Ford Ironman World Championship - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Kona, Hawaii
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
80F / 27C
Total Time = 12h 50m 5s
Overall Rank = 1347/1787
Age Group = M45-49
Age Group Rank = 131/168
Pre-race routine:

First, the answer to the big question, "How did you qualify for Kona?" Well, I won the CEO Challenge at the Singapore 70.3 and joined 12 other CEO's at Kona. While my time in Singapore was good for 4th place in my age group, I was about to get clobbered in Kona....

I woke up at 3:30am and drank an Ensure, ate a bagel, and committed myself to the men's room. At 4:30am we wandered down to the lobby of the Sheraton with the bike and special foods bags. Jimmy, the wrench from Australia, couldn't believe that I was going to race without aerobars and without a spare tire. I told him I was blessed to just be there, so I wasn't worried about it.
Event warmup:

We were body-marked with the Pros, and I went into body marking right behind Normann Stadler. After they marked him, I said, "What? Number one is already taken? Now what number will I have?" Stadler just scowled at me. Having spent enough time around the pros, this incident among others made it clear that he might consider some reflection on his attitude (he dropped out of the race puking, so whatever he was doing clearly didn't work very well).

After body marking (#638) I went to my bike and reinflated the tires. I waited for my friend Mark Moses to finish working on his bike, and then went over and put a large bag of Fritos in his helmet so that he would be certain to find this extra nutrition available when he came into transition.

Then, we sat on the deck and talked to Joanna Zeiger, and watched Desire Ficker and Samantha MacGlone get dialed in. It was absolutely amazing. The physiques of the athletes in transition were simply unbelievable. I pinched myself in disbelief that I was in the pack.

Wandered out on the pier to watch the pro start, then had 15 minutes to get into the water. Decided to start in the middle center of the pack in order to get the most out of the experience, and found that most swimmers were actually packing the sides. I think that everyone was freaked out about the field, so there were more people looking for side slots than venturing into the middle. Met a lottery slot winner who told me this was his first Ironman, and his eyes were as big as saucers. He was breathing heavy, and I just assured him that he was in for the most wonderful, fun day of his life.

The cannon roared, and we were off....
  • 1h 20m 22s
  • 3862 meters
  • 02m 05s / 100 meters

What an amazing swim!

The cannon went off and all hell broke loose. It was so funny to be swimming over people, and have them clamboring over me that I actually found myself laughing at it all. At one point I looked down and saw a group of NBC photographers in scuba gear at the bottom, so I smiled at them and gave them the Hawaiian "Hang Ten." They turned all their cameras on me, smiled, and waved back.

From there I swam along looking at the fish and corral at the bottom, and then the mist on the Volcano on every breath. It was so beautiful, and I was so relaxed, that it felt more like an amusement park ride than a race.

Sighting was a bit ridiculous with all of the waves and people, and even when I knew that the pack was going in the wrong direction in made more sense to swim with them then to fight them. So, we had a bit of a weave through the waves as we moved toward a sailboat that seemed like it was over a mile away (I guess it was).

These athletes were really good at drafting, so much of the swim was done in little lines, where we would get behind each other and just follow the feet in front. It was actually very civil and pleasant, really.

On the way back I noticed the beautiful physique of a woman swimming next to me. Not that I wasn't entirely focused on the race, of course, but I certainly noticed her. At one point I slipped behind her a bit and noticed the number drawn on her calf; 62! 62 years old and fit as a fiddle!

On the way back, I noticed that I was being clumped by something hard, like a paddle. I looked over and saw that I was hitting a guy with a pull buoy whose legs were tied together in plastic splints. I wondered what that was all about, then realized that this was a challenged athlete who was swimming without the benefit of legs. This was very moving and inspirational, but I swam away from him to avoid getting thwacked.

At this point we were back at the pier and I looked down to see a large turtle swimming the other way. Good thing he wasn't going the same way, or he would have passed me! I decided that seeing the turtle in an Ironman race was a great omen of good luck, and I couldn't stop smiling as I pressed forward to exit the swim....
What would you do differently?:

This was the most wonderful triathlon swim I've ever experienced, and the only thing I would do differently would be to swim it slower or do it twice just to continue the fun of it all.
Transition 1
  • 07m 48s

Clambored into transition in no hurry. Spent a lot of time showering off, as I didn't want to carry a lot of salt water with me on the Queen K. Sat in a chair at the end of the changing tent and stripped everything off to put on Assos cycling shorts and sleeveless CEO Challenge jersey. Lubed chamois with ass butter and clipped into shoes.

Several volunteers noticed that I couldn't stop smiling and commented, "You sure look happy," and "You look like you're having fun." Well, I was. The time of my life.
What would you do differently?:

I should have remembered to put a small towel in my swim/bike transition bag, as I had no way to dry off.
  • 6h 48m 44s
  • 112 miles
  • 16.44 mile/hr

This had to be the wildest ride in a race that I've ever experienced. The crowds go nuts around the transition area, but it soon quiets down on a short route South out of Kona. The course has one screaming downhill here with a hard left turn at the base that apparently ended one poor woman's race in a horrific clump. After this, there's a bit of a climb with a great view back out to the ocean where the swim course used to be, and it's a bit challenging to race when there's so much to see.

This returns to the crowds in town for what feels like a heroic climb up Pay & Save hill. Folks go wild as cyclists stand up and clomp down hard on the pedals to make the crest where the only reward is the black lava of the Queen K Highway.

Apparently the trade winds blow down from the north at this time of day, so there was a decent headwind heading up to Hawi, that was really only interrupted when we got near Waikoloa, when it was replaced with rocket gust blasts pummeling riders from the right. At about this time, I saw the first pro riding back into Kona... he was 40 miles ahead of me. Whoa.

I pedaled consistently on the way to Hawi, and pretty much loved every minute of it. When I passed people, I talked to them, commenting on how lucky we were to be there and to be alive. Some of them smiled and agreed, while others looked at me like I was absolutely nuts.

Got a boost of encouragement on the way up to Hawi when I came across Holly, Betsy, and Ed out in the lava fields. They cheered madly, and I smiled, waved, and pedaled on. At the end of the day, family's what this thing is all about.

At one aid station, the volunteer dropped the water bottle that I was trying to grab while jumping back as if he were feeding an alligator or something. I asked for more water and a volunteer down the line shouted, "Water!" and I took it. Past the station, I took a gulp of this water, and thankfully I didn't dump it on my head -- it was Coke. So, for the next ten miles I had Gatorade and Coke on the bike. I had been drinking and peeing so much that I figured it was probably a blessing not to have water for awhile, and stayed away from both bottles.

About those headwinds; they're brutal without aero-bars. With an effort that would normally generate 22 mph, I was going 16. It didn't matter much, as I was enjoying myself, but I was worried that it was going to be a long day on the bike, and that would make the run pretty tough. The sidewinds offered another predicament; risking taking hands off the handle bars to take a drink can mean having the front wheel blown sideways, resulting in a certain wreck. The best approach seemed to be to wait for a moment when the wind would die down, say a quick prayer, grab the water bottle as quickly as possible, slam down a gulp, return the bottle to the cage, and get back on the bars. Since dehydration means certain death out there, and a deadly gust wasn't certain, it was best to keep taking risks and drinking.

Somewhere near Hawi, Mark Moses went by me heading back to Kona, shouting, "Rich!" At that point he was about ten minutes ahead of me, which matched his lead out of the swim. It was good to see him, although I didn't give a second thought to trying to catch him.

On the way back into town from Hawi, things started getting tough. My left foot had gone numb earlier on, and by this point it hurt so badly that I could no longer stand on the pedals. There's no viable option but to go forward, so that's what I did, in considerable pain. By the end of the ride, I had taken over a dozen Advil and three or four Aleve. That seemed to help.

Came across a fellow at mile 90 who was riding a flat, and I asked him if he would like me to help him change it. He said that it would take longer to change than to keep riding, so I wished him well and continued on. He was in for a very long day, indeed.

I'd never before urinated while riding a bike, but found it to be so delightful that I managed it five or six times on this particular ride. This made it possible to complete the full 112 miles only putting my foot down once; to rifle through my special foods bag at mile 60.

By the time I returned to Kona, a steady stream of amazing runners were heading into the Energy Lab, which was about mile 18 on the run. I was hurting, but they looked like they weren't enjoying their day as much as I enjoyed mine. What amazing athletes!

