Monday, 10 October 2016

2016 Ironman World Championship Race Report

Swag from the Ironman World Championships

So honestly, going into the Ironman World Championship, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my body. I hadn't raced an Ironman in two years. As this would be my fourth time racing in Kona, I had a very good understanding of the course, but the unknown factor is always the weather. I didn’t really have any goals going into the race. I really just wanted to have a great race and enjoy racing in Kona. In the back of my mind I wanted a sub 9:30 performance and a top 20 in my age group. And of course I was hoping for another Military Division win.

Anyways, race morning I was awake shortly before four and had my usual pre-race breakfast: coffee, bagel with jam, a couple eggs, and a glass of orange juice. We headed into Kailua-Kona at about 0445 and then walked down to athlete check-in. I said my goodbyes to my amazing wife and then passed through security and then body marking. After that process was done I went to my bike, put my PhD nDurance bottles on my bike, pumped up my tires, and started my Garmin Edge 810. I’ve been using the PhD products this year and have found they work extremely well (FYI – the name will be changing to First to Cross – F2C). For the bike I was planning on 1000 Calories of nDurance, 500mL of Red Bull (at special needs), 2 Bonk Breaker Bars, 3-5 Gu Gels, and 10-12 Salt Pills.

Male Amateur Athletes all lined up for the swim start!

After the bike was all set I had almost an hour to wait before the start. I ran into Christopher Loose and Ivan O’Gorman in transition. At around 0625 I finished putting on my tri-suit and swim skin, checked my pre-swim bag in, and then headed over to the pier to watch the pro men’s start. Then I lined up with the AG men and waited to enter the water. We were able to get in the water as soon as the women pro had started. We had to wait in the water about twenty minutes before we got our time to start. I seeded myself about 5m right of the Roka inflatable and about 5 rows backs. Once the cannon went at 0655 we, the age group men, were off. The initial minute or two of the start was quite congested but things started to spread out pretty quickly. I managed to get kicked in the face, punched in the head, and scraped on the left hand in the course of the swim but all the contact seemed to be accidental. 
Male Amateur start...let the chaos begin.

I settled into a smooth but strong effort on the swim out to the turn around. I was in and out of drafts for most of the swim but once we made the turn around I found a set of feet and stayed on them for the next 30 minutes. I felt strong throughout the swim and continued to remind myself to Swim Strong. I was very happy to see 1:07:XX on my watch as I exited the swim. A new PB for the swim in Kona (which is always a non-wetsuit swim and generally slow).

I quickly worked my way through transition and headed out onto the bike. The bike was quite congested for the opening loop, especially going up Kuakini Hwy. Once we were out on the Queen K things started to open up a little, but it seemed to be more congested than I could remember. It wasn’t so much congested as it was just a steady stream of people. I looked down at my Garmin Edge 820 at one point and realized I had biked the opening loop at ~210W and 230W NP. I knew this was a little higher than I wanted so reminded myself to settle into my effort and relax. I planned to Bike Hard, but I knew I needed to also Bike SMART. I was passing a lot of people, but was getting frustrated that people weren’t dropping back once they were passed. I just ignored what was happening behind me and settled into my effort. The few times I was passed I made sure that I would soft pedal and drop back out of the draft zone, only to be more frustrated by the pace line that would then pass me. As we got closer to Mauna Lani, the headwinds really started to pick-up and a massive draft pack started to form. I got pretty ticked off at this point and backed off the effort for a couple minutes to let the huge pack of probably thirty people pass me. I rode legally until I saw an opportunity as we approached the next aid station to put the hammer down and passed the pack of drafters. Thankfully a few of the athletes were likewise sick of the blatant drafting and followed suit. 

The bulk of the athletes couldn’t hold the effort and/or bridge the gaps so that was the end of that stupid drafting pack or at least the end that I saw of it. The bike is supposed to be an individual effort, follow the rules or go race another sport. Some people were clearly trying to ride legally and follow the rules while other athletes were deliberately not following the rules to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, the marshals can only enforce what they see. There were marshals out there and there were some penalties being given out, but unfortunately the marshals aren't everywhere.

The ride up to Hawi was relatively uneventful though we had a fairly strong wind on the way up and of course a screaming tailwind/crosswind on the descent. On the return trip on the Queen K we had a cross wind for most of the return leg, though with about 30km left in the ride we had a fairly strong headwind. I felt strong throughout the ride and continued to think “Ride Hard”. I felt like my nutrition plan was perfect. I was happy to get off the bike knowing I had biked five hours flat. Power 202W Avg, 212W NP, VI 1.05. 
Heading back into town after the turn around on Ali'i (photo credit Barry Green)
And onto the run. My plan was to run what felt easy on the out and back on Ali’i and then if I felt good, to start pushing a little on the Queen K. The support along Ali’i Drive was amazing. My legs felt a little sluggish, but I was really struggling with the humidity. I knew I wasn’t holding 4:15/km pace so just told myself to ignore my pace and go by effort. On the return leg, I had to start walking the aid stations to get ice down my back and my stomach to try and get my core temperature down. I knew the run was going to be a struggle, but I was going to finish and I was optimistic that I could set a new PB. The run up Palani Dr was hard, very hard, and I could feel the additional effort was really driving my core temperature up. I knew the only way to get through the marathon was going to be by staying wet and by keeping ice on me. So at every aid station I would walk, take some water, coke or Red Bull, and then drench myself in water and put ice down by back and front. As I was heading out on the Queen K I saw Tony O’Keefe on a motorbike as he was the lead bike for the Men’s Professional field. He offered words of encouragement.  I was happy to see Mike Brown and Jeff Symmonds a little further out on the Queen K. 

Heading up Ali'i to the finish!
The climb out of the Energy Lab was equally trying to the climb up Palani. However, once I was back on the Queen K I started to feel a lot stronger. I was happy to complete the final climb up the Queen K to Palani and then opened the gas as I descended to Kuakini Hwy and the final stretch. As I rounded the corner and headed down Ali’I drive, there were Steven and Linda Banks cheering for me and shortly thereafter was my amazing wife handing me the Canadian Flag so I could run down the finishing shoot with it. Final run time 3:06. It was definitely not the run I had hoped for, but I can't complain.

Final Time 9:21:27. A new Kona PB by almost nine minutes. 101st Overall, 57th Age Grouper, 12th M30-34, 2nd Canadian Amateur, and unfortunately only 3rd in the Military Division. 

No additional hardware this year, but this was by far my best overall performance in Kona! 
The best Sherpa and my #1 fan at the Athletes' Celebration Dinner! Thanks babes!

Stuffing my face and drinking Red Bull at the Athletes' Celebration Dinner!


  1. Joel, congrats on an incredible performance and a PB at Kona!

  2. Joel, congrats on an incredible performance and a PB at Kona!