Just back from the Big Island of Hawaii, wanted to give a big thanks to all who gave support in completing the "most grueling 1-day endurance event in the world".
It was an incredible day of racing in some of the harshest conditions, but was able to soak it all in and enjoy (almost!) every minute of it, with Heather and all three kids on-site as support crew. Many have asked about the race, so here is a brief insider’s recap of the race in Kona:
Prior to start of race, all competitors were required to weigh in, and I tipped scale at 168 pounds and in best shape of life...
Swim: Favorite part of the race, crystal clear visibility in 20-80 feet deep water, multi-colored coral and bright schools of fish entire 2.4-mile out-and-back course in the Pacific Ocean. NBC helicopters buzzed overhead, while scuba divers with cameras were positioned on the ocean floor looking up filming.
Water temps near 80 degrees, so no wetsuit; mild ocean swells caused all swimmers to rise and fall rhythmically. Began the day by treading water with 1900+ others at 640am to be in position - just to the left of the floating Ford SUV - for the 7am deep-water start.
After the canon blast, made it to the 1.2 mile turnaround at sailboat in 31 minutes, but took 45 minutes to return against mild current- felt like swimming against a water-treadmill. Swallowed at least 3 gulps of salt water unfortunately, which would come into play later (see Run info!).
Bike: Had a fast and fun bike ride through lava fields on the Queen K Highway. Cycling up to turnaround in Hawi, got to see the pros screaming downhill on way back to Kona, Lieto was in 1st, but when I saw Crowie surprisingly not far back in 1st chase group, knew he would be Champion because of his fast run- he did win for the 3rd time and broke the course-record.
Julie Dibbens was 1st female on bike but knew she could not hold it on run; Chrissie Wellington erased a 22+minute-deficit on marathon to win her 4th Kona. Yes, the legendary 40-60 mph winds were as bad and even worse than anticipated... get this, on the road to Hawi, I put out a ton of power to just maintain 11-13mph for 4-5 miles before the turnaround, then on the way back down, hit and sustained 48+ mph! Total elevation gain for the 112-mile bike was 5200+ feet.
Cross/headwinds were maddening on final 30+ miles, just tried to hold speed around 19-20mph. Mantra on bike was to finish strong with a 20 mph average and "save energy to setup the run". Stuck to my race-tested nutrition/hydration plan on bike, although could tell near end of bike something was not feeling right.
I did supplement by drinking some on-course Ironman Perform drink; other athletes afterward told me they got sick from drinking this stuff- not sure if this caused any later effects? Got out of 2nd transition exactly at planned pace; now, a 4-hour marathon was all that was needed for a sub-11 hour finish.
Run: Usually start marathon off feeling good with a few 8-830 min miles, but knew immediately this day was going to be a different... Faced with a Hawaii-heat that hit like a blast furnace - with fumes radiating off the black asphalt and lava fields - serious issues on the run started immediately (i.e., severe muscle cramping, blurred vision, nausea/throwing up every other mile, and an inability to ingest any nutrition/water) and this continued for the rest of the race.
Paused just after mile 1 to get a few pics with support crew Heather and our 3 kids Madalyn, Matthew, and Melody, and warned Heather that it was going to be a long, long day with a late finish- still 25 miles to go.
Time to "Embrace the Suck" as Macca (last year's Kona Champion) had signed and written on my race bib # a few days before the race - ironically, Macca dropped out of his 1st Kona due to similar issues. At 10 miles, on the steep climb up Palani Road, I was forced to jog, then walk, then sit, then throw up and then finally just wait 20+ minutes until I could massage severe muscle cramps in legs, enough to start walking and moving again.
At this point, the thought of not finishing and/or dropping out became real. The decision was made to forget the time-average on the run and to just salvage the day by at least crossing the finish line on Ali'i Drive. Funny thing I never noticed before; seems the slower you go, the louder people cheer!
The final several hundred meters of the run to the finish on Ali'i Drive is sacred ground, and despite a most-challenging marathon, an incredible energy rush supplied the final burst to propel down the finisher’s chute with the crowds cheering, the Jumbotron showed the finish line approaching, and Mike Riley's voice broadcast over the speakers shouting, "Matt Werd from Lakeland, Florida, You are an Ironman!"
Post-race: The surge of adrenaline continued briefly, but I was severely dehydrated and desperately needed copious amounts of fluids. When I checked in at the medical tent, I was weighed and compared to my pre-race weight, and astoundingly, my weight was now 153 pounds; so, I had lost 15 pounds since the start of the day.
The tent was overflowing with other athletes in similar condition, all hooked up to IVs, and I found out that many of the professionals had actually dropped out and did not even finish- small consolation. After receiving three 1-liter IV bags of Intravenous Saline Fluid, a shot of Phenergan and Tigan for nausea, the day was complete with the Hawaii Ironman Finisher Medal!
Despite my finish time far from what was anticipated from my previous PR of 10 1/2 hours, it was an incredible experience to be a participant.