Aloha, Crosswinds: My 2012 Honu 70.3 Race Report

So you’re aware that Hawaii was crazy windy and that after my race I almost fainted on Linsey Corbin, but you don’t know how the actual half Ironman went because I haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. My bad–juggling a new job and Ironman Canada training ramp up has been a bit crazy and I haven’t had a chance to blog much lately. But enough with the excuses, I’ve got posts to write and they’ll spill out of my sun-baked brain and onto a keyboard sooner or later. Here’s how it all went down…

The 2012 Lance Armstrong Ironman Lance Honu 70.3, Sponsored by Livestrong

Oh, was this the race that Lance Armstrong was at? They made such little fuss about him that I barely knew he was there. (I’m kidding–Ironman totally and unabashedly gargled his ball.)

Anyway, the morning of the race I woke up, showered, sunscreened, choked down breakfast, gathered my bottles and gear, and hopped in the van with my housemates to head to the race start. I got to transition and went through the standard ordeal:

  • Pumped up my tires
  • Checked my bike computer
  • Arranged my bottles and fuel
  • Used the portapotty
  • Slathered on more obscene amounts of sunscreen
  • Lubed up my nethers

I went down to the beach and got body-marked. This race likes to use fancy stamps for your numbers to make athletes feel as if they’re at the World Championships despite only having to do half the distance. I had a really smudgy stamp and a volunteer captain came up and scolded the person who was helping me for using an inferior stamp on my glorious arm canvas. She spent a few minutes painstakingly cleaning up the ink smears around my numbers, and when she finished I promptly returned to transition and coated myself with another layer of sunscreen. (I wasn’t about to get Cancun’d again so I sacrificed number readability for not getting skin cancer.)

Greasy me and a stoic Jas posing in transition (the punch to the crotch was incidental).

Jas and I wandered around, avoiding Lance’s entourage and the surrounding crowd of gawkers, in an effort to find his parents so we could hand them our pre-race gear bags to hold onto. We eventually found them on the beach at the swim start, so we dropped off our stuff and headed into the ocean to get warmed up. Jason made it in fine but I only waded in a few feet before a big-ass wave knocked me down. I popped up, sputtering, and tried again, but the waves were all “Haha, no” and bitch-slapped me back down again. At this point I thought, “Screw it, swim warm ups are overrated anyway” and headed back onto the beach. Jason emerged after a couple minutes and asked why I was covered in sand. I explained that the ocean was not being kind to me and he started laughing. It was a great send-off from my supportive boyfriend.

Swim Summary

I found my slow and steady Lane 7 teammates and stood with them to wait for the race to start. In previous years the pros and amateurs all started at the same time, but since Lance Armstrong was gracing us with his presence this year, the pros were allowed to start three minutes before us peons. They took off while I stared at the buoys, confused by how the course had been set up. It looked roughly like this:

Weirdly gapped swim buoys are not ideal.

We had to start at the first buoy and take a long, diagonal path to a buoy in the upper left area, which meant a lot of swimming without seeing anything for a while. Then we would swim to the second buoy and turn right. From there, we’d swim parallel to the shore for a long time before cutting back towards the beach and then heading over to the final buoy near the swim exit. The long parallel stretch seemed pretty buoy-lite and I wondered why the hell they were spaced out so wonkily. (Later I’d find out that two of the buoys on that side had drifted away overnight, which made sighting nearly impossible. Also, apparently there was a small craft advisory issued during the swim because winds had kicked up to 33 knots. Yet there I was swimming through the churn like a chump. The crap I do for this sport…)

The gun went off and I headed in the general direction of the first buoy, hoping I’d eventually emerge within half a mile of it since it was such a long, stupid stretch to swim without proper course marking. When I made it to the first buoy, all hell broke loose since there was a crapton of congestion between the first and second buoys (which were spaced like four feet apart, making for a ridiculously tight turn).

By the way, what is it about triathlon swims (mass starts and Ironman distance in particular) that makes someone go from this:

Random guy at the bank: “After you, ma’am!” *holds door open for you*

To this:

Random guy during the swim portion of a triathlon: “I’mma punch a woman in the face today!”

I honestly think triathlon swims bring about the absolute worst in humanity–it’s like your token zombie apocalypse movie where you realize the real threat is the survivors, not the horde of undead who want to munch your nose off. You get clawed at, whacked in the face, booted in the ribs–hell, Jason got pantsed, for crying out loud. Mass swims are no bueno.

