Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hawaii Half Ironman

These bladdy race reports are getting harder and harder to write. I’ve been letting more races slip through the to the keeper without writing one recently – I actually had a decent day in the Sydney ITU; but couldna be arsed doing a report. 

When conversation turns to triathlon with friends and family, it’s not uncommon for people to say that they’ll find out all about it on my report.  I’m never quite sure if they are genuine or are thinking – ‘I’m sure you’ll be shoving it down our throats soon enough’. A bit like if you wear a slightly different article of clothing that you’re not sure about, and everyone you meet comments on how they like it – most of the time they are actually thinking ‘that’s pretty weird / wanky’ so it’s just at the forefront of their mind, and they can’t help bringing it up. Anyway these reports are especially hard if you have a shitty race, which for me these days seems to be about 50% of the time this race included. Anyway this was kind of a big race and in an interesting and significant location so I knuckled down on the long flight from Tokyo to Europe and  here ‘tis.

Hey man, how you hat.
As most will know Hawaii is central to the core of triathlon, especially the ‘Ironman’ (longer distance) triathlon world. The Ironman world championships (full ironman distance) are held here every October and it’s the race everyone who is into long course tris want to do, and qualifying for it is tough. The birth of Ironman was in Hawaii, where over a few beers a small bunch of guys were having a debate about what type of athlete is the fittest: swimmers, cyclists or runners. So they decided to have a race to see who would win and put the three big Hawaiian races in each discipline back to back. "Whoever wins that race; we’ll call him the real Ironman”, so the legend goes. The races were, (I think) The Maui Rough Water Swim (3.8kms), the around Oahu Ride (180kms) and the Honolulu marathon (42.2kms) all done in a day, and those distances still prevail as the official Ironman distance, and naturally, the Half Ironman distances came directly from those distances too. 

Original Ironman homemade trophy

Although the Hawaiian Ironman World Champs are massive, the Half Ironman (70.3 if you must) in Hawaii is a pretty new event. It started as a very low key shorter race 8 years ago, but has gained momentum every year, and is now a really big race with almost 2,000 this year and Lance Armstrong (who owns a house near the course) was one of them. He ended up winning this race pretty easily. It pains me to say it but if it is as windy in October as it was on this day, he could well win the big one. Here's hoping for a calm day.

Lance crushed the bike leg

 The course has a different swim and run from the Full distance, but the bike course is almost the same, being the middle half of the full Ironman course along the famous ‘Queen K’ highway on the Big Island, starting about 50kms north of Kona, north to Hawi and back – it is the hilliest and windiest part of the full distance ride, which is famous for its heat and strong cross-winds. 

I was also looking forward to going back to America for the first time in a few years, as since Obama has been in, I’d been liking the people and culture more and more. I used to have some sort of weird pride in never having been to the U.S despite having traveled to lots of places. It’s a bit strange that a head of state could do that to you as the people had not really changed. I’ve mixed with lots of cool Americans in Tokyo over the years and we’re all well aware of their culture, sure they are strongly obsessed with guns, you’d have to go to the Middle East to find a country that has such a hold on and they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time being suspicious and fearful  but their brashness and out-there persona did not bother me anymore, in fact I kind of like it. They certainly were not boring, and the TV is good. Well at least it’s in English. And there’s no doubt it is an awesome country. For sure we really enjoyed our time there; the people are really considerate of others we noticed, a lot like the Japanese. 

This is not a bad place after all.

Another reason we decided to do this race was because we were traveling from Australia to Europe at this time anyway so Hawaii was on the way and there were some cheap one-way flights from Sydney to Hawaii and also Hawaii to Tokyo, so we could then link up with a return flight to Europe from Tokyo. It is one of the few half ironman races that is a qualifier for the full IM world champs in Hawaii, but I did not hold much hope of getting one myself, as there are very few slots (28), the course doesn’t really suit me and the secret about the ‘easy qualify’ is well and truly out now and the standard of athlete is very high, including many ex-pros racing as Age Groupers, who don’t want to do a full distance to get to the World Champs. I did think Ness had a chance of qualifying if the winds were low and it was hot, as not many Age Group girls can match Vanessa in the run on a hot day.
Another one bites the dust..
 She had a good race with the fastest run split in her AG by a fair bit (one of the fastest female run splits of the day including pros), but the winds howled on this day and she got a bit lost on the swim and  they slow the little ‘uns down too much on the bike and she had too much to make up on the run, finishing 12th in her very competitive and tight Age Group, but 18th overall female and in the end,  only a few minutes off a slot. 

