Kona Diaries 2015 – Race Day – Pre-Race

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I always write a race report. It allows me to remember the day I had and put things down that may help me in the future or at least remind me of the fun (and not so fun) bits in years to come.
I’m also hoping to put together a little video from race day as well as I have some footage that I took before the race, the official video that I bought and then a bit post race. Stay tuned for that (it could be a while)…

Before I get started I wanted to mention a comment that was posted on one of my ‘diary’ entries a couple of weeks ago from a friend called Brigid.  Her comment really seemed to hit the spot…

What I like about your blog David is it seems you’ve just stumbled upon an ironman which you’ll chance your arm at as you’re on hols there! In reality I think this may be the approach you take too! God if only we could all do that! 

I think that kinda sounds about right!

Firstly let’s get the injury training stuff out of the way. Rather than me say that I’ve barely run in months etc. I did do some running (not much) and have sat on the turbo trainer at home quite a bit (although I’ve still not caught up with the recordings of the 2014/15 Biathlon races that I record from Eurosport!). I think it’s worth sharing what I actually did do in terms of numbers.

Here’s some little charts taken from the TrainingPeaks website which automatically logs my training from my swim/bike/run watches over the six months prior to the race.  The x-axis starts at 1st April and goes through to the day before the race.

One thing you’ll see from these charts is that the training seemed to ramp up a little in the two or three weeks before the race.  This is because I was in Kona, not really injured and trying to get some fitness in time for the race!

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So, swimming wise I averaged 43 minutes of swimming a week since the start of April.

My longest swim was 3.8km.  The week before the Ironman in the Ho’ala training swim.



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I managed a bit more cycling. Mostly 30-60 minute turbo training rides at home.  Very few outdoor rides took place.  The ‘big’ weeks were in early May (when I cycled around the Isle of Wight).

In late July I did a 68 mile ride and then a 50 miler three days later.  That made that week look ‘big’ – it totalled 118 miles of outdoor riding (and just over 2 hours on the indoor trainer).



I managed two rides this year over 100 miles.  One at the start of May and then one a few days before the big race.  Hmn.

20151010-duration-runLess than an hour of running per week.  OK, there’s a few weeks of zero in here.  Normally this happened when I either thought I’d broken my toe (in July) or came off of my bike (in August).

Apart from that I have put my running shoes on just about every week.  If only for a 5k parkrun.

The average distance run every week over the past six months has been 7.2 miles per week.

Yeah, but did I get any long runs in?  No is the answer.  My longest run since the start of April was just over 10 miles in July.  I did a 9 mile run in early September.  That’s good isn’t it?

How far is a marathon again?

26.2.  That’s in kilometres right?

Oh.

Yeah yeah, but what about all three.  If you put them together how many hours am I training each week?

Here you go.

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So, that’s where we are. Now back to race morning…

The alarm was set for 3am. Oh the joy. Race start is at 6:55am so that’s quite an early start but I’d rather be (very) early and ready rather than get to transition late and be as ready as I can be with no panicking.  It’s not cold and it’s a bloody exciting place to be so why not get there early.

Coffee made – we’ve been big fans of Lion coffee this trip. They make a lovely 100% Kona Coffee. Sharon has six bags of the stuff in her checked in luggage on the plane.

Timing chip on, race kit on, factor 50 waterproof suncream applied. Then time for breakfast – a tin of Ambrosia rice pudding (creamed rice), straight from the tin. We brought a tin with us from the UK. It’s best not to do anything new on race day.

That is, apart from the actual race when you’ve not trained properly!

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At 4am we left the condo for the dark quiet walk to the Kailua-Kona pier. We were staying around 1.5 miles from the race start and the walk is the only truly quiet part of the whole day. We met Andy and Emma outside where they were staying at about 4:25am and then walked as a group to the pier and King Kam hotel, where race body marking takes place and you head into transition.

First up – drop off the bike special needs bag. This consisted of an inner tube and gas canister. It’s meant to be food only in these bags but if I have a puncture early on the bike I’d be much happier to have an extra set of spares with me for the second half. Sharon ‘disguised’ my spares by putting them in a little paper bag with a ‘love note’ written on the outside! The inner tube could pass off as a rather large tough piece of calamari I suppose…

Then it’s through to ‘body marking’. They firstly wipe your arms with a towel/face-cloth soaked in alcohol. This is to get any suncream off of your arms – so that the race number transfers hold (and that your arms get sunburn).

