Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kona part II: the gates of mordor

After getting a bad split down to Matt at the halfway point of the ride (see part one), it was a good time to get aggressive as the downhill back from Hawi was a bit sketchy due to the crosswinds. I figured this would make him slightly cautious. That part of the course rewards risk and I decided it was the time to take it as it wouldn’t really require much effort just some nerve. I bombed down and as we turned back to the Queen K, I was only a minute down! I had pulled back 2 minutes in around 15 miles and I was happy again as we started the tough section back into town. The headwind was constant on the way back and I put the pressure on as the 1st half heroes dropped like flies. Matt came back to me around mile 85 and was looking ragged. I figured he was in trouble and was a victim of the 1st half pace. I took off hoping to drop not just him, but his pack. If one person stays in contact, chances are the whole group will, which means he would get a free ride back into town. No chance. I hit the gas and looked back 10 minutes later to see a big gap.

I rolled into transition clocking in at 5:03, which was dead on my projected split.

The bike course was ready to get smashed as was proven by the pros. It was mild and the roads are like licorice. It actually is a relatively easy course outside of two factors that everyone knows: the wind and the sun. The wind wasn’t too bad on our day, which was unbelievably fortunate. The heat isn’t noticeable but the sun is an absolute killer and the exposure derailed my race. Literally the only thing in the entire race I would change if I could go back is to wear a long sleeve shirt on the ride. I nailed nutrition, nailed pacing, nailed power spikes, but did not realize sunscreen wouldn’t be enough for me.

I moved off the bike feeling fresh in the legs but rotten in general. I couldn’t figure it out. The pace out onto the run was slower than normal but I still ticked off a 7:30 first mile. The second mile was completely torpedoed and I staggered to a stop. I was like a beater car, dying on the side of the road. I saw my Dad and said, “I am completely fried. I'm overcooked.” He said it would come around, but I was convinced it was over. It was the first time in a race where I nearly pulled the plug. I had concrete thoughts of the dreaded letters DNF. For those of you not of the triathlete persuasion, this is the abbreviation for “did not finish” and is a source of incredible shame for us. I prayed again for anything.

My core temp was through the roof and Ali’i drive was well into the 90’s, with no moving air, and completely exposed to the sun. I had visions of Norman Stadler, a former world champion, pathetically hiding under a telephone pole for shade and kept thinking, “you are Norman now, you idiot.” I walked a half-mile to an aid station and drenched myself in ice water, put ice down the shorts, ice on the palms, took water, took coke, and had a gu. Anything. Desperation move. I started running again thinking, “What the hell. I’ll be in the med tent anyway, can’t hurt to give it another go.” I was moving, albeit slowly and getting to the next aid station was the only focus so I could lower my core temp again. The ice on the palms was starting to kick in and my pace was starting to slowly come back to me. I was still moving gingerly as coming back from the grave is not something you can rush. Every aid station was the same. Four cups of ice, 3 to the groin, and 1 for the palms. I was moving again! The heat had really poisoned the system and my gut had shut down. I was in the john for the first time in a race. Still moving though. That’s all that mattered.

After the pit stop, I saw Matt and yelled for him to bridge up to me so we could get through the day together but he was a mile or so back and looking as bad as I was. No dice.

I hit mile 8 and was nearly off Ali’I drive. I looked to the sky hoping the clouds would roll in. I prayed again and turned up Palani drive at mile 10 to see dark skies. My family and friends were on the side of the road, screaming, as I was unconscious on my feet but still moving. I started walking up the massive hill on Palani and talking to my sister. I had this in my head from the moment I saw Palani. Walking is the only thing that would make sense. Spiking your heart rate in a race like this is a death sentence and anything faster than walking would spike mine. In my damage control mode, I was particularly keen on this plan. Walking sounded excellent. I told Rachel that the walking was an investment in the back half of my race. I wasn't sure if that was true. It sounded smart but it hinged on whether I could get my head on straight and run.

No comments: