Well, it looks like the Olympian did what we all expected at St. George this morning–he destroyed the competition. He is a total freak of nature. Second out of the water and had the same 2:01 bike split as Sanders. His run was equally destructive and so much so that Sanders still couldn’t catch him. Holly Lawrence (another Brit) did what she does best as well and crushed it with Seymour and Salthouse chasing her down to no avail. Holly has won every race I’ve seen her race since Worlds 70.3 last year in Mooloolaba. I’ll never forget running into her at the pool with my buddy Tim Rea and I just couldn’t leave without saying hi to her and her crazy runner boyfriend. These top pros just blow my mind. Let’s see if she can do it again at Santa Rosa 70.3 in just a week from today. She’ll have to fight off my buddy and Kona’s only local pro, Christine Cross, though! I predict that both Brownlee and Lawrence will be the next Frodo and Ryf. Just watch!
Alright, enough about the pros. By the time I finish this post, another star-studded race at IM 70.3 Santa Rosa will have gone down with more to catch up on. So let’s get back to why you’re here, to hear about the hectic and roller-coaster of a ride that was Lavaman 2017!
No other race, had I felt so prepared. My gear was lined up, I was at my home course, I had a great week of sleep with a focus on a low-stress lifestyle all Spring. My nutrition was teed up and I knew the course like the back of my hand. Only a few others athletes signed up to race in the Elite/Pro division with me, which is unique to Lavaman in that we don’t need any certifications to enter this division instead of entering the age group divisions. If one feels like they can compete with the top podium overall, then it’s generally assumed one will race in this elite/pro division. Little did I know, my most challenging competitor was lurking in the 34-39 age group which started six minutes after us.
As I put on my sleeveless wetsuit at the Anaeho’omalu Bay parking lot which is the Lavaman transition area, my fellow elite competitor, Daniel Folmar, informed me of something quite shocking—as elites/pros, we are not allowed to wear a wetsuit even though the age groupers are allowed to since the temp was (supposedly) below . I thought he was joking. He said he looked it up the night before and didn’t want me to get DQed. As pros, the USAT rule book explicitly states that the legal temperature threshold for wetsuit allowance is . I freaked out as this all sunk in. Daniel is a good person and was not trying to sabotage me. I knew he was trying to help. So I ripped off my wetsuit, jumped on my bike and jammed back to the Hilton about 2 miles away. I needed my skin suit which I left in the room! I had less than 20 minutes until the gun went off.
I was That Guy sprinting with his full kit on and aero helmet still on running through the grotesquely long hotel hallways. I was That Guy who forgot something vital before the race started. I was That Guy who looked like he was racing his first tri ever. Whatever the antonym for zen is, that’s what my state of mind was. Of course my hotel key card wasn’t working too. After four failed attempts with that heart-crushing red blink of the digital door lock, I got the green light and sprinted in and grabbed my skinsuit. More sprinting ensued. I headed back to my bike and I was back to the transition area with less than five minutes until the gun went off. I somehow got my timing chip and got to the start line with about 30 seconds until the National Anthem started. My adrenaline was jacked and I was relieved to be on time (barely), but still settling from the stress hormones that were flooding my system. Suddenly the song started and something came over me to take a knee.
Inspired by Colin Kapernick and uninspired by our current government, the treatment of Hawaii through its history as an illegally annexed state and the current way the White House administration speaks of our island, I took a knee. In honor of the indigenous people whose land has been taken by our great country since its inception; to remember that our National Anthem is also a tactic employed by the systems in power to make us forget about the atrocities of our country and the genocide against its first people–I took a knee. I was scared to take a knee. To stand up for what I believed in, for my own personal growth and to hopefully inspire others to stand up for what they believe in despite their fears—I took a knee. For my Karuk ancestors and family members and for myself as a Karuk tribal member, I took a knee.
