Well the race here in KONA has come and gone. I wasn't
very good about writing prior to the race (actually I wrote nothing at
all) so I will make sure I keep this short (yeah right).
into this race I had to be very careful not to mistake what I really
wanted to do (my ideal) and what I was going to be capable of doing for
where I was with things (my reality). Last year I had a pretty good race
and a successful season that included many other races. This year was
very much the opposite. Less "success" with almost no racing. Ultimately
this has all been an effort to get rid of a long standing injury in my
foot. In the end, I think my choices this season have been wise and my
race in KONA was a step in the right direction.
The one thing I
really noticed this year was that I was much more relaxed going into
KONA. I never really got that nervous about it so when race day rolled
around it just felt like another training day. In fact, I was actually
excited to race because I felt like I had just been sitting on my ass
for weeks. And that wasn't even true as my taper was only 5 days. The
decision to make the taper short was due to my lack of a season and how
horrible I felt in the 1/2 I did a month before where I tapered a bit
more. Anyway, I was very eager at this point to get it going.
bike spot in T1 this year was in the coolest place. I was the first bike
you saw when in transition. I had number 97 as that was my place last
year. 97 racked first in the isle that was closest to the T1 exit. I was
the last male number before you started the pro women (how ironic lol).
There was no 98-100 so those spots were left empty and then you had 101
which was the number of the new Queen of Kona, Miss Chrissie. I have
the strangest feeling that she won't be handing over that crown any time
soon (flat or no flat). Since I was in the age group wave that started
15 min later, my bike was going to be standing there all by itself. I
would have all the room in the world and not far to run with my bike.
the race I was in the same area that I was last year, right near that
giant blow up Power Bar Gel. This year every person in my group had a
Power Gel in their pocket due to the fact that I didn't have mine last
year. It was kinda funny but nothing really comical happened so I might
as well fast forward to getting in the water.
I had decided that
my swimming was strong enough where I could hit it pretty hard and try
and get in with a slightly faster pack. I swam an hour flat last year
and wanted to be in that 57-58 group this time round. My plan was to go
line up with Scott Davis and use his feet to get me out in the first 400
meters and then I could settle in knowing that he is ultimately too
fast in the water for me.
We swam out and got right on the front
line dead center. They had us roped in a tighter line this year so it
seemed a bit more crowded than last year. As we all floated around
nervously awaiting the cannon I started asking people nearby what their
projected swim times were. I heard times that made me feel confident
that starting where I was would be a good idea (note to self- it was a
kept waiting and waiting and finally I looked at Scott and said "When
do you think this race is gonna sta...BAAAM!" That always happens to me
LOL! I started swimming as fast as I could. And when I say as fast as I
could I am not exaggerating. I felt like my life was in DANGER! Never in
my whole experience of triathlon has anything like this happened to me
in the swim. It was a disaster. I was being engulfed by people, I
couldn't breathe, I couldn't take a real stroke I was fucked. That's the
king of bad language- but that's what I was. I tried to stay calm even
though I have a huge issue with claustrophobia, HUGE! I began to tell
myself "this will only last for another min and then it will clear up. I
was in shape so just put your head down and swim". Well that was too
late. I started to panic. And when I say panic I mean I started to
PANIC. I was gonna be that guy that dies in the swim.
feeling kicked in I stuck my head up, stopped swimming and looked both
ways to see which was the shortest way out of this mess. I just wanted
out of the swim and to be in clear water. This didn't go so well with
the rest of the people in the race as I was now in their way and getting
pounded by fists. At least my head was out of the water and I could
breathe. I did what I had to do and climbed over a lot of people to get
to the side. Once there I had to pull myself together fast or I might
pull the plug entirely.
Luckily when I came to watch this race a
few years ago I was one of the guys on a surf board and had pulled a
pro out of the water because he began to panic. That guy decided not to
finish the race and I was now in that exact situation. I tried to get
that guy to keep going but he decided against it.
I took my own
advice that I gave a few years ago and started swimming at a very
relaxed pace and tried to find my breathe again. I was so far away from
anyone that it was easy for me to do this. The next two buoys I came to,
I passed with them on my left. Technically they are supposed to be on
your right but we were going in a straight line so it didn't shorten the
course at all. There was no way in hell I was going to go near anyone
yet. Plus I saw plenty of people ahead of me do that and the officials
seemed fine with it.
Slowly I got my confidence back and found
some feet. I thought for sure my swim was now blown but it didn't phase
me that much. I was just happy to be calm again and before I knew it I
saw the turn around boat. This was a bit of relief but I also knew it
was going to get crowded again. Sure enough it did and things got
physical. I was fine now and did my best to just let my hands glide off
anyone I made contact with. Unfortunately some dick head in front of me
thinks it is okay to violently kick his feet if he gets touched. His
violent kicking came so close to really knocking me out. I understand
that some people swim on you to draft and you can get annoyed but in a
situation like this, purposely kicking that way could have really hurt
someone (me). There is no excuse for violent kicking. I'm having rubber
wrist bands made immediately LOL!
