sexta-feira, 6 de julho de 2007

Road to Kona 2008

À alguns meses atrás escrevi:

The longest weekend…before the longest race!

IM Hawaii 2006 was my first IM ever. After qualifying at the Eagleman 70.3, I was hoping to enjoy the whole experience and finish with a good result. My main target goal was to finish under 10 hours, secretly I had the expectation I would be able to finish around 9h35m…

After a long preparation, the last thing I wished was to spend more time on airports and flights than needed.

For the very first time I managed to pack everything in advance, avoiding the typical last minute rush. Time for a short nap, trying to adjust to Hawaiian time zone even before leave Portugal, and it was time to be off to the airport.

Everything looked perfect; I had arranged to meet with the rest of the Portuguese fellows at the airport and surprisingly we all managed to get there on time. Even more surprisingly, we were first in line for check-in. At the time, even a small problem with the check-in from LA to Kona, wasn’t a big deal at all in such a long trip.

Once in LA, after twenty hours spent in airports and flights, we found weird that the screens indicated that our flight had been cancelled. Some questions later, we found the reason; a big earthquake had hit Hawaii early that morning. As a result, all flights to and from the islands had been cancelled and we ended up stuck there.

To make things even worse, by then, the best forecast to get to Kona was Thursday, four days latter than scheduled. Some (lots…) of phone calls later we managed to book an earlier flight, Tuesday morning to start, Monday morning (with two stops) a few minutes later, and finally we got some openings on the direct flight on Monday afternoon.

Things were improving, and I finally managed to get to Kona, a day later and under a heavy rain, but safe and sound.

The real experience was about to begin, I was finally ready to enjoy every minute of it.

Still felling the effect of the long trip, the first days were hard, but as time went by I started to feel a bit more relaxed and ready for the race.

On the race morning everything went according to plan, I woke up before the clock, had the planned breakfast and went out to the pier for the last arrangements.

To be honest, during the entire week and even before, I never felt really nervous, I was more anxious and wondering what could happen in such a long day. All this changed as soon as I entered the water to warm-up; by the time the USA national anthem started I was feeling odd. Lots of good and bad memories come thru my mind. I guess I relived my entire life in just a few seconds. This is a moment that I will never forget. Even today, every time I think about it, it still causes me some spine-chilling.

The cannon blast put an end to this strange experience.

The swimming was a bit weird, I started on the left side, trying to avoid the crowd and caught some feet right from the beginning. The pace was not too hard, but I had decided not to take any chances until the turnaround. On the turnaround my split was 31 minutes and few seconds. I just thought to myself, great I’m on target!! The way back looked like “a never ending swim”. I ended up getting out of the water slightly over 1h11m. That was a bit later than planned, but a long day was still ahead.

Once on the bike, I was determined to make up some of that lost time, even though I was riding by feeling, as my HRM didn’t worked at all since the swim start. Looking back, I now believe I did push too hard coming back from Hawi, and I suffered a bit on the last 20 miles. The 5h07m bike split was by far better than I had predicted. But by then I was starting to feel some GI problems.

Finally I got to the run, this is usual my strongest discipline, and in my mind I believed I could run around 3h05m. The first miles went fast and I kept the right pace, but as soon as I got to mile 4 my stomach started to cramp hard. No more did I manage to meet my pace as I also had to “stop” 7 times before finish the long, long, 26.2 miles. The 3h32m run split ended the 9h59m race day.

Nevertheless this was an incredible experience, and even though at the end I had the feeling of an “unfinished business”. Quoting what someone told me on the flight to Kona, about his previous experience there, “this will not be my last race day in Kona”.
Next year I will not be racing IM, I will focus on short course events and some halfs. Sure I will race in Kona again, maybe in 2008 I will come back.

To those who helped me during this long journey, you all know who you are, I want to tell you I’m really thankful. In addition I will not finish without a special mention to Cathy, Shawn, Tracy, Sérgio and Paulo for all the help and support on race week, and of course to my coach, Hélder, for the support during the season.

O caminho começou ontem, primeira paragem 13 de Abril em Tempe, Arizona...o resto a seu tempo...

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