Ironman World Championship 2011
The last 2 weeks of training leading into Kona were perfect. In many ways some of my workouts were so good it was frightening. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I felt this good so early in relation to a big race. Based on my final benchmark workouts “ I felt that a time in the 9:09 to 9:20 range was a very likely possibility and given the out of the blue performance at Ironman Wisconsin in 2010 “ anything in the 8:50 to 9:45 would have not surprised me.
As far as goals for the race I had three tiers of Goals (in order or satisfaction level):
- Run the whole marathon
- Top 100 overall
- Top 5 Age Group
12th AG/78th OA
My intention for the swim was as it always was “ swim fast enough to have my swim plus transitions be an hour. In the past “ I’ve gotten myself into trouble by pursuing a target time or trying to build a cushion on the swim. It’s simply too easy for me to swim beyond my fitness level and not realize I’m doing it.
I lined up a so that it was a straight shot to the second buoy on the course. The swim start was rather frantic in the last moments before the cannon and I lost my first row spot. When the cannon sounded I simply started swimming! I swam pretty much my own pace and opportunistically located feet to swim on. At the turn around boat I glanced at my watch and was right around 26:XX “ which surprised me “ I didn’t feel like I was swimming that fast.
The return trip dashed the hopes of a super-fast swim split. I’m not sure if it was my choice of effort, feet to follow or what “ but the trip back to the pier took forever. The swimmer in me was a bit discouraged to see a 56 swim split (my slowest ever), but the triathlete in me said “ swim + transitions will be about 1:01 “ that’s just fine.
T2 was pretty uneventful “ since you are allowed to leave your bike shoes and helmet at your bike in Kona, and there is no wetsuit to remove “ it was a pretty simple stop to remove my swimskin “ grab my sunglasses and nutrition and be on my way.
The plan for the bike was simple “ bike fast and deal with the run when it got there. OK “ not that simple, but close. In reality the plan was to ride with a power target of 225 watts “ and hope that it resulted in a sub-5 hour bike split. I wanted to ride the course powerwise as if it were flat with the exceptions of Kuikini and the meat of the climb to Hawii “ where I would bump the power up a little bit because of the uphill.
Some boring notes on nutrition for the ride “ I started the ride with a small water bottle with 4 gels + water + 3 salt stick tablets. I drank this by the second aid station. Once that was gone I started in on a flask that had 5 gels and a couple salt tablets. Unfortunately I lost this flask shortly after I took my first shot out of it. I also started the race with a Bontrager speed bottle filled with 11 gels and 7 salt stick tablets. At special needs I had a backup bottle of nutrition identical to the first “ assuming I would do something dumb along the way and lose my gel flask.
This combination gave me 20 gels on the bike. Along the course I also picked up another 3 (I think). I also drank a lot of water (probably too much “ more on that later), and sprayed a water bottle on my core and back to help stay cool.
Back to the ride “ fortunately the Bowe side of my heritage will be pleased to know that I was blessed with some great experiences to enhance my story telling.
Early in the ride as I completed the out and back on the Kuikini Highway and turned onto the Queen K “ a spotter called out that I was the 29th amateur at that point. After my sub-par swim this buoyed my spirits quite a bit “ even though we were only about 10 miles into the bike ride “ I knew my fitness was solid and it was one of those rare days when your body is telling you it is ready to perform.
As I rolled through the miles some of the perennial AG front runners came by “ I keyed off them to keep the pace high and while they rode away from me “ it was not occurring in a way that was discouraging. Being passed by a sub-9 hour athlete and not seeing them dwindle in the distance within 45 seconds is highly motivating.
As the saying goes “ all good things must end. I’m a little fuzzy on which happened first “ but two of the three problems I experienced on the bike (if you discount losing a gel flask “ which I basically anticipated in my plan). I’m not sure what happened first, so in good Bowe fashion “ I won’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
About 40 miles into the race “ after cruising along on the Queen K highway “ the course makes a left hand turn, screams downhill for a mile or two “ and finally you make a right hand turn and begin what is essentially an 18 mile ascent from sea level to 600 feet above sea level. This may not seem like much, but add in crazy winds that are intent on blowing you from your bike “ and 90+ degree temperatures “ and it’s a barrel full of monkeys.
I tell you all this because this is a key part of the race, and having a power meter is an awesome tool to enable you to ride this 18 mile segment right at the edge “ getting you to the turnaround as fast as possible, but without cooking your NeNe. This is important because at mile 33 my power meter died. Here I am “ in the biggest race of the year “ with perfect fitness, it happens to be the day that my power meter and cycling computer decide to stop talking.
Initially “ I had hopes that it was just a temporary glitch in the wireless communication “ basically a dropped call “ but as the minutes rolled by it became clear that I was on my own. After a short little panic attack “ I took my skirt off and said “ I can deal with this. I’m far enough into the race “ my body won’t lie to me and tell me I’m going to easy. I told myself the biggest loss out of this will be the loss of the power data from this kick-ass performance.
