Monday, October 11, 2010

A Thrill of a Life Time!

What an incredible day. The 2010 Ironman World Championship is now history. While I did not make my goal of ending up on the podium, I none the less was ecstatic with the end result. I came back to Kona after taking fifth in my age group as the youngest person in the group four years ago with the dream of going back to the podium as the oldest member of the group. I had no idea how much the competition had improved over the last four years. The cut off for the top 10 four years ago was 11:53:54. This year, the 10th place finisher came in at 11:01:35 on a harder bike course.
The swim was a slug fest as expected. I started in the middle of the pack knowing it would be a fight, but also wanting to take full advantage of any drafting which is legal in the swim. The course is 1.2 miles out and back. For the first 6/10 of a mile, it can best be described as a tight pack. I was either swimming over someone or someone was swimming over me. A little frightening, but the mass was creating its own current. Things started to open up at the turn at 1.2 miles and I was able to get into a rhythm for the back half of the swim. My time of 1:15:33 put me in 28th and was 2 ½ minutes faster than 2006.
When we started the bike, there was not a cloud in the sky. The good news is that we had wonderful unobstructed views of Manna Kea , the 13,000 foot volcano that defines the Island of Hawaii, and Haleakala, the 10,000 foot volcano on Maui. The bad news is that we fried. What can make this Ironman so challenging in addition to the heat are the winds on the way to Hawi, the northern most city on the Island, and today was no exception. The cross winds were so strong, I was almost blown off my bike 4 times. I passed three athletes who were not so fortunate to stay upright and were being attended to by the emergency personnel. At one point, I was riding downhill into a head wind and struggling to hold 17 miles per hour in a section that I should have been going 28 to 30 miles per hour without pedaling. It is always very emotional for me when I finish my bike and today was no exception. Of all the things that can go really wrong in an Ironman, most like flat tires, mechanical failure and crashes happen on the bike. I paid my respects to the spirits of Hawaii as I handed my bike off to a volunteer and ran to the transition area to change into my running shoes. My 6:03:12 bike time was 5 minutes slower than 2006, but given the more difficult wind conditions, I felt like this year was a stronger ride.

I know that many of you who tracked my run have developed your own theory of what I did. Here is what really happened. I knew I was way off my goal when I started the run. I was happy with my swim and my bike time was slower than expected. So I went out on the run a little more aggressively because I was still chasing a dream. The first 10 miles are pretty flat and fast and I was averaging 7:30 minute miles (not counting one bathroom break.) Then at mile 10, I turned on to Palani Road, the steepest hill on the run and as they say, the engine sputtered and died. My 7:30 pace quickly became 8:30s and then 9s and finally for the last 6 miles, I was struggling to hold 10 minute miles. It was painful, but the view of the ocean and the lava fields were great.
And then at mile 25.7, I turned on to Ali’I drive for the last ½ mile. With thousands of people aggressively drinking and cheering every athlete that runs by, it is nothing less than a thrill of a life time. It is also an indelible reminder to every athlete that an Ironman is first and foremost about finishing. My 3:52:10 marathon took me from 29th to 15th in my age group and was six minutes off my 2006 pace.
As I came across the finish line, Nannette, Gary, Alicia and Jim were working as volunteers presenting a real flower lei to each of the finishers. Having my wife and friends as my “official greeters” was very special to me.
Other special things during the day was seeing my training buddy, Scott Boylan, on the bike and twice on the run and shouting mutual words of encouragement. I also saw Raj twice on the run and was inspired by how well he was running on his two prostatic legs. I saw our friend and fellow triGeek, Kebby Holder on the run and she gave me a big “Go Mike.” She and her husband Reg were comfortably sitting in the finishing stands and cheered me on as I ran the last ¼ mile. Kebby took 8th in her age group with a 10:23. Way to go Kebby.

It is now Sunday, the day after the race. I am up and walking…even eating again. We went for a mile swim in Kona Bay….I can’t get enough of it, even though the coffee bar is gone. As I write this final blog for the trip, I want to thank all of you for flooding my e-mail box with great comments. I also want to thank all my training buddies for being there. And most importantly, I want to thank my wife Nannette for always being there….where ever there is.

Finally, in my speech, Keeping the Flame Lit for Life, I encourage my audiences to turn set-backs into learning experiences. Here are five key things I learned from missing my goal yesterday.
1. It is a lot easier to get on the podium as the youngest in your age group than the oldest.
2. In today’s highly competitive world, in an environment when bars are being raised on an hourly basis, staying the same is no longer good enough.
3. If you are someone who chases dreams and captures all of them, you probably aren’t dreaming big enough.
4. It really is all about the journey, not the destination.
5. No matter what goal you set, running the last ¼ mile down Ali’I Drive in the Ironman World Championship is a thrill of a lifetime!


jamesadell said...

From Marty Mercer: when I grow up, I want to be like Mike!

Lynette Lewis said...

Mike, AMAZING, loved every day's stories and these finishing lessons learned, you raise the bar for all of us! Congratulations to a great Iron Man!

Mary Beth Cook said...

CONGRATS! What an amazing journey to follow. . . thank you for sharing your experience and what you have learned, IRONMAN MIKE!

Mary Beth Cook said...

CONGRATS! What an inspirational journey to follow. . . thank you, IRONMAN MIKE!

Mary Beth Cook said...

CONGRATS! What an amazing journey to follow. . . thank you for sharing. CONGRATS IRONMAN MIKE!

Dawn said...

Unbelievably awesome Mike!

GardenRunner said...

Wonderful Mike!!! you had a fantastic day! I am always excited and amazed to share part of the journey with you!!! Always inspiring each of us to bloom where we are planted in every given moment. Safe travels home my friend!

Jason said...

Congrats on your incredible accomplishment. The words make the imagine run wild and have allowed me to dream big of one day writing a race report of Kona the way you did.

Thank you for chrnociling this experience and allowing us in cyberworld to share it with you.

Iris Mack Dayoub said...

Just think, you will be the youngest in your age group next year. Congrats on a job well done. And a big thanks for sharing your incredible experience with us as only you can.

Anonymous said...

Awesome day....thanks for sharing

Janice Darling said...

Mike I am so proud of you. What a great accomplishment and I love that you have added the key learnings to your keeping the flame alive work...

irun4life said...

Mike, I am so proud to know you! You're such an AWEsome spirit and inspiration! WoW, you're amaZing!

surf said...


Only two things come to mind:
(1)Your performance in this event was nothing short of amazing (as always).
(2) Everybody here is talking about how proud they are of you - and I can understand that - but, hell, I'm damned proud of me just for knowing you!

-- Steve Williams

Bobby said...

Mike, Way to go! I'm very proud of you. And, just think, next year you'll be the YOUNGEST in your age group!