About IMRoycer81

Richmond, Virginia, United States
Thanks for visiting! I'm a civil litigator at KPMLaw. I attended Cornell where I swam IM and Breastroke. In 2007 I filled the void of swimming retirement with triathlon. In my first tri I thought, "holy sh*t this is painful" and "when can I do it again?" Things escalated quickly and my first half was Augusta 2009 and my first full was Louisville 2011. Since 2007 I've been chasing my dream of qualifying for Kona. Prior to September 2017 this blog focused on attempts (and failures) to achieve an elusive KQ. I got the monkey off my back in my 10th Ironman at Chattanooga. There is still much room to improve and I look forward to putting in the work to become a consistent podium finisher. In 2018 I have the privilege of racing for Team Every Man Jack and look forward to learning from a great group of guys while giving back to the triathlon community. I couldn't do any of this without my amazing family. They lift me up. I am lucky to train in a fantastic triathlon town with inspirational athletes. My job, training, and daughter keep me busy, but I update as often as I can. I'm always willing to share the knowledge I've picked up along the way. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ironman World Championship Race Report- "Stay Stubborn"

Ironman World Championship Race Report (10/13/18)
“Stay Stubborn”
Swim- 56:12
Bike- 4:56:25 (5 minute penalty)
Run/Death March- 4:36:27
Total Time: 10:40:16

This season has been one of tremendous highs and lows.  I started off the year on fire after having great races at IM Chattanooga and IM Florida at the end of 2017.  My confidence was high and I charged headlong into winter training at a fever pitch.  I applied for and was accepted to Team Every Man Jack and decided to do Ironman Texas in April as I was playing with house money and had no worries about nabbing a slot.  I went into Texas the fittest I’ve ever been with all metrics looking good….Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and I ended up injured during the race.  See my Ironman Texas Race Report if you are interested in that shit show (http://imroycer81.blogspot.com/2018/05/ironman-texas-race-report-ironman-is.html)

Upon returning home I thought I would be back at training full bore within a matter of weeks.  Unfortunately my body had other plans.  I ended up with high hamstring tendinitis which is inflammation of the tendon that joins the three hamstring muscles with the sit bone.  Fortunately an MRI confirmed no tear, but the healing process for this particular injury is long and frustrating.  Even today I am only 80-85%. Because there is no blood supply to the tendon it doesn’t heal without active treatment.  This meant weeks upon weeks of time consuming and expensive treatment.  I tried everything to get back to running.  Chiropractic, active release, graston, traditional PT, home exercises, ice, heat, and e-stim before I could even begin running on an Alter G zero gravity treadmill.  When all was said and done I went about 8 weeks without running, and then 4 weeks on the Alter G before I resumed painful running on the road.  All my health care providers assured me that running through the pain was not causing any further damage as long as I was actively treating but it made for really slow and terrible runs for a long time.  The other annoying thing is that the symptoms of the injury don’t show up in the hamstring as much as your ass.  My ass aches all the effing time.  It is like a terrible toothache in my butt.  Needless to say daily butt pain gets really old.  When all is said and done I anticipate that it will have taken a full year for this injury to heal.  Many thanks to Moose Herring, Rob Green, Lori Strobl, and the amazing therapists at OrthoVirginia that put me in a position to continue training and give me the opportunity to race.

In many ways I was my own worst enemy.  Because I couldn’t run, I decided I would make up for it by riding my bike ragged.  I spent most of the summer crushing bike miles like never before.  So much that I have already cleared 8000 miles before November.  My previous biggest cycling year topped out at 6800 miles.  In all likelihood I will end up with 9000 bike miles before year end.  The bad part was that there was simply no way to race on my bad leg.  All racing plans went out the window and I was only able to race one time before Kona at Ironman Maine 70.3.  Also, because I ride an ISM saddle which is designed to put weight on the sit bone, I was likely continuing to inflame my injury on a daily basis.  Ultimately I made slow, steady progress and felt like I put myself in the best position possible to have success in Kona.  Despite the injury issues I feel like I got close to pre-Texas fitness.  In the last few weeks before Kona I was able to finally hit some decent runs but it is going to be a long process to get back to pre-injury speeds.  I wasn’t sure what I was capable of running in Kona but my goal was 3:30 in the lava fields.

