2012 Hawaiian Ironman – I wan’t my mommy STAT

2012 Hawaiian Ironman – I wan’t my mommy STAT

Please Note: This race took me a long time to complete ….. so, this report/story is a long one.

Who would have ever thought that I would seek my biggest challenge in Paradise. I knew that this task would have been more difficult than the usual Ironman event and I was ready for that. I knew I was ready, but my foot was done for the season. This is all part of the game and it is the way it goes in Ironman (training and racing). You ask your body for a lot and most of the time you are rewarded ……. sometimes you push the limits and things break. This dodo bird doesn’t always know when to take a break.

Most of the time I wouldn’t do a race if I know I have an injury. At times I would do the swim and bike and drop out before the run just to get a workout in. This would help ease the pain of the loss of coin (because Ironman doesn’t really give you any money back if you cancel because of injury). But this is not a normal Ironman. This is the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. It is a chore to qualify and it doesn’t count as a feather in your cap if you do not complete it (and I wanted 2 feathers). My foot is pretty messed up but I’m thinking that the damage is done and Im prepared to run the marathon in pain. For the last 7 weeks I haven’t been running (aside from Vegas 70.3) and the pain is good somedays and it sucks on others.

The last trip to the Big Island was in 2010 and I was the solo Cyclonaut. This year was special, there was 4 of us (Paulito, Elena, Andy Salmon and myself). This can be a lonely course and having teammates and all their spectators helps a lot. Kellalina and I arrived Wednesday night and we hooked up with Paulito’s clan for a quick bite and then we headed to his condo for our first few days of lodging.
Kona underpants run at the World Championship in HawaiiThursday morning we did the underpants run which was a total of less than one mile of running at 20 plus minute mile pace (foot was pain free). We had Splish make us matching Cyclonaut Multisport speedos for this event and this seemed to get us a lot of press. We already had the speedos on, so a swim made a lot of sense after the UPR. We all split up and a quarter mile later we all ended up at the coffee boat (yes, they have a coffee boat a quarter mile out into the ocean on Ironman week). Still not sure how or why we all gravitated to the boat (hint Jim: COFFEE) Then we grabbed our bikes and banged out a nice easy hour on the Queen K Highway. The winds were light and it felt fast today (prime conditions for race day). It’s really hot and humid today, but that’s just the way it is in Kona and it’s good to get a small taste of the noon heat before the big race. Kelly (who was shopping) met us in the city after the ride and we all ran into Charlie Abrahams who snapped a shot of us as we hooked up.
Paulito Jim and Kelly in Kona prepping for the Ironman
sunset in KonaFriday is a rest day and it’s a great time to cram some last minute carbs in. Big breakfast at Denny’s and a small sub for lunch.
We then have to head South to check into the Sherton. It’s about 6 miles from the start. Now that we know the area hotel location isn’t as important. Having a room in a Paradise setting was more important this time. We stayed at the King K last time which has a Hawaiian name, but is nothing more than a days Inn type hotel. In the past we  never strayed to far out of the city. So apparently, Hawaii is not all lava, there is actually a beautiful part of this Island outside of the city and it’s about time we check it out.
Several hours later we hook up with the group and before you know it we are sitting down for the last supper. I call it the last supper because it’s the last healthy supper I will eat for the next 2-3 weeks. between 8-9 PM I hit the sack and Im out like a light. I slept like a baby (no …. I didn’t suck my thumb or pee myself). I just woke up crying a few times.

Race Day:
The alarm goes off and It’s breakfast time. I eat, pack my bags …… Kelly does a final check of my stuff and off we go (she knows the drill by now, because I always forget stuff). We got an early start because we have to pick up Andy and Paulito before the streets get backed up with traffic. Kelly drops us off at the King K and we are off to body marking. This is not your ordinary magic marker type of numbers, they body mark you with big stamped numbers. This method is awesome if you enjoy having the Kona sun brand those numbers into your skin. Another cool feature of this race is the fact that you have to walk by the Pro area on your way to transition. I tend to walk extra slow and snap a few pictures along the way (legal stalking). Or I just have Chuckwagon get em for me “thanks chuck”. I get to my bike, pump tires, insert bottles and fill the bento box with the day’s nutrition. No need for a spacial needs bag here because they have everything I could possibly need on the course. After transition prep is done it’s off to meet up with everyone and get some pre-race pics. This is when the goose bumps kick in. They start hammering on the hawaiian drums and the sound and feel is wicked motivating. It’s real! We are gonna do an Ironman! Off we go to the swim start to tread water for the beginning of the most exciting and dangerous swims in the sport (danger as in kicking, punching and getting swum over by the best of the best). I pick a random spot towards the front close to Andy. Then I hear “eastcoastcrib” I turn and it’s Matt “Turbeau” Curbeau. This will be my last sighting of him (hence the “Turbeau”). These moments are the times when you reflect on how awesome this place is and the sacrifices you did to get here (the early mornings and some of those rain rides that I almost thought I was going to freeze to death). It’s worth it and everything is moving in slow motion as you wait to take your shot at being a part of history. The cannon DOESN’T go off and they yell go, go, go (Malfunction …. Cannon broke) and off we go.

Swim start for the Ironman in Kona

The swim start is brutal. As clear as the water usually is, there is no seeing the fish today with all the arms and legs churning up the water. About 10 minutes into the swim I am side by side with a swimmer that has the same white googles as Andy. After several strokes I can see a number on his arm and it is Andy! 2,000 people and we are swimming side by side. After a few minutes he takes off and I just keep chugging along. This swim is difficult for many reasons. It’s in the ocean, there is a pretty good current, the salt is wicked abrasive, Im slow and you have to swim 1.2 miles out to a boat, circle the boat and swim 1.2 miles back. It felt like eternity but I managed to finish the swim. I was dizzy coming out of the water and I almost tripped heading up the stairs to transition. Transition goes quick and off onto the bike I go. I really don’t have a game plan because my SRM power meter sh!t the bed before Vegas and I need to save some for a run that will get ugly based on the heat and my foot condition. The power meter is not a huge deal because I always rode by feel before I got it (it’s just harder to tell when your slacking without that tool). Drink, drink, drink is the game plan that worked for me last time, so drink, drink …. and drink some more will be todays plan. This course is rolling hills and wind is more of a factor here because of the combo of ocean and mountains creating some sick winds out towards Hawi (Hawaiian pronunciation: [həˈvi]). Heat is always a factor and only hydration will keep that in check. The first 10 miles is a quick loop before heading out for the final 100 plus miles on the long out and back. The first loop is hilly but it’s done before you know it. Then it’s off onto the Queen K. Today it feels fast …….. This might be a understatement! It feels real fast and I don’t like it. Why? Because we have a sick tailwind and this will translate into a sick headwind in the final miles on the way back. The heats not much of a factor when your cruising along at 25 plus mph. You just dehydrate without even knowing it. Along the Queen K I pass Elena and she is looking strong. We exchange words and off I go. At this point I haven’t seen Andy and I know that Paulito is long gone (I know that I will never catch him on this type of course). Now Im wondering if something happened to Andy in the swim (is he behind me?). I continue on the Queen K and the winds are starting to change directions. Towards the end of the Queen K we now have some pretty stiff crosswinds. Almost Hawi type crosswinds with the occasional gust that almost knocks you off your bike if you aren’t paying attention. The turn at the end of the Queen K  feels like you just got shot from a cannon. Sick tailwind for this short downhill stretch. Then you bang a right hand turn and you start the 18 mile climb to Hawi turnaround. It’s really not 18 miles of climbing and the climb is very gradual (except for the last 5 miles). The area where you get the legendary Hawi crosswinds isn’t so bad today. The winds seem to be strong but they are not blowing in the typical direction. As you circle the island and change direction the winds start building in your face. This is where I saw a rider up the road that resembled Andy. Holy crap! it is Andy. He must have kicked my butt in the swim and he’s ridding really well. We ride side by side for a few, exchange some encouraging words and off I go. I see Paulito heading back and he is flying we only have time for a quick nod because he going about 200 miles per hour. The final 5 miles to Hawi were brutal. As the climb got steeper the winds blew stronger. The clouds started to get heavy and dark and it looked like a storm was heading in. The good news is the heat isn’t a factor at this point. I stand and climb the final few miles to give my body a break from all the aero position riding. I make the turn and head for home. It is starting to lightly rain, but it feels good. Houston ….. initiate the rockets please. BOOM ….. that nasty headwind has turned to a very fun tailwind (sorry for swearing at you wind). Now that was the fastest 18 miles I have ever ridden.

Heading down the Queen K during the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii

Within the last 18 miles it went from cooler temps and rain to sunny and hot again (only on the Big Island ……. or, New England). Back to the Queen K and this stretch is just ugly. Winds are tough and people are starting to self destruct from their earlier efforts. I just soldier on and ride at a conservative effort because I know that Im not strong enough of a rider to crush these types of winds. As I approach T2 I feel real good and Im ready to run. T2 goes well and I didn’t drop my banana this time. Off onto the run and the Cyclonaut supporters were awesome. My foot feels good and I kept my cadence high to keep the stress off my heal and this method is working well. 

Kona 2012 Ironman RunJust after the first mile Andy runs up next to me. Kelly is cheering on the sidelines as we both pass by. The Salmon clan is on the other side of the road giving us words of encouragement and are pumped to see us. Off Andy goes like a rocket and I can only wave and say bye bye. I need to focus on banging this marathon out without irritating my heal. A mile or so later the McCloskey clan is camped out in front of their condo cheering big for the Black and Yellow. I give them a quick wave and off I go (Jake was not there because he was everywhere I didn’t expect it that day). At about mile 3 Im amazed at how great my foot feels. At mile 3.5 Im paralyzed! What the freak has just happened? Within a half mile it went from running on a cloud to somebody just stuck a knife in my foot. I walk for a minute then I try to run. Not gonna happen ……. so I try to gently jog slow ……… NOPE ……… This isn’t good. This can’t happen this early! I still have 23 miles to cover. My first thought is should I pack it in? Now, I am forced with a dilemma ….. walk 23 or turnaround and pack it in. Aside from the foot pain, I truly feel great. my nutrition and hydration was spot on and if I do the math I have just over 10 hours to complete the run (or crawl). So, off I go on my 23 mile journey. After a mile of walking I say to myself “Holy crap it takes a long time to walk a mile”. Im doing just over 15 minute mile pace ……. THIS IS GONNA TAKE A WHILE (Understatement of the year). At the 7-8 mile mark I see KJ and Laura and they are cheering but they know that I am in a tough place. I tell KJ that I can only walk and she makes a call to Kelly to let her know my condition. About a mile later Kelly hooks up with me and has decided to walk with me. This helps keep my mind off the task at hand. A mile and a half later we get back to the hot corner (by the start/finish line). It would be easy to quit at this point but that’s not todays plan. Now it’s off to the Queen K and I got about 16 plus miles to go. Kelly and I soldier on but this is a mean part of the course. The sun is out full blast and I feel like an ant under a magnifying glass. Aside from the water stops there is absolutely nothing on the Queen K (Except for athletes …… it is desolate). This is where we hear the helicopter. The copter flew over us, then turned around and hovered just to our left. As Im walking the copter is facing us and moving at the same speed and direction for the next 5 minutes. Im all about the 5 minutes of fame, But this is not what I have in mind. Im swearing while they are doing this and Kelly is just laughing. The helicopter finally leaves and Im happy again. We bang off the miles and water stops at a brisk pace. several miles later I approach a water stop and the DJ is F’ing with me. What song is he playing?

Well here are the lyrics I hear
But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

Ha, really funny guys …….. just give me my water ……. and some pretzels ….. and a sports drink ….. Oh, and a bonk bar and then Im outta here. By mile 15 I had to tell Kelly to head back. She wanted to do the whole thing, but I knew that she had run 10 miles earlier today and she would be in rough shape if she continued on. One of us needs to enjoy the next few days in Paradise. Now it’s lonely but I must get these last 11 miles done solo. By mile 16 – 17 I have entered the energy lab and the sun is going down. Im now entering into uncharted territory. I have never finished an Ironman in the dark. I think the last sign I saw before the sun went down was the Honey Badger doesn’t give a sh!t if your hurting sign (insert smile). You might have to watch this to understand http://youtu.be/4r7wHMg5Yjg (Mary got me hooked on this). Mile 18 turnaround comes and now Im heading home. Just before the sun went down, the clouds came in and this is bad timing. Do the math – Clouds, Night, Blacktop, Black Lava fields and no street lights. It’s freakin dark! Most that are out on the course now are jogging slower or walking. Now I start to do things to keep me occupied because you can’t see sh!t. One of my first tasks was to count how many steps it takes to walk a mile. I think I got to 1,478 and I got sidelined by almost tripping over a girl who was kneeling face down on the blacktop. As I walked around her I said “Are you Okay?” she said “Nope” I then said “do you want me to help you up” and she said “NOPE”. Cool, I wasn’t really interested in stopping because Im hurting and I don’t know if I would be able to restart (Tater will hate me for this). The next water stop I grab my stuff and head back onto the Queen K. The next mile I tried to sing American Pie. I think it’s only about 8 minutes long but I somehow made it 16 minutes by screwing up all the verses and that mile flew by ……. was it drove the chevy to the levy or levy to the Chevy?  (now Im at mile 20). Only a 10k to go “I got this” I hope! …… The cool thing about this ultra dark night is the fact that I can pee anytime, anywhere. You probably didn’t want to know that, but Im doing everything I can to keep my mind off the foot that is starting to really ache and my back and hip flexors are smoked. I think I am actually walking crooked. The next stop (mile 21) they hand me glow sticks. Not really sure what to do with them so I use them as a baton. Now Im making believe that Im in a relay race. A few minutes later Im bored with that game and I continue on. The next water stop I grab my usual water, perform, pretzels and at the last table they ask me “you need anything else?” …. “are you sure you don’t need anything else?” …….. My response goes like this “all I need is to get to the beer”. Somebody yells out “I got beer” I continue to walk and start to laugh. Then I hear somebody running up to me yelling “All I got is coors light”. Now, I typically wouldn’t touch it in an Ironman, but Im far from dehydration and it’s pitch black out. I grab the can and I continue on (the next mile wasn’t so bad …. when your loaded).I will walk the next mile of the Ironman with a beer The next stop is mile 23 and now I’ve got just over a 5k to go. Now Im starting to get pumped for two reasons (Im pumped that Im almost done and I am starting to think of all the people who will be pumped to see me do this). My parents taught me at an early age that hard work pays off and I have done well over the years because of what they have engraved into my skin. My family, friends, teammates have all been so supportive that I have to finish this mission for all of you. It’s the most famous and respected race in the World. All these good thoughts get me through the next mile and now Im at 24 and I can now lose the glow sticks (bye, bye baton). The city is just up the road and there are now street lights. During the next mile I pass by the Garmin, Hawaiian Tours tents and several of the girls decide to walk with me. They were so nice. Just shouting out encouraging words to all the athletes as they come by. One of the girls with a foreign accent says “Im gonna walk with you” …….. “for a little while” ………. “maybe just to the top of that hill” …….. “or maybe just to here”. She stops, I laugh, thank her and continue to the city. Mile 25 comes quick and I can almost see the finish (I have been hearing Mike Rileys voice for the last Several miles. The finish is close but I gotta do 1 final loop to get there. This loop is the best part of the race. There are spectators everywhere and I haven’t seen a spectator since mile 10 (approx. 3 days ago). As I pass by them, they either cringe or clap. I look like a crocked, twisted beaten down old man and most are cringing. They seem to understand that Im not able to run based on the condition that Im in. A short time later I see Elena on the sidelines and she is walking on a cloud with her medal around her neck (Honey Badger want’s his medal too). I limp onto the legendary Ali’i drive where Kelly has greeted me for the final stretch. I could see a excited and relieved look in her eyes as I rounded the corner (kind like finding a lost puppy). The crowds here are insane and she keeps saying “don’t even think of running”.

Not sure how I pulled this one off. Ironman World Championships Kona 2012She heads with me to the finisher chute and splits as I enter. As I enter I am high five’ing everyone and I feel like I just won the race. I like this slower speed, you get to enjoy the scenery. The finish line is just ahead and I will bite a bullet and run through the line. Im not gonna lie …….. this might have been my most exciting performance ever!

The pain was gone for a fraction of a second and I pointed to the sky to thank everyone who got me through the day. Kelly had all the faith in the world that I was going to this (Im not sure I knew I had a 23 mile walk in me, but she did). Thanks to all my teammates who gave me the look of strength as we crossed paths as I journeyed out onto the Queen K for my walk of a lifetime. The Pro’s who continue to inspire all of us. The spectators who flew out to the Big Island to be with us (you guys were everywhere ….. I still can see Jake’s bright Nike sneakers in my sleep). To all my peeps back home who I told “NOT TO TRACK ME”. I can almost guess how the tracking went. Hey look I just saw Jims first run split and he’s running at a decent clip. Oh crap, I just saw his second split ……. it’s pretty ugly. Let’s shut the computer down. I think I’ll hit the sack and see if he’s still out there when I get up in the morning. The walk from the finish to the Medical area was painful, but I was relived that the walk was over. I grabbed ice from medical and my volunteers escorted me to the food and finisher gear area to get my medal. Now, this medal is legit …… It’s big and heavy and I will wear with pride (Just for a little while, or maybe to bed ….. but not in the pool …. maybe the hot tub). They sit me in a chair and I just chill for a few minutes while icing the foot. Paulito and Kelly greet me and man what a day! We chat and exchange war stories and then we head out to eat some human food. Food with fat and carbs ……… Wow, fried food tastes yummy! I no longer need the ice pack because I got beer and Jack to keep the pain at ease. Someone needs to get me ice cream STAT.

It was pretty cool going to Hawaii with people who you have trained with often. I have logged a ton of miles with both Andy and Paulito over the years. We seem to gel well on and off the field. Elena is newer to the team, but seems to fit right in. Just a great group of people in a amazing place. You can’t script this stuff ……. it just happens.

It took me something like 13.5 years .. I mean hours to complete this one. But I had a lot of time to think about the things I’ve done wrong and the next time I will be better. To help me be a better person I will hide beer on the run course the night before the next race.

From the bottom of my heart, Thank You to all that believed I could get it done …….. Honey Badger is a bad @ss

Because Paulito has done his report in like 7 Parts ….. Maybe I’ll do a post race report too
Check his blog out at http://www.paulemccloskey.blogspot.com #goodstuff

finisher medal from the 2012 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii