19th – Ironman World Championships
My debut at Ironman World Championships supplied many opportunities to overcome adversity. It was not the day I wanted, expected, or prepared for but I was able to conquer the most prestigious triathlon in the world gaining a few accolades along the way. I would be remiss if I did not start out thanking the volunteers on course. They were far and away the best I’ve encountered. They knew this was a world championship and their organization, energy, and service shined.
At 6:30 am the canon fired and it was game on. The swim was merely a formality with a lot of accelerations but nothing that ever put me on the rivet. I kept sighting the lead paddle boarder from the middle of the lead pack. After a little over 50 minutes 2.4 miles were behind me and I was stoked to be in the top 10! I love the free speed of Orca products.
I blazed through the first transition jumping from 10th to 3rd place as I mounted the bike.
The Orbea Ordu quickly steered me to the lead within a mile making quick work of Brandon Marsh and defending champion Pete Jacobs. I set sail quickly getting a gap over the “train” of 20+ of the top professionals in the world.
I was hovering between my ironman and half ironman intensity on the bike and slowly growing the gap to the train. I went through an aid station and filled my Torhans Aero 30 with the energy drink on course which I have trained on all summer and within the next few miles my stomach was rejecting anything I put into it. I started evaluating what could be the problem? Too much salt water in the swim, not likely, I would’ve had problems in the opening miles, not an hour in. Heat related, way too early. Going too hard, not possible this early, I was under half ironman intensity and we were barely an hour into the bike.
Over the next hour I would back down the intensity to well below “ironman pace” and continued topping off my aero drink with energy drink on course and tried to stomach all sorts of solid food, Gu gels, and chomps but my stomach wasn’t taking anything. As the two hour mark ticked by I knew I was going to be in a world of trouble. I was putting out over 1.3 Mega Joules per hour and my body was taking in ZERO. At the Hawi turnaround I changed to my run nutrition, flat cola and water to see if it was the energy drink making me sick. It was, but one problem, all the fluid on my bike was the stuff getting me sick. I backed it way down heading from Hawi to the next aid station and carefully planned out the rest of my race nutrition. Changing over to cola and water creates a few problems; too much caffeine too early and lack of sodium were my main concerns. I was no longer heaving and that made me excited.
What also excited me was on the descent from Hawi the train looked like an earthquake had hit them, large gaps were opening at 20+ was becoming packs of 2-6. It was almost as awesome as how my Mavic CXR80’s were cutting through the crosswinds. On the other hand I was not thrilled that my lead over Keinle and McKenzie was evaporating. I purged all the fluids on my bike as I neared the next aid station. I got water but missed the cola. I ate like a famished dog for the next 20 minutes. McKenzie caught and passed me and opened up a gap. I finally made it to Hapuna beach aid station and got some cola, my electrolyte drink of choice for the rest of the race.
For the final 40 miles we were headed straight into a strong headwind. I continued to fuel as much as I could without making myself sick. I was extremely depleted from two hours of no nutrition input and a lot of output. The gap to McKenzie had stabilized at 150-200 meters. As we neared the mile 80 aid station bad news surfaced. I had stopped sweating, with retching for the last two hours combined with all the food I just put in my stomach I was way dehydrated. A little over an hour of head wind left I ignored my malnutrition and hoped it would “fix” itself and I ramped back up to my ironman intensity.
I caught and passed McKenzie but did not drop him because the press convoy was cutting a huge hole in the wind and he was sitting in the rocking chair. At the last aid station McKenzie took bottles and lost the convoy while I maintained my pace for the final 15 miles trying to forget all of the bad from the day.
I led by less than a minute in the second transition and did a wholesale clothing change. I opted not to take my bottle of nutrition drink because I did not know if I could stomach anything. This was probably a huge mistake, but hindsight is 20-20. I was starting a marathon about 3000 calories in the hole.
On a false flat down hill near mile one my hamstring and quad locked up and popped me straight up in the air straining something in my calf, this was not good. Actually, bad, really bad. The first 10 miles of flat hot roads of Alii drive were terrible. I was in 100% survival mode. At each aid station I was taking in a lot of sponges and ice trying to regulate my core temp since I had not sweat for a couple hours. I had fallen delusional and my form had disintegrated to primal instincts of fighting and clawing my way to the finish line. I was running like a Gorilla.
The final 16 miles of rolling hills of the Queen K and energy lab was simply about survival. I kept taking in cola, water, ice & sponges, and Roctane nearly every mile, I was running on caffeine. If the aid stations had it I was taking it. I do not remember much from the final miles except I was losing a lot of positions. As I made the turn onto Alii Drive heading to the finish line I just could not believe that I survived.
I finished 19th place just yards from where the race started 8.5 hours earlier. I still do not know how I survived a marathon being so depleted. I guess I just wanted it that bad.
In the hours after the race I would learn that I had a second degree sun burn on my back. The high performance sun shield that I used for the race did not protect me at all and I was becoming even more depleted than calculated due to lack of sun protection.
I will reflect more on the race after I finish my season. My focus is now on Ironman Florida in less than two weeks.
Thanks for all of the support on Facebook and Twitter. It is awesome to have this much support and I am very thankful to have sponsors that put me on the best equipment on the market. First off the bike and a top 20 at Ironman World Championships is not a bad day and I could not do it without all of you having my back!
Giving it my all,