Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ironman Hawaii 2013

The Most famous pier in sport?

One of the great things about this sport is that your average punter can compete right alongside the best in the world in the time honoured races.  If you’re a serious golfer, you probably will never get the chance to play a round at Augusta, or if you're a tennis player, you’ll probably never get to hit a ball at Wimbledon, and if you are, and you are lucky enough to do those things, it won’t be alongside the best, while the tournament is on. But in triathlon, if you're lucky and work hard, you can. When we first got into the sport, we weren’t that fussed about racing Hawaii – probably because we never thought it would be possible, and for the first few years, I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough. But as the training hours accumulated; slowly but surely we started to see that it could be possible. This race became the beautiful girl you saw only from afar, and thought you would never have a chance with, but given some persistence and effort, and one day she’s lying next to you in your bed (or you’re married to her!) and you’re bobbing in the water off Dig Me Beach in Kona waiting for the gun. Dreams can come true blah blah blahzzzzzz. 
Me heading out on the Queen K on the run - still 25 kays to go???
The race in Whistler that I’d qualified in was seven weeks before Hawaii – which is a bit of a tricky time between Ironmans. I had done Ironmans 2 weeks and 4 weeks apart in the past, which are almost easier as you get 'two for the price of one' (one training build) and don’t really need to do much in between the two. But 7 weeks is enough for you to lose your fitness. When you take out the recovery and taper, it leaves a tricky window of training. As we’ve been flat out getting our clinic in Singapore off the ground and training motivation was low after the come-down from the highs of IM Canada, it made it all the more difficult. Still, I’d had a pretty relaxed attitude coming into this race, possibly too relaxed as I had missed a few sessions here and there, and knew my condition was not as good as before Canada. I knew that I wasn’t going to be competing for a high ranking here and the race is the World Championships, so by definition, does not lead anywhere else. It was always going to be a hot race, so not really ideal for me, in fact, I wanted to qualify more than I wanted to actually participate in the race at Kona. It’s kind of weird, as some CEO/charity slots go for $50,000 or so on eBay just for the right to race, but for me I just wanted to be classified as a ‘Kona Qualifier’. Or more correctly, to lose the tag of "Chump who missed out lots of times, thinks he’s good enough to make it, but really isn’t". 

Over the last few years, if you were friends of ours coming over for dinner, I could just picture the pre-dinner briefing scene in the car: Husband to wife – “Oh and by the way don’t say anything about the Hawaii Ironman to Bevan – the night will go much smoother, and with any luck we’ll get in and out of there as quickly as possible, with no plates broken.”  

Don't mention it.
My parents and their granddaughter / my niece Maggie had made the trip up from Australia which was great, especially as it was all quite last minute and a lot of the accommodation was booked already. Mum and Dad took a rare flight too as they usually prefer to travel on the earth’s surface, and in fact had just gotten back from a round the world trip where they didn’t take one plane. My sister Evelyn and her man Jack, had kindly paid for Maggie to join along for the fun of the event too. She'd come out to Busso a few years ago and loved it, so was great to have the three of them along.  Vanessa’s Dad David is a GP and came to Hawaii last year to support Ness and had come back again this year again and Vanessa, him and me were all attending the Ironman Sports Medicine Conference the week before the race. Yes it was now a ‘work trip’ =). 

You're All Winners!
This made race week quite hectic as the time outside of the conference was taken up with registration, the occasional workout and the other usual race-week stuff. On the way over Vanessa said to me on the flight she felt some pain in her throat – damn – "That's no good" I said, and sure enough, about 3 hours later, I had the same pain. Unfortunately it developed into a bit of a nasty cold and we both had a few bad sleeps race week as I was coughing and expelling mucous half of the night, we both and had killer sore throats and runny noses. Im still coughing up gunk now ten days after the race. I remembered back to the Tuesday before IM Canada when I got in from a ride and felt some pain in the throat - 'no surely it can't be a cold I thought' and made a deal with the devil and I had some more water and my throat felt fine later that day and it was gone. It reminds me of the tingle I felt on my top lip 4 days before my wedding - the same tingle that had always turned into a massive cold-sore a day later. But somehow this one just went with only a mild discolouration. After somehow getting out of jail for the 'big-one', I always take cold-sores with a bit more grace when they come these days, just as I did this cold. OK you gave me Canada, I'll cop Hawaii.