So anyway, amid the chaos something highly unusual and somewhat amusing happened: the congestion between Buoy #1 and Buoy #2 was so ridiculous that most of the athletes in the group I was with had to pop up and were bobbing up and down, stuck, as if they were all patiently waiting for an elevator to arrive. It was kind of hilarious–one minute you’re swimming frantically and the next you’re jammed upright next to a bunch of swim cap-clad heads waiting for the area to clear out. I half-expected to hear “Girl from Ipanema” start playing, elevator music-style.

Eventually I slogged my way around Buoy #2 and blindly swam towards what I figured had to be the next buoy. I couldn’t see a damn thing except for the scaly foot cheese of the dude in front of me, and the waves had started to pick up and make things really, really choppy. At this point my instincts switched from “I need to have a good swim split” to “Uh, I need to survive this goddamn swim.” I went on and on and on, wondering if I was drifting out to sea or if I’d somehow emerge in freakin’ Maui, when finally I came across a red buoy. I thought, “Alright, I have this one, then the turn after that, then the final red one before I cut back in,” but when I got to the buoy all I saw after that was the final yellow one near the swim exit. I swear that somehow I ended up swimming to about three buoys total instead of the five that marked the course. I have no idea how this happened–I must have found the Mario warp whistle or something, but I never saw those other two buoys on the back stretch.

Fairly accurate depiction of my swim route

I finally managed to drag my ass out of the water. Not knowing exactly where the timing mat was, I didn’t entirely know what my swim split was, but I saw it started with a “4” and was happy considering how rough and ridiculous that swim was. It was easily the most full-contact swim I’d done–if I had done that swim my first year of racing, it would have freaked me the eff out. (Thankfully, I’ve gotten somewhat used to the crowds and get less distraught during the swim segment nowadays.)

Swim time: 47:15. Eh, not great, but I survived so yaay.

T1

Transition was kind of long since you had to run up from the beach up a hilly path to the parking lot. It was a big race so I had to run a while to get to my spot, but once I got to my bike things were pretty uneventful and I made it out in a decent time relative to the field.

Rushing out of transition in my sperm helmet

T1 time: 3:55. Onto the bike!

Bike Summary

Race officials made us start outside of transition right before a short, steep hill, so volunteers tried to run behind us and give us a boost by pushing our bikes to get us going. Unfortunately, there were a lot of athletes congested at the mount line, so I had a volunteer behind me trying to push me into a head start while I was simultaneously swerving to avoid ramming into other cyclists. It was a little cluster-sucky but I managed to get out in one piece.

Early on in the bike portion, before the winds got ugly

I made it to the main highway and the turnaround point before the crosswinds started to pick up. On the way out they blew in from the right, so I resorted to riding on the road at a ridiculous angle and kept my effort somewhat conservative, following Coach T’s instructions to pace myself until I turned around at Hawi, at which point I could go harder back to transition. The climb up to Hawi wasn’t too bad except for the fact that I got pelted with rain, which made me laugh pretty hard because of all the conditions I thought I’d face during the bike (ridiculous crosswinds, headwinds, searing heat), rain never once crossed my mind.

Once I got to the turnaround, I picked up the pace and started passing people. I’d scream “ON YOUR LEFTTTTT!!!!” at the top of my lungs because so many people were riding further to the left of the road due to the winds and I was worried about getting taken out by a cyclist. Thankfully, I made it down Hawi in one piece and got back onto the Queen K. Unfortunately, the crosswinds at that point were getting pretty damn scary, as they were now blowing in from the left. I’d be right on the yellow line in the middle of the highway and a gust of wind would blow me to within a couple inches of the gravelly ditch. These winds were kind of funny at first but by this point I was over them and wanted to make it off my bike in one piece.

Eventually, I made it back into the Mauna Lani area, which become a “no passing zone,” so I spun behind a couple of athletes and followed them into transition. I was more relieved I didn’t crash or get blown off my bike than worried about my actual split.

Bike time: 2:59:42. Woo hoo, I squeaked in at under 3 hours. I thought it was a decent bike split considering how scary the winds got (the crosswinds didn’t slow me down so much as scared the ever-loving shit out of me, so I was a bit more cautious and conservative than usual).

