Saturday, October 20, 2012

Things Happen For A Reason

As we were standing out on Alii drive just before heading into medical, Lisa said to me "you look great, as though you didn't even swim and bike!"  This added to the frustration because I felt solid, ready to run a good marathon.  We had to wait around to get my bike from the transition area so we headed over to Huggo's On The Rocks to grab some fish tacos and a beer.  As imaginable, my emotions were bouncing back and forth between sadness and anger.  I said to the kids "Listen, we are going to still have a great vacation.  This is a minor hiccup, but we Hodska's keep our heads up and chins high."  Corny, but relevant.  At one point while eating I just started to laugh and said to Lisa "Can you believe I'm out of the IM because someone stepped on my toe?!!"  I view one of my main strengths my toughness.  I told Molson before the race that my key word was resilience.  And I was taken out by my toes getting stepped on.  It is kind of humorous.   

The hardest part was when we walked back to the transition area, down Alii drive towards the finish line, listening to Mike Reilly announcing to the joyously overwhelmed athletes finishing "You are an Ironman!".  Lisa and Kate were walking a few feet in front of us, and Kate turned around with tears in her eyes and ran up and gave me a huge hug.  My heart just sank.   

We've had an amazing family vacation in Hawaii.  The best one yet.  The day after the IM, we took the kids to swim with the dolphins and to Hapuna beach and they were having so much fun, forgetting quickly the drama of the previous day.  That's the beauty of being a kid; their ability to move forward and jump head first into the next day. 

I've had ample time now to reflect on my challenging day.  First off, had this been my very first Hawaii Ironman, I would have walked the marathon.  I thought that I didn't take the fact of how hard Hawaii is to get into for granted, but now I know to some degree I do.    I've crossed that amazing finish line many times before.  I know what it takes to prepare to qualify and do well in this race and I will do so again in the future if and when I'm ready.  In 1996, when I qualified for Hawaii for my very first time, I thought that that was going to be my one time to race the Hawaii Ironman.  I have returned to race there eight times since then.  Since 1996, every year that I've wanted to qualify and race Hawaii, I have.  I feel extremely fortunate that I have been blessed with a bit of genetics that, combined with hard work, will earn me a coveted slot for Hawaii.  I kept thinking about the fact that what if this was my one opportunity, like so many triathletes out there, to race here and this happened?  So how could I be that angry or sad for that matter?  If anything, it made me realize even more my fortune.  And the fact that I didn't go out there and hobble through the marathon shows that i do to some degree take these things I've mentioned above for granted.  But that's also not what I came to Hawaii to do.  (One quick side note on the race itself; It's been changing since 96'.  I notice it more and more each year, but they are letting more and more people in each year, and the depth of talent is becoming greater meaning the field doesn't thin out much throughout the race.  The swim used to be aggressive for the first third, then you'd find your space.  Then it was the first two thirds were extremely physical, and now it's the whole swim.  The bike portion is the same; The first third used to be very congested but the climb to Hawi would thin things out.  Now it's even more congested and it doesn't thin out much at all.  I used to think that drafting was avoidable no matter what but I am no longer this naive.  The race really wasn't enjoyable.  They need to begin thinking about wave starts and not letting the size of the field grow any larger.) 

Someone mentioned to me; "That's a shame, all that training and this happens!".  I don't look at it that way at all and that's why I also wrote up my report card for my build up prior to my race.  I like seeing what type of new level or condition I can put myself in.  I see many training for an Ironman and they begin to question why they are doing so.  the work they are putting in becomes so controlling and overwhelming and as physically exhausted as they are, they become even more mentally exhausted.  This, to me, signifies that this athlete is taking the wrong personal approach towards their race.  As I mention to all my athletes, I want them to enjoy the process.  I certainly did this time around. 

I view these set-backs as a learning opportunity as well.  This set back was mainly out of my control, but I learned not to line up inside on the buoy line in Hawaii unless I plan on swimming in the low 50's.  I also learned even more to appreciate all my Ironman finishes.  But the main thing I learned, and this lesson became clear in the days proceeding the race, was that triathlon in itself is just a part of who I am but it doesn't define me, so don't take it to seriously.  After all, there are far greater situations taking place daily that easily put things into perspective.  I can't worry about one dnf from just a race.   

I've had set backs before in my racing career and I've always followed them up with bigger and better experiences.  Always.  So I'm excited and driven to see where 2013 takes me.  My IM pr comes off of a set back from the previous IM.  Thinking about this, maybe this is part of the plan?  Think what you want - that we create our own luck and destiny, which to some degree is true, but I also believe that, if you are a hard worker, a doer, and stay positive and progressive, that things can happen for a reason.   

One of my friends mentioned to me that it's important for kids to see their parents struggle at times or fail certain tasks, and to see that a) they're human, and b) how they handle themselves in the face of adversities.  Another friend sent me a great Teddy Roosevelt speech titled "The Man In The Arena" which was extremely poignant.  It made me realize how important it is for my kids to see the value in putting yourself out there, going for some goals or things that most can't imagine, and that yes, you may fail at times, but the importance is in that you took the chance and put yourself out there to begin with.  I was very moved by the outpouring of support from friends.  Thank you!! 

The days following the race, we explored the Hawaii coastline in a sea raft, seeing manta rays and pods of dolphins and learning about the history of the amazing big island.  We explored coast line trails, swam at beautiful beaches where the sand was so soft and the water so clear.  We ate at some amazing restaurants, we went down water slides, we did stand up paddle boarding, and we laughed a bunch.  Life is not bad at all, and I will continue to put myself out there.   

I can't wait to come back in March for my Kona Camp.  And my kids cannot wait to return since they claimed they get a redo. 



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kona - race day

Sometimes things don't turn out anything like you planned.  Maybe there's a bigger picture?

I felt solid race morning.  Nervous, yes, which is always good, but ready.  I lined up inside and up front for the swim, and waited for the gun.  All mass start swims are aggressive, but Hawaii's is much more than any other race given the fact that everyone is so fast.  I expected a lot of contact for not just the start but the whole swim and sure enough, this was the case.  I'm okay with that.  What I didn't expect was for some ass hole to stomp his heal into my head at around the two minute mark.  Usually you get kicked from people just exaggerating their normal swim kick, but this was more aggressive.  This stomp stopped me cold and dazed for a few seconds.  I floated onto my back absorbing the sting while more swimmers pummeled me trying to get by.   I then put my head back down and continued on.  Besides a headache and some dizziness, I felt comfortable in the water and swam fairly easy, saving my energy for the bike and run.  The swim went by actually quickly and I was anxious to get on the bike.  One discipline done, two more to go.

I ran through transition and grabbed my bike bag and headed into the changing tent.  Volunteers were telling us to make our way to the far end where there was more room.  The tent was chaotic with frantic triathletes changing into their bike gear.  I sat down in a chair and began to dig through my bike bag, when the unfortunate happened; an athlete to my left leapt out of his chair and began to run towards the exit in his bike shoes.  With all his weight, he landed with one of his strides on my left foot, and in particular my big toe and the one next to it.  The pain was severe but I tried to not think about it and shoved my feet into my own shoes and hobbled to my bike.  The first few peddle strokes, I knew there was trouble in the foot, but again, just did my best to block it out.

