Always on the Road to Honu

Ironman 70.3 Hawaii – Honu race report: June 4, 2016

Distance: Half Ironman – 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run

The legs didn’t get waxed for this race. A little shave (that took a half hour each leg, how do people do this regularly?!) and a scrumptious pre-race meal of turkey and avocado sandwich and a good ol’, American, PB&J got me in the zone. I stayed with a couple of friends from Nebraska, Colin and Aletha, in a hotel within walking distance to the swim start at Hapuna Beach. We all were set for breaking some personal records the next day.

Let’s rewind just a bit though. Last year at Honu 2015, I got 3rd in my age group. I was dying to qualify for a World’s slot and I sought out the 1st place winner to see if he’d take the slot at the awards presentation. I found the mustached, Australian, 26-year-old who actually got 2nd overall. He told me he was indeed going to take the slot and as polite and friendly as I am, I never spoke with him again. Just kidding, we ended up becoming friends on Facebook and then stayed in touch all year. We met up in Zell-Am See, Austria as we both raced in World’s last August. We started becoming good friends online and made plans to have a good little Hawaiian training camp before Honu. And that we did! With home cooked feasts, countless espressos and good adventure along with his mum and sis a few days before and after the race, Tim Rea and I became great “mates” (as the Aussies so endearingly say). He will thank me later when he turns pro for the necessary support and food I gave him. Sweet as!

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Tim and Katie Rea. PC: Aunty Sue (their mom!)

Off to the race! A good night’s sleep with some planned sandwiches the night before and all systems were go. The bike racking scene was a mess again and was a free for all, so all of the slots near the T1 exit (bike-out) were taken long before. I ended up taking one of the very last spots near the T1 entrance! I wasn’t worried though.

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Erik Basden and I racked up at the very front of T1

The Honu waves are big and few. I was with the 40 and under boys. I crowded near the front, said good luck to some buddies like Dan Gampon and Tim. Bang! Go time! The usual blender ensued. I was thinking my buddy Tim and another buddy from Oahu, former pro, Tim Marr would be leading the swim. Sure enough that’s how it went down with those Tim’s leading the front pack. I stayed in the second pack more or less and just kept a dude on my left shoulder. I did much better sighting this year than last year’s. My stroke has improved, but I’m still not close to being where I want to be in the swim. I fatigued a bit at the last turn buoy and struggled to keep pace noticing I got passed by a few on the way in. I came out within the first 20 or so and galloped to my trusty steed, staged right at the front of the transition area.

“Aunty Sue” Rea (Tim’s mom) and Katie (his sis) both commented to me later on how dang long I took at T1! I placed my swim gear in my bag and put my bike gear on and was good to go in 2:51! C’mon ladies that’s only 30 seconds behind li’l Tim and no one broke a 2:00 transition! I clocked a faster T1 than the other podium finishers! But I understand. I do have half a minute to improve upon and those add up. I zipped off and refused any help from the “pushers” who volunteer to grab our butts and launch us up the hill after T1 (just like last year). I planned this time and geared down so I didn’t need their magic touch. Something about getting pushed out of T1 feels like cheating to me. Maybe I’m “old school” or a purist.

I passed one guy on the way out to the first turn around. I had my planned 800 calories in the form of a Picky Bar, Huma chia energy gel and Gatorade Endurance hydration mix. Except this ride was a really interesting one. First off, my heart rate monitor (Garmin Premium HRM) was not transmitting to my Garmin 520. Neither was my power! Aside from my speed (GPS was working!) I guess I was riding “blind.” But that’s quite a dramatic expression. I have trained with HR for over two years now. I have trained with power for almost six months. On race day, one must know what their race effort feels like. Not what it must look like on the data output. It may have been a blessing. Also, the sun went away early on and after passing a few blokes going up past Kawaihae, a rain started! Not just any rain, this was a downpour for about 10 minutes. It was nearly flooding on one of the dips. The wind was subdued significantly and it was getting cold going up to Hawi! The rain stopped and the weather was just perfectly cool.

Now as for those blokes. I wish I remembered their race numbers. They were drafting like they were on a tandem bike. It was a joke. I was furious coming up on them with a new friend a good 50 yards behind me. It was especially infuriating to see these drafters cheating because me and this fellow from Australia, a young gun, Taylor Charlton, were definitely working together in a fair and beautiful way. We would do pulls while still maintaining a fair distance away from each other, never drafting. We were really good at it! It was harmony. Even with 10 bike lengths between us, we can still feel a draft. Also a “mental” draft if that means anything. So when I passed the cheaters who were less than one bike length apart, I yelled at them, “Six bike lengths guys!” They looked at me and said, “what?!” I said “DON’T CHEAT. DO NOT CHEAT YOU CHEATERS!” And I calmly passed them going up towards Hawi.

Not too far from the turn around in Hawi I heard a creepy motor on my left shoulder. It was a ref. I look back and see him talking to Taylor! Then boom! The blue card destroys Taylor’s ride. He got called for drafting me! Sorry man. He then mashed off in anger and with hopes of making up the five-minute loss he would soon be facing in the nearby penalty tent. (It turns out that destroyed his legs and his run crumbled in the heat).

I passed the guy who would be sixth going up hill and then later got passed by a quick American, Kevin Coady with a neat, green and American flag kit. He was zooming. I let him go and knew I had a few others to catch like Tim Marr. I only ate 700 of my calories and was feeling solid despite my “blindness.” The climb out of Kawaihae was a cinch and then the sun came out and it was all good. I couldn’t have asked for better riding conditions. Here’s the Strava data. Let the hot run begin!

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And hot it was. I came into T2 with four guys ahead. My inner groin was definitely tight as it usually is after a hard ride. I probably could have pushed harder, it’s too bad I don’t have data to check out my power and heart rate, but so it goes. I found my shoes and threw my bike in its slot with the Tim’s bikes already racked. I knew Rea was going to win this. I just wanted to catch up to them! I found my legs and took my noni shot from the farmers at Hawaiian Ola. The heat was rising and the humidity was getting thicker.

The run was changed this year to a two loop course. I was stoked. I like loops. I did well with Oceanside’s loops right? How hard could it be? It turns out, hard. The temperature just destroys everyone. At least it does so evenly. I couldn’t get into a real rhythm with the golf course rollers and mushy, hot grass to concrete golf-cart road transitions! I ran anywhere from 6:30 to 7:30 miles. The “Road to Nowhere” Redbull out and back was great though. That’s where I could find my pace. The Redbull girls always put me in a good mood too. Seeing my competition was good to know just how far ahead they were and I caught Tim Marr at that point. The guys behind me were hot on my heels though. So I ran a little scared. My heart rate was at a great place in high zone three, low zone four. Too bad about that pace though. Here’s my Strava data for the run.

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I took in Gatorades and waters and just about every station. The cold sponges were nice, but they really do soak up the shoes. I don’t really know how helpful they are. I stayed in fourth place for the rest of the run and never really got moving. It was a survival run and it was no easier than it was when it was just one loop. The finish line was wonderful and I did collapse which is good. If I don’t collapse, then that means I didn’t try hard enough. I went to the medical tent just incase. I knew I was fine, but hey why not? My buddy Tim won indeed and we so gloriously got our age group mustache podium picture that we were planning for a while. In the end I ended up with a solid 5th place overall with a 40+ age grouper beating me.

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Ritzy the nurse taking good care of me!

A few of my friends got drafting penalties which I think is unfortunate. It’s a bummer, but in the long run, I’m happy that referees are strict. Our sport is easy to cheat in and it’s ridiculous for those cheaters to get away with anything. The dopers and the drafters need to remember what they’re doing this all for. How many actually turn pro? The majority of cheaters will just be pathetic age group cheaters in the end. So I say drug test everyone and blue card anyone drafting. It does suck though if someone is not drafting and they get blue carded like I believe my friends received. They’re smart and they wouldn’t do that. So I definitely don’t appreciate unfair referees either. But let’s keep this sport serious and fair and overall, I’m a fan of more regulation. Check out this shot of the last Ironman Brazil which was a disgusting drafting orgy.

I definitely recommend Ironman to return this race to becoming a pro race as well. It won’t sell out for long without any pros there. The race is grueling and sure it’s a nice destination and a good preview of the Championship, but still it’s a huge price tag for a race with no pros and the surrounding excitement and competition that comes with a pro race. If it had to be Lance Armstrong as a return to triathlon? I don’t know if I’d support that. You dope, you should get penalized and we as a triathlon community should make it clear that cheating is not acceptable. Even if someone gets a ban for doping, the training they got during that time on drugs and testosterone or whatever, they gain strength and fitness for life (if they keep up the training). Some people think doping deserves a lifetime ban. I’m not decided yet on how harsh we should be on dopers. Definitely they should be punished and not be allowed to race for a significant amount of time.

Enjoy some pictures here of me and some mates from before and after the race.

Thanks to all the awesome fans and volunteers for making this race not just a lonely, death march. Thanks to Bike Works for always taking care of me and my bike. Raul the new mechanic in Kona tuned up my steed and made me feel super confident and smooth on that machine. Mad props, amigo. Thanks to Hawaiian Ola for the energy and the farmers who work harder than most appreciate to cultivate some delicious real nutrition in Hawaii. We can grow near anything on this island—why do I even eat processed crap at all?!). I’ll be back to Honu next year, so I guess you could say right after the race ended, I was again, on the Road to Honu…Shoots!

Oh and how could I forget! Check out Eddie-O’s YouTube channel, “Run, Eat, Drink”! His last episode he did a spot on two of us Honu athletes, including yours truly!

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