T2

T2 was super annoying–since we athletes hadn’t been able to see how the area was set up before race day, we were all blind to its schematics when we biked in. I followed the instructions of a volunteer who pointed out the general vicinity of where I should rack my bike and slowly made my way down the narrow grassy aisle trying to find my spot. The transition border was right up on the row I was in, so I very obnoxiously got stuck behind some chick in front of me who found her spot and decided to take up the entire row to rack her bike and start fussing with her run stuff. I squeezed around her and made it to my area, trying to be quick so that I could get out of this stupidly laid out prison as soon as possible.

T2 time: 2:24. Not as fast as I’d liked–my unfamiliarity with the transition area coupled with getting stuck behind The Human Wall slowed me down considerably.

Run Summary

All week I had been expecting the run to be hot, humid, and stifling, but since the winds were Maxell commercial-strong, I managed to plod along at a reasonably strong pace without melting my ladyballs off. As soon as I started the run, my race number ripped off my belt on one side, forcing me to run with a dangling piece of paper hitting my thigh for 13 miles and to hear “Hey, your race number’s gonna fall off” from every athlete I passed.┬áThe headwinds really picked up on the run to a ridiculous extent, and sometimes I felt like I was running on a treadmill making no progress whatsoever, but then I’d turn a corner and get a nice boost from the gusts at my back so I guess it evened out.

My strategy for battling the heat (it was still mid-80’s and humid, even though the wind cooled us down somewhat) involved a sponge on the back of my neck (not as glorious as the Costa Rica sponges, but few things in life are), the tried-and-true ice down the front of my shirt, and an occasional cup of water or Gatorade (mostly water). The ice has been a great game plan for me on runs–I can shove some down my minimal cleavage and hold some in each hand, which helps keep me cool. The cleavage-in-the-bra trick works too when I’m between aid stations and need a little pick me up–I just dig a piece of ice out and pop it in my mouth. (Yes, it’s gross, but I’m covered in gels, snot, sweat, salt, and dirt at this point so what’s a little boob ice added to the equation?)

I wasn’t really impressed with the run course itself–I kept hearing how great and beautiful it is, but honestly, most of it is either on a golf course or next to a golf course. There was a lot of running on the grass and super short but steep golf cart paths. The worst stretch was this desolate out and back at around mile 10, right when the winds kicked up really bad and blew grit and crap in your face. Despite the very “meh” course, I felt pretty strong and happy as I neared the finish.

A blurry photo of me approaching the finish

Run time: 1:52:33. My best run to date! Surprisingly enough, I ran better relative to my age group than my bike split, which isn’t typically the case. I was really happy to have run so well (for me, anyway). Next up, sub-1:50 off the bike!

Total race time: 5:45:49. A few minutes slower than Costa Rica, but this course was harder so I was happy. I also took 9th in my age group, which was pretty good given the size and competitiveness of the field. Teresa encouraged me to stick around for the awards ceremony to see if I could get a rolldown spot for the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, but there was only one spot and the girl who took 2nd in my age group snatched it up (1st place girl took the Kona spot, obviously). Oh well, maybe someday I’ll be able to get my half-Asian ass to Vegas…with a generous rolldown.

Overall I felt as if I had a pretty good race. I stayed relatively calm during the chaotic swim, battled the crazy crosswinds on the bike, and had a pretty good run. It felt like good training for Ironman Canada and helped me get mentally tougher and better prepared for rough conditions.

Oh, and if you’re wanting a status update on my “seven-layer dip” of skin colors, as Jas so amusingly put it, here’s how my back looked after the race:

Shades upon shades upon shades, aka Tanception

Racing in warm, sunny Oregon for Rev 3 and doing long training rides outside has made me even more ridiculously-hued. I’ve gotten pretty sick of people pointing out the number markings on my arms and legs or my tri short tan as if I wasn’t aware of them. THANKS BUDDY, I CLEARLY DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO MY OWN BODY.

All in all, I wouldn’t mind racing Honu again (though the Lance Armstrong geekfest this year was kind of annoying)–it was fun being in Hawaii and the race itself is a good test of mental toughness since conditions are so unpredictable. I just need to find a really good sunscreen and avoid passing out in hotel restaurant bathrooms next time.

6 Responses to “ “Aloha, Crosswinds: My 2012 Honu 70.3 Race Report”

  1. Rachel says:

    Great job! I love following your blog, and enjoyed reading your race report.

  2. Theia says:

    Congrats! Great time for your half.

  3. We did St. Croix this year instead of Honu (both were a LanceFest). Nice work on the race! Heard conditions were a bit rough out there.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Had me laughing out loud a few times…..I was there to and can so relate. Funny, Funny stuff.

Leave a Reply to Ingrid Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *