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.