Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kona Race Report: Part I

Here I like awake at 2am with the post-Ironman insomnia you veterans are probably familiar with. So I figured, what the heck? Might as well type.

Precursor: I am more sore than I have ever been in my life from anything. Any Ironman. Any trampling from a herd of cattle. Any severe beating with a bamboo stick. Anything.

Precursor #2: Today was the hardest physical endeavor of my life.


I awoke exhausted. Not good start to Ironman. Once again, between crying children and my nerves, I slept the usual amount that i slept the entire week: about 3 hours. Lying in bed with the alarm blaring at 4:45, I did not feel like doing anything except rolling over and passing out. Not a good sign. My throat hurt, my head was foggy, and I just felt...tired!

But once i got out of bed, I was able to find a little spring in my step and gather my belongings, then head down to the race start. Once again, those of you familiar with Ironman know that race morning logistics are one big circus. Already exhausted, I stumbled my way through body marking, bike set-up, swim preparation, and pre-race nutrition and hydration.


From the moment the gun sounded, I knew something was off. I just wasn't in a good mood. I wasn't motivated to push. I half-heartedly sat on the feet of a group of swimmers ahead of me up to the sailboat turnaround, where I looked at my watch and saw 0:28. Way off goal, especially with more current swimming back. It took 0:32 to return and my swim time ended up 5-6 minutes longer than anticipated.


Despite a physically sound taper, my brain was "tired" on the bike. I just couldn't get the turnover. By the time we rode the first 9 miles and headed out of town, I was ready to be done. During the ride, I spent more time in my second chain ring than ever. But at least my knee wasn't hurting!


Jinxed it. About the time we started ascending into the headwinds of Hawi, somewhere around mile 45, I felt a twinge in my knee and slight amount of pain. It seemed lower than usual, more patellar tendon, so I pulled over, stretched, then kept pedaling. Halfway to Hawi, I stretched again. Then again at special needs bag. The knee felt OK at that point, but when I stopped to stretch. I just wanted to curl up and fall asleep by the side of the road. My eyelids were heavy and my head hurt.


Coming down off Hawi, there were ferocious crosswinds. Forced to lean to the left, into the wind, I began to use my left knee (the bad one) quite significantly. I think that did the final trick, because when I came back onto the highway from Hawi and headed into the final 35 mile stretch, the IT band began to hurt. I was determined to make it back into town, so I switched to "Right Leg Only" pedaling, staying as light on the left leg as possible. My right leg was exhausted just 10 miles later.At every aid station, I stopped to stretch. I did not pass a single cyclist in those last 35 miles and I was passed what must have been hundreds of times. The highest my heart rate rose coming back was 137, 4 beats below my minimum goal heart rate for the race.


AFter what seemed like an eternity, I arrived back in Kona and dismounted. I could barely walk. I took nearly 5 minutes to limp to my bike.rack. When I sat down in the transition tent, I nearly fell asleep. I wanted to crawl into a dark corner and just sleep for hours and forget everything.


But he last thing I wanted was a repeat of Canada, where I sat for 10 hours after dropping out of the race and watched hundreds of athletes finish during the time that I could have been out at least walking the marathon. So I grabbed two rolls of flexible medical tape, sat down, and wrapped my patellar tendon and IT band. I slathered on insane amounts of sunscreen. I grabbed a banana. I slammed two Delta E's, because I needed a serious pick-me-up. Then, I started slowly walking.

My long day was just getting started. be continued....


Reilly's World said...

Oh Ben,
We were watching your splits, especially on the run, and wondering what the heck was going on. Were you sick? Were you injured? Well, now we know. We are so proud of you though for "gutting" it out. That takes more courage and perseverance than running that race healthy. While I am sure it feels horrible right now, know that your dedication is admired. - Tia and her parents

Spokane Al said...

Ben, I watched your splits all day and got the feeling that your leg was bothering you. I hope you can finally take the time to recover and get things right again. Without you rocking full speed on the tri courses, the world is just not the same.

M-Dot said...

Wish I could've been there to cheer you in. Walks of Enlightenment are hard Mentally and Physically.
I so feel your pain and know Exactly how that feels. You need time to mend and time to heal.
I know it was not what you expected but, now you know...
So keep up the good work and get well soon.

Diane Swift said...


I knew something was wrong when I was watching your splits. I was watching online and didn't want to miss you crossing the finish line.
I was about ready to turn off the computer and go to bed and I hear 'From Spokane Washington' and it was good to see you cross the finish line. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have such a trying day. I am so amazed that you perservered and kept going.
My heart went out to you as you crossed the finish line.
Rest up and get healthy....

Kim Ellis said...

Ben - Thank you SO much for sharing your journey and especially your Kona race day! As we sat watching the coverage and keeping track of our favorite athletes I knew you were not having a good day! I just kept sending good thoughts and wishing for you the best that your body could offer on that day.

I admire anyone who perseveres through the adversities of life with their character and integrity in tact. Adversities don't build character but they will reveal the character within.

I look forward to seeing you soon and wish you a well deserved rest and recovery.