My legs felt good and I was moving along at a nice smooth clip.  Again, it was very congested out there.  The fact that everyone is so fast and that they now let 2000 athletes in as opposed to 1500 when I first raced here made things more crowded out on the bike course than my eight other times here.  Around 15 miles in, I moved to the left to pass a line of 20 or more athletes.  As I'm passing, I come up on another athlete who is passing on the left and sit there for not even three seconds as I caught a quick breather before moving past him, when a motorcycle pulls up to my left and flashes me the red drafting card.  20 years in the sport and I get my first drafting penalty!  At maybe the 30 mile mark, there is the penalty tent where I have to stop and dismantle for four minutes to serve my penalty.  there were a bunch of athletes in the tent including former big time pro Ken Glah who is known for his strength on the bike.  It's good they were giving penalties, the problem is that there was no way for the field to thin out.  Simple math of too many athletes in too small a space on the course. I remounted and continued on, and wasn't thinking much about my throbbing foot because my head was throbbing!  The winds began to kick in and they were gusting hard from the side.  As we climbed towards Hawi, I was zoned out for a bit, not really paying attention to anything.  An athlete passed me on the left then immediately cut in front of me.  I came to attention and began to drift back giving him his legal space when I get the card again from another motorcycle!  I yelled "Are you f'n kidding me?!" at the official but he just drove onwards.  Just past the turnaround, I served my second four minute penalty.  As I stood down, I didn't feel right.  Not my legs or stomach, but my head and foot.  I did my best again to block it out and continue on.  My legs felt good and I was riding at a conservative pace.

The rest of the ride was a conscious effort to stay focused on keeping my space on the crowded course and disconnecting from the pain.  The bike was interesting this year in that the wind came in sections.  One moment, you are flying along at 24+ mph, then the next minute, you are pedaling in your small chainring, out of the saddle, going down a hill.  The heat began to kick in, so I doused myself at every aid station with a bottle of water and rehydrated with electrolyte drink, water, and saltstick capsules.  As you ride an IM, especially in the heat, your feet will swell.  My left foot was throbbing and the pain from my toes jamming into the front of my shoe made things much worse.  With 15 miles left to go, I really wanted off the bike, but not because of beat up legs or tiredness like previous Ironmans I had done in the past.  I needed out of my shoes and I wanted some advil for the migraine-like headache.

As you re-enter Kona, the crowds become very dense.  Out on the Queen K highway through the lava fields, the rods are closed to traffic, so besides the aid stations every 10 miles and the kawaihai corner, there are no spectators.  I was searching for Lisa and the kids - I had a feeling running was going to be a challenge and I wanted to prepare them for a longer marathon.  I found them in the massive crowd and yelled not to move as I rode by and slipped my feet out of my shoes, preparing to dismount.  Typically, I dismount by slipping both feet out while riding, standing on my shoes, then swinging my right leg over the bike and hopping off running.  This time though, I knew that wasnt an option.  I came to a complete stop, climbed off the bike and gingerly walked through the transition area.  I couldn't put any pressure on my toes on my left foot, and I couldn't bend them.  I walked out of transition to the crowd yelling "hang in there!  you can do this!  Come on 860!!" - this killed me as my legs felt ready to run.  I came up on Lisa and the kids and explained what happened.  Kate was crying.  I told them I was going to try and run a bit and to meet me up ahead, which I did - I tried to run, but couldn't.  We walked back to the med tent where they had an X-ray machine.  The orthopedic diagnosed me with severe swelling of the tissue sack around my toes and a crushed sesmoid bone.  He said that if we stabilized it, i could probably walk the marathon, although it might not be the smartest move.  I was out of the race.  I was devastated.  My kids were even more devastated.

More to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Big Island

Wednesday began as did Monday and Tuesday here; 4:45am wake up, drink a muscle milk, stop at Starbucks then make the 30 minute drive to Kona, swim at 6:45am.

I met some of the CT group to swim - the plan was to swim out to the half way buoy then swim from there over to the floating island stationed well off shore. They had great Kona coffee, fresh muffins, lounge chairs and even palm trees on this little barge. After a quick caffeine fix, we swam back in to the pier. Each day it get's more and more busy. Many of the tri manufacturers are out there hawking their products. TYR was giving away goggles although the way the nutty triathletes were grabbing and fighting for the swag, you would have thought they were giving out Rolex's.

Travis and I grabbed some breakfast at Lava Java, compliments of Megan Seerfoss, then we hit the expo. The expo in Hawaii is impressive. Every manufacturer is there and the bigger one's all try to outdo each other. Most have all their new latest and greatest gear to show.

I headed back to my condo late morning to go out for an easy 30 minute run along the coast. There is a beach path that starts as sand then turns to lava rock, then in front of the resorts it's a nice walkway.  I run out along the pacific and beautifully groomed properties or resort pools. I felt comfortable although there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean to tame the 90 degree heat. We discovered this out and back run at my March camp, and I never find it hard as it puts my mind in a really good place. I finished up the run with a dip into the ocean, where I floated around for a bit and took in the calmness.

Later on, I drove back to Kona to drop off my bike at the Cannondale booth. Murray was going to give it the once over. He's worked on my bike in Hawaii for maybe five trips now and he's the man. The first time I dropped it off to him, I just asked if he could check out my shifting. A few hours later, I stopped back to grab my bike and he had gone through the whole bike including the bottom bracket and put brand new tape on!

Travis and I then hit the Kona Brew House for a couple of beers, some pork nachos and and a thai chicken pizza. All in all, a good day!

This morning, after a swim, breakfast, and easy spin, I was driving back to the condo. I was driving north on the Queen K highway, the same road the course is on. It's a perfectly clear day and I could see the observatory on Mauna Lani off to my right at 14000 feet above sea level. In front of me, I could see the Queen K wind for miles, and to the slight left, the northern tip of the island where the we will ride to before making the return trip on Saturday. To my left is the pacific and a clear view of Maui. I thought about how much I love this bike course, and how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to learn and appreciate such an amazing place. It's hard to really explain, but there is something really remarkably special about this island.

Okay, time to relax.



Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tuesday in Kona

Tuesday here in Hawaii. I woke up early and drove down to Kona (30 minutes from where I'm staying - I prefer to be out of the hub of IM chaos) to meet Mitch West at 6:45am to swim on the course again. From 7am on, the pier is packed with swimmers so I like to get in at 6:45 when hardly anyone is there yet. The plan was to swim out to the half way buoy, then stop at the floating coffee boat for an espresso on the return. Mitch tucked in behind me and we set out. The water felt great - swimming here is therapeutic for me. The visibilty is 100+ feet and it's quite amazing taking everything in as you swim. I got to the halfway buoy but Mitch wasn't there, so I floated and waited around for a bit. I figured he maybe turned earlier so I started to head back. As I began the return trip, a big object about 15 feet underneath me came up from behind and startled the shit out of me! I froze, sitting up in the water for second then sticking my head back under to get another glimpse. It was a dolphin playing around. I popped my head back up out of the water again to get a breath and noticed three dorsel fins just off to my left. Three more dolphins! The one underneath me came up and to within maybe six feet of me and then joined his friends. It was pretty amazing and I was looking around for another swimmer to take this in, but no one was near me. I guess they swam out towards the coffee boat because a few others spotted them as well. i cruised back in and rinsed quick. A mob was surrounding Craig Alexander who had just finished up his swim. Yesterday when I swam, Andreas Raelert was getting in the water at the same time. Both these guys are so slight and somewhat small - no wonder they run so fast.

