Race Coverage

"Despite the Difficulties"...


By Josh Mork


Kona Race Report - My motto for the summer “There are 2 types of pain: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Choose wisely.”

This is a long post but an Ironman is a long day... and Kona was particularly eventful for me.

This was my first time to Kona (and second IM), so I figured I could be in for a tough day...

Swim: 56min. Ocean swim with some rolling swell. Nothing crazy but the waves were big enough that even I took a couple gulps of saltwater. I positioned myself next to the inside buoy line, about 3 guys from the front and thought I could muscle my way through the first section to avoid getting stuck in a huge pack of slower swimmers. Only problem, I was surrounded by about 100 guys with the same idea since this is the world champs, ha! So the first 10 minutes was thrashing madness. Hands, elbows and feet hitting you from all directions and everyone swimming way too fast, knowing they would get trampled if any one slowed down. It didn’t really spread out until about the halfway point. But this was about what I had expected, so the fun factor was on full blast and I was excited my time was where I had estimated....



Bike: 5h 1min. The first 30 miles were nice. Some tailwind, heat levels manageable and I had a few thoughts that I could potentially ride comfortable/fast if conditions remained...but also cautioned my excitement knowing heat/hills/wind were all coming so still planned for the worst. Others guys came out mashing the pedals, streaming with sweat and breathing hard...I let all those guys go. I was doing my race on my terms so I didn't really pay attention to other rider’s tactics. Per the advice of others I picked up fluids at all aid stations (approx. every 8 miles) starting around mile 18. This meant grabbing a 24oz Gatorade to re-fill my bottle up front with straw and a cold water to quickly dose myself. By mile 35 the heat was rising fast and winds picking up. The climb to the Hawi turnaround was just as I've read it to be: long, slower pace and strong headwinds (25 mph). Next came the fun part of descending and getting whipped around by the gusting, swirling winds. In some spots I could see the nasty joshclimb2.pngturbulence sections coming as I watched riders wobble or get pushed towards the center of the road. Then I would hang on tight and go through the gauntlet. A little scary but a lot of fun! I was pumped this was all happening and I was living out the stories I had watched on TV or read about. By mile 70 still no urge to pee so I was concerned I was getting behind on fluids despite guzzling Gatorade the entire ride (approx. 180 oz so far). Then the heat/wind coming across the lava fields began to cook me with temps in that area reported to be in excess of 100 degrees. If it weren't for a few brief periods of cloud cover my head felt like it would have boiled. By mile 85 I was feeling a bit nauseous and my hands/arms began to tingle. Also, I switched to mostly water to try and tame my gut burps but was still able to finish off all the solid foods that I had carried. Finally, the headwind on the last long/mild climbs between miles 95-110 was just mean. I was expecting it but it was much more magnified/draining and was very happy to be done with the ride. Total fluids consumed: 2.3 gallons.

Run: 3h 44min. I nearly passed out in the changing tent and wondered how could I possibly run a marathon feeling this way? I was overheated, dizzy and wanted to jump in a cool, MN lake. While putting on my shoes I noticed other chairs were soaked in pee so I joined the pee party, going for the first time in the race (sorry, not sorry!) That helped a ton and gave me a little boost knowing that I wasn't completely dehydrated. Running down iconic Ali'I Drive was amazing. Saw my family near mile 3 and tried my best to start a new race and leave the feelings of fatigue behind. My HR and pace were all where I had planned: (8 min/mile to be conservative in the heat). Through mile 10 my legs were still feeling 'good' and I thought I could try to negative split since my HR had been abnormally low the entire run. Hands/arms still very tingly. At each mile there was an aid station where I would lick some salt, slam a cup of Gatorade & water and occasionally Coke or Red Bull. Grab 2 cold sponges, put 2 cups of ice in hat and 2 cups ice down front/back of jersey. All the ice would be melted by the next mile and then I would repeat. Running a marathon in temps of 88+ degrees with tropical humidity was something very foreign to me but I felt I was managing it the best I could. Then, noteworthy GI issues began around mile 14, where I was gagging on drinks, had frequent gut burps and was really struggling to find reasons to run. Major yucky gut feeling. In the energy lab I could no longer wait and stopped at the bathroom for diarrhea. I was getting down on myself thinking my mind was going weak on me and trying to trick me into stopping but I also didn’t want to crap my pants with 8 miles to go. Glad I stopped because it was not a mind game! I came out of the energy lab and saw Kim/Kristina/dad and told myself I can still morkfamily.pngrun hard the last 10k... but that heat was just so incredibly oppressive and my body was shutting down. By mile 20 I was only drinking water because my gut was a mess. At mile 24 I licked some salt then vomited loud and hard 3 times, the kind where you're bent over grabbing your knees. Ick! I thought my body was giving up... but then I thought ‘NO WAY have I come this far to implode now.’ So I ran hard the final 2 miles downhill on Palani road and hit that red carpet with soo much joy/relief. I heard Kim scream for me as I approached the end so we got to high five and share the thrill of a Kona finish line. I also saw Kristina/dad jumping with excitement. I was so HAPPY to have completed the Ironman in Kona. All those long training sessions, sacrifices and time away from family finally had a result I would be happy with.

Overall: 9h 50min

Post race: 6 hours. I thought I would be fine, take a few minutes to catch my breath, get some calories, cool off, but suddenly I got very wobbly, a little confused and nauseous so they helped me to the medical tent. After weighing me they said I gained 5lbs from the morning weigh-in. I couldn't believe I had gained weight, with all that heat, sweating etc. I had likely consumed approx. 28lbs of fluid/solid weight throughout the day. A blood test showed low sodium levels in my blood (hyponatremia) = too much water and not enough salt. I was sweating more sodium than I was replacing and it was exacerbated when I switched to straight water at the end of the bike and end of the run. I don’t fully understand what happened here since I was taking raw salt?

My conditions worsened as the adrenaline wore off and I ended up briefly losing consciousness 3 times over the next 6 hours. I would wake up confused, covered in puke with doctors asking all sorts of basic questions. I was given 3 IVs throughout the evening to get my sodium levels up and was finally released in a very drowsy state that took another 12 hours to resolve.

Despite those difficulties, overall I had a very positive and memorable race experience. I knew this type of suffering would occur and Ironman Kona lived up to the hype (and more) regarding extreme conditions of heat/wind/hills/humidity etc. Huge respect for all those athletes that completed the race and also those that have the desire to come back for more. I’m very content with my lone appearance and will not seek to return to the IM distance any time soon (sticking with shorter stuff).
I want to thank my wife for supporting me throughout these past 2 IM seasons and know this would not be possible without her. I also want to thank all the family/friends/etc that have contributed to the enjoyment of this journey and #TeamKiwamiNA for providing me the highest quality race gear.

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