Done! -- Day 1 Recap

Completed the Ultraman World Championships yesterday afternoon in an overall time of 26 hours, 33 minutes and 42 seconds for 11th place overall.  It was truly an experience of a lifetime, epic in every way.  I awoke at 4 am this morning unable to sleep and overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for every challenge, every surrender and all the astounding support and love it took to get me across the finish line.  

In every imaginable way I was supported in this endeavor -- by my wife and 4 children, my parents (and in particular my dad, who flew all the way from DC to crew for me!), my sister, my amazing crew (Chris Uettwiller and LW Walman), the Maximum Hope Foundation, the race officials, my fellow competitors and countless friends.  But of particular note is the Island itself.  I could feel the power and support of this special place in every way.  In reverence, humility, respect, faith and surrender, the spirit of the Kahunas, Akuas (spirits), Kapunas (elders) and the Island blessed our experience, carried me and my crew through and kept us safe.  To all, my most humble thanks and love.

My body isn't able to move so well right now, but my typing fingers are fine, so here's a full recap.  

I'll start with Day 1 and post each day under separate headings.


With my crew Chris Uettwiller, LW Walman and my dad Dave Roll all in town, I spent the prior day getting all the equipment properly packed and organized, then headed down Ali'i Drive to the groovy beach bungalow where Chris was staying with his girlfriend Erin and her wonderful parents, who graciously cooked a Thanksgiving feast for us, including a vegetarian cornucopia just for me.  Then it was back to the hotel for lights out, but I really couldn't sleep.  I think I tossed and turned until about midnight.

Packed and ready!

Alarm clock went off at 4:30 and I sprang up VERY nervous about getting underway and task ahead of me.  The butterflies were very intense.  Grabbed a quick cup of coffee and met the crew in the hotel lobby and we headed down Ali'i Drive to pick up Chris.  The first snag was a locked gate at his bungalow.  He had to hop the fence and lift extra equipment and our backup bike (a sweet Calfee Bamboo he rented at BikeWorks) over the gate.  Surrender, surrender.  I only hoped this was not a portend of things to come.

Dave Roll, LW Walman, me and Chris Uettwiller

Headed down to Starbucks on Palani Drive then down to Kailua Pier to get ready.  There was some chaos, due mostly to my nervousness.  I still had yet to meet my paddler Linda, who didn't arrive on the scene until literally 15 minutes before race start, which caused me some stress.  I was able to convene with her briefly and Chris gave her the rundown on my nutrition and strategy as I got my wetsuit on and warmed up.  I am always so harried and everything seems rushed, but everything fell into place just in time as I got in the water only a couple minutes before the start.



I waved at paddler Linda so she could spot me and before I knew it we were off!  I lined up next to Marty Raymond -- a member of the 1980 Canadian Olympic Swimming Team and last year's top finisher in the swim.  I knew he was gunning for the swim win and not knowing the course myself, I knew I had to track him closely.

The gun went off and Marty and I immediately established a clean lead.  I swam right on his heels to ensure a proper line and just relaxed into a very eay and comfortable pace.  But after about 1000 meters, my paddler Linda was nowhere in sight.  I started to panic a bit -- where the heck is she!?!  I exerted a lot of anxious energy worried about her and tried desperately to calm down and just focus on staying with Marty.  We swam alongside each other for another 10 minutes or so, and still no Linda.  I was trying to let go, thinking I may just have to do this on my own without any water or nutrition, making it even more critical that I stay right on Marty, stroke for stroke.  I felt great -- long, strong and easy.  And then around 2K, Linda FINALLY showed up.  What a relief.  I constructed a rubber squid lure and weight tied to a ribbon to hang behind her kayak so I could just stare at the squid and never have to break stroke to lift my head.  Sort of a meditation practice that worked really well.  With Linda in tow, I settled down and just focused on my form, still right with Marty.

Then the power move.  Marty turned up the heat.  I matched for a while but then decided his pace was just slightly out of my comfort zone and I decided to back off for a bit.  We were only about 35-40 minutes in and with about 2 hours to go, I did not want to make the mistake of going too hard too soon.  Plus, I didn't know if he was just surging or whether he could hold the quicker pace for the entire remaining distance.  He opened up a gap that grew to about 100 meters max, but after this the gap never really widened.  What he told me later was that he was desperate to shake me and just made a power move then settled back to the same pace I was swimming.  In addition, he told his paddler to let him know every time I stopped for nutrition so he could surge again.  In retrospect, maybe I should have gone with him.

In any event, I was squarely in second position, about 100 meters behind Marty and a country mile ahead of everyone else, for the remainder of the entire swim.  It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose over Kailua and I felt no adverse current.  I was relaxed and feeling great and just focused on swimming and enjoying it.  No shoulder problems, no tightness, no wetsuit rub.  All good, riding high and smooth.  I took in Cytomax, water and some gel at 20-25 minute intervals, but I definitely under-hydrated, underestimating how salty the water is.

The last 30 minutes of the swim seemed interminable, but I was swimming comfortably, so I just tried to let go and be present.  As we rounded the last buoy into Keahou Bay I could see Marty, still only about 100 meters ahead and just swam comfortably to the finish.

Out of the water at 2 hours 41 minutes.  Very far ahead of all the race favorites by anywhere between about 15 minutes to an hour, depending upon the competitor.  I was a bit disappointed in the swim time, hoping for somewhere around 2:20 - 2:30.  But I later learned that despite the calm waters, we lacked a favorable current present in past years that can easily account for 10 - 20 minutes, so I felt better about my time.

What I also learned later was that a few competitors had some very serious problems with jellyfish.  Aussie Kelly Duhig was attacked so terribly he experienced anaphalactic shock and had to be taken to the hospital where he was given a morphine drip.  Duane Franks and my personal hero Jason Lester (attempting to become the first disabled athlete to complete the race) also suffered serious attacks.  The stings were so severe that their limbs went numb.  Jason was hauled into his support kayak and pondered dropping out altogether, until he overheard the officials saying that he would be disqualified, at which point he jumped back in the water and toughed it out, despite being unable to move the only arm he has.  If that is not inspiring, I don't know what is.  It took Jason 5 hours and 27 minutes to complete the swim, but he did it.  I am humbled by his spirit and determination.

I stumbled up the ramp and was very wobbly.  Chris and LW helped me out of my wetsuit and I ran into the nearby bathroom for a diarrhea break and to put on my cycling bib, which was difficult as I couldn't use my hands and fingers very well and my salty skin was so sticky.  I took way too long in transition, but finally got on the bike and headed up the steepest climb of the entire race -- something like 11% grade for the first 2 miles, then 5-7% for three more.  I was totally dehydrated and took in 3 full water bottles on the climb, just trying to relax and not push the climb too hard.  My mouth was so salty -- I had no idea how much the swim dehydrated me.  But got through the climb and tried to settle into a comfortable pace, lowering my heart rate and trying to relax, taking in as much water and fluid nutrition as possible -- mostly Perpetum with some Fluid recovery drink mixed in, which proved a little too sweet.

Then it was rollers for hours, wondering if I was gaining on Marty.  Up and down.  I held onto second position for at least two hours until we hit some heavy headwinds heading south along the Route 11 coastline.  My crew was great and Chris was super focused on taking care of me, getting me all my nutrition timely.  Many people told me to beware of having friends in your crew, as I would be gruff and irritable at times.  This was definitely the case.  I was really hard on the guys but they worked their butts off to take care of me in every conceivable way.  Chris as crew captain in charge of nutrition and equipment.  LW as my Buddha spiritual guide and my dad as #1 cheerleader and chief navigator.

On a gradual climb about 2-3 hours into the ride, I was passed over the course of an hour first by top contender Eric Seedhouse from Canada (dubbed "The Terminator" by my dad), UM veteran Tony O'Keefe, director of the Royal Canadian Military College, and Alexandre Ribeiro -- an incredible Brazilian Ultraman veteran who would go on to post the fastest bike splits and second fastest double marathon to win the overall event.  Each of them passed me like I was standing still; but that's fine.  I knew any of these guys was capable of winning the entire event.  But there went my (unrealistic?) pipe dream of taking the Day 1 victory.

After these three guys passed me, I was alone for a long time, eventually passing Marty, who was suffering from  mechanical wheel problem on the side of the road.  Bummer -- I felt really bad for him, as I know he too really wanted to take Day 1.  Comfortably in fourth position, I hit the final climb of the day -- a 20+ mile gradual but unrelenting 3950' ascent into Volcanoes Nat'l Park.  I hit the Red Bull and focused, thinking fourth place for the day would be just fine.  But with headwinds, a very tired upper body and a very stiff lower back, I completely underestimated how difficult this climb would prove.  I kept my cadence high and my pace even, but couldn't believe how rigorous the climb would be -- it never gave an inch and never evened out even for a moment.  With about 30 minutes left, my Spanish buddy Josef Ajram powered by me looking ridiculously fresh.  I told him he wasn't supposed to pass me until Day 2!  Fifth place now.  and with a mile left, Slovenian Miro Kregar (from the Peugeot commercial I posted) passed me (he went on to post the fastest double marathon time).  And with only 200 meters left, Czech native and pro triathlete Peter Kotland passed me (he has the course run record at an unbelievable 5:33!).  Passed by three guys right at the end!  That was very challenging to handle mentally, the only comfort being that I knew each of these guys were top contenders and outstanding cyclists.  In truth, it was an honor just to be in their company -- I have to remember that I am a complete newbie -- I have never even finished a half-ironman (I DNF'd at Wildflower a year and a half ago), let alone something like this

So 7th overall for Day 1.  Not my dream of winning the day, but not bad for a guy who had to beg to get into the race.  A guy who pre-race predictions had me finishing last or near to last.  I definitely surprised a lot of people and was graced with a lot of congratulations by the top guys.  I was even interviewed by which was really cool!

What I learned:

I didn't take in enough water / nutrition on the swim;

I took in way too much sugary / sweet liquid nutrition too early in the day;

I suffered terribly by not having a proper time trial bike -- my Trek road bike is fine, but hard to compete with a true TT bike -- I know it cost me at least 10-20 minutes on the ride;

I didn't respond to the riders surging on me nor did I try to match them.  Maybe I should have surged more in the last 30 minutes and tried to match.  If I had avoided the sugary stuff early in the day, I might have had better energy at the end.

Crew is EVERYTHING.  My guys were incredible and really kept me going.  They handled every detail for me.

Post race LW rubbed me down and we headed for the Volcano House for a shower and dinner.  Chris's girlfriend Erin and her parents met us for dinner which was fantastic.  Such cool people, they drove all the way up to meet us and support.  

Hit the sack early, much more relaxed about Day 2.  My goal for Day 1 was to put my imprint on the race and make myself known, which I accomplished, hands down.  Good day.  Really good day.




Kyla said...

Congratulations!! I went to Kenyon with your sister and have been following your blog/journey for awhile. As a former swimmer and new triathlete (doing my first HIM in June), I am in awe of what you have accomplished. I can't wait to read about the rest of your race. Your sis kept the masses posted via Facebook and I kept checking in for updates. What a journey. Congratulations again and again!!