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Ironman World Championship - Triathlon

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Kona, Hawaii
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
88F / 31C
Total Time = 13h 09m 35s
Overall Rank = 1604/2187
Age Group = 50-54
Age Group Rank = 127/187
Pre-race routine:

I humbly present my race report for Kona WC. Being my third full iron distance, this one was a bear.

I was fortunate to get a lottery slot after trying for years, and certainly a dream come true for me, since I'd probably never qualify otherwise. My other two IM's were decent, but no where near a qualifying time. So lottery was my only choice for a chance at Kona.

My summary statement is “this race combines the best day of my life with the hardest race ever” Kona delivered a punch and schooled me with heavy winds this year, comparable to my Honu 70.3 experience in 2012. My thought back then was if Kona was that windy, I didn't want to do it, well....I jinxed myself.

Every aspect of this race tested my mental and physical strength at every point of swim, bike and run. Never before had I faced the possibility of DNF on each segment. Struggles in the swim, unrelenting strong winds on the bike, and the run made me question my ability to move forward, but I finished out of shear determination.

The weather leading up to the race was mixed, we arrived on Tuesday with calm winds, clear skies and brutal hot temperatures. We got our bikes together and headed to the pool for a swim. The pool felt great even though I wanted to hit the pier for an ocean swim. I tend to hate swimming in pools. However this was ok, filled with the usual type A triathletes racing the stranger in the adjacent lanes.

Enjoying the beautiful Kona sunset and managing to get our condo set up with food and comforts, we settled in to begin our process to prepare for race day, being only 4 days away.

Wednesday started with a hour bike up Queen K, followed by a transition run of 30 mins. Felt wonderful although the heat was a little scary considering that's what race day might be. Ate a great lunch, with a power juice (wheatgrass, ginger, beet, and carrot) with a huge turkey sandwich. Got registered and picked up our race materials. Then progressed back to the condo for more rest.

Thursday was a total rest day, laying around doing absolutely nothing is very hard for a triathletes that are used to working out all the time. Nervousness starting to eat at us and driving us nuts. Worked on getting the bike and run bags ready and gathering nutrition, double checking long lists.

Weather was changing, with rain in the forecast but also wind. Predictions of wind on race day became a potential concern. My fear was it being similar to my horrid experience at Honu (70.3) in 2012, when it was so windy I couldn't eat or drink for a large section of the bike. And this was a Half Iron distance, now I could possibly have to deal with this in a Full Iron.

Our Pre-Race Banquet was this night, and my heartrate pounded the entire time being so close to thousands of racers, and their families. The race tension was so thick, I could hardly stand being there.

My final night of good sleep and then Friday rolled around very quickly.

Our last chance to get it all right before dropping off our bikes and bike/run bags. Once that is done, all you can do is wait as the hours tick away.

We got all the things done required to do, and then pretended to relax as we made dinner..and ate our last supper before battle. Retired early to bed with hopes of a decent sleep.

Tossed and turned for awhile but somehow drifted off and then wide awake again at midnight. Only 3 hours till the dreaded alarm. Fitful, could not sleep and just laid there until about 2:45am and decided that was it. Time to go into robot mode and get ready.

Event warmup:

Showered, sunscreened, and made coffee. Made breakfast of eggs and sweet potatoes.
Made drinks for the bike and got my pre-race bag together. Time was counting down fast and we planned to be at transition when it opened at the ungodly hour of 4:45am.

Dropped off at the end of the road by the race, we walked silently in the dark to the lights of body marking and weigh in. Masses of triathletes focused on their agenda, methodically checking off the required steps to get the bike ready, hit the porta potty, activate the timing chip, and a short warm up on
the grass with my coach.

I dropped off my pre-race bag and headed to the swim start. I did not bother to get in the water, as the AG men were already in the chute to step in for the swim to the start line. Water was warm and deceivingly comfortable, as I swam slowly out to the area to start. I positioned myself behind the front pack, and to the outside, I wanted to avoid congestion and anxiety as much as possible.

