I wanted to write this a little differently, as a day worth of reflection still has me a little dazed as to the challenge that was out there on the day. Yes, sitting at the awards banquet last night I was happy, and I still am, but there was a moment of thought that went to what could have been. I am very happy with my result, how my body went and what I went through on the day.
As the experience is so personal, I thought to write this as a point of view, almost through my eyes and hopefully I’ll be able to take you with me on an amazing journey for the next 10 minutes or so that lead to the moment you see there in the photo.
Beep beep beep! 4am alarms are never subtle and this was so different. Ok. Get up. Get food in and get the body going. Breakfast at 4am is never quite what it is at 9am. Force it down, you’ll need it later.
Coffee, brush teeth and into the car. Nice tune. Going to be a great day, can just feel it. Legs feel amazing; have felt so good all week. Time to cash in some cheques.
I have to pump tires, get nutrition onto the bike and get my special needs bags in, get body marked, swim bag in, toilet and quiet time in the next 60 minutes. Plenty time. It’s all going smoothly until the mechanic drops my valve extender into the wheel. Shouldn’t make a noise once going 40km/h, I think.
Bang! Pro’s are off, 6:30. Time to get into the water for a quick warm-up and then wait for the start. 1800 people in a squashed area with 15 minutes to go, feet and arms everywhere. People starting to panic with claustrophobia. The noises are not great. 10 minutes to go. Breathe. BOOOOOOM! I get a great start and find some nice hips to sit on. Into the front pack I go, the arms are feeling great. All the extra swimming was worth it. High elbows, breathe. Focus. I move to the back of the pack and find some feet. It feels great and the pace is easy. This is going so well.
Around the halfway and all is well. Group is sticking together. Nice. Pack slows a little and I look up to see a split as someone just ahead of me has swum skew. Oh well. Let them go, no point chasing. 500m to go and I work my way to the front of the pack so get a clear run up transition. Woop! 20th out the water I hear. Perfect.
Helmet, nutrition, glasses and go go go! Onto the bike, press start on the Garmin. Click. Legs feel golden. Up Kuakini highway to the first turn around and I feel great. Making up 2 or 3 places by the time we hit Palani and I just spin up, will catch the big bladders on the Queen K. Body is feeling amazing, just hold back. We are about 20 riding together and I am sitting near the front, about 3rd or 4th wheel, just cruising. 20, 30, 40km go by smoothly. Waikoloa comes quickly this time, despite the headwind. 38km/h is about right; the pack is riding so nice. All the contenders are here. The Katana is sweet and running like a dream.
Turn left, then right to Hawi and here is the wind. Cruising up, feeling good. Gusts are heavy, hold the wheel. I get blown across the road, almost two lanes and have to hit the brakes hard to avoid going off the road. Red card. Blocking, apparently. I say something. Not smart. 4 minutes becomes 6 and I am off. Pack gone. Don’t chase, you’ll catch them later, your run has been golden of late. Just be patient.
Special needs, must get my calories. They can’t find my bag. I press stop on the Garmin. 3 minutes later, I am off, without calories. No bag. It happens. Find your tempo and watch the wind, which is now gusting at 90km/h side on. Garmin says I am cruising at 60km/h down here. Woo hoo! The wind is howling, making riding in the aerobars virtually impossible. It’s not ideal and I can feel the body tense up. At 115km I for the first time in ages hit a real low. I decide its time to push through. It’ll go away, in 10km or so. I know my body; this is just how it goes. 125 become 135 and I am still in a dark hole somewhere avoiding thought of the past or the future. Just hold this moment right here. Yes, it hurts. No, its not particularly fun. Yes, it will pass. It’s stupid hot now. So hot it almost takes my breath away. 145km. Come on body, come back…. Please. Doubt, fear, looking at myself and realizing there is only one way out of this and that is to keep going. Headwind is not helping and I am continuously being dropped by single riders coming by. Motivation, please come back.
155km and all are good again. Something clicks. Checking splits, I know I can make it under 5 hours, ex penalties and lost bags. Awesome, considering how bad that patch was. All those hours spent, 100% worth it in that moment. Bag me and tag me and ship me off. Wait; still have a marathon to run with a pair of legs that want to run. Let’s do this…
Struggling with the socks in T2, on wet feet and an endurance athletic haze. That plugged into the wall feeling. Awesome. This is it, where it all happens. Let’s do this. I know I can run way under 3:10 if I just hold back on Alii drive. The Eutopia’s are awesome. I hear someone in T2 say its 126 degrees outside. Makes total sense, considering what I felt out there.
Water, ice, coke. Repeat. Focus. Form. Hold back. Whatever you do, just hold back till 21km. Bladder bursting, stop for the official world record pee at 3 miles. Now that feels better than I expected. Let’s get back into this and crush it. Heart rate is 150, running 4:10 per km. Legs feel amazing. Aid stations going perfectly. Wow, already at the old church. Turn around and head back. Good job! So thirsty.
The way back is easy and feels great. Easy now, control. Hold back. Slow it down to 4:20 per km so you can smash the Queen K, I tell myself.
Walk/jog up Palani, quick, little feet. Up onto the highway and let’s do this downhill thing. At 18km my stomach drops and I am searching for good news, but it’s nowhere to be found. It’s not a cramp, this is serious. You are in white shorts Raoul, there is no hiding anything. Toilet stop. Stomach explodes. Its ok, won’t happen again. Get back out and onto pace. Cramps. Shit. Nausea. This is not good.
Toilet stop, holding back nausea. Run. Repeat.
Energy Lab. It’s hot hot hot. Cramps are excruciating. Feeling dizzy. Come on! Just one foot in front of the other. It’s becoming an aid station to aid station run with slow walking through the aid stations. Out the lab and back to town. You can do this. Come on.
Run. Feeling better. Back to 4:30 per km between aid stations, but the aid stations are slow and I let the cramps go. The acoustics coming out my rear are awful and all I can offer is apologies to other athletes. 2 more hills Raoul, you are running well, despite the odds. Let’s finish this.
One more hill. Come on. Hold it together. The pain will stop when you hit the line.
Really now? What the hell is this? How are my toes so freaking sore all of a sudden? Walking down the fun downhill? Really? It makes me smile. I high five some people. They think I am crazy to be walking, but I cannot explain how sore my big toes are. Damn wet socks. 1 mile to go. The pain is unreal until I hit 200m to go. This time, I am not going to care about the extra minutes. I high five people, cheer with the crowd. Hug a fellow competitor. I walk when I get to the carpet.
There is no finish line. Just an ellipsis for a release before life continues. I close my eyes, raise my hands and breathe. It’s quiet, there is no noise and I cannot hear people or music. The moment feels like forever, but it’s maybe a second. Release. No pain, no feeling, no tears this time. It’s a beautiful, simple moment. Just a pause, but it’s earned.
Kona is amazing, the place that inspires beyond what can be explained. I am epically grateful for the opportunity to compete here. Thank you to all the kind people who support me, send me messages and wishes of going well. I believe I had the form. That will come in another post. For now, times don’t matter and this is all about the moment.
This is the place where mistakes are magnified, but where pushing through collectively rewards greater on an emotional scale than any other race. I could analyze about penalties, better stomachs and what could have been, but really, I have no regrets.
I hope you enjoyed that. I could never give it the full meaning. That is why I write, because I hope to inspire you to try this out. To live it through your eyes. Thank you for listening.