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Belated Kona Report
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Joined: 07 Jul 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 6:30 pm    Post subject: Belated Kona Report Reply with quote

Well, it's a couple of weeks now since the race, the foot blisters have just about dried up and most of the sunburnt skin on my shoulders, arms and legs has peeled off.
It all seems a long time ago now so I thought I ought to get something down in writing for posperity before I forget it all. Apologies if it drivels on...


Qualifying for Kona this year was a suprise to say the least. After a six month backpacking trip in south-east asia, oz and new zealand on a diet of thai curries, barbecues and cheap beer I didn't have much hope for this season. My girlfriend and I settled back in the UK in March and the long holiday soon turned back into the usual grind of suburban london life which included a nine hour working day with one hour commute each way. Although I found fitting the swim/bike/run hours in pretty taxing I have a very understanding girlfriend and was managing to squeeze in 8-9 hours per week, the majority of which being taken up by a long weekend bike ride.

After a slow start to the season and a disappointing Thames Turbo race, I was quite suprised to find the fitness came back in no time at all. In fact after a couple of time trials (which I'd never tried before), I was actually cycling faster than ever and decided to enter IMUK which would give me some focus for the year and also a few more months to get into shape.

I treated myself to a new bike then amazed myself with a 3rd place at the Beaver middle distance then found myself getting the fastest bike split and running in 2nd place a few weeks later at the Swanage Sprint Tri (I got DQ'd for taking a wrong turn during the run but that's another story Wink). Red bikes may be faster afterall Very Happy

A week after Swanage it was a cold wet muddy weekend in Sherborne. Lying in the pitch dark tent at 4.30am stuffing my face with powerbars whilst the rain came hammering down on the canvas, the last thing I felt like doing was racing for 141 miles. But, after plenty of procrastinating, I managed to haul myself out the sleeping bag and trudged down bleary-eyed to transition in time to see everyone else getting into the water. I was still in my jeans and had yet to pump my tires, but by a stroke of luck, was relieved to hear that the start was going to be delayed. I got into the freezing lake just in time for the start.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the race went far better than expected and somehow I finished in 9h49 (7 mins quicker than I did in Austria a year earlier) for 40th place overall and 5th in AG.

An even bigger suprise followed the next day. I got a slot for Kona via the rolldown. Hula hula here we come!


My girlfriend Kasia and I got to Kona a week before the race to allow time to get to know the place, get over the jetlag, try to acclimatise to the heat and make a little holiday out of the trip. Although we didn't get to see a huge amount of the island, it was a very pleasant week of lazing on the beach, snorkelling, gawping at all the bike bling and being intimidated by all the very fit tanned people busting a gut on Alii Drive.

For the week we were there before the race, the weather had held a reliable pattern of pleasant blue skied mornings followed by clouds, rain and a drop in temperature at around 2pm (perfect timing for the run on race day I thought: cool and damp). The famous wind didn't seem so bad but it was still very humid.

Race Day


We were instructed not to apply sunscreen until after the swim so I decided to leave applying any til just before getting on the bike.

Once the american national anthem had been sung out and we were cleared to go through to the beach, I paddled out and placed myself in the front third of the swim field, then tread water whilst taking in the atmosphere around me. The sun was rising, the pier and surrounding areas where packed with spectators, helicopters were buzzing overhead, bright coloured tropical fish swam peacefully below, and all around me were hundreds of anxious faces in fluo green latex hats and swimming goggles.

Out of nowhere the gun went off and the serenity was instantly replaced by a frenzy of white water as the 1850-odd swimmers sprung into action. With those ahead of me pausing for a moment to get some space to swim in and those behind going hell for leather, I was suddenly in the midst of chaos. Swimming over other people then being swum over myself, getting elbowed and punched in the process. Nobody was giving an inch and my goggles were soon filled with

water. In other races I've been in this mayhem usually subsides after 4-500m but not this time. One minute you'd be relieved to find some clear water, and the next swimmers would converge in front of you and you'd get stuck in the middle, boxed in, unable to stroke or raise your head to breath. It was quite a shock to say the least but I tried to relax as much as possible and concentrate on not swallowing too much water or even drowning.

It continued like this all the way to the turn bouy at the half way mark when, if anything, it only got worse as the entire field attempted to squeeze through a 2-3m gap. I noticed a couple of people had had their speedsuit zips pulled down and were desperately trying to do them up again while others were lying on their backs trying to clear their goggles, being sick or just trying get some air into their lungs. My neck was also starting to chafe from the suit and was getting very sore, irritated by the salt water (yes steve, next time I'll use lube as you suggested Wink).

