Below is my journal entry the day after my race … It delves a bit deeper into my head than I normally share here, but I thought some of you might appreciate it …
June 6, 2010 – Half Ironman in Kona, Hawaii
I woke up every hour throughout the night as my nerves wouldn’t allow me to possibly miss the event. I finally got up at 4:30 and heard what I thought was wind outside. It was. The forecast had called for low wind and high humidity. But to start the early morning with huge gusts was concerning to say the least. I washed down ½ a bagel with some Gatorade and headed out.
I boarded the athlete shuttle to Hopuna Bay and quietly observed everyone commenting about the wind. The nervous energy of the group was building.
I checked my bike to make sure it was ready and went down for body marking. Jess was nowhere in sight. I kept looking for her throughout the morning before the start but the traffic made it impossible for her to get to me in time.
(The day before the race we came to Hopuna Bay for a little test swim. I forgot my goggles and so I decided to run back up to the jeep to get them. Since I would be running on bare feet the next day to the transition area I wanted to see how it felt. Big mistake. About a ¼ of the way up to the jeep, my feet were burning on the pavement. By the time I got back I could feel blisters forming on both feet. I swam for about 300 yards and then walked gingerly on the sand back to Jess. Blisters. I couldn’t believe it.)
I concentrated on being relaxed and on not allowing the adrenalin to push me to go too hard and fast out of the gate. When the cannon blasted I walked into the water and watched the mass start of 1,300 people thrash in front of me. Time to go. About 20 feet out I saw a sea turtle and thought how cool to be doing this in Hawaii. I settled into a comfortable pace, never exerting myself so much as to lose my breath. I found a big guy and drafted behind him for a while and then saw some open water and passed him. That turned out to be my strategy for the entire swim. There were times when people were banging into me, grabbing my feet, etc. but nothing like I feared. The 3 months of swim training at Capo Masters paid off. Occasionally I would work on my technique and noticed the difference. I loved the swim. I looked at my watch and saw 41 minutes and was stoked because I thought I’d swim a 45 minute leg. As I ran up the shore and hill to the transition area I looked all over for Jess. No luck.
I had been feeling serious bike envy for the previous 24 hours as I was surrounded by $4,000 to $8,000 bikes. Mine? An entry level road bike. Everybody else’s? Fast, light triathlon bikes. I mounted my bike feeling good but a bit anxious about the course ahead. Jess and I drove it the day before and it seemed like it went uphill both ways. Lots of hills out toward Hawi. We were told to expect heat, sun, and wind. The bike started with a quick few miles south and then north along the Queen K highway for about 24 miles. (The Queen K is legendary and has held sort of a mythological place in my head since I was about 8 years old. This is the same Queen K highway that the Ironman races on in October and the same one I saw the Ironman race on for the first time on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports when I was a kid. Lava rock on both sides of the highway as far as you can see.) When I got to the south-to-north turnaround, there she was. Jess was fumbling between the camera and video camera and cheering for me. She was trying to do all at the same time and for some reason that moment brought on the emotions for me. As I headed north away from her, I held back the tears. I looked at my watch and saw that I was moving fast, my legs felt fresh, and an idea that I kicked out of my mind the day before came rushing back … SIX.
When I first considered the ½ ironman (70.3 miles – 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run) last year I printed out the race results from the 70.3 in Oceanside from 2009. As I analyzed the times, I set a goal, 6 total hours. Unlike the first time I tried a triathlon, I didn’t just want to finish, I wanted to do well, for a beginner. 6 hours was about right in the middle of the 35-39 yr old age group. I highlighted that time and tacked it up on my office wall. My goal. Six. But, the day before the race, I got huge blisters on both of my forefeet and I got totally psyched out by the mandatory meeting. The night before the race I hobbled into the meeting with 1,300 other athletes. As they talked about the course, the conditions, the heat, wind, the sun, the dropout rates, the pride in just finishing, the fact that this is not a ‘personal record’ course, I quietly dismissed the six hour goal. This was my first 70.3. The goal I set was actually for a different course and different conditions – Oceanside. I hadn’t trained in anything like this. Finish. My new goal. Finish. I told Jess about my decision and she said, ‘why?’ She probably doesn’t know it, but I was surprised by her response. I expected to hear, ‘Good. Don’t kill yourself. Just finishing is awesome.’ Nope. ‘Why?’ I gave her my reasons and she supported me.
