||Half - Ironman
“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain” Hawaii is true and honest, it's our human technology that filters the reality of this magnificent island. Before anyone even sets foot on the island they view it's beauty from inside our climate controlled winged metal birds. Eye candy, the saturated colors mesmerize us and make our minds swim. Yet when you exit that bubble you are met with the air that has a physical weight to it and you have now stepped into it's realm. The idea and reality instantly separate. "work it, work it, work it". Who is saying that? My mind just surfacing from a dream about my aunt redesigning her home, natures alarm clock in the form of a bird who sang a motivational phrase woke me. Eyes open, I am here, I am here to race Hawaii 70.3 ok. I did a systems check while I watched the ceiling fan twirl the air. Energy level is ok, I feel the blood surge as I bring the race into my head. Muscles; head and shoulders check, chest and arms feeling good, stomach well could have used less beer and pizza last week, hips and butt in place and ready to kick some, hammies and quads ready, calfskin and shins... Houston we have a problem. I tense my big. Toe up towards my head and feel the tightness causing me to flashback to me of a month ago laying down at the doctors office as he xrayed my lower right leg. I could have sworn I had broken a bone or at least a fracture, it felt like some had taken a hammer to my shin. Before the doctor could even get to the xrays I of course had inspected the glowing film, "no Noah there is nothing broken " I heard the professional tell me. Ok so what do I do? Rest? No running? That isn't really gonna work doctor. My eyes refocus back to the ceiling fan thrusting me back to reality,and the skinny on my shinny is that it still hurts even with taking 2 weeks off from running. I'm here to do the race but I have never been so unsure of even being able to complete this race. Have fun, that's my refocus. Goals change and if there is anywhere which teaches you to go with the flow it's Hawaii.
The fairmont orchid hotel, ironman base camp, was littered with manic people swaddled in pre war gear masked as athletic attire. I was ready to be processed, assembled and uploaded into the Hawaii 70.3 system. 3pm the day before the race mass is called and we are ready to take communion, all rise and cheer the race. I settle in to my pew and run into local LA triathletes Scott Chaney and Jeff and Cheryll Ku. As all the directors disseminate the logistics a palpable energy is felt ebbing and flowing through the banquet hall. They explained the rules and regulations and the map of our future pain but concluded with the the wise words we don't know really what the island will give us tomorrow, maybe 3-5 feet waves, followed by fierce winds on the bike and blazing hot heat in the run. Sting and my stomach elevator just dropped a few floors. And must like that we go out into the world knowing and not knowing what lies ahead for us tomorrow. People from over 20 countries and different backgrounds here for different reasons but all are in it deep inside, we glance at each other and I can see it in the eyes. I know one thing for sure I have a team of support here in the island in the form of my trusty companion Clate and my fellow sidekick Shari. I also have a team of support from abroad and I know they have my back and I feel their love. The night before the race is a bit superstitious in the way that I must have pasta and be as comfortable as possible because as I consume my carbo load I mentally go inward. I run through the race in my head multiple times, visualization is something I learned as a child but I am still it sure of the root. Clare and Shari are talking about some options for road trips but I can't really hear them, it's like having the radio on in the background while you work. I insert "oh yeah that sounds fine" every once and awhile so they don't think I'm rude but they know me too well besides the glazed eyeballs they see kind of gives me away. I laid out all my armor and sustenance for the morning at hit the hay at 9:30. My alarm beats the birds today, 4:50 am but I didn't need much of a jolt. At least the time Change is in my favor. Geez do I have to pee one more time before we leave to the start? About to walk out the door Clate grabs me and tells me a phrase which was my mantra for the day "have fun today". Ok I am officially checking my ego at this door in Puako.
We drive in our rental mini van, yes we are that cool, to Hapuna beach the location of the start and the 1.2 ocean swim. Over the loud speaker the local tv caster announces we will be having 3-5 inch waves today, everyone feels brighter. I go to my station 1074 the number I am allocated for my bib. 1074 I don't feel it's lucky, it doesn't have the ring. Here I find my bike which I stationed on the slot yesterday and I add my transition bag which includes my sunglasses, bib/ race belt and socks. This race doesn't allow anything to be on the ground at the start if the race, something new to me. I place my transition bag hanging from the the aero bars, ok I feel good. Scott is placed near me and we exchange pre race chatter while Clate snaps some shots of us with a supposed " yeah here we go" caption. We then meander down to get branded with our predetermined numbers. Stamped and ready to go I leave the queue complete and ready to disembark. Mellow Hawaiian music is slipping out of speakers placed along the beach, yet the music is overwhelmed by the record breaking quantity of 1400 plus athletes converging on the water.
One last send off from Clate and Shari accompanied by final shots of me goggle faced. There is always that odd moment when I say goodbye to Clate, its as if I am about to teleport to another planet and will return some odd hours later a slightly changed man. The water is warm enough to outlaw wetsuits but cool enough to have my balls say "hello". I look back towards the shore and take a metaphoric gulp realizing all of us will be staring this race at once. Strategizing is fun and I get it from my dad. Case in point, let's find the best parking spot in the lot or ok let's make sure this Christmas tree is the best option. Also combine that with my moms sense of space and composition I am all game for this situation. Balls out on the start, it's the only way I dont get swallowed by the masses. Horn. What? Ok go so I push like crazy no time to think. The first buoy I am clear and no one has even bumped me, nice. I feel the inner poseidon and I follow the pack in front of me. I know I am meant to hold back a little so I am fine with where I am at as I approach the final buoy some 1.2 miles late I am exiting the water rushing forward. I look at the clock and it says 26 something.
Aaargh, I have yet to break the 26 minute mark. I run to my bike and through my sunglasses in and slid socks into my wet feet, not fun. Ok ready to roll and I think in the bak of my head maybe the shin splints wont even matter with a good swim and bike. I sit transition and clumsily get onto my bike pedaling onto the highway. At the moment I know I am in the the top 10 or so. I ride along the rode looking at the cyclists name listed on his bib, hmmm that's an odd name I think. As that thought finishes a new horrible and sick feeling makes my stomach drop. I quickly put my hand down to my waist where my race belt that shows my bib number and name would be only to solidify the fact I forget to put it on in transition. I feel gross.
Mind racing I know I have to go back to get it, I turn around and head back with many onlookers confused. Curse words littered the side of that highway. I still don't know how many minutes were waited but enough for me to recheck my goal "just have fun", fine. As I exit transition for the second time I am physically reminded of the loss by the quantity if riders I am now surrounded by. Ok Hawaii I will let it go. Upwards we all climb to towards the small town of Hawi above the majestic pacific below. She smiled upon us that day with only minor winds as we progressed. On the half way turn I feel happy and content with plenty of energy to burn but I knew my reality filled with the worst novice mistake done and shin splints ahead. Down and down we roll and it feels like we are flying, this is amazing. 56 miles later I slow to pass my bike and trade it in for my racing flats. In retrospect the photos due justice to my status at the time showcasing an upside-down smiley face as I place my first steps onto the run course. Yep the hammer is slamming into my shins on every step. I hear Clate say " take it slow and steady". Before mile marker #1 I have the internal mental debate about how i can bow out of this painful tread. But my lesson here was something I wrote in my journal in high school " you are stringer than you think ". Mile 3 still hurting, mile 6 ok almost half way but oh my god this hurts, mile 9 I am doubled with extreme shin pain combined with blazing hot sun draining my energy. Those of you who have down this course can confirm my agony felt in the last 3 miles, it's all guttural.The heat penetrates deeper than you can imagine. I am fully aware I am no longer protected by the air conditioned machines. Its in those miles I saw people loose control of their bodies even though their minds role them to keep going. Mind over matter has it's limits. I am suddenly back to the music and I see valhalla. Hawaii you didn't take me but you taught me. Complete, it's a word that is an oxymoron to me, something that explains the whole but doesn't explain the possibilities. My body shifts into primal state, I utter porty potty?
Pee and ice equals perfection for the split second. Icing my shins which felt betrayed, I see Scott who was helping out Jeff. Both were far finished in amazing times.
Me well I'll take the 26:14 swim,learn from the mistake of 2:51:50 bike with turn around and ill settle for the speed hobble 156:06.
I was happy I completed this mission and Hawaii is now treating me with respect by showing me the beauty she has all around her. Let me leave you with this, she is great to tango with but don't even think of cheating on her cuz she will cut you!