My wife Elee as always is number one! She sacrifices more than anyone in my triathlon endeavors and I cannot thank her enough, I love you Elee!
My Kids AJ & Brook, they inspire me to be the best that I can every day.
My family for making the trip to Hawaii again to cheer me on, it is very nice to see your faces on the course.
My Coach and friend Dave Ciaverella, the best triathlon coach on the planet, look what he has done with me! I cannot thank you enough for all you do for me.
Athlete’s Lounge for being the best triathlon store on the planet, these guys take very good care of me and I truly appreciate it. Scott, Gary & Chris thank you!
Bob, Casey, Ann, Bill, Jen, Scott, Garren, and Leanne! Thank you so much for being out there to support me! Having friendly faces out on the course is AWESOME, and gives you a kick in the ass to move on.
This year has been an exceptional year for me. I have raced only 5 times, but had some form of success in each of them.
1) California 70.3 went 4:32 on an early season base with only a month of running and 4 outdoor rides.
2) Ironman Texas- despite not being in the best shape went 9:30, good for 3rd in Male 35-39 and 6th amateur, Kona qualified.
3) Lake Stevens 70.3 this is when my fitness picked up and I knew I was making gains. Went 4:22, 15 minutes faster than the previous year, good for 3rd age group and 4th amateur, and finally ran well in a 70.3!
4) Athletes Lounge Portland Triathlon, overall win a week after Lake Stevens.
5) Well this is where I will start my race report:
2011 Ironman World Championships
Just as last year, I got to Kona 8 days before the race to help acclimate to the heat. When I got to Kona I was not nearly as excited as I was the previous year, the anxiety just was not there. Having done the race the year before, I fully knew what to expect, and I felt I was ready. I sat down with Dave the night we got in and discussed and came up with my training plan for the week, this was a pretty big confidence booster for me as a coach, as Dave listened to my input and incorporated some of my thoughts and his thoughts and came up with the race week training plan, which is something different than he or I had done before. I felt good with this knowing full well if it didn’t work, it was on me and if it worked it was all Dave.
My body during the week felt spot on, my heart rate was responding very well, and my heat acclimation training was very successful, the only thing that was bothering me was my shoulder, but I have become quite accustom to this. By Wednesday I knew that I had no reasons and no excuses not to have the best race I could have.
Race day came as always at 4 am. With relatively no nerves, I went through the normal morning race routine. We left the condo at 4:40 and drove down the road to the Pier. I dropped off my special needs bags and approached transition. Finally the nerves, the anxiety and excitement all came at once as I entered body marking. This stage is just phenomenal! It truly is the super bowl of our sport. It is THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS! I went to my bike and T1 bag and dropped off my bike and run nutrition, met Dave and pumped up my tires, and made my way to the porta potty line. After seeing and chatting with some of the competitors I knew racing, I found a quiet spot and sat and thought about the race ahead. Soon the pros went off and it was time to line up. For some reason I thought the pre-swim bag drop off was on the way to the swim start so I had not dropped it yet, turns out it is completely on the other side, so I had to fight my way through the opposite side of transition to drop off my bag and then get back in the crowded line to race start, which was moving very very slowly. With 12 minutes to race start, I was still probably 25 feet from the steps down to the pier and I was seriously beginning to get irritated. When I finally made it to the steps the clock said I had 8 minutes to start time, I jumped in and swam out to the front left side of the course by the floating Ford Vehicle, just as I had last year.
I heard Mike Reily say 5 minutes guys, and like always people kept pushing forward. When the cannon went off, it was complete chaos. Last year I lined up in this same spot and had an easy swim nearly untouched. Not the case this year. Hands down the most physical swim I have ever ever been in. I was punched, kicked, scratched, pulled, pushed and maybe even bitten. I thought this would pass after a few hundred meters, but it didn’t. It was like a school of salmon swimming upstream fighting the entire way. It seemed to get worse at every buoy, I would try to go wide and surge ahead, but it seemed whenever I would, the entire group would come with me. It was frustrating but I remained calm. I did feel like we were moving pretty well, but I wonder what it would have been like to swim clean. I didn’t even start my watch for the swim, so I am not sure what my time was at the turn. The swim back started better than the swim out; there were some swells so I found a good rhythm breathing every third stroke to keep my equilibrium on track. For some reason when we approached the first red buoy it became crowded and chaotic again, and it was a fight all the way into the pier. As we made it into the pier I tried to go around and swim hard into the stairs, but I couldn’t move, I was trapped in the middle of the group and could not move right to left, it was very frustrating. When I finally touched sand I sprinted out of the water to try and break past the people with me. As I approached the bags I looked to the clock and it read 59: and change. I had hopes of going faster and truly believe I am in shape to swim faster than that, but I was cool with a sub hour swim.
In T1 I was disappointed with the volunteer help, I called for help and there was nobody there, I had to peel my own speed suit, open my own bag, dump it and sort out what was what. I threw my sunglasses and sweat band on and grabbed my bike shoes and left my stuff laying there for a volunteer to deal with, although no one ever came to me. I made my way out of T1 made the long run around the pier to my bike, and saw Ryan Barnett across the way, wished him well and took off with my bike.
As I left the transition area I heard the yells of go Aleck from my family and friends and was on my way. I was feeling really good and the first 5 minutes was a struggle to keep my power down where it was supposed to be. Ryan passed me quickly which I was expecting, then one by one 50 people must have passed me on the out and back along Kuakini Highway. It was really hard to let them go, but having gone through this last year and trusting my coach’s advice, I just stuck to my power. I knew I would get them back, and if not they are simply faster than me, which was likely the case here! Back into town I saw my family again just before I turned up Palani, at which point I saw my friends holding Pancakes on their faces! This made me laugh pretty hard, it made the climb up a bit easier as 10 people sprinted up by me, of which 8 of them I passed back within 200 yards on the Queen K.
The ride out to Kawaihae was pretty fast, with little wind taking us out, however this is when I made the first decision to take the easy way out on the bike. I convinced myself that since the pace was pretty fast, I should go ahead and back off about 5 watts from plan and pick up about 10-15 watts the last hour and a half. I locked in on my power and played cat and mouse games with all the people that don’t have power. They would fly past me up hills, and then I would pass going down or on flat sections. Things were going pretty well for me, nutrition and hydration was solid every 20 minutes and I had peed twice before making the left turn to the climb up to Hawi.
About 5 miles after the turn up to Hawi the headwinds came and I knew this was going to be a difficult time in the race to stick to the plan. This portion of the race is primarily uphill and with a head wind I knew it was important to stick to my watts and stay aero. I also knew that I would get passed here by a whole lot of people hammering to the turn. Sure enough Ben Greenfield came by, and then Mitch Gold and Michael Montgomery, then a drafting pack of at least 50 dudes. I stuck to my plan and did my grinding up the hill into the wind. I approached the turnaround and saw my friend Bob and his wife Casey cheering for me!
After the turnaround is special needs, I began shouting my number 100 yards from the start of special needs, many people repeated my number to let the others know I was coming but nobody held my bag out for me. I got to the end of special needs and no bag, the guy at the end yelled back “1240!??” and about 25 feet back finally someone poked out with my bag. I left my bike with the guy and ran back to get my bag grabbed my bottles and took off. From here it’s a good downhill with a head wind. I stuck in my aero bars and went for it, spinning out my 54-11 and hitting mid 40 mph. Good opportunity to give the legs some rest breaks. This part of the bike is the part that scared the crap out of me last year with heavy gusts of crosswind nearly knocking me off my bike several times. This year the crosswinds were few and far between, and I just kept an eye on the riders out in front of me and when the shifted to the right I dug in and waited for the blast. At about mile 85 I started to do some math. I was on pace to bike in the 4:50’s, easily under 5 hours, because I was going to be picking up the pace the last hour.
Mile 90, things changed. Not only is this part of the ride uphill, but we were riding into a direct head wind. I increased the power, but was averaging a mere 16 mph. I was gaining on many people that had passed me earlier on the bike and I probably passed 30 guys in this stretch which is the only thing that kept my attitude from going south. At the crest of every hill, I would look out in hopes to see the airport in the distance. It seemed like forever, but finally the airport was there and then it seemed like forever to get to it. Finally! 8 miles to go, and mostly downhill. I tried to keep the power up on the final 8 miles but my legs were feeling tired. The final mile I sat up and stretched out my back and my legs the best I could and came into transition in 5:04! Pretty happy with that, I knew it was a faster bike day, but I went 5:16 last year, so an 11 minute improvement I would take.
T2 was fine, my legs were a bit stiff running around the pier, but was sure that would shake out. This time a volunteer took my bag and dumped it out for me, I wiped my feet threw on my socks and shoes grabbed my visor and was out.
