Due to logistics on Oahu, we would run first, then swim, and finish the day with the bike. The run start was scheduled for 4:30am. I woke up around 2:30 or 3am feeling rested and surprisingly calm. No nervous energy which was a welcome change compared to typical race mornings for me.
Crew vehicle prepped . . .
I had a decent size bowl of oatmeal w/ nuts, banana, and maple syrup and washed it down with a big cup of Hawaiian coffee! Medical check (weight, resting HR, blood pressure, etc.) by Kris (who also turned out to be my paddler for the next 10 days – best swim escort in the biz – sorry John ) followed by event blessing at approx. 4am. I was filled with lots of emotions as this day was a long time in the making. I focused on gratitude, family, friends, and health. Isabella, Eric, Tara, Nancy, Greg, Samantha, Tom, Rodney, Andy, Jeff, Vedder, Mandy, Brian, Dwight, Kenrick and many others were in my thoughts throughout the day.
Team “Bad News Bears” . . .
Team Matt “Mr. Consistency” Phalen . . .
Team the “Juanman” and only . . . .
Shortly before the start of the run, all athletes, crew, and staff formed a circle and joined hands for a traditional Hawaiian blessing. It was a beautiful and quite powerful way to start our journey.
And then, with no fancy fanfare or glitz, the run was underway. It was perfect.
Smile for the camera . . . almost go time . . .
I was enjoying the run, but it wasn’t long till my crew vehicle approach and my sister yelled something like, “so, umm . . . this isn’t a race, right?!?” and “what happened to the run/walk plan?!?” For reasons I’m not going to mention, I let my emotions get the better of me and ran much faster than I planned or wanted to on the first day. I finished the marathon at Ala Moana Beach Park and already knew I’d be paying the price for that run for the next couple of days, if not for the duration of the event!
Matt Phelan on the move . . .
Julian and Ivan (crew) . . .
With the run done, I met up with my crew, got changed into my Hawaiian print speedo , linked up with Kris, and hit the water. It felt great to be in the water and I took the time to appreciate the view at each turn (swim was 2x back/forth along the shoreline). I’m an above average swimmer for a triathlete but not a great swimmer. I’m a much better open water swimmer than I am a pool swimmer, most likely due to my slow/lazy flip turns. That said, I do have a 56:30 IM swim to my credit as well as a 57:30 swim in Kona and a 2:35 Ultraman swim. I also think there’s more of a strength component as well as a feel for swimming in open water. I incorporate a lot of strength work specific to open water into my swim workouts. Regardless, I’ve always felt super comfortable in the water. I swam a relaxed 60 minutes +/-, thanked Kris for the company, and got ready for the bike.
My paddler, Kris . . .
My crew had everything waiting for me and after a quick change, I was off! It was nice to be on the bike and my legs felt good. The ride followed the original Hawaii Ironman bike course. I started easy but Oahu is crowded and there were a lot of stop lights and construction, which resulted in many stops. It was pretty dang windy also, with tons of traffic, and the road surface was rough, with limited to no shoulder. That made for a slow and stressful ride. I also got a flat at about mile 45 +/- and that took some time to change (swapped the 80mm deep front wheel for a 60mm, which was a much better option anyway given the crosswinds). Regardless, I was still in Hawaii riding my bike .
Full team effort changing the flat – NASCAR style . . .
I finished the ride feeling strong and arrived back at the hotel at approx. 4:30pm.
Day 1 – done and dusted . . .
Showered, food (don’t remember what I ate), feet up, and went to bed!
Day 2 was a repeat of the Day 1 course, but the run would begin at 3am as we needed to be packed up and on the way to the airport at 6pm to catch an 8pm flight to Kauai.
Lessons learned on Day 1 . . . first and foremost, I needed to remind myself that this was not a race! This is harder than it sounds, especially for someone who has two speeds . . . ON and OFF. Other than not sticking to my run/walk strategy, the marathon went well. I felt relaxed and comfortable, although not running very long the week prior and not running at all for several days before Day 1 left my quads a bit sore. If I could do it again, I’d keep the run volume higher leading up to Day 1. I was a bit worried and hoping they’d rebound quickly. The swim was rather uneventful. I was surprised most people wore full/long sleeve wetsuits. I would’ve overheated.
All in all, I really enjoyed the day and took the time to take it all in. I was excited for Day 2.