This was my first time doing Honu 70.3 I was excited to do the race, but more excited to get away on a vacation with Mia.
As many of you know, I have been without my tri bike for a couple of months now. I enjoy riding my road bike, but when it comes to racing, there is no replacing the benefits of a tri bike. There was not much I could do about this so I approached the race with a positive outlook.
I was looking forward to the non-wetsuit swim. Intentional kicks, shoulder grabs and outright aggression sums up the first 5 minutes of this mass start swim. I am comfortable in the water, just not fast so I got through it okay. The first buoy was far off in the distance and it seemed like everybody around me was swimming in a slightly different direction so I went with the mass of swimmers as we zigged and zagged towards the buoy. After about 15 minutes things cleared up and I was swimming my usual comfortable pace.
I had a goal on this ride to hold about 213 – 220 watts. In comparison to my previous half Ironman races, this was fairly conservative. At Oceanside last year I held 226 Normalized watts. At Soma I held 237 Normalized watts. Based on my training and what brutality awaited me on the run course, I thought 213 – 220 was a good range.
I started the first hour or so at about 212 NP watts. I felt pretty comfortable until I was faced with the winds. It became very apparent that my modified road bike position was not as ideal as my TT set up. I also raced without race wheels or an aero helmet.
At mile 24 to about 31 there is a decent climb up to Hawi. I allowed my wattage to climb a bit, but at this point I knew my bike disadvantage was going to be a bigger hinderance than I anticipated. On a climb like this I normally would ride at a steady 240 watts. I modified my plan and held onto about 215 -225.
I turned around at Hawi and bombed the downhill as best as I could. Soon I was met with some pretty brutal headwinds at the bottom of this descent. I held my wattage, but I quickly realized that this was going to take more effort than I wanted to give out. I had two choices. Stick to my wattage and risk blowing up on the run or change my plan. I chose the latter and started riding at a goal wattage of 200, with up to about 215 on the short climbs. I finished the ride with a Normalized Power of 208.
I’ll be honest, it was tough watching people pass me by on the second half of the bike course. I had to disconnect what I wanted to do (chase people down) from what I knew was best for the overall race plan (cut my losses and focus on the run). I let them go and remained positive. I told myself that I had a date with 13.1 miles of pain. My goal was to see how my body would hold up for the run in the Hawaiian heat.
Okay, the fun begins. I knew the run was going to be hot and I did everything I could to keep myself cool . At each of the 11 aid stations, here was my protocol – grab two cups of water to dump on my head, grab a little cola or water to drink, grab sponges to wipe my face and arms, and dump ice down the back of my jersey as I exited the aid station. So much of the core temperature heats up as a result of the blood trying to keep the skin cool. If you can assist in the cooling process, more of the blood can go to your working muscles. Yes I would have soaking wet feet, and yes I could potentially cause blisters, but these things pale in comparison to an overheating body. Did I mention the course was hot?
I was not born a runner, but I have been consistent for a very long time. I have learned how to suffer and after 26 years of running I feel I am more prepared to deal with the discomfort, which goes a long way in a triathlon. I believe a big part of this is because I have done speed work by myself for so many years. There is nobody around to know if you slow down, complete the number of intended repeats, or if you just tap out altogether. Speed work becomes a mental battle that you must wage on your mind week after week. It’s much more of a mental battle than it is physical. These small successes week after week allow you to win the great mental battle that occurs on race day. If the mind is willing, the body will usually follow. Well, assuming you don’t do anything too drastic and sabotage your race.
I’d like to share a little of my thought process on the run. In a triathlon, I am in the most pain when I run. In comparison, I would give the swim a rating of about a 6/10 (more than that I start to fall apart), on the bike I am at a 7/10, and on the run I am at about a 10/10. In a half ironman every step after mile 3 is a challenge for me. My body always wants to slow down Voices in my head tell me things like, “you can slow down, it’s okay”, “enjoy the scenery”, “you can train harder for next race”, but I have to make a conscience decision every 3-4 minutes to press on and fight back. I tell myself, “I have worked for this” and “I will not bow out”. I remember back to my days in high school cross country when I would give in to these negative voices. Knowing that you took your foot off the gas when you could have pushed is something that haunts you. Now, I truly feel that I am at the end of my rope when I’m running. I finish just about every Ironman or half ironman knowing I could not have physically gone any harder for the run. It’s a dark place, but it’s worth it when I cross the finish line.
I loved this course and I would do it again. It’s challenging, but one of the most beautiful races I have ever done.
I am fortunate to train for triathlons. I have a tremendously supportive wife who wants to see me do well in all of my races and she understands that half committed training won’t cut it. Thanks Mia for all that you do support my training. It means so much to me when I see you at the finish line.