What a Day – Ironman World Championship 2016

October 26, 2016 IronmanRace Reports  No comments

imkona-16-finishWe arrived on the island of Hawaii, Wednesday morning, October 5th… Our 31st wedding anniversary! It was our goal to be on the Big Island last year for our 30th but a little thing called a “broken hip” got in the way. Now once again driving into Kona, a short seven mile trek from the airport, it was very clear the Ironman was just days away. From the yellow road signs that read “CAUTION Ironman Athletes Training” along the Queen K to the dozens of runners along Ali’I Drive you’d think the competition had already begun.

First thing Joy and I did after we parked our car was walk over to the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel to register. As usual, it is a very well organized process that respects the athletes for achieving the honor of racing the Ironman World Championship. Next up, lunch! So, we walked to the first beachside restaurant where we were promptly seated and ordered fish tacos and a Mai Tai (it’s tradition!). From there we walked over to the race expo and took a look around. I was hoping to see a large Specialized booth as in years past to ask about my bike’s sticky brakes but not only was there no large booth there was NO booth and Specialized was nowhere to be found! Crud… I’m gonna have to deal with these brakes on my own.

Now that our pre-race curiosity had been resolved it was time to go to Costco and grab our food and then check into our little cottage studio up Palani Rd., which we had booked through Airbnb. The place was perfect for our prerace headquarters being up 1500 feet and averaging 10 degrees cooler than Kailua just four miles down the road. As we arrived our host was waiting for us and greeted us with lei’s. The studio itself was charming with its own outdoor patio and barbeque and on the counter was a bottle of sparkling wine and two champagne flutes. “For your anniversary!” stated Naomi, who also provided fresh avocados off of her tree informing us we could have as many as we wanted. As it came time to dress for dinner both of us just decided to grill a couple of the steaks we purchased earlier and get to bed as it had been a long day.

The next couple of days were the typical preparations for race day. Coupled with a little bit of swimming out from DigMe Beach to the tune up ride along the Queen K and an easy run along Ali’i. I was able to talk with a mechanic who fixed my brakes (correctly) and with a general inspection told me I was good to go… Thursday afternoon we had an IronPrayer Service and afterwards we endured the Welcome Banquet food and the mandatory athlete meeting. The day before the race it was bike and gear check in. This is quite the ordeal as you are paraded by a couple dozen folks with clipboards and cameras who document all of your gear for sponsors and vendors. As I walked by the ENVE tent someone yelled out, “Thanks for riding our wheels!” and handed me a huge custom printed beach towel! Now with bike and gear bags in one hand and beach towel consuming my other (did I mention this thing is massive?), I make it onto the pier where I’m greeted by a volunteer who escorts me to my bike location #460. It is on the end of the row at the final turn out of transition… as my friend Kyle said, it was “Pole Position!” Now with bike and gear checked Joy and I head back to the cottage for the remainder of the day for “Feet Up,” a command from coach Amanda! Dinner would be grilled Ono with a couscous salad and avocado with plenty of water to assure at least one trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Alarms set for 4am – we are in bed, lights out at 8pm. I sleep, sort of, and have wild dreams of missing a flight for Ironman St. Louis! Btw – there is no such thing as Ironman St. Louis.



The alarm goes off on Joy’s side of the bed first. Then mine… she’s made the coffee and is in the bathroom getting ready for the long day. I methodically, put on my race kit, heart-rate strap and timing chip. I eat my two hardboiled eggs and sausage with a little avocado. I’m nervous but I force myself to eat. I grab my special needs and early morning cloths bags and head outside… it’s warm and muggy and I don’t need the extra t-shirt I put on to keep me warm. As we drive down Palani I remind Joy how to get out to the airport later in the morning to pick up our friends Sean and Kristin. We walk to the parking lot of the King K Beach Hotel where I am body marked by fellow SVTC teammate Kathy!

In transition I am positioned right by a row of porta-johns and easily get my business done before the lines begin to form. Bike is checked, water bottles are placed and I’m now left with about an hour to just sit and wait. So, I walk over to the grassy section of the hotel beach and find a place to just sit and pray. I look up as the sun starts to come up over the Hualalai, which provides an epic sunrise! Soon we hear the NBC Sports helicopter in the distance… telling us age grouper it’s time to get in the water.


It takes about 15 minutes to get in the water as the narrow entry onto DigMe, jams up with athletes. Finally on the beach I put my ROKA R1 goggles on and make my way out to the midway point of the start line where I place myself about 3 guys back off the front. We tread water for about 10 minutes. In the final minute the row of marching surfboards, which holds the line starts to push back the front two rows and now we’re in a congested mess as we’re all shoulder-to-shoulder smacking each other. We hear Mike Reilly say, “Have a great day out there boys!” and the surfboards stop and turn forward as to open the door and “Boom!” I hit my watch and off we go.

As always for this mass start, it stays very congested and you have to find a rhythm with other swimmers to keep pace and to not panic. As we’re about 300 meters into the swim I notice my right armpit is getting a nasty rub from my Team ZERO sleeved jersey. I hadn’t thought it might cause a rub and thereby coat my armpit with Body Glide. Dumb, dumb, dumb… I tug on the sleeve. No relief. “Oh well,” I tell myself, “I’m gonna have to gut out the discomfort and ignore the pain.” As I approach the Body Glove boat at the turn around it’s still a solid group of guys swimming together and making the right hand turn wasn’t as easy as in years past. Now over to the other boat, about 100 meters away we turn into the straight 1.2 miles return trip to shore. I check my watch. It says 32 something… wow! That made me happy and helped the pain go away only for a brief moment. But wait… now I sense a good amount of chop to my right letting me know there was a nice current kicking us out and will now have to be fought through heading back. There are a few familiar guys who had been swimming with me pretty much the entire swim and we continue to hold pace. At about 400 meters from the pier a guys starts to swim across the front of me… “Where’s he going?” I’m thinking or, “Where am I going?” Now not sure… I pull up. Yes he’s wrong, I’m right, I’ve a perfect line to the edge of the pier… I begin to tell myself, enjoy this last bit of calm… I’m approaching the steps. Folks on the pier are cheering… I find my fingers drag the sand and I stand and run up the steps hitting my watch for T1… yup… current for sure. Total Swim Time: 1:11:49 (my fastest Kona swim to date)


Getting through T1 is a little congested and it takes some time to get my gear out and on as well as placing all swim gear in my bag… this is normally assisted by a volunteer but for some reason… I was left to myself. Coming out of the change tent I look for sunscreen and Vaseline and put the Vaseline inside my armpit!! That felt better but I could tell my armpit was raw meat at this point. Running round the pier to my bike is not a short run and it’s slick. Grabbing my bike, I place my helmet and glasses on my head and run out to the mount line. I’m quickly up to “hot corner” and moving through several folks. The out and back on Kuakini Hwy is tempered and I tell myself to stay calm. Coming to the bottom of the descent I look ahead and notice a small pickup truck is let on the road to be directed over to Hualalai Rd but as I start to pass on the right thinking he’s going to turn left, he heads straight into the closed and narrow bike lane almost hitting me and now driving down the closed bike course. People are screaming at this guy to get off the road but he seems more pissed that we’re all out there like we’re the crazy ones! A police officer flags him down… yes!

Now on the Queen K heading north the pace starts to get pretty fast. Remember Dan, don’t be a hero to Hawi! Steady, be patient, you don’t know what’s out there. And in typical form as soon as we pass the Veteran’s Cemetery Rd. the winds start to gust in our faces… the closer we get to the resorts in Waikoloa the windier it gets. So much so, many of us are getting pushed around the road holding a 12 mph pace. After making the turn off the Queen K it’s a 20-mile, rolling up hill journey. Here, in Kawaihae, I notice the helicopter ahead and know the lead guys are soon going to fly by. And boy did they! As soon as I got to the turn there was a group of about 10 pursuing the leader. It would be a couple miles before I saw the next group. Thgen about half way up I saw the first female leader and then a steady stream of the fasted age groupers appeared. Feeling good the winds were steady and predictable coming from the northeast. The closer to Hawi the winds became much stronger and direct. Getting round the end in Hawi Town is always exciting as the crowds are fun and abundant…

It only takes a mile or so out of town to start the nice descent with the tailwind. Here, you can recover a bit while still gaining some ground on the bike. As we travel back, I’m hoping the winds that were pushing us back on the QK will actually help us along in the opposite fashion. And to a certain extent they did but not entirely. By the time we’re past the resorts at Waikoloa the winds were coming from the makai (ocean side) only occasionally providing a little assistance. During the bike I had been consistent to drink a full 36 ounces of water per hour as well as eat between 90-180 calories per hour (Hammer Gel and bananas) as planned. I have no stomach issues and I’ve had the need to pee at least twice on the bike. In other words things were feeling fine. However, as I approached the airport, I really wanted to get off the bike. I calculated my remaining time till I couldd feel the pitter-patter of my feet and realized it’s not a great bike split; perhaps reflective of my lack of long training rides this year. Coming into T2 it’s crazy at “hot corner” and I get a little jolt of energy. Handing off my bike… “Ahhhh! Relief.” Total Bike Time: 5:55:48


As I exit transition I take on some water and will wait until the first aid station to take a Clif Shot (which is the nutrition on course and I had been using the last two weeks leading into the race so my body could adjust to it). As I stretch my legs out I feel great and am excited to get in a good marathon. At first I realize I’m running fast… too fast. So I slow it down past “hot corner” and realize I’m a bit light headed but think nothing of it, as it is pretty hot and humid. I get to Ali’I and calm my pace even more…. First mile split buzzes on my watch. 8:15! Yep too fast for this day. I get to the aid station; take a Clif Shot and plenty of water. I start to feel even more light headed, woozy, in fact. This is new! I slow down even further. Next mile split, 8:45. Approaching mile three my heart rate is 138 and my breathing is good. It’s just my head… I’m so dizzy! I’m only three miles into my run and I’m thinking I’m about to pass out! WTHey! I don’t want to be THAT GUY who they pull off the course first and throw into the med tent so I tell myself “Walk!” What? It’s only mile 3 I think… “Walk dang it!” I’m telling myself use wisdom and if you have to you can walk the entire marathon to finish. The key here is finishing! I walk a bit, run a bit being sure to get enough water in at each aid station. As I look up the road I notice I’m not the only one walking early. There are plenty of folks, even a couple Every Man Jack guys which shocks me. Even found an EMJ guy behind me walking. This tells me it’s a tougher day than I realize and the winds may have taken their toll on much of the field.

