Day 1 – 10k swim: 2:26:03; 90 mile bike - 5:50:04, Total: 8:16:07
The swim couldn’t have gone better. I knew there were a couple fast swimmers in the field so I was expecting to be duking it out for a little while in the water. I knew from experience that there was a fray at the start with all the kayaks grouped together 100-200m into the swim; Adam and I planned to rendezvous 800m out so that he wouldn’t be caught up. I was pleasantly surprised that I had the lead from the start and was swimming relaxed. I thought it was a tougher swim than when I competed previously, in 2011, but Adam kept a super straight line (6.26 miles on my Garmin). Around the halfway mark I picked up the effort, but it actually resulted in me going slower – so I quickly reverted back to a longer stroke that cut through the swells more efficiently. And after looking at my Garmin I was even happier with my swim – the first two 1000 yd intervals were approximately 12:30, while we were in the Bay, then the next 9 1000’s held pretty steady at 13:30’s.
|May be the only swimmer who likes a full sleeve wetsuit|
I wanted to be relatively quick in transition – I got in and Jen had everything laid out for me, with Ryan up the hill with my bike. Everything went really smooth and I was in and out in 1:45, on the long 1500 ft climb over the first 10k of the bike. My HR was high immediately, but only by a few beats and the power was exactly where I wanted it and felt good. I hoped to settle in over the climb but it didn’t end up happening. After the first climb the course rolls between 1000-2000 ft and I was able to settle in, lower my HR and get into a rhythm. Honestly, I felt great and was super psyched to be maintaining my lead out front. As we passed the halfway point in the bike the winds kicked up – from mile 45-60 there were some crazy crosswinds combined with wet roads and a 2000 ft descent. I was unsteady through here and took this super cautious. Still, I went through mile 52 with an 8 minute lead. Unfortunately as we approached the last 30 mile, 4000 ft climb I started to feel nauseous. I had been ready to up the power output into the 230-240 range, but instead it dropped into the 160-170 range. Right as this started Mike Coughlin came by me like a freight train. Some days you got it and some days you don’t. I kept forcing calories in, but the mantra came to be live to fight another day. Up the climb Dave Kalinowski and Billy Edwards came by me, both looking super strong. At the end of the day I was happy to only be sitting 6 and 8 minutes behind each of them.
|Heading down to South Point - Mile 50 Day 1|
Day 2 – 171.4 Mile bike: 8:23:18, Total: 16:39:25
After vomiting immediately following the Day 1 ride and having GI issues all through the night I was expecting a long day 2. Fortunately we changed up the nutrition plan slightly and it appeared to solve all problems as I had no GI issues all day. The day began with the typical light wind, rain and darkness for the 24 mile descent form Volcano. In 2011 I was super skittish and spent almost no time in the aero bars. This year while being much improved, I still lined up in the middle. Sure enough the top group of 10-14 took off immediately and I never saw them again on the hill. That said, I averaged 29 mph and hit that first turn ten minutes faster. My crew also told me I was only 6 min down on the leaders so I was super pumped. I settled into a relaxed cadence, pushing 200w – my plan was to stay easy/relaxed to Hilo and then really push. Around this time I was going back and forth with Chris Draper – I enjoyed that as we had biked most of the day 2 in 2011 together.
Around mile 40, as I was approaching Red Rd I flatted. Luckily Marty Raymond was there and was able to loan me a front wheel as the gash in the tire was too large. I lost somewhere around 5-8 minutes, but it was a sloppy day so I wasn’t too concerned about the time loss – there was still a big day of racing. Less than two miles later I was at the turn to Red Rd. and as I went into the corner my rear brakes clamped down, I lost control and went down, skidding a bit across the pavement. I quickly bounced up, checked the bike and myself. Bike was fine. I had three gashes on my forearm that were bleeding pretty good and had formed a contusion around the larger two; my ankle had taken some impact and my hip hurt but there was no rip in the tri suit. My crew had seen me go down; Adam was closest and I asked him if I needed to get my arm cleaned up – he said to just continue. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I was quickly back up and going. The impact had been on my left side, but I found my lower right back to be tightening up. Over the next few miles I jumped out of the saddle frequently to loosen up my back. Eventually I got back in the aero bars (which was painful as that’s where my wounds were – luckily the pressure on the aero pads cauterized the wound). It wasn’t fun peeling my arm off to climb though. The next 40 miles to Hilo were uneventful. I lost the magnet for my power meter in the crash so I was a bit blind, but I had established a baseline HR that I maintained through Hilo.
After I left Hilo my crew was telling me there were four guys up the road so I pushed to catch them. I was feeling good. I was thinking back to the 12 hr rides Inaki and I had done in early October that came followed the UM course for the next 54 miles. I was ready to race! I caught the four guys my crew had told me about pretty quickly; Trout was the last I passed and he moved back around me pretty quickly. I was happy to ride with him through the rest of the gulches so I settled in about 50m behind for awhile. As we approached a construction zone with a 1-lane bridge (we had been warned we’d most likely all get stuck for a while here) I caught back up and we both made the light. I pulled up next to him on the bridge and said “that was a freebie,” pulled in front and promptly got a flat. Jinxed myself. His crew called mine and I was back on the road in 4-5 minutes.
I didn’t see anyone for the next 30 miles. As I was climbing from up to Waimea though we got reports of 2 serious crashes – my friends Christian Isakson and Scott McDermott crashed separately and badly and needed to be taken to the hospital. Both are home now, but have a long road to recovery ahead and all thoughts and prayers are appreciated. With the knowledge that the winds were once again pretty crazy and the roads wet, I had my crew swap out my front wheel for my training wheel at the 2500 ft line. This went really quick. Then I was moving again. Around this time I caught Inaki – I knew he wasn’t having a great day but he was fighting tough. Seeing him got me pumped as we approached the Kohalas – he was encouraging me to push. We had done a 75 mile ride 2 weeks earlier that ended with a 20 minute FTP effort going up the Kohalas. I tried to channel that and push the same way I had that day and felt like I was flying. The Kohalas are a beautiful place and I felt much more comfortable pushing here than I did in 2011. Near the top I came within a minute of Trout again, but hung back as I knew how skittish I was on descents. Sure enough this stretched my limits – it was a much tougher descent than 2011. We had similar wind, rain (downpouring at times) and the braking situation/crash had gotten in my head a bit. I was 5 minutes slower coming down in the race than I was with Inaki 2 weeks before – and trembling with both fear and borderline hypothermia. I crossed the line nearly 40 minutes faster than 2011 – probably my best day of racing on a bike. When everything shook out, I remained in 4th place, 18 minutes behind Billy, 2:20 ahead of Tony O’Keefe and 40 minutes ahead of super runner, Miro Kregar – it was going to be a battle in the lava fields! I had thoughts of second at the beginning of the day, but David can ride and he slammed that door in my face with authority – his 7:31 is scary good – and it took the greatest performance Day 2 has ever seen (by 11+ minutes) by Mike Coughlin to beat him.
|A little banged up but -- Finished! |
Huge thanks to Helen (on Mike's crew) for bandaging me up!
Day 3 – 52.4 Mile Run: 6:49:23, Total: 23:28:48
This was the day I was waiting for; my favorite day. My biggest goal for Ultraman was to push the back half of the run – to see how I would respond mentally, especially considering my lack of miles entering the event. I entered with confidence though; I was running well aerobically and had been able to get in a 90 minute and 2 hr progression run in my training. While this was on the low end, I was confident that I hit an adequate mix of volume and intensity to run a solid double marathon. The day started off with a huge tailwind. It was warm and humid and I started sweating quickly. My HR was also a little higher than I expected it to be, but the pace was quick as well – I found myself with a group (Billy, Tony, Mike Coughlin, Mike Owen, and David) – Miro and Kevin Willis had immediately sped off the front.
I was racing for third – I figured if I ran well Miro couldn’t put 40 minutes into me and that I would put the 18 minutes I needed into Billy. Tony, on the other hand, had a history of strong runs and was not nearly as far back as I would have liked. Around the 10k mark I ran up on Tony’s shoulder and we chatted a bit – but at 7 miles I had to make a Poop stop. It was only a 2 minute stop but that was all he needed. Shortly after that stop we hit a headwind for a couple miles – rough! I tried to relax into it, lean forward and not push as it was very early in the day. Through Kawaihai I felt good – my legs felt heavy from the start in 2011, and today they felt fresh. At the 30km mark we hit a mile long hill – I ran/walked this to keep my HR down, maintaining the 2 minute gap to Tony as we turned onto the Queen K. Here I was joined by my pacer, Ryan Toner. The plan was for him to stay with me for 20 miles (miles 20-40) and get me through this area strong. We were cruising pretty well for the first 12 miles, passing the marathon at 3:21:21, and the 50km at 3:59:34. Throughout this entire stretch I couldn’t reel in Tony at all – he maintained his 2 minute lead and we remained in a virtual tie.
|Ryan and I in sync around the marathon -|
Ryan paced me for 14 miles, and got me through the roughest part
|Says it all - these guys were rock stars and got me through this quickly!|
As we crested the climb I saw my parents – they had flown in the night before. I still felt awful, but when I saw them I knew I had to start running…and I did so begrudgingly. Jen started running with me here and for what it’s worth I never walked again. I started feeling better and better and was enjoying the fact that she was breathing heavy and having a hard time keeping up. She dropped out short of 2 miles, as we were approaching the 88 mile marker. I had gotten the time gap to Tony at 8 minutes and knew if I was to make up the 6 minutes I needed I would have to move now. The 88 mile marker was a key landmark for me as I had come out and done 2 x 20 minute tempo on that stretch (from 88-91 I had averaged 6:09/mile). I set a goal that I wanted to come within 1:30/mile of that and picked up the effort. I had set my watch to autolap in 4 mile intervals and interval 11 had just started. I looked down at my watch and saw 7:07 pace and was super psyched; the next time I looked the pace was 6:53! My crew was getting pumped watching me surge and the time gap was coming down rapidly (6:45 after 1 mile, then 4:30). I passed a couple people- and could see Tony up the road and they told me Miro and Mike Coughlin were just past him. Miles 40-44 were at 6:59 pace and 44-48 were at 7:09 pace.
I tried to maintain the pace but was starting to fatigue from the effort. I really wanted to catch Mike and push him to the finish – he was close to both the course and World records. My surge stalled out though – came within 40 seconds of him but couldn’t close. Around this time my HS buddy, Kimon, and his girlfriend Judy surprised me on the course – was totally the boost I needed! Judy did cartwheels down the shoulder and Kimon ran with me for a couple hundred meters and I got new life. The last 4 miles I faded to 7:32 pace, but it would have been worse without that jolt. Both Mike and I got caught at the second to last light – Mike’s crew had been incredible all day cheering and offering support and when I got stuck here Khai made sure I was ready to finish strong. He ran with me the next 200m and made me surge to get through the final light. When I looked at my data, days later, and isolated the last .75 miles I saw that his encouragement pushed me to close out at 6:45 pace.
This was by far the best day of racing of my life – and I owe it to my crew, encouragement from Mike’s crew, and the competitive drive of the guys I shared the course with.