The Hawaiian Ironman – What’s the big deal?

The Hawaiian Ironman – What’s the big deal?

Note: As I sit on the plane, I have hours and hours to ramble on. Read on if you have nothing better to do.

That statement has sat in the back of my brain for years. What’s the big deal about this race in Kona? Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Paula Newby-Fraiser where the names I knew …. but I didn’t know a lot about the race. Who would want to swim 2.4 miles? The 112 mile bike was doable, but 80 miles seemed like it was my sweet spot. The Marathon ……. just running a marathon in itself is a heck of task. Plus Hawaii is a year round vacation destination because it’s hot. So ….. I never even pictured myself doing anything that monumental in a zillion years.

I started doing Tri’s about 20 years ago. The type of Triathlon that I looked for were Sprint distance races. I looked for races that had a 400 yard swim distance (1/4 of a Mile). For close to 10 years I never did a Triathlon that had a swim longer than 1-mile (Olympic distance). Because of personal and Business commitments, this was a distance that I could do as a hobby without having to dedicate a boatload of time to training. The other issue I had was that I am a crappy swimmer and the mile swim seemed like eternity (I never spent a lot of time swimming). I didn’t have many people around me who did Triathlons, most were bikers or runners (bikers didn’t like running and runners didn’t like to bike). Jen was the only swimmer I knew and I couldn’t swim with her because I couldn’t see here as she would blow me away. You have to understand this is the late 80’s and 90’s and Triathlon isn’t that cool sport yet. Most people still don’t even know that these type of events were happening all around them, So, I never sought the allure of Ironman. It seemed stupid!


Queen K at the Hawaiian Ironman 2010

In the late 90’s I started getting to know more and more people who were Triathletes. The Springfield, MA area really got a shot in the arm when we started this little Tri team in 2000. Wow! there were more and more people who were catching onto this Triathlon craze and before you knew it there were hundreds of us and we now had a great club and network for training. At this point both my life and my Business had matured to the point where I could actually devote some extra time to train. Now workouts started to grow from a few hours to many hours. Several friends/teammates were starting to do Ironman’s and I was being reeled in (hook, line and sinker). In 2002 I signed up for the Lake Placid Ironman. This is when the races didn’t sell out and it was half the price it is today. There were less than 2,000 finishers (today there is close to 3,000 and it sells out within an hour).


In 2003 I did my first Ironman and WOW …….. that was actually pretty cool. Sara and Tom somehow talked me into this event and I actually liked it. Not gonna lie, IT WAS TOUGH. It’s freakin hilly at Lake Placid. Lake Placid is a ski town. you have to understand that I am not a recon type and I do not know what to expect. I got to the venue Thursday night. Rode a 10 mile section of the course, checked in Friday, went to the expo, ate a few hot dogs for lunch, I even had ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Saturday I checked the bike in and did the race on Sunday. I was clueless! I didn’t know what to wear, what to drink, eat. I didn’t wear a HR monitor in those days and there was no such thing as a Garmin 910 or SRM power meters. I wore a speedo on the swim (under my wetsuit), I wore a full cycling kit, including bib shorts and a wind vest (there was a chance of rain). On the run I changed my full outfit and wore a tri specific outfit. I didn’t have a tri bike or aero helmet. I bolted on some aero bars and I stuck with the roadie style STI brake/shifter levers. The swim went pretty good. My bike wasn’t great because this was my first time ever seeing this terrain. I think I overheated slightly because of the excessive clothing and my stomach wasn’t 100 percent. WHY? you might ask ……. I knew nothing about nutrition and I did the 112 miles on Enduroux R4. R4 is a recovery drink that I used religiously to get my calories in. And I was getting my calories in, not enough carbs and a little to much protein (way to much protein). My run was just under 4 hours and not to bad for my first Ironman after consuming 12 scoops of Endurox for the last 112 miles. The run got ugly at times because I only downed 2-3 gels based on the fact that my gut was a little messed up. I finished in just over 11 hours and it took about 2 additional hours for Kelly and Patty to get me back to life. I was messed up. Even though I was messed up …… I was now hooked. I signed up for the 2004 LP Ironman with 24 other Cyclonauts. We had a group of teammates that all came up to watch this crazy event they call Ironman. Guess what? …. They were all hooked too. Now, this sport is really catching on and now it’s becoming the thing to do.


The Ironman, now I get it. It’s not so much the race day that is the lure. It is the journey to get there after overcoming a boatload of roadblocks (Frogger). Now Hawaii starts to make sense. Did I just say that out loud? Yes, you work hard to achieve goals in life. We all need these goals to succeed and then we need to set harder goals once those are achieved. Hence the Hawaiian Ironman …….. The ultimate Ironman, the grand daddy, the big show, the Ironman World Championships in Kona. I never talked about Kona back then because I wanted to do it …… But, I didn’t think I would ever qualify.


Fast forward to 2009. I decided that the planets were aligned and I was going to train my butt off and kick some ace in the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman and 2010 Ironman Florida (2 Ironmans in 17 weeks). For me this would be epic. I did 17 years of triathlons without anyones guidance and I knew that I could do well, but I was lacking a good nutritional base. This guy eats hot dogs, McDonalds and donuts before a race. I needed a overhaul ….. STAT. I had been watching Andy’s progress with the help of QT2 and I was very impressed with his results. I have know Jessie, Wheeler and the Snow’s from years and years of racing against them and these were people who were doing well and I trusted them. I ended up getting coaching by Cait Snow and I was put on the Core diet. Diet! ya, I was 155 pounds and basically that’s to heavy to run fast in the Ironman. Both Kelly and I met with the nutritionist to get our @sses kicked (Kelly was going to do Ironman Florida with me). This was very helpful having your spouse on the same diet because all our meal planning went well. It woulda sucked if I was eating salads while she’s pounding spaghetti and meatballs. The training was a nice change of pace too. Cait would have me do 3 hard weeks than one easy week (repeat). I was used to pounding it day in, day out without ever resting (that’s why Mary and I get along so good). I get to the starting line at LP in 2010 and now Im 147 pounds and I have a pre-race and a race day nutrition plan. How’d it go ……. My swim wasn’t to bad, my bike was exceptional and I ran well off the bike. I did it, I got lucky and I got one of those Kona slots. Problem: Now I gotta do 3 Ironmans in 17 weeks.

I get to Hawaii and quickly notice that there is not skyscrapers and greenery everywhere. I only know what I see on TV (Hawaii 50) and the Big Island isn’t that. This is Kona ……. This race is mean. It is hot, humid, windy and difficult. The Queen K is miles and miles of blacktop with lava rocks on both sides. They use lava rocks in gas grills and those suckers can hold some heat. It’s not abnormal for the heat index to be in the 120 – 130 degree range. The energy lab does not give you energy. It sucks it out of you as you pass through at close to the 20 mile mark during the marathon. This is the allure, this is the World Championship course. The atmosphere of this place is electric. The people are awesome, The underpants run is a sight to see, the pro’s are everywhere. Athletes from every country you can think of are there. You will never know if the person you just talked to even knows or understands what you have just said. Remember suffering isn’t a language, But everyone can relate to it.

This year I got lucky again and I am on the plane writing this novel. This flight is long and I figured I could finally figure out why the heck Im doing this ridiculous race, again.

My personal prediction:
My swim should be similar to 2010
Hoping to bike slightly faster
Run ……. foot is still swollen and I might struggle with this marathon.
I ran a half mile on Tuesday and had to shut it down.
If it gets bad I will walk, but I will finish ……. Hold your Jack high and salute.

If your not on it, set up an account. Twitter will be on fire this weekend. You will be part of what’s going on while it’s happening. Kona’s kinda a big deal.

on twitter you need to follow:

the pro’s are fun to follow also