This is the fourth of a number of posts describing my day at the 2013 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Previous parts arepre-race,swimand the bike. There’s also over 30 other daily blog posts from Kona also available to view as part of the Kona Diaries 2013.
I wasn’t expecting a great run to be honest given my complete lack of runs over 8.5 miles since Ironman UK at the start of August. The good thing though was that I’d done some little runs since getting to Hawaii. Five weeks of not a single step of running isn’t good for the system! I remember saying to Sharon many times in late August and early September that if I get to the start line of the race having not run a single step in almost two months then so be it. I just wanted to be on that start line - fit or unfit it didn’t matter now, I just needed to be there - ready.
Well… here I am. I’ve been on the start line. I’ve swum 2.4 miles. I’ve ridden 112 miles. Now its time to haul myself around the streets of Kailua-Kona and get myself to the best finishing line in the world. To GET THAT MEDAL!
Coming out of transition the crowds were amazing. So much cheering. I was grinning from ear to ear!
Photo: Vicki Painter
The run route breaks itself down quite nicely…
- a little bit of a loop around Kona (up Palani, along Kuakini and down Hualalai Road) for about 3/4 of a mile
- then head south down Ali’i Drive to a turnaround at Keauhoujust after 5 miles
- back on Ali’i Drive to Kona and a climb up Palani Road up to the Queen K Highway just before 10 miles
- take the Highway to the Natural Energy Lab turning (shortly after 16 miles)
- run to the end of the Energy Lab and back to the turning onto the Queen K just after 19 miles
- head back for the finish (at 26.2 miles)
The run course is pretty good for spectating in Kona as you can see runners three times without moving. The support was great and as I headed down Hualalai towards Ali’i Drive I saw my ace supporter crew by the corner. I smiled, said something like ‘everything is good’, turned left and then headed off on my merry little way along Ali’i Drive. At the end of the marathon you run down Hualalai again but turn right onto Ali’i Drive for the finish.
Hualalai Road (not on race day!). At mile 1.5 you turn left. At mile 26 you turn right.
The usual afternoon clouds had started to come in (it was shortly after 1:30pm) and although stupidly hot and very humid it wasn’t burning hot as it would have been if the sun wasn’t covered.
Andy and Emma. Apparently those are not garden chairs they brought with them from England!
My first priority for the run was to get to the finish. The second priority was to keep my core temperature down (which would help me get to the finish). I had no dreams of a fast time today - just a conservative controlled effort. It was all about completion.
Coming down Hualalai Road. I think I was acknowledging the support of a group of Australians who were versed in all things pirate!
I decided early on to keep an eye on my heart rate and stick to my (pre injury) long run heart rate - which is normally around the mid-140’s. The pace would no doubt be slower due to the heat/humidity (and my lack of run fitness) but I know that my body can normally tick over nicely at that heart rate. At Lanzarote earlier this year I averaged 147bpm. At Ironman UK I averaged 148bpm.
Ali’i Drive at about 1.5 miles.
The support along Ali’i Drive was amazing. You couldn’t run more than about 10 steps without there being someone beside the road clapping and cheering. There was lots of writing on the road in chalk. There were runners everywhere (coming in both directions as this is an out-and-back segment of the run) and I was feeling great. As well as the chalk written signs there were a few signs tied to trees. One such chap ‘Iron Hugo’ had more signs than cards in a deck! They were everywhere.
The first aid station came and I decided that I’d make full use of them today. My nutrition plan was to have an energy gel every twenty minutes (keeping a couple in my shorts pockets at all times so I could have a gel just before an aid station - where I’d get water to wash it down), drink plenty of water, drink a fair bit of sports drink and take any cups of ice that were being offered.
The aid stations were incredible. They were long (say 75 metres) and had sponges (cold and wet), water, ice, sports drink, fruit, energy bars, energy gels, sports drink, ice, water and finally sponges. Later in the day they put on hot chicken soup if you so fancy! Each aid station was manned by a huge team of volunteers who always smiled, danced, cheered and encouraged the runners. They were brilliant. They were approximately a mile apart for the entire marathon so you’d never get thirsty or hungry.
At every aid station when I picked up a cup (or two) of ice I’d normally just pour the ice down the front of my shorts. Yes, down the front of my shorts. The idea here is to cool the groin area, which is where you find the femoral artery. This artery is huge and if you can try and lower the temperature here then it will in theory pump cooler blood around the body thus keeping you cooler. This technique is mentioned in an article in LAVA magazine:
On the run, I think clothing choice becomes a major factor…. I would, however, probably try a two-piece kit, as it makes it easier to get ice down your shorts near your femoral artery, which helps a lot with cooling. I’ve always gone with a one-piece (I just like them better), but if ever there was a course for a two-piece, Kona is it.lavamagazine.com/jordan-rapps-kona-debrief/
At approximately two miles into the run I went past the front gates to the condo complex that we’re staying in. I’ve never run past my front door during a marathon before and it was oh so tempting to pop in, have a nice sit down and rest for a bit. I decided against it.
Just down the road from here is an aid station where I was looking out for someone. I knew that Michael and Amy from Island Orchard Florists would be on the aid station as they’ve volunteered at this spot for over 20 years! Getting towards the end of the aid station I saw Michael, I grinned, I gave him a high-five and then as I headed off I saw Amy as well. I got such a big cheer from them. It was ace. Hey, I’m a local now when I’ve got friends at the aid stations, right?
Michael and I spot one another! Thanks to Amy for the photo.
A little further down the road is a special foods aid station for the professionals. The chap I saw loads of times soon after I arrived in Hawaii (Dave) was here and there was time for another high five.
I really enjoyed Ali’i Drive. I’d driven, cycled (and run) up and down the road quite a few times since arriving on the island so it was very familiar to me. Actually, over the past three weeks I’d pretty much run every inch of the course. Prior course knowledge is something I really like to have. Some people like a surprise but I prefer to know what’s around the corner.
Now… the downside to pouring ice down your shorts and squeezing wet sponges on your head is that the water seems to find its way down your legs and into your socks and shoes. Big time. After about three miles I remember hearing a squelching sound from my right shoe. It was as if I’d run through a puddle that was up to my ankles. My feet were soaked. Oh well… only another 23 miles left to go!
I remember getting a couple of shouts from people running the other direction (so a few miles ahead of me) on the section down to the Ali’i Drive turnaround. One was something like “Hey David” and the other was “You’re the rowerunning guy?” There really is no hiding. Especially when wearing yellow and black lycra! I remember seeing Sam Baxter and Paul Deen running in the other direction. They were flying. Tamsin cycled up beside me at one point, said I looked comfortable and asked how I was doing. I replied saying that everything was good, I was keeping a close eye on my heart rate and taking on plenty of ice. She then pedalled off into the distance.
I also saw Hanneke de Boer who gave me a shout from the other side of the road. She’s my favourite Dutch Ironman age-group triathlete. I remember applauding her when she got her Kona slot in Lanzarote earlier this year. She posted a race report video on YouTube of Ironman Lanzarote and Sharon and I are in the background clapping. I’ve been following her blog at www.hannekedeboer.net (with the help of Google for translation) and when I saw her a week or so ago in a restaurant I introduced myself. She didn’t think I was a madman and remembered me from Lanzarote. She gave me a shout during the run. Thank you.
I saw a lady holding a sign that said ‘Smile if you peed during the swim.’ I gave her a huge smile. She laughed.
After going past about 8.5 miles this was now unchartered territory regarding long runs. My left foot wasn’t hurting where it was injured (the fifth metatarsal) but it was hurting underneath. Blisters were on their way. It was really starting to hurt. I suspect the wet feet and probably running slightly different on my left foot because of its injury were the cause of this. My right foot felt fine (apart from wet) but the left foot was hurting. With every step.
