I was set up for success! Despite the gnarly wind with 50mph gusts the day before, the conditions calmed down and race day looked like it would be a perfect day to race triathlon in Hawaii. The Ironman 70.3 Hawaii is always difficult. Everyone knows the run is hard and it’s a feat to break 1:30, for us mere mortals. But there was a new guy in town from Australia (where else?) who was ready to show us what a run in the sun looks like.
Levi Hauwert and Clint Rowlings from Australia came out a few weeks prior to check out the course in preparation for the World Championships in October and to host a training camp, respectively. I met them through good old Tim Rea and sure enough, they’re the friendly and competitive Australians I thought they’d be! My sister and I stayed at the Hapuna Prince Hotel as I’ve done for the last two year and we were totally set for race day. All the ducks were in a row and before we knew it, it was time.
The swim start was very different this year. They initiated a “rolling age group” start. In order to cut back on drafting, it looks like all 70.3’s are going with the rolling start. On its own, that means the athletes self-seed according to their estimated swim time. In this one however, we were corralled into our age groups with an interesting line up where the older guys went first down to the youngest (more or less), the relay teams (also new this year) and then women down to the youngest (poor young women!). Levi, Clint and I started off our wave at 6:44am where the first guys had already gone off at 6:30am in sets of four leaving every 20 seconds or so. It actually looked pretty clean!
The water was clear and calm at Hapuna and the swim was indeed a clean swim! I pulled ahead of Levi and Clint (to my surprise) and lead them in to the beach with little pushing or shoving. OK, maybe I climbed over a few wrinkly skinned arms and legs, but nothing brutal! I PRed on my swim just under 29 minutes. Clint was right behind me and we could hear Levi coming as well.
Through transition I lost my lead and let Clint and Levi take off. I didn’t strap on my shoes until the top of the hill leading onto the highway. It was some advice I heard to not lose momentum by strapping up shoes until you are already slowing down due to a turn or climb. I took a bite of my caffeine Picky Bar and took a gulp of my Salt Stick water. I came up on Levi shortly and had to pass him on the right! It looked like he thought the road was closed riding in the highway like that, but no worries, he knew what he was doing. After the turn around, I started creeping up on Clint as well. I don’t know when I got him, but I got him eventually before the climb to Hawi.
My bike fit felt perfect and my new shorter cranks allowed me to get higher on the saddle and thus lower in the front. I was taking in my nutrition according to plan (250cal in Glukos + Nuun electrolyte mix in each of two bottles). I was staying aerodynamic as ever and with the staggered start, there was no drafting that I saw! I climbed into Hawi with one guy on my mind that I had to beat–Bruno Fritsch.
I met Bruno here actually two years ago when he raced in the World Champs. He’s in the 40-44 AG and he’s quick! I couldn’t catch him on the bike, but after the two turnarounds, I calculated that I was ahead of him by two minutes due to his earlier start than me. I bombed down Hawi after grabbing a swig of water from the aid station and hauled it, never getting out of aero despite a little cross wind. The head winds going up were stronger than last year and the cross winds too. But I hit 50mph on the downhill at one point. There was one scary moment, in which I charged past my friend Mike Decarli and descended over the bridge before the Hapuna Beach exit. I felt a cross wind, had to make sure to lift up over that lip in the concrete and asphalt on that bridge (you know it if you ride it) and also I heard a big truck coming behind me. I grabbed the bull horns and held steady. The vacuum created by a big rig when there is a head or cross wind is down right horrific. I got the speed wobbles and held on tight. I survived to write this blog though. Hey!
As for the numbers, I maintained 235 watts for the first half and it eventually dropped to about 227w. I averaged just about 160bpm which was higher than I expected. My last race I did around 150bpm. I’ve been playing with a higher heart rate and thought it would be OK. Perhaps it hurt my run later on. With a new UFO chain, better fit, more comfortable aero bar position, and my Zipp 808s, I was flying. I ended up getting a PR on the bike as well with a 2:18. Last year, I think that effort would have yielded a faster split overall since the wind this year was a lot more fierce.
My transition was a bit slow, but I felt solid. I had a plan to start slow and pick it up after the first few miles. Well that started to happen at mile-three, but after that, I started slowing down again. I started at a 7:30min/mi and dropped just a little, but then it came back to 7:30 and ended at just about that. Levi came charging through like a bat out of hell at mile 7 and passed me with a fury. He raced a fastest run split of 1:23 taking the AG group and 2nd overall. I ended up with a 3rd in AG losing it all with a race-worst of 1:36. I don’t know exactly what went wrong to be honest. Maybe I pushed too hard on the bike? Maybe I started too slow. I slowed down just like I did when I started fast the last two years. So maybe that slow start wasn’t worth it. I fueled wisely at each aid station and never got stomach issues or cramps. My heart rate was getting high and hit 170 which is a danger zone for me at the first half of a half, so I backed off and maybe too much as it dropped into the mid 150s half way through. I had a quick final mile at sub 7min/mi but still, I’m not proud of my run at all. It’s hard to come to terms with it still, but I just have to move on. I suppose it’s hard, because I am not certain exactly what went wrong.
PC: Mikey Brown. I was running pretty slow here around mile 7
Next time, I’ll start my run a little faster and just dig deeper. Looking at the pictures, it feels like I wasn’t digging hard enough. Perhaps I should have just hurt more? It almost felt like I was running a full marathon. It almost felt like it wasn’t the A race I was thinking it would be. Either way, hats off to all of those who finished and all of those who beat me.
I’d like to send out some major thanks to my sister Lani who helped out so much I can’t even describe before, during and after the race. I also want to thank Bike Works and staff especially Farren (my go-to mechanic who always know what’s up). Thank you to Grant for lending me his skin suit too! Bike Works is the shop you must visit if you’re ever in town.They are super friendly, so helpful, and most importantly they know what you need for anything triathlon-related. Thank you to Hawaiian Ola and Bioastin for the fuel! Lastly, Oakley sunglasses has helped me out so much recently I want to shout them out as well. I’m realizing that it’s not just about keeping your eyes relaxed and face a bit calmer by shielding from the sun. It’s also about protecting our precious eyeballs from the harmful UV rays! Unless you have Oakley’s, your lenses are probably letting in harmful bluelight and UV that will cause long term damage like cataracts to your eyes!
What’s awesome about my season so far this year is that I’ve podiumed in every race in my age group. I have been top 5 overall in all four of the races as well this year. Also, I want to shout out Bree Wee for winning every single race I’ve done this year! She retired from professional triathlon and is an awesome teacher now pursuing ultra-distance running. Yet she still wins every race! Another shout out to my friend Sara Bloom who also PRed on her swim and bike. I ended up as 5th overall at Honu this year with 3rd in my age group with a time of 4:30 and change. I have a lot to work on and I’m excited to race again in 7 weeks in my very first full distance Ironman. I hope to feel more proud at this next one. That said, I’m not being too hard on myself for this one because it is such a privilege to race these events at all. And to take top 5 is not something to be ashamed of at all!
Thanks for reading and cheers to your training, your goals, and to our collective growth!
Here are the Strava links if you want the nitty-gritty: