Friday, October 19, 2007

An Ironman really is an amazing event. Once you have done a few, you take for granted what a hell of an accomplishment it is, and how it can affect everything you do. Witnessing the last two hours at this years Hawaii was a treat. In the past, I was always too tired or rattled and brain dead from racing that day. First, they do an amazing job of getting all the spectators amped up. They have a DJ blasting upbeat music and the event sponsors run around tossing out free swag. Mike Reilly and his partner (who sounds just like Mike but Mike on 20 shots of espresso) are corny but it works, especially when there live. Then you see these amazing people come down the finish chute, everyone with a story. There was one guy there, young, like 23, who was an all-American swimmer in school. He was in such a bad accident that he was pronounced dead like 8 times. They said he’d never walk again, and his chest cavity was crushed to the point where they had to move his heart laterally in his body to allow it to function. And this guy runs across the finish line of Hawaii! There were plenty of 70+ year olds that came across the line, some looking really fresh, and some looking like they were going to fall over any minute. These people had been out there since 7am, racing for 16+ hrs now! Then there was the guy who was a double amputee and raced with two prosthetic legs. He ran, not wheeled, the marathon! I mean, if you aren’t affected by these stories somehow, then you need to check for a pulse.

As a coach, I’m always learning. Spectating at this year’s event, I learned more about how to train for and race an IM. Those that were successful seemed to stay steady the entire day. That is, there pace was very consistent and makes me think that they raced at an aerobic effort that was very similar to their long training paces. Out at Kawaihai, it was amazing to see a lot of cyclists with grimaces on their faces like they were in pain. And they were only midway through the bike. I’ve said it many times – most overextend their effort on the bike and it was very interesting to witness this first hand, just by observing their faces. Many were moving around on the bike like they were uncomfortable – this is a big sign that you are more than likely overextended, energy wise. Torborn Sindballe was just the opposite – the guy looked steady and solid, with not much lateral movement. His cadence was consistent and he stayed aero and looked almost relaxed. In fact, he didn’t even look as though he was going to fast. Same with McCormick and Alexander on the run. They had a nice turnover going and looked like they were out for a Sunday long run. The face is a dead giveaway and their faces were relaxed.

I have been studying the form of great athletes lately and the main thing I see with many is that they fall into their natural gait or cadence and look almost relaxed. Also, watch a great athletes hips next time you have a chance – this is where they turn everything over from. It’s basically the core of their effort.

Another very interesting observation was the bikes of the pros vs. the age groupers. Age groupers are very obsessed with the weight of their bikes, yet the pros don’t seem to have this same obsession. Yes, they all want a light bike, but they know that the weight of your bike on almost all tri courses is quite insignificant once you get the bike moving. As I mentioned in previous posts, their were quite a few pros with 3 to 4 bottles of fluid on their bikes, yet many age groupers with only one or two.
This sport continues to grow quickly. The Hawaii IM has changed quite a bit since my initial race there in 96’. Yes, the course layout has changed three times, but the business of the sport has changed. I guess it’s good for the sport, although there were many times during the week where it felt overly bureaucratic. Nonetheless, it still is a great event.

The next morning after 3 hours of sleep, I ran one last time before flying home. I ran downhill from the house and then followed Alii drive north into a part of the original course that was referred to as the pit. This was when the course had two transitions, which usually I’m not a fan of, but oddly enough, I like the old course the best at this event. It made for a more point to point marathon instead of having out and back sections. Climbing my way out of the pit, I ran into Chris Legh who was out for a training run. He’s a great Australian triathlete who’s won quite a bit of races but is probably most well known for his 97’ IM in which he staggered back and forth before collapsing 100 meters from the finish line and which Gatorade replays in many of its commercials. He’s a really nice guy, and is prepping for Clearwater. The last 20 minutes of my run were all uphill in the sun and heat, which was a very fitting way to end my trip to the Big Island.