Every now and then there were porta-loos on the course. Although when you need to go you need to go. Thankfully I had no stomach issues at all during the run but I did see a few people darting across the road to get into the loos. I also saw a lady squatting beside the road on Ali’i Drive wiping her bum! If you ever get into this crazy sport then you need to understand that it’s not very glamorous and you need to do what you need to do.
Heading back into town was great. The crowds were even bigger - the atmosphere was brilliant. I got some cheers from a couple of chaps in one of the roadside restaurants (not sure who they were but they knew my name). Thanks. Whoever you are!
As I got back to Hualalai road you turn right and start heading uphill out of town and towards another (steep) climb up Palani Road. As I turned right Sharon ran up on the pavement up the little incline beside me. I told her that everything was good. I knew she worries a huge amount when I’m racing so I tried to assure her that I was having fun. I think I also said something like “Was my swim time OK?”
Turning onto Kuakini for a little bit just before the turn up Palani I saw some of the professional men coming in to finish. I remember seeing Faris al Sultan running towards me on the other side of the road. He finished 10th overall.
As I got to Palani Road and the climb up to the Queen K highway I power-walked this to the top. I had no plans to run it. I’d averaged 8:36 minute miling for the first 10 miles. This includes walking through the aid stations - which took about 45 seconds to pass through and refuel each time. There were plenty of people walking up Palani. I just didn’t need to try and run up there. Once I got to the top (about three minutes of walking) I could settle back into my running pace and head off to the next aid station.
Just as I got onto the Queen K I saw past Ironman champion Chris McCormack cheering people running towards town and the final mile or so of the race. I saw him shake hands with Craig Alexander as he came past.
I remember seeing UK pro Dan Hawksworth coming towards me as he was heading towards Palani and the finish. I gave him a shout and he returned the favour. Good lad. Running in the other direction I also spotted Sam Baxter, Catherine Faux and Matt Molloy amongst others - which really means that I cannot remember who!
As I’d missed the winner of the mens race coming in (I was somewhere along Ali’i Drive at the time) I knew I’d get to see the womens race. In the distance I saw a helicoptor…. then a few cars came towards me. Who would it be. It was so exciting and was something to take my mind away from the ‘ouch, ouch, ouch’ in my left foot every step. Mirinda Carfrae came past. I was so so happy for her. I think she’s great. Shortly after I saw Rachael Joyce.
OK… back to my run.
On the Queen K it is a lot quieter. The road is really wide and the support is minimal. Especially when you get to about 13 miles where there’s a large sign that says “No Spectators Beyond This Point.” This was mentioned during the race briefing and I think it’s to stop people cycling (or riding on motor scooters) along the road beside racers on this section of the course where the road is no longer about three lanes wide. It’s probably also to ensure that the video crews and official photographers get exclusive access to this part of the course, and to also make the whole ‘Energy Lab’ part of the run course even more mentally tough that it is already.
At the sign were about 30-50 people standing around with bicycles. No doubt many of them were coaches waiting for their athletes to come back so they could cycle beside them and encourage them to run faster in the final miles. On the way back back this sign is at about 19 miles.
I continued to tick over the miles. My heart rate was steady and my pace each mile was in the low-to-mid 9 minute miling region (including aid stations, which were pretty much a mile apart).
OK, for anyone who was at home watching the online tracker that showed my running splits during the race I’m sorry for any panicking. According to the tracker I went from running 8:35 and then 9:26 miling to doing a mile in just under 18 minutes. The tracker said that between 13.1 and 16.4 miles I was overtaken by 291 people. This wasn’t the case. I’ve no idea why the tracker said that. Anyway, I hope I added a little excitement to your late night race tracking!
The Energy Lab section is a mentally tough part of the race. It’s the furthest you go away from town. It’s deserted. There’s no supporters. You run ‘down’ into it knowing that you’ve got to climb back out and its also hot. To be fair, it’s always bloody hot. It’s about three miles in total - 1.5 miles in and the same again back out.