  • 1h 28m 21s
  • 4224 yards
  • 02m 05s / 100 yards

The cannon went off and I started my trusty Ironman watch timer. Off and swimming the long haul to the Body Glove boat at the turn around.

Slow at first with steady big strokes, I felt fine, and moving along in open water without much contact. I was dreading a heavy contact swim with powerful Europeans trying to pound me under, but that never happened. The span of swimmers was immense, and I realized I was far from the buoy line and began moving towards the right. Amazed at the open water I had, I chugged onward to the turn around.

Feeling like I had swam forever, I could barely make out the Body Glove boat in the haze. Water was getting choppier and I was sucking in water on the left side, so compensated on my roll to avoid that. At least I could see that damn boat by now, but still a long distance till I was there.

Finally getting to the turn around, I could see people on board looking at us, I wanted to wave but could not. The path around the boats was longer than I anticipated and that took a bit of swimming to round back onto the return leg of the swim.

Upon heading back, my left shoulder started acting up. Every rotation was painful and scared me because I had A LOT of swimming to do before I finished. I started to fade a bit and felt sloppy with my stroke. I tried to get myself together and buck up to this challenge ahead. I breathed deep, exhaled forcefully to help with the oxygen flow, and concentrated on my form. My shoulder was in and out with pain, and trudged forward. I started to think what if I couldn't finish the swim ? How awful that thought was, and forced me to continue.

I swam and swam and could not see the pier. I was feeling annoyed at swimmers weaving around in front, but it was really the fact I was tired and didn't want to maneuver around them. I expected to start seeing the bottom and coral soon, but still was deep. I kept looking for the pier but could not see it still.

A rubber boat full of people came out of nowhere and surprised me. But as I looked up I thought I saw the pier. I couldn't judge how far it was to the swim exit, but I kept swimming with the shoulder pain. Basically down to one arm now, and breathing on one side to compensate.

FINALLY I saw the stairs out of the water. I was SOOO excited to be done with the swim. I swam like a robot to the stairs, and stumbled in the sand to step up. I was very very very happy to be out of the water. Yay!

Although this was possibly the most beautiful swim I've done, it was the hardest for a number of reasons. No wetsuit, although a wetsuit is annoying, and constricting, it does help improve your swim speed. Warm water, which makes it harder to swim faster, you just feel hot. And having to deal with a painful shoulder was just most difficult.

Transition 1
  • 07m 6s

Off to T1. Long run around the cramped transition area to the tent to pick up my bike bag. Into the crowded and busy changing tent to scramble putting on the bike clothes. I fumbled around for a long time getting everything on. Finally out of the tent and ran in my bare feet to the bike, which was another long run.

Got on my shoes and helmet and headed out to the mount line.
  • 6h 30m 3s
  • 112 miles
  • 17.23 mile/hr

Off to the crowds waiting to see the bikes start on their long 112 mile journey. But first was the parade of going around the town for the first couple of miles before we headed out to the Queen K.

I tried to keep it mellow for the first 10 miles. Drinking a bit and trying to spin my legs to get them “awake”. Winds were calm here and it felt easy. I was feeling ok and just so happy to be out of the water.

I tried not to concentrate on the miles so much and looked around to appreciate the morning views of the mountain slopes and the sun peeking up. It was very nice, and we went about our business of speeding along Queen K to past the airport and onto the lonely stretch to Waikoloa, about 30 miles from Kona.

Unfortunately getting into Waikoloa hit us with crazy head winds that slowed me to a crawl. I had never dealt with such horrible winds at this stage. It reminded me of the windy conditions of 2012 Honu 70.3, which was the craziest ever, until today of course! Later I heard reports of 40mph+ winds, which I certainly believe.

