Holy shyt. That was INTENSE! Hands down...yesterday was the most difficult race I've ever been a part of. People talk about the heat, the winds, the lava...but until you are physically racing in it, you just don't get it 100%. So...here we go:
Pre-Race: I got up at 3:45am and jumped in the shower and had my usual pre race breakfast. I was in great spirits....a little nervous, but not too nervous. I was really excited to get the day started. We drove down to the start line around 4:40am. I got my bags checked in and headed over to my bike to get my tires pumped up and my nutrition all set. While I was getting body marked, the volunteer put one of my number 3's backwards...I took it as a sign of good luck! After getting done with my transition, I headed out to see Ana and walk back to the sea wall where the crew was hanging out. The crowds for the swim start were HUGE. It was such a cool atmosphere. After leaving them, I headed back to transition to wait until the start of the race. We heard the gun go off for the Pro's, and then we started filing in.
Swim: I got in the water at about 6:40am. I stood on the beach for a few minutes to take it all in. I had finally made it to the start of the Ironman World Championships. A sense of calm came over me as I dove in and headed out to the swim start about 100yds away. I got out to the start line and found a surfer to hang on his board for a little a bit. It was so amazing to be there. I treaded water after the surfer had so go and hold the start line. I looked around and soaked it all in. It was surreal.
Finally, it was time to get started! The cannon didn't go off for some reason, so Mike Riley just yelled "go, go, go!" And we were off! This was the 5th Ironman swim I've competed in...and the first 20 minutes was INSANE. I got pushed under the water several times....just when I thought I had a little space, a group...yes a group of swimmers would converge and hammer you. I figure I spent at least 2 minutes on the first leg of the swim just protecting myself. I didn't want get kicked or having something stupid happen in the water to jeopardize my day. I got to the turn around and things finally started to thin out. I really cherished the swim back into shore. I got in a great rhythm and was able to draft off of several swimmers all the way back in. With about 10 minutes to go, I could really start to feel the effects of 50min of swimming in the salt water. Kona's bay is VERY salty. My arms and neck were chaffed pretty badly. But, I expected this!
I reached the shore in just over 1hr 3min....I was very happy with the swim. The bay was choppy...the competition was fierce...but I managed to put together a very strong swim. Now it was time to get to the bike!
Bike: Coming out of transition was so much fun. TONS of fans and people cheering the first few miles. It felt like a track meet. I just remained calm and focused on my effort (watts) and not what everyone around me was doing. I knew the first 10mi through town would be fast...but I couldn't believe how fast EVERYONE was on the bike. I was getting passed like I was riding a granny bike with a banana seat! The turn down Palani hill was AMAZING. I think I hit 45mph and got to see my crew for the first time. It was such an amazing boost. After that, a 2mi climb and turnaround back into town...and then it was on to the Queen K and battling the lava fields!
The first 45 miles were FAST. We had a bit of a tail wind for the first bit and we were flying. There were HUGE packs of riders all over the place. I really try to stay out of them, so at times I had to coast and even brake to make sure I kept the gap. I give the course marshalls credit though, every time I passed a penalty tent there were no less than 25 guys/girls serving their drafting penalties. It wasn't until we made the turn at Hawi that the packs started to thin out (mile 60).
Ok, lets talk about the cross winds. There was a cross/headwind all the way up the 19mi to Hawi. It was blowing so hard...at times, I felt like I was biking in quick sand. I kept very steady up the climb and just tried to stay loose through the winds. Earlier in the week, Dan and I did this climb...but there was ZERO wind that day. All I could do was laugh....Dan would shyt himself if he knew how different these two days could be!
I got a huge boost of adrenaline about half way up the climb as the Pro's were flying down the other side....it was so AWESOME to see the lead timex car in the distance...helicopters flying overhead....unreal. I recognized most of the Pros...but where was MACCA? I guess he dropped out at mile 50.
I finally reached the top of Hawi and was looking forward to the decent. It was super FAST...I caught a really nice tailwind for the majority of it. I was really happy for this because I knew the rest of the bike was going to be challenging. On one of my Ironman DVD's, one off the Pro's said "when I make the turn at Hawi, I look out over the Ocean and if I see white caps, I know I'm in for a LONG ride home." Nothing could be more spot on. The white caps in the Ocean were ominous.
The last 35 miles was directly into a headwind with the cross winds smashing you at the side from time to time as well. It was about this time that the heat really CRANKED up too. Did I mention I was riding through a LAVA field! I did my best to stay in my zone....stick to my plan...I was passing many. But at the same time, my power was dropping a bit too. The heat and wind was starting to take it's tole on me. I'm a fairly strong biker, but all things considered, it is my weakest part of my Triathlon. So I just tried to keep positive and keep the pressure on the pedals.
I made it back to Kona in 5hrs and 35min...about 15 minutes slower than I thought I would bike today. But I was happy! I gave it my all out there. This is a World Championship for a reason....between the terrain, wind, and heat...it was the overall toughest bike course I've ridden. And, I held over 20mph for the 112miles. I'm proud of that.
It makes me even more proud today....there were rumblings yesterday that this was one of the toughest days on the bike in terms of conditions EVER. I was really excited to hear that. Kona gave me her best....and I made it through! I was standing in line this morning buying some finisher gear, the person next to me was a 19 time KONA FINISHER. He said that was the worst wind he has ever faced here. Crazy. It was absolutely relentless for the last 2.5 hours.