Having qualified for Kona in September 2017, there was a ton of time to plan the trip.  I am so fortunate to have such a huge contingent of family and friends who immediately let us know they would happily join for support.  We ended up renting a spectacular house about 25 minutes away from Kailua Kona up in the hills overlooking the ocean in Captain Cook.  The house was spectacular and perfectly designed for a large family.  It was nice to be away from the hustle and high pressure environment in town.  The energy is amazing but it is also a bit stressful to be around the fittest people on earth who all seem to be sizing you up at every moment.  It was good to be able to stay away from the panic training and relax leading up to the race.  I was fortunate to have such a huge contingent on the big island (Brittany, Sloanie, mom, dad, Lummy, Roycie, Jeanna, Trey, Kaitlyn, Aunt Bev, Uncle Ed, TJ, Steve, Jilly, and Garrett).

There were a few EMJ events leading up to the race.  We had a great shake out run with GU Energy/Garmin followed by a swim to the coffee boat, a fantastic EMJ family dinner two nights before the race, and then we all went to bike check in together.  We also did a team walk through at the Vendor Expo which was a lot of fun and were on the receiving end of lots of love from our fantastic sponsors.  I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to thank our sponsors: Every Man Jack, Felt Bicycles, ENVE Composites, Louis Garneau, Lululemon Men, Sock Guy, Garmin Fitness, Normatec Recovery, BOCO head gear, Gu Energy, and Roka.  

Bike check in was quite an experience.  It felt like the red carpet at the Oscars (except for triathlon).  Walking in together must have been quite a visual.  All of the Felt bikes, ENVE wheels, and matching Lululemon gear and Boco hats looked sharp.  There was an announcer announcing each athlete as we came in, various pros were being interviewed, and then each athlete had a personal escort walk you through transition to get you set up.  It was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget.  Quite a bit different from the standard Ironman check in.  At most races Daniella Ryf isn’t checking in at the same time as me :)

Leading into the race I was surprisingly calm and relaxed.  In fact until about 12 hours pre-race I was more mellow than I ever have been for any other race.  I guess not having the stress of worrying about a podium or nabbing a Kona slot was really beneficial for my mindset.  The days leading up to race day were spent assembling my bike, doing athlete check-in, hanging by the infinity pool, riding the climb and descent up to Hawi, and spending as much time as possible with family (there is never very much time due to all the odds and ends of race prep).  Kona is a magical place.  The energy is contagious and I already have started to plot how the hell I can get back.  Every year gets tougher and I am going to have to continue to work my ass off for the opportunity to get back.  This experience has just fueled my fire to do so.

The day before the race was pretty standard.  I ate a huge pancake breakfast in the morning and then not much until dinner.  Dinner was a pretty bland and unoffensive salad with grilled chicken.  I actually fell asleep quickly but woke up 3 or 4 times during the night.  The good thing about racing in Hawaii is that your body clock is so screwed up from the 6 hour time change that waking up at 3:30 a.m. is actually pretty easy.  This was the first time that I ever fell asleep early before a race.  Usually I am up all night tossing and turning but I slept pretty well and only woke up every few hours which is far better than laying awake all night which is what usually happens.

Race Morning:
I woke up at 3:30 to get to work on my nutrition which included two packages of oatmeal, a picky bar, and 32 ounces of unsweetened applesauce.  We departed for transition at 4:15 and arrived to body marking at about 5 a.m.  The morning was well organized and volunteers were unbelievably nice.  Body marking was quick and getting to our bikes to make final adjustments was equally easy.  I was under the impression that you couldn’t bring your own pump into transition but this turned out to be incorrect.  Fortunately pumps were abundant and it was not difficult getting my tires pumped. The Ironman athlete guide says that you can’t get into your bike and run bags although I have heard that you can.  I did not do so and it was actually a relief not to tinker in the morning.  I was all set up and ready to relax by about 5:20.  The only confusion for me was where we were supposed to go while we waited for the swim start.  I was worried they would keep us captive in transition but this was not the case.  We were able to freely leave and I left via bike out and shared a few last pre-race moments with dad.  The rest of the family had already posted up on the flood wall to watch the swim.  I spent about 20 minutes getting my swim gear on and then shared a really special moment with dad.  We both told each other how much we loved each other and how thankful we were.  It was a new record for when my tears started to flow on an Ironman day for sure!  (https://www.facebook.com/dan.royce.3/posts/10213123324182541),  After saying our goodbyes I walked back into transition as the pro-women were starting.  As soon as they went off they opened up the gates and let the amateur men walk into the water.  Not wanting to get stuck in the back of the pack I found two of my teammates and we made our way up to the front of the buoy line.