I sat in an aisle seat on the 10 hr flight from Honolulu to Newark, next to some young couple that must have been coming off their honeymoon because they hung on each other like newlyweds. Brennan was seated in the row in front of me and was asleep before we left the ground, and stayed asleep until we landed! I was tempted to kick his chair a few times out of jealousy. In fact, the whole plane seemed to be asleep with the exception of me. The woman seated next to me even lied down with her head on her husband and her legs on me! I didn’t move them – she looked comfortable and I thought “good for her.” I was cramped up though and got off the plane with some seriously swollen cankles. I should have worn the compression socks.

So all in all, it was a great trip; working on an exciting new project, training in a great place, eating some great food, and witnessing first hand an unbelievable event. Not bad!



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hawaii 07' run and finish line

We made it back to Kailua and stationed ourselves at the 10/25 mile mark on the hill on Palini. A perfect place to catch the athletes heading up and out onto the Queen K and down and back to the finish.
The leaders came through and Chris McCormack looked great as did Alexander and Deboom. It's quite amazing how fast these guys are running here. I mean, when the sun is out in Kona, which it was in full blast, it is scorching hot and humid. These guys are knocking off six minute miles at the end of an IM. That's impressive. The pros all came through in a mix - some running very strong, and some really suffering and trying to survive. The amount of athletes that walked up Palani was staggering. Maybe 2/3rds of the field. Many could have walked as fast as they were running.
We held our positions here for the next three or four hours. I sucked down another Peanutbutter Moo'd Jamba Juice and an Iced Latte while spectating. I met the main man from Fuel belt, Vinu, who was a nice, laid back guy. He told me he knew my name and was suprised at how big I was considering the times I put out at the races. I get that a lot. I also met the editor for Xtri who was also very cool. She was attending her first Hawaii. She said she'd be excited to do a feature on MyAthlete on Xtri and I'm holding her to it.
I was very aware of my own emotions during the run and it keeps making me think. I have to admit that I was kind of glad to be a spectator that day. Usually I watch always wishing I had been competing but not on Saturday. Reflecting back now, I'm almost certain this is due to the fact that it was so hot and that I don't do well in the extreme heat (go figure why I'm so drawn to Hawaii?!) and that this heat and conditions brought back some painful memories of blood, sweat and tears lost on Palani and the Queen K at this painfully mean race. I also think that I mentally had not committed to racing an IM this year and therefore was mentally not into racing it. But on race day, I was wondering if this lack of motivation to race there that day meant that I was losing my drive to race IM's. I now know that it was more of what I stated previously, because I can't stop thinking about getting back there soon to race since being home.
When McCormick returned from the Queen K at the 25 mile mark, he knew he had it locked up and started to celebrate. I snapped the above shot of him with still a mile left to go. I thought his raw emotion and energy was fantastic.
It was very interesting to see a great number of athletes racing in compression socks - which work well, but in my opinion, not in Hawaii, and also many wearing long sleeves and even gloves that were supposed to cool. All that I know is that I always want to wear next to nothing here and it looked more hot than cool to see these knew trends. (not hot in a good way.)
We took a spectating break to grab some dinner at Lulu's on Alii and while eating we tracked Mike Kane. We knew the moment he'd be coming by and had the whole second tier of the restaurant cheering for him. I yelled "Run you bastard, run!" at him as he ran by. He smiled and chugged along in the dark.
After dinner, we made our way to the finish. There were three hours left in the race and I weaseled my way up against the barrier about 20 meters from the tape on the finishing carpet. Mike Reilly and his partner, who was very funny, entertained us as many continued to come across the line. In between the finishers, many of the event sponsors would come out and toss out swag. The crowd went nuts for these small, trivial pieces. We saw some amazing people finish in the late hours - many amazing stories, and I had the chicken skin on many occasions. The double amputee guy, who I snapped a blurry picture of above, was my hero.
It was really very cool being at the finish line right up until midnight, but man, if you don't make it in by then, the race is done. There were three athletes still out on the course and close by but at the stroke of 12, the race was done and they began clearing out the spectators and breaking it down.
I spectated this day with some non-triathletes and realized that this sport while spectating causes two emotions in people; either they are truly inspired, or they are truly insecure. Interesting to witness both cases and hear how those inspired were going to use their motivation to do something good or cool, and meanwhile, the insecure one's would either put down the race or boast about whatever they have going on in their life.
It was a long and busy day and I hit the hey at approximately 1pm only to get up at 4:30am unable to sleep. I went out for one last run in Kona, before packing up to head home. The sun and heat actually felt good and I did a ton of uphill running.
I'll post some afterthoughts tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hawaii IM 07' swim bike

I'm back in CT now and the weather here is beautiful. My mind is still whirling from the trip so I will fill in the space over the next few days as I sort things out.

Spectating at the race was very educational. I learned a bit more about how to race an Ironman - mainly, once again, pace right on the bike. I witnessed quite a few impressive bike rides followed by long, walk/jog marathons. But let's not beat a dead horse here.

Race day started early as our crew headed over to see the swim start at 5:45 am. We wouldn't return back to the house til' close to 1am on Sunday. The morning was really nice with not a cloud in the sky (which meant that it was going to be a scorcher that day), and we found a spot on a sea wall that offered a great view of the swim. Right before the swim start, a bunch of navy seals parachuted into the water which was cool to see, then Laird Hamilton, the big wave married to gabby reese surf stud, surf paddled the lead swimmers through the whole swim. The pro's went off at 6:45am and their wave, which consisted of maybe 200, seemed minuscule compared with the pirahna-like frenzy of the amateur wave. As the cannon fired announcing the start, I got the first of many chicken-skin goose bumps. There were many times throughout the day where I wished I was racing, and actually many times were I was glad I wasn't.

After breakfast, we headed out to the Kuakini highway where there is an out and back section of the bike early on before heading out onto the Queen K. The first pro through was Tom Evans from Canada, but he was followed closely by a large group including all the big guns. I never saw Faris and I soon learned that he didn't even start due to illness. Stadler was close by and I thought he set himself up perfectly for a solid repeat, but he soon would drop out from being ill, as well as Michellie Jones, Cameron Brown, and a few more top names. This was interesting to me since I have been there before. Most people assume that IM triathletes are extremely healthy people, yet we are constantly on the fine line of illness due to training so hard and compromising our immune systems. Usually, if you place close attention to recovery including adequate sleep, you can stay on the positive side. The talk was that there must have been something going around, but I think it was more due to stress from repeating, or from wishing for a great day, or from squeezing in one last hard session.

After watching the front 1/3rd hit this out and back section, we jumped in the car and took the mountain road out to Kawaihai to catch the riders at corner before they climbed up to Hawi and back. I drove as john and Eric, the MyAthlete technician, tracked the four athletes racing that were prototyping the devices. Man, this is such a cool way to watch the race. We knew exactly when they'd be coming through Kawaihai. Many of the spectators there were coming over asking for info on the race and were curious to learn about what was going on. I suggested to John that he put a tent at this corner next year. There was nothing out there. It would be great to have a tent there playing music and with three or four screens and technicians there checking up on any athletes racing with the g-units. Spectators could come up to the booth and ask to track their athlete who was racing out on the course.

The sun was out with no cloud coverage, which meant it was very hot, although the wind was light once again, the third time in three years. I heard some after the race mentioning the wind was strong, but that was a fast Hawaii bike day, trust me. It was blowing a bit up near Hawi, but it always does up there. The Queen K was very calm, and even provided a tail wind back into town. Chris Lieto was the first to come through Kawaihai on the return trip from Hawai and he looked strong. I really respect the way he raced. He went for it on the bike, knowing that for him to win, he would need a lead off the bike. He took a gamble, where he probably could have sat in the pack and ran 10 minutes faster. Same for Torborn Sindballe who came through next chasing Chris. Tim Deboom led the pack of ten through next and to say they were riding 10 meters apart was bullshit. Spectating gives you an even better view of what goes on. Out at Kawaihai, things begin to spread out, yet there was still quite a bit of drafting so those that say they couldn't avoid it are full of shit. I saw this first hand and it could have easily been avoided.

