triathlon training

The Hawaii Ironman - The Run

Take all the things that make a marathon difficult, hills, heat, humidity, and combine them with an already drained body, mind and spirit and you can't even begin to imagine what it's like to start the Hawaii Ironman. Add to this the fact that in a few hours the sun will set and I'll have to deal with pitch black until the moon rises.

My spirit is not broken, and the work ahead is certainly cut out for me, will I maintain sanity? The run starts at the bottom of a steep hill that just kills your idea of running a really fast time. At the top the course turns right and goes down a long grade into what's called the "pit" only to turn around and climb the shadeless torture test back up again. It's here I thought I might be able to pick up the pace to 8 minutes per mile but after while I realize by my watch I'm only averaging 10. I decide not to eat on the run, but will drink exceed and maybe take a GU if I need it.

I'm going to try and keep my shoes dry as long as feasible. I plan on taking as much ice and water over my body as I can. Keeping cool as well as hydrated has been the number one priority all day. As for watering the landscape, when it's impossible to duck into the bushes I have a method of peeing while I have my legs spread wide open and pouring a cup of water over my head at the same time. The fluids just drip straight down and not a drop in my shoes. No-one is any the wiser so I thought I'd share that with you. After 7 1\2 of peeing into my shoe while sitting down on a hard seat, the freedom it affords feels great.

The aid stations come every mile and the mile markers seem to be half way between them. There's ice in solid and shave form and I quickly develop a method of getting water and ice and a sponge and slowly dripping the cold melted ice on my head. At the 5 mile mark I've abandoned any hopes of maintaining anything but a 10 minute mile pace and hope I can get to the police station 10 mile mark in 100 minutes. It's good the mile markers are out in the open and not hidden near the hustle of the aid stations.

If I hadn't run quite a few marathons over the last 10 years I might have been more apprehensive about this one set before me. I knew the heat would be a factor but having run the Honolulu course twice and having trained in 90 degree heat this summer, I felt it could be done. And being older helps in the patience department. The whole day is an exercise in the virtue of patience.

By the time I got to most aid stations, the majority of people were socializing amongst themselves. That's not to say I didn't get the attention and support I needed, far from it, they were the best. And by the time I got back to the village of Kona, the crowd was cheering mostly for the top 200 who were finishing at this point. I noticed a few people who actually cheered for me and called my name. Friends I had made along the road of life in Kona. It was exciting to here the loudspeakers announce the name, occupation, and home town of the finishers 10 blocks away. But I had miles to go before I sleep and trudged my way back up the very steep Pay n Save hill towards the turn around point inside the Natural Energy Lab.

It's much to steep to run at this point and I fake a stretch to stash my sunglasses in the bushes. I won't need them soon and prepare for nightfall. I leave the sounds of the finish line and Kona behind as I turn on Queen K and remind myself that when I return, I will be an Ironman.

My strategy is to run within myself, and walk through all the aid stations. I am determined to be un-remitting in the quest for the remainder of the what was a speed contest for some, and a durability test for me. Another aid station, and another cheer and "Nice leis". I'm so glad that I am wearing them. It almost seems like an unfair advantage having an attention grabber.

I try to imagine myself at the track workout and we're doing mile repeats. Twenty-six of them at a slow pace. And I imagine myself on my weekly long run in SF enjoying the beach, the hills, the cool fog and the great shower that follows. I imagine all the years I get to say I finished, but not so fast, there's still too many miles for something to go wrong. I'm still 14 aid stations away from victory. It's still too far to finish by midnight if I have to walk it in. My mind is in no shape to figure out the point at which I can, and I tell myself it's not an option.

There's a cruel twist to the course which has you go by the entrance to the energy lab by a short mile and by the time I get back it's dark. I've been tagged with a couple of glow sticks. Not liking the way they bounce up and down and I stop to remove them and stick them in the sides of my shorts. I wonder if it's "legal" and wend my way onward.

The trip into the energy lab proves to be the most grueling of the day. I'm upset because it's dark and I've such a long way to go yet. Also the turn around isn't where I expected it, but another mile or more down the road. It's the most difficult stretch of real estate I've seen all day but I call upon my spirit to see me through. My mantra for this race is a Christian based prayer which I recite between breaths, eyes closed, two foot strikes at a time. It eats up the clock and lessons the pain. The self meditation and hypnosis works for awhile, and then I do it again.

The moon is rising and the magnificent mountain Mauna Kea is shining in all her glory. I call upon Pele and Lono for power. I pray that all is right with my life and I'm allowed to reach my goal unimpeded. I think of romance and wonderful evenings spent outside, and I think of my girl friend, and wish she were in the village to welcome me home. I contemplate my future, as I know my life is about to change drastically when I return to SF. I will be moving, cutting my hair, getting a real job and working 9 to 5, things I've not done in a long time. Ironman will help me. And the moon helps me with Ironman.

When I get outside the lab and back on Queen K the mood has changed along with the night. People are now content to finish the day taking walking and talking breaks with each other. I notice up ahead a car pulled along side a couple of competitors walking and talking and it turns out to be Cowman. I high five him and continue on. Another friend I've made here in Kona I feel, and hope he feels the same.

The town is getting closer and now I can't wait for the mile markers. They never get further apart until the last five miles. I press on refusing to walk unless it's an aid station. I'm already too late and behind my goal. Mile 23, 24, 25. Unbelievable!

I can hear the finish line speakers again. There's a couple of official announcers. I really like one of them that I know of from Wildflower. He's really polite and kind. But I'm much too tired to tell if it's him.

I never got to the point where I had to ask myself "How bad do you want it", because I was asking myself that all day, all week, all season long. This was the day, and I had no doubts as to how bad I wanted it.

The disappointment of not being able to wear the hula-skirt was somewhat dissipated from knowing it awaited me in the bushes of my hotel. I could officially wear it for the finish. And here I was some thirteen hours 40 minutes from the start walking up the driveway to fetch it only to be asked by an onlooker,

"aren't you going to finish?".

I nodded.

"Well the finish line is THAT way!"


I'm left alone to wrap it around me and eke out the last footsteps in the glory of the crowds. I turn the last bend in Alii Dr. and there they are, along with the enormous finish line built from three stories of scaffolding, banners, spotlights and loudspeakers. The crowds scream and holler as I pick up my pace to a speed not seen all day long. I high five everyone I can. There is no pain 100 yards from the imaginary tape.

The announcer blares out words and it's all a blur of too much going on at once. I try to suck it all up but it's happening too fast. I concentrate on what I need to do. I hesitate just before the line and do a hula-hands dance consisting of mountains, ocean and a thank-you to the gods in the sky. As I cross the finish line it's arms up and fingers in the hang loose mode and a big smile. Cameras flash. I've done it!!! ;-))

The Conclusion

GOOD LUCK and Keep It Fun!!!
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