Prior to the race I'd been most apprehensive about the swim. But now I'd got the far end in 33 mins and only had to swim back again before it was out on the bike, I was quite relieved and it didn't seem so bad. I got out the water into T1 just as the clock struck 1h10 which was a little better than I'd expected.

Swim Split: 1h10 (Position: 864th)


A quick rinse in the shower; find my bag; stuff a gel down my throat; almost rip my ear lobes off cramming the helmet on my head; grab my trusty steed; then it was off through the crowds and out onto the bike course. The first part is a short out and back before the main section on the Queen K begins. Its here that you realise just how many people are ahead of you with a parade of hundreds of bikes coming back on the other side of the road on their way out to the highway. It was one continual roar of carbon section wheels.

The first 20-30km of the bike were a real draft fest with bikes upto 3 or 4 abreast either drafting or trying to overtake each other. The problem is that so many people are of a similar standard that to get a good gap on another rider you have to dig pretty deep. Not something that anyone was keen on doing.

I tried my best to get through the packs of riders but was still continually paranoid of getting carded by the leather clad granny on the back of the harley davidson who seemed ever present in her top gun style aviator shades and stone cold stare. She was clearly having a busy day evident by the huge queue of 30-40 bikes at the first penalty tent.

The sun was high in the sky, the wind started to blow and for the first time of our trip you could see the top of Mount Kea which apparently has a peak of over 15000ft. Whilst gawping at the impressive view, I started to feel the sun on my arms legs and shoulders and it dawned on me that I'd forgotten the suncreen.. Ooops, it was going to be a painful day.

The bike course itself isn't particularly exciting. Just a long straight highway rolling into the distance with a procession of cyclists dissappearing into the horizon. It's the continual wind which always seems to come head on and the stifelling heat which make it difficult. On numerous occasions I had sweat dripping into my eyes behind my glasses and had to squirt water in to dilute it and stop the sting. (I did on one occasion try using gatorade by mistake but it didn't quite have the same effect :/).

Anyway, it wasn't until about 10 miles from the Hawi turnround that the first pros came past on their way back to Kona. I was expecting the bright green helmet of Stadler (last years champ) to come haring past in the lead but was suprised to see Sindballe followed by chris Lieto. A few minutes later the main train containing Macca (the eventual winner) and co sped by. The man in green trundled past some time later looking pretty much pedestrian in comparison (he must have dropped out with illness soon after) then a few others including Scott Neyedli (who won IMUK this year).

The infamous climb itself to Hawi is overrated. It's a long drag but only the wind makes it testing. To be honest even the wind didn't feel that bad but it was blowing from the front right diagonally so still quite annoying. I made up alot of places here and pushed on just to get to the turn point so I could get out of the head wind enjoy the downhill return.

From the turn things were quite exciting for a while. Downhill with a diagonal side wind so strong you had to literally lean into it whilst doing 40-50mph. I was using a PlanetX 50mm deep front wheel (thanks btw to Andy at PlanetX for lending me the wheels Smile) and am no lightweight but that was a handful enough. I was quite relieved I hadn't used something deeper and at times I was convinced the front end would lose contact with the ground so made sure I put plenty of weight over the tribars and got my head down grinding out a 53-11 gear.

Once this fun subsided, it was generally a case of covering the miles and picking off cyclists in front one at a time. The field was now getting thinner though and it got quite monotonous towards the end. My under-carriage was getting sore from all the time spent down on the aero bars, my exposed skin was frying and my stomach was starting to complain. It was nice to finally get off the bike.

From memory I got through the following:

2 Powerbars
2 Gel Flasks (each containing 5 GU gels)
4 Bottles Gatorade Endurance Energy Drink
2 Powergels
1 Banana
4 Nuun Tabs
4-5 Bottles of Water (though most of it was poured over my head and body)

Bike Split: 5h03 (Position 212th)


I got off the bike into T2 at 6h16 which should have given me ample time to finish well under 10 hours. To my dismay however, I never really got into a good rhythm on the marathon. I had been sick at about 80 miles on the bike then exitted T2 with stomach cramps. To make matters worse, the air temperature was also now getting very warm indeed. The commentator claimed it was 110'F on the run course and it certainly felt like it.

Thinking back, as with the Bike, I probably also failed to take enough liquids early in on the run. I hadn't pee'd since before the swim which should have been a warning sign, but I was more concerned with getting as much ice and water over my head and body in an attempt to cool down.

The first section of the marathon was a jaunt up Palani Drive (where Chris McCormack and Craig Alexander came flying past on their way out to the energy lab) then an out and back on Alii Drive. Although I was feeling rough, at least there was plenty of support down here. I caught sight of my support crew and the aussie coningent were particularly vocal. A scream of "Come on Jimmy boy" from a complete stranger gave me a really big grin.

By now, the sunburn was really beginning to tell and I was getting paranoid about heat stroke. Unbelievably I'd forgotten the sunblock again in transition and it seemed impossible to find any shade to run under. The air was also very still which just made things particularly unpleasant for breathing.
I was struggling and every little undulation in the road seemed like a mountain.

I walked all the aid stations grabbing as much cold liquid as possible but my stomach didn't

feel like accepting anything. Seeing US Pro Joanna Zeiger eject the contents of her stomach beside me didn't exactly wet my appetite either.

I got to the turn point at around 5 miles, still not feeling much better, but managed to grind out the return to Kona and what felt like crawl my way up Palani Drive. Finally I managed to grab some sunblock from Dan & Leanne (does that count as outside assistance?) but it was probably a bit late in the day to make much difference.
It was then back onto the Queen K for the main section out to the energy lab behind the airport and back again.

The sun was burning down and it was still hotting up in the lava fields, but at least there was now a nice breeze which had been missing on Alii Drive. It felt pretty lonely out there and being able to see the highway roll into the distance knowing you've still a long way to go doesn't help matters.

I was still walking the aid stations and pouring so much ice inside my trisuit that I sounded like a cocktail shaker lumbering along the road. In addition, my feet were now starting to blister quite badly. I'd made another mistake (do you notice a pattern?) of going under the sprinklers and hose pipes on Alii Drive in an attempt to cool down and my socks were wringing wet.

On the bright side, my stomach had started accepting liquids and I was quite enjoying the sensation of melting ice trickling down inside my trisuit. I downed quite alot of coke and realised I could still possibly get a sub 10hrs if I dug deep. Mind you, by now it felt like I'd dug a bottomless pit, but you have to be optimistic don't you.

I was shuffling rather than running but on leaving the energy lab I passed through the grand 'Ford motivation Zone'. Going over a timing mat, a message which had been left by my girlfriend appeared on a large screen. This perked me up somewhat and it started to feel like I was on the way home. Only 7 miles to go and nearly and hour to do it in. Piece of piss!

For the next 3-4 miles I somehow forgot the tiredness (probably due to the caffiene and sugar) and was flying. For the first time since Alii Drive I started overtaking people and was amazed to gallop past a strolling Rutger Beke (how many times in my life will I be able to say that Smile ). I had however forgotten one important thing... the aid stations.

At mile 23 things I hit the wall big time and started to struggle even to walk. "Bugger!" I thought.
I staggered along at snails pace for a while and it soon became apparent that unless I could 6 min mile for the remainder of the race, 10 hours was gone. I sped up for about 3 strides and attempted to run the final incline.... then realised there was no way it was going to happen.

So, I settled myself, downed as much coke as I could from the next aid station and began to relax. I could now hear the music and whooping and knew it wasn't far to the finish line. I was struggling to go faster than a walk, but realised that as soon as I'd reached Palani Drive again, it was downhill all the way back to the finish.

I also got an extra incentive when a guy I know from germany trotted past me with a smirk on his face, calling out "Hey buddy, it's a run not a walk!" in his strong bavarian accent. There was no way he was going to beat me I promised myself so I replied "Sprint to the finish?" and took off downhill towards the line with my legs almost buckling under me.

I reached the final corner onto Alii Drive with a big grin on my face and the crowd roared (perhaps I imagined that bit Wink), high fives all round. It was, however, a lot longer than I thought to the line and I nearly tripped over an inflatable kangeroo on the way before seeing the finish chute where I spotted my mates Dan and Steve leaning over the boards. My reactions were a bit slow at this point so had to do a u-turn to get back to them for more cheesy high five moments before finally crossing the line and a huge feeling of relief overcame me.

After having a lei placed around my neck I was helped through to the finishers area and was given a seat to collapse on. After which followed one heck of a finishers medal (uncannily similar to a Jim'll Fix It badge from a distance), a reunion with the support crew, a very pleasant massage and an enormous amount of pizza.

