Updated: Oct 29, 2018
13 months ago, a 4th place in my age group comfortably qualified me for this years world champs in Kona, Hawaii. Enough time to get injured, require surgery and recover to race the ITU Long Distance Worlds in Denmark as a build to this years IM Worlds. As a result of the surgery, run volume was reduced but I managed to arrive at the big island feeling fit and eager to race 17 days before the big dance..
The Kona IM can change wildly from year to year and finishing times are not the best measure of ones achievement/performance. So although I was keen to better 2015’s time of 9:56, I was hoping to better my M40 AG placing of 47th. My new AG (M45) was the largest of the race this year.
Rain had been falling since the previous evening and the forecast didn’t suggest it would stop. This didn’t particularly bother me however like many others I was concerned about the Di2 electronic gearing on the bike becoming affected.
More typical Kona weather arrived as the sun rose, the temperature seemed lower than average but as the ground heated, the humidity was noticeably higher. There was little chop in the ocean but there was some swell.
Swim 1:03:24 (Kona PB)
As 2015, I positioned myself on the extreme right hand side opting for a busier but tighter line. There was 20 mins of treading water jostling for position and the space around every swimmer became less and less until the canon sounded.
I stayed right all the way round the swim. I found the swim a lot easier than last time and switching between swimmers feet, trying to draft off the fastest made the swim interesting. I had a bit of an elbow/feet fight with one swimmer after being deliberately kicked, hit and having my ankle timing chip pulled - in the end I pulled to the side and sprinted away.
Getting out was interesting as the tide was higher and the waves hit as I took my first exit steps.
I actually felt faster than the recorded time - I also felt totally relaxed.
T1 3:32 (Close to 2015 time)
Swim skin, cap and goggles into bag and a run to my bike. I put the helmet, shades & shoes on (these were hung on my bars), ran the bike over the dismount line & I was off.
Bike 4:51:18 (Kona PB)
I took the short loop on the Kuakini Hey easy, noting my power meter was reading 50% of the correct power - a victim of the rainfall. I spotted & waved to Faye as I overtook The Prince of Bahrain (who beat me convincingly in the end). Once on the Queen K, I observed the 12m draft rule riding conservatively, letting several groupettos pass. It’s frustrating to see but satisfying when you see the penalty tents 12 riders full when you pass them. There are some poor riders out there. Some cut in dangerously and some use the hard shoulder to undertake.
I only really picked up the pace once I had taken the Hawi turn around point & collected my special needs bottles, which went seamlessly. On the return leg, I passed so many tiring athletes and employed Chris Frooms top tube seated position to overtake on the descents. My half way ave speed was 22.1.mph, the second half averaged 24.4 mph giving a 23.19mph average for the 112 mile course.
My nutrition this year was all liquified and additional water from the aid stations was used for cooling only - a bit too much as my feet became damp.
I clipped out of my shoes before hitting Palani and handed the bike to the catcher before the dismount line.
T2 4:19 (Kona PB)
I ran well through T2, taking my helmet off as I went, picked up my run bag and entered the change tent. Socks, shoes, cap, run belt on and gel pouches in pockets - tried and tested method. Exited T2 and focused on form straight away.
Run 3:52:37 (slower than 2015)
The humidity was definitely high despite the lower than usual air temperature. I passed Faye at mile 1, feeling OK. Cooling was key. I kept close to goal pace/effort 8:15/mile and used ice & water at every aid station, straight away my feet were squelchy & I knew blisters & lost toe nails were inevitable.
I saw Faye again at 7 miles as I turned onto Palani. I walked the hill as in 2015. This marked almost the 1st 1/3 of the run and ensures hydration and fuelling is taken care of and the bodies core temperature and HR is regulated before the heat of the Queen K.
My technique was to run from aid station to aid station, walking for 30-45s at rack and drinking water, filling my tri suit and cap with ice and placing wet sponges behind my neck. Salted gels were taken approx. every 5k. The excessive water I used (over head & back) saturated my feet further - you could hear me coming 10 metres away.
The ‘energy lab’ section of the run (due to road changes/improvements) had changed this year. The result was that it seemed to drag on - I had half expected to see 28 miles on the Garmin when I finished.
I was pleased to pass the 20 mile mark without cramping. It was mentally tough and the gap between each aid station definitely seemed longer each time. The first sensation of cramping came in my arms (biceps), when taking water at aid stations - a new one on me. The main cramps came at about the 24th mile in the right calf and I had to adopt a heal strike (as I did three years ago). It worked for about 200 m and then I’d have to stretch, strangely this didn’t really affect the overall pace. Palani was tough on the quads but gave the calves some relief, my toes were screaming as they were slammed to the front of the trainers on each foot strike.
I passed an ever screaming Faye, Elliot & Eve on Ali’i Dr, not observing their encouraging chalk road graffiti just focussing on the M-dot carpet up ahead. The crowds thicken, the lights get brighter and the cramping stops just long enough to make the line..... into the arms of my volunteers. Kona #2 in the bag & a PB time - just.
What went well
The 17 days training/tapering was a real success and my acclimatisation was noticeable.
I deliberately didn't over eat in the week/days prior to the race, I just added fluid and salt gradually
8 hours of sleep and a lighter breakfast was optimal and I wasn't flustered race morning
My swim has definitely improved, I wasn't much faster but it was super easy
Putting the bike shoes on at the bike (not before or after) still seems to be fastest for me
My pre/bike/run nutrition was spot on - may look at upping the sodium to see if that helps cramping
Fluid intake was pretty good - my only wee was taken whilst walking through an aid station (good flushing of water afterwards - of course)
Second half of the bike was strong - perhaps as a result of a weaker first half
Adjusting tyre pressure the day before and leaving alone on race day - once again worked
No mechanicals and the fuelling system (inc. special needs) was flawless
What do I need to improve
My power meter failure was due to the heavy rain, in future I need to protect this from the elements
Riding to power would have helped with a better push for the first half of the bike course
Definitely need to improve run endurance (on fatigued legs), may try some double/triple run days - fatigue with form (safer)
Must find a way to cool and hydrate without soaking feet - may even go one size up for hot race running shoes
I'm pretty aero on the bike but there's more to gain - will investigate a different cockpit configuration (higher hands) and perhaps racing lighter.
My AG placing was 80/286 so lower down my younger AG than 2015. I would say that a stronger first half of the bike could have possibly saved another 5 mins, resulting in an AG placing 68th. My perhaps naive goal of 20th in AG needed a 9:25 finish (30 mins faster than me) - so improvement is needed in S,B & R.
So, that was the sequel.... I loved every minute. It was hard, very hard particularly on the run but crossing the finish line was every bit as spectacular as the first time and just motivates me for the 3rd episode - 'The return of the Triathlete' - 2021?