Ness biked strongly in non-suitable conditions too  - she lost her chance for a slot in the swim

SWIM 1.9 kms 30 minutes
This was a non-wetsuit swim, which is not good for non-child swimmers (crap technique) like Ness and I - we get extra benefit from wet suits over pool swimmers with good technique because they put you in a much better position in the water. The winds were predicted to be high and they had been blowing all week and the practice swims we did were very choppy, and we were practicing the advice from Coach Woody to ‘Karate Chop’ the water, especially on rough days, and swimming with more of a straight arm on the breathing side. Surprisingly on race morning the water was glassy smooth and remained so for the first 600m until we got to the second buoy. It was like the washing machine ticked over from soak to wash cycle, and Madam Pele / Huey started to weave their magic and the big chop started.
Like calm waters eh? Well get that in-da-ya.

 There were not enough buoys and they were too small and the wrong colour (red) so sighting was really tough over the waves. People started swimming in all directions. I am not the best navigator and had no idea which direction I was going, but just kept following the group ahead. I think I was in the tail of the lead group and they turned right at one buoy and I followed. Then the stand-up paddle guys surrounded us and started shouting that we had all missed a buoy and had to go back. So about 30 of us turned back out to the last buoy, which I think may have moved. It was a bit farcical really, but that’s the way it went, a few of the first guys in the Age Group ranks caught up to the pros and got out without having to turn back, and there was a pretty big gap between those guys swimming 24 minutes and the rest of our group who swam 30.
Long enough straw or what!?

BIKE 90kms 2.30
This was the first time I had done a longer race with a Power Meter, so it was an interesting experiment to try a different way of racing, as previously I had mostly gone on feel, and maybe with my over-competitive nature was not the best way….. A Power Meter is a (bloody expensive) device on your bike to measure how much ‘work’  you are doing or how much weight you are putting into the pedals, with the idea being you know how much ‘power’ you can hold for a certain time and try to stick to that level. When it comes down to it in cycling the amount of power you can hold over a certain time is the key to the sport. Of course aerodynamics give you some ‘free speed’ and weight is very important, especially for climbing but testosterone and racing dynamics can make you go too hard at times and affect the rest of your race.

 Early on in the ride, I let a few guys pass me while I was already pushing above my target watts which I was happy to do. After about 20kms three guys passed me and then I heard a motorbike come up behind me. I was soft pedaling and stopped pedaling when I heard the bike, it was a draft buster and he gave me his first card of the day – I think he was a bit pumped up to start his day. A tough call as I don’t think the guys had passed me for 20secs, and I let the draft buster know that but I had to cop it. Better today than in an A race I thought. So I got to the turnaround point in Hawii and did the 4 minute penalty, was pretty relaxed about it and had a chat with the guys in the penalty box. It was ironic to get a penalty on this day as I was focusing on my power, and not other riders at all, so I hardly did any of the ride in a pace-line and rode by myself for 95+% of it. Compared to many other races where I’ve done almost the whole thing in a pace-line and pushed the envelope of drafting and not gotten a card.

Just hang on, to what you got.

The cross-winds on the day were really crazy, the strongest I’ve ever experienced on the bike. After the turn around at Hawi, we had more of a tail wind and the cross winds picked up even more. It was a fun challenge to see if you could stay in the aero bars going 70kph with the bike leaning 70 degrees to the side to counter-act the wind. With my Hed 3 spokes catching a chunk of the wind (not recommended in Hawaii) I was pretending I was riding a bucking bronco and wrestling with the Steed accordingly.

