Race of a Lifetime - Kona 2015
There are things you dream of in life. Bucket list items that you hope to experience in life. It is no secret that qualifying for the Ironman World Championships has been one of my dreams ever since I crossed the line with all three of my young sons at the inaugural Ironman Arizona race in April 2005.
This dream became a reality last November 2014 when I came in 3rd place in the 50-54 age group at Ironman AZ.
As I started to make plans for this epic trip, another dream was materializing that would have my entire immediate family attending the race. Also we had the opportunity for a huge family vacation! This would be something just as epic to me than running down Ali'i Drive.
11 months is a long time to think and train for an Ironman distance race like Kona. The training is the "easy" part. The mental preparation is harder. I was in good hands with my coach of over 4 years, Nick White with Carmichael Training Systems. Besides me, he had another qualifier athlete (and my friend) Russ Brandt going this year to Kona.
I don't do back to back (meaning 2 Ironmans in 2 years) very often. In fact, before last November 2014, I hadn't done this distance since June 2011 at IMCDA. Mentally, it was hard to get back on the horse after May and up my mileage again. But I did it.
Nothing too different from 2014 except the use of the Garmin Vector2 Power Pedals. I have been extremely fortunate to be a Product Ambassador for Garmin Fitness since last year. Besides my Forerunner 920XT, I was excited to use power again. I thank Garmin for the opportunity to represent their fine products!
I did run and bike longer (in the heat) more this year for Kona than I did last year for AZ.
After all our trip plans were finalized and the plane fares were paid (Ouch! Family of 5!) I was excited and scared for what was ahead! We decided I would leave for Kona race week on Tuesday to acclimate and get used to the circus and Cristette and the boys would join me Thursday. Race day was Saturday and we would stay in Kona through the next Wednesday then we would island hop to Maui for 3 full days. A priceless family vacation!
As I left for the airport that Tuesday, I felt so many mixed emotions. It was really surreal that this was all actually finally happening.
I stayed the first at the host hotel (Courtyard Marriott) since I couldn't get into our rental home until Wednesday.
Even waiting for the flight at Phoenix Sky Harbor, I could pick out the triathletes and found friends Chris and Erica McClurg on their way to the Big Island too!
Arriving was an experience after a 6 hour flight. Winds were blowing at over 40mph and hats, sunglasses and carry on suitcases were going everywhere!
"Will I have to bike in winds like this?" I thought as walked outside of the plane.
Arriving at the Courtyard Marriott King K Hotel, the Parade of Nations was just starting. It was like landing in a Triathlete Disneyland. I ran into Facebook friend and qualifier Josh Horsager and we enjoyed the craziness that was now the beginning of my IMKona2015 experience.
As Tuesday evening came, I was the guest of local Ironman Pro, Pedro Gomezfornthe Rudy Project Party. (By the end of race week, I had collected 8 trucker hats. They were the gift/giveaway/swag for this year)
I was also fortunate enough to have my friend and fellow triathlete, Chris Wolff fly in for the week from Seattle. Wednesday we picked up my bike from TriBike Transport and road the Queen K for a windy 30 miles. We also took advantage of swimming the course at DigMe Beach including a stop at the Lava Java Cattamaran for a shot!
Before checking into my rental house at Magic Sands just off Ali'i Drive, I went to the airport to pick up Alec Tripp who would be my adopted son for the week. It was great having him with me and with my family on race day. After a drive to the expo and the Ironman Village to see the sites we checked into the house.
Thursday morning I swam the course again before the famous Underpants Run. This event is so hilarious and now raises money for charity by making fun of the barely clothed athletes that invade the relatively conservative Kona town. Chris, Alec and I did our part to participate in "style". I was also able to "run" with Ironman Age Grouper extraordinaire, Terry Nugent who I met and raced with years ago at Soma and Worlds 70.3 in Vegas!
The best part of Thursday was returning to the airport and picking up my wife, Cristette and my three sons!
After a stop to the Ironman Village with them and a bite to eat, we headed to our home for the next week.
Preston Miller and TriScottsdale hosted a Happy Hour that evening to celebrate all the AZ athletes racing Saturday. It was a great surprise to see Jason and Courtney Smith there! I shared the lane many times with Jason this past year preparing for the big show!
Friday was another swim with my new Xtrerra Speedsuit and then it was time to mellow out.
The only thing on the agenda a quick bike check ride with Russ and bike drop off.
I just had no idea what a circus that would be as well! When you enter transition, they announce your name and you basically walk the red carpet. There are 20 some people with clipboards taking notes on every part of your bike and equipment. Then a personal escort takes you to your bike mount and helps hang your bags.
Then it was back to the house to make dinner and watch movies.
With the time change, its relatively easy to get up early.
After my breakfast that included My Oatmeal Ensure and TrueStart Instant Coffee, Alec drove me and Russ to transition by 5am. I was amazed how smoothly it all went, from Tritats temporary tattoos, to weigh in, then bike check, we had plenty of time for race jitters to settle in before loading into the water for a 6:55am start.
After 3 swims in 3 days, I actually was not nervous about the swim like I was before getting to Kona. The water was salty but warm and buoyant. There is plenty of room to swim along the left and avoid the aggressive swimmers. Russ and I debriefed after race day and concluded that this course is great on every leg for the first half and hard the second. The swim was no exception. I turned around the Body Glove boat for the return back to shore in 35 mins so I was hoping for a sub 1:10 - 1:15 finish. The second half got much more congested and it seemed so long. Is I and to the steps, I entered T1 at 1:18:16.
