Monday, October 12, 2009

Kona Coach's Race Report Part 1

Wow, it's almost overwhelming to think of all the things that happened yesterday. It was one of the biggest emotional roller-coaster days of my life, but luckily, the highs were so incredible it is hard to sit and tell someone about them without becoming emotional.

Emotion was a huge part of the day. It was always a large part of my racing, and it continues to manifest itself on race day, even as a coach.

Got to the race-site with my athlete Scott, and helped all my athletes get everything set. After that, started walking to the start area and I called my wife around 5:30 AM. She asked me how it was going. Seemed like a typical enough question. I thought about it, and before I could say anything, I just started to cry. There I was walking thru a crowd of people, phone to my ear, and I’m starting to sob. I had to pull over to a corner and lean over to gather myself. It didn’t work. I cried harder, and all the while I couldn’t speak to Orlanda. She was still on the phone, hearing me breathe, and asking me, “What’s wrong?” I think she thought I was about to tell her some very bad news. But there was no bad news to tell her. In fact, everything was perfect. It was hard to imagine how long I had worked with my 3 athletes to get them there, healthy and prepared for the task of the day.

I also knew, rightly or wrongly, that I would be judged by what my athletes do that day. I think I also was dealing with a few of my own demons from leaving the sport, and here I was back on the island. I was prepared for a very long day, and it was a lot to handle and come to grips with at that moment. Orlanda understood. She has seen it all with me. Our conversation was brief, because I knew if I kept talking with her I would continue crying. Brian Long, longtime president of the Tri Club of San Diego, and good friend, saw me crying as well, and he helped me get my composure back.

Found the family and friends of my athlete Adam, and watched the start. It was quite a site to see. I never got to really see the pageantry of the event when I was racing. I was so focused on being race ready. It really has become a spectacle.

After the start we headed onto Palani, the big hill out of town, where all the athletes cross a few times early in the bike. I waited there with the family and friends of all my athletes, tracking and speaking with them as they came up the climb. First was Adam, with a great swim of 56 minutes, then Scott at 1:08, (not so great for him), and then Matt Hoover at 1:38, (FANTASTIC!)

The three athletes had astounding experiences. I knew Scott had a chance to go Top 10 in his age group, 30-34, and Adam I just wanted to have a solid race of all three. I had no idea where it would place him, but his confidence needed a boost from a solid race. Matt Hoover, The Biggest Loser winner, had a simple goal of “just finish.”

I had a plan to ride a bike during the run, checking on Scott and Adam at certain points in the race, riding up the road ahead. I couldn’t find a bike to rent or borrow, so I just went to Walmart and bought one. It was a good call, but a busted pedal late in the night made things interesting!

I had calculated that right about the time Adam and Scott would finish, Matt would probably just be starting the run. It’s amazing how it worked out almost exactly like that! I think it was 5 minutes from the time I saw Adam cross until Matt was walking on Kuikini.

Scott had an amazing day. 9:29 and 8th in 30-34 Men, amazing. He rebounded so well from his poor swim to ride strong all day and run well of the bike. He was one of the few athletes whose speeds got faster as the race went on. He followed the wattage plan, and ran according to the plan all the way. He struggled a bit on the Queen K for the run, coming back from the Energy Lab, but held on well enough to still pass a few more guys and finish with a smile on his face.

Adam had an incredible race, almost perfectly pacing his run. His best finish here ever, his fastest Ironman run ever, and nearly breaking 10 hours, with 10:04. I knew when he was so close to Scott in the Energy Lab, that he was going to hold on for a great race. He was so close with 2 miles to go, but he was just left to a shuffle and holding on. I was telling him all sorts of things, just to try and get him to go a little faster.

When he knew he wasn’t going to make it, he told me he was just going to enjoy Alii Drive. I followed him down and watched him cross the line on the big screen. I was really proud of him. 4 weeks after nutritional mistakes in Wisconsin lead to a meltdown on the run, he put it together and held on for the best Ironman performance of his career.

As if the day wasn’t long enough with their races, here came Matt Hoover off the bike. It was the start of something which I will never forget. It was truly one of the most inspirational and heart breaking things I have ever witnessed. I will share that in Part 2, tomorrow.

Coach Vance

1 comment:

alwaystri said...

Excellent. Thank you for sharing your emotional experience. This sport is so much more than swim, bike, run. The race day support you provided your athletes sounds fantastic.