The winds were relentless and powerful as we struggled to get to Kawaihae. It was clearly taking it's toll and I backed off to spin as best as I could to get my legs to calm down. Getting past Hapuna beach seemed like it took forever, but I did get there finally and the winds were less, hit the intersection to Kawaihae and things were better for awhile. Tried to gain some ground as best as I could before the climb into Hawi.

Winds were deceptively calm in the base area of the climb but crested a hill and suddenly it was crazy winds again. Pummeled by head winds and cross winds all the way up to Hawi. It was quite difficult and I felt my legs taking a beating. This was bad because I still had another big challenge on the way back, expending my energy and having muscle issues would cost me on the run..

Bikers were very tired and many were weaving around, blown by cross winds easily without a warning.

I was hoping to get to the Hawi turn around by 3 hours but unfortunately it became 3:30. I had to stop at the porta potty and get myself together. Jumped back on the bike and screamed down those hills that took so much out of me.

Luckily the cross winds were not that bad and I was in decent control. However inexperienced bikers were constantly being blown across the road and I was very cautious to make my passes so we wouldn't collide.

I made good time through the downhills, which quickly ended, and with more climbing back out towards Kawaihae. A strange hooting sound started and I couldn't tell where it was coming from. I was basically alone and heard it from all directions. I thought I was hallucinating, and tried to pinpoint where it was coming from. Scary actually and was a very haunting type of screech. I was anxious to get the heck out of there and that motivated me to push harder.

Getting through the Kawaihae area, I started to feel a pain in my left knee, which I did not get during training all those long miles...why now ? I was thinking this isn't good, because I have 50 miles to go and then 26 miles of a hard run. I had heard that in Kona the bike doesn't really start until the return on Queen K. Well that's just great.

Of course the headwinds started up again and became agonizing to make decent progress. Getting past Hapuna and onto Mauna Lani was slow, distracted myself by thinking about all my Honu races.

I looked at my time, and thought it was possible to save this bike and get in with a split of 6:30. I'd have to work hard to get that, otherwise it could easily turn into a 7hr bike.

Past Waikoloa into the lonely stretch to the airport, fighting the winds, fatigue, and the knee pain, I struggled to maintain a good pace.

The heat was playing a role now, as I am pretty used to Hawaii temps, but being out there so long and being beaten up, made me feel hot and tired. I was motivated by coming up with songs and probably other bikers thought I was losing it. Also thinking heavily about “less than 30 miles!!”

I prayed for decent conditions but kept getting hit with headwinds.

Finally I got to the airport, and that was a welcome sight. Cresting the hill I planned to hammer it to town, despite my degraded state.

I was in a zombie mode, and zoomed by tired bikers. Constantly checking my watch for how much time left till 6:30 mark, I forced onward. Finally hitting Makala and ripped down to Kuakini, was super stoked to get my sore butt off this bike and be done with those crazy conditions. My watch showed me a few minutes prior to 6:30 hours total on the bike...and I was happy with that result, but to what effect would it have on my run ??

Felt great to see everyone on Palani, and headed to transition.

Dazed as they took my bike from my death grip, and I ran to the tent to get my run bag. Pulled off my bike shoes and ran in socks. Many were walking and I was like no way..
Transition 2
  • 07m 2s

In the T2 changing tent, I fumbled around trying to get myself together and change for the run. Seemed like a waste of time, but I managed to finally hand of my bag to the volunteer, and head out the biggest challenge yet..THE RUN.
  • 4h 57m 3s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 11m 20s  min/mile

Again my plan was to take it super easy the first 10K and get my legs into a good rhythm. I felt ok despite the potential knee pain, and fatigue from the bike torture.

The loop on Alii drive was super long, I was unsure of where the turn around was and it went on and on. I stopped to stretch a few times, and plodded onward.

Finally got to the turn around and was relieved, but also to realize this was only 5 miles in. My coach was waiting for me and I was very happy to see her.

Cloud cover became more rainy looking and sprinkled some. Although it was a bit cooler, it was gloomy feeling. The aid stations were frequent at least and I walked through trying to stretch my legs with big strides.

