Pegasus Elite Athlete Management

Ironman World Championships 2008

imwc2008BETH: Mike and I had arrived on the island nearly a week before the race so we’d had plenty of time to play “tourist” before we got down to the serious business of spectating the race. Each day closer to Ironman, Kailua-Kona became even more alive with the Ironman vibe that is like none other. You get an amazing sense of strength, vitality, and the future of the sport, combined with a deep sense of the history of the sport, as all the legends still show up (some to race) in Kona the week of the Ironman World Championship.

Unlike in 2005 when Cait and I were there to watch Tim race, this year Cait had a job to do, so we didn’t see much of her in the days leading up to the race. Bike assembly, race course reconnaissance, and pro and sponsor meetings filled her days.

The morning before the race we had our traditional carbo load/last minute briefing breakfast with Cait, Tim and Jesse, then excused ourselves to have the carbo load /last minute briefing breakfast with Tod and Christy. Afterwards, Mike, Mikaela and I ran out for the necessities of the next day: poster board, markers, sunscreen, water, sidewalk chalk and shower curtains (I’ll explain that last one). Right after dinner we got to work coloring the sidewalk in front of our condos with funny and inspirational messages for Cait, Tim, Tod and Jesse. We were staying right on Alii Drive (run route) so we probably covered a quarter mile of the sidewalk with our wishes for them. Mike and I took one shower curtain and my mother, sister and Mikaela took the other and we created giant murals with more good luck messages. We hung those from our 3rd floor balcony and wrote one more message on the sidewalk to tell our athletes to look up towards the balcony while they were running. I go into such detail here, because as it would turn out, 1700 people saw the signs EXCEPT Cait, Tim, Tod and Jesse!

Before heading to bed I called Cait and told her that no matter what tomorrow brings, make sure and take in the fact that a dream that she has had for over half her life – racing the Hawaii Ironman – was about to come true.

CAIT: You are at Hawaii Ironman. You are about to race Hawaii Ironman. Tomorrow you will be racing Hawaii Ironman! Breathe…As we dropped off the bikes the day before THE race, it hit me. And because I’m a bit of a spaz, I nearly had a breakdown right there! Tim put his arm around me, turned me toward the water, and said, “It’s just another race.” We spent the rest of the day eating, hydrating, and sitting around the condo. Hit the sack at 7:30, and up for a gourmet, 3am breakfast of applesauce and sports drink.

BETH: Mike and I got up at @4 am, packed bags with camera, water, cell phones and sunscreen and then started down Alii to the swim start. Mikaela drove my mother and my sister to the “hot corner”, which is probably the best place to watch the bike action.

CAIT: Sherpa Chrissie drove Jesse, Tim, and me down to as close to the swim start as she could at 5:15. We got our numbers stamped on and headed toward transition, where I found my lovely new bike with a not-so-lovely flat tire. Breathe… I called over to Tim, “I think I have a flat.” He dropped what he was doing (as in getting his transition area ready for Hawaii Ironman!), and came over to help. He gave the wheel a quick once-over and concurred – the tire was indeed flat. Breathe…Another athlete, who neither of us knew at all, grabbed the wheel and had the tube out before I could even get the flat-pack unzipped. Between this guy and Tim, all I had to do was spectate and eat my PowerBar.

Tim gave me his spare spare (you should see how many CO2 cartridges he brings on training rides!). We put the final touches on our transition areas, gave hugs to our parents, watched two paratroopers who would be competing in the race jump out of C-150’s, and made our way toward the swim start. On the way, we saw Natasha Badmann. Holy crap! Maybe I could get an auto- no, now’s not the time!

BETH: Even though it was an hour before the pros went off, the swim start area was crowded with spectators watching athletes go through their pre-race preparations. Mike Riley was going through his usual early morning greeting to athletes and spectators and letting us know what we’d be in store for. Somehow Mike and I got the best “seat” in the house, standing along the fence that is right outside the transition area. We managed to see all our athletes and I gave Cait a big hug. She, as usual, had a smile a mile wide plastered on her face. Tim wasn’t feeling great, but he never complains. Cait was ready to rock!

CAIT: This is going to sound ridiculous, but the water was actually a bit cool when we first got in, something I would certainly not be complaining about a few hours later. There was no count-down before the swim start, not even a 5-minute warning. Just the National Anthem, then Boom! We were off! This is it! You’re racing Hawaii Ironman! You’re now on the other side of those underwater shots! Breathe… Immediately Tim and I were next to each other. We swam together the entire time. We both thought we’d dropped the other on the way back and Tim was right. But only by eight seconds! After tripping up the stairs and making my way through the hoses and changing tent, I executed an exceptionally graceful feet-first slide that would have had me dismounting the pier were it not for a well-placed row of porta-potties. Somehow I found my bike and hit the road before my other half.

BETH: Once they take off on the swim you really don’t see anything. There was a wall of people watching the swim in front of us so we just stayed where we were and listened to the play by play from the announcers. We were able to see both Cait and Tim exit transition and they both saw us. As soon as they were off on their bikes, Mike and I bolted through the crowd and ran up Palani to the hot corner. The crowd was 3 deep on every sidewalk and the median strip and there were bikes speeding by in every direction, but we managed to zip through and cross the streets and find my mother, sister and Mikaela, as well as Christy Dillon and Jesse’s wife, Chrissie right away. Now, my sister had never seen Cait race and my mother hadn’t seen her race since she was a kid, so this was unbelievable for them. Because the cyclists were going so fast and soon enough would be coming from every direction, at first my mother didn’t know where to look. Then Greg Welsh announced, “Caitlin Snow! Winner of this year’s Lake Placid Ironman! She married pro-triathlete Tim Snow 2 days before she won Lake Placid!” The crowd was cheering so loud for everyone, but when Cait went by our section let out a roar and my mother was completely overwhelmed. The look on her face at that moment was one of the highlights of my trip.

CAIT: I stormed Palani like a madman – Ergomo read 8,439 watts! I’m going to crush this course! I tried resetting it a couple times, but its season was over. Breathe… Luckily I had heart rate, cadence, and time. I used these three indicators to pace the bike, which I was trying to push harder than at Lake Placid, without blowing myself up. Based on some cycling-specific training sessions and the sweet new Crono that Guru sent over, I was shooting for a 5:32 – 42 split. As we moved down the Queen K it was shaping up to be a beautiful beach day. I took down two water bottles and peed by 45 minutes in. Good! Just keep drinking, just keep drinking… (a spin-off of “Just Keep Swimming” from the classic ‘Finding Nemo’).

Making my way toward Hawi, I noticed a bit of a breeze. I noticed it because it nearly blew me right off the inhabited volcano that is Hawaii! It was all I could do to keep the bike on the ride-hand side of the road. At one point I was involuntarily engaged in a game of chicken with the lead vehicle. NOT my favorite part of the race! Also not my favorite? Trying to maintain 90+ rpm in the small ring while riding downhill! Why didn’t anyone tell me this place was hot and windy?! (BETH: We didn’t?)

Descending out of Hawi was intense! The wind was now at our back/right. I knew if I wanted to make up any of the time I’d lost on the crawl to the turn-around, I needed to take advantage of this insanity. Somehow I made it back to the Queen K without catching air on any of the numerous reflectors lining the road. When I got back to town I knew I was in a good spot because Jesse, who’d gone off 14 minutes behind us, had not passed me yet and I had maintained a top 30 position. This also made me very nervous. I really wanted to place in the top 20, but I wasn’t sure how my running legs were going to react to the increased effort on the bike.

T2 was clean – stayed on my feet, and headed out at 6:45 pace. Immediately I was unsure about being able to maintain this effort. It did not feel as comfortable as Placid had, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

BETH: Once everyone we knew had gone by us on the bike, there was nothing for us to do as spectators except check online, or wait for calls from people watching at home. Mikaela drove her party back to the condo and Mike and I headed back through town on foot to see what was going on there and to listen to what the announcers were saying about the front of the race. We walked approx. 4 miles back to the condo, showered, got more drinks, and touched up our sidewalk art. We (Mike, really) made friends with all the spectators within a quarter mile radius and had them all ready to cheer for Cait, Tim, Tod and Jesse.

I checked my cell phone and I had a few calls from home and one from one of my athletes from Texas, Tina Buchan, who had flown in with her daughter to watch the race (very cool), and was now volunteering at the mile-20 bike aid station (even cooler). She told me she had seen Cait and Tim and they weren’t very far apart. We immediately began to analyze that. Maybe Tina’s judgment of how far apart they were was skewed by the fact that she was busy. Had Cait pushed too hard? Was Tim still having a bad day? Just then Mikaela leaned over the balcony of the condo and shouted, “Mom, they are both off their bikes. Cait did 5:36 and Tim did 5:40”. Wow – ok. Tim either had a flat or wasn’t feeling good. Cait had improved her bike split and we had heard that it was VERY windy on the course, even though the air was pretty still on Alii Drive. Mikaela leaned out again and told me Tod had done 5:32. Even though he had started 14 minutes behind the pros, all my people would be coming very soon.

CAIT: The first group of my family members that I passed, at about half a mile in, gave me the count – 25th woman. Ok, if you’re going to get top 20 it’s not going to be by passing 5 people over the next mile. It’s a race of attrition – be patient. Saw Chrissie over by Lava Java, jumping up and down and taking pictures. Heard my sister before I saw her! She, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, and Mike were up at the Bali Kai recruiting a quarter mile of spectators.

BETH: We started counting the Pro women as they ran by and also looked at their stride and their faces to see if we saw any signs of cracking. Granted it was only 5 miles in, but you look for everything. Cait has a very distinctive stride, so we actually saw her coming when she was about 100 yards away. We all started yelling and screaming and all our cheering recruits followed suit. Cait’s huge smile got even bigger and she gave us a little wave as she sprinted past. We were about 2 miles from the turn around, so we’d soon see her again. Then came Tim, Jesse and Tod. They all looked good, but Tim was the only one who said he wasn’t feeling so great. The master of understatement, he was probably feeling lousy, but he was still having the race that most of us only dream about. Unfortunately, it looked like the 9:18 he’d had in Lake Placid was not going to happen today.

When Cait passed us she was in 21st place among pro women, and 4 miles later on her second pass she was in 17th. That would be the last time we’d see her until the finish line, so we’d just have to see what her famous run would do against the best in the world.

CAIT: Before I saw my family, my pace was 6:48. After I passed them, 6:18! Wow, wow, wow! Chill out! Saw Tim and Jesse after the turn-around, and maintained 6:49 pace to the bottom of Palani, which I probably could have walked up faster than I ran it. Made my way over the Queen K, and turned into the energy lab, expecting the worse. I was waiting for the moment to come when I’d be gasping for air and forced to crawl back to the highway. Luckily I made it through on my feet. On my way out, I passed Kate Major. Holy crap! That’s Kate Major. You just passed Kate Major! Breathe… Shortly after that I ran by a thermometer that read 108º! Whaaat?! No way! Heading back to town, I passed Belinda Granger, who cheered, “Good girl! Just like Placid!” Oh, wow! Belinda Granger knows who I am!! Breathe…

Around mile 22 I noticed that my fingers were tingling. Just keep running. You can take care of it after you finish. Even though the aid stations came up nearly every mile and lasted about a half mile, they couldn’t come soon enough. It was as though I was ripping off a buffet every time I went through one! Water on the head, sip Gatorade, ice down the race top, more water, sponges! I feel bad for whoever was going through behind me.

The energy around the finish area was so intense! I could feel it up on Kuakini, a block away! I turned onto Alii, and when I saw my mom it was all I could do to keep running. You are finishing Hawaii Ironman! Breathe!

BETH: After our people had passed us for the second time on the run, Mike and I made our way back to town and the finish line. We had a 2.5 mile walk, but Cait had 18 to run, so we figured we might have time to grab a bite to eat before she crossed the finish line. We stopped at Boston Basils and found a table right near the street so we could watch the finishers come in. We placed our orders and sent a text message to Mikaela, the UBER-spectator who was already in the finish line stands. While we were waiting for the order, Mike asked me if Cait was having a great race, when we should expect to see her. I looked at my watch and did some math in my head and said, “Oh, wow. Any time now!” Mike found our waitress and had her box our food, we paid and ran out to find a spot about ¼ mile from the finish line. The first woman was coming past and we started counting the pro women ….1….2…..3…..there goes Dede in 10th ….. OH my GOD! I see her! She sees me! Mike says he will never forget the look on our faces as we made eye contact. I can only describe her expression as grateful. We somehow all got to the finish line and beyond just as Cait was being escorted to the medical tent. They let me take her in as Mike and Mikaela waited for Tim, Tod and Jesse, who all came in within 3 minutes of each other. Cait was fine – just low potassium. When Tim crossed the finish line the first thing he asked was how Cait had done. She ended up finishing 12th overall and had the 3rd fastest women’s run split. Because she didn’t finish top 10, we get to do it all over again, including qualifying! We are so grateful for all our well wishers and to those who have made this journey possible.

CAIT: Thank you, mom, Mikaela, gram, Karen, Mike, Mr. & Mrs. Snow, Bob & Roxanne, Desi, and Annaka for coming out to cheer us on!

Thank you, Chrissie for driving us around, running our errands, and handing us the remote so that we didn’t have to leave the couch on Friday!

Thank you, Guru, for my sweet new bike. She’s beautiful and quick!

Thank you, PowerBar, for a great fueling and hydration system.

Thank you, Blue Seventy, for the speedy new speed suit and goggles.

Thank you, Brian, for setting up my bike, picking us up on minimal notice.

Thank you, Fast Splits, for taking care of us all season.

Thank you, Jesse, for your guidance.

Thank you, Tim, for everything.