Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How I Won the Lottery

I've been asked several times how I won the Kona Lottery. If you're not familiar with the system this might sound like an odd question. And while no single person understands the mystical nature of how Kona participants are selected, I'll give my beliefs.

Each year, approximately 1800 people compete at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. About 1400 of those earn a slot by going really fast at some other Ironman event earlier in the year. It varies from race to race, but it's basically the top 5 finishers in each division.

200 slots are available through the lottery. (There is some other silliness that goes on within that group, but it's a random drawing of 200 people.) As part of the entry form, you have to answer questions about your past race experience, hobbies, interests, life accomplishments, etc. Oh and you have to pay a non-refundable fee of $40. It's quite the scam, but since I'm in on the scam I'm not complaining.

Now here's where it gets fuzzy. We still need another 200 racers or so. Many of these slots go to the event sponsors. If you go golfing with Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford, and yes I had to look it up) then you can get a slot. NBC Sports hands out slots to people; Lance Armstrong says he wants to do the race in 2011 and if you think he has to worry about earning his entry then I have a bridge to sell you.

I believe that the race directors and NBC also go through the lottery entrants looking for interesting people to put into the race. Maybe they never had a racer from Zimbabwe, so he'll get in. There's the single mother of 4 with leukemia; give her a spot. Throw a few Marines in there. They have 200 slots to play with to make the race diverse, interesting, and TV-friendly.

So the big question is, did I just get lucky and have my name selected randomly? Or did somebody see something in my answers that made me stand out? I will never know. I mentioned this blog in my entry, so maybe a screener took a quick look at the site and liked what they saw. But I am proud of one of my answers, and maybe that's what caught someone's eye. They ask you to list "Significant Personal Achievements". I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it went something like this:

"I think I'm still waiting to make my mark on the world. But if I win the Ironman Lottery, and cross that finish line in Kona, then that moment will become my Greatest Personal Achievement."

I think my answer captures what Ironman means to many people, and someone could have said "wow, this guy is laying it on thick. Aw, let's throw him a bone." Or it could have been luck of the draw.

I don't know why I was selected. But since people have been asking, that's what I put on my entry form.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kona Elevation

For some reason, I thought that the Kona bike was windy but was flat. I was very wrong. The relative bike elevations of my other two races, to scale:

(Total elevation gain at Kona is "only" 646 feet, but I know how I was feeling during those smaller climbs at CDA and Wisconsin.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's Go Time

Thursday morning I found out I won a lottery slot for Kona in October. This means no more messing around; it's time to get serious about training. Our team has a Thursday evening run, a perfect way to kick things off. Except I had to go to a birthday party and eat lots of cake. OK, no problem. Friday night, it's the weekend, a great time to do a run. But I went to a pizza party instead. OK, Saturday morning: there's a 45-mile bike ride with a 10-mile climb. Meeting in Duarte at 8:00. Great. I set my alarm for 6:45 and got a good night's sleep.

Around 7:30 I woke up. It seems that my radio alarm DID go off, but it wasn't tuned to a station so my alarm tried to wake me up with silence. I jumped out of bed and quickly got ready and flew out the door. I still arrived to the ride 45 minutes late. Fortunately, the first section was an out-and-back course so I was able to catch up with the group on their way back.

They've repaved the bike path since the last time I've been on it and it is really really nice. They still haven't done anything about the wind though, but I guess I need need to get used to it. I got 40 miles done today, with a good climb, so that's a start. But it's been three days since I found out I'm doing Kona and I've skipped two workouts and was late for a third. Swell.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ten Thoughts About Kona

1. I am painfully aware of what a big deal this is. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

2. I was SOOOO good the past few months paying off my credit cards and being more financially responsible. So much for that.

3. I've already started browsing for merchandise. OH MY GOD I get to buy a 2010 Ironman World Championships Finisher's jacket!

4. I've never been to Hawaii. Now I'm going twice in four months. Isn't that a bit excessive?

5. I am embarrassed by the amount of support I've already been getting.

6. The bike is really REALLY going to suck.

7. In the worst-case scenario, if I didn't finish Coeur d'Alene or Wisconsin I could always try again the following year. I will get one shot at Kona.

8. There goes my relaxing summer.

9. With other Ironman races, you sign up a year in advance; you have one year to prepare mentally. I have 6 months. That seems way too soon.

10. After doing three Ironmans, including Kona, I have to be DONE, right?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm going to Kona! * GULP! *

Umm... yeah.... so we're freaking out a bit here. I "won" a Kona Lottery slot; I can race in Hawaii in October! The results were posted around 9am this morning, and when I signed in to my computer at work it was doing a bunch of software updates so I couldn't go online. So I picked up our iPad and checked the site and saw my name listed. And the funny thing is I didn't trust the iPad. I thought maybe I was using it wrong or something like that. I started losing my breath, my heart started pounding and my eyes were watering... but it didn't really sink in until I saw it on my "real" computer.

