The plan for the bike was to “take it easy” on the way up to Hawi and save some for the way back. I was really focusing on not getting caught up in the excitement at the beginning part of the bike during the out and back through town. It was really crowded and the goal was just to stay clear of the other competitors. As far as nutrition goes it’s important to get some calories in early, to replace those lost on the swim and while you’re still relatively “fresh”. I was drinking some of my Gu and my stomach wasn’t feeling great. I kind of figured I had too much salt water or something so I drank some water and figured it’d get better. I headed out of town on the Queen K, trying to take it easy and get things working right. I tried some more Gu but it didn’t sit well. As I went by the first aid station my GI system wasn’t happy and I figured something needed to be done. As I rolled up to the second aid station I headed toward the porta potty and after a two minute delay I was back on my bike feeling much better. Guess in some cases the 4th time is the charm.
After a few more miles of getting things settled in I got some calories on board and decided I needed to pick it up a bit to make up for lost time. I just turned up the dial a tad and slowly started working my way back up. Since it was still early it wasn’t very hot and the winds were okay. I continued to keep it going at a good pace, not working to hard and keeping my breathing easy. The course works its way north and has a few gradual inclines until you reach the town of Kawaihae where it course get’s hillier and windier as you approach Hawi.
I was waiting for the pros to come back toward us and I finally saw the lead car crest a hill ahead. As they approached I saw a couple more vehicles, a helicopter, a motorcycle and two athletes. As they rode by me I recognized Chris Lieto and I thought Normann Stadler (turns out it was not him but a different German athlete). They were flying. This was the coolest part of the day and an image I won’t soon forget. Imagine vehicle entourage, famous athletes crushing this bike section and a news helicopter sweeping in over the blue ocean. I got this huge smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off for several minutes. More pros flew by and I tried to identify some, especially looking for Andy Potts, my favorite pro. Most were moving to fast for me to identify.
This section of the course had more hills and since I tend to fare better on hills compared to most other triathletes I passed a lot of people on this section. The approach to Hawi is a long gradual climb of maybe 5-6 miles directly into a headwind with some crosswinds. I managed to stay in my aerobars mostly and cruised up the hill and passed a ton of people. Sections were gusty but I handled my bike well. At mile 55 I checked my bike split and I was right around 2:30 which was on pace for a fast bike split for me. I definitely felt the effort level kick up a bit but I wasn’t breathing really hard and I knew I could have a good rest on the downhill portion out of Hawi. The turnaround seemed to take a while to come and when I finally made the turn it was time to fly, just like I had during my practice ride earlier that week. The wind was mostly at my back, the downhill was great and I was flying. I rarely pass people on downhills and a few people passed me on this section.
From here on in I was ready to put a little “time in the bank” as they say (but usually don’t recommend). I felt solid about my bike training this season and wanted to put out a good split rather than “saving” a ton for the run. Based on my past experiences I’d almost always been able to put in a solid run split and that was always “there” for me. I was counting on my run experience to get me through the marathon once again as you have to put some risk out to be rewarded at the finish. I had finished my 900 calorie bottle of GU and supplemented with the PowerGel and Perform drink on the course, trying to keep as calories on board.
Things had heated up as the day progressed and I was definitely feeling it on the way back. I had been dousing myself with water at the aid stations and was especially sure to do so at every opportunity on the way back. It’s a little strange, but cold water dripping down your exposed lower back and into your butt crack could be considered refreshing. About 10 miles out of Hawi I didn’t notice the winds as much, at least they weren’t blowing my around as much. In fact, on the return trip I didn’t notice a lot of wind except for a few sections, maybe it wasn’t as bad or maybe I was just super focused.
I felt really strong on the way back. I tried to stay aero as much as possible and passed a lot of people. I realized I didn’t really have to pee which wasn’t a good thing (I had peed during my “break” at the second aid station) so I tried to take on some more fluids. The momentum from passing so many people continued to carry me up until about mile 100, when I felt my energy level drop a bit. I still had a decent pace but I felt like I was working a little too hard and cut the effort a bit more and tried to “calorie up” and hydrate before the run. The last 12 miles seemed to go by very very slowly. It was the “I just want to get off this bike” feeling. I just tried to “cruise” in at an easier effort level and get geared up for the run.