I did a one hour ride out on the course later in the morning and the wind was blowing! I relaxed for pretty much the rest of the day. I'm going to lay very low between now and race day as I have caught a slight cold. My daughter was sick before I left. Combine that with standing on a soccer field on Saturday from 10:30am until 9pm in damp weather where the temperature dropped significantly, then flying for 11.5 hours the next day... The irony is the last time I was sick was going into St. Croix in May! I'm not going to sweat it though. I just need to rest.

Monday, October 08, 2012

My Kona Training Report Card

Six days away from my ninth Ironman Hawaii. Now's the time to reflect on "what we've done to prepare for this". Jeff Molson recently posted a great article on my web site titled "The Report Card" which discusses how he loved report card day because it gave him an honest depiction of how well prepared he was, and his racing in his adult life became a great report card, even though he has adjusted his grading method a bit as he's aged as an athlete. It got me thinking about my report card for this Kona, and of course, comparing it to my other Kona builds.

The thing is, just as Jeff's self grading process has changed, so has mine. Even though I haven't raced yet, I like to give myself a combined total grade that's based on how I prepared for this race in training, with my family, and with my career. In other words, I've witnessed friends building for an IM who would receive an A in their training, yet they didn't go the extra yard at work giving them a B there, and sacrificed to much family time giving them a D there. So their GPA , in my opinion, is a C, which I guess by school definition is satisfactory, but in my middle aged life I feel it's more unsatisfactory.

So here's my honest assessment of my 2012 Kona pre-race GPA:

My training went well for the most part. I relied on my cumulative base and made most of my training quality. The race will be the true test of how this worked, but I always tell my athletes that we have to realistically look at what type of time we have each week and optimize that time. For me, this means an average of 10 to 12 hours per week which is quite minimalistic compared to most age group triathletes. So I made the most out of the 10 to 12 hours. I watched a video recently that Chris McCormack did where he answered some questions on nutrition. One of the questions was on post training nutrition, and he explained how the first thing we need to do is absorb that session we just did, by sitting down for awhile, resting, letting ourselves absorb the session. I guess toweling off quickly then changing clothes and forcing in a cliff bar while driving to my next client or to pick up my daughter from soccer practice isn't sitting down and absorbing the session. But in the real world, and I am by far the majority as an endurance athlete here, I don't have the 18+ hours per week to train and 7+ hours of non-sleep recovery to absorb sessions. I did put a lot of emphasis on recovery. I still feel as though I can crank out a hard effort like I did back in 97' however, it now will take me a day or two longer to recover from this. If I had a specific hard session scheduled for a particular day and I still felt unrecovered from a previous session the day or two before, I either went easy or took a rest day and did that specific hard session on the next day.

I did quiz's along the way to assess my fitness and progress. The VT ride was a nice quiz that assured me that I still had that aerobic cumulative base to go long. Sidetrack here, but I feel most overestimate building base, especially if they have been an endurance athlete for a year or more, and they fall into the trap of just logging junk mileage. Most triathletes can get on their bike and ride for 4+ hrs, regardless of their present condition. It may be at only 12 mph, but they could still do it. Now, how do we bump that up to 20 mph? I'll give you a hint - it's not by riding lot's more miles at 12 mph, or even 17 mph. Okay, back on track. I also did a weekly tempo ride on a somewhat closed course .8 mile loop which sounds boring as hell, but I liked the concentrated effort and I liked to track my progress each week. Some of these sessions, I'd pedal the 45 minute cool down home so beat that I felt as though my crank was square instead of round, yet I'd be smiling because there is something rewarding about suffering through a hard session to endurance athletes. I did a weekly track or treadmill session that went fairly well. I still have an imbalance in my right hip/si joint that screams at me when I'm not recovered - this is something I am really going to address after this race. It only bothers me when I run, but it can be quite bothersome. It never get's worse though, so I block it out. I don't pay any attention to it unless it's so bad that it's changing my run gait in which case i back off the session. Swimming - well, I began in late August and feel okay in the water. I don't dock myself here because it's not as though I just don't swim because I hate it. Again, I weigh the time I have and where it's best spent. Because I have a little bit of a swimming background, I can rally enough to get me through most IM swims in an hour give or take.

Mentally, I really enjoyed the training for this IM. It wasn't arduous like some of the catabalistic sessions I had done for previous IM's. I chose different bike courses than I typically would ride in training, and because I was only riding three times per week as compared to four or five in the past, I felt relatively fresh for my key sessions. Besides VT, I only did one other 100 mile ride. But I did a lot of hard four hour rides. We shall see how this pays off on Saturday - that's the key, right? But physically, I'd give this build a solid A, mainly because I made progress and enjoyed the process.

I'll keep this short regarding my career and family, just in case anyone is actually reading this or hasn't drifted back to their Facebook page yet out of boredom.

Career: I've been in my own business since 1995 and anyone in their own business knows that you are always working because your mind is constantly thinking about how to keep your business effective, and you never want to rest on your laurels. I have some great projects in the works and these things get put on hold while training for an IM. I also want to spend more time with the people and athletes I presently work with. I will pick both of these things up as soon as I get back to CT, and with renewed enthusiasm, because I'm always very motivated coming off this race. Actually just writing this paragraph down makes me more anxious to get some of these ideas rolling and also makes me more accountable, which I like. My grade here during this build was a C.

Family: I have a rule that my family shouldn't pay the price for my obsession. It's easier to state that rule than actually stay 100% true to it because the reality is that the family will always suffer a bit when one member of it is training for an IM. I made a concerted effort to be mentally present with my wife when we are together, even though she may disagree;) I always look for signs from her to see if my training is getting to her and address these early on and quickly. I remind myself all the time to do this, and to never take her for granted. Lisa made things really easy though as she was a gem with my schedule. She loves Hawaii and is as excited to show the kids this island as I am. Each time I asked her if it was okay for me to get in a bit longer session, she was fine with it. And yes, you should ask your spouse if it's okay, not tell them this is what you are doing. Sure, some of the home projects didn't get done, but they will, and she didn't pressure me here whatsoever. I didn't miss one of my kids events. I would still go out and play basketball in the driveway with my son, although maybe it was for only 45 minutes now instead of 90. I had dinner with my family just about every night. These are the things that I personally weigh heavily and I made sure they didn't slide, even if it meant missing some training. I'd give my grade here a B. I'm a very tough grader in this category.

I would say my honest assessment of my pre-race report card GPA would be a B. When training for an IM, I don't know if it's possible for anyone to honestly receive an A. I do know that it's not possible for me. And also that I'm content with a B given the fact that there is no such thing as life balance in IM.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vermont ride, ENVE, Hawaii training, ...

