Saturday, October 8, 2011

T-Minus 10 Hours and Counting Down

“They have moved the Space Shuttle to the launch pad and are starting to fuel the solid rocket boosters.”

Aloha from Kona as we enter the final phase.  This update summarizes the final two days of preparation and shares some personal thoughts as I get ready for a very big birthday on Saturday.Thursday was a change of pace.  Yes, of course I started out with my mile swim for my coffee and cookie.  But that was it for serious exercise. 
Kebby, Mike and Michael at Underpants Run

At 8:00 AM we participated in the traditional underpants run.  I am not sure of the history, but on Thursday, it is a great way to relieve the stress and anticipation and Ali’i Drive is packed with athletes running in minimal attire. 

Nannette and I spent the rest of the day with Bishop and Rob (Bishop’s son) kayaking out to Captain Cook’s monument.  The monument is on the West side of the big Island about 10 miles from our house on a magnificent reef teaming with fish.  We rented snorkeling equipment and spent an hour chasing fish and marveling at nature’s beauty for the second time that day.  Then we kayaked back.
Nannette and Bobbe at Pre-Race Dinner

Thursday night was the pre-race banquet, a dinner for 5,000 people held outside.  The entertainment was what you would expect in a Hawaiian Luau with hula dancers, plenty of coconuts, and a great display of fire aerobics.  I think the display was designed to help us prepare for the lava fields on Saturday.  However, part of the program was designed to help all of the athletes appreciate and harness the mystical powers of the Islands.  The Hawaiian’s rich and colorful culture has helped these people survive for the centuries.  This was great spiritual advice for the 1,800 trying to survive the elements on Saturday and stay in the good graces of Pele.

Greenbergs, Leatherburys, Wiens and Ferrels
Friday was preparation day and a day of peace and tranquility.  There is nothing more that I can do to get myself ready.  I have put in the miles in the pool, on the bike, and in the run.  I have my game strategy for tomorrow memorized and have rehearsed each segment in my head at least 100 times.    

We took our last coffee run (a one mile swim) at 7:30 AM, followed by an 11 mile bike and a 3 mile run.  Then we packed our bike transition bag and run transition bag and checked our bikes in for tomorrow.  Tonight, we hosted a pasta dinner for the Ferrels and the Greenbergs and are going to bed early.  Bobbe Greenberg is a 65 year old teacher from Highland Park, Illinois and a friend of my sister – Alison.  This is Bobbe’s third time to Kona.  During the dinner, Kelly Fox mentioned that her real name is Miriam.  I told her that my Mother’s name is Miriam, but everyone calls her Mim.  Jeff Greenberg, Bobbe’s husband perked up and said, “Mim – Does she play golf?”  Jeff use to play golf with my mother at Sunset in Highland Park and had fond memories.

I concluded my blog from last year’s race with five positive things that came out of my unsuccessful attempt to make the podium.  I would like to conclude this blog by sharing the five specific and difficult lessons I learned from last year that I hope will make me more successful this year.

Mass Swim Start at the Ironman World Championship
  1. Positioning at the start is critical.  In 2006, I positioned myself in the swim start on the outside edge in an attempt to stay out of the pandemonium that happens when 1,800 people start swimming in the same direction.   I missed any advantage of the drag created by that many bodies.  In 2010, I started in the middle of the pack to take full advantage of the drag.  It was a slugfest and I did not get into a comfortable stroke until the first and only turn at 1.2 miles.  This year, we hired Karlyn Pipes-Neilson, the local swim goddess to give us pointers on where to start.  I have a plan and it is to find a balance between the pack and the outliers.

Mike on Queen K Highway going across the lava field
       2.  Being swift versus being in a hurry.  Last year in my attempt to be swift, I rushed through important speed bumps.  I ran out of the transition from swim to bike without sunscreen for a 6 hour bike ride and lost time at the first aid station discovering that the aid stations do not have sun screen.  I missed picking up my special needs bag at mile 60 on the bike course as I rode right past the volunteer ready to hand it to me.  And I rode through an aid stations so fast, I fumbled the hand-off for water.  I can’t afford to miss any aid stations going across a 112 mile lava field.      
       3.  A general idea is no match for a specific plan. Last year, my plan on the bike was to eat and drink often and as much as I could.  That was not specific enough. I did not force myself to eat and drink enough and ended up dehydrated and running out of gas after 90 miles.  I need to be more specific and purposeful with what I consume on the bike, keep track and be accountable.
      4.  First earn the right to wear it.  On Thursday, two days before last year’s race, I drove down to the ocean to run 4 easy miles with Gary Kessler.  I forgot to bring my socks.  So I ran into the Ironman store and bought a pair of Ironman 2010 socks.  While I make it a practice not to wear any race specific merchandise before running in a race, this time I made an exception.  At about 3 ½ miles, I tripped over a curb and as many of you will remember, took a quarter size piece of skin my palm.  Not good for a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean or a 112 mile bike ride.  I have no plans to wear anything I buy at the Ironman store until after the race tomorrow.
           5.  Champions don’t take breaks.  I had run the first 10 miles in last year’s race at a sub 8 minute mile pace and was starting to feel pretty spent. Mile 10 is the infamous hill on Palani Road.  About 440 yards representing the steepest climb of the day.  I decided that a quick walk up the hill would cost less than an extra minute and would give me a well deserved breather.  So, I walked up Palani.  I spent the next 16 miles trying to figure out what I was thinking as I had never walked in any endurance race before.  I have spent the last 364 days challenging every hill in my training runs and looking forward to finally having the opportunity to make peace with Palani.   I asked Nannette to be at the top of Palani Road tomorrow with a baseball bat and to hit me over the head if I am walking.  She refused.  So instead, if you know Nannette’s cell phone number, please call her at about 9:45 PM Eastern – 3:45 PM Hawaiian time and ask one question.  Did Mike run up Palani?  If she says no, send me an e-mail with the subject line – Loser.  Turn off your computer and go to bed.  If she says yes – pop another bag of pop corn.  Watch and fasten your seat belt.  The ride isn’t over yet.

Finally, one of the most common questions I get asked is what do I think about during the 140.6 miles to keep going.  The answer is simple…I think about all the wonderful people who have helped me focus, work toward a goal, and really enrich my life.  I hope by example, it enriches the lives of others.


Please remember that I am competing in the Ironman World Championship tomorrow to help support Getting2Tri (G2T).  G2T trains athletes with physical disabilities and changes lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of purpose.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona.

Please click on the link below to make a donation to this worthy cause.


susan said...

Mike you are soooo AWESOME and such an inspirition! I am crying just at your blog post! You better RUN up Palini!!! I'll be waiting to hear! Good luck! Run Baby, Run!

Jason said...

It's T-Minus 40 minutes to the start of Kona 2011. You are the MAN, Mike! I am rooting for you and praying for safe racing - all of you. Go get 'em!