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!



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