A few weeks back, I did my annual Vermont ride. Quick recap on the VT ride; in 97' Princess Di died, my wife loved her, she watched the funeral all weekend, I escaped by doing a "credit card ride", where the mexican and I took a credit card, a small back pack, and rode up to VT from our homes, meeting on the way. We found a hotel, got some great beer at McNiel's Pub, woke up the next day and rode home. This has become an annual. In fact, this year was my 17th VT ride, since two years, I did it twice. Someone asked if this was a nostalgic, epic type ride or if it was training. The answer is both. I did this initially not only to escape, but to get in some quality long training for Hawaii, and i've found that when done correctly, meaning at the right pace/tempo, it is great IM training. This ride became quite popular for awhile and it became more work for me, meaning I was concerned about all the riders and keeping tabs on how they were doing. The VT ride was never about coaching, but more about the challenge, and that if you wanted to do it, great take on the challenge and you are on your own. So I went back to just the core group and every man for himself, check your ego's, see you in Brattleboro for some food, beer, and fun. This year, I was meeting Molson and Baker in Simsbury, 60 miles into my ride.

The day before the VT ride, I receieved a nice package in the mail from ENVE composites. A set of their 6.7 carbon clincher wheels to be exact. I had been talking with Jake from ENVE about their wheels, and about building a relationship with them. I told Jake that I was doing a 150 mile ride the next day and was interested in using the wheels for this. He replied "definitely, go ahead!" I failed to tell him that I would be riding almost 150 miles the next day as well. Upon removing the wheels from the packaging, the first thing I noticed was how light they were. I remember thinking "at this weight, there's no way these wheels can be durable/strong!" I was wrong. The rims were deep and all carbon and wide and rounded similiar to Zipp firecrests. They had black ENVE decals which I'm a huge fan of. This is a personal aesthetics opinion, but I am not a fan of white decals or any other decals on wheels. they should either have black decals or none at all. This should be a rule. I love dt swiss hubs in that they are silky smooth. ENVE makes there front rim a bit wider than the rear - tests show that the wider front rim distributes the air cleaner around the bike and the rear rim should be close to the same width as the bike frame to keep the turbulence to a minimum, and thus, the drag low. I knew that a set of deep carbon wheels were coming, so I ordered some valve extenders and new brake pads. ENVE already thought of this though, as in my package were a new set of both valve extenders and brake pads.

As I was removing the wheels from my Cannondale Slice, I noticed a small crack in the rear brake caliper. I pulled off this caliper and replaced it with a trp rear brake caliper from my road bike. The problem was that trp brake calipers don't open that wide, and with wider rims like Zipp or ENVE, leave very little clearance. The wheel needs to be very true, and in the past, with Zipp wheels, whenever I'd get out of the saddle, the rims would flex enough that they'd rub the brake pads. When you are riding 292 miles in two days, the last thing you want or need is extra drag from brake rub. But I had no other options since I was leaving early the next morning.

Three miles into the ride, I hit the first climb in Newtown, and as I raised out of the saddle, I waited to hear and feel the flex of the rear rim rubbing against the brake pad. But there was none. No flex in the rim whatsoever. These wheels are rock solid. Interestingly enough though, they aren't harsh. The small road cracks and bumps that send harsh vibrations through an aluminum rim were dampened by the carbon rims.

The weather was great for the ride up, with light wind and sun. It got a bit warm, but not to bad. My legs felt fresh. Maybe it was the placebo effect, but I felt like I was flying along faster at an easier effort and lower heart rate. I reached Simsbury in less than 3 hrs and felt like it was an easy warm-up. I sailed up to Northhampton and my speed was steadily staying around 23 to 24 mph. The last 40 miles from Northhampton up to Brattleboro can be daunting, but I felt great. I even hopped off and did a 35 minute brick run up a switchback trail on the mountain across the river from Brattleboro. The next day, I rode back just as strong. My average pace for the 292 miles was 22 mph, which was my fastest round trip since beginning this ride at age 29 back in 97'! Now the wheels may have had something to do with this, but the other factor is that my training had/has been going quite well.

Baker, Molson and I were having some dinner and a few beers up in Brattleboro, and I mentioned how this ride isn't enjoyable. It's fun meeting up with good friends in Brattleboro. And there are portions of the ride I enjoy. This year, I did the whole ride solo which was lonely but allowed me to really focus. But it's not an extremely scenic ride. The ride was a means to getting to a destination and has become a tradition. However, just the same as finishing a big race, there is a huge feeling of satisfaction and confidence upon completion of this ride. Focusing on that alone is enough to have me place it on the calendar each year.

I've ridden the ENVE wheels a bunch since the VT ride. I wanted to test them out further. One of my key sessions each week is laps at an industrial park in Bethel. It's a .8 mi loop with a small but hard climb in it, where you are pedaling constantly on the loop and you don't have to worry about traffic. I do a variety of sessions here from 2 loops fast, 1 loop easy, to 30 loops at threshold. With the ENVE wheels, at the same power as my training wheels, I'm 5 seconds faster per loop. I like these wheels so much, more than any other race wheels I've ridden, and I've ridden them all, and so thought I should take them off and save them for racing. problem is that I'm really enjoying riding them!

Hawaii is three weeks from Saturday. I feel pretty good, meaning my workouts feel strong. Yes, I'm in that IM phase of being tired quite a bit when not training. Plus fall allergies are kicking in and they are a bitch this year. At the same time, I love the feeling of super fitness when in peak IM mode. That feeling where you can go out for three hours of aerobic, B zone or Zone 2 training and it feels easy and takes nothing to recover from. That feeling where you can eat a ton and still realize you probably need even more calories. Maybe these feelings are part of the key as to why we keep signing on for more Ironmans?


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Kona Camp 2013

EH Kona Camp 2013
March 1st through the 8th, 2013
Join us for this unique training opportunity to experience the Hawaii ironman World Championship course as well as experience one of the most amazing places on earth!

In 2012, we changed the location of our winter camp with a bit of apprehension because our past winter location was quite good, although I wanted A) for athletes to experience the world championship course, and B) to swim in open water in the winter. I , as well as those who attended, soon knew that Hawaii was the triathlon camp experience that would set a new standard! One of the athletes who has attended many camps commented “this was not only the best camp I’ve ever been to but the best vacation I’ve ever been on!”

Eric has been coaching since the early 90’s and has been putting on training camps since 2000. He also has made 12 trips over to the Big Island, all of his races there besides 2004 were sub 10 hours done as an amateur while running his own business. He knows the Hawaii course extremely well and also knows the island quite well. The Big island of Hawaii is one of the only places where you can experience nearly every climatic zone.
During this experience, you will be helicoptered into a remote area to hunt wild boar wearing nothing but a loin cloth… Kidding! You will, however, swim at the pier from Dig Me Beach, ride the Queen K highway and the climb to Hawi, and run along Alii drive and up Palani hill. You will also swim at one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and in an incredible OD outdoor pool, ride unbelievably scenic roads in the mountains, and run scenic trails along the pacific.