Passed our condo again, Royal Sea Cliff, and I knew it was till 2 miles till the Queen K.

I was feeling pretty toasted by the time I got to Palani, and climbed the hill to Queen K. The crowds made me feel like a rockstar, but I knew otherwise!

Stretched again once I got onto Queen K and started my march to the Energy Lab, nearly 7 miles away.

Pretty much walked each aid station, but tried to keep up a decent running pace once I got past each one. Had to hit the porta potty at mile 14, otherwise bad things would have happened.

Heard a guy puking outside, so bad I thought he was dying. Never heard someone puke that bad. Glad to finish my business in the potty and get out on the road again, away from Mr. Puker.

Plodding along, I just was amazed at how far the Energy Lab becomes when you are tired. Like forever. Finally I saw the damn thing, as I crested the last hill. Crossed over and down into the Energy Lab descent.

Loaded with cheering stations of people, was quite uplifting since the last 7 miles was pretty dull.

The best part of being slow, was a sensational sunset as I trodded down. I felt like it was a weird movie as I climbed into the path of the setting melting butter Sun, on a dark blue carpet into the dusk turning to night. Well after the sun set, it was back to business....plod on.

Down around the bend, the Energy lab aid station by the turn around. Volunteers handing out full cans of Red Bull. Man, they were really pushing this stuff. I drank way too much. Not sure it really did anything useful but the fizz did taste good.

Very dark now and ran into a friend at the 18 mile mark. He decided to pair up and do the 8 mile death march back to town together. Which was fine with me. All my goals were gone other than to finish this Ironman, and it was pretty desolate being dark, and quiet in the night. Running in the dark plays mind games with you, let me tell ya.

We headed up the Energy Lab climb to Queen K, pummeled by flickering lights and outbursts from various delirious displays going on and off, and tired volunteers shouting this and that, adding an odd ambiance to the whole experience.

Queen K arrived and became this silent shuffle with triathletes heading back and forth. Our lights were shadows cast by random cars going by, showing us the dark cones in the road, to re-adjust our crooked paths. All sorts of people going back n forth. People on bikes cruising around, runners all over...eerily silent in the darkness of night. With blurry vision and confused minds, we tried to anticpate the next aid station.

Aid stations in the darkness, we were clued in by the smashed cups and GU packets discarded in a trash trail leading to the sponge bucket, and then water....the dreaded Perform, Red Bull, Coke, and GU/pretzels, soup and whatever else. Then as we past each aid station, we discussed moving into the run again....quads aching, knees and ankles swollen...only fueled by our mental determination to get to the damn finish line.

Finally we could see the lights of Kona, and heard faintly Mike Reilly shouting “You are an IRONMAN” and that motivated us to get moving...we were very close...only 2 miles away now.

Unfortunately 2 miles is an eternity when you are dead tired at the end of an Ironman marathon. But somehow you figure out how to muster the strength to finish...dragging yourself and whomever else is around you to the finish chute to complete this journey.

Unnatural levels of joy, and emotion filled me as I clambored onto Alii Drive for the final time and ran down the street to the blinding lights of the Ironman Finish Line.

I somehow jumped in the air over the finish line and heard Mike call my name. Finished in 13:09.

Post race
Warm down:

was led to by volunteers as usual. Walking fine, and feeling decent. Although any thought of food was a possible upset, so I opted for 2 bottles of chocolate milk. That seemed to go down nicely. I avoided the pizza ....

Despite my race stuggles, I was doing quite well. Although I knew the next few days would be the Ironman shuffle.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Sore shoulder on the swim, painful knee and the crazy winds on the bike, just too smoked to run fast due to the bike.

Event comments:

My original goal was 11:59 but that quickly faded to 12:30, and unfortunately slipped. Basically the bike smoked me, and I suffered on the run. But to tell the truth, I suffered on all phases of this race, starting with the swim. It was a race finished by sheer determination.