Like every Ironman, T1 was crowded and wet! I shed the speedsuit, dried off and after my helmet, shoes and glasses were on, I was off!
There are a lot of people to cheer you on as you take off on the bike and the start takes you through town for an out an back before heading out onto the famous Queen K. Remember what I said about the first half of he course? Nice temps and tail winds pushed us towards Hawi.
After a while on the Queen K, it started to rain. And then, rain hard! It was cooler but difficult not see and after the turnaround at Hawi, the wet roads were slick and we all had to be careful on the decents. Then it got hot and humid with head winds all the way home. It was draining and I saw all 21mph a averages lost. I also lost one of my EFS gel packs (it holds 400 calories per pack) so I had to pick up gels at each aid station to make sure I was consuming at least 280 calories per hour - the gels, along with my EFS drink. The last hour of the bike, I had frank all EFS drink and tons of water and some Gatorade. I also took in a Clif Bar. They were handing out Red Bull (An Ironman Sponsor). Mind you, I had tried Red Bull on a training ride before and it didn't settle well in my stomach. I had no business trying it now...but I did. I finally got to T2 tired and a little under my power goal of 200 watts in 6:00:21.
T2 is much different that T1. It's a little like an episode of the "Walking Dead" Some racers are just sitting there and not moving. Some are moving fast or at least trying to. I was somewhere in between. Happy to be off the bike I know better than to think about the whole marathon that is ahead. But it was on my mind. But with clean socks and my bib and Saucony Kinvara6 shoes on, I took off!
The heat was on! The run starts with an out an back on Ali'i Drive (including the turnoff to our rental home where I saw this chalk message)
After a couple of decent miles at a decent pace. The heat and humidity started to get to me bad! I was overheating and my stomach was not craving coke like it usually does on a hard Ironman run. So like an idiot, I took in more Red Bull hoping it would kick in some energy. It didn't. As I left Ali'i Drive at mile 10, I was worried about the Queen K and the Energy Lab ahead. I was not sure how I was going to press on to the half marathon let alone the full. This was new for me as the run is my time to shine. But that is Kona. It can humble you very quickly and it did. At mile 12.5, on the highway with no one really around but other runners and walkers, I started to really stumble. This was the first time I wondered if I could even walk the course!
Before I could worry about it too much, I leaned over and threw up violently three times. I can count on both hands how many times I have thrown up in my entire life and within minutes, in regurgitated three more! It was all...Red Bull! After it was over, I actually felt better but very weak. I could walk though and I saw this as a positive. My mind wrestled with my pride as I realized, yes, I will finish. But it will not be in record time. It will be my worst time. It will be in the dark. It will be embarrassing etc. I fought these demons for a while when I came up next to Richard Byyny, a Kona Veteran and another extraordinary athlete I met two years ago with Russ at CST training camp. He was struggling as well and he was still positive and giving the Kona course the credit it deserved. It was a godsend to be with him and he encouraged me to go on ahead if felt I could. I did go on and continued to meet great athletes who are at the top of their game and could qualify at any Ironman race in the world but were walking the Queen K today. I learned a lot about sportsmanship from them that early evening. It turned dark as I entered the Energy Lab and those 4 miles were all by myself dealing with my shortcomings my blessings and my God.
One back on the Queen K, it's a 10K home. The way I was feeling, that wasn't exactly great news. 6 miles was still a long way to run/walk to the finish line. I could only imagine what my family was thinking and those tracking me at home. All I could take in was water at this point and some gels so my energy was minimal at best. With 2 miles to go, a bike came to me and it was Alec. He was so encouraging letting my wife and sons know I was on my way in and that I was ok. I started running as I could see the in lights and hear the voice of Mike Riley in the distance. Then the crowds. Ali'i Drive is everything they say it is. It's magical. It's also amazing how the body can react when it needs to. My final mile was at sub 8:30 pace! I saw my family with my oldest, Andrew armed with the GoPro! They were so excited!! As I turned that last corner to the carpet, I was alone to all the cheers with high fives everywhere I could reach!
Then the finish. My worst time ever, my worst marathon ever but it was also my biggest smile ever at a finish line!
Total time: 13:27:37
It took almost an hour for me to be ready for my family and leave. I was so weak but not sick anymore. Once reunited with Cristette and the boys, I asked them for pics including one that was areenactment of my first Ironman finish with them 10 years ago!
The rest of the trip was priceless family vacation with eating and exploring the Big Island and then Maui!
To say this trip and experience was just a Bucket List deal is so understated. It was a blessing, an education in humility, a privilege beyond belief! And yes, I want to return and take on Kona again someday. It won't be too soon though. But a return is definitely my plan!
I want to thank, of course my wife Cristette for being my biggest cheerleader and supporter, my sons, Andrew, Nathan and Matthew for being part of Team Cadriel. One Multisport, my club and the ONE Elite Team I represented. My sponsors like Destination Kona, MDrive, MyOatmeal, Valdora, The Martin Family, SkinsUSA, Fitsok, Cyclologic, Endurance Rehab, and Louis Garneau as well as so many friends and family that supported my efforts to get to the World Championships! It was a great experience of a lifetime!
Until the next race/challenge of life for me!
2015 Ironman World Championships