In addition, we will do hikes into the valleys, snorkel in Captain Cooks Cove, relax at some amazing beaches, see the volcano, and take in all the island has to offer. I want this trip to not only be about getting in some great training, but also about experiencing the island – one of the more amazing places you will ever have the opportunity to visit in your lifetime.
• The cost of this trip does not include your airfare or meals. We will provide training nutrition in the form of Hammer products, water, … Please book your flight for Friday, March 1st, leaving on Friday, March 9th. It does include hotel, coaching, transportation from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel back to the airport, sag support, assistance with bike assembly and disassembly, and swag from sponsors.
• A deposit of $400 will reserve your spot. Checks should be made out to Eric Hodska and sent to 18 Old Mine Lane, Monroe, CT 06468, or pay through Paypal at
• Cost; Single room: $2590.00 Double room: $1790.00
• We will be staying at the Waikoloa Marriott Resort (
• If you are bringing a spouse, significant other, or friend who will not be participating in the training, please contact me as they will not be required to pay the double room full cost.
• We are only taking 12 athletes with us for this incredible experience and interest is quite high. Leave a deposit before November 1st and receive a limited Kona edition EH bike jersey. Contact us at to reserve your spot today!


Friday, August 10, 2012

nine weeks and counting...

Hawaii is nine weeks away. I guess I should get started in my training. The truth is, my training has been going well. Training for your first Ironman is filled with emotion. It’s exciting, draining, fun, painful, educating, tiresome, and new. As I mention to all my athletes who sign up for their first Ironman, you are entering unchartered waters. Enjoy the naivety and newness. When you train for your second one, you remember the pain of the first more than the elation in that training. The excitement is still there because you are anxious now to see what you have learned and what you can do better, yet the darkness of your first race day still haunts. Then, you feel you need to keep racing more Ironman, because this is now what you do and where else, challenge wise, do you go? But the excitement get’s dulled with each additional one that we do, and we begin to question what we are doing this for. This will be my 11th time towing the IM line, ninth in Hawaii. To be honest, during the month of July, I wasn’t excited about racing another IM again, especially in humid 100 degree temperatures. I never take for granted the privilege of racing in Kona, but I’d be lying if I tried to convince myself I was really looking forward to the race. But, strangely, I was/am enjoying the training process once again. Not only am I not dreading the long rides and runs like I have in previous IM builds, I look forward to them?. I’ve asked myself “why” often when I’m out there alone training and solving the world’s problems – “why is my motivation different this time?” What I have concluded is the following: • I haven’t raced an IM since Hawaii in 2009, so I’ve had a few years without the IM pressure and stress of fitting everything in to a busy life schedule. • I’m doing different things. Different training, different routes, … I often see athletes who are doing the same training now that they did 15 years ago, because if it worked back then … Not only is this approach boring as hell, but it’s a sure way to set yourself up for a lackluster race day. I won’t go into the physiological details since this would get lengthy, but trust me in that we need change. • I’m training mainly alone. This has changed - I used to love training with others. This year, I’m enjoying my alone time. Often times, because I coach, athletes that I train with feel a need to show me how strong they are. You don’t need to, or want to, race every time you train. • I have a lot of newbie athletes this season that I’m working with, some training for their first IM, many training for their first sprint. Their new enthusiasm refreshes my crotchety attitude towards the compression wearing egos that you see walking around Ironman expo’s. • I’m reaching that age where your fastest performances should be a thing of the past, and maybe they are. Maybe I’m kidding myself. But I feel like I still have some speed in me. • There’s nothing quite like the empowering feeling of “shape” or condition that IM training brings. This, I’m sure, is one reason why we all keep signing up for “one more”. Sure, there is also the fact that I feel like I could fall asleep anywhere, except at 2am when I’m trying to fall asleep. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the training at the moment and hopefully this will continue through the next six weeks, until its taper time. I don’t feel ready to race right now, and I shouldn’t, I still have nine weeks to go. As I get more fit though, my motivation to race rises. Cheers, EH

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Blogger Perdue IMLP write up

Honestly I didn't pay Perdue to write this blog up and say such nice things. Lake Placid NY Camp! Being new to triathlons and having a couple sprints and one Olympic under my belt, I thought I would join the LP (Lake Placid) triathlon camp with Eric Hodska to take me to the next level! I have been doing the “Run Clinic” with Eric for several months and seen my run times improve 25%. With this kind of improvements, I was excited to give camp a try! I was extremely nervous and felt like it was my first triathlon, had no idea what to expect! I drove up on Wednesday the day before the camp was to officially start. I emailed Eric to see what time we were going to meet in the morning of the very first day. Eric returned my email and said he and couple others are going for an easy run at 4:00p and then going to dinner at Nicola’s if I would like to join them. It was 95 degrees and extremely humid day, so I decided to join them trail running in the shade. Eric’s definition of an “easy run” is a whole lot different than mine! After running a short distance with his group I realized my heart was going to explode so I backed off and slowed down, after regaining my breath I realized how beautiful the trails were and how hot the day felt. All the guys that were running with me were friendly, supportive and talkative and made me not feel like an outsider! Had dinner with my new group of friends and was amazed of ease of talking to this group and knew I was with a group of people who were going to make this camp fun. Day 1: We meet at Mirror Lake at 7:00am sharp, we all went around in a circle, said our names and what we hope to get out of Eric’s camp. After that Eric gave us 3 drills to focus on when were swimming to improve our efficiency and speed. Then Eric told us to swim to the other side of the lake and back. I couldn’t see the other side and I never swam that long before in my life. Like little ducks the group followed his wishes and jumped in and swam as well as I, I focused on the 3 drills and kept my head in the water and arms moving. The lake was clean and beautiful and after a couple minutes of panic, settled in and started enjoying the situation. I felt part of the group and had Eric’s casual but supportive voice in my mind saying “count, focus on your stroke, feel like your fast and smooth”. It was the best mile and half swim I have ever done! We all meet for breakfast to hear about our next activity, at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about not knowing what was coming next, but found I liked not knowing, Eric always had something fun and interesting with a twist! Next was the bike, we stopped several times on the course and pointed out common mistakes triathletes make in the course, as well showing us all sorts tips and tricks that Eric has learned through his career. It was a hot day and was getting hotter by the minute. Being new to this sport I was struggling to keep up and the humid heat was taking its toll. I tried my best not to show too much pain considering the crowd I was with, however I got to the point where I stopped sweating and got the chills. I knew I was in trouble, after a couple more miles caught up with the Sag Vehicle and Eric’s Father (aka Big Rocks) who quickly saw my situations and helped me with water and got me to shade. Eric walked over and asked if all was ok and recommended that we had 12 miles back why don’t I ride in the Sag vehicle for five miles and try to get back on the bike for the rest. I agreed and then realized that is crazy! I was suffering on the verge of heat stroke and I was going to ride again! Eric has this uncanny ability to see someone’s abilities, before we even know ourselves! So I hopped in the sag vehicle and got dropped off to ride the rest of the way in. At first it was hard to get legs spinning again, but I soon started feeling better. We all met at Mirror Lake again to soak our hot legs in the cold refreshing lake. I felt so good that I completed this ride even though my body didn’t. I would have lost this great feeling of accomplishment if Eric didn’t know me and my abilities. We finished the day with a several mile trail run and then dinner and laughs about the day. At breakfast a conversation started up about eggs, I had mentioned that I raise chickens because of great taste of “Free Range” eggs and how chickens are easy to raise! At this point I realized the whole table was looking and listening to what I had to say about my eggs and how my family and friends love them and will never buy eggs from the store again. I mentioned I even started raising my own meat chickens and turkeys due to the quality of the meat! The questions started to come from all directions “do you slaughter your own birds”, “how many birds do you have”, “is there a big difference in taste” and then Eric says in a fun confident voice “Perdue; that is your new tri-camp nickname!” The tabled laughed hard and the nickname was locked in! It still puts a smile on my face every time I think about that breakfast! What this camp did for me cannot be described completely; it must be lived and experienced for you! I went to camp feeling like I need a lot more work to get ready to do a half triathlon and left camp knowing I can do one tomorrow! The group of new friends I made, remind me of friends I had in the military, they have my back”! The Coaches: Ken Osborn was always good for a laugh and sound advice, Jim Hodska (aka Big Rocks) conversations of lentil loaf dinners, composting and sag support, Greg Pelican who is very knowledgeable about racing and riding, and finally Eric Hodska The best coach I have ever met! His uncanny ability to know each and every person individually and know just what to say to keep me wanting to do better! This is what separates him from all the other coaches I have ever worked with in my life. I feel he knows me better then I know myself. Thanks everybody for making it such a great experience!

