Friday, October 30, 2009

Stuff

* A wise older friend recently asked me what the opposite of pleasure was. I quickly responded with "pain", which seemed obvious. He said the answer is actually "comfort".

* I still don't know who I'm cheering for in this World Series. My natural reaction to each game has been different. I hate the lame approach of "I just want to see a good series".

* Why are so many triathletes afraid to take an offseason or some downtime? Are they scared of losing all their fitness gains or is it more a vanity thing in that they feel they will get fat and out of shape in just a few weeks?

* I made it through last night (Halloween) without having a single piece of candy. The juice cleanse that I put Lisa and I through accounted for this. The best thing about this cleanse is coming out of it feeling great and being much more aware of your food choices.

* This is a fun time of year to get a bit more involved in strength training. For those of you that I work with, I have a very progressive, effective new functional strength training plan I developed that you will soon enough become acquainted with.

* There's no football on today which is a shame. Except I'm anxious to see Favre return to GB.

* Tuesday night MTB/cross bike rail trail rides begin in two weeks! For those interested, email me. They are easy, aerobic effort on non-technical trail for the most part. Lights required.

* We are preparing for the Plunge in January. If anyone has a really worthwhile cause, please contact me asap.

* Big Rocks sent me the following quote just before Hawaii: "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it."-Michelangelo

Cheers,

EH

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Confession; I'm on the juice.

Just purchased this sucker:

This thing is awesome! It'll juice anything I think. I haven't tried a rock yet, or my cell phone, but I have no doubt it would turn them both into a drinkable liquid.

Since Hawaii, I've let my nutrition slip. There's nothing wrong with doing this for awhile and I always know when it's time to pull in the reigns. Besides the overconsumption of sugar making me crave more sugar (damn that candycorn), what really pushed both Lisa and I over was a bit of overhydration at our Halloween party Saturday night. So I've put us both on a three day juice cleanse and I've been mixing up some great potions. We are both in day two and both notice an unbelievable difference already, in regards to how we feel. In fact, I think this cleanse may be even more effective than my two week cleanse diet. The great thing is the effectiveness of it in three days however, if you've been really bad for awhile and need some drastic changes, I'd probably recommend this for 5 to 7 days. It takes a bit of time to prepare the cocktails, but I don't really mind it. I've been making them in two day batches for the three of us (Lisa recruited her friend Jenny as well) and keeping the juices in containers in the fridge. We haven't really been that hungry, however, Monday and Tuesday are really busy days for us which means no time to obsess about food.

My energy is coming back although I still have a general feeling of lethargy and haven't done much at all in terms of training since Hawaii. I ran once and began some strength training, but that's it. I am mentally ready to go again, however, I want to make sure I'm ready physically to do some easy training and don't want to force anything. I'm realizing a bit more each day now just how much this damn race took out of me. I'm building up my mountain bike though and hopefully we'll have some nice weather this weekend so I can hit the trails.

Otherwise, I've been busy prepping the camps schedule for 2010. I have an exciting new one that I'm planning for early July - I'll announce more information on this one soon but let's just say that it will be an amazing, maybe once in a lifetime opportunity for many. The late February early March Tucson camp already has seven athletes signed up!

Cheers,

EH

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some post race thoughts - then done with this!

The day after the race, Lisa and I went on a great snorkeling trip to Captain Cook's cove, where I almost became a nice snack for a huge moray eel. The woman who took our cash was asking about the IM. She was on the run course as a volunteer and said to me "That can't be a good thing for you?". I replied with "That depends. No, it's not healthy, but many of us do things, have habits, that aren't necessarily healthy yet make us feel good."

Racing an IM is not a healthy thing. The training is not healthy. It's out of balance. Don't confuse being healthy with being fit. You can continue to become more and more fit, yet go past the point where your healthy. I can tell that what we put ourselves through out there when digging really deep for that long, it can't be good. I often think of the repercussions I will pay later on in my life for the damage I am doing now. I wonder if the body can be drained that low and bounce back to it's normal healthy level? Perhaps there is something on a cellular level that doesn't return back to normal. So then why do it? Come on, we all do this not to be healthy but out of mental fulfillment. Our "habit" is an addictive one that makes us feel good (at least that should be the case). The abuse is different and the mental outcome and fulfillment is different than other addicts but we are addicts none the less.

I've been thinking a lot about my eight races on the big island, and maybe it's because this recent one is so fresh, yet I believe this was my best race ever there. It was the hardest one, conditions wise. In 2004, the winds were worse but it wasn't nearly as hot. I was slower in 2004 but not necessarily because of the conditions. 1997 was the most similar to this year in terms of conditions - challenging winds on the bike BUT more importantly, extreme heat and humidity. Heat and humidity effect me much more severely than wind, hills, cold, ... Bigger endurance athletes don't do as well in the heat having more surface area and muscle tissue to cool, making the metabolic demands that much more challenging.

My training for this event consisted of two swims per week, three to four rides per week, three to four runs per week, and one strength training session per week. Not a lot of volume compared to what I have done in the past and compared to what most IM triathletes do. In the range of 14 to 18 hours per week. I'm a firm believer in cumulative base. I have been racing IM's since 96' and have established a really solid base over these years, so my training this time around was more pace specific and getting in key sessions each week. I cut out a lot of the "junk training" or filler that I used to do more so out of not having the necessary time because of other priorities. In doing so, I felt more fresh for my key sessions and had a great build. I caught a head cold with less than two weeks to go from the race and actually carried it into the race. I had a lot of congestion on race day and the days proceeding the race. This head cold, although timing wise not great, was the only real set back in my build.

My legs felt great on race day and thank god for the power meter which kept me in control. I gave up 15 to 20 minutes on the bike compared to how I would have ridden had there been normal conditions. I was hoping that this would allow me to run in the low 3's, in which I didn't, however, I know that had I ridden that 15 to 20minutes harder, I would have been at least 30 minutes slower than the marathon I did run.

In this race, I realized that after competing for a long time, the pursuit of time becomes more irrelevant. Trust me in that I am still just as competitive and still want to go as fast as possible. However, I wonder twenty years from now how much more important a 9:15 would be to me over a 9:45? I just wonder if it will even matter. But I do know that testing my will, exposing my vulnerabilities and facing them head on - these are the things that enrich us. It's in these experiences that we create long lasting memories. I know that by testing my will, I will learn just how fast I can go anyways. This Hawaii, I did the best I could on that day, and I relish in that fact alone.

Hawaii is an amazing trip. It's not just about the race for me. This is an opportunity for Lisa and I to get away and we love this island. We had an amazing time, but Lisa knows that her and I can have an amazing time anywhere. The fact that we are in Hawaii is just a bonus. The race is unreal though, and the amount of energy surrounding it cant be described. The days following the race were spent mostly relaxing, and I thought about when I'd be back here toeing the line once again. I'm not on the every year plan anymore and believe me, I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to race here so often. I don't take for granted by any means the fact that it's truly and honour to race in Hawaii. I am content however, and life gets more and more busy.

I know that I am on the road to recovery though because I'm beginning to plan some goals for next season. And I also heard that Lance is planning to race Hawaii in 2011. I do want to take my kids out there to see me race at least one time...

Thanks to my sponsors - I appreciate loyalty and i will continue to try and represent these companies to the best of my abilities.

Thank you everyone, for reading this "random jibberish", and for your support, and really nice comments.

Cheers,

EH

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kona Report - The Run


Here's where it get's interesting!

T2 was just as hectic as T1. There were athletes everywhere in the tent, yet the volunteers kept the chaos somewhat organized. The volunteers at this race are amazing. First, there are a ton of them, and next, they are really into it. I sat down on a chair to get my race flats on (I wore a pair of Adidas racing flats designed for the marathon which I loved - typically I advise athletes to wear a light weight trainer in an IM for the extra cushioning for a beat up muscular and skeletal system, however these shoes worked great) and a volunteer slapped a cold towel over my back and neck which just felt great. They had another guy asking if I wanted sunblock while another one helped me bag up my bike gear.

I left the transition with my legs feeling good and settling right into a comfortable pace, yet my core temperature was quite high and I was feeling it. The first mile went by quick though and I soon hit the first aid station where I grabbed water, took a sip and poured the rest over my head, grabbed a sip of coke and some cold sponges and headed on towards the next aid station another mile up the road.

The first 10 miles of the run is an out and back along Alii Drive. There are a lot of spectators here cheering you on and as cool as that is, I really dislike this section of the course. The buildings along Alii block any wind from coming through and the air temperatures were now in the high 90's to low 100's. Because it's also so humid, the smells along Alii are really pungent. If you weren't nauseous enough already, this section will put you over the top. I actually prefer being back out on the desolation of the Queen K, but had to wait until mile 11 to get there.

I was only in mile two of the run and with each step, I could feel my body temperature rising more and more. My head felt like it was baking inside my hat. I knew I was in trouble and was doing everything possible to not think about the 24.5 miles I still had left to run. I laughed to myself at the thought that some athletes believe an open marathon is harder than an IM. I began counting, which again, works for me usually. I counted 100 strikes with my left foot, then 100 with my right, then 95 with my left, ... I rolled through aid station two and grabbed the same stuff as the first aid station and this time I also grabbed cups of ice, put some in my mouth and the rest down the front and back of my shorts and top. I was still running at a decent clip, but could already sense that this was going to be short lived as my temperature was now at a point where I felt like I was being boiled for soup in a huge cauldron.

Spectators were standing out on the street in front of thier homes with garden hoses and I was running through everyone offered, weaving back and forth across the road to hit them. I was now seeing the leaders coming back in the other direction and Chris Lieto still had his lead - good for him, although Macca, looking dazed, was closing in fast, and behind him, Alexander and Raelert were running together and looking comfortable.

I hit every aid station, still running, but grabbing everything in site liquid wise. I was losing my appetite which wasn't good and took in more saltstick tabs. I was mostly dumping stuff on me now - water, ice, sponges, more water. The relief from this was very short lived as I'd find myself somewhere in the next mile searching hard for a glimpse of the next aid station, all the while counting to distract my mind.

On the return trip on Alii drive, I was now stopping at the spectators with the hoses and having them fully douse me head to toe, front and back. I saw some of the other CT troops heading out towards the turn around on Alii and gave them some encouragement. First came Mitch West who I had met at the airport on the way out to Kona for the first time. Really nice guy and doing Kona for his first time and doing it well. Next came John Wilson who didn't even hear me, at least I don't think. He looked as bad as I felt but he was still running and moving forward. He's one tough hombre. Next I saw Oakes Ames who never looks as though he is running well but always is. Looks can be deceiving.

At mile eight I no longer knew that trouble was still ahead, it was now here. I was really having difficulty processing the heat and was beginning to get a headache which is a definite sign of dehydration. I hit the rise up Palani Hill at mile ten and began walking. My plan wasn't to walk Palani but I felt I had no other choice. The most spectators on the course are on Palani during the race and they were all yelling at me, positively cheering me on to run. It felt like payback for me doing this at LP as I spectate each year out on harassment hill.

I honestly had thoughts of quitting. I couldn't see myself running another step let alone running 16 more miles. I hate to dramatize things but when you reach this point in an IM, it is dramatic, at least to me. Sure I easily realize there are way more important things in life, yet when you are at such a low spot physically and mentally in an IM, your emotions are amped. I was in one of the lowest, darkest places I've been in before and everything I had, just about, was telling me to throw in the towel.

Then I saw Lisa near the top of Palani as I made the turn onto the Queen K. I looked at her and could see her serious concern and I said "Lis, I'm in bad shape." Yet I was still walking forward. She was really positive and encouraging as she relayed all the "maybes" at me. "Maybe you'll come around in a mile or so." "Maybe the clouds over the mountain will come down." "Maybe once you walk for a bit you'll feel better." Then she said "You can come around, there's still a lot left" to which I remember responding "that's the problem, there's still a lot left. I cant cool down Lis!" I began thinking about all the support I received going into this race. A small cloud covered the sun for maybe 30 seconds and during those seconds, I told Lisa I'm going to try to run, told her to be prepared to be waiting a long time, but I'd be ok. I then started to run again, and as much as I thought about all the support from friends, family, even strangers that I received emails from, the one thing that kept me in it and moving forward was my kids. I thought about what it would be like to tell them I didn't finish the race, and suddenly, quitting wasn't an option. Not finishing wasn't an option anymore. I didn't care how long it was going to take, I was going to finish.

It still seems so vivid, as though I remember almost every step during the rest of the race. Although sitting here relaxed now while writing this, it's easy to forget just how much I was suffering over the last two hrs of this race. My headache throbbed more with each step and the only thing I wanted was to stop and lay down in a tub of ice water. I ran until mile 13.5 and thought "I'm over 1/2 way done with the run! and at the same time I thought "I still have 1/2 the run left!". I began walking again. shortly thereafter, I felt a friendly tap on my back and turned to see Scott Jones, a good friend from Boulder, run past. He said "Come on Eric, you walk the aid stations, not in between. You know better than that." He was right, I did know better and I needed this friendly kick. I began to run again and bridged the gap up to Scott. We ran from aid station to aid station and walked the stations getting in and on as much coolness as possible. It's much better off to try and cool from the inside out, yet my appetite wasn't there and I didn't want to take much in at all. Scott talked a little bit during these miles, I said nothing. It took every bit of energy I had to just run. We ran down into the energy lab where the temperature was near 113 degrees F! We weren't running fast by any means, but we were still passing quite a few people. I was now out of saltstick tabs since I used more than I thought I would and was now relying on gatorade for electrolytes, a situation I don't really prefer. Scott was clearly feeling better than me and saw a marine coming back the other way at the bottom of the energy lab - this guy was leading the military division. I told Scott (a navy guy) to go after him in which he did. I want to thank Scott if he happens to read this. He saved my race for the most part. Until he came along at mile 13.5, I could have easily been content with walking the remainder of the marathon.

Coming out of the energy lab, I passed pro Mike Lovato who was having a tough day. I said "way to stick it out Mike" and he was very gracious in responding. Here's a guy whose aspirations were to win the race overall. Things went south and instead of bailing like Norman Stadler did (I saw him walking on Alii drive), he respects this race to much and walked on to the finish.

The 10k back to town after coming out of the energy lab was unbelievably painful for me. It took everything I had to run aid station to aid station. You have almost every part of you yelling at you, sweet talking you, saying "just stop running and start walking". I did everything I could to just focus on that one small voice that said "keep running you wuss". It was awfully quite out there. There were a lot of athletes, but everyone was silent. The only thing I heard besides these voices from within was the squishing from my soaked running shoes hitting the pavement. I dug as deep as I have ever dug through this 10K section.

Then, as I hit the 24 mile mark, the pain began to switch to elation. I, at that exact moment, was never so proud of a race effort, and I was overcome at the thought that I managed to get through this race and still do so under 10 hours. I began running faster. Corny as it may sound, but I felt goosebumps - which could have also been the dehydration, but no, I know it was from my sense of achievement. I saw Lisa walking up on the Queen K just at the top of Palani and she looked shocked. She said "oh my god, you are back here already?" My MyAthlete device shorted out in the energy lab for some strange reason and she and Brennan thought I was walking the remaining 8 miles. I just pointed at her and said "get to the finish line, it's time to finish this bitch!". I was flying down Palani as though i was sandbagging the first 24 miles but believe me, it was just from the endorphins off of getting through this amazing event. I saw a guy up the road running with an orange bracelet meaning he was in my age group and took off after him. I sprinted past two more young guys on Alii in the last .5 mile and as much as I savor this part of the race, on this day, I just wanted to finish. I crossed the line in 9:51 and all the endorphins tapped out as I all of sudden felt awful. Lisa and the holders walked me through the finish area chaos where I ran into Trephina Galloway, an Aussie doctor who was working the Med tent earlier in the day and also a friend who has attended a bunch of my camps. She was so kind in that a few days before, I told her I was going to try and find her at the finish to have her give me an IV. She waited at the finish line, maybe not for me, but she was there and brought me into the med tent for an IV and I'm extremely appreciative. Thanks Trephina, and thank god they didn't need my temperature. (the mouth thermometer wasn't working and another doctor wanted my temp and was insistent at first on doing it anally, no joke! I told her I was all of a sudden feeling fine, she caved and just gave me the IV.)

Based on my training, I was aiming for a low 9 hr race. I felt fit enough to knock of a 3:10 marathon. Based on the conditions, I was over 30 minutes slower than what I wanted and did one of my slower IM times, running the marathon in 3:35. Based on the race experience I had, it was my best IM to date. I really realized that an IM is about testing your will, about peeling back the layers so there is nothing for you to hide behind and you are left faced with the raw honesty of finding out who you are and what you are made of. Doing a fast time or a pr is just a bonus. You don't get this experience in shorter races.