Being my 3rd Ironman, the euphoric finish is an exhilaration that never gets old, especially when its Kona World Championship, a dream come true.

Although it wasn't the time I wanted or hoped for, it still was the best effort I had in me that day. I am not disappointed with my efforts, as I felt I planned, and executed to the best of my ability. I have no excuses but neither regrets. I am very satisfied with the best day of my life.

Finally as a personal note of gratitude, I thank my coach Amy, for sticking with me for all the training, and her incredible support. I truly appreciate her dedication to get me through this great race.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2014-10-15 12:00 AM
01:28:21 | 4224 yards | 02m 05s / 100yards
Age Group: 145/187
Overall: 1735/2187
Performance: Average
Suit: 1 piece tri
Course: clockwise single loop (rectangle)
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Waves
Water temp: 78F / 26C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Average Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 07:06
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:30:03 | 112 miles | 17.23 mile/hr
Age Group: 126/187
Overall: 1559/2187
Performance: Average
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence: 90
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills: Average
Race pace: Hard Drinks:
Time: 07:02
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:57:03 | 26.2 miles | 11m 20s  min/mile
Age Group: 127/187
Overall: 1604/2187
Performance: Average
Keeping cool Good Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2014-10-15 2:41 PM

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Kailua, Hawaii
Subject: Ironman World Championship

2014-10-15 3:10 PM
in reply to: #5060209

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Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship

Great job Noel.  Awesome seeing you out there on the run and even though I could tell you weren't on your best day, it was clear that you were putting in your best effort.  That's what Ironman is all about.  You look deep inside yourself, despite the daunting miles that are still ahead of you, the dimming lights, and you just push forward.  Congrats.

2014-10-15 3:18 PM
in reply to: Jason N

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Kailua, Hawaii
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship
Thanks Jason. I appreciate you volunteering for the race, and was stoked to see you as well.

I've mulled this over and over, but even though my time wasn't what I wanted, I really enjoyed the internal battle.'re absolutely right....Ironman tests my llmits to the ultimate, it's about how you manage your strength, and capabilities on that particular day to do the absolute best you can.
2014-10-16 6:18 AM
in reply to: metafizx

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Camden, NC
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship
Great report! I love reading these because it humanizes all of the amazing visions I have of this race and I admired your struggles and how you came through it all. I feel like I have shared some of the exact same thoughts on the two Ironmans I have completed. Congrats on racing in Kona, you are a lucky man!
2014-10-16 11:20 AM
in reply to: HercDriver

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Bellingham, WA
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship

Wow!! Congrats Noel.  What an amazing race.  You got to live the dream.  Having done Honu twice I can certainly appreciate the conditions you had to deal with.  Most people can't imagine how tough that course can be and you conquered it.

2014-10-16 11:32 AM
in reply to: HercDriver

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Bronze member
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship

Awesome race report and awesome job! That race is no joke - and it sounds like you had your share of challenges out there and still made it! AND you managed to enjoy some of your surroundings! True Ironman spirit. 

2014-10-16 1:07 PM
in reply to: juniperjen

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Williamston, Michigan
Gold member
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship

Congratulations. Great race great race report Sounds like a wonderful experience

2014-10-16 2:06 PM
in reply to: #5060209

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Kailua, Hawaii
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship
Thanks for your comments everyone !

I appreciate BT !
2014-10-16 3:27 PM
in reply to: #5060209


Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship
Nice photo, Noel! :-) Congratulations and more kudos! My palms are sweating and I have butterflies in my stomach just reading your report! You're amazing and will continue to amaze me when you finish XTERRA Worlds next weekend for a DOUBLE finish. Can't wait to ride mtb trails with you on Oahu when XTERRA is behind us...
2014-10-16 3:49 PM
in reply to: TINAis

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Kailua, Hawaii
Subject: RE: Ironman World Championship
Thanks Tina, will be looking forward to it ! :-)
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