After cruising through some back streets of Kona, we returned to transition, where to my surprise I found Mark Moses bounding out of a porta-potty. We were going to leave transition together for the run....
What would you do differently?:

My biking shoes didn't fit well, and there's no way I would take that ride on again without aero bars. I
Transition 2
  • 05m 41s

Cruising into transition, I decided once again to make a near-total clothes change. Fresh socks and running shorts were most important. It looked like Mark was ready to go, and I told him I'd see him out there, but he was apparently fiddling around with something, and I left a bit ahead of him after spending considerable time with the suntan lotion cats.

Running out of transition, the cheering crowds were huge, and I managed to see and wave to Holly and Ed.
What would you do differently?:

Again, a small towel would have come in handy at this transition.
  • 4h 27m 30s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 13s  min/mile

I headed out for the run and Mark Moses immediately pulled up beside me. It was something of a dream for us both to be able to run together, but it was pretty clear early on that he was feeling much better than I was. Maybe it was the ten minutes I made up on the bike, or maybe it was the four year age difference, but in any event Mark looked fresh and I was hurting.

Early on, Mark went out ahead of me, but I would sprint to the aid stations to keep with him, and walk through. I started running earlier than him and he would shortly catch and pass me, only to have me race back up to him at the next aid station.

At mile two, my right calf cramped hard and wouldn't let go. I dug deep, thought of my training, thought of my family and friends, thought of my goals and my commitment to run this marathon (other than walking through aid stations), and just kept running.

At the third aid station, a bunch of young Hawaiian kids were really trying to give me food and beverages. When I didn't take much, they asked what I was looking for? "Got any chronic?" I asked, and they loved it. I was pleased to learn that I could speak the local tongue.

When we got back into town after the Alii Drive turnaround, I saw Jimmy by the side of the road cheering me on. "I have a terrible cramp in my right calf, Jimmy!" I cried, "What do I do? Bananas? Salt? Water? Electrolytes?"

"A cramp?" Jimmy screamed, "Here's what you do: you run you old man! You keep right on running!"

I swore that's what I was going to do and continued on with the right leg cramped up.

This led to the bottom of Pay & Save hill, with Mark Moses just behind me. I saw Holly and Ed on the side of the road, and stopped just long enough to give Holly a hug. At this point I had stopped just long enough that I couldn't get going again on the hill and I joined everyone else in walking up the hill.

At the top, I sighed. It was the Queen K Highway, and I knew what that meant; more wind, heat, and lava. As Jimmy screamed, there was nothing left to do but to run, so I picked it up again. From that point on it would unfortunately be a long time before I would see my friend Mark again.

The nine-minute miles that Mark and I started with seemed much harder than the ten-minute miles I was doing now, but I was determined to keep running between the aid stations. I was thrilled when I finally turned left and down into the Energy Lab.

There, Ford had inflated some sort of balloon arch over the road that they called an "inspiration point" or something like that. It just looked like a big rubber Ford logo in the middle of lava fields to me and I tried to derive some motivation from it, but really it just seemed silly out there in the middle of nowhere.

It was here that I met Suzanne Slivkoff of Los Gatos. Whether I came on her or she came on me I don't know, but we pretty much carried each other through the last ten miles. For a good while we chatted (she had qualified at Coeur d'Alene, worked as a contract manager...) but after a while we were mostly quiet other than our foot strikes as we ran stride for stride, passing pretty much everyone out there, pressing hard for the finish.

I told her that I would have an Ironman personal best if we could get back before 13:30, and that we should really try to have 12's engraved as the first numbers on our finisher's medals. She agreed, and said that my goal of coming in under 13 hours was highly motivational for her as well. So, we kept on running.

With two miles to go, I told her that I was going to hold up at the finish so that she could cross the line alone and have a great picture. She said that I should cross first because of my time goal, but I told her that unless the time read 12:59:58, I would just stand there and wait to finish behind her. She thanked me and with about 500 yards to go it was fun to watch her kick into a monster sprint to the finish. In the video of me crossing the finish line (visit and click "Watch Me Finish") the first woman to cross the line is Suzanne and you'll see her turn back to look at the finish line -- I don't doubt that she's looking for me. Anyway, if our paths ever cross again, it will certainly be as very dear friends. Kona sort of bonds folks that way, I guess.

Crossing the finish line was an experience that I'll never forget. Running down Alii Drive with the blaring music and shouting crowds brings and incredible sense of accomplishment, triumph, love. The first face that I saw across the line was Holly, who was able to put a lei over my head and carry me off to receive my medal. The joy of this moment can't be described. After thousands of miles of running and tens of thousands of miles of cycling, it all came down to this overwhelming moment. Wow.
Post race
Warm down:

After a cold slice of pizza, I wanted to watch other finishers come in, and we did this for about a half hour. It was a very special time, and I cherished every second.

Mark Moses finished 30 minutes behind me (the run finally caught up with him, probably due to the brutality of the bike ride), and we walked with Mark and his kids to our cars. At some point in the walk he began to stagger and looked quite clammy. He asked Holly if she would drive his car, but we figured it would be better if I did.

After a 20 minute drive back to the Sheraton, including one stop for Mark to try to vomit (he couldn't), it was clear that Mark was having serious problems. I asked the hotel for a doctor, but they didn't have one. I ran around the hotel and fortunately found a race medic who had come home for the night, and I asked him to help us with Mark.

He spent time diagnosing Mark's condition and when I asked what it could be he said, "After what you guys have done to your bodies today it could be any of a hundred problems; too little water, too much water, not enough salt, not enough sugar, too much sun... you name it. The options are for you to return to the Medical Tent at the race, or sit up with him all night to make sure his condition doesn't worsen."

So, Holly stayed with Mark's kids, and I pack him back into the truck to drive back to the race finish. Mind you, at this point I was a bit dizzy myself and certainly exhausted, but it was clear that Mark's health and safety were of paramount singular importance. I checked him back into the medical tent and sat down to wait. After awhile it became apparent to me that I wasn't going to hold up much longer, and having found Barry and Jodee, we called Ted and Eli to ask them to wait for Mark and to bring him back to the hotel when he checked out of medical.

At 11:45pm I started walking back to the car and saw a very cool sight; running down the Pay & Save hill was Scott Rigsby, and athlete who participated as a double leg amputee. I cheered as loudly as I could for him as he moved through the dark... he was clearly going to finish about ten minutes before the cutoff. I realized then, for the thousandth time that day, just how special and significant this event really was.

I made it back to the Sheraton at some point after midnight and spelled Holly with Mark's kids. About twenty minutes later, Mark returned, and I was finally able to go to bed. While I'm not an expert on his condition, the problem seemed to trace back to some EKG readings of his heart, so he needs to be checked out again when he gets home.

The night ended as one of the finest in my life. I finished the Kona Ironman. The Ironman World Championships. And when it was all over I had sacrificed for the safety of my friend. I enjoy being tested, and in this case I was very pleased with the results.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Heat. Wind. Lava. 140.3 miles. The usual stuff.

Event comments:

This was it. One of the greatest days of my life. It's amazing when over a thousand hours of training comes together to allow an old goat to rumble 140.3 miles with a smile and tears of joy. This thing really is less of an athletic endeavor and more of a spiritual awakening. I was reborn today, and now I am alive!

Profile Album

Last updated: 2007-09-03 12:00 AM
01:20:22 | 3862 meters | 02m 05s / 100meters
Age Group: 0/168
Overall: 0/1787
Performance: Good
Suit: BlueSeventy Speedsuit
Course: Out from the pier and along the island for 1.2 miles, around a sailboat & Ford inflatable in a clock-wise direction, then back to the pier.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Good Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 07:48
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Good
06:48:44 | 112 miles | 16.44 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/168
Overall: 0/1787
Performance: Good
Wind: Cross-winds with gusts
Course: South out of Kona for a bit until a turnaround heads back toward T1. Up the Pay & Save hill, and onto the infamous Queen K highway. From there it's a long haul to Hawi and back through the legendary lava fields.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence: 90
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 05:41
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes Good
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal Good
04:27:30 | 26.2 miles | 10m 13s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/168
Overall: 0/1787
Course: This run heads down Alii Drive through town, then back to Pay & Save hill which leads runners like a prison warden to the Queen K highway. The run heads back up the bike course in the direction of Hawi, but turns off into a facility called the Energy Lab, which is just beside the ocean. There, a turnaround marks the point where the race heads back into Kona for... the finish line!
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5