Me and you both Wazza
  I was glad I had my new cassette with an 11 tooth sprocket at the back (recommended in Hawaii) as it was fun to keep pedaling at these speeds and pass guys who were doing 65kph, who were not expecting someone to be passing them. I saw a guy with a full-sized American flag and pole attached to the rear wheel of the bike….maybe it wasn’t just George W skewing my opinion on them after all.  But at least their flag was cool, not having two significant emblems representing a 35 year old man still clutching his Mum's leg not wanting to leave home and a weird belief that a constellation in a plus sign is a sign that we are somehow special. I finished the ride pretty fresh, but very glad to be out of the winds.

Peter Allen pulled it off....

RUN 21.1kms 1.50

I had done a block of run training over the past 6 weeks, with the goal of putting the sub 3.30 IM marathon I need to get a Kona slot, but had picked up an injury in the last week before the race. My last two runs I literally had to walk home from as my hamstring was getting more and more painful. It was, in part due to my bad lower back, I knew that, and sometimes you can run through them (as opposed to a vanilla muscle tear which you can’t run through) but I tried to on these training runs and it was just getting worse. I went into this race thinking I was not going to finish this run, and raced all day with this mindset. After 3kms the hammy was screaming, but I was already a way from the hotel, so I thought I’d take it easy until I got back towards the hotel and pull out then. I was just running at an easy pace and walking through all the aid station, taking plenty on board. 
A tough run to take easy
 My main goal is Ironman Regensburg, which is only two weeks away, and I knew smashing myself on the run could take a long time to recover from, so was trying not to dig into the pain well much at all and make sure this race would not take long to recover from. Normally 3-4 weeks before a full is the earliest to do a half and some conservative types thing even longer. The wind on the run was pretty insane too. At some stage it was so hard into your face people were running in pace-lines, taking turns in front.
I was surprised that the hamstring seemed to free up by the time I got back towards the hotel and did not want another DNF so kept slugging away, shuffling along getting passed all the time but not too worried about going fast. With about 3kms to go the hammy was actually feeling fine but I was still shuffling away and then a…..larger lady (no I didn’t say fat chick) came up beside me, damn everyone has been passing me on the run today but I can’t let her beat me I thought, so I picked it up and ran the last couple of ks harder.

About 500m to go I was probably running 4.20 k pace and a guy comes up beside me going all out, breathing as loud as he can (a pet hate of mine as I always imagine they just start breathing like that when they have an audience), and he got in front of me. His race belt had on it. Damn an attention-seeking panting German, I don’t fancy getting beaten by him either, so I tailed right behind him for 300m which only made him breathe louder, then with 50m in the short finishing chute I went around him and just got over the line ahead of him, at full sprint. He screamed with frustration. So did my hamstring. Damn you idiot I thought, and I was limping around the post-race area, the guy avoided me afterwards – I wanted to say ‘Don’t worry mate - we were only going for poofteenth anyway’, but he did not seem to fancy any interaction.

Done, not very well, but done.

Anyway I still felt pretty fresh and it was a really good event that we enjoyed and the hammy seems to have rebounded quite well. Getting the bike and car back to our hotel was a challenge and when we finally were lifting the bikes to load them into the back of the car was a struggle as once the bike was lifted off the ground you had to hang on for dear life to stop it blowing away like a plastic bag in the howling winds. After the long walk to the car Ness was almost in tears and by the time we were finally shut the door of the car the calm inside felt like Brittany Spears finally getting away from a pack of hungry paparazzi,  in our own little safe haven away from the wind.

Another race done and dusted, so it is onto our big goal just ahead Regensburg, on June 18 and we both hope to make amends of our mutual shockers there last year. We might race in a 5150 (Ironman brand for Olympic distance) in Klagenfurt Austria on the 11th, for a freshen up, we’ll see how we feel when we get into Austria. Well done for getting this far…if you did.


  1. Nice report Bevan!
    Good luck in Regensburg!

    John I

  2. We read every word and please keep writing. We enjoy the blogs. What happens on the first of July?