We waited for the Myathlete racers to come through and then headed back to Kailua to catch the run. I'll post more about the run and afterthoughts tomorrow, but some observations:

The top ten pro's were riding steep (78 degrees or more with maybe the exception of Luc VanLierde and Luke Bell). They were all riding in road cycling shoes, not tri cycling shoes - something I've advocated in IM tri racing for a long time. And many of them were using Jet Streams or Profile handlebar mount bottles - something I'm not a huge fan of but makes sense in Hawaii. Lieto had a Jet stream, two bottles on his frame and one behind the saddle which told me that he didn't want to have to slow and speed up at all the aid stations grabbing fuel. Most of the top guys and girls were wearing white or lighter colors which again to me, makes total sense considering that darker colors, and black in particular, attract heat. All the top contenders were wearing aero helmets.

More to follow...



Sunday, October 14, 2007

Interesting Race

Short update - I'm stil at the race! It was good conditions here today. Light winds on the bike. The sun was out all day though. It was really interesting being a spectator here today. There were times when I wished I was racing, and to be honest, there were times when I was glad I wasn't. I thnk it has to do with the fact that I never mentally committed to an IM this year. I hope that's the case anyway.

Good to see Tim Deboom and Luc Vanlierde in the top ten again. Rutgere Beke showed a lot of heart. Look out for Craig Alexander - that guy is the real deal! So is Sam Macglone. The womans winner was the race of the day - she must be the real deal.

It's an incredible, incredible event!

I'll give a full report on my thoughts of the day tomorrow, if anyone's interested.



Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday at the Ironman is when the athletes take that reality check that they will be racing in two days and begin to lay low. A lot less athletes training on the course today. I think it's Thursday. You seem to lose track of the days when here and not racing.

Today started again as another very tough day in Hawaii. Bright sun, the ocean sitting there calling out. It's quite tough! John and I ran from the house down to the pier at 6:30am. The annual underpants run was taking place at 8:00am and there was a huge crowd getting ready for it. I still can't figure out how I feel about this event. Usually I'm very decisive on my feelings. Yeah, it was kind of funny 10 yrs ago when it began. Maybe I'm a dud here but it seems like a joke thats been played 8 times too many. People seem to love it though, so what do I know.
I went for a swim following my run - man, I love swimming here. It's just buoyant and salty and clean and with incredible visiblity - it's therapeutic. I do love that swim up espresso bar at the 1/2 mile buoy also. After the swim, we grabbed a quick bite then opened up the booth. Shortly after that, Peter (the great chef), Eric (the MyAthlete tech guy), and myself drove up the Queen K to Kawaihai. I got on the bike here and took a g-unit and headed up to Hawi. I felt strong on the climb to hawi, and pushed hard into the serious headwind the last 5 miles before turning around and heading back. I got in a solid 2 hr 30 min ride and the device worked great. John was able to show the live data from my ride at the expo. Peter and Eric picked me up at Waikoloa and we grabbed a smoothie for the drive back to Kailua. The traffic here gets worse every year and from the airport back it was congested, so I hopped out impatiently and rode my bike back.
The expo was winding down around 3:30pm and I went over to the Cannondale booth. Faris Alsultan was signing autographs and one of his sponsors, Edinger (?) beer, was there with a keg. So I brought the MyAthlete boys over and the German guys kept feeding us beer.
So let's see - I ran, than swam in the pacific, than rode on the course for awhile, then drank beer at the expo - that's what I call a great day.

