I want to begin the recap of Kona week and Race Day with several thoughts. First of all, it has never been clearer to me how ordinary of an athlete I am. At best I was once average but spending a week with some of the most unbelievable athletes in the world provided a clear image of the old guy staring back at me in the mirror. Perhaps my level of athletic capability varies with the level of heat and the intensity of conditions. If true, the gap between the true athlete and myself widens dramatically in Kona. The second thing I want to mention is I really am okay with this as it pertains to the Ironman World Championships. My time splits are horrible……..they were actually fine through mile 75-80 on the bike but then the world unraveled and my day almost ended. My average speed on the bike and my marathon time printed on a sheet of paper is nothing short of unimpressive but behind the numbers this is one of my gutsiest performances and something I am most proud of. My path to the start line included everything I ever tried to teach as a coach. From an athletic perspective there were many disappointing setbacks. Even the fundraising side was full of disappointment as some commitments made to me were not honored. Life is full of obstacles though and to be successful it is critical we learn how to side step, go around, climb over or bust through these obstacles. Success rarely comes without a bit of hardship along the way and the Road to Kona was no exception to this life lesson.
•Thank you to my Mom.....certainly for helping to fundraise as her letter helped generate a $20,000 donation but also for standing by my side even though these adventures were pure stress for her. I also need to thank her for reliving the story over and over again. My Mom has never been the same since my father passed away. Time heals in some respect because you forget the pain. Every time I would sign up to fight back, I forced her to remember how sick my Dad was and remember how different life is without him. Hopefully my Mom can rest easy now and heal knowing we did good.
•A special thank you to the team that helped me physically get to the start line. My coach Gareth Thomas has helped me for every Ironman I ever completed. He had me very well trained so please do not let my time reflect on him. Gareth had to work around all my surgeries and setbacks. He had to tread lightly in some areas yet get me prepared. I am extremely grateful. Thank you to Repair Sports Institute who helped me heal from foot surgery and never gave up on me when the setbacks kept presenting themselves. This was my second home for most of training and I never would have seen this journey through without them. My last thanks goes to Dr. Dan Geller. It is his care and surgical skills that put me in a position to make this race happen. It was very touch and go and Dr. Geller always made time for me when my doubts and fears set in.
As always, race day started super early. While I didn’t get to sleep in I was able to get some sound sleep the night before. My kids decided to come lay with me on Race Eve while I watched television and that seemed to comfort my nerves a bit. I felt at peace for once and it was nice. That being said, I woke up around 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep so I hopped in the shower and started to get all of my nutrition and fluid ready. All in all I was bringing 4 bottles to load on my bike (2 Gu Brew + 2 Perpetuem). This would be in addition to the Electrolyte Synergy I had in my Camelbak that I had to check in the day before with my bike. I am fairly certain I had the only Camelbak in the race but it was part of the plan to be able to get in extra hydration. I also had 6 more bottles for Bike Special Needs (approximate ½ way point of the bike for those not familiar). These consisted of the same Gu Brew-Perpetuem combo plus I had 2 more bottles of fluid to refill the Camelbak. The only other fluid I had were Hot Shots and Pickle Juice. The other nutrition I brought was in an XLab Stealth Pocket bag on my bike frame which contained 3 rice cakes made with a recipe provided to me by Ellie Kempton of Simply Nourished Nutrition. Ellie was so amazing to me. I shared my cramping issues and she took time out of her busy schedule (and a vacation) to revamp my diet to give me the best chance of success. Special needs also had a few more Hot Shots and another Pickle Juice. Anyway, I am digressing with some fairly boring nutritional data but it is important because of my great fear of the heat. I had a plan, and all of these things were part of that plan. During training I was having about a bottle of fluid per hour. With the addition of the Camelbak plus taking advantage of water stops I would have far more than 1 bottle per hour which would hopefully do the trick.
aspects of my stroke for 250 yards at a time….left hand entering with force, hands open wider, head down and quick breath. We got to the boat turnaround and headed back which was really uneventful….which is a good thing. I still had no idea of my pace but when I got back to shore I looked down and I had broke 1:40. While this would be hugely disappointing for most, I was extremely happy. I had mapped out a worse case scenario of 2 hours so I had cushion to spare for the tough day that lie ahead of me.
I finally made it back to town. I had about 2 miles to go and tried to coast my way home as much as possible and started to mentally prepare for how I would navigate the bike dismount. I knew my body would gridlock in pain and wasn’t sure how to make it happen. I was hoping for a good supply of amazing volunteers left to help me. I decided I would yell out for help explaining the cramps and that is exactly what I did. I must not have been the first with the issue because they all quickly got the message. An army surrounded my bike to hold it up while I tried to unclip and put my foot down. Someone literally had to lift my leg over the bike seat as my body locked in pain. It is required that I cross the dismount line on my own efforts so the volunteers cleared the way as I stumbled into Transition 2 where they immediately took my side. I know I didn’t look good but the questions immediately started coming:
I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to run but I had taken my son’s watch which had an interval timer built in (once in Triathlon mode I did not know how to change the run interval). Upon trying to set the watch (on my right hand) I learned that my left hand wasn’t working. I did not have any finger strength to be able to push the buttons. I think it was some carpel tunnel type situation from the bike and the cramping. It is still evident today as I type so it might require a doc visit in the near future. I had to take the watch off and use my right hand to make the changes. I set a 30 second run, 2 minute walk. I know that sounds pathetic but it was something. I had to try. There were so many people out there cheering me on. The spectators and volunteers are unbelievable at this event. They shout encouragement, humor, distraction all to help you keep moving forward. They had seen the pros and unbelievable age groupers come through and here I come hobbling down the street. They treated me the same. I was never made to feel less than.
good and need to get moving. I saw Eric Begley again………..he told me to give my wife a kiss which I happily/dizzily obliged. Soon thereafter the dry heaving began and I knew I needed to get to the medical tent. No need to go into much detail about my visit there. They couldn’t believe 17 bottles of fluid disappeared without needing the restroom. They weighed me. The weight loss coupled with all the other signs led to 1.5 liters of IV. They took some blood and determined my kidneys were failing……….I am supposed to get this checked out back in Los Angeles. After a while, I managed to feel good enough to leave the tent and reunite with my family. This IV was my first and I can confirm they are unbelievable. I felt good enough to rush over to the finish line to join the party and cheer in the final participants. There were only 5 minutes left for the men and 20 for the women. The place was rocking doing justice to my claim this is the best finish line on the planet. That IV allowed me some dance time which was unbelievable. To be with my family and share this experience with a medal around my neck………it was all I hoped for. I crossed that finish line a different person…….a person that I hope stays with me the rest of my years.
Fourteen years. $375,000 raised. Lifetime friends made. Dreams realized. Promises fulfilled. It all came to be on October 14th on Ali’i Drive.