Kona 2011 Recap
Race week went by very quickly, and before I knew it, it was Saturday morning. I woke up at 2am, had a little bit to eat and then went back to bed. I got up at 4am and started getting ready to head down for body marking. The Maloys and Jason Soria drove in and met us at the condo, and then we all made our way down to the pier.
I felt pretty good, a little nervous, but all in all, I felt like I was in a good place. I knew I was in good shape and thought I had a good nutrition plan. My biggest concern, as usual, was the swim start. Jason and I went into the King Kamehameha and got marked; then, I walked out to the pier to put the last couple of things on my bike and air up my tires. All was good there, so I weaved back through the crowds to where Amy and the girls were waiting. About the time I got to them, my stomach did a complete somersault. “Uh oh… what the heck was that?” I thought, but then it subsided a bit. A few minutes later, the cramping and churning was back, and my stress level went through the roof. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that I spent about 15 minutes in a little blue building, wondering if I was going to even make it out in time to go to the swim start. Upon exiting, I ran back over to Amy, got into my swim skin, gave her my backpack, gave hugs and kisses to her and the kids, and I took off for the water. My stomach had calmed down a bit, but I did have the lingering fear in the back of my mind that it could flare back up at any moment.
I got into the water and navigated my way to the front of the pack, right along the pier wall. I was just under where Mike Reilly was standing and announcing. I had a decent swim the last time I started in that spot, but suffice it to say, this time around, it was a disaster of monumental proportion. I was waiting, watching the cannon for any indication that it was about to go off. I had worked with Lee on going from a floating position to sprinting, hoping I could get just enough of a gap that I didn’t get pummeled in the water. The cannon boomed, I picked my right arm up to stroke, and immediately, I got pushed under water, as several people swam over me. To add to that, there were kayaks on the pier side that started pushing us away from the pier, and the current in the ocean was pushing those swimmers on the far side in towards the pier. It was so crowded and congested, I never got open water to really swim. In fact, there were a few times that all I could do was breast stroke… I just had nowhere to go. As I continued swimming along the course, I knew it was going to be a slow time, but I was really disheartened when I stood up and saw 1:09:44 on my watch. I knew that I had just given around 15 minutes to the amateur leaders. That was not the way I wanted to start the race.
I went through transition quickly and was off on the bike. I stayed steady through town, passing where I could and where it was safe, and soon, I was heading up Palani and making the left out onto the Queen K. I got into a good rhythm and was holding 23-25mph. A couple of miles later, a couple of guys that I passed rode up and passed me back. I passed them again, urging them to keep this up, so that we kept our pace high. We were very careful not to draft, but having someone to chase or knowing someone is chasing you does help keep the pace up. It also gave me something to think about other than the persistent knot in my stomach. We made the turn and began the climb to Hawi, and since they were a little bigger than me, I climbed away from them and ended up leaving them behind. I reached the turn, checked the split that I had taken on the amateur leaders, and it was still at 15 minutes. “UGH!” (or thoughts to that effect) I told myself, “Still a lot of course left… just go!”
I made the turn at Hawi, started to descend, and started looking for someone or a few someones to keep the chase pace going. Sure enough, this really tall guy came rocketing past me. He was right beside me and then suddenly 12-15 meters in front of me. I shifted into my 53-11 and chased him with all I had…reaching speeds of 48-50mph and out-spinning the gears. I did finally catch him though. I also went through about a 10 mile section with no fluids. At the aid station about halfway down, I thought I had a bottle of Perform in my rear cage. So, I only took one fresh bottle and finished it immediately. A couple minutes later, I reached back for the other one, and there was no bottle there… “Oh Crap!” I told myself, “Relax, it’s only one bottle, and you’ll be at the next aid station soon enough.” I rolled up on the next one, grabbed enough to restock my cages and shot-gunned two bottles.
Then, we got back to the Queen K, and as per usual, the winds had shifted and it was going to be a headwind all the way home. My estimate was that the winds were in the low-mid 20 mph’s; Ironmanlive reported wind speeds in the 30’s and 40’s. Bottom line, it was windy, and it was going to be a tough ride back to town. I looked up, saw a group of 6-8 guys a ways ahead of me, and I made them my carrot. “Just keep riding steady and try to catch them.” I spent the next 30 miles reeling them in. Just south of the airport, the winds eased up a little bit, and I was able to pick up my speed. I ended up passing 4 of the guys in the group. I was feeling confident, since I was still able to accelerate that late in the ride. I settled into a good pace for the rest of the ride back into town; I tried to sit up a little and make sure I stretched to get ready for the run. I rolled into transition with a bike time of 4:43:38. I was hoping for 4:40, so I was happy enough with my bike time.
I ran down the pier, trying to stretch my legs out, telling myself, “This is it. It’s go time!” I wasn’t sure what the time gap was and was hoping I had closed some of it, since I had ridden well the second half of the bike. I went into the tent for a quick change, and I was on my way. Running out of transition, I saw Jason and Lezlie. They yelled a split at me, but I didn’t hear what it was. I ran up Palani, down Kuakini, made the turn on Hualalai, and Amy & the family were all there. She gave me a split – still 15 minutes back. I was not happy, but it wasn’t even a mile into the marathon. She yelled, “There’s a lot of running left to do & some of those guys don’t look so good. You’ve got this!” I was telling myself the same thing, and I was trying to push the pace. I went through the first mile in 6:40, a little slower than I was planning, but not too far off. Mile 2 was 7:00, and then mile 3 was 6:50. Again, slower than I wanted, but a 6:50 average will still give me a 3 hour marathon. I was telling myself, “Get out on the Queen K. People start blowing up out there. Stay steady.” I felt good running up Palani, and I made the left on to the Queen K. There is a short downhill section just after the turn, and I tried to pick up my turn-over. For some reason though, I just couldn’t make my feet go any faster. I kept plugging along, holding between 7-7:15 pace. I didn’t feel terrible, but I just couldn’t go any faster. My stomach was still uneasy, having never really felt normal all day, and my lower back was tight. I switched from the Perform to Coke, hoping it might make a difference. I tried water; I tried gel. What I didn’t do was take all the salt I was supposed to take, which I didn’t realize until after the race when I still had several salt tablets left in my flask.
I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make my legs go any faster, so I started focusing on not slowing down. I held the 7:15ish pace all the way to the Energy Lab and made the turn into there. I ran down, made the loop at the bottom, and checked my split on the leaders… now 18 minutes. There I was, 8 miles from the finish, 132 miles in to the day, I had not made up any of the swim deficit, and the gap was was starting to get bigger. I didn’t quit, but reality finally set in that what I wanted just wasn’t going to happen that day.
Many of you probably already know that when Ramsey Elissa was visiting with Diane Proud in her final days and he asked if he could do anything for her, her response was “Run for Me!” It put a lump in my throat the day I heard that story, and I made myself the promise then that I would run for her any time I could, even when I didn’t want to. Realizing and admitting that I was going to fall short of my goals, that moment became one of those times when I didn’t want to.
Climbing out of the Energy Lab, I ran over a timing mat, and a message popped up on the jumbo-screen. All of a sudden, I was filled with quite a mixture of emotion. I was expecting to see, “GO DADDY GO!” so at first, I was surprised. Then, I took in the words, “GO PAT! RUN FOR ME!!” Instantly, the lump in the throat hit, and my eyes welled up. I had been pushing and fighting with myself all day, which can be emotionally taxing in and of itself, and then the message. Wow. I looked at the sky, tears running down my face, and I said, “Diane, this race is NOT going my way…but I’m going to run it in, as fast as I can…even though I don’t want to…because I can.”
I exited the Energy Lab, made the turn onto the Queen K and held about 7:30’s back to town. I did manage to pick up the pace a little for the last two miles, and soon, I found myself heading back down Palani, making the left onto Kuakini, the right onto Hualalai, and finally the right onto Ali’i. Good day or bad, Ali’i Drive is always amazing. As I approached the Ford arch, Monkey was waiting in the street, waving an American flag. She handed it to me, and I charged towards the finish. I passed one last person on my way in, and then I hoisted the flag up in the air. The crowd was electric, and I felt a surge of energy and pride as I ran up the ramp to the finish line. Mike Reilly called out, “Patrick Schuster, You Are an Ironman!!” and my race was over. 3:16:51 marathon, for a total of 9:16:01.
Nailing my nutrition had been the biggest weapon in my arsenal at IM Texas, and I knew that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I let it fall apart here. I think I learned a lot though. To this point, I have always played with my nutrition, and I’ve definitely had races where I didn’t take in enough calories. This time though, it was all about the electrolytes. I think my they were thrown off in the morning, I didn’t think to correct it at that time, and then I didn’t pick up on the nausea that I continued to feel throughout the day as an indicator that I needed more salt. I also blew off my back pain, chalking it up to tightness from staying aero for 4 1/2 hours. Within a couple of hours after the race, after re-hydrating properly, the nausea and back pain were gone. Hindsight is always crystal clear, isn’t it?
The good news is that the day had lots of high points too. Seeing my family and friends throughout the day along the course was rewarding and inspiring. Monkey waiting along Ali’i to hand me the flag – with the biggest smile on her face – was one of my favorite moments of the day. And, there is just no feeling in the world like making it to that finish line!
Nothing I do would be possible without some pretty amazing people. Amy, the girls and the rest of the family have sacrificed a lot so that I can train like I do. My mom, who has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders, is always on hand to tell me, “Yes you can!” My in-laws pick the girls up from school, shuttle to and from dance, soccer, volleyball and piano, make dinners, and give lots of love and encouragement. They made their first trip to Kona for Ironman this year, which was awesome.
My amazing coach, Lauren Smith, knows when to push me and when to tell me I have to rest. I never would have reached the level I have in the last two years without her guidance and friendship. She’s been an amazing mentor. Lee Webber and Joe Boyle, your guidance has been incredibly valuable as well. But, there’s still lots of work to be done, so I hope the three of you will continue to bear with me.
My wonderful sponsors – SVSS, Team Ironhead, B&B Bicycles, Elizabeth Parmer & Skins – have all continued to be amazing and supportive. I’m so grateful to the Lezlie and Jason, who arrived at our condo at 4am, were around the course throughout the day giving splits and cheering, and stayed at the finish line till Midnight with us. I’ll admit, I got pretty spoiled having all the ART care I needed for the week…I hope you like to travel a lot, Dr. Maloy! In all seriousness, I’m proud to represent all of you, but most importantly, I’m honored to call you friends.
Finally, my race recap would be incomplete without a shout-out to my brother-in-law, Stephen. He got into Kona through the lottery, and he immediately got to work getting ready for the big day. He trained like crazy, and completed his first IM 70.3 at BSLT back in June in 6:06:51. His training continued through the record-breaking hot Texas summer, and he too learned the value of having such a supportive family to make the training possible. Stephen crossed the finish line in Kona with a time of 12:38:31. Careful, Stephen, you might get hooked!
Aloha & Mahalo Nui Loa to all of my Ohana!
See you at the races!