As I headed north on the Queen K, I smiled as the tears dried away. SIX. I’m going for it.
I rode strong but with some caution. I knew I had to have enough in the tank to finish the run so I resisted the urge (most of the time) to race people. I was racing the course. At about mile 15 I recognized a one armed guy ride by me. It was Jason Lester who only a couple weeks earlier had completed the Epic 5 – 5 full ironman races on 5 islands in 5 days. I yelled out epic 5 and he gave me a hang loose sign with his one good hand. The hills up to the turnaround in Hawi were a grind. The winds gusted a few times so hard I almost fell off the bike. I settled in to a steady pace. I thought of one of Rich Osguthorpe’s encouraging emails before the race when he said, ‘There is nothing in the family history like this–you’re blazing the trail.’ That fired me up and I thought on it a few times during the ride. I thought about Mike’s reassuring words when I told him I was worried I hadn’t trained enough. He said, ‘you’ve put in the training.’ Once I got to the turnaround it was a fast down hill and I hammered hard to make up my pace. I knew I needed to average about 18mph for the entire 56mi to have a chance at my goal of SIX. I was smoking. I had a huge smile on my face as I was flying down some hills. The entire ride was about 3 hours. There were several times when I felt my legs. They felt heavy, achy, and done. But, then I’d hit an aide station, shower my legs with cold water and I’d be good to go for another 10-15 miles. I kept telling myself, ‘legs always recover.’
The last few miles of the ride, I remembered Craig Lark’s advice and started spinning my legs quicker to aide in the transition to the run. I looked at my watch as I pulled into the transition area again … 18.3 mph average. Good. Overall time was at about 4 hours. I had 2 hours to run 13.1 miles. I think I can.
As I started the run, I looked all over for Jess. No sign of her. The run meanders up and down the entire golf course of the Fairmont with some out and back stretches on pavement mixed in. The mandatory meeting pronouncements about the run were intimidating. I started at about a 8:30 to 9:00 min/mile pace. The rolling hills and grass and cart path made it difficult to settle into a rhythm. But, to my surprise, I felt good. I knew 2 hours was a long time to run after all I had done and I needed to save some energy for the end so I kept an eye on my heart rate and pace and walked each aide station. It was so hot and humid that every aide station I drank a little bit of water or Gatorade and stuffed my shirt with a cup of ice. I also stuck a couple of ice cold sponges in back neck of my shirt to cool down. Every aide station. By mile 3 my mind needed something to focus on other than my blistered feet. Grandma Sedgwick whispered to me. The verse she made us all memorize as kids came in … “Look unto me in every thought … Doubt not … fear not.” That verse from D&C 6:36 became my mantra. I started chanting it to myself in my head over and over. And over and over. I’d go a mile with nothing but that going through my head. I probably repeated that to myself for ¼ of the race.
I finally arrived at the last paved road out and back at mile 8.5. This was referred to in the mandatory meeting as the road to [bleep] or road to nowhere. It’s a gradual downhill for about 1.5 miles. Which means it’s a gradual uphill for the next 1.5 miles. The race director said that the people that start the road to nowhere look a lot different when they come back than when they start it. As I started the run down I noticed a mile marker for facing those coming up the hill. Mile 11. I realized that I had to be at that mile marker by 5 hours 40 minutes to make my goal. I picked up my pace a little bit and started slowly passing people. My heart rate was about 165, sometimes hitting 170. I was desperately trying to gauge how much further I could go at this pace before I had to stop. I didn’t know. I just kept going. Then … starting chanting again. When I hit the 11mi marker coming up out of the road to nowhere, I looked at my watch and saw 5:40 even. I had to run 2.1 miles in 20 minutes. I had one thought at that moment. There is no way that I’m going to finish this race with anything left in the tank. No Regrets. I kept pushing. 170 bpm the rest of the way. For the past 9 miles my shoes were weighed down with water that I continued to poor over my head in every aide station. Each step squished out water. People heard me coming and going. I zeroed in on a couple guys ahead of me who were running the pace I needed to maintain. They didn’t know it, but they pulled me along during the last 2.1 miles.