This trip is different though. I'm used to having Lisa out here with me. Her and I have had such a great time here and when I ride by some of the places where we have stayed, it reminds of these times.
It's time to get some sleep. Tomorrow is another busy day and first priority is finding a souvenir, preferably some kind of dress, for my daughter Kate. Now that's pressure! These pro athletes think they are dealing with pressure but they have know idea.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today, the expo was open from 9am until 4pm and John was presenting MyAthlete on center stage at 10:30am. The idea was for me to head out and ride the Hawaii bike course, tagged with one of the g-units (that's the name I gave to the MyAthlete device). Then, those coming through the expo could see on the big screens set up at the MyAthlete tent exactly how the devices work in real time. The unit worked great and recorded my ride in 1 minute intervals.

I headed out into a mild wind and for the first hour I was flying. In fact, I went 25 miles in the first hour. Kona is very interesting though and things can change on a dime. Up near the big resorts on the queen K, the wind picked up. There also wasn't a clooud in the sky. I stopped in Kawahai to refuel and Laurent Jalabert, the famous french cyclist, was hanging out, just having finished up a ride of his own. After a quick can of coke and a refill of gatorade in my bottles, I soldiered on. The 20 mile climb up to Hawi was brutal. the wind was gusting to the point were I was almost knocked off my bike a few times. That combined with the intense heat of the day made things more than challenging. The conditions closely resembled 97', which I feel was the toughest year I raced in Hawaii. The locals in Kawahai even were discussing how hot it was. On the climb to Hawi, there was some fresh road kill - a wild boar, with it's intestines strung out across the road. the smell combined with the heat almost made me vomit. As I descended from Hawi, I flatted on some glass on my front tire. I changed it quickly, then stopped at the convienient store there for some more fluids and a chipwhich. I called up John and said "where am I?" the devices were working great since he knew exactly where I was. My ride ended a bit early due to another flat on the queen K on the return trip. I brought out a brand new tire that I should have put on! It was a good solid ride though, and John said that those coming through the expo loved seeing the live info.

There were a lot of athletes training out on the course. A lot that were racing! They should be resting. It's funny how you never see the pros out there. It was also funny how some people yelled at me to save it for race day.

As we were cleaning up the expo site at 4pm, John mentioned that Sister Madonna Buder was close by and I told him I was going to approach her about wearing a device on race day. She was very interested although she is feeling quite a bit of pressure from HBO, who are doing a special on her, and because of the fact that last year she just barely made the finish cut-off and the conditions were very favorable. She was really sweet though and mentioned she would stop back tomorrow because she wanted to find out more information on MyAthlete.

Tonight we had a dinner at the house for the athletes who will be wearing the devices on race day and John's friend Peter, who came out to cook, made an unbelievable dinner. He bought fresh Tuna right off the dock here in kona from a fisherman and served it with a spicy mango salsa and sticky coconut rice. For desert, he made a chocolate mousse infused with fresh Kona coffee. It was better than most restaurants by far. The athletes seemed excited to be a part of this initial soft launch. The more I see the excitement from everyone about this business, the more excited I get about being part of this initial launch.

Tomorrow, I am going to run early down to the pier and then do a swim. After some breakfast, I plan on riding back up near Hawi with one of the units again. There was a small section where the unit lost contact for a bit and we want to see if it will happen again. Once it kicked back on, all the info was there. So it should be another busy, fun day! If that boar is still there, I'm bringing it back to see what Peter the chef can do with it.



Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Man, it's been busy here, especially considering I'm not racing. I mean, when I'm racing, I'm usually very busy race week, registering, picking up last minute bike things, getting in some light training, and just keeping busy so I'm not overly focused on the race itself.