I heard many horror stories about the violent mass swim start and it definitely was tougher than a normal race.  The difficulty is compounded by the fact that you have to tread water for about 20 minutes before the cannon goes off so you are burning energy before the race even starts!   I used some of this time to really drink in my surroundings.  I had watched this moment so many times on TV that it was hard to believe I was finally sitting in the water off Dig Me beach.  Floating in the warm waters looking at the sky, and the pier, and the flood wall, and the crowds is a visual I will never forget.  

Fortunately about 10 of my teammates found each other towards the middle start buoy and our strength in numbers allowed us to hold our position fairly well toward the front.  It also allowed for some light hearted conversation and jokes to help break the tension.  My plan was to swim hard until I had a bit of space and then latch onto a decent swim group.  I had built the swim up to be a bloodbath in my head, but the reality was not as bad as I envisioned.  While it was violent for about 1000 yards, it opened up a bit and stayed fairly open until about the last 1000 yards.  The only mishaps were one kick to the jaw and my watch was almost pulled off.  Other than that I did a good job staying calm and smooth and I actually felt really good in the water.  However, I was very disappointed in my swim time and it was far slower than I felt.  My only explanation for the slow time is that I wrongly thought I was swimming with a much faster group than I actually was.  If I ever have the opportunity to get back, I will make sure to be a bit more aggressive early and get with the front pack swimmers. One thing that didn’t let me down was my sleeved Roka Viper X swim skin.  I love that thing!

It felt like we had a bit of an assist from the tide on the way out as my 500 yard splits were much slower on the way back towards the pier.  As I approached the pier I could hear the roar of the crowd and could feel the energy of the atmosphere.  It was palpable.  Standing up from the water I immediately started to cramp in my quads and hamstrings….ruh ruh… It made for a very slooooow transition.  I stopped briefly in the showers to rinse off the salt and made my way into the change tent.  As I sat down to put on my bike gear I kept cramping and actually had to stand up and stretch for a few minutes.  I tried not to worry about it as my only expectations for the day were to race smart and not make any silly mistakes.  After loosening up a bit I put on my bike shoes and made the long run through transition to my bike.  I elected to run with my bike shoes on and I don’t regret my choice.  I grabbed the bike and felt excited to get rolling and execute my bike plan.  The cramps had subsided, so far so good!  I saw my family as I exited transition and got a nice jolt of energy.

I had the benefit of several friends who did the race before me.  My buddy Dan Szajta developed a great strategy to break the bike course down into manageable pieces in an effort to combat the usual challenges of extreme heat and a typical headwind on the last 35 miles.  His strategy was to treat the bike in four segments: 1) Transition to Airport (~15 miles), 2) Airport to Kawaihae (~25 miles), 3) Kawaihae to Hawi to Kawaihae (~40 miles), and 4) Kawaihae to transition (~34 miles).  My game plan was to be very relaxed all the way up to Hawi, build section three and then ride strong on the Queen K back to transition.  I have heard many people say that lots of guys ride too hard up to Hawi and then pay the price on the Queen K back to town.  I was determined not to fall into that trap and planned to ride very conservatively to avoid a death march on the marathon.  I used the first 15 miles out to the airport to settle in and start getting nutrition down.  There was lots of bike traffic and a few sketchy sections where the congestion felt a bit dangerous.  Ultimately I got through unscathed.  

My goal was to drink an entire bottle of Gatorade Endurance between every aid station for both hydration and sodium.  I was able to hold that plan the whole day and I got about 9 bottles down.  I also wore arm cooling sleeves for the first time which provided dual benefits of protecting my arms from sunburn and keeping me cool.  Each aid station I would grab a water bottle, douse my arms, chest and head and then grab a new bottle of Gatorade toward the end of the aid station.  Additionally, I ate 3 Gu stroop waffles for a change of pace.  The first was at mile 60, the second at mile 80 and the last at about mile 100.  

The road up to Hawi was very congested and things didn’t really break apart until the Hawi descent.  There were huge packs of guys drafting in trains and both myself and my teammates were working hard not to get caught up in the mess.  Playing fair is something that we take very seriously on Team EMJ.  I was getting passed like crazy up to Hawi including by most of my teammates but I continued to ride extremely conservatively and planned to reel people in on the way back home.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the ride was getting nabbed for a drafting penalty.  Especially because I was trying my best not to get caught up in the cheating.  At some point on the climb up to Hawi I came up a rise and got too close to the guy in front of me.  I was sitting up but was probably too close by the letter of the law.  I am responsible for my own conduct but the penalty felt silly in light of the rampant draft trains going by.  The marshall was right near us and she immediately singled me out for a penalty.  The frustrating aspect was this was happening as lines of 15-20 guys were blasting by, riding two abreast, and clearly drafting.  The marshall seemingly let these gravy trains go right on by and singled me out when it should have been clear I was at least trying to ride honest.  It was frustrating, but I tried not to let it get me down because it would just provide an opportunity to rest and stretch for a few minutes right before I was going to begin increasing my effort.

One of my great memories from the ride was watching the pro men and pro women descend from Hawi.  It was awesome to see the best in the sport flying downhill with all the motorcycles, and helicopters and NBC film crews.  I actually slowed, sat up to watch, and for a few minutes reverted to a fan boy.  The ride up to Hawi was otherwise calm and the winds were coming off the ocean and headed to our right.  I had no trouble keeping my Felt IA and Enve Wheels stable.  The temperature was starting to rise as we got out of town and the overcast skies gave way to bright, hot, and sunny weather.  Hawi was the first time that I started to feel warm but it was totally manageable.  The penalty tent was right after the turn and required a stop at about mile 61-62.  I used the five minutes stop to stretch,  and get some water in.

After getting let loose from the penalty tent I settled back in and tried to ride consistently back to Kawaihae.  I kept my power extremely manageable and the wind was still coming off the ocean but now it was moving to our left.  The descent was fun and there were no extreme gusts to worry about so I moved along quite well.  I must admit that several times on the way down I couldn’t help looking at the scenery with a huge shit eating grin on my face.  It just felt so good to be there.  True to form I definitely started passing people and continued to pass people all the way back to transition.  The weather was extremely calm and forgiving on the bike leg which led to lightning fast bike splits.  We were even lucky to have a tailwind during the last segment on the Queen K which virtually never happens.  In many ways I wish we would have had the typically brutal last 30 miles as I believe I would have been able to catch more people as I definitely got stronger through the ride.

Overall the bike leg was pretty uneventful.  As we got closer to town I noticed that it was a bit cloudier and I was hoping we might actually get some of the rain that was forecasted.  Alas it was not meant to be.  Overall I was quite pleased with my bike effort and time.  I could have definitely ridden harder and I feel I rode exactly to plan to give myself the best chance to succeed on the run.  Most races I target power in the 235-240 range.  Here I purposely rode a bit lower so as to not put myself in a hole.  I ended up with an average power of 225 and a Normalized power of 237.  The variability index of 1.05 was higher than I like and most of my race files have been 1.03 or better.  Nonetheless, 1.05 is still within the range of what I would consider manageable.  My TSS for the ride was 263 which is also significantly lower than most of my Saturday training rides.  I had done rides during the summer with TSS well over 300 and was still able to run off the bike (albeit not very well).  Best Bike Split had me riding 5:00 on my target wattage and I actually ended up riding 4:55 with a 5:00 minute penalty. An actual bike split of 4:50 tells me that I am pretty close to optimizing my aerodynamics.  I plan to make a few small tweaks in the offseason and hopefully acquire some custom aerobar extensions to get to the final position I hope will give me the most free speed.  The race photographs look good and the eyeball test tells me that my fit is significantly better than Ironman Texas.

As I got to transition I felt good and optimistic I would run well.  In the back of my head the run was always going to be a question mark with the injury issues.  It was only in the last 4 weeks that I showed any flashes of the run progress I had made early in the year.  As I got back to transition I took my time and checked all my boxes.  Not worrying about a podium or a KQ has its advantages and I wanted to make sure I was cool and comfortable before embarking on what would surely be one of the hardest marathons of my life.  The transition was slow but I was okay with that as I changed tops, got all my nutrition straight and cooled myself off with a few cups of water.  Running out of transition was a blast.  The crowd support was unreal and for a moment I reveled in the fact that I was heading out onto Ali’i drive and not watching it on TV from 6000 miles away!

