Race Report for Ironman World Championship, October 14, 2017
I first want to thank Patrick Fellows, my son and my coach, for having the patience to get me as ready as possible for the race. Bill was my biggest fan. He didn’t understand triathlon, but was always supportive. He liked triathlon just about as much as I liked hockey. Bill’s illness and losing him 6 weeks before the race affected my training and focus. Jeanne, Paige, and Ian were there to support me the entire week. I also want to thank Robbie Wiedie of Cutwater, Freddy Minze, and of course Brawny Towels, which generously sponsored me. Blue Seventy, Roka, and Hoka were all a generous help. Pro racer Chris McDonald hand-delivered my Brawny kit, made by OwnWayApparel, on Tuesday night.
The week leading up to the race was absolutely amazing. On the first full day we went down to a small beach and the kids did some snorkeling. We saw a young turtle swimming among the lava rocks. That evening we went to a luau, and saw a show with dancers and singers. We learned a little about the Hawaiian culture.
Day two we took a snorkeling tour and swam with tropical fish, large sea turtles, and the kids saw a shark. Each day was filled with some adventure. The Parade of Nations was great. So many countries represented. It is the next best thing to the Olympics. I spent time doing photo shoots with the producer, Robbie, and cameraman Freddy, for Brawny. We went to Hapuna Beach, which was beautiful. We also did a night snorkeling trip to see the manta rays. Unbelievable! The day and night before the race were spent mostly resting, with a light dinner at home. My goal for the race was to make each cutoff time.
I woke about 3:45 a.m., got up, and ate breakfast. Pat took me down to the start and then went back to get the family to watch the start. Robbie and Freddy were there to document every step. I handed off my pre-swim clothes and went into the area to line up for the swim. I met so many nice women there. It was time to line up, and we slowly made our way to the steps going into the water. The air was filled with excitement. After the pro men, then the pro women started, and then the age groupers. The men started at 7:00 am, the women at 7:20. The salinity was so high a wetsuit would not have been needed.
The water was a little cooler than my previous practice swims. We swam out to the starting “line” and waited for the cannon. It went off, and there was a flurry of arms and legs. Per my instructions I held back for a count of 10 and then did 50 quick strokes and then fell into a pace. It wasn’t too crowded and I felt pretty good. As I swam further out into the bay and ocean there were rollers.
I began to feel nauseous. I was sea sick, and possibly swallowing salt water. I really don’t think I swallowed much water. I thought, no way, so I started thinking of Danny Walton, Jerry Rivera, and everyone I swim with at the pool. As long as I kept my focus on people and anything else I was ok. My sighting is terrible so I swam more than I needed to. It was a long darn way out to the turnaround. I was determined to keep my swim less than 2 hours.
I sighted on the big Gatorade bottle at the finish and made it out of the water. Ran to pick up my bike bag and hosed off before entering the changing tent. The volunteers in there were great.
Goal time: 2:00
Actual time: 1:53:57
I got on the bike and was still feeling nauseated. I ate 3 alka seltzer chewables. The bottles of my nutrition that I froze the night before were melted and warm. I started on the bike and settled in for a long day. One of the best investments I made was UV wings from DeSoto. Pat told me to stop and pour water on the wings and they would protect me from the sun and keep me relatively cool.
On the way out of town Elvis was at the top of the hill singing his heart out. I stopped at almost every aid station to pour water on myself; get fresh water, or Gatorade. The water would get hot before I could get to the next aid station. The ride out was beautiful, the lava fields are magnificent. Of course there was a lot of heat from all that black rock. The lava fields are on both sides of the Queen K highway, the ocean was beautiful. I was just thinking that I needed to tell Casey Elkins that the ride was not too difficult and THEN I turned to go up toward Hawi, where the wind Gods began their dance. OMG, I could not take my hands off the handlebars due to the crosswinds. I could not take in any nutrition on that climb.