You then collect your numbers and then go find a volunteer who applies them to your arms. This process was very efficient and no where near as busy as it was 2013. Ironman are clearly listening to feedback and improving things.

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Every volunteer is smiling and helpful. Every single one of them. It’s awesome.

Once marked up you head through to be weighed. On my way there I saw (my lovely friendly Ironman volunteer) Katie who wished me good luck for the day ahead.

I stepped on the weighing scales (wearing tri shorts, top and shoes). The scores on the doors – 195.2 pounds. That’s 13 stone 13 pounds. Or 88.54kg.

Hmn…. how does this compare to 2013 when two months before Kona I was in the form of my life (hence winning the 40-44 age group at Ironman UK) although I had hardly run or biked in 6 weeks after a suspected stress fracture in my foot a couple of weeks after qualifying. Well – I was 180lbs (12st 12lb) in 2013, which is 81.6kg. So, this time around I weigh over a stone (15 pounds) more.

Finally for a little more perspective, in September 2014 when I raced Ironman Wales and qualified for Kona I weighed 12 stone 13 pounds (82.1kg). So about the same weight as in Kona 2013.

This is going to be interesting.

After the depressing weigh-in you head through to the King Kam beach area where you drop your pre-swim bag off (which I did a little later) and can get suncream and Vaseline. You keep walking through and then end up on the pier. Through another security check (athletes only) and I then found my bike, filled up the drinks bottles, attached about 15 energy gels to the frame (I went for a box of ‘Gu’ strawberry/banana gels), attached my bike computer and turned it on.

One thing I didn’t have to do was pump my tyres up. On the way to transition and bike racking the previous day I pumped them both up to 120psi. Although I racked my bike in the heat of the day at around 3pm yesterday I didn’t let any air out of the tyres. Many people do let a little air out the day before (and pump them back up on race morning) but after reading on a blog that you pretty much need to rack your bike up on the surface of the sun for the tyres to explode in the heat I decided not to touch them.

My bike tyres were fine.

I saw a few people walking into transition with track pumps. There’s no real need to do this – there are loads available in transition and volunteers walking around desperately wanting to help.

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I walked around transition – just to keep myself busy and also to visualise exactly where my bike was racked – as in the heat of the race when you’re running after the swim you want to be able to find your bike without too much thinking. Just run (jog) and get to it. You don’t want to be scrambling around looking down the wrong row of bikes.

I saw a few people that I knew in transition (Elaine, Nico, Paul, Declan, Duncan, Claire amongst others) which is always nice. I also started the pre-race ritual of attempting to get to ‘race weight’ if you know what I mean!

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This is the ‘oh my god what I am doing’ glazed look on my face!

There were big queues for the toilets on the pier and after waiting a few minutes and going nowhere fast someone suggested that I use one in the post swim changing tent. I headed over to the tent area – you have to wait for a volunteer and I said I wanted to check my swim-to-bike bag (which is close to the tent). They take you to your bag. I looked at it. I turned round and said in my best Queens English, “would you mind if I used the toilet on the way out?”

Perfect. Job done.

A big job done to be precise!

At about 6am I was as ready as I could be. My pre-swim gear (not much other than my shoes to wear post race) was dropped off, I put my swim skin on (this is like an armless short-legged outfit that goes over my triathlon shorts and top. It’s supposed to make me more ‘slippery’ in the water. Anything to get me out of the ocean before the sharks attack must surely be a good thing.

I bought it a couple of years ago and it was also used last year by Roger – a friend of mine who’s even taller than myself. It kinda likes Kona.

It’s never ‘swum’ anywhere else.

Once that was done and I headed back onto the pier helicopters were circling above. Either someone had escaped from a local prison or this is Ironman day.

This is when it kind of gets real. I’ve seen the live online footage countless times (there’s a live video stream broadcasting on the internet for about 18 hours on race day) and these helicopter shots are just part of it.

Me... panic?  Nah!

Me… panic? Nah!

The sun was just starting to appear and a completely cloudless (i.e., potentially rather warm) day was looming. The nearest temperature observation (from about eight miles away at the airport) at sunrise was 79 degrees.

The eyes of the worlds triathlon media are all on this race. Not on me I might add. They seem more interested in the professionals who start at 6:25am (men) and 6:30 (women).

I had my first energy gel of the day, washed it down with some Powerade drink we’d bought from the supermarket a few days ago and tried to relax.

