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...



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