I felt great starting the run, but the adrenaline that this place produces causes a bit of misconception. I felt good as I passed my family and then my friends that were here. Dave yelled at me to be patient and strong. Once I got out passed the 1st mile on Alii I began to feel pretty crappy. I thought for sure this would be a long long run. For 2 miles I was feeling pretty low thinking there is no way I was running a sub 3:30 today. I started doing the math on what I would have to do to equal my time from last year. I nearly convinced myself to drop the pace to 8 minute miles and just hold on as long as I could. I compromised at 7:45 pace. This felt doable, but people were flying by me. At about mile 5 I heard a yell from up in a balcony above. “Go Aleck! Looking Strong!” It was a local Summit athlete and friend Josh Monda. He sparked something in me and I picked up the pace a bit without even realizing it. At the turn around point on Alii I was feeling pretty good again and looked at my pace, 7:20. Hmmm, Maybe I can do this. About 2 minutes later Chris Ramsey came at me the other direction. I knew he was coming for me. I was running pretty consistent 7:25-7:30 pace so I decided I was just going to try and hold this pace as long as I could. It was HOT so I used every aid station to poor ice down my shirt, and dump cold water on my head and drink water. I was still feeling really good as I came back into town and passed my wife and family again. Then the turn up Palani I shortened my stride and backed off to 10 minute mile pace up the steep hill. Dave yelled to me, “Watch the heart rate, hold your pace and go for it at mile 16” Up on the queen k I settled into a steady 7:15-20pace backing off to 8 pace up hills.
I started to pass many people and had found a good place in my head. At about mile 14 I passed female pro Tyler Stewart and she told me “great job, strong pace”, I said,” thanks, but I didn’t remember it being all uphill to the energy lab.” She laughed and said “yeah and after the turn around its all uphill back to the finish! “ Seriously I was getting very irritated at the fact that the up hills kept coming. (It’s really weird what things will piss you off in the marathon in an Ironman). Finally the turn to the energy lab, yes I was excited to get into the energy lab, it was downhill for about a mile and a head wind that while hot, cooled down my wet body. I passed a few more people on the way to the turn around and was feeling pretty good. Then the dreaded turn back up out of the energy lab. With the wind at your back it feels like you are running in an oven. Fortunately a cloud cover started rolling in on the way out, but I was still struggling. I looked at my pace and was running 8:45 pace and my heart rate for the first time in the run was jumping into the 160’s. To my surprise I passed 3 more guys at this pace, and started seeing a lot of the competitors I knew coming the other direction. As I went through the Motivational Mile I saw right under my name was Adam Zucco’s name. Adam is arguably the fastest American in my age group and has had a dominating year. Clearly he was not having a great race for his standards, but the fact that I was ahead of him at that point was uplifting. As I left the energy lab it was mile 18, 10k to go, which meant it is time to kick it in. I picked up the pace and ran2 miles at 6:45 pace, then came to a hill and made the mistake of trying to hold my pace. Uh oh I started to fade, tried to hold 8 pace and struggled. Two guys in my age group came passed me and I wanted to just let them go, but I knew I could go as hard as I could the last 5k, I just kept repeating to myself 4 miles, 30 minutes to go; 4 miles, 30 minutes to go. When we finally crested that hill I went for it again. I passed both those guys back and attempted to put the hammer down as I crossed the 23 mile mark,” I can do anything for 20 minutes” I told myself. I was certainly hurting at this point, then one more hill (Think Mark & Dave)! I eased up at the aid station to dump water and ice on me one last time and take one more drink of water. After you get to the top of this hill it is all downhill to finish line, I looked at my watch and did the math, if I run sub 7 in I will run a 3:15 marathon! I went for it down Palani, knowing at this point last year my body went numb with the excitement and anticipation of finishing this coveted race. Down Palani the tingling sensation came on my legs and goose bumps covered my body, I looked at my watch and was running 6 minute pace! I had no idea what the overall time was looking at but a 3:15 marathon was for certain! Then the long flat section before you drop down to Alii sucked all the glycogen I had left out of my muscles, I was pushing as hard as I could go and barely holding on to 8 minute pace. I really really wanted to stop, I had not hurt this bad in the last mile before. I made the turn onto Alii drive, and just held on to what I could give. I saw my family and pointed towards them maybe even given a smile? As I entered the finishing shoot there was a guy right in front of me, I turned and look behind me and there was no one close, so I backed off and let the guy in front of me have his own finish, and I would have my own finish. As I came to the ramp and could make out the time on the clock, I was elated to se 9:26!
I had some really nice volunteers catch me, and for the first time in an Ironman, I just collapsed into their arms, I was dizzy, nauseous and just couldn’t put many thoughts together. I went to the med tent for a while and got some fluids and nutrition in me and started feeling normal again. I found my wife and gave her a big hug!
I am very very happy with this race! Of course in hind sight I can find ways I could have raced better and faster, but in the end I truly left every single part of my soul on that course. I was faster in all 3 sports than I was last year; I ran a PR marathon of 3:16, and an overall Ironman PR of 9:26!