I had an uneventful few miles “ teased a few times by the computer coming alive and then cutting out “ but never-the-less I kept riding. As I crested a hill just shy of the turn-off “ I stood to stretch my legs and heard the most horrible noise a cyclist will ever hear “ I’ve been blessed twice now with this noise! As part of my brain realized that a spoke on my front wheel had just broken and proceeded to freak out “ another part tried to convince itself it was just a rock that had ricocheted off my bike.
Once I looked down and saw how wildly out of true my front wheel was “ my heart truly sank. In about 30 seconds I experienced the emotions of having to cope with a mechanical DNF/massive loss of time/etc. Once I let those emotions run their course “ I decided that I would simply ride this piece of carbon until one of the following occurred: it failed and I crashed spectacularly (or some variation on that theme), I found a support vehicle with a spare wheel, or I finished the race.
On the brightside “ when I got myself back together and in the race “ I was pleased to notice my powermeter and computer where functioning again!!!
The remainder of the ride was truly uneventful “ with a couple exceptions:
- On the return trip to Kona “ my powermeter cut out *again* at the same spot!
- I did not suffer a failure of my wheel, it held up like a trooper “ and as best I could tell was true enough that it wasn’t rubbing the brake.
- I saw a neutral support vehicle going in the opposite direction with wheels, but given that the wheel wasn’t rubbing “ I felt like I may lose a lot of time flagging them down “ and swapping out.
I finished up the bike “ not knowing my exactly split time, but knowing it was under 5:10, and knowing that my wattage was exactly was I had planned for. So no matter how you slice it “ an incredible PR on the bike. The fact that I never reached the point of needing to be off the bike “ left me feeling pretty confident for the run.
Uneventful, except I took a digger shortly after entering transition as I rounded a corner.
I started out the run “ just running. Nice easy perceived effort “ not wanting to blow myself up in the first mile.
At first things seemed to be going pretty good. I clipped off the first 4 miles in just under 28 minutes, despite feeling tough “ I told myself œThis is an Ironman “ it’s supposed to be hard. However “ a fear was starting to form in my brain that this was going to be a bad day “ œbreathing is labored, œit’s hot, œit’s really hard, œyour stomach is backing up, œblisters are forming already said the litany of voices in my head.
I did my best to fight them off, but they were very persistent. By the time I saw Mary for the second time around mile 8 “ a small portion of me had accepted that it was likely only 10 or 15 more minutes until it turned into a death march to the finish.
I kept fighting though “ I told myself that between my bike split, and the first 5 miles of running “ if I just kept it together enough to stay œrunning I could probably PR and walk away with a great result.
Before long I was at the hill that is Palini Drive “ like 2007 my stomach was pretty bloated at this point, but I was mentally very motivated to make this happen. I ran up about 1/3 of the hill “ than switched to a power walk (it’s not as if my 12′ mile run up the hill was much better than my 14.5′ mile walk up the hill).
As I was cresting the hill I decided I needed to do something about my stomach. I could stop taking in fluids and nutrition and hope that it would clear out and risk bonking badly. Or I could force myself to ease off a bit by walking a couple aid stations and taking in just coke.
I moved through miles 11 to ~17 walking every other aid station “ keeping cool and drinking coke. Around mile 17 I started to feel better, just tired, and was able to start running (strongly) again.
I did some mental math and realized that depending on the terrain mix and what my legs had left I would be somewhere between a 5 minute PR and a sprint for it PR.
Fast forward to mile 26 “ after having bombed down Palini Drive, I was in a dead sprint to the finish to earn a PR “ I crossed the line “ savoring the victory of the day “ and the 54 second PR “ 9:35:15.
Despite having my worst œrun in an Ironman “ I am not one bit disappointed with my race. There was a point where it would have been very easy to quit and call it a day “ and move on to give it another shot in six weeks in Phoenix, but I choose to flip the switch and end the day with a PR.
I’m left with a couple thoughts:
- Nutrition “ why did my stomach back up?
- Too aggressive on the run?
- Too aggressive on the bike?
- Too much gel?
- Too much fluid?
- Some combo?
- Based on previous experiences of having my stomach backup like this “ I think the problem is probably related to being overly aggressive with hydration. I have had issues in both training and racing when I get much over ~20 oz. of water an hour. I’ll be honest and say the aid stations were coming *really* fast, and I was drinking a lot. Also grabbing extra gels off the course and consuming them was probably a bad idea since my body wasn’t calling for them. Would backing down a bit on the bike have helped? Most likely, but sometimes biking œtoo hard is an easy scape goat to blame instead of other mistakes. End result “ one or mistakes on my part.
- Going forward “ my powertap will get fresh batteries prior to every main race.
- When I picked my bike up from transition I found that my front wheel was rubbing horribly on my brake on every rotation “ to get back to my condo I had to remove one of the brake pads from the front brake¦