Guest blogger Brad Sholtz (LP Camp)

EH Lake Placid Camp 2012 I’ve had the fortune of participating in this camp 3 times previously, so I had an idea what to expect, but I also knew Hods would throw in a few things to keep it fresh. I wasn’t disappointed, and for those who’ve attended an EH camp you know what I’m talking about. First thing of note that was different this year is that we did a lot more swimming than years past. Every day but Saturday started with a 1 hr swim in mirror lake. The great part about the swim is that you’re on your own. Personally I rarely do any drill practice in open water, I just swim. So since this was camp I felt obligated to practice some of those drills that we all forget about especially once race season starts! So everyday I did a lot of drill, swim, drilling, and really tried to focus on form. I’ve been lucky enough to get into the Xterra Championship in Maui so EH had me bring my mountain bike this year. And am I glad I did! I had no idea how much time could be spent there exploring all the different trails. Having ridden the ironman course many times, EH had me go out mountain biking with Kenny. If you know Kenny, you know there’s not much he takes seriously, but a big exception is his mountain biking!! Holy shit did I learn a lot. I took my skill level from what I would say was a 1 all the way to probably a 3 or 4. Not to say that I didn’t leave a lot of sweat and quite a bit of blood on the trails, but man was it fun. In the 3.5 hrs we rode the first day I totally lost count of how many times I fell, and every time I did I looked to see if Kenny was laughing, but he never was. Now I’m pretty sure he and Hods had a big laugh telling my stories afterward! Probably the most memorable part was this one section that was a little above my skill level. Ken and I stopped before it and talked thru how to attack it, then he rode it and showed me. I tried it unsuccessfully, then walked bike up to Kenny where he promptly said “go do it again”... and a second time, and a third time..... He says it ONLY took me 7 tries, but I’m pretty sure it was more like 33! I really wasn’t laughing, but I sure was having a good time! We had a blast and came home with great big smiles, while the rest of the group had a grueling lap of the bike course in 88 degree heat. There is a pretty cool loop with some little hills on a trail called Henry’s Woods which is close to the hotel and I think we ran it pretty much everyday at some point. Even running it 3 or 4 times it never got boring. The coolest run was the day we climbed, crawled and jumped our way to the lookout. Its amazing how difficult it can be just to basically being walking up a mountain. I think I sucked about half the O2 from the atmosphere. On the day I was given MVP(although there really were much more impressive performances that were much more deserving than mine. Although my award was more out of pity I think!) was the day we were to ride the full course and then run an hour. The first loop is typically the easier of the two, and as Mike and I came over the top of Papa Bear and headed into town my rear shifter stripped. All I had was big and small ring. That second loop was gonna be a bitch! I stopped at the hotel for advice from Hods to see if he thought I should try the course with only 2 gears. He said my day was done. I didn’t want to except that so I told him I’d be right back. I showed up with my mountain bike. He said “ don’t tell me you’re gonna try and ride the course on that”! And in my thick head I really was gonna try it. Hods instead had me ride to whiteface and climb it on the mountain bike, then work my way home on the course. I lost count of how many people shook their heads and gave me big smiles as I rode past them. I’m sure they were thinking “what an idiot”, maybe they were right.... But I was having fun and that’s what its really about, right? The coolest part was when I was actually in a pace line coming home on my mountain bike and a girl rode up next to me and said “NICE”. As she rode away Kerri asked me “do you know who that was?” That was Kaitlin Snow the pro. So I got recognized by a pro!! Wooo Hoooo! although probably not for a good reason ;) So we all got home and went for our brick run. Day is supposed to be complete, right?? I can’t remember who said it first, me or Kenny, but we said lets go mountain bike! And out we went for another 1.5 hrs of playtime. Practicing skills and climbing, and more laughing and falling for me..... but no blood! So I don’t think I worked nearly as hard as the rest of the group, but I know I had more fun. Kenny and I got home 10 min before dinner, scrubbed off the mud and went for Ubu’s. Although I didn’t achieve what I had initially set out to do, I did have a great day and enjoyed every minute. The last dinner of camp is always the funniest. Everyone has laid it out there and achieved what they came to do, so the stories and jokes really start to roll. And just in case we may have been short on entertainment, Baker showed up. So between Molson, Kenny, EH, and Baker it was difficult to eat! I am oh so sad that another camp is in the books, but even more happy to have been a part of EH Lake Placid 2012. Thank you to Kenny, Big Rocks and especially Hods! Another lifetime memory.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I want to go back to race the Hawaii Ironman this year for the sheer purpose of taking my kids to Hawaii and showing them what’s been such a big part of my adult life. As I raced in St. Croix in early May with a bronchial infection, attempting to qualify, and suffering very early on during the bike then really suffering during the hot and humid run, I thought to myself “do I really want to put myself through this again for twice as long in an even hotter place?”. Not even two days had passed before I found myself looking for ways to get into the already sold out Eagleman 70.3 race which also had Kona qualifying spots. Turns out they had a couple of community fund slots left with the contributions going to the Blazeman Foundation which is a great cause, so I jumped on the opportunity. I received an email from Vigo, the race director, welcoming me back to the race. This guy is a class act which, even though I’m not a fan of the flat “draft enabling” course, explains why this race is so popular and so well run. The last time I raced at Eagleman was in 98’ or 99’ - He remembered that I was the top amateur that year! My training had been going well with two exceptions; this allergy season had been brutal! As a kid, I never had allergies. In fact, I developed allergies as an adult, from, what I believe to be heavy training in this outdoor environment. The other exception was that I simply don’t have the time to train now like I used to. And I see the evidence in my racing. In 98’ or 99’, I did a 4:08 on the eagleman course in a year where the swim was particularly long (I swam 36 minutes that year compared with 27 min this year). This year I did a 4:22. The main difference has been my run. I used to run 6 to 7 days a week in training, and now I run 3 to 4. The result is that I run 10 minutes slower now for the ½ marathon portion than I used to. This is something I will be working on this summer. I know that many may think it’s aging that is the real