At this point one other thought is continuously running through my mind. Not since hearing my name going past the airport on the bike out toward Hawi have I seen Joy. I’m all the way down Ali’I and still no sight of her and our friends. Running down toward Hugo’s I hear my name but it’s our friends Johnny and Jennie and their kids, I stop for a brief hello! Johnny says he’s gonna try and catch me later up the road! As I come off Ali’I for some reason I’m feeling really bonky and am considering what it might mean if I can’t complete the race… this really bothers me and I just tell myself all you have to do is just keep moving forward; walk, run or crawl… keep moving!

As I start my way up Palani Rd, I see Joy, Sean and Kristin. Yay! This gives me a boost. I stop for a moment, say hello and let them know how I’m feeling. “Really struggling here!” They’re encouraging, except Sean who whispers in my ear… “I didn’t fly 3500 miles to watch you walk.” He laughs, “You’ll watch me walk this hill!” I whisper back without a laugh and keep going. At the top of the hill I start running again and take it all the way down to the next aid station. 9:45 split. Good. But this section of the road is long and I’m not even half way through the marathon. John finds me again walking at the Harbor… He walks with me a bit and prays for me. I gain composure and run to the next aid station. As I approach the Energy Lab I realize I’m off pace from the 11:35 I did in 2012 and will be well over 12 hours if I continue at this pace…. “Don’t worry about it… just finish.” I tell myself!

In the Energy Lab I get my Special Needs bag filled with my typical Gummy Bears and a couple extra gel packets, which happen to be GU Roctane. Immediately I take one because I don’t like the taste of the Clif Shots and a few minutes later I’m not as light headed as I had been. At the top and back on the Queen K I take the next one at the next aid station… again, I’m feeling a little better… I start running. I run to the next aid station. I walk it taking on more water and notice the sun is going into the ocean. “Not gonna be a daylight finish today.” I whisper to myself. I’ve got 5 more miles to go and it’ll be dark in just three miles. But I start running again and find with my newfound strength I’ll be able to run the entire way back with exceptions of walking the aid stations (skipping Palani). As I start down Palani, I hear friend, Dale say, “Welcome back Dan!” For the past two miles I’d been running with a guy who stayed just two or three yards ahead of me the entire way… we run all the way to Ali’I and then, I slow for a bit to pay homage to Tom in front of Uncle Billy’s, then pray and reflect on my friend Mel who journeyed with us on our first trip to Kona and joined us for IMFrance and IMCoeurd‘Alene and who went home to be with Jesus two weeks ago… 400 meters to go and much goes through your mind in this final stretch of road. As I come around the banyan tree the finish is clearly in sight! The lights are bright and all I see is a long row of silhouetted hands reaching out for high-fives. Little did I know that one of those hands I hit would be my wife’s!

As has been my practice all year, encouraged by my coach, I finish with a huge smile on my face. It doesn’t reflect the disappointment I feel for such a hard day on the run but I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, I didn’t have to crawl and I smile because, regardless of the time… I did it. Total Run Time: 5:05:04

Total Race Time: 12:22:46


In review and reflection, I think several factors contributed to my tough day. First, I’m still getting back to form from having broken my hip the year before. My coach, who has a medical degree as well as being one of the top American female professional Ironman Triathletes, told me that this year would be less volume and intensity as to keep me healthy through the year and to avoid significant set backs. Second, I should never have used the Clif products. I know what works for me and the GU “pick-me-up!” proved it. Finally, I have noticed those who do late season Ironman races (like Coeur d ‘Alene six weeks prior to Kona) do not typically do well. They simply have not fully recovered and for me, with IMCdA and then IMSantaCruz70.3 just weeks apart, I wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be for this race… on this day!

Lastly, let me add to the end of this report for the end of this season… We had a really nice time in Hawaii – post race!! Good friends, good food and good rest are a recipe for a great vacation… we had that!
There are many people to thank. First, All of those at ZERO Cancer who helped make this all possible. Their work on behalf of so many men and their families to provide hope and assistance during their fight against this disease is making a huge difference. I want to say “Thanks!” to all those who contributed to ZERO on my behalf. Thank you to my WestGate Church family who allow me the joy and freedom to do this. Thank you to my fellow triathletes at SVTC and FCA-E who partner and encourage me along the way. Finally, thanks to my family who have sacrificed the most, which is held together by the one who is the queen of sacrifice, who always puts others before herself especially me… to Joy, mahalo… I can’t do this without you.




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