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I saw Duncan and Claire and as it was getting close to the first pro start we headed off down the pier and found a great little gap in the crowds (of racers, volunteers and media folk) and waited for the cannon that starts the race.

Boom!

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Professional men start. Note the smoke from the cannon

The men were off. We saw a mass of swimmers head off on their 2.4 mile swim. Five minutes later.

Boom!

The women were off. Now it was time for me to get into the water and ready for what I fully expected to be a very long and hot day in the office.

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Queuing up to get down those famous steps that lead in and out of the ocean on race day I found myself about six feet away from Gordon Ramsey. Ironman invite a number of ‘celebrities’ to the race each year and Gordon took part in 2013 (he finished in 14 hours 4 minutes). He was back for more fun in the sun. Unfortunately his day didn’t turn out well and after completing the swim and bike he didn’t start the run.

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As I got myself onto Dig Me Beach I planned to repeat my starting strategy from last time – start really really wide and avoid the bun fight close to the pier. I worked it out after the race last year the starting wide adds very little onto the swim distance. I’m happy to lose a minute or so and not get beat up. It’s a simple decision for me.

There was next to no wind in the air and the ocean didn’t seem rough at all. There was a rolling swell but in my view nothing really worth talking about. This was a relief as the previous afternoon a ‘High Surf Advisory’ was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

High Surf Advisory
COASTAL HAZARD MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
339 PM HST FRI OCT 9 2015
...HIGH SURF ADVISORY FOR SOUTH AND WEST FACING SHORES OF THE BIG
ISLAND...
.A LONG PERIOD TASMAN SWELL FROM A STRONG LOW LAST WEEKEND WILL
BUILD ACROSS SOUTH AND WEST FACING SHORES OF THE BIG ISLAND TONIGHT
AND CONTINUE THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT. SURF GENERATED FROM THIS SWELL
WILL BOOST FACE HEIGHTS TO ADVISORY LEVEL HEIGHTS AND PRODUCE STRONG
CURRENTS.
HIZ023-024-101445-
/O.NEW.PHFO.SU.Y.0050.151010T0139Z-151011T1600Z/
KONA-SOUTH BIG ISLAND-
339 PM HST FRI OCT 9 2015
...HIGH SURF ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM HST SUNDAY...
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HONOLULU HAS ISSUED A HIGH SURF
ADVISORY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM HST SUNDAY.
* WAVES AND SURF...5 TO 8 FEET FOR SOUTH AND WEST FACING SHORES OF
THE BIG ISLAND.
* TIMING...BUILDING TONIGHT...PEAKING SATURDAY AND THEN DECLINING
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY.
* IMPACTS...MODERATE...EXPECT STRONG BREAKING WAVES...SHORE
BREAK...AND STRONG LONGSHORE AND RIP CURRENTS MAKING SWIMMING
DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...
BEACHGOERS...SWIMMERS AND SURFERS SHOULD HEED ADVICE FROM OCEAN
SAFETY OFFICIALS AND EXERCISE CAUTION.

On my way to the start I swam close to the ocean wall which was absolutely rammed with spectators. The atmosphere is pretty bloody good from the water – it must be similar on shore as you can hear the music playing and the build-up to this monster of a race.

People lining the entire length of the ocean wall up and past the 'Kona Inn'. The safety kayak/paddle-boards await the swim start.

People lining the entire length of the ocean wall up and past the ‘Kona Inn’. The safety kayak/paddle-boards await the swim start.

I was looking out for Sharon, Andy and Emma. I saw them. I stopped and treaded water about 20m away. A few ‘love you’, ‘good luck’ and ‘be strong’ messages were exchanged, I had a wee and then headed to the start with about 10 minutes to spare.

If you get in the water fairly early there’s loads of time to track down supporters sat on the wall. I like it.

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I headed out to the starting area. Canoeists and paddle boarders were trying to keep us all in the right position. You tread water and just wait. Nervously.

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I saw Aled, a UK qualifier close to me. We wished each other luck. We’d spoken a week or so ago over a beer about starting strategies and it sounded like he had the same idea as me. Sensible lad. It’s a bloody long day and the last thing you want is a wallop around the head at 6:56am! This goes some way to try and avoid that.

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Bang on 6:55am there was… a bang. A rather loud bang.

I heard it, I press the start button on my watch and started swimming.

To be continued…

Posted in David, Kona Diaries 2015

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