See you in Hawaii Robert.
We got through the week doing all the obligatory events – Parade of Nations, Slowtwitch Party, the new Triathlon Australia breakfast, which was great as TA reached out to long course athletes for a change, the 7am swims at the pier star spotting, the swim out to the Coffees of Hawaii boat, Lava Java meals and coffee, but this year we missed the undies run which we forgot about! Still thanks to Justin we bagged the lucky money shot from there last year. But as ever you are looking forward to the race being over so you can relax. 

Our taper week
For nutrition, I’d decided to go with three bottles of Ensure plus meal replacement in a water bottle (about 1,000 calories) and for the slower release carbs (Sweet Potato) - after chatting with my mate from Singapore, Mark Jansen, I’d decided to mash the sweet potato and add a fair bit of coconut oil, some avocado and some butter and salt and pepper and chia seeds for the hell of it too. We got the idea to put it in a cake-decorating squeezie thing – which they make in tubes not material funnels these days, I found a pair in the cake section at Safeway that were perfect for the job, and on testing, it squeezed out quite nicely and actually tasted really nice. It was definitely a better solution to getting some slower release carbs and fat in on race day than the undercooked, olive oil soaked, shreds-of-aluminum-foil-embedded mess I had in Whistler. 

Secret recipe

 Onto race morning and we parked at Mum and Dad’s apartment and walked the last mile to the start, with nerves jangling. There’s nothing quite like the tension in the air of an Ironman morning. As the experienced campaigner in Hawaii, Ness was guiding me through all he steps – I managed to avoid the arm markings as I was racing in long sleeves all day and they make a mess of the materials. Tattoos this year.  When I was half way through the way to the bike I realized I’d left my Ensure plus bottle in the freezer and the two tubes of sweet potato mash in the fridge! Damn. I texted David but neither his or my parents phones were working – Damn Luddites! I thought about jogging back to the car but the start was less than an hour away this time and there were still tyres to be pumped and other prep to do at the bike. Vanessa gave me half a bottle of Ensure she had and a bit of pumpkin and sweet potato she had - very kind of her! I’d just have to make do with what was on course and rely on my new super-powers of using my own body fat for fuel, that I’d been working on.

Forgotten feast

Swim 3.8kms 1.03
Walking down the steps on the tiny bit of sand for the swim start was some experience. I stood on the beach for a while as I was waiting for Ness (turns out she’d already swam out the 200m to the start). It was some sight to behold, the famous rock-wall lined with thousands of spectators along the shore as far you could see, helicopters buzzing overhead, Mike Reilly on the speakers, telling everyone to get out to the start. The sky was clear blue and the water was very calm lapping over my feet – damn this is it, this is the place all the legends have stood before swimming out to make history. I took a deep breath scanned around once more, and then did a pee all down my leg. Much more comfortable than doing it while treading water I tells ya!

There were many warm patches in there
 The swim out to the start is about 20m and I lined up on the right, it seemed pretty crowded all over, and I couldn’t be bothered to swim out to the left, which was further away. Everyone was huddled in tightly close to the line with a fair few people treading water with an annoying ultra wide kick; tensions were high. There was still ten minutes to the start. A girl swam next to us with a small blow up boat harnessed behind here, with an Asian girl with some type of developmental problem in the boat. Got to love these inspirational stories. Got to love them even more when they provide an inflatable boat that can be used as a floatation device that you can hang onto for ten minutes instead of getting repeatedly frog-kicked to the thigh.

"How are you doing in there? - And remember you're not only inspirational, you're floatational, so don't forget to help out those less-fortunate than you if you have a chance". "OK Mum, I will".  Atta girl.
The famous cannon went off with an echoless boom, and we were off. It was some rough start!  It goes without saying that most of the field had qualified to get here and everyone here was pretty sharp, so I did not expect that it would be calm after 200m or so like most swims. I was proven to be correct – the flow of the swim soon became apparent; it was rough for a long time, then spaced out for a bit and got peaceful, then we’d come to a buoy and everyone would squeeze in for a minute or two and it was rough again, before separating again after the buoy. I was enjoying the swim more than any other swim I’d done on the course there, as it was often choppy but today it was still and I hit the turn at half way before I knew it. 
And....they're off.
 The swim here is not wetsuit legal, making the times a fair bit slower – especially for non-child swimmers like me who get added bonus swimming with a wetsuit over the real swimmers. With about 1km to go, the pack was tightening up again and a guy on my right was bearing left, and a guy on my left was bearing a bit right, I think I was drifting right too, so I was getting repeatedly hip and shouldered by the guy on my right. This went on for about 100ms or so and I had a good look at the hip-and-shoulder guy I was wishing would piss off - dark skin - sure enough - bloody Assad! My mate from Singapore, it’s uncanny how similar we are on the swim; we always seem to come out of the water together – I knew he was after a podium here and had a good chance to get it; we bike about the same too – I just need to run one minute per kilometer faster at my best for all my races and we’d be the same and I’d be on the podium too – damn don’t know why I’d never thought of that – will do that next time fah sure.  Assad did get on the podium with a 9.00.41 and 5th in 35-39 a truly awesome performance and achievement.

The ol' hip 'n' shoulder gets you every time.
 I eventually relented and stopped swimming for a few strokes and let him go, dropping back off the back of the squeeze we were in - 'You owe me one Assad' I thought - and he later repaid me on the bike, with some sage advice so all square. I was glad to finally see the shallow water, scrape the fingers on the sand, stand up and happy enough with my low1.03 time. About exactly what I expected.

An Ironman swim start is always some sight to behold, especially in Hawaii.

BIKE 180kms 4.54

The changing tent was pretty packed – I’d decided to wear my long-sleeved De Soto top as I think it’s more aerodynamic than skin and it keeps you out of the sun without worrying about sunscreen. Mark had given me the great advice to keep it wet before putting it on so I had it in a zip lock bag folded just so and it slipped on easily. Onto the bike and it was cool going through town for the first 10kms. People riding at crazy paces and crowds everywhere. I saw one or two had crashed on the Kuakini Hwy. Then up Palani I was keeping the watts below 350-400 and people were still passing me like I was standing still. Finally onto the Queen K (damn it’s fun to use these terms like Palani, Queen K, Hawi, Kawaihae like they are second nature – wondered what they meant for ages.). Anyway at the 1 hourish swim time and current bike pace I was in the meat of the field and there were cyclists everywhere. 

Onto the bike and yes my sunglasses have a mirror prism on them so you can see ahead while your head is down.  As you can see the chicks dig it.
About 500m onto the Queen K there were people everywhere nd a French guy, a couple of us were overtaking, decides it would be a good time to have a moan “oh what about ze drafting!” I could imagine the way the Frenchies think he was probably thinking “We will get you to ze Pyreneez and you climb ze mountain, like a real cycleest, zen we zee about ze drafteeng!” As the ride had hardly started, we were over taking him and it was a still a shitfight with riders all over the place I suggested in the kindest possible way to him that maybe we should just worry about pedaling for now and perhaps be just a little more silent.  We ended up crisscrossing back and forth for the next 100+kms without another word uttered – just lovely silence. 

Monsiuer, how well do you ride with zee baguette up your ass?

Things did spread out soon enough and I got into a rhythm. I was grabbing Gatorade at the aid stations and some shot blocks and the occasional banana, which I thought would be enough, don't know if it was or not. I was feeling OK about 60kms in and then I came upon Assad and also Mark J and Arnaud Selukov sprang up from nowhere too. It was funny – probably the only 4 guys residing in Singapore in the race and we were all together at Kawaihae. Assad, Mark and I had a quick chat - we're all part of Red Dot Racing team who have been smashing me on Saturday morning rides all year, I was particularly surprised to see Mark as he is one of the best cyclists in the field and I thought he would be up the road – turns out he had crashed early on and hurt his hip. I said to Arnaud – "How about this? You, Assad, Mark and me from Singapore all together" I was sitting up and pointing. I’d never met Arnaud before but knew of him – he was 11th in Hawaii 40-44 last year and had actually taken the roll-down slot in Busselton that could well have been mine if I never go that littering penalty and flat. 

He seemed to have no idea who I was and just grunted something that I thought was “Merde” – French Ballet slang for "Good Luck". I went back and had a listen to the tapes and turns out he said, “Shut up you bloodee Australian peasant.... or I will murder you and Merde on you".  Apparently it also means 'shit'. 

 I noted the red mark across his number (drafting penalty) so guessed he wasn’t in a chipper mood. Lucky I didn’t tell him that he owed me a 'thank you' while we were climbing to Hawi like I was thinking about; as he took 'my' slot in WA to get into this race, probably would not hae gone down too well. He was a very thoughtful rider too pointing out dangers on the road that people rarely do in a race. Hitting the turnaround at Hawi was good fun, and despite still bringing up my share of phlegm and few coughing attacks, I felt reasonably good. I’d gone through the first 90kms in 2.12. Damn I thought I'm half way through –that means I’m going to do a 4.24 bike split.There was no tail wind after all, I was just feeling good and super aero.  I can see it now in writing, Bevan Colless 1.03/4.24/3.26 - 8.59. This is going to be easy – put that shit as a status update on Facebook, "Just went sub 9 in Hawaii" and I’d get 100+ likes for sure. Life Choices and Self Worth = Validated. Boom.

Easy Peasey from here on in.
Once I was through Kawaihae and onto Queen K it soon became apparent that there was in fact a tailwind on the way out, and I was starting to really struggle. From the Manu Lani to town is about 40kms and it felt like it was going to take me 2 hours. I was struggling to hold even 200watts – Assad came along about then and in his lovely reassuring voice said “Just stay aero and go with it” I was sitting up and squirming around like Thomas Volker– looking for answers where there were none to be had.  A draft-buster surprised me right when I'd been passed, but luckily I was on a slight downhill and looking for an excuse to stop pedalling when passed so I had done. If the draft buster was there when I was feeling good and on an uphill and was passed, I might not have been so lucky. Stopping pedalling up a hill usually means you'll fall over - one of the many intricacies of the drafting dilemma that seems so simple to most people but in reality is far from it. I really limped home with people and groups passing me and could not even tack onto them and my good bike split went out the window, even if 4.54 was not terrible, but it was a fast day and the ranking was not that good.  I was pretty glad to finally hit town again – always love the sight of the Target logo sign on the horizon on the training rides I done up and down this road and never more than today. Those lava fields are definitely pretty harsh when it’s 30+ degrees you’ve got no power in the legs and there is 40kms left till home.

Remember if the legs have got naffink, it's even more important to sty aero. 'Cause free speed is the only speed you got Mista!
RUN 42kms 4.24

I was glad to get off the bike and start the run – the first 16kms are out and back along Ali’i Drive, which is quit busy with spectators. I stopped for a pee early on, as I did not fancy 42kms soaked in pee and was not too fussed with my time either. It was a bit of a worry that even as early as 8-10kms in I was struggling. Normally the “punch in the face” happens at about the 25km mark, but I was already taking long walk breaks at aid stations 10kms in. Damn, it’s going to be a long 30kms ahead I thought.

A long, long way to go.
 The rest of the time on Ali’i and up on Palani was tough. I walked the whole of Palani – it is a decent little hill. The 10kms out to the Energy Lab and back is a pretty soul-destroying run on a wide highway with not many people about.  I was struggling to run much at all, taking in coke as much as my gut would allow but still feeling pretty terrible. Motivation was hard to come by, I basically knew my day was done, had no goals to aim for and stopped racing all-together in my head. I could not care if I do 10.01 or 12.01.  Just to get to the finish line now. If it had not been Hawaii I may well have DNF'd. Finally I made it into the Energy Lab and I started on the oranges at the aid station and they made me began to feel a bit better. 'Orange Power' as my brother Phil and I used to say when kids after eating lots of them and running amok. I was running/shuffling more, and even jogging the climb out of the Energy Lab. 
Drawing from the Orange Power reservoir in the Energy Lab
Onto the Queen K and there was still more passing me than I was passing, but I was moving along a bit better. 6kms to go and I really started to come good again and put in a few kms without walking at all and was moving along at about 5.15min k pace. My main motivation was one or two annoyingly positive Americans I was running with, some chick with a cute butt, but wearing Newtons and running with an exaggerated forefoot strike that was just an annoying and ridiculous way to run a Ironman at 5.30min k pace and some guys a kilometre or two behind me who I knew from social media that I didn’t want passing me. Oh and of course not to have my run time be longer than my bike time – which is a common source of amusement in Ironman, and would prefer to keep my sheet clean in that regard, even if I had given it a nudge.