I know I've been very lengthy and again, if anyone is still hanging in there reading this, thank you. I intend on writing a post race wrap up mainly because this blog has become my own personal journal. But again, thanks for reading and I hope it wasn't to boring thus far.

Cheers,

EH

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kona Report - the bike


So after speaking to quite a few people about the race, I’m even more content with my swim time. A few of the guys I spoke to were expecting to swim in the mid 50’s based on doing this time at IMLP and IMCDA and they came out in 1:01. I guess that return current did slow things down quite a bit.

I was really excited to be on my bike. I love my bike and I love riding, simple as that. I love the speed, the fact that you can explore and cover lots of ground, I love the tech aspect – the bike is easily my favorite part of the race. When asked what my strength is in triathlon, I usually respond that I’m kind of equal in all three of the disciplines. However, I think if I began at a young age with this sport or any of the disciplines individually, I’d have the most potential physiologically in cycling. This could just be my love for cycling speaking though.

The first eight miles of the bike course, in my opinion, are silly. The course zig-zags through Kailua doing a bizarre figure eight before climbing up Palani Hill and heading north on the Queen K. I much preferred the old course even with the two transition areas. This initial eight miles is actually quite hilly though and doesn’t allow you to get in any rhythm to soon. Funny, most that see the bike course for the first time are amazed by how hilly it actually is. Typically we just hear about the challenge of the weather conditions, forgetting, not discussing, or underestimating that there is over 4000 feet of climbing. I love the course though – the climbs suit my riding style extremely well in that they are the long, gradual constant rollers that I can power through.

Speaking of power, I had a specific plan for this race, and as I mentioned, the goal was to keep the ride effort on the comfortable side so that hopefully I’d be able to run well in these conditions. I set ceilings for my power output on the flats and hills and stuck to them. I certainly don’t think that a power meter is a necessity for IM racing, but man, it sure helps keep me where I need to be. If any of the number geeks are interested in what my specific power plan was or what numbers I averaged, I’ll put it out there.

Back to the race; I left T1 with a bunch of other athletes and some of these guys were taking off as though they were doing a sprint. A friend of mine came by me on the long climb up the kuakini highway at mile four and said “let’s go!” I told him to be patient, we were just getting started. I stuck to my plan and watched a bunch of athletes ride away – this is hard for me to let happen, so I was constantly reminding myself of my plan. I told myself that I’d see most of these guys later on and sure enough, I did.

The heat and humidity began really early on during the bike in comparison with other years. Yet, there was a pesky slight headwind as well once you got past the airport. I was alternating between EFS and water, sipping often and downing about 30 ounces per hour. In addition, I was taking a saltstick capsule every 20 to 30 minutes. I planned on using natural pop tarts on the bike for calories along with the EFS and cliffbars. This worked well in training. However, I couldn't find the natural poptarts in Kona, so I was using regular pop tarts (your physiology needs simple sugars and lots of calories during an IM). Lisa, who I call my coach, told me the day before that they were going to be to dry to eat during the race and she was right. Eating these, it felt like I had a mouthful of dirt. I tossed my pop tarts aside at the next aid station and quickly adjusted to a new plan – get in some coke at each aid station. I typically don’t start with coke so early in the race but why the hell not? It works well for me.

Probably 95% of the field was wearing aero helmets - even the athletes who were going to be out there on race day for 14 or more hours. I still believe this is stupid in Hawaii. You need the vents. A friend of mine who was racing said he wears it not so much for the aerodynamics but more so to keep the sun off his bald dome and neck. I wore my road helmet and was glad I did as I poured lots of water through it throughout the ride. Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington (the male and female overall winners) seem to agree with me as they were wearing standard road helmets.

As I climbed towards Hawi, I got a first hand seat of the pro race as the lead riders were coming the other way. Chris Lieto was off the front by maybe 45 seconds on a group of three that included Eneko Llnaos, Faris Al Sultan, and someone else. Then, a further minute back was the main group. These guys were all hammering! The pros start 15 minutes ahead of the age groupers and their plan is to really work the first half of the bike to get out ahead of the winds which typically pick up shortly after 9am. What was amazing was how close Chrissie Wellington was to the lead group of pro men, and how big a gap she had already had on the next women. Speaking of the pro’s beginning at 6:45am, I think this is wrong. This race has grown yet they are still trying to keep the main principals in place. The IM was always about everyone starting together, amateurs and pros and everyone racing the same course and the same conditions. Those 15 minutes makes a huge difference. Not that I am racing against the pros, just more so that it would make there race even more interesting. They began this 15 minute head start because a few of the female pros bitched about the contact during the swim from the amateur men. There were plenty of amateur women swimming near me during the race and didn’t seem to have a problem with the contact – as I mentioned in my swim recap.

I kept a very steady, controlled pace and went through 56 miles in around 2 hrs 23 minutes and I was thinking that I was going to have a sub 5 hr ride easily since the return trip is more downhill than up. Madame Pele had other plans as she shifted the winds soon after I reached the turn around and gave all us amateurs a nice, stiff headwind all the way back to the airport.

I went through Kawaihai on the return trip and was looking for Lisa – seeing her for the few brief seconds I get to during an IM race is really important to me. I don’t really know why other than the fact that she brings out the best in me. The picture above is me yelling to her that I felt great, which I did – the ride felt easy thus far. It really did, yet I could feel the heat and humidity and knew that I needed to stay very controlled. In fact, at about the 70 miles mark, Doug Clark, the guy who won my age group, came by and I had to make a decision; up my pace and go with him or stick to my plan. I stuck to my plan since the wind was also working us quite hard on the return trip and didn’t want to risk blowing up. Kudos to Doug who rode really well and ran even better.The ride from Kawaihai back to the airport had the strongest winds we'd encountered during this race, slowing things significantly. Kona is so strange in that once you got past the airport, this heavy wind all but disappeared.

The last 20 miles of Hawaii are so different, race wise, than the first 92. If you have ridden smart, you begin reeling in a lot of suffering athletes. It’s amazing because some of these guys looked so bad, I remember thinking what the hell were they doing? How could they be this far up in the race and pedaling so poorly now? It’s not like its one or two athletes, it’s a lot! There is a lot of drafting in Hawaii, yet the last 1/3rd of the race is usually quite honest. Everyone around me had salt caked up all over their uniforms. Most think that this means they are getting dehydrated, yet it could just mean that you are taking in a lot of sodium and your body is expelling what it doesn’t need. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in a hyponatremic state.

Around mile 100, I wanted off the bike. My legs still felt solid as well as my energy, and even mentally I was fine. My contact points though were beginning to ask for forgiveness. Contact points are the parts on you that touch the parts on your bike. It was mainly my feet and my arms. My ass was fine on the saddle – I wasn’t moving around too much looking for that comfy spot. But the bottom of my feet felt tender, mostly from being soggy with salt water and sweat and from pushing against the pedals. My forearms were tired of being in the aero position – on this course; I don’t leave this position much at all. My aero pads are really comfortable yet again, from sweating so much and pouring water over myself, this contact point gets irritated. Hawaii is a race where you race wet all day. You come out of the water and you never dry off because of the humidity. Then you sweat an excessive amount. On top of that, every five miles on the bike and every mile on the run there is an aid station and I would grab a water bottle each time and pour it through my helmet, squirt my face, empty it down my back and front in an effort to stay cool.

Rolling into T2, I mentally was in a good place. I enjoyed the ride, managed my reserves well and was actually enjoying the day thus far. An IM is more a test of will rather than a race (more on this in a future report). I felt that the test thus far was in displaying patience and racing smart. I hadn't reached any point yet where I felt like I was in a low spot and needed to search for the "whys" and convince my self to move onward. I wasnt even close to this point - yet anyways, I haven't finished my run report yet. In 2004, I got off the bike in T2 and knew in my first few steps running in transition that it was going to be a tough marathon. This go around, was the opposite. I swung my right leg back over my saddle as I rolled the last 20 meters into transition, leaving both my bare feet standing on top of just my left shoe now which was still attached to the pedal. A volunteer awaited my hand off as I hopped off and ran, letting my bike keep rolling right at them. My legs felt solid! Yet I still had a bit of a run left…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kona Race Day Report - part I

God, what an experience Hawaii puts you through! Of the many times I've raced here, it feels as though I'm doing it for the first time once again - sort of. There are some memories that become ingrained like the fact that at some point, you are going to be in a really low place and this is when you will learn a ton about what you are made of. I have yet to do a Hawaii IM where I didn't struggle physically and mentally at some point. If someone says that they have raced here and everything went flawless and they felt super the whole time, I'm calling bullshit.


I slept well on the eve of the race. Lisa and I ordered room service, she was out by 7pm, I was out by around 8pm. I slept until 3:45am, waking up without my alarm, anxious to get the day started. Two bagels with peanut butter, a chocolate chip cliff bar, a banana, a glass of oj, and a cup of coffee, and breakfast was in me and I was on my way to the pier.


Check in, body marking and all the pre race protocol went smoothly, they really do an amazing job with the organization of this event. I met Lisa outside of the transition area, and applied about five layers of sunscreen. Seriously. You could feel and see the nervous energy around you. All the competitors had that look in their eyes that was half courageous and half timid. I'm sure I was one of them. It was humid already even though the sun was barely up. Humid to the point where sitting there doing nothing, you are still in a sweat. I thought it may have just been the pre-race nerves, but looking around at the perspiration on those not racing, it was evident that it was going to be a very sticky day.


I had re-evaluated my race day strategy and my new plan was to swim and bike easy, as though I were doing an easy training session. I had been in Kona for five days now trying to acclimate and it just wasn't enough time. i was mentally trying to convince myself all week that the heat wouldn't matter because I was more fit than ever, yet if your gut doesn't buy it... I was more fit than ever but I knew that I wasn't acclimating to the weather like I had in the past. i could just tell - it was similar to how I felt in St. Croix leading up to that race. Besides the exceptionally hot and humid weather and lack of winds that Kona was experiencing, the mild summer in CT certainly played a big part. All the pros and most of the top age groupers had been on the island for two weeks or more to adapt, and all the studies show that it takes a minimal of eight days to really begin to acclimatize to high heat and humidity. I couldn't get out here any earlier and so took a chance that I'd be fine. I wanted to start the run as fresh as possible, considering I had to swim and ride a bit beforehand. So the plan was to enjoy the swim and keep it easy, and set specific wattage ceilings for the bike course.

I downed a flask of ESF liquid shot for another instant 400 calories (I really like this stuff!), then gave Lisa a big hug and she began to well up as I made my way to the swim start. Funny, I hate to overdramatize things yet there is something about race morning of an IM that makes those around you very emotional.

I seeded myself in the front row, very far to the left, or outside line. The swim is a 1.15 mile straight out, swim .1 around some buoys, then 1.15 mile straight return trip. Ok, before describing the swim, first a brief synapses of my swim training for this event. I have often mentioned how I neglect my swimming and don't swim nearly enough. In the past, I'd cram for an IM swim and would try interjecting a lot of intervals into my sparse training. this would leave me flat because I never really established the seasonal base swim fitness to support this, and I'd work harder than I'd prefer to over the 2.4 miles on race day. So this time, I focused on longer, but easier distance. I did quite a few open water swims in LI Sound, and when in the pool, I focused mostly on form, efficiency, and feel for the water while aiming for 4000 yds. I swam twice per week for eight weeks leading into the race. I missed two weeks out because of this cold I contracted, but did swim four days during race week - four nice and easy swims. So now I'm treading water for 15 minutes waiting for the gun to fire as the competitors around me squeeze in closer and closer and inch further and further forward, kicking our legs as we try to stay afloat. I actually grabbed one European guy who was really crowding me and threw him as I scolded him. That bought me a bit more space from the others around me who witnessed this. We were all very anxious and our nerves were on edge making it easy to over react to small things.

Finally, the gun sounded and the mad frenzy of 1800 swimmers crammed into a small space and thrashing forward began. I swam straight forward and even though the plan was to swim easy, I thought I'd take the first 100 strokes fairly hard to see if I could get on some fast feet and maybe get some open water. I then settled in and focused on relaxing. I did swim easy effort wise, although I got the shit beat out of me through just about the whole swim. Everyone is so good at Hawaii and it never thins out. For 2.4 miles, you are constantly getting kicked, punched, swam over and pulled under. It's not that the competitors are doing this intentionally, everyone is kind of fighting for their own space. Yet everyone is also trying to follow someone elses feet and there is a constant fight for this. I do have to say though that the women are worse than the men in terms of fighting for space! They kick harder, scratch and seem to want to swim right on top of you. As much as I discussed my love of swimming at the pier during race week, it's as though you are swimming in a different place on race day and it's really not that enjoyable at all. You no longer are swimming smoothly looking at all the sea life underneath you but instead are thrashing and fighting, trying to keep some form. I do have to say though that effort wise, the swim felt smooth and easy and right on track with my race day plan. I'm a counter to pass the time and stay present, so I count 100 strokes on my right arm, 100 strokes on my left, ... Figuring the math in my head, i guessed it would take around 900 strokes to reach the turnaround and I was dead on track. Coming back was a bit more due to the reverse current. I never felt throughout the swim that I was tired and never thought much about what I still had left for the day - things I have done before in previous IM's and things that aren't productive. I exited the pacific in 1 hr and made my way through T1. There were a ton of athletes who came out between 59 minutes and 1 hr 1 minute making T1 frantic with energy. But, I had one leg down, and only two more to go and thus far, I was relaxed and actually enjoying the day! However, the swim is the easiest and shortest leg there was a lot of day left...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Brutal!

Well, it's not what I was hoping for time wise, but I'll take it all things considered. I did a 9:51 (was aiming for a 9:20). The heat and humidity just killed me. I swam and biked conservatively since I knew the run was going to be really hot (more so than usual here) and my legs felt good on the run at first but my body temp just kept rising and rising. The air temp reached 113 degrees in the energy lab during the race! At mile 11, I didn't know if I was going to be able to run (I walked up Palani) again. I just never felt like I was acclimating this week and it showed yesterday. The marathon was by far my hardest marathon to date, will and effort wise.

I'll write a full report when I get a chance but I need to try and get some sleep now. Thanks everyone truly, for all your support.

Cheers,

EH

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kona Report - Day 5

It's the eve of my big race and I just finished having my traditional pre-race dinner of pizza and a glass of red wine through room service with Lisa. That's right, Lisa got in last night and man was it great to see her.

I started the day with an early morning easy run here. I took my camera along and snapped some pictures.



It's quite easy to see why I love Hawaii so much.
This day before run is more important than most may think, at least for me anyway. It's a time where I sort my thoughts, relax, put things in perspective and convince myself that over thinking is wasteless at this point. No sense in over analyzing anymore. The coughs or small aches don't matter. The weather doesn't matter. What I did two minutes ago doesn't matter. Because it's now go time and I came here to participate in this race and that's exactly what I will be doing tomorrow.
I received countless emails and phone calls today - it was really quite special. I almost feel as though this is my first IM ever based on the support I've received. Thank you so much everyone. Everyone who sent me good vibes and nice messages, please no that i received them all and they were extremely appreciated. Jeff M. - great message you left for me. Thanks. Dad, your email was awesome - thank you. I have a lot of great friends behind me.
It's a privilege to be able to participate in this sport, and especially at this event. A privilege I don't take for granted. I plan on making the most of my day tomorrow. One of the overwhelming messages in many of the supportive emails I received today stressed the importance of taking in the experience tomorrow - not just the race. This is something that I needed to hear , because it's funny, I stress this message to my athletes yet personally I get caught up easily in the race. I'll be there to race tomorrow, and I will also be cognisant of taking in the experience.
I had to check my bike in today and grabbed it form the guys at Cannondale (below) before handing it over to T1.

Here's Murry, the ace mechanic, with my bike in the background.
I was thinking about the Tour De France today and how difficult this event is and also how they get three weeks worth of experience. An IM is only one day. It seems like such a daunting event yet think about it, it's just one day. How easy is it to waste a day away? And at the same time, think about what you could possibly accomplish in one day.

OK, Lisa and I will probably watch a mindless movie now and hopefully I'll drift off early. I have a 4am wake up call that begins my one day tomorrow.
Cheers,
EH



Thursday, October 08, 2009

Kona Report - Day 4

I signed out of one hotel and checked into the other one today, where i will be spending the rest of my stay. Lisa comes in tonight and we like being out where we are, which is 30 miles from Kailua. It's a beautiful spot though, and I'm finally getting a chance to relax in my room here this afternoon after another busy morning. At the moment, I'm looking out the window at a palm tree that is still as can be. I've never seen this here before - typically, it's being blown towards the ocean from the trade winds coming off of Mauna Kea. It's just bizarre.

Below, you can see Baker floating around at Hapuna Beach. The shot below him is a view from the Queen K from my ride on Tuesday.

Not a bad view, eh? I love palm trees.

Below here, you can see that Molson made the trip out as well. Thanks for the support my man.

I took my camera out with me on my early morning swim today.

After my swim, I did an easy 40 minute ride to test out the Cannondale. Murry from Cannondale was once again the ace mechanic here. This guy is the man. As I brought him my bike yesterday, he had another bike on his stand that he was working on. He said "perfect timing" as he took that bike off the stand and put mine on and began working on it. the bike he took off was Chrissie Wellington. Faris Al Sultan brought his bike by later on for Murry to work on - Faris isn't even sponsored by Cannondale anymore yet he wants no one else but Murry working on his. Kind of cool and lucky to have this guy treating my bike and a peon like me just as important as these top pros. I'm not worthy.
I met up with Desiree Ficker at the MyAthlete booth at 11am where she hung for awhile and signed autographs. She was great and she's a magnet for getting people (funny, both men and women) into the booth. Speaking of MyAthlete, if you get bored on Saturday and want to see where I am on the course, you can track me here: www.MapMyAthlete.com/vemap.aspx?name=010129

I'm starting to get excited to race. At this point, I just want it here. I want to race, I want to be out there on Saturday which is good. At the same time, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want this to be over with. I look forward to lying on the beach on Sunday with Lisa.
First though, I have some exercise to do.
Cheers,
EH




Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kona Report - Day 3

Race week should be relaxing, right? Staying off your feet, easy training, out of the sun, time to nap... I don't know what's going on here but thus far it's been anything but. I'm all registered though and as tempted as I was to represent Uzbekistan for the race, the IM organization corrected my citizenship status. So besides a few more minor obligations, I'm chilling out until Saturday morning.

What was relaxing initially today was my 6:30am 30 minute run from the hotel down into the pit and back. My legs felt good, and the sun wasn't full ablaze yet, so I was moving nicely. Supposedly the trade winds will be back this weekend, and I welcome them, because even the islanders here are complaining about the heat and humidity.

Working the Myathlete tent at the expo has been fun. It gives my mind a break from thinking about the race, and I get to talk to all the intense athletes, and more importantly, their families. The Myathlete device is small now - about the size of a 9 volt battery, yet the biggest "worry" from the athletes is the size and weight of it. I feel like asking them point blank; "Listen, are you gonna win the race? Are you even going to win your age group? Because if this isn't even a possibility, do you really think the small bit of added weight is going to matter?".

Speaking of weight, I was weighed in at registration and I'm over 9 lbs lighter than I was when I raced here in 2006. That was probably the last time I was on a scale.

Right after registering, I went for an easy 25 minute swim in the ocean. It was about 10am and the hoards were gone and it was really peaceful. Clay T. was telling me how swimming here freaks him out because the visibility is so good and it makes him nervous seeing everything below. I guess he prefers swimming in the six inch visibility of LI sound. I found a nice rhythm as the rolling gentle waves moved me around, making this swim relaxing to me.

Thinking about it now, the two times I was able to relax today was while training. I need to remember this on race day when I get into battle mode and where I can easily overwork it. My best results typically come when I can relax during a race.

Maybe I'm having a hard time relaxing not so much because of a busy schedule but more so from a bit of race nerves. I still have some slight congestion and as much as I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter, the fact is that I know that to do this race well, you need to be 100%. I go in and out of the race nerves throughout the day. One moment, I'm overly analyzing how I feel, the next I'm focused on how beautiful some parts of this island are. Even Alii drive which has become quite "commercial" - it runs right along the ocean, with the waves rolling in, and the black lava and white sand shining through the crystal clear water. Standing on Alii drive, you have the choice to focus on an outdated hotel or junky strip mall across the street or you can focus on the beauty of the ocean. Funny, that's the answer right there with my own race day nerves and over analyzing my cold. It's all about perspective. And as i tell my son, having some pre-game nerves shows that it means something to you. In fact, the day I am not a bit nervous before a big race is the day I hang it up. For awhile anyways.

Just finished a great sushi dinner and a large Asahi beer. Life is good.

Cheers,

EH

Kona Report - Day 2




Apologies for not getting this up sooner. The hotel Internet was on the fritz last night. I'll get two posted today to catch up.

Tuesday before IM is always a busy day for me. It's my last day of getting in a few longer sessions - long during a taper, yet short in relation to IM training.



The day began w/ a 45 minute swim at the pier. The water was calm today weather wise, yet turning w/ the energy of hundreds of triathletes. I'm standing here in the above picture looking serious post swim w/ my boy "hot shorts".



While making my way to Lavajava for breakfast, I ran into a bunch of CT friends randomly, including the twins John Wilson and Oakes Ames, Jason Weisberg, Mitch West, Scott Harrison, and Chuck Sperrazza. After shooting the shit briefly, I had to get jet in pursuit of some food before heading up to Hapuna to ride to Hawi w/ Mike Kane.