Heading towards the turnaround just after an aid station I remember passing a chap walking. I said something like ‘stay strong buddy’ and his reply was along the lines of ‘this [being the whole race] is utterly ridiculous.’ I also saw Tom B. in this part of the course. He was having a great day until the run. Then he started having a really tough time keeping any food or drink inside of him. Running with no energy just doesn’t work so he had to resort to a lot of walking.
This course can bite you, and when it does you’re screwed. I was coping really well but partly as I was doing the marathon more for completion rather than to destroy myself and get a great finishing time.
Make no mistake: this race is different than the rest. It’s something you can only experience when you are there as an athlete. - Jordan Rapp, Professional Triathlete
Today the Energy Lab section wasn’t that bad. I ran the (very) slight climb back to the Queen K at 19 miles. I knew there was an aid station at the top and I felt alright. I wasn’t hot, I wasn’t cold. OK my left foot was really hurting but I was perfectly able to put one foot in front of the other and at with (only) seven miles remaining I was feeling alright (relatively speaking). The mile splits were staying about the same and it looked like I was on track for a four hour marathon. This was bang in line with my expectations (and pre-race predictions).
As I got onto the Queen K heading back to Kona I just continued to tick off the miles. As with the final miles of the bike course there was a headwind. Oh what joy. Just when you don’t need it. There were lots of people walking on the course. I saw one chap over the road throwing up. And then walking.
I remember getting to about 23 miles and saying that familiar saying (to me at least) - only a parkrun (5k) to go. I then looked at my watch. It said 10 hours 2 minutes.
Now… looking at this if I can run the next three and a bit miles in less than 28 minutes I’ll be able to get a finishing time under 10 and a half hours. That has a lovely ring to it. It did mean that I’d need to put some real effort in here if I wanted to finish sub 10:30. The other thing was that I’ve come to Hawaii to race to the best of my ability (which is nowhere near 100 percent) and more importantly soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the finish along Ali’i Drive.
If I wanted to finish in 10 hours 30 what I needed to do was get to Ali’i Drive with time to spare. If I would miss out enjoying on the finishing experience just to go under 10:30 then it wouldn’t be worth it. First priority was to enjoy it. Then chase the time. Or do them both.
I began to step up the pace. In my terms this was from slow to not-so-slow. My heart rate started going up. I even skipped the aid stations. Well, I remember taking a cup of water at one of them but I just ran through that time. No walking. The other aid stations I just gave a wide berth and ran straight past.
As I slowly but surely started to overtake people for once I was getting encouragement from other runners - “great strong running”… and of course the American favourite, “good job”.
I pushed on. Race face was on (I’ve got a habit of doing this during the final miles of most of my races) and I really started to push. I got a shout from Declan (who was having an absolute nightmare today with a calf tear) as I passed him. Cheers.
As I turned onto Palani Road this was it. A short steep downhill, a left turn onto Kuakini, then a right turn onto Hualalai before the turning right. Yes, the final turn. The turn onto Ali’i Drive. To the finish line.
Mile 21 my heart rate was 141. Mile 22 it was 141. Then it went to 152, 154, 155 and 162. My heart rate had been under 150bpm for the entire marathon until I decided to really push for home. Mile splits were now back in the mid 8’s. In fact, although there’s downhill in there my 25th mile took 7:44. It did feel much faster though!
The final mile was so exciting. Not just Ali’i Drive. Heading down Palani, then Kuakini, then Hualalai - all of it. I had a spare energy gel in my shorts pocket. I ran past a bin and scored a three-pointer. I didn’t need any more of those. I think just under 30 in a day is enough for anyone!
What about the pain in my foot. What pain. There was no pain. All I had was the feeling of knowing that I was going to finish. I was going to finish in a pretty reasonable time (somewhere either side of 10 hours 30 - I still didn’t know). It was still daylight. My body had held out. I was ecstatic.
Ali’i Drive was amazing. Everything about this race is amazing. It’s hard (the World Championship shouldn’t be easy), it’s hot, it’s windy(ish) and it’s really really humid. But it’s everything I thought it would be and some. And some more on top.
I turned onto Ali’i. I smiled. I pumped my arms in the air. I couldn’t care less about the time at this point. It had no relevance any more. I needed to enjoy the moment. The more I smiled, the more people cheered. And the more they cheered the more I smiled. It was a vicious circle - but a good one at that.
In the distance I caught a glance of Sharon. She took a few photos before putting the camera down to shout at me. It was amazing. I was loving it.
The road then directs you into the carpeted finishing chute. You can hear the noise from the PA system and the Mike Reilly, the ‘Voice of Ironman’, was going to call me over the line. My watch was on about 10 hours 29 minutes. I’d done good. I was able to soak up the atmosphere (as I had done for a little while now) and also get myself a respectable time. I did however had one final dilemma….
How to cross the line. So…
- Do I stand at the line and raise my arms?
- Do I run through the line?
- …or do I do a ‘Greg Welch?’
You know… a Great Welch… the leap that I practiced a few days ago by his sign on Ali’i Drive (only a few metres from where I was running right now).
At the beginning of race week you may recall that I went to the superb ‘Heroes of Hawaii’ event where I met Greg (at the Longboard lager pump!). That evening I asked him to sign an Ironman poster for me. This is what he wrote:
“get to the line with energy like me! Jump like hell! enjoy” Greg Welch, Winner - Gatorade Ironman Triathlon World Championship 1994
So… I think my finish line celebration was all decided. I just had to run up the little ramp to the finish line and imitate a true Hero of Hawaii.
That was it. F**k my boots (whatever that means!) I’ve done it.
You are then greeted by another volunteer (of course). You get a fresh flower lei placed around your neck and also a small towel. Ironman branded of course! The lady then walked me to the ‘recovery area.’ This is really to make sure that I’m alright and if necessary they’d walk me directly to the medical tent. One day I’ll make it to the tent (which means I’ve pushed myself to the limit) but today I was happy to just find somewhere to sit and drink a couple of pints of coke.
Photos: Richard Melik
- Run time: 3:54:31
- Overall race time: 10:29:27 (yes, under 10:30)
- Overall position: 921st
- Overall position in male 40-44 age group 177th
- Overall position in male gender: 802nd
I actually didn’t have such a bad run. I was safely under four hours. Many people would die for a marathon time starting with a ‘3.’ And that’s not even before thinking about the heat, the humidity and having to go for a swim and a bike ride beforehand. I did good.
Oh, and although I dropped two places during the marathon (albeit better than the 248 during the bike) I gained five places in my age group, finishing 177th out of 305. Damn. Not even in the upper half of my age group. Overall though I was in the upper half, finishing 921st out of 2,134 people.
I said earlier that I kept my heart rate ticking around the 145 mark. Well, I created a graph showing my heart rate and what happened to it (increase rather suddenly!) when I decided to really push towards the finish when there was only a parkrun to go. You can also see my pace (in red) slow down at mile 10 (walking up Palani Road) and 18.5 (the climb out of the Energy Lab).
As I walked to the post race area I got a shout from Richard (from Freespeed). He took a few great photos of me at the finish. Thank you ever so much.
Photo: Richard Melick
I had a few people I know watching the online video stream which frustratingly cut out just as I ran towards the line. They almost got a sneak preview of my finish photo but alas not. The next best thing (until they see if they actually did record it) is a mobile phone video that Tom Williams took at the finish. It really doesn’t look that dramatic from his angle does it?
So… I’d finished the Ironman World Championship. In Kona, Hawaii. Yes, Kona. I was smiling. I wasn’t completely broken. My food held out. I was smiling.
Did I mention that I was smiling.
Stay tuned for another post where I tell you what happened between 5:30pm and midnight on race day…