1st Kona, via the legacy program. I would love to think I can qualify via the normal process, however nutritional problems plague the back end of any endurance event - ending in vomiting whether it be IM or long rides. I spent a number of sessions with Monash Uni having gut tests and sweat tests and we set about a program to resolve the problem over the 6 months leading into Kona.
Signed up with TriTravel to do the conditioning tour and had an absolute blast and the whole experience lived up to all the expectations. Had some long sessions on the bike riding up Hawi and back to town and got to experience the brutality of the winds and associated heat challenges. On this pre-race day ride the wind was ferocious but doable and according to the pro's on Strava indicated that it was a really bad day. Also did a long run from the run turn around in town all the way out the energy lab, so got to see the entire length of the course which ended up proving to be really valuable come race day.
The race week lead in was awesome, getting to meet so many greats of the sport (Dave, Marc, Paula, Michellie, Cam Wurf etc....) and the functions for the Aussie/NZ team as well as a special nibbles and drink for the Legacy athletes.
Spent a night doing the Manta ray dive and a day driving the island, eating portugese donuts, visit to the volcano, which was a nice break from all the race prep.
Being the 1st year of the swim waves, meant a very low stress, post check in, got to spend time back in our hotel (Kona Seaside) and watch the earlier wave starts (my start was the last and was 1:05 after the male pro's headed out. Got to watch the male pro's exit the water before being bundled down the steps into the water to begin the short swim out to the start line. Whilst I thought there was only going to be 100 legacy athletes in the wave it was much larger and looks like we had just short of 300 athletes starting in this wave. I started on the right hand side and was quite stunned to see people take off at break neck speed. Swim is my best leg and had decided to find some feet and just sit in and enjoy the drag. It was quite a slow pace and tried a few times to go past the feet I was on, only to find that the 2 sets of feet I was following didn't want me to go, so I just dropped back in behind them. Wasn't long before we were passing the back end of the last of the ladies and the fun of trying to find a good line through the swarm of people. Got a kick from a female that set my watch to transition mode, so from that point on had no idea of the pace. Arrived back on shore in 1:05:30 which was the end of the range that I expected. I normally swim around the 55-58 mins and this had been cruisey.
On to the bike and its taken me a few years to learn to ride at a consistent pace and avoid surging and not being able to bring the back end of the ride home. Just prior to heading over to Kona my PM died and I had to switch to one off the roadie and knowing they are not the same numbers, we decided on a range (20min FTP test in the week before going over and an hour FTP test on the Queen K 1 week pre-race), so we had a new number to work with and a range. Dave Scott had mentioned a few times that the race doesn't start until the 160km mark of the bike and the 30km mark of the run, so I just settled into a nice comfortable power and focussed on nutrition and ensuring I managed the heat. The ride out of Kona is slightly uphill before you drop down into Kawaihei, and start the climb to Hawi. Thoroughly enjoyed this section and got to see my wife and daughter at around the 45km mark (TriTravel take them on a bus out to see us), and was amazed at how much effort people were putting into the ride. Before turning the corner we got to see the male pro's returning and it was clear that they were flying, but the back few bikes in the lead pack were definitely pushing the draft zone. The crosswinds across to the base of the climb were strong and then the head wind up the climb. got to the turnaround, picked up the special needs drink nutrition and started the decent. The winds were certainly up, but not quite as bad as our training ride, but still there were a few people that had come off. Took the right hand turn back onto the Queen K and decided it was time to start picking up the pace, and really enjoyed the trip back into town, passing so many people that had pushed to hard earlier. Managed to put away 8 bottles of fluid plus my 4 bidons, (1.6l litres per hour) so I was confident that my nutrition was on track according to my tests and trials. Ride time was a very comfortable 5:21:34 and keeping a 13watt differential between AVG pwr and NP (I was planning on this only being around 5, but there was a number of surges down during the day to keep out of draft zones.)
Onto the run and prove the litmus test for the nutrition and up Palani on to Kukini waving to the family before settling into my race rhythm. Had the pleasure of being passed by Jan as he turned the corner (he at km 41 me at km 1), I gave him a pat on the back and he was gone. Checking my race pace it was still a little quick (my aim was for around the 6min km) so I started to ease back and then got to see iFoz cheering everyone on outside the Royal Kona. At the far turnaround I was passed by John Hill and watched him run off, as I continued to find my speed and get used to the heat. Ran back past iFoz, then my family and walked up Palani to the Queen Q and started the section out to the energy lab. Around km 15 I could feel my gut starting to misbehave, and had to slow up and ease some burps out, and realised over the next few km, that some walking was going to be required. Not long after this caught up to Ken Glah who was competing in his 36 Kona, and after a short chat I ran off feeling a little more upbeat. Not to much further on I ran past John again, his day was done and would be walking it home. Down into the energy lab, by this stage the sun had gone behind the clouds and the sting of the heat had disappeared, walked a portion of the flat section and the uphill out of the energy lab, Saw a few friends on the return out and wondered how long it would be before the ran past me, but somehow I managed to find some more walk / run on the way back into town and they didn't catch me.
Walked the final hill up to Palani thinking about the iron war on this very section, and then ran down the hill, into town and across the finish line. Somehow managed to keep from throwing up but went straight into medical tent and received 2 drips (I had lost 4.5kg). This was the 1st race that I had manged to keep from throwing up in and keep taking on fluid throughout the run. Albeit I only managed to ingest 1 cliff chew bar, 2 cups of gatorade, the rest was just water for the entire run leg. This was not what my nutrition plan was, but it was ll I could do on the day. Run time was 4:50 which was a little off target but the best I could do on the day. (Dream was 3:50, with 4:15 being more realistic).
Absolutely loved the whole experience and would love to do this again one day with a bunch of mates once they get there.
Closed out the day with 11:28 and overall place of 1387, not bad for someone who can't qualify. Then got a surprise when a friend mentioned I had won my age group, which was a great laugh. On the IM tracker the category I started in (last wave is known as the Kukui), and they have age groups for them. I had won the 50-54 age group.