I asked one of the volunteers at an aide station about 4 miles out of Hawi if it was just 4 more miles, he said yes and it is all uphill. More uphill, okay then, away I went. I had passed Dick Hoyt’s son and his cyclist, a few miles back. The turnaround was at around mile 60-62. For some reason I thought it would be at 56 miles. I had a number of “farther than I thought it would be” distances. I turned around and was heading back down. On the way in to Hawi I was fighting for 8 mph, on the descent I know I hit 30 mph with the crosswinds. I probably went faster but was too afraid to take my eyes of the road. I knew I had to make up time so got down in my aero bars and held on. What a rush!
I saw the Hoyt team on my way down. I learned later they had flipped over at the turnaround and did not make the bike cutoff. I thought there would be less wind once I got back on the Queen K, but nope it was on the nose for most of the way. It was a struggle most of the way back. Eventually I got back into crosswinds. I did run myself up against one of the guardrails on the side of the road, but managed not to fall. Dumbass! I was happy to see the 90-mile mark on the road, and worked hard to get back to transition for the next leg of the race.
I made the cutoff.
I did not take in enough nutrition during the bike. I was dehydrated and nauseated the entire time. I ate as much of the peanut butter bars, Bloks, but I knew it wasn’t enough. I had two extra bags of my nutrition mix, which I did take in.
Transition 2: 10:15: 08
I changed into running shoes and hat and was ready to go out on the run. I stopped to go to the bathroom because I had not gone all day. More signs of dehydration! I was determined to drink more on the run. I drank some Gatorade and water and away I went. It took a couple of miles before I could get my legs working and do the run/walk that I had planned.
The run course went past the condo we rented and Pat, Jeanne, the kids, Robbie, Freddy, and JLew from Hoka were there cheering me on. We ran a few miles, turned around and on the way past the condo again there was Ian and he was playing his ukulele on the street for all of the runners. That was a boost. Back through town and up toward the Queen K again. It gets dark early and fast in Hawaii. I got back to my plan of run/walk. I began taking in more liquids, but was afraid to take in too much. Did I say it was dark out there? There were very few lighted areas and then my watch died. It did the same thing at Florida. When running in the dark, with no way to tell how fast I was going I slowed down too much. I began walking with an older gentleman and we walked together for a couple of miles. I lost my focus and realized I better get moving. We went down the dark road to the research lab and at the turnaround there were lights. I got refocused and began my steady run/walk.
Robbie came out on the course at about mile 23 and took more pictures. I got back down into Kona and could hear the noise and Mike Reilly calling out people as they crossed the finish line. What a boost. I had one more mile and said to myself "come on Bill this is our time." Pat said that was my fastest mile of the race. I hit the finish chute, the people were amazing, I was told to take it all in and I did. There is nothing like it. I was crossing the finish line when Mike Reilly called out Gini Fellows, 71 years young, “You are an Ironman.” What a thrill. It is not like me to throw my arms up, but I couldn’t help it. They went up. The two gentleman volunteers came and grabbed me, asked if I was ok, and said look up, there you are, wave at everyone.
Total time was 16:44:20
Would I do another IRONMAN?
Most of my friends did not know they were racing with me. I thought of many of you during the swim, for each 5 miles on the bike I thought of one person with whom I have ridden, and I thought of one person for each mile of the run. It helped me stay focused, except for a few miles.
I learned a lot about myself during this race. If you want something go after it. It is doable. Second only to losing Bill this was the hardest thing I have ever done. My training wasn’t what I hoped it would be, but that couldn’t be helped. The love, prayers, and support I received from my family and friends were phenomenal.
I am my own worst critic and was debriefing with Pat about what I did and what I should have done. My liquid nutrition needs to be changed. It got too hot between aid stations and was disgusting. I will not be eating or buying peanut butter in the very distant future. If ever! I would not stop at so many aid stations. I will never do a race in the ocean again. Find me a downstream river or lake swim. Pat told me that I couldn’t compare this race to ANY other race.
There is no other race like this one.
I will be better prepared for the next IRONMAN event. Yeah, I know, I am thinking I might do another one.
But not Kona. That was a once in a lifetime experience for me. It was great.
I will be glad to go and watch someone else do it.