Run/Death March:
Let me start off by saying I vastly underestimated this run course.  It is legitimately hard and extremely hilly.  I underestimated the hills and I think that led to both physical and mental failures.  I can’t say it was the heat that did me in, but I did hear from several people that the favorable wind conditions on the bike made for a warmer than usual run (I don’t know if that’s actually true or not).  However, much like Chattanooga last year I never thought that the heat was crushing or pushing me to the point of failure.  The aid stations were well placed with plenty of ice and cool sponges.  I ran with a shammy around my neck and kept it filled with ice.  Ice went down the front and back of my tri top at every opportunity.  Overall I felt that I managed the heat to the best of my ability and also felt that I was prepared for it from the heat/humidity of Virginia.

The run course changed a bit this year on account of construction on the Queen K and a new entrance into the Energy Lab.  Essentially it took a bit of mileage off the front end in town and added it in on the Queen K before the Energy Lab.  The course starts out with a short steep climb out of transition and then and out and back on Ali’i drive.  The crowds are epic and the energy is unreal.  I planned to be really conservative here because I did not want the energy of the crowd to push me into an unsustainable pace.  I succeeded in that regard and was running the first section between 7:45-8:00 miles which would have put me right on pace for my goal marathon of 3:30.  I was warned that Ali’i can be warmer than the Queen K and that proved to be true (quite counterintuitively).  In reality once you get on the Queen K it is desolate but you get a bit more of a breeze so it feels less hot.  I was not prepared for the body blows of up and down running through town.  The first section of the race is tough.  There is nothing super steep but you are constantly rolling up and down and I believe it took a greater toll on me than I accounted for.

After running out and back on Ali’i you turn up the climb at Palani Drive and then make a left turn on the Queen K where the real fun begins.  The Palani climb is tough and I did walk a bit of it in an effort not to burn any matches.  At this point I started to feel a bit stomach sick and when I got on the Queen K I made the first of what would be four port-a-potty stops to try and relieve the stomach issues I was having.  I generally have an iron gut in racing and I implemented a nutrition plan that I have used with success in the past.  I’m not sure why my body didn’t agree with it but I wasted more time than I would have liked in several bathroom spots.

One of the truly great things about being on EMJ is having so many teammates in the field.  I enjoyed some time running with Jason Sandquist on Ali’i and the early stages of the Queen K.  I also ran nearly the whole stretch down the Queen K to the end of the Energy Lab with Walter McCormack.  Having friends with you really helps when you start to hurt and I appreciated being with those guys before my wheels totally fell off.  The Queen K is the second big area which I underestimated.  Even though I had driven it multiple times before race day, in my head I thought the section to the Energy Lab was rolling.  In reality is essentially a 5 mile low grade climb to the entrance of the lab.  It is absolutely brutal and my pace begin to slip steadily as I ran uphill.  The unrelenting climb is a serious mindf*ck.  By the time we could see the turn into the Energy Lab I remember telling Walter that I was actually looking forward to a change of scenery from the low grade soul sucking hill on the Queen K. Somewhere along the climb several teammates who had flown out to watch the race were cheering on the side of the road.  I remember Matt Hurley, Bradley Kuper-Smith, Todd Buckingham, and Devin Volk (if I am forgetting someone sorry guys!!!).  Matt yelled something that stayed with me the rest of the day and ultimately helped me finish.  As I ran he yelled “Stay Stubborn”.  I never heard this before and I love it.  I think I am going to adopt it as my new race mantra because ultimately you can’t achieve anything in this sport without a serious stubborn streak in training and racing.  You may not even remember saying it, but thanks Matt, you helped me finish the race.  Despite my downward spiral this was also the point that I saw several of the pro men coming back into town.  It was so cool to see these guys in action and they make their suffering seem so easy relative to mine.  A real high point was watching Daniella Ryf stride by with a commanding lead over the women’s field.  She seemed like she was on a casual Sunday training run.  In fact she casually smiled at me and another guy as we yelled “go Daniella”.  It was mind-blowing how good she looked for that point of the race.

