2014 Ironman World Championships Race Report
We’ve heard all the stories, how this race is like no other. The best of the best have come here and time and time again they’ve cracked. If you come with a lack of respect for the island it will chew you up and spit you out.
The 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona did not disappoint. I’ve dealt with hot and I’ve dealt with wind but it became pretty apparent that I’ve never dealt with the kind of hot or wind that Kona can throw at you. Race day started with the usual excitement, 3:30am wake up, force yourself to eat even though you don’t want to and head down to transition. I did my usual preparation, bike set up, get out for a good little warmup run and get into the water. I bullied my way to the front to get a spot front and center. Guys can get pretty rough near the front in the water jockeying for position and you have to play the game otherwise you’ll just get pushed around into a place you don’t want to be. The start was pretty incredible, floating a couple hundred metres out from shore, fish swimming under you, the sun just starting to rise over the mountain to the left and being surrounded by the best amateurs from all around the world that have qualified to race on triathlon’s biggest stage.
The cannon went and we were off. I went out hard to try to get a good position but it wasn’t fast enough. I quickly got swallowed up in the mass and was getting taken along in the pack. I swam strong for the entire swim, drafted as much as possible. I felt as though I was having a good swim but when I climbed out of the water and read 1:03 on the board all I could hope for was that it was slow for everyone. My goal was to swim just under an hour, which judging by one of my teammate’s swim result was realistic, I just had a bad start and got behind early. My best swims have always been when I can see some open water so that I’m swimming straight, with some of the swell and being in such a big pack I was only able to follow feet, I likely swam more than I had to which resulted in the slow time. I didn’t dwell on it. I put it in the past, slapped on some sunscreen and hoped onto the bike.
The start of the bike goes through town for a bit. There’s an out and back on Kuakini Hwy where you get to see where you’re at. Judging by the massive amount of cyclists ahead of me I had my work cut out for me. I came out of the water in 57th place in my age group. Not where you want to be! I can only imagine the stress I caused my wife Jenna coming out that far back. Lucky I know a thing or two about how to ride a bike.
I started things out conservative. There’s so much energy starting the bike leg in an ironman, I just kept my eye on the power meter and kept things in check. Once out of town and onto the Queen K Hwy I started to let the legs do their thing and got to work. The highway is closed which is fantastic. Everyone stays to the right so I stayed to the left for the most part and started moving my way up. There’s not a whole lot you can do about drafting in the section in town because there’s so many cyclists grouped together but out on the Queen K there’s no excuse. The drafting was pretty bad, much like the 70.3 World’s in Vegas last year. Officials were busting people though which was good to see. The first penalty tent I rode by had what looked like 40 people in it.
Once out near Waikoloa the winds really started to pick up. If you weren’t paying attention it would have been easy to be blown off your bike. They continued all the way to Hawi and progressively got worst. No exaggeration, these were by far the windiest conditions I’ve ever ridden in. I had to wait for spots where I felt comfortable taking drinks from my water bottle. On a positive, by the time I started the climb to Hawi I had long separated myself from the pack and was starting to reel in some Pro Women as well as the age group leaders. I upped the pace a bit on the climb and felt really good.
On the descent from Hawi we had a tailwind with the occasional crosswind gust. It was hard keeping the power up and I definitely could have used some bigger gears in the front, something I’ll use next time. The hottest part of the bike course is on the climb up from Kawaihae and it was really heating up at this point. I was glad I opted not to use a face shield on my helmet and go with my Oakley’s instead. There was a fast tailwind riding towards Waikoloa and I started thinking I was going to wrap the bike up in a great time… and that’s right about when the winds decided to switch direction. To this point I had held solid power numbers, it was going to be a push to keep things up riding into this head wind. There was a couple guys up ahead of me so I closed the gap and decided to sit in at a legal distance as I knew there would be some savings. There’s little reflectors on the road that you use as a guide to make sure you’re far enough back. This isn’t something I’ve ever decided to do in a race but the thought process was that I would be able to run a faster marathon this way. I was 1st off the bike in my age group in a time of 4:49:30 and had a faster bike then some of the top pros in the sport. Considering it was a conservative effort this is a huge positive I will take away from this race.
