying weight again (a tip from Coach Bree that allowed me to actually jump off my bike and run through transition instead of walk like I usually do).

Off the bike I felt good. I had a long run from the bike dismount to my run gear but I felt good and even managed to smile for the camera. Bike time: 2:45:39. Last year's time was 3:15.


(I even remembered to take my bike shoes off before dismounting, which makes it much esier to run to your transition area.)

THE RUN
Hot, Hot, Hot -- and hilly. But mostly hot! That sums up the run for most of us. I averaged 10 minute miles for half a marathon after riding 56 miles at 20 miles per hour average. For an old guy, I have to feel good about that. I did manage to do a couple of 8 minute miles along the way. The most important thing I take from the day is that I stayed with my hydration and nutrition plan and I think that allowed me to keep going when the heat got to me.

I did have some cramping in my hamstring (the same one causing me problems on the bike). The last 4 miles were touchy. I had to take short strides so as not to pull it, which slowed down my time by several minutes.

Run time: 2:13:45. Last years time 2:30
Over all time: 5:40. Last year's over all time: 6:29:36

So that's my race. Oh, I qualified for the big show -- The Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona Oct. 10. Only about 1,800 triathletes worldwide get to compete in this legendary race. Just that thought is almost overwhelming to me.

Below are some photos from the day. I'll try to get captions on them soon


PICTURES













3 comments:

Bruce Stewart (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

Excellent race and great results! It seems everything worked together. I tended to be must better focused on the short races, and I could never seem to put together a good race at Honu, even though I qualified the last two times I did the race.
You are now well on your way to doing a good Ironman in October, although there are no guarantees on a race like that. You need to commit yourself to about five years of it to be sure of anything.

BreeWee said...

I LOVED reading this... so wish I was at the finish line to see you, and NICE job taking the shoes off before jumping off the bike!!

CONGRATS on a well deserved IM Kona slot... yahoooooooo!

debbie said...

GREAT JOB RANDY. I also so wish I could have been at the finish line.Even the start line for that matter. Your story made me laugh out loud, I was a little depressed when I sat down at my computer. So again thanks for sharing. The Ford Race this fall sounds impressive. Only 1800 people qualify!!! Good Job.

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