The 25th Anniversary of the

HAWAII IRONMAN

Kailua-Kona, October 18, 2003

This was a long day at the office! I was fortunate to be selected as a lottery entrant to the 25th Anniversary of the Hawaii Ironman. This is the Super Bowl of Triathlons.

PRE-RACE: My father - a track coach for more than two decades - had never seen a triathlon. Considering my wife Jeanne was working game #1 of the World Series in New York on that same day, I took my dad to experience the Ironman and his first visit to Hawaii. The 5-days leading up to the race were very intimidating. I was in top-shape, yet when I arrived I felt like “I didn’t belong.” I was looking as the most conditioned athletes in the world. I had to get this out of my mind - knowing I didn’t come to Kona to win the Ironman - I came to experience it.

SWIM - 2.4 Miles

The cannon blasted at exactly 7am. I joined 1600 of my closest friends in the water. Surviving the initial 10-minutes was brutal. I did as much “dog-paddling” the first 500-yards as I did freestyle swimming. My goggles were knocked off my head several times. However, from 10-minutes on - it was the most enjoyable swim of my life. The ocean water is warm and soothing. I got into a “mental groove” enjoying the fact: I’m competing in the Hawaii Ironman! At the turnaround a mile out - you can still see the floor of the ocean and the fish. I was at 35minutes at the turnaround - optimistic I would set a personal best breaking 1:14. I then quickly realized - I will be swimming “into” the current on the way back. I didn’t get out of the water until 1:24 into the race. A mere 30 minutes off
the lead pack!

BIKE 112 Miles

After a quick “high 5” from my dad in the transition area, I was on my bike. The key to finishing an Ironman is staying within specific heart rate zones. I needed to be around 150bpm on the bike. Two miles in - I looked and saw I was at 170!!!! Yikes, I had got caught up in the excitement of all the screaming fans. I quickly settled down - and got into my zone. Cycling in Kona is like cycling on the moon. It’s 100 miles of lava fields. But we had a nice tailwind going out. But I hit a NIGHTMARE at 35-miles. I shifted too hard - and dropped my chain. I impatiently tried to fix it while I was still riding. When I pedaled hard - I bent the chain link! Suddenly, I was throwing out the Lord’s prayer - with every turn of my wheel. I rode this way for about 5-miles before “bike support” found me.

The guy fixed my bike in about 3-minutes! Yes, the Lord had answered my prayer - and I was back in the game! It’s an out-and-back course. When I made the turn to head home - with 38-miles to go - my race strategy changed.

Wind!  Nothing like 38-miles of heat blowing in your face - to set you up for the marathon. Six-hours and 24 minutes later, I was off my bike. (About 8 hours into the day) Ironic, when I had just 2-miles to go on my BIKE - the leader just passed 16-miles on the run!

RUN - 26.2 Miles - A Marathon

Running is my strength. But the Ironman is symbolic of life - it can throw you a lot of curves. I was mentally ready for running in the heat & humidity. But when I left the transition tent - I discovered - I forgot to put my carbohydrate powder in my water bottle! That’s what playing with a 1-year-old son the day before the race can do to you. Thus, I survived on only Gatorade - but it defiantly affected my endurance. The run course went right past our Condo. Seeing my son, my dad, and mother in law proved to be a huge “pick-me-up” at 3-miles. Although Trevor - 18 months of age - couldn’t understand why dad was running away from him. At 8-miles I hit a wall.

With aid stations every mile - I walked the 8th aid station. It was the best decision of the day. It enabled me to re-gain some strength and much-needed salt. At this time I was still thinking I could break 12-hours. However, as the heat & humidity progressed, I continued to slow down. You get to a point where math becomes difficult. I was only running 9-minute miles - but I was so fatigued - I was having a hard time adding and subtracting numbers!

Thus - I stopped looking at my watch. By the time I reached 19-miles, it was completely dark. Running on the Queen K highway in Kona was surreal. It’s prayer - and family and friends that pulled me through. It’s amazing how the people close to you in life might be hundreds or thousands of miles away - but you feel like their right there with you - surviving every dark step.

The final 800-yards were lined with screaming fans. For me - this was my Super Bowl. Floating on “cloud nine” I was giving everyone and anyone a “high five”. 12:31:30 later - the day was over! But the Memories will last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing the day with me!
 


I   FINISHED!!!

It took 11-hours, 37-minutes, and seven seconds, but I finished! On May 19th, 2001 at Camp Pendelton, I completed my first Ironman Triathlon. It was truly exhilarating and a memory I will cherish for a lifetime.

    

SWIM – 1,800 of my closest friend in the water – at the same time – this was a bar fight! My key here was to relax. While a triathlon is three events, the swim wasn’t much more than 1-hour of a day that would run more than 11-hours. As you can see from the picture, I’ve never been photogenic out of the water.

BIKE – The hills of Camp Pendelton proved to me as challenging as tying your shoe with one hand. 20-miles into this 112-mile beast, I got a flat tire! Losing 7-minutes to change it proved to be the first mental hurdle of the day. I thought – seize the moment. I can’t change the past – and deal with the present. They say the race starts at 80 miles on the bike. Now I know what they mean! 95 miles in, I was fatigued and ready to get off this thing. Six hours on a bike is worse than a trip to the dentist – Ok, not that bad! Those last 17 miles – nearly an hour into a head wind – set me up for an incredible test on the run.

    

RUN – With all due respect to my colleagues at CBS, this was the true survivor course. I was fine for the first couple of miles, but then, with every step I was crossing mental hurdles. I remember at 5-miles, I was spent – yet I still had 21 miles to run! Keeping hydrated was key – but I also used the positive support of family and friends at the race as fuel. Making the final turn for the last 100 yards was Euphoric. When I heard the PA announcer – Mike Riley – say my name, I jumped through the tape at the finish line.

CAF – In the process of finishing Ironman California, I raised over 4-thousand dollars for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Rudy Garcia-Tolson, the spokesman for the CAF, greeted me in the transition area. His 10-second "pep talk" helped carry me during the Marathon. I know someday, Rudy will compete in an Ironman – and I hope I’m there as support – to return the favor.