So what does this mean? Well naturally I'm taking the slot. Duh. I am currently signed up to do the Hawaii Half Iron in June, and I still plan on doing that. I have to complete a half-iron or greater distance within one year of Kona to qualify (Wisconsin was 13 months before Kona, so I don't think it counts.) Plus, it will either be good preparation to sample the actual race course, or it may just scare the bajeebus out of me. And besides, the Hawaii half is Gerald & Heather's Honeymoon, and how can you have a honeymoon without Wedgie?

I vowed no more hard summer training, but it seems like that's being thrown out the window. It's gonna be a long 6 months.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gerald is getting married. His "friend" Evil Jon sent out a message "hey, we should take Gerald out to celebrate." Great idea. "We're going to take him to Santa Barbara and spend the night up there." Sounds awesome. "We're going to ride our bikes ninety miles to get there." Say what now? "And it's going to be a surprise to Gerald." OK, now you've completely lost me.

Santa Clarita is in the foothills. Santa Barbara is at sea level. So the start/finish ride profile looks like this:

Seems perfect, right? Well, the actual ride profile is more like this:

I am doing a half-Ironman in 2 months, but I was more nervous about this bike ride than I am about the triathlon. I can do the tri at my own pace; I'll finish when I finish. But Gerald's bachelor ride was with a lot of the Big Boys from the tri team, and it didn't help that Evil Jon was sending out conflicting email messages in the weeks leading up to the ride: "this will be a nice, pleasant ride." "YOU BETTER GET YOUR LONG RIDES IN NOW SO YOU'RE READY FOR SB!" "It will be a casual, enjoyable ride for everyone." "DO NOT BE THE PERSON WHO CANT MAKE IT ALL THE WAY. WE HAVE A TIGHT SCHEDULE AND WILL NOT WAIT FOR YOU." No pressure

It was a strange plan, but that's what happened. Gerald met up with Jon in Santa Clarita for what he thought would be a nice Saturday morning ride. Unbeknownst to him, a bunch of us hopped on a train to meet up with them. We gave our luggage to Rich (my IronBrother) who drove them up to SB for us. Gerald's fiance Heather, Little Miss Enabler, secretly packed an overnight bag for him as well. There were about a dozen of us on our bikes, Rich had our luggage, and Brian and Stuart provided awesome sag support.

We kept a pretty strong pace during the entire ride, which was tough at times but we had a strict schedule to keep. It was pretty scenic, but I didn't dare stop or slow down to take pictures.

Truth be told, the first big hill wasn't too bad. We had lunch on the far side of the hill at a fancy spa in Ojai. (Side note: I always wanted to go to Ojai, ever since i was a kid. That's where Jamie Sommers, The Bionic Woman, lived.) Lunch was on a big outdoor patio, so It wasn't TOO strange to have a bunch of sweaty guys in spandex eating a classy meal.

Keep in mind that Gerald still didn't know where we were going. He nervously asked me "please tell me at least that this isn't an out-and-back course." I reassured him it was not.

Unfortunately, after lunch we still had 40 milles to go. And these were a tough 40 miles. I was hanging with the group pretty well for most of the ride, but I was fading fast around mile 80. The hills were short but pretty steep. And the wind... Oh God the wind. The straight flats were worse than the hills because of the wind. Thank goodness for Evil Jon, who hung back with me and let me draft behind him to help me keep up with the group.

We arrived in Santa Barbara a little before 6. Gerald was probably under the impression that we would be taking an evening train back to the L.A. area, but when he saw people checking into the hotel I think he figured it out. I was hoping for a nap or some decompression time, but we went straight out. First to a bar. Then to dinner. Then another bar. And another bar. And other places. Let's just say, what happens in Santa Barbara stays in Santa Barbara.

Our original plan was to take a 2pm train back Sunday afternoon, but we managed to catch a 9:20 one instead. That is, those of us who weren't crazy enough to ride our bikes BACK to L.A. I think 4 or 5 from the group did that. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with these people? The train ride is just plain cool. Very mellow, a nice snack car, an all-around great way to travel. Of course, the way the schedules work we had to ride our bikes about 5 miles from where we got off the train to get to another station where our cars were parked. That was a long 5 miles.

As for "Evil" Jon, he is a logistical mastermind. Hotels. Restaurants. Train schedules. Maps. Support vehicles. We all had an amazing weekend and Jon made it all possible.