Ironman Hawaii Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Kona is one very tough Ironman. I heard an athlete say it best at Lava Java on Sunday: “There is racing Ironman, and then there is racing Kona…it’s a totally different ballpark…almost a different sport”. I tend to agree; if you don’t come into this race 100% prepared physically, mechanically, and nutritionally, its going to be a very long day. This race just wears you down from start to finish with a swim that’s rough, salty, and wetsuit free; a bike that’s VERY hot and windy with some good climbs; and a run that’s HOT, hilly and desolate. Those with higher sweat rates have a particularly tough challenge to overcome even with the best nutrition plans. I routinely heard athletes that I have done fueling plans for say they drank 12 bottles on the bike and didn’t pee once…not good when the goal is to pee at least twice on the bike. Luckily I am a light sweater with good body composition so I tend to do well in the heat. Here’s my report on a hot, windy day in Kona:

Kona pre race morning is nothing short of amazing…very, very well organized and full of hype. The pro area is surrounded by cameras taking film of the best Ironman athletes in the world while the rest of the transition is filled with the world’s best age groupers and some amazing equipment. When I first arrived in transition I prepped my bike, turned on my Garmin, and got suited up with my Blue Seventy speed suit. At that point, I had about 30 minutes to the swim start so I just sat in transition until I heard the pro cannon go off and then got up and headed for the swim start. In Kona, the swim start is about 1-200 yards off the beach so it’s a deep water start. With 15 minutes you really have to time when you head out there.  Too early and you waist energy treading water. Too late and you end up starting at the back of the pack. I waited until about 7 minutes to go and then headed out and got a spot about 3 rows back. I thought this was a good spot given a 1:03-1:04 goal. With no warning the gun went off and the spot I chose proved to be pretty good. After about 5 minutes I was in good swimming water and in line with the buoys. I personally feel that it is worth sighting often at this race in order to stay on course, which is worth more than any time lost due to sighting. I got to the turnaround boat fairly quick and headed back to the Kona Pier with a huge group of athletes. Total Swim ~1:04

After a quick fresh water shower and a slow transition where I had to change into my tri kit (it doesn’t fit under my speed suit), I was off on the bike. I went out at a best sustainable effort for the 112 mile ride. This feels VERY easy when done correctly in an IM. The first 10 miles I probably had about 200 athletes pass me…just unbelievable how hard people go out especially when you consider the fueling challenges on a course like Kona. Through about 40 miles I was averaging about 23 mph which was very fast considering my effort so I knew there must have been a fairly strong tail wind. Then, out of no where, a stiff head wind kicked up and by the time I made the right turn up to Hawi, my average speed was 22.1. Through the wind to that point, I focused on keeping the cadence up and power steady…it’s a long day out there which so many people just don’t seem to realize. As the climb up to Hawi wore on, the winds continued to get worse to the point of 7 mph climbs and 18 mph down hills while working pretty hard. The cross winds were also extremely dangerous. Following the turn around in Hawi, the speed on the descent was very fast and by the time I got to the bottom of the decent, I was averaging 21.6 so I had lost about 0.5 mph on the climb/decent which wasn’t too bad. After having literally hundreds of athletes pass me on the way out to Hawi, I didn’t have a single athlete pass me on the way back and I was passing people every 20-30 seconds after their pacing and nutrition mistakes began to sink in at mile 80. I finished the last 10 miles very strong riding faster than I had all day. Total Bike ~5:20

After a quicker T2 than T1, I was off on the run course munching on a banana. The plan was to head out at 6:45-6:50 pace (30 seconds faster than goal pace). This actually felt easy the first 5 miles and took some serious holding back. I think it’s pretty easy to go out way too fast on this run course (like the bike) with all of the excitement in town. Reality actually sets in a little after mile 10 when you climb Palani and end up lonely in the lava fields with nothing but sun. I was able to hold the goal pace which was to start at 6:45-6:50 and never slide below 7:45-7:50 pace for a 7:15-7:20 pace average. The toughest section was the climb out of the energy lab which is a hot tough climb at mile 19ish. Following that, the finish line is getting closer and the terrain isn’t too bad. I was able to pick it up the last 3 miles for a strong finish…what a feeling! Total Run ~3:11

Great to be cruising down that finish shoot for a 2nd year in a row with a total time of ~9:43 on a tough day of heat and wind.

Next year I’ll be doing the Cozumel IM in November so no IM Hawaii even if I qualify at Placid. The next visit will likely be 2010 with a goal of sub 9:15.  Already looking forward to it!


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