A Half Ironman is a really long way no matter how you look at it. So why not spend that time wisely and pass the miles along the Kohala Coast of the Big Island? Well, Hawaii 70.3 is most certainly that salt and pepper, sugar and spice kind of course. Hard, but beautiful. A hot and hard run tempered first with a cool and calm swim. And the bike? Thank goodness that whatever goes up must come down! So after two and a half years of hardly no racing, I decided to give it a go. Not just a little, but a lot. My journey towards getting back into race shape started Oct 1st with the ultimate goal of grasping one of those rare Hawaiian Ironman World Championship slots given to only 1 or 2 in each age group. Going into it, I knew that the capability and training I had was enough. I was nervous, but excited to finally race hard. And when that day finally came on Saturday, May 30th, I pulled out all the preparation and laid out a race that went well in many ways. But, in a 1300 person race where there is a high percentage of other competitive athletes, mistakes cannot be made if you are trying to lay claim on the much sought after prize of a ticket to come back for the full Ironman.
THE 97% THAT WENT RIGHT!
So much of what goes right in a race is done well before you get there so most of this list comes from preparing properly. But that is the point! If you do your homework, there are not many surprises come test day.
· Strength—I spent two good 45-60 minute sessions in the weight room each week from Oct 1st until about mid-March. From then on I did maintence core work and let the strength work come mostly from sport specific workouts. I also sought after outside help as I had never had anyone teach me the right way to squat, deadlift and clean. So, thanks to Joel Hatch at BASICS, I learned more than I ever wanted to know and lifted, at times, more than I ever would have wanted to lift. Big thanks to Joel for pushing me to tears when I really needed it and letting me rest when I needed it more. Oh and for all the fun functional exercises too! Me luvs them kettlebells.
· Speed and Power—the anabolic focus of a majority of my workouts paid really big dividends on race day. I felt strong and much more capable of handle a tough course and a tough environment. It was a beautiful feeling to not be intimidated by the hills on the bike and then be able to have the strength and speed to actually run after coming off said hillfest.
· Endurance—I will never forget what Ironman 70.3 world champion Samantha McGlone said about volume for a Half Ironman. Do one longer 4-5 hour swim/bike/run workout a week and then stay shorter and faster on the rest. DONE! I did 4-5 of those longer workout to adapt my body to the full distance. It worked. I felt mentally, physically and emotionally capable of being in the game for that long since that is what I had practiced.
· Massage therapy—I have gone to Nate Graven, the best sports massage guy ever, twice a month for over 5 years now. I consider it required, especially when I decide to combine all the above training elements. Solid training requires an even more solid sports massage therapist. Nate has helped keep me injury free for a really long time as well as gotten my body ready to be worked at full capacity come race day. And believe me, my body tried really hard this year to fall apart, but Nate just wouldn’t let it happen!
· Taper—Resting during the weeks before the race almost killed me. My least favorite part of training for sure, but vital. I felt totally ready to go when the gun went off.
· Nutrition—Perfect! One of the big purposes of those longer workouts, was to dial in my nutritional requirements. I DOUBLED my carb intake to 100 grams of carbs an hour, made sure I had some protein and amino acids(endurox and gu packs,) figured out how much fluid I would really need and went heavy on electrolytes. I was at about 400-500 mg of sodium (and other minerals) an hour. Once I knew, I just made sure to DO IT on race day. I felt as energetic as I probably could have throughout the race, peed in T2(in a porta potty this time…don’t ask me to clarify that) and had NO CRAMPS. Rockin!
· Attitude—Eventhough there were mistakes, I was happy to be there and truly wanted to do the best I could. When the going got rough I would just tune EVERYTHING out and remind myself to race like a warrior. No complaining, just racing. And with that, I made my mind as quiet as possible and let my body do what I had trained it to do.
THE 3% THAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL
The only comfort I have from the following three items is that they are all easily fixable. But, they are things I want to kick myself over because “I know better.” They are a great example of what kind of dumb things a person can do when their race brain is not fully turned on. And even though I still placed in my age group anyway, I was irritated enough after the awards ceremony to want to throw my special Hawaiian wood bowl into THE OCEAN!
· Swim start—simply stated, I did not go out fast enough. With 1300 people going at the same time I put way too much thought into where I thought I was and what effort I was giving the first 500 meters rather than just swimming as hard as I can! I got caught in the log jam next to a couple hundred swimmers that were not as fast as I was. I could not go around them by this point, so I was stuck swimming much slower than I should have by about 2-3 minutes. So, next time, I will do what I normally do in a race. Swim very hard for 400-500 meters, don’t think, you will recover!
· Bike leg—my long rides paid off, but I lost focus after the turn around a Hawi. I didn’t realize either how hard I will still have to work coming back. So it is better, to assume nothing, work everything and trust that the bike legs can take it. I know that they can because I have pushed it before and survived. And staying focused comes more easily after a race or two under the belt as well as the right race attitude.
· T2—So one of the race volunteers told Guy that the race staff would take everyone’s bike so we didn’t have to rack them ourselves. Wrongo! I did have to rack my own bike! The problem was that T2 was different than T1 so I had NO. IDEA. where my bike was supposed to go. I had the distinct priviledge of being misdirected in transition and running the full length of T2 before being directed back to the entrance where LOW AND BEHOLD, my bike rack was located only 4 slots in from said entrance! Yep, ran right by it! Totally my fault too, not the volunteers. I should have looked at T2 the night before like I usually do. I would have figured out more of what was going on on my own and at the very least, seen where my bike number was. So what was I thinking about the night before the race? Apparently, not T2! It cost me a little less than 2 minutes.
So how far was I from a slot to Kona after 5 hours of racing? 3 minutes…Ugh! Fix the swim and T2? In like Flynn. Fix the bike, even better!
Overall, I loved the experience. Great race, great venue and great effort. So much to feel good about and I suppose I am glad I really didn’t throw the bowl into the ocean..sort of. And what did Guy have to say? “So, are we coming back next year?”