This year was my second trip to Kona – and I honestly thought that since I had previously raced here, that I would be entering with a very good understanding of what I was getting myself into…
For the past year, I’ve woke up every day and thought about Kona. I pretty much have to have something like that to keep me motivated otherwise I’ll never be able to wake up at 4am day in and day out. I trained my heart out, and with the help from my family, my friends, and my coach, I have literally transformed my biking capabilities all within the past year, with the hopes that I could really perform at the level I am capable at this year’s Kona.
In addition to the training, I have obviously had a lot on my plate – work, family, training, traveling for implant teaching this summer, managing the Survive the Night triathlon, adding the bike event this year and all of the additional layers of stress that went along with that ordeal, and then without saying more – I’ve had an extremely stressful and potentially life-changing opportunity to navigate. In other words, my stress levels leading up to this race have been off the charts – and getting to Kona was as much about taking a long overdue vacation as it was about my race.
For anyone who has seen my website in the past week, I obviously took advantage of my time in Kona, and as a family, we did a lot. I did get in a little rest before the race, but I’ll admit we were at the beach just 12 hours before start time…
The race didn’t exactly go as planned. I swam well, biked decent, but then got to run completely spent and started cramping extremely early. But, rather than drone on about the specifics of each and every part of the race, I’ll hit the highlights and odd parts of the day that made this Kona race memorable:
1. The Swim – this is obviously a stressful part of the race. About 1500+ athletes are simply treading water in Kailua Kona bay for anywhere for 10-30min based on where you want to start from. Nobody is really small-talking either as everyone is focused on the day. In the middle of the plethora of blue heads in the water, about 5 min before the start I hear someone yell out, “Hey, Feddock.” I turn my head and a friend named Chris Martin had literally found me in the sea of people. It was great to have someone right there to talk to and calm some of the pre-race nerves.
Needle in a haystack!
2. Sunscreen – the last time I raced in Kona, I got the sunburn of my life on my lower back due to a rookie mistake of not anticipating my shirt would pull up once I got on the bike. This time, I found the sunscreen girls before I got on the bike… and they were very liberal. Look at all the sunscreen on the back of my neck and my arms!
Climbing up the hill on Palani Drive (mile 10 of the bike).
3. My kit – I got so many compliments on the sweet looking racing suit Chris McDonald (my coach) put together for me through his company Big Sexy Gear. If you are in need of custom race suits or gear, definitely check his company out. And it matched the bike Kevin Brooks with Brooks Airbrush painted for me.
Somewhere around mile 100.
4. My Support Crew – This year, I brought my entire family, plus, my friends Bryan and Kelly, Nora and John, and Rick and Jill, all came and brought their families. So, I had a cheering section just about everywhere I turned.
5. My boys – The run started pretty bad for me. In the past, I can usually start the marathon and start cranking out the miles. Not on Saturday. I ran mile 1 at 7 min, and instantly I knew it was going to be a long day. I started cramping up about half a mile in, and the tank was empty, but there was no way I was going to drop out. The house we rented was at the 2 mile marker so I knew where my family would be cheering. I made the first pass, high-fives the boys and kept trucking on. However, by the time I made it back around at mile 8, I was already tanking on the run. I stopped to see Asher and Ande. Ande wanted a hug, and after I gave it to him, he started crying saying he didn’t want me to leave. It was sad, but also somewhat bittersweet how much Ande wanted to stay with me. He ran with me for about 50 ft, and then I had to jog him back cause he obviously can’t continue in that race. USA triathlon might consider that illegal pacing, but I doubt I’ll get any penalty cards for it!
6. In the middle of the run course there is hill called Palani Drive. Its is steep and about 1/3 mile long. I had my own personal goal of not walking up that thing, and this I did achieve. It wasn’t fast, but I did it.
7. This is perhaps my most memorable moment from this year’s race – my new friend on the run. One of the things that truly makes these races unique is the comradery between competitors. I indirectly met someone during the bike leg. We basically rode together for the final 30 miles. He too did not have the race he was intending, and when I reached mile 15, and started to walk at one segment between aid stations, someone who was behind me came up and said, “come on man, lets run together.” His name was Kevin Sleegers. He lives in the Netherlands, and other than the fact that we were racing at a similar pace and position, we had never met each other before. We basically ran the next 10 miles with each other, continually motivating one another to keep going. We walked about life in the Netherlands, life in the US (funny how he brought up how much of a joke the current US presidential election is in the Netherlands), nevertheless, I randomly met someone who helped keep me engaged and running, and at the same time, I was able to do the same for him. This is what makes Ironmans special.
8. The finish – running down Alii drive to the finish line in front of the bay is one of the most spectacular finishes of all the races I have ever done. My entire crew was there waiting for me at the finish line, and as I ran towards the finish line, you just can’t help but get emotional with the achievement of completing that race. My final big goal for the day was to have a 2nd Kona World Championship medal – one for Asher and now one for Ande. Job Done.
Running to finish line.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that I finished the race, and there were several small goals that I had for myself that I definitely accomplished: 1) Finish the race, 2) I ran the entire way up Palani Drive, and 3) I did run through almost the entire energy lab, and I managed to run the vast majority of the final 10k of the run. What I did not accomplish is something very specific to me – I never got to the point where I felt good on the run, and I still have yet to run the marathon off the bike that I know I am capable of. Immediately after the race, I told all of my friends that came that I was done with the full ironman distance. Well, lets just say, I’m already trying to figure out what race is next!