Kailua was overcast this morning, however, further up the Kona coast at Hapuna Beach, the sun was out in full force and it was hot! The plan was to ride out 1 hr 5 min then turn for a 2 hr total ride. I climbed easily towards Hawi at 19 to 20 mph thinking about the strangeness occurring. That strangeness was the fact that there was no wind! This is typically the windiest part of the course. Anyone that was there checking out Hawi got a false perception of what it's typically like. I for one know that the wind will be there race day and you know what, I kind of welcome it, because without the wind, it was sweltering. The humidity on the Kona coast is just brutal. You get used to walking around all swampy. I have to say that my biggest concern on race day is how I'll handle the heat and humidity this year. We had such a mild summer in CT and I do feel less acclimated than I typically would while out here. I felt strong on the ride however, and kept the pace comfortable with a few sections at IM pace. Towards the end of the 2 hr ride, I could feel the heat getting to me a bit. Staying on top of my hydration replacement on race day is going to be crucial.



I was riding with a local yesterday. Well, he was a young guy who moved to the Island from Montana three years ago after college because he fell in love with the island. He was racing and commented on how boring the course is. I told him that yes, it can be boring, however, i love looking off towards the ocean. I replied how he's jaded now and takes this for granted because he experiences it every single day. Many in life dream of moving to their favorite destination. It's interesting how quickly the image of their nirvana changes once they experience it regularly.



A short 20 minute transition run (my run legs felt great!) and I was done with my training for the day. I walked down to Hapuna Beach and floated around for awhile. I've never seen the water as clear as it was today at the beach, and it felt great just to relax for a bit.


As I rode today, I was thinking about "suffering" and how the key on any given race day is to work on mastering the art of suffering. More on this later.

The IM parade was last night and since they currently have me representing Uzbekistan in the official Hawaii IM information for this years race, I thought I'd march, however, promised Brennan I'd help out at the MyAthlete tent since the expo began right after the parade. I worked the expo for about three hours before joining Mitch West for dinner. It was a busy Tuesday. I hope that Wed, Thu and Fri are more relaxing, yet somehow, I doubt it.

Cheers,

EH

Monday, October 05, 2009

Kona Report - travel day(s)

Hawaii from the east coast is a long, long trip, but as I remind my wife, we are traveling to Hawaii, not Nebraska (no offense Nebraska, it's just not Hawaii).

Sunday began by loading up the car, including the family and heading out at 9am to JFK airport. Lisa and the kids were kind enough to drop me off and thankfully there was no traffic on this Sunday morning. Kate was hugging me so tight and had big crocodile tears flowing from her huge brown eyes making leaving for Hawaii almost seem wrong. I'm not good at the "out of site, out of mind" thing and pictured her along with Ryan who was welled up but trying not to show it for the better part of the day and night.

I used mileage to upgrade Lisa and I and was able to skip the long, long check in line, and even schmoozed the cute girl at ticketing to let my bike box packed to the gils and well over 50 lbs to travel for free. So far in this long day, so good.

My first flight to LA was uneventful. I watched a few movies including The Hangover in which the woman sitting next to me laughed hard at me laughing hard at the movie. The band camp girl from American Pie who's on that sitcom w/ Doogie Howser sat in front of me.

I had a brief 1 hr layover in LA, then on to Honolulu next. Again, uneventful besides sitting next to Gammy in row 1b who along with the trigeeks had on her compression socks even though she wasn't racing (one guy on the plane looked like he was dressed to race already! I guess you never know when the cannon may fire...) and who sucked down coffee the whole flight making her getting up to pee every 10 minutes, meaning consequently I'd have to get up and let her out every ten minutes. She was actually very sweet though and surprisingly, we talked quite a bit.

I cant sleep on planes. I don't really sleep well in general, so on a plane - forget it. I stepped off the plane in Honolulu at 8:30 Hawaii time or 2:30am et. My flight to Kona was delayed! These island hopper flights are always delayed because they basically have one plane per island that runs back and forth and gets backed up. I wandered around the airport looking for some edible food which is challenging, especially on a Sunday night when most things were closed.

I finally arrived in Kona at 10:30pm Hawaii time (4:30am et), and waited at baggage claim. And waited. And waited. Turns out that they held 80 bags and 26 bikes in Honolulu because of weight distribution on the plane. My bags wouldn't be there until the morning.

Picked up my rental car and checked in to the hotel at 11:20pm (5:20am et) w/ no bags and tried to get some sleep. Was up talking to Lisa at 2:30 am here, drifted back off around 4am, and awoke again at 6:30am. Anyway, it was a long trip, but as i told Brennan, "shit happens". And I'm in Hawaii.

I headed over to the airport after hitting Lavajava for some breakfast and my luggage was there. On the drive back, I stopped at the Pier and swam for 30 minutes.

This is when this trip to Hawaii really begins for me. Swimming at the pier in the amazing salt water with 100+ft visibility and fish swimming everywhere is therapeutic. It relaxes me and is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Amazing that all it takes is this first, easy swim to make me forget quickly about all the travel bs from the night/day before.

Now I just need to clear this cold out of me and all will be good.

OK, kind of a boring post, but I am on probably 4 hrs of broken sleep and promised to post daily, so I'll make a better effort tomorrow. I'm sure the next 24 hrs will be eventful.

Cheers,

EH

Friday, October 02, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hawaii Picks

Here's mine:

1. Craig Alexander - going out on a limb! I just cant see anyone matching his run.
2. Chris McCormick - will try to run with Alexander until the energy lab.
3. Eneko Llanos - this guy will either win it or be third. If he gets a gap on the bike...
4. Chris Lieto - he'll come off the bike with a huge lead but get run down.
5. Andy Potts - climbing the ladder

For the women, it's the Chrissie show. All the websites and rags keep trying to make a race out of it with the other women who are all fine athletes, but let's face it, she's in her own league.