Run: The bike smashed me up pretty good. I have never felt that horrible getting off the bike before. My legs were wobbly and I was having a hard time running through transition. I actually had some thoughts on whether or not I was going to be able to run at all! With my swim and bike being a little slower than expected...the marathon turned into pride. I wasn't going to PR today...and that is OK! But I wanted to follow through on my one true goal...leave it out in the Lava fields. And I did just that.
The first mile of the run was one of the toughest I've ever run. My watch showed a 7:40 mile....so I was right on my pace despite the horrible feeling in my legs. I remained calm...sometimes in an Ironman, it can 5 or 6 miles for your legs to get moving on the run....I trusted in that.
My rhythm started to come together after mile 2. I had great turnover and the legs were flushing out the pain of the bike nicely. I was showing 7:30, 7:25...etc...on my watch. The house we rented is right on Alii drive and was so excited to see my crew at mile 4! It had been over 6 hours since I saw them and I can't describe the tremendous boost I got when I did. One of the "other" factors in Kona is that it is fukin LONELY. No great crowd support like Madison....just you. Raw. So to see my crew....was inspirational at that point. Now, my watch said I was running steady 7:30-7:40's for the first 8 miles....the checkpoints on Ironman.com though say that I was running 6:30's....oops. :) Guess I got a little excited.
It was so stifling on Alii drive. The humidity was SICK. At about mile 8, shyt got real. My hands started to go numb...not good. I had nailed my nutrition to that point, but that only takes you so far. At mile 9, I went back to my old friend, Coca Cola. The coke tasted SO GOOD. And it gave me the boost I needed. I could feel my hands again and my rhythm returned just in time to climb up Palani hill. Palani was NO joke...mile 10.5 and a half mile climb. The crowds were amazing here...but I felt like I was melting. One of the highlights of my day, 3X World Champ Craig Alexander was running down Palani when I was running up....it was so cool.
At the top of Palani, you hang a left....and BANG...Lava. It was everything that it was cracked up to be....HOT...searing your skin hot. Feeling the sun on my skin actually hurt...like a really bad sunburn. The only option was to keep running and try to stay wet at the aid stations. Water on the head...sponges....ice down my back, shirt, and shorts....Ice in my hands. That was my rhythm throughout the marathon.
The run to the Energy lab from the top of Palani is roughly 5.5 miles...I swear to God it was all uphill. A real grind....just keep moving. I made a promise to myself that I would not stop running (outside of cooling off at the aid stations) unless I physically couldn't. I trained to RUN this marathon and that was what I intended to do.
I hung a left into the Energy Lab...where the temperatures hit upwards of 130 degrees. It was weird though...I didn't notice it too much. Since my skin was already on fire, a little extra heat didn't bother me too bad. It was here that I started to dedicate miles to my friends and family. I wanted to push as hard as I could to the finish...and needed your support to do so.
So, the entire Energy Lab was dedicated to "Baby Barto." I wanted to make sure that I could tell my child someday about how the thought of my new life gave me strength in the toughest part of the race. Out of the Energy Lab, mile 20 was dedicated to everyone at home following along. There was no way I was going to hit a "Wall" with everyone cheering me on in my head! Mile 21, that was for my crew here on the Big Island. Mike, Jess, Uncle Phil, Aunt Colleen, and Carrie....thank you so much for your support! Mile 22, for my parents. Their unconditional love and support is so inspiring. Thank you. Mile 23, Dan and Charles...two of the very best friends anyone could ask for. I dedicated the "mile" to Charles....and the Dave Scott/Mark Allen Iron War Hill to Dan. I couldn't think of a better spot to dedicate to my Kona Sherpa! Mile 24 was for my Coach, Jen Harrison. She is such an amazing Coach and friend. I can never truly thank her enough for guiding me to realize this dream. Thank you so much Jen, a better Coach can not be found. Mile 25/26....was for Ana. If you look at my splits...I dropped to a 6:08 pace (with stopping in the finish chute)...I guess she gets me going :) I am the luckiest guy in the world to have her love and support. Thank you Ana....
The finish chute....that was for me. I finally made it. A dream come true...running down Alii and into the finishing chute is very hard to describe. I was overcome with extreme joy....an adrenaline rush that can only be matched by my 1st Ironman in Wisconsin. I hammed it up for the crowd a bit....high fived. I ran past my parents....stopped, turned around to give them a hug. It was so special. I high fived the rest of the crew...and was able to spot Dan and give him a huge hug as well. I will always remember that chute....simply amazing.
When I crossed....it was like the world stopped for a just a moment. My moment. I earned this and I will forever be proud of my first race in Kona.
At the end of the day, I ran a 3hour 33min 59sec marathon....in the Ironman World Championship. I felt good for maybe 30 minutes of that run. The other 3hrs....100% heart. That's it. Just the will to finish...smash myself, and leave it all out there. Mission accomplished.
I finished with an overall time of 10hrs and 19min....that was 10 of the hardest hours of my life. Not taking anything away from the other Ironman courses I've done, but Kona is on a whole other level. I finished up 105th in my age group, in the WORLD.
At least for today, I'm the 525th fastest Ironman athlete on the planet. That's pretty amazing to think about.
I will always cherish this week and race. I truly couldn't ask for anything more. I told my crew before the race that hoped it would be hard. I didn't want to race the year it was "easy." I got my wish...and I saw it through.
Thank you for taking the time to read, respond...and encourage me throughout this journey. This will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my days. No more blogs for bit...I'm on vacation now. I'm hungry...and I think I need a mai tai!
Dedication, Passion, Results