Arms thrashing, kids kicking my face and bubbles flooding my vision, the race was on. I struggled to find my pack. By the time of the turnaround, I was getting passed by a few, fellow gold-caps and could tell that it was relay swimmers and an elite female. The high school kids were starting to pass me and my arms were losing steam. I definitely slowed down at the end, but still came out with a PR of 22:01. The minimal breakfast of the morning of a little coffee and milk, a UCAN super-starch protein bar and a banana were working just right. I got on my bike feeling fresh and primed. The other elite racers, Folmar and my buddy Mikey Brown’s bikes were still in the racks. I zipped out of there with great cheering from the local crowd. Within 300 yards of riding however, I saw some flapping black things in my peripheral vision around my waist. It wasn’t long until I realized that I didn’t fully strip off my skin suit.
I had to stop. Still on the road of the Queens’ Marketplace, I got off my bike, stripped off my skin suit awkwardly around my ankles and a little voice shouted my name, “Hi Mr. Wild!” It was a former student of mine! She was so sweet and unaware of the chaos going on as my race plan was actively crumbling before my eyes. I said, “Hey! Take this! Please let me find you after the race and I’ll get it back! Thank you so much! Sorry I’m really hectic right now! Bye!” Before she could respond, I was back on my bike, probably losing about 20-40 seconds. Remember that estimate.
My power output and heart rate output was right on point. I was pushing around 250 watts as planned. I was hitting a super high heart rate, so I tried to stay calm and reign it in a bit. All I had to drink on the bike was a 20oz bottle of Glukos raspberry mix with a couple caffeinated Nuun tabs. I started passing a few cyclists on the left. I passed the retired pro and my dear friend, Bree Wee! We had only a little head wind on the way out. Just before the turnaround, I saw the fastest relay guy of the day, Todd Marhonic (60+ years old!) and I surged just a bit to pass him right before the tunnel where passing is not allowed. I was a bit cheeky there because I knew if I passed him before then, I could back off just a second in the tunnel since he wouldn’t be allowed to pass me. Even though he and I weren’t racing in the same category, I still wanted to charge him and practice race strategizing.
I zoomed back home finishing my hydration and keeping my heart rate around 165bpm which was a bit high, but oh well! It was working. I broke an hour on that course for the first time. I started the run had the coveted spot of being cheered on by everyone as the first runner on the course. I had the glory of having a lead cyclist show me the route and scream at anyone in our way “Lead runner coming through! Runner!” (unnecessary, but thrilling). He was even filming me with his seatpost-mounted rear-facing camera. I held a steady first two miles below my goal pace, but didn’t let the relay runner and friend, Nick Murragin, catch me. I kept myself within his grasp, but never let him touch me. I picked it up for the next two miles. I had my Hawaiian Ola noni energy shot with water in a tiny flask. I was getting tired of holding it so the lead cyclist took it for me with two miles to go. I knew this course was short (only 5.7 miles) so I started my charge at mile four. I was in the lead and my plowman kept reassuring me that no one was in sight. I tried to stay scared and serious. But damn I felt good!
I reared around the hotel grounds onto the adventurous final stretch of the course that earns Lavaman its name. It’s here that many an athlete fall, twist their ankles, get gashed by the lava rock and lose themselves in a bad way. I handled it like any other trail run and got primal. I shouted at some tourists to move as I charged forward. I was ready to shoulder check the kid who was staring blankly at me as my heart beat at 170bpm with sweat and drool dripping down my handlebar mustache. He moved just in time as I grunted, “Move!” I surged and sprinted through the sand with the crowds roaring. My run time was another PR in just over 37 minutes. It was bliss. I took the tape. I held it up high and felt the adulation through the camera flashes, cheers, and high fives from strangers.
As random people congratulated and asked for pictures, I saw the local newspaper guys coming in for an interview. I stopped myself and realized we still had Jason Lamreaux from Alaska to see finish. He was an age grouper who started six minutes after me. My finishing time was something like 2:00:20. I saw him come in. I saw the clock. He finished at 2:05:40. I think even some people in Hilo heard my heart shatter. With a little arithmetic, it’s clear to see that he was the true victor. He bested me by about 40 seconds. I felt nauseous and realized the speech I gave after being beckoned by the announcer was all in vein and would be erased by the real results. I lost my victory and realized I had to start accepting the fact that I got second.