Out on the run, things started really well. I was holding back, turnover was good and I was holding my goal pace with ease. By 3 miles in I felt like I was overheating and the wheels were coming off. The way guys were passing me I felt like I was standing still. I had to walk quite a few aid stations on Alii drive just to make sure I got in enough fluids and grabbed enough ice. The whole section on Alii drive which was about 10 miles was a total suffer fest for me. Once coming back through town before heading up to the Queen K I saw Jenna. I tried to give her a hug being in such a rough place. She pretty much declined and told me Noa, my coach, was going to get mad. Tough love!! I pushed my way up Palani which feels like a steep hike at this point in the race and changed my mind set once up on the highway. I was going to dig deep and run the last 15 miles as hard as I possibly could. Things went a lot smoother on the Queen K, I caught some guys that had passed me earlier on. People that were passing me weren’t passing me as quickly and I was able to draft a bit. I was effectively running through aid stations with speed and most importantly I had a much more positive mindset. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt like hell but I was still able to take in how special this was. Some people dedicate a huge portion of their life trying to qualify for this race, many never do. It was never lost on me what a privilege it was to get to race at the Ironman World Championships. I smiled as much as I could and embraced the hurt. I got in and out of the Energy Lab as quick as I could and made my way back to town. The turn down Palani couldn’t come soon enough but it eventually did. Once around the turn onto Alii Drive I soaked it all in. Definitely one of the coolest finishing chutes I’ve ever run down. The only one that rivals it is probably my first Ironman in Penticton in 2012.
I crossed the line in 9:21:43 and finished 14th in my age group out of 241. I was 83rd overall and the 3rd Canadian. Though the race didn’t go as planned, it was a great result for my first race on the Big Island. Going in I wanted to win my age group which looking at now was a completely reasonable goal, I was 1st off the bike and in the mix. Had my running legs shown up it would have been one hell of a race. I was only 4 minutes out of the Top 10 and only 7 minutes out of the Top 5. Let’s just say the last week has been difficult in the sense that I keep thinking about all the things I would’ve done differently. But that’s the nature of racing. Winning all the time doesn’t do a whole lot to make you better. I definitely nitpick after races I have won this year and look at where I need to improve but there hasn’t been a race all year that has made me as hungry to get back training and get back racing as this one has. I can’t wait to start piecing together what we need to change to have the breakthrough in my running that I’ve worked so hard for this year. I want to get back on the bike and be even faster and stronger next time and get back in the pool with my squad to keep steadily improving on my swim.
I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone that has supported me on such a successful year. First and foremost my wife Jenna, the unsung hero. Everyone thinks of triathlon as an individual sport, it really couldn’t be further from it. You need an amazing team if you want to do really well and it’s unfortunate that after a great race I’m the only one that gets credit. The wins and successes this year are as much as mine as they are hers. She’s been such an amazing and understanding wife and the most integral part of my team and I can’t thank her enough. My parents and Jenna’s parents that have been incredibly supportive. My coach Noa for pushing me all year, believing in me, my goals and setting out the plan to achieve them. Looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish on the Pro circuit next year. The Pacific Tri-Works and PT Performance team for pushing me all year, you guys have taught me how to suffer on another level. Friends and family that are constantly sending positive messages or cheering wildly on the sidelines, you guys are awesome. Dave and Gill from North Shore Road Bike for always doing such a great job of taking care of me. The crew at Sugoi, it’s been awesome working with you guys this year and looking forward to seeing what we can work on together next year. North Shore Athletics and Gray from Brooks for helping me out with all of my running needs. Main Street Automotive for their amazing support. Nina from Pacifica Naturopathic for helping keep me healthy all year.
So after such a great year comes the question of “what’s next?” I’ll be racing professionally in 2015. I feel my results have shown come next year I’ll be able to start racing competitively in the pro field and I need to in order to continue to develop. I’ll be coaching on a full time basis so if you’re interested in finding out more don’t be shy, let me know! After a few more weeks of easy training it will be back to the grind and building on my strengths, improving on my weaknesses and getting ready for an early start to race season in March. Look forward to catching up with many of you once we get back from Maui next week. Mahalo!!