Yesterday started with a trip to Lava Java which has amazing coffee and great breakfast food. It's become the place to hang out in the past few years which usually sends me elsewhere, but the coffee and food are so good, as well as the food. John and I both forgot our goggles so we waited until 9am when the tri shop here opened and picked some up and then headed to the pier to swim. Last year, the earthquake really stirred the pacific up and visibility was very limited (fo Hawaii - if it were LI sound, it'd be incredible). But this year, the ocean is back and the water was amazing. Most here swim between 7 and 8:30 am so it was a bit empty at 9:30. Desiree Ficker was getting in at the same time as me though and we swam out to the 1/2 mile buoy together. She turned back and I went just a bit farther before turning. The first swim here always seems to relax me a bit and put me in a good mood. After this we ran a bunch of errands to get ready for the expo - one of the errands was hitting Jamba Juice, which will be a daily fixture while here. Before dinner, John and I headed out for a run. I ran from the house down to Alii Drive and I mean down. The first 15 minutes of the run were all down hill, which meant the last 15 minutes were all up hill.

Today, we awoke and ran from the house to the pier which was about a 50 minute run for me. Then we swam for 40 minutes. Albert Boyce has a coffee business and he set up a catamaran at the 1/2 mile buoy with a swim up ice espresso bar. How cool is that! I took some pictures of John with my waterproof camera that are pasted above.
We set up for the expo which began this evening at 5pm. I headed out for a 2 hr bike ride on the queen K. The wind was very low. I did a few tempo efforts and felt really good.
The expo went really well. It was quite exciting being involved in the start up of this amazing business. The people coming through the expo were really fascinated by the concept - most wanted to rent or buy it for this Saturday! This is a soft launch though and units will officially be available in 2008. There is no heavy sale needed for this project though. The enthusiasm of those that came through the booth showed how much potential this business has. I told John that I don't think even he realizes how big this business he started is going to be.
We finished the day with a late meal at Huggo's, one of my favorite restaurants and I'm pretty whooped right now and I'll be riding the bike course tomorrow - the 112 miles, with a MyAthlete tracking device on me so that those coming through the expo can see how the unit works. My ride will be uploaded onto a big plasma TV set up in the MyAthlete expo booth. So my apologies if this post was a bit boring or mundane - I'll make up for it tomorrow.
Until then, later.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Going back to Kona

I’m on a flight at the moment to Hawaii. I’m heading back to the Big Island for the Ironman, although I won’t be racing this year. I’m going over to assist John Brennan in the launch of his MyAthlete business. Yes, this will be a tough business trip, but hey, I’m willing to make the sacrifice – I’m that kind of guy.

It will be strange though, being over there during race week and not being a participant in the race. This is my eighth trip to Kona, and my first as a spectator. I was much more relaxed packing for this trip than in the past when racing. I won’t feel any of that usual pre-race pressure over the next 5 days either. I won’t overanalyze every little cough, twitch, ache, or sniffle, like I usually do in the week leading up to Ironman. I won’t think about every nutrient I place in my mouth this week. I know Brennan likes to down a few beers so I’m looking forward to that! I won’t awake each morning thinking about how well I did or didn’t sleep. I won’t second guess my training and my taper and wonder if my dead legs will come around for race day. I won’t worry about being in the sun too much, or about staying off my feet, or expending too much energy body-surfing in the pacific.

Writing this, it’s almost easy to question why I race in the first place. And then I think about the last ½ mile. The few minutes where I want time to stand still. Where my emotions are so raw and uncontrolled, and all the training and effort put towards this Ironman goal become minute. I can picture it clear as day now – the right hand turn to the slight downhill where at the base is the hot corner onto Alii Drive. Running down that hill, all the pain from the day goes away. All the questions of doubt are erased. Spectators are cheering you on and at the hot corner; you can hear Mike Reilly calling your name. Then you turn right onto Alii and you see the green carpet soon enough. Spectators hold their hands out wishing you congratulations and grabbing a small piece of your overwhelming energy. You become hyper with the fact that you are about to complete the Ironman. All the hard work has paid off and it’s more than worth it.

Damn. I wish I were racing!

I will be blogging each day from Kona so please stay tuned in!