After discussions with Daniel, Jason, Gerry Rott, the race director, and the referees, we came to the conclusion that although Jason wore wetsuit leggings (which help with buoyancy) and even though he started after me—he had the fastest time of the day. Therefore, he was the unquestionable winner. Funny enough is that although Daniel was correct in his last-minute news to help me not get DQed, it was only correct for card-carrying professional triathletes. As “elites” we are not obligated to abide by pro-rules. Stupid or not, we can race with the pros, but we don’t have to play by their rules. So remember all that stress and chaos with 20 minutes to go before the race? It was all for naught. I know I would have felt conflicted if I had won overall and then thought about how Daniel did not wear a wetsuit. That’s a hypothetical not worth exploring though. Now I know—ask the race-director and refs before making any last minute decisions. Don’t just go with what a fellow racer tells you. Even if, like Daniel, they are well-intentioned and well-educated, they can still be wrong. I learned. Hopefully you did too!
I had a few beers and a few burgers and got happy pretty quickly. Gerry, the whole Lavaman organization and our tri-community were so nice. They all told me they think I won, but I kept having to tell them, no! Jason earned it. He played by the rules, he’s a humble victor. Not to mention, he biked and ran like a freak (we wouldn’t have been close had he swam as fast as me)! I’m happy for the dude. But next time Jason, if you’re reading this, come race in the elite with us. You’ve earned it, right?
That’s the beauty of this painful and cutting sport though. It’s the family that is made by the friends and the community. From my competition who was looking out for me before the race, to the athletes who later told me they saw me take a knee and almost joined in they were so moved, the volunteer who cheerfully took my skin suit for me so casually, the relay gentlemen who pushed me the whole time, the fans and strangers showing genuine appreciation for an athlete who pursued his goals and achieved them, and the whole race director and referees who wanted to have a real conversation about the outcome of the race and come to a fair decision. My friends who consoled me and laughed with me at how bittersweet the victory was. My actual family who were blowing up my phone with our Famille Sauvage group text with tracking updates and communication with Sarah Resor about my placement and status throughout the entire morning. In just one race, the triathlon community becomes one living, breathing organism working synergistically to have a memorable day celebrating our active lifestyle, our health, and location.
I want to thank all of my supporters. Bikeworks is a huge reason I did so well that day. I can’t thank the mechanics and crew at Bikeworks enough. Janet and Grant Miller do so much for the community. Hawaiian Ola and Bioastin have been integral in keeping me healthy me fresh and healthy before and throughout the race, too. My students were rooting me on all week before the race. My students inspire me all the time with their academic and athletic successes. With their connection to the land and practice of traditions passed down through generations, I am inspired by their rich sense of self and developing identities. As I raced that day, I realized a big piece of my identity is the pursuit of goals. The act of building up to an event and then executing it with precision, power and patience is what makes me feel like I am being true to myself. Racing is what I love. It is a tradition I hope to pass down to my next generations. I want to thank my family before me who have pursued their goals and shown me how to do this in my life both in and out of triathlon. This includes my sister, mom and dad and my grandparents on both sides.
As I made my premature victory speech after being beckoned by the race announcers after taking the tape, it struck me to thank the most important people: the people before us. I thanked the people of Hawaii for welcoming us as athletes and outsiders to this island despite the sordid history. Whether it is through aloha or by legal, American force (or a little of both), mainlanders and tourists can relocate to or visit Hawaii easily if they have a little bit of money. For better or worse, we use the land like it’s a playground. We must respect this island and that is not limited to respecting the people who have been here for centuries. I thank Hawaii, the elders and the keiki for allowing us to use Anaeho’omalu Bay for such a fun event.
Now, as a high school math teacher, as a public servant, I must get back to work on giving back to our community. We have two more weeks to go until the end of the school year. Let’s finish strong and continue to pursue our goals, yelling “Move!” to anyone who gets in our way.