The best part of that swim was
when I got to the pier I thought, "Boy, this was a piece of cake minus
the panic. You aren't even tired!" In all my Ironman swims I always get
out of the water being very thankful that it is over. This one felt like
a 1/2 Iron swim.
Transition was SOOO crowded. Last year it was
pretty empty but this year it was standing room only. I felt like I got
out pretty fast and decided to put all my stuff on near my bike. And
sure enough it was just me. I looked like I was a pro that really
Heading out on the bike was business as usual. I passed a
few people that I knew straight away and though "that's odd?" thinking
they would be miles ahead by now. Then I passed Mark Pietrofessa in the
exact spot I did last year. We both commented on it. The bike was
turning into dejavu. Lots of people all riding a very uneven pace.
on the Queen K there were draft busters all over the place and they
were handing out yellow and red cards like a fat geeky hall monitor on a
serious power trip. I get that they were trying to fix the drafting
issue but doing it in the first 10 miles of the race is a bad place to
do it. There are too many people and I don't think anyone was drafting
to "get ahead". This race does need some time to thin out a bit and if
we can't achieve that after an hour or so then something needs to
Knowing that the motor bikes were hovering around us I
tried my best to stay back from other riders but again, people would
jump into my legal zone. It was frustrating and equally frustrating if
you made a pass and then 5 seconds later they passed you back. There was
a gap between myself and another pack up the road. I wish I had the
strength to put the hammer down and dump these guys that were around me
but I wasn't willing to do it. We came through the 40K mark in 1:04 and
that felt pretty easy. I felt good that I was riding well and then WHAM
"Number 97! YELLOW CARD!" I looked over and the draft buster was telling
me that I got a yellow card. Me and my big mouth had to say something
and turned that yellow card into a red card. It was so unfair. Now I had
to stop at the next penalty tent and stand down for 4 min. When I got
to the tent I couldn't believe how many people would go by in four min.
It was killing me! Not to mention that as they went by it looked like
giant pelotons. I was so pissed.
Once I was released all I could
see were hundreds of bikes up the road. The wind was howling and I was
having a hard time shaking the penalty. Staying in the game mentally was
my biggest challenge of the ride. Not only was I now much further back
than I wanted, the wind had picked up and I wasn't making any ground. I
kept getting passed by people and couldn't understand what the hell was
going on. Where was my power?
I climbed up to Hawi at a snails
pace due to the wind and was again a bit discouraged when I saw where
the riders that I wanted to be riding with were. They were miles ahead
of me. The only thing that kept me going was to say that they will all
implode on the run.
The decent from Hawi sucked donkey balls! I
am so glad that I only had 404's on because the wind was not taking
prisoners that day. I had gotten out of my aero bars because I felt like
I couldn't control my bike. A guy rode up to me and said to get aero
and put my weight on the front of the bike. Good advice but it was Kevin
Moats giving it and I couldn't keep up. Kevin is in his 50's and I am
being dropped. Fun. Well wait, it gets better! I saw a 70 on another
guys calf. Funner!
Clearly I wasn't having the ride I wanted but
it didn't "feel bad" I just wasn't going anywhere. When I finally got
off the decent and made it back to the Queen K I thought I felt fine so
maybe now I can try and put out a little more power. The wind was bad
the whole ride and any extra power I put out didn't show. Ultimately I
decided to just keep riding and hope it wasn't as bad as it seemed.
last 20K of the ride felt great minus the issue I started having with
hot feet. I haven't had hot feet in ages and for some reason they were
both burning up. Possibly the scorching KONA sun?? It was just one of
those things that I had to block out. For some reason pain like that
works well for me. It helps me focus. I have run some of my fastest runs
with blisters that felt like cattle prods.
As I got off the
bike I wasn't able to get my shoe open so I just clicked out and ran
towards the tent. As soon as I made the turn and hit the AstroTurf I
went a sailing! My cleat slipped and I went right down on my side and
into a a guard rail. That must have been comedy to anyone that saw it. I
wasn't too happy but luckily I wasn't hurt. I took the shoes off and
ran the rest of the way in my socks.
The next 5 min were chaos in
the transition tent. People everywhere and my brain just couldn't
really think. I was happy to get out of T2 but as I started running I
had this feeling like "this isn't going to go well." I had to think back
to a training run I did off the bike where I felt like passing out and
then had some sugar and was fine. I knew not to judge things until I had
gone about 15 min. Maybe I just had left over issues from the bike.