As I entered the stretch into the Energy Lab I began to feel worse and worse.  Clay Emge, Matt Malone, John Kelly, Matt Ison, and Nick Noone had all passed in the opposite direction and were done with the worst that the Lab had to offer.  All five guys looked unbelievable and were absolutely flying.  I could see that they were all very close to the pointy end of the amateur field.  I have so much respect for these guys and how they handled that course.  After finally doing this race, I am in absolute awe of anyone who can put together an awesome performance in Kona because the course is HARD!!!!  

As I entered the early stages of the Energy Lab I saw several other teammates including Steve Jackson, James Harrington, Matt Davis, and Rob Mohr (all of whom had stellar races).  All were running strong and overtaking tons of guys.  Despite my suffering it made me feel proud to be teammates with such incredible triathletes.  As I got to the turn around of the energy lab things really started to go sideways.  I was beginning to cramp in my quads and hamstrings and starting to walk more and more.  In the span of about 15 minutes I was totally crushed and mostly walking.  I had a difficult time stringing together 3-4 minutes of running at a time and the running that I was doing was pathetic.  

By the time I got out of the Energy Lab things were beginning to get dire.  This was right about mile 19 and I began to wonder if I could even finish.  What would follow was the most scared I have ever been on a race course.  I went to the darkest place I have ever been mentally for about an hour between miles 19-23 and I had to muster everything I had just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I began to get tingling in my arms, hands, face, cheeks, tongue and lips.  Eventually I stopped being able to feel my fingers and my walking became a bit erratic and wobbly.  I know I was out of it because I kept thinking that it would feel so good to just lay down and recover (ummmm the pavement is 110 degrees….not a great idea).  I stopped being able to get anything more than a sip of Gatorade and Coke down and I stopped sweating.  I actually was scared about what was happening to me!  To make matters worse my dad had ridden his bike out on the Queen K and he was watching me at my absolute worst.  He stayed with me during this whole dark stretch and I think I gave him a pretty good scare.  He says I was mumbling incoherently and looking quixotically at my hands every few minutes.  He did his best to encourage me but all I could think about was how scared I was and how my body was failing me.  I love him so much for helping to pull me through that section, but it was rough.  Its hard not to feel a little guilty when your family flies across the world to watch you explode!!! At one point he threatened to call an ambulance and I told him to back off because I was finishing.  I was looking for every small victory that I could.  Walk to the crack in the road…walk to the cone…. walk to that bush….one step at a time.  Every fiber of my body was screaming at me to stop.  Dad also took the liberty of filming me during this period (maybe for future Sherpa blackmail?!?!?) as you can tell I was a little less than  “fresh”.

Somewhere during this stretch my teammate Jason Ream came up from behind me with some words of encouragement.  He helped save my day as I was in absolute dire straits.  I think I owe him an apology because I am sure I made absolutely no sense while we talked.  I remember I was crying profusely and having trouble getting words out to tell him how I was feeling.  I remember he said “we are here, do anything to get to the finish”.  His kindness and words or encouragement carried me a long way in a really dark moment.  It was also during this time that Jeanna (beloved family friend and swim coach) walked all the way out to mile 23 of the race course from town.  Jeanna recently had a knee replacement and needs the other replaced.  I know she was in so much pain, but despite that she walked in horrific heat on two bad knees to keep me going.  I love her so much for this!!!!  I remember she told me not to run, she simply said walk it in and finish this thing.  She yelled out how proud she was and I cried again.  Those words were enough to motivate me to try and increase my walk to a pitiful jog.  From that point on I tried to run every other cone.  They were about 20 yards apart so I would try and run 20 yards and walk 20 yards (keep in mind that my “run” pace at this point was about 12:00/mile).  I also tried some chicken broth at either the mile 22 or 23 aid station.  This seemed to revive me a bit and I was desperately looking for broth at the remainder of the aid stations.  Unfortunately there was none.  Had there been more I think I could have pulled up the nose a bit more although it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference in my finish time.  There were also several kind athletes that were also suffering that kept encouraging me during the section.  Several groups would encourage me to join with them and jog between the aid stations and then walk in the aid stations.  Unfortunately I simply couldn’t keep pace with any of them but their kindness was something I won’t forget and another reason why I love this sport so much.

