June 02, 2008

Ironman Hawaii 70.3 race report

It all started with a car accident on Friday, the day before the race...

Actually, it started about five months ago. We moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to try living and working here, and to train on the Ironman course. We've been riding on the course 2-3 times a week, swimming at Hapuna and similar places, and running in slightly harsher conditions near Puako.

Our training went really well, as we slowly acclimated to the unpredictable wind and the heat, which has really peaked in the last month. Riding the course so frequently, we grew comfortable on the course, knowing exactly where to push and where to save our reserves, and knowing just how far to lean into the crosswinds.

The day before the race we put on our race tires and took our bikes for one last spin before driving down to the Mauna Lani: a nice easy checkout ride. One of the great things about living in Kapa'au is that there are no stop signs, no stoplights between here and Kawaihae, so you can take a nice leisurely ride without stopping.

As I approached the intersection with Kynnersley road near the Post Office, a car in the opposing lane slowed to a stop and signaled to turn left. "Great, " I thought, "they see me and they're stopping." As the point where I could stop safely before the intersection came and went I thought "They're stopped. They're stopped. Oh shit, they're going to hit me" as they suddenly accelerated from a stop and turned left into me.

They hit my fork, frame, and left leg. I flew up onto their hood and then rolled off the front of the car. My left ribs were immediately sore so I was worried I'd broken a rib. Tammy was not far behind me, so she was on the scene immediately and got me to sit down and check for any signs of major trauma. The auntie at the Aloha gas station appeared almost instantly with a huge bag of ice. The woman driving the car called the police, who showed up at record speed for North Kohala. She just didn't see me.

After a lot of poking and prodding I decided that since I didn't have any sharp or throbbing pain, I didn't need a ride in an ambulance to the hospital. Instead we packed my tweaked bike into a friend's truck, drove home, and iced everything. A couple hours later we decided to go ahead and pack everything for the race, and drive down to the Mauna Lani.

I took my bike into the Bike Works shop at the Mauna Lani, and they were very accommodating, quickly repairing the damage as best they could. The worst visible problem that remained was that my front wheel had a slightly side-to-side wobble to it, but this was small enough to be more annoying than dangerous. It seemed incredible that despite a direct hit from that car, my bike and my body were still working.

At this point we pretty much went on automatic, following our pre-race plan of eating and sleeping as if the accident had never happened. I took some ibuprofen before bed to help with the aches and general soreness, and in the morning I felt the usual pre-race mix of jitters and grogginess, plus some bonus side and ass aches.

Once we arrived at Hapuna for the start of the race, I would check myself every few minutes: "Am I really OK to do this race?" and each time I thought, I might have some pain and discomfort, but unless something physically stops me from finishing this race, I'm going to do it.

The first few strokes in the swim were a critical turning point. I felt pain in my side for about thirty seconds and then...it just clicked off. Honestly, during the rest of the race I probably backed off a bit and did not push myself as hard as I would have otherwise. As I was hammering up the hill to Hawi, my ass was still feeling that car hood, but I still managed to pull off my best ride on that course ever, even with the heavy winds. On the run course, I was doing great until mile 10, where I got a sudden cramp in my left hamstring and could barely walk. Still, after a couple minutes of walking and drinking gatorade, I started back up and finished the race feeling great.

In the end I finished the course faster than my goal: my bike split was 20 minutes faster on this difficult course than it was at Big Kahuna last year, and I shaved 45 minutes off my Wildflower time from last year (my only other complete long-course race). Today, two days later, I'm feeling the usual post-race soreness and lethargy, plus a few extra aches. But overall I feel incredibly lucky that the accident wasn't any more traumatic, and happy that I was able to work through the pain and finish this race I've been looking forward to for so long.

Posted by todd at June 2, 2008 10:32 AM