Race Coverage

"Doing Ironman Triathlons is Like a Disease"....

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By Nick Serratore

Warning – This is a long post…

A little over a week ago I raced the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawai’i and finished in 11:00:50. I was 143rd of 165 in my age group, 1,013th of 1,660 men, and 1,176th of 2,271 overall. My swim took 1:09:21, my bike took 5:13:06, and my run took 4:28:08 with the remaining unaccounted-for time in transitions. These are the facts… If you asked me before the race if I’d be happy with those times, I would probably say I wouldn’t be happy, but I also wouldn’t be surprised. After-all, going into the race I had been struggling with a high hip issue and I would guess that my slow run would be from that acting up and my less than stellar bike would probably be a mechanical issue. The swim would be accounted for by noting my lack of experience in ocean swimming. Turns-out, these weren’t the reasons for (what I feel) was my very average day at Kona. I raced a very conservative race and put my health above speed due to the high heat that day. However, before I get into my recap of that day, I need to thank the people who got me to that start line in the first place. Maggie L. Henjum and Alyssa at Motion MN! Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to run pain free for pretty much the whole marathon that day. Dr. Jim Barr at Helix Chiropractic for not only being a close friend, but also being the best chiropractor I know. Step Therapies for allowing me to use their AlterG Treadmill to rehab my hip. Now Bikes in St. Paul for all the tune-ups and work they’ve put in on my Cervelo P5. Chris Balser for dialing in all 4 of my bikes fits. Vicki Ostendorf for being my coach and getting me to this point. The other athletes that train through Tri Fitness – It’s an awesome community and I love every day I get to train with you amazing athletes. And most of all, my family and friends that have supported me in this journey, particularly my parents, Tony and Crystal Serratore, sister, Nina Deno, and brother-in-law, Nathan Deno, best friend, Jack Schuknecht, and fellow Ironman friend, Rachel, who were with me the whole week in preparing for the race. Here’s a quick recap of that day –...

 

Pre-Race: Up at 4 AM for my pre-race meal of oatmeal, brown sugar, and chocolate chips with 1.7g of salt in water and a couple cups of coffee. Properly hydrated and fueled, down to the race start with my family and friends. Bag drop, body marking, and bike prep went smooth and I was able to say goodbye to my family and friends one last time before going into my start corral. We got in the water at roughly 6:47 and waited ~100 yds from shore for the conch horn to sound for the start of the race.
Swim: Horn sounds at 6:55 AM and all men between 18 and 39 start swimming at once. The current was with us on the way out and I was feeling fast. Super wavy day and sighting was a pain but overall, things were good. Made the turn around the boats and headed back for shore. Current was now against us and I was finding it more difficult to have a rhythm in the water. Saw some baby jellyfish, must’ve gotten stung because I had red dots all over my right forearm after the race… oh well, at least I avoided the massive one I saw about 500 yds from shore. Climbed the stairs and entered transition. Tried to move through transition efficiently but took time to get the salt water rinsed off and sunscreen on. Grabbed the bike and headed for the mount line.

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Bike: Knocked my rear water bottle off trying to fly mount and then couldn’t get clipped in, rookie mistake. Started the ~ 10 miles of “bicycle drag racing” in downtown Kona and quickly was climbing Palani Rd to the Queen K. Got into a good rhythm on the bike and focused on water and nutrition. It was still only in the mid 80’s on the highway and the breeze off the ocean felt fantastic and was partially with us. The first 45 miles went fast and I felt strong, but I was being reserved… Only pushing about 245 watts which was 10 watts less than I had planned for. Climbing to Hawi, the wind was really starting to pick up out of the West, Northwest. Ended up getting a 5-minute blocking penalty that I still question but I took the time at the penalty box in Hawi to fix a couple things on my bike that were bothering me and to take in some nutrition. Bike back down from Hawi was rough. I held back due to the heavy cross winds (in excess of 30 mph gusts) and I was starting to feel hot. The remaining ride back on the Queen K was more heavy headwinds/crosswinds with temperatures reaching 98 degrees. I was drinking ~ 40 ounces of water and ~ 24 ounces of Gatorade an hour. This would amount to ~ 2.5 gallons of fluids on the bike and having to go to the bathroom twice – overall I felt my nutrition was good. Every aid station I grabbed a bottle of cold water and poured it over me to try and keep my body temp down. Coming into transition, I felt that I was in position to have a good run. I got all my running gear on and proceeded to run out of transition.

Run: Started out feeling good and holding a steady 7:30 min/mi pace… Then my heart rate got over 140 and I started to feel dizzy. I started walking until my HR dropped to 110 and started running again, same thing happened. At the first aid station I grabbed Gatorade, water, and coke, along with putting ice cold sponges down my kit to cool my body. I started running again and quickly had to walk. The temp on Ali’i was an average of 95 degrees. I had a decision to make, prioritize finishing the race healthy, or running on the edge and trying to get as far as I could in the heat, hoping the clouds coming from the mountains would cover the sun and give me a reprieve to push to the finish. I opted for staying healthy and would commit to walk/running while monitoring my HR. I won’t bore you with the details, but the temp hit 106 on the Queen K at about mile 10. I walked Anthony Jagielo and Jake Braam for a couple minutes and as the sun got covered by the clouds around the time I got to the entrance to the energy lab, I got a second wind. I started running more and committed to finishing in around 11 hours. The time passed quickly between the energy lab and running down Ali’i towards the finish line and I was thankful to reach the finish line, not only because the race was done and I had heard Mike Riley say, “Nick Serratore, You Are An Ironman!” for the 4th time, but also because I was 100% healthy… Aside from 3 toenails I’ll likely lose, some chafing, sunburn, and blisters on the balls of my feet. I grabbed some pizza and an ice cream bar after the race and went to say hello to my family.

The rest of the vacation was spent on O’ahu and it was the perfect way to relax after that grueling race. During the race, I said I’d never do it again. That thought process persisted for about 2 days. Then I thought, maybe I’ll try for it again, but not for a LONG time… After all, was it REALLY that hard? Today, as I sit here writing this, I can say with confidence that I will take 2 years off from Ironman triathlons. A triathlete friend of mine, Wade Cruser, once said that doing Ironman triathlons are like a disease. Once you catch that disease, you can never get rid of it. Today, I'm starting to agree with him. My body, relationships, and brain deserve a break. However, in 3 years I will commit to trying to re-qualify for Kona again. It’s never easy to get there but I will make it my goal to go back to that island. I don’t feel like I have regrets or unfinished business there or that I raced a race, this year, that I am not proud of. I just raced a race that may have been more conservative than what was necessary to finish healthy. My goal will be to return with modifications to my itinerary, physical condition, and mental state such that when I start that race again, I will throw caution to those gusty Hawaiian winds and go for broke. Putting my body and any possible regrets on the line to see what I am truly capable of on that course. However, until that day, mahalo Kona for the lessons you taught me.

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