We had what looked like one last long fairway to run. I could faintly hear the finish line noise. I kept looking at my watch. I knew there would be another turn in the course. Something unexpected as I neared the end of the grass. Then I heard someone yell, ‘you’re almost there! 400 meters to go!’ What!? I looked at my watch. 5:54. I can do 400 meters in about a minute! Really!? I couldn’t believe I was that close. I hoped she wasn’t just saying that to keep us going. I ran through the end of the grass and turned onto the cart path and there it was, the finish line … about 200 yards away. I noticed and heard Jess call for me and stumble with the camera and video camera again. I smiled. The tears rushed to my eyes, I got the chills, and ran as hard as I could. I looked up at the official clock and saw 5:55:40 and rejoiced as I crossed the line. The combination of my emotions and my effort made it hard to breathe for about a minute. I was spent.
Some links …
- A recap of the race from ironman.com nails it.
- My official splits. (enter my bib# 1015)
- My Garmin data
- Race photos from the course
- During Jess and my first marathon we saw someone’s shirt that read, ‘The pain of discipline is nothing compared to the pain of regret.’ The idea of ‘no regrets’ was central to my mission in Argentina. It came back to me during the race. I thought often about the months of cold early mornings on the bike when I used to be asleep. I thought of the stark change in diet to healthy real food. I thought of the pain of regret I would feel if I didn’t hit my goal because I didn’t push myself all the way and give everything I had.
- I need goals. For me to be fully engaged, striving to reach my potential, and to grow, I need challenging goals. The race would’ve been such a different experience for me had I not reset the 6 hour goal at the start of the bike leg. Without goals, whatever I do or am is acceptable. Unfortunately, acceptable is far from being my best self.
- I need others. From the outside, a 70.3 seems like an individual experience. But, for me, it was far from that. I thought about the many people who have helped me prepare for this or make it possible. Jess has had to get the kids up by herself and ready for school while I’m our training. Every morning. She never once complained or made me feel guilty. Amazing. The other part of this lesson learned is that others, perhaps, need me. The volunteers on the course were inspiring to me. They were enthusiastic. They were yelling for us. They were trying to help us. They were not getting paid. I felt like a taker. I thought how there are takers and givers. I wanted to be more of a giver after being given so much before and during this race. The other part of this lesson is that people helped me and they didn’t even know it. I was watching other racers. I was following their pace, their lead. If they slowed, I might’ve as well. Some I knew I needed to pass. Some I needed to catch. We may, but probably are clueless to how many people are pacing themselves on us. What type of example do I want to set? The kind that wants to be followed, caught, passed by?
- Family Legacy has power in it. Chanting grandma Sedgwick’s verse over and over during the run gave me strength. Like Pres. Packer has taught, the mind is a stage. As I forced ‘Look unto me in every thought … doubt not … fear not’ onto the stage, doubt and fear and pained blisters didn’t have space. What legacy am I passing to my kids that they can rely on when they need it most? Rich’s comment about charting new ground in our family’s legacy made me smile and motivated me to represent them well.
- Quick to Observe. E. Bednar talked about being quick to observe when he spoke in our stake last year. Soon after, I had a chance to be that. I was asked/invited by our stake presidency to attend Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge training. It’s a 2 long weekend training. Unfortunately, I had already paid for the registration for the ½ ironman in Oceanside that conflicted with Wood Badge. I had been training since October. Wood Badge is offered a couple times a year. I could go to the one in the fall. I thought about it. And, I thought about E. Bednar’s words. I dropped out of Oceanside and signed up for Wood Badge. I continued to ride and run a bit but I lost my race. Bummer. As March approached I got back on ironman.com and found one of the only other races of the year on a Saturday … and it happened to be in paradise. Jess and I smiled as we saw the blessing that came from being quick to observe. Instead of racing Oceanside, we had a special time on the Big Island and Oahu together 2 months before baby #5 arrives. I wish I was that quick to observe in all things …