The last few miles are a blur.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to get to town so at least there would be people around.  As I got into town my wife and best buddy Trey McFerren were waiting for me at the bottom of Palani.  They saw how bad off I was and they began running along the sidewalk with me.  Trey kept yelling at me to stay “gritty” and Brittany was yelling every positive thing she could to keep me going.  She kept giddily screaming “you are an Ironman World Champion”.  If it wasn’t for them I probably would have just walked but they motivated me to at least try and jog.  Right before the final turn onto Ali’i I saw Aunt Bev and dad.  I think I told them I love them (at least I hope I did).  Shortly before the final finish chute the rest of my family was there.  I took the time to give each and every one of them a hug and a kiss.  Without them I would not have finished.  I am so happy dad captured this on video from the other side of the street.  This sport is simply not possible without huge family support and without question I have the best.

The last steps down Ali’i were the culmination of a dream for me.  I made sure to run despite the fact that my body was totally broken.  I made sure to get through the finish line with no one else around so I could raise my arms in triumph (and get that sweet finisher photo).  Finishing was one of the sweetest bits of relief I have ever experienced.  I was genuinely happy to my core that I had finished with my head high.  The euphoria was short lived and I immediately began to crumble and two lovely volunteers took me around the shoulders and walked me to medical where I spent the next hour getting nursed back to human status.  There I began to process what happened and quickly came to the conclusion that I gave everything I had that day.  Although I am not pleased with the result or the time, I don’t know what I would have done differently.  It is clear that I screwed something up with my nutrition and will need to address that in the future.  I know one thing is for certain.  I learned a lot about myself and the course and I hope to have the opportunity to one day earn my way back and prove I am capable of a much better performance.

Highlights of the Day/Post-race:
When people ask me why I love Ironman I always say that there are very few experiences in life where you can experience the entire range of human emotions over a 10 hour period.  During the course of a race you feel euphoria, sadness, gratitude, happiness, pain, despair, etc.  Name the emotion and at some point during the course of the day you will experience it.  Often these emotions rush at you like raging flood waters and then inexplicably change on a dime.  I also love that Ironman presents the opportunity to face the deepest darkest parts of yourself and see what you are made of.  Very few people really test the absolute outside limits of what they are capable of.  As terrible as those moments are, I know that there are few challenges in life that I can’t rise up to meet head on.

The day was overwhelming, but I tried to make it ordinary to maximize the chances of success.  The two best pieces of advice I received were from Adam Otstot and Walter McCormack.  Adam said, its just another race, it just happens to be Hawaii with really good competition.  Walter’s advice was just as simple but equally weighty.  He said that for your first time in Kona just try and enjoy it.  You have to experience it to know how to handle it.  It turns out he was exactly right. 

I have several moments from the day that will be indelibly marked on me.  1) My pre-race “emo” moment with dad, 2) Pre-swim start taking in the scenery and anticipation of the chaos that would ensue, 3) Riding out of T1 and seeing my family screaming for me, 4) Screaming down from Hawi with a big goofy grin on my face, 5) Running out of transition feeling the roar of the crowd and giving a kiss to my mom, sister, and nephew, 6) Seeing Jilly, Garrett, TJ, Steve, Aunt Bev, and Uncle Ed on Ali’i drive with signs of support, 7) Seeing Jeanna at Mile 11 of the marathon and getting the chance to run over and give her a kiss and tell her I love her, 8) watching my teammates absolutely annihilate the run course, 9) Fighting through the worst race pain and despair I have ever felt, 10) running the last mile with my beautiful wife and best buddy, 11) Kissing and hugging every member of my family at the entrance to the finish chute especially Sloane and Britt), 12) and crossing that damn finish line after years of fighting for it.

As I sit here on the beautiful beach of Oahu getting ready to return home I am filled with an over abiding sense of gratitude.  So many people have given so much allow this dream to come true.  Thank you to each and every person who has ever texted, sent a facebook message, called, or commented on one of my blog posts.  I can’t really adequately express how much you all mean to me.  Most of all I want to thank my “people”.  These are the ones that make it all possible and without their love I would be nothing but a selfish asshole running around in spandex.  Thank you and I love you to Brittany, Sloanie, Dida, Pa, Lummy, Ricky, Royce, Jacko, Bobby Bondo, baby Bondo, Amy, Kaitlyn, Giani, Jeanna, Trey, Graham, Kori, Dan, and Chris.

I’m not sure what’s up next but I have already begun plotting how I can get back here.  I have a better day in me and I intend to prove it.  As always thanks for reading and I welcome any comments, questions or feedback.  Love to all and thanks for being a part of my journey.  Mahalo!