culprit, but I don’t buy into this. But the main thing about my training and racing is that my motivation and desire has changed. I have been doing this for a long time, and I’ll always be competitive, yet I’m not as time driven as I once was, I’m more driven by experiences now. I left early Saturday morning to make the long, monotonous drive to Cambridge with my dad/manager. The sun was out and they were predicting heat for the weekend, with temps in the 90’s. What the hell is it with me and hot races? I’m a bigger guy who’s not great in the heat, yet I continue to race in notoriously hot races. Maybe it’s the stubbornness, or more simply, the stupidness in me that makes me want to take on the things I’m not so good at? We drove straight to the race venue where I registered and then went out for an hour spin on the bike while Big Rocks gathered all the race details that I tend to blow off. We stayed 30 minutes away which I actually prefer. We met Mike Biehl out for dinner at a cool micro brew pub. I had a great IPA, some pasta and chicken, and a glass of red wine before heading back to the room to watch the Celtics unfortunately loose game 7 to the Heat. I drifted off around 9pm and slept well, awakening at 4am. I had a bagel w/ peanut butter, a frappacino, and a handful of peanut butter pretzels, but wasn’t really hungry for anything else. I took in 4 saltstick capsules between 4 and 8am. Now here’s the thing that sucked the most about the day; my wave was the eleventh wave, leaving at 8:10am. The pro’s left around 6:40am. Many of the amateurs were well off before 7am. I hate waiting around for the race to start – I’ve mentioned before how this is the worst time for me on race day. The waves were so spread out to break up potential drafting - I understood this. I also understood that the later waves like mine would be dealing with more mid-day heat and increased winds that start to come in around 10am down there. I know that I’m racing against my wave, but I also like to see where I stand against all the amateurs and the wave starts made for much different races. I blocked this out and began to focus on the task at hand; get my Kona spot. They finally called my wave up to the swim start. I jumped in to do a brief warm-up, and then lined up in the front row, slightly to the outside for the in-water start. We were off, and I got a good jump out and targeted the feet of a guy who was swimming well. The swim felt…good?! I’m known for neglecting my swim training so I never expect to feel smooth during the swim, yet I did which is the result of me swimming more consistently since St. Croix. We soon were catching swimmers from the wave in front of us which, although it’s fun on the bike, is a pain during the swim. One guy jumped on my feet early on and he continued to slap my feet throughout the whole swim. Not enough to where he was pushing down on them, but just a slight graze of my toes. I’m a good one to draft off because I have wider shoulders and no kick at all, especially with a wetsuit. Two guys in my age group came out of the water with me; a guy who beat me in St. Croix and who I know is a solid swimmer and very good runner, and the foot slapper, my buddy Scott Jones who I didn’t even know was racing here! It’s always great to see Scott, but we could catch up later - we were racing and there were only two Kona slots. I had a slower transition than the other two, not by much, and exited T1 in 6th place. I felt decent right away on the bike, and by mile five, I had taken the lead in my age group. I stayed aero and kept a high, efficient cadence. The bike felt almost easy, meaning I had a lot more in the tank to give, yet it was hot already without a cloud in the sky. I was leading and knew the run was going to be tough, so I may as well conserve as much as possible without giving up my lead. For the first 75 minutes of the bike, there was little wind and I was moving along at around 26 mph. Then, as I expected, the winds started to pick up and slowed things a bit. I rode all alone the entire ride, passing many packs of age groups that started in earlier waves. I knew the drafting would be blatant out there and I mentally blocked out these packs so that I didn’t waste energy worrying about something I couldn’t control. I sipped from a bottle of EFS liquid shot mixed with water, while drinking gatorade throughout the bike and pouring water inside my helmet and down my back to stay cool. I love entering T2 and racking my bike first in my division! I opted to put on socks since I was wearing a newer Nike racing flat, and headed out on the hot, flat, boring run course. This run is an out and back and the miles feel as though they are marked two miles apart. The turnaround just never seems to come. I knew I wasn’t moving too quickly, but I was running. I took in coke, water, and gatorade at the aid stations and never missed an opportunity to dump ice in my tri suit. As I hit the turn around and began making my way back to the finish line, I had my first opportunity to see where my competition was. The guy from St Croix and Scott were maybe five minutes behind. I thought that as long as I kept running, they wouldn’t make up 45 seconds per mile. Yet, I was still running scared and I was lacking confidence. This was because it was extremely hot now, and I could feel myself withering. I started counting, but still couldn’t help but to focus on the pain of each stride in the 95+ degree sun. I took it one mile at a time. “Get to mile nine Eric” I talked to myself. “Then, you only have four miles left to run”. “Get to mile 10 then it’s just a 5K left – you can do that in your sleep!” I was fading though. The thought of missing my daughters’ recital and both of my kids games this weekend while I was down in MD racing for myself was all that I needed to keep me pushing. At the 12 mile mark, a guy came up on my shoulder and said “great race man”. I glanced over and asked “are you in my age group?”. He was, and he was moving well in the heat. I know I have a strong kick in the last 200 meters so I thought, if I could just stay with him… He ended that thought quickly and surged hard right away. I could not respond. I knew there were two spots and my goal of qualifying was attained, yet I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about coming in second. Mission accomplished though, and I quickly called home to let the family know. Lisa answered and I told her to pack her grass skirt. I could hear the kids screaming with excitement in the background. Big Rocks and I looked for any shade we could find to hang out in and wait for the awards ceremony. I sat on the grass under a tree, uncomfortably trying to just let my body recover from the effort in the heat, and asking myself “do you really want to put yourself through this again on the lava fields?” Earlier this spring, when Lisa and I were discussing me racing in Hawaii again and taking the kids, Lisa lectured me; “listen, the kids don’t need to see you suffering out there and in a med tent at the end with iv’s stuck in you. Go there and enjoy the day. Keep the effort easier. You have raced there eight times - You have nothing to prove.” It was an interesting plea since she knows I can’t do that.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kona Camp recap

