Race week was going well, landed in Kona a week prior as we have done the last 3 years, was getting used to the heat/humidity, getting some short but solid sessions in, and was generally resting, hydrating, sleeping well, and feeling like a million bucks. Even got an incredible massage on the island the Tuesday prior, brought the NormaTec MVP's- basically the legs and energy levels were topped off and I was ready to rip it. Race morning started as most do, nutrition was going down well, got an earlier start from the condo than usual, was very relaxed and had plenty of time to spare before the start.
Got down on Dig Me Beach fairly early, just waded about in ankle deep water until about 6:50, and then swam out to the start line to pick my spot. I grabbed a spot in my usual area, about 20-30 yards left of the pier and 2-3 rows back. I was ready to have a great swim, having hit a couple incredibly strong (for me) swim weeks in my final Kona overload. Things seemed calm and there was less jockeying for position here than in years past (enter: irony & m.f.in' foreshadowing). The drums were beating, helicopter swirling overhead, countdown on, and then we were off.
|Things were getting real|
Disaster! The first 2-3 minutes, I made next to ZERO forward progress, I was being walloped and brutalized like never before. Somewhere towards the end of this time period, I was buoyed up on all sides and from underneath, completely out of the water like a breached whale, and all I remember is a spray of whitewater around my face. Moments later I was back down underwater, submerged back in the chaos, and I actually thought "This is the sensation that one might have before drowning". Thank the stars I have a long swimming background, have been in my share of hairy swim environments before, and I am a stubborn, proud racer. Things finally calmed down, I eventually got some clear water, and I soldiered on. The swim was going ok in the final 3/4, I felt alright, and was sighting and navigating reasonably well with the sizable swell and chop that we had on the day. Out of the water to see a low 1:01 coming up the steps. I was prepared for this, having had distance and time notification beeps on my 910XT, and said "whatever, on to the next one." Not bad, considering my worthless and hair-raising first couple of minutes of the race. Transition 2:46. **Present day analysis, 44th position AG out of the water, compared to 35th last year - ok, not so good.
|swim and bike splits|
Off and onto the bike, and things were going smoothly. T1 was quick with the new Rudy Project helmet that went on easy over my ears, shoes in cleats, Profile Design bento box/e-pack thing holding all of my nutrition on-bike, and then I even managed to keep all of my bottles in their cages over the rough part of Kuakini Hwy! On to my top two early bike priorities, pounding the fluids, and settling into my goal race wattage and then to see how my HR/RPE was measuring up to that in the first 20 miles. Things were looking pretty good, avg watts were about 6 below what my plan called for, but it felt right so I rolled with it. I caught up to Chad somewhere around the 25 mile mark which was a good sign, and that I was riding well. While continuing to keep an eye on CH, I kept rolling along, keeping my watts up, and pushing the nutrition. Approaching the Waikoloa area and a little bit beyond, we got our first taste of the wind. This was much earlier than I have ever experienced in my four years racing Kona, about 20 miles earlier than usual to be honest, and they were ripping. The one new bike question mark for me going in, was how it would handle in the wind. I got in a solid number of miles before the race to know that the fit was dialed and that would not be an issue, but what remained was how would the bike handle, the geometry, the SHIFT technology, etc. Question answered, it was amazing, NO problems whatsoever. The Illicito swallowed up the wind and spit it out. Thank you QR. Made the turn to head down to Kawaihae, then turned right to head up to Hawi. The wind was rough heading up, but then again it always is, and the bike form on the day seemed solid.
|turnaround in Hawi|
I made the turn in Hawi about 5 minutes quicker than last year, on arguably a much tougher day, and started hammering down the hill. Chad and I were keeping an eye on one another, and I don't know about him, but I enjoyed this as it was like we were back in Western PA on a training ride and helped make the pacing and keeping the effort up that much more natural. Got back down to Kawaihae and made the turn onto the Queen K for the final ~30 mile push back to town, and sure enough, the wind had shifted (or the trades were more dominant now) and the wind was now in our face.
|fighting the wind on the Queen K, en route to T2|
I started the run off and my pace/HR was reasonable at less than 7:00/mile pace and HR below 155 bpm, but I knew straightaway that something was off and I did not feel quite right. One thing I was conscious of from the very start of the run though was that I had a strange sensation of chest tightness. My nutrition was spot-on from the bike, I knew I had hydrated and fueled well so I wasn't sure what could be causing this blah-feeling, but my energy levels were VERY low. I tried to focus on cranking up my turnover and staying smooth, of not fighting my stride in anyway, to try to ease into the run. Often the first few miles of the IM marathon feel terrible, but eventually you come around. There were bad signs though, as my HR was holding steady, pace slowly slipping, but RPE starting to climb dramatically. Within the first 3-4 miles of the run, the chest tightness progressed into a small cough almost as if I had a chest cold and I continued to feel less and less like myself. Between miles 6-8 there was a shift and things started to get much tougher. I had started power walking the aid stations, and did so as I came off of Kuakini and worked my way up Palani Road between miles 10 & 11. As I started the long slog out the Queen K to the Natural Energy Lab turnaround, I really started to suffer. The feeling in my chest was growing more and more "congested", and I started to really work the cough and try to clear shit out. Around mile 14 for the first time, I stopped midway between aid stations and, hands on knees, violently coughed up some of the "congestion" and spit it out on the pavement. Uh-oh. Orange-ish-red, frothy nastiness, and quite a bit of it. With that bit of nastiness out however, I felt a little better and my breathing more natural, so off I started running again (though pretty slow at this point) for another couple of miles. Repeat this process all over again at about miles 17, 20, and 23. Cough up some blood, clear out some space, continue running.
|One foot in front of the other|
- the opportunity cost of training for the last 10 months,
- the distance traveled and time taken to race,
- the financial investment,
- my competitive spirit,
- my pride,
- respect for the history of this race, those that have raced here and aspire to race here, and the power and spirit of the Big Island,
- the belief in my abilities of my sponsors/coach/teammates/friends/family,
- and the ability to still run, despite this temporary ailment when Ryan and others cannot and will not walk
- being a quitter. Feeling sorry for myself. Taking the easy way out and using this as an excuse. And then perhaps always wondering if I could have finished, and perhaps a lifetime of regret.
|hurdling a Blais-man roller at the finish. No disrespect, but I needed some medical attention!|
|HR trailing off dramatically throughout the run. lung capacity matters - who knew?!|
|heading to the med-tent. no need to grovel for an IV this year!|
I probably aspirated sea water during that particularly rough part of the swim, and then this created a hypertonic environment in my lungs that started an osmotic chain reaction that would run out of control during the day and fill up and damage my lungs as I raced. There are some other factors that may have contributed, no one knows for sure, least of all me, but the scientist in me is curious and I continue to research the condition and try to apply it to my symptoms on the day.
|"My-after" - KCH cafeteria food!|