Lord knows I didn't ride very fast so I shouldn't be that affected on
Things did start to open up for me. My legs felt as if I
was out for an easy run. I had my Garmen on so I could tell what my
pace was. I wanted to know that so I didn't run too fast. Last year I
had a 5 mile section that was really bad. I wanted this run to flow the
whole way and not have any evident "dips". My goal was to run 3:05 or
faster and not have another IM run in the teens.
I had been
thirsty all day on the bike. My nutrition plan went out the window
because all I wanted to do was drink Gatorade. I only had 1/2 of my gels
but went through I don't know how many bottles of drink. On the run it
was a similar situation. I just wanted coke. From the first to last aid
station all I took was coke. No gels. Just as much coke as I could get
in. I did have some water but not very much. It was a gamble but it
tasted so good and seemed to give me a nice lift every time I took some.
I ran down Ali'i Dr. I was passing people with every step. I'm not sure
why all these guys rode so hard? They exited transition on pace to run a
4 hour marathon. But I guess that is what happens when you start the
run so far back.
I noticed up the road a pro female that seemed
to be clipping along at my pace. I figured that if I caught up to her I
would have someone to run with, so I picked it up a tad and settled back
in when I caught her.
We were moving along at a nice steady
pace. I said hi and we had a quick chat about the race. I asked her if
she could keep this pace up and she replied with an enthusiastic "oh
yeah". I didn't know who she was and when I looked at my watch I became a
bit skeptical of the pace. So I waited a bit and then slipped in "soooo
what is your fastest IM run?" She responded with 3:00 and I was sold!
This was my girl. She knew what she was doing so I thought I would just
run with her.
It was really fun to have a buddy on the run. She
would drop me in the aid stations as I was having issues with running
fast through them and getting in all that tasty coke. But I would catch
back up. One aid station I was able to keep it rolling and we made note
that it was my best one yet! lol
It was really hot on Ali'i and
my shoes were soaked from all the sponges I was grabbing but I felt
totally fine and comfortable. I told my new found run buddy that last
year when I got to the top of Palani, things feel apart a bit for me. It
came out of the blue so I was a bit tense that it might happen again.
She reminded me that we were just out for a run and this pace wasn't
Once we made it up the hill and started our trek out
to the Energy Lab, I realized that it wasn't going to be that far. Last
year I felt like it took forever to get there and that it was a never
ending road. While in Kona this time, I studied that section of the
course thoroughly and found it to be mentally short. That made all the
difference in the world.
I still managed to drop the ball a bit.
About 1/2 way up I was pounding coke and when I looked up my run buddy
was now a bit further up on me. This was my worst aid station and I got
dropped. That was a crucial mistake. Once the link was lost it was
harder to keep moving. I should have made it so that my life was
dependant on staying with her. I still kept it going and didn't loose
too much time but she ended up running 3:01 and I did a 3:06. Had I
stayed with her I would have been around 2:59-3:00 (I caught her about
two miles in). But that wasn't the case and I now had to do the rest of
the run on my own. We exchanged words when we passed at the turn around
in the Energy Lab. She wasn't that far ahead but I didn't have the
ability to bridge the gap.
The biggest issue I faced on the run
was the weakness in my hips and issues in my foot. My core has been very
week from an old injury that prevented me from working on it and at the
end of all my runs (last 4 miles or so) I would feel the hip area break
down. Since my longest run this year was only 16 miles I could feel the
breakdown happening at about mile 18. I knew all I had to do now was
just suck it up for less than 10 miles and I could stop.
back on the Queen K went by a lot faster than I thought it would and
the only slow down I was experiencing was still from muscle breakdown. I
wasn't really "tired" and I knew the pace wasn't fast. Once I saw
Palani I knew I had made it. Not only had I made it, I looked down at my
watch and realized I just might hit my 3:05 run goal. And if I don't, I
will still be really close to it. I was so over running outside of the
:00's. No more :10's and above for me!!! It put a smile on my face and
made dealing with the hip/foot pain easier. Honestly my feet at that
point were so bad I actually thought "screw it. Just run em to the nubs
and you never have to do this again." I was in the "negotiating" phase
of the race LOL...
When I crossed the line my body was done. I
saw my dear friend Linda Bless from Bike Works waiting with a towel. I
just grabbed the two closest people as my legs went on strike as soon as
they crossed. For some reason, even if I feel great after an IM, my
legs just stop. I guess they have that right.
Anyway, the race
was not really where I wanted to be in regards to placing and the time
was slower than I wanted. But I have to walk away from it knowing I had a
good swim and solid improvement on the run. I learned alot form the
race and dealt with some of the days adversity well. Now it is time for a
rest and a plan to fix some things in the gym! I am actually pretty
geeked up to race IM again. The biggest thing I take away from this race
is confidence. Something about the distance and pressure of racing it
clicked in my head. I think the best is still yet to come!
Thanks to everyone that supported me and congrats to all that raced! It was an awesome time and I look forward to next year!
click this link to watch Brandon Finish