I didn't get a chance to blog while in Hawaii, partly because I had computer issues, and mainly because the days were busy!  I'll give fair warning that I'm going to be very repetitive on positive adjectives in this write up like "amazing", "unbelievable", "incredible", ...  Yeah, it's nauseating to me as well, but it's hard to do this trip justice on just how amazing, unbelievable, and incredible it was.  I'm also going to promote next years camp.  I'm typically terrible at self promotion, so this should just let you know how much I feel that people should experience this trip.  Plus, we posted a bunch of pictures on my Facebook EH Coaching page and I have already received quite a few inquiries for next years trip, so I thought I'd get some early info out so that people can begin planning.  I was a bit apprehensive about moving my winter camp to Kona this year.  Tucson is a great place to train and I really enjoy it there.  It didn't take long though to realize that it's not comparable to Kona.  
Because the group would be going from a cold climate to the heat and humidity of the Big Island, i knew that pacing them daily was going to be key.  This meant that we couldn't start right into 6+ hour training days.  A training camp should make the athlete stronger, not tear them down to the point where they have difficulty recovering.  I also encouraged the group to go more by feel and to ignore there tools.  First, trying to sustain set wattage zones on the bike could get you in trouble given that we weren't acclimated.   Next, i wanted my athletes to get a sense of their perceived effort.  And of course, i didn't want the group staring at their toys instead of the incredible surroundings.  We began Day One with a one hour morning run along the beach path from our resort.  The sun was just coming up, there was a breeze off the Pacific, and we were running in just shorts and singlets for some.  The path is gorgeous and as we made the turnaround and headed back towards our resort, we saw humpback whales diving off the shoreline.  I knew right then this was going to be an amazing camp.
Our resort was conveniently located near two shopping plazas, one with a market that rivals Whole Foods, as well as a great bike shop.  We shot over there to get some breakfast and stock up on some supplies for the week, then we assembled bikes.  Next, we were riding down the Queen K highway, on the official Ironman course, biking the 27 miles into Kona to check out the pier where the swim takes place.  After some fish tacos at Lava Java, we rode back to the resort.  Then we piled into the van and I took the group on a hike into the Waipio Valley, where they saw black sand beaches, waterfalls, and a Monk Seal sunbathing on the beach, one of the most endangered animals.  After the aggressive hike out of the valley, we swam from the beach at the resort.  This is the one main thing I've been missing at winter camp; swimming in open water and mainly salt water.  The water off the Kona coast is so salty making you extremely buoyant, and also ridiculously clear.  A dinner of more fresh fish and a few local beers made for a perfect day.  
We began the next day with a longer four hour ride where we first headed up to Hawi and then back down the Queen K, again on the IM course, followed by a short brick run.  After lunch, I took the group over to a beach which has been voted by the travel channel as one of the top ten beaches in the world.  This beach is sandy and crystal clear with a light swell, and we did an open water swim again, and then just hung out on the beach in paradise.
I won't go into detail on every day but we did a long run on a trail through the lava fields to a hidden cove, took a twin engine sea raft to the top voted snorkeling place in all the Hawaiian islands, on the ride back, the boat captain steered the raft into and out of lava tubes with unreal precision,  while educating us on the history and culture of the Island, and I even spotted an eight foot hammer head shark hanging out in some deep water.  We rode on the course and off the course on some of the most scenic roads you can imagine while climbing up the sides of volcanoes, swam from the pier on the official swim course which could pass as a swim/snorkeling excursion given the amount of fish swimming around under us and the over 100 feet of visibility under water there.  We did a hike to another secret beach where we saw over fifty sea turtles swimming in to sun.   We ran on the Queen K and into and out of the Energy Lab.  We visited the Kona Brewing company, ate some incredible food, and laughed our asses off.  
This was, bar none, the best camp I've ever hosted.  We had a smaller group of athletes  who all had the right attitude, which is they never complained about the work, they loved the adventures, they checked their egos, and they all had great sense of humors. Kim, who was amazing on this trip considering she didn't know anyone, was the only woman, and is fairly new to the sport, was the camp mvp.  She did everything well and with a smile.  She also brought along her husband who planned on just relaxing pool or beachside, but ended up joining us on all the excursions, and did every run with us as well, including one day where we did a double run!
The weather was quite perfect; mostly sunny and in the 80's, some cloud coverage once in awhile and one day where it drizzled on us a bit while riding in the mountains, which was welcome!
Everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to experience this course, given its history.  There were quite a few athletes out there with the same idea, training on the course.  However, we never saw any other athletes on the training we did off the course!
I already reserved the hotel again for next year.  The camp will be February 28th through March 7th.  I'm definitely going to keep it small again, limiting the size to ten, as i feel that for this camp, the smaller group keeps things more personal, and enriches the experience.  And spouses will definitely be welcome. This year, most of us booked our airfare for around $800 for the round trip, which is very reasonable considering I paid more than this back in 1996, my first trip to Kona.  If you want a spot, send in a $100 deposit.  Those that attended this year are grandfathered in if they want to re-attend in 2013.  The remaining spots are first come, first serve.  
My goal was to not only provide a solid week of base training for all the athletes that attended, but to also show them parts of this island that I've discovered and fallen in love with throughout the years there.  Mission accomplished.  

Friday, March 02, 2012

Kona Camp

I've been putting on triathlon camps for 12 years now.  In tri years, that equates to 84 years.  I've taught others how to run camps, and the key things to pay attention to (for example, as nice as receiving swag is, it's become quite evident that at the end of the camp, this is very low on the chain of what the attending athletes will remember when they are reevaluating their experience). The camps are hard work, yet I've enjoyed every one of them.  And as excited as I have personally been to put on a camp in the past, this one that begins tomorrow is the one I've been waiting for.  
I did my first ironman in 1996, and it was Hawaii.  I had been racing mainly sprint and Olympic distance races for a few years and was having fun with this, yet I also just got married, started my own business and was looking into buying our first house.  I figured my triathlon time was limited and that I wanted to, no, needed to do the one race that got me involved in the sport in the first place.  I don't discuss Hawaii too much because I don't want to be one of those ass holes that brags about racing there and tosses out the cliche "its the Super Bowl of the sport".  The fact is that there are many amazing ironman races around the world now, one less than a five hour drive from my door.  But as amazing as these other ironman races are, the reality is that they are Bridesmaids.  Most of the triathletes who say that the Hawaii ironman is over rated have never been there, and all those who say they have no desire to do it are lying, or maybe a bit scared or both.  
Back to my race in 96'; The first five hours felt good and were actually fun.  Then I spent the next four and a half hours swearing I'd never do something as awful and stupid as this race again, only to spend the last six minutes of the race thinking about how I was going to convince Lisa that we needed to come back again in 97'.  There is no other finish line like it.  The thing is that Lisa benefitted from the experience as much as I did, and the time we spent on that island pre and post race was amazing!  Every time we went back to the race, we had a new and incredible experience, learning more about the island, the beaches, the hikes, the food, the ocean, the race.
The history of this sport all points at Hawaii.  That is why the one race each year where you can count on all the best triathletes in the world going head to head with each other is simply described as Kona.  And I also realize that many may never get the opportunity to race there.  
As I sit here on this plane in the middle of the Pacific, I'm like a kid on Christmas eve.  We have a fun group for the first Kona Camp consisting of those training and hoping to qualify to those who just want to go out and experience this amazing course.  But what I'm really fired up about is showing this group this island that's been such a major part and has had such a big impact on my life.  And if you are a triathlete, there really is no better training environment anywhere than on the Big Island (and no, this isn't up for debate).  
I know I've been quite lame at blogging, but I do plan on updating our experience each day during this camp.
Cheers, EH