Run Split: 3h48

Overall time: 10h08
Final position: 376th


Kona was a great experience and one I'll never forget. I definitely recommend anyone who has the chance to do it to go at least once. Having family and friends there made it all the more special.

Although the race could have gone much worse, if I'm honest I was initially a bit subdued about my time. With more planning and care I reckon I could've finished at least 15-20 mins quicker. BUT, on the other hand, qualifying this year itself was a huge bonus. I've had knee problems since IMUK, and the lead up to the race wasn't exactly perfect. I ought to be very grateful for finishing the race at all and do now have an extra incentive to get back there again one day and nail it Smile

Lessons learnt:

1) If it's a salt water swim, make sure you put plenty of lube around your neck to avoid chaffing from trisuit/speedsuit.

2) If it's sunny, don't forget sunscreen in T1 - or you'll pay for it later.

3) I have to wonder if I overdid it on the bike. My legs still felt strong towards the end of the 180km but I wonder whether overzealousness contributed to my stomach problems. I kept an eye on my HR but a power meter would probably have been a better bet to keep my ego under control. With the headwind at times I perhaps was pushing more than I should have done to keep pace.

4) Get some sort of solid nutrition strategy. My plan of shovelling as much into my throat as I can stomach may have worked ok in the mild temperatures of Sherborne and even Klagenfurt but the Heat and Humidity of Kona was a different beast all together.

5) If it's hot, drink more water!

6) If I was considering trying to qualify again in the future, I'd definately pencil in a race earlier in the year and one a bit less punishing than Sherborne. 7 weeks isn't very long to recover and peak again. Mind you, Chrissie Wellington bounced back pretty well after IM Korea so I shouldn't really use it as an excuse.

7) (See 6) Recover better and take my time after a race. Following a couple of weeks of taking it easy after IMUK I naively went out and did a hard long hilly run whilst I still had a hamstring niggle after a bad cramp in sherborne. The result I was a long walk home and tendonitis in my knee meaning pretty much zero run training in the lead upto Hawaii. Cortisone is an amazing thing, but I don't plan on making a habit of having a needle stuck in my knee.

Cool Hydrate and try to get more calories during the early stages of the run. Don't lose concentration. Although 26 miles might seem like 'the last bit', it's still a long way.

9) Avoid over-eager spectators with hose pipes or at least make sure your feet stay dry.

10) This was my 3rd ironman and the first time things have got really tough. It's made me realise how much mental strength matters when things get tough in these races. Again it's easy to lose concentration and lose sight when you're tired.

11) An 8am-11pm bender during a stag-weekend at Oktoberfest two weeks before the race isn't the best way to begin your taper for the world championships.

12) Enjoy the time in Kona as much as possible. It doesn't take life long to get back to normality and the dark dank autumn weather back home.

Last edited by JimboP on Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done and an excellent report.
good tips too.

but ....

1 - did you beat the german (always important!!)
2 - why no sun screen before the swim?
3 - watch out for those pesky kangeroos.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice Smile

Back next year for a Kona sub 10??
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

oh yes - good work fella
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


one more q to the above - what did you g/f's motivation message say... or is that private?! Wink
...a Billion people sitting watching their TV in the room that they call 'Living'...

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Sounds like you had a great day and did everyone proud Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a brilliant brilliant report and well done mate.....quality effort all round.....pure inspiration. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fantastic effort... did TT proud old boy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done. 3:48 is a solid marathon time, and 5:03 is up there with the best of the AGers. All things considered, I'd say you did fantastically.

Is the sunscreen ban pre-swim to do with water pollution? Just a guess, can't think what else it might be. There's maybe some underwater life in the bay that doesn't like it.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

enjoyable Cool
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding lessons learnt No. 11 - I would've fully understood it if you decided to have a soft drink occasionally instead of a continental strength litre of beer, but oh no, you gave it some serious hammer but if that's your choice then I guess you'll learn your lesson one day Razz (Poor fella lost control of his legs for a good couple of hours on the Oktfest-sesh) Laughing

Fantastic effort Jim, you continue to amaze us all - roll on Roth (if that's still on!)
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a great read and as wiganer said very inspirational. It's post's like that that get us mere mortals out when its its cold and wet! Cheers.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

well done mate, got to be a contender for race report of the year- love the pics.

so you're the guy who bought the single red stealth then!! It looks killer, especially with those wheels.

Bagsie first option when you decide to sell it!! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

great report - well done! looking forward to future instalments.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done and top result and a excellent report to go with it Cool

reading it just makes me want to do it more ( not that its very likely)

Well done again
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