As usual, it's a bit of both. but whatever gets you to the finish line is all right.

The turn down the hill on Palani again was pretty sweet, then the nasty little stretch along Kuakini away from the finishing line – when spectators give you mis-information - one guy says 'it’s just a kilometer', and you think 'great – I’ve got this', then 200m later a guy says ‘it’s just a mile to go, nearly there’ and your heart breaks.  Finally arriving on Ali-i Drive for the last 400 metres is certainly oa terrific experience in your life. You walk that bit of road so many times in race week and finally it becomes the finishing shute with chalk everywhere. You’ve seen it so many times before in highlight reels but it still feels like it is far removed from the mythical stretch you’ve watched the champs run down waving the flags with the Hawaiians with flamed torches dressed in native clothes ahead of them.

Gotta enjoy the finish of an IM no matter how the day went.
The post race area was better than I expected, having heard some not so great reports, but there were no showers or changing rooms and just a dingy toilet block. Food was pretty crap with pizzas and french fries. I had zero appetite anyway. I had a chat with Alex Kolesov from Tokyo who had gone 10.03 and had a pretty good day, and then went out to find my parents Maggie, David and Woody, who combined, I’d seen once all day – which was my parents and Maggie at about the exact moment on the run when it all went south. Where was the Love, Brothers?! I guess there was about 1,500 people who looked very much like me out there. I just missed Ness in the finishing shute, she did not have a great day either and we then met her for a meal and back to my parents for a debrief all together.

Bike pick up

Lame-ass post race shot - like my salt tab carrying technique! Maybe I should have remembered to take some...
 I wasn’t sure why I had a bad day. It’s always tough to know. If it’s not enough fuel (nutrition), not enough fitness, being sick, being too hot, lacking the motivation to dig deep, going too hard early on in the run or on the bike, they all mostly feel the same in my experience. You just feel like crap and start going slow. Coach Woody thinks it was the sickness, and maybe lack of calories on the bike, I think maybe it was skipping a few sessions in the lead in from Canada, and lacking the motivation to really dig deep, and just simply giving up. As a bigger guy, to do well in an Ironman run, is a pretty tricky mental exercise, you've got to want it almost more than you want to live. Whatever it was, I’m not too worried about it, I’ve now got some ‘unfinished business’ there and can try and get back there next year, race with my great mate Jess Ripper who qualified in Japan already and hopefully have a better day. As an 85kg racer it's always going to be risky to perform well there, but it won't be impossible. But getting the chance to go back there will not be easy.

Most photographed sign all week - elbows and patience were required to finally get a clear shot of it.
 Next up, I’ve got a very small chance of a slot for 2014 at Mandurah 70.3, but I think the field is stacked there and there will only be 2 slots in my age group. A return to Phuket for the race that got us started in the sport in 2005/6 and then back to Busselton, where I should have a decent chance at a slot, even though there will only be 4 in my age group to go (from prob 400+). The race there is well suited to me if it is under 30 degrees.We were going to have this year off Busso, but as I was sitting on the side of the road there last year, waiting for 30 minutes with a flat I couldn’t change, I promised myself I’d come back one more time next year and finally bag a slot there, so I'll hopefully keep the motivation and training up until then. After that, time for the off-season and snow!

Ironman's latest thing is printing on competitor's names - 3 Woody athletes amongst this lot!


  1. Love the humour!

    A French guy :-)

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