Saturday morning at Dig Me Beach. It will only get busier!
Day 2 – Back in the Land of LavaNo, it’s not day one – that was yesterday, October 11th. Day one we forgot to take the camera out and, hence, you get no reporting.
Today, we took the camera down to the pier for the obligatory morning swim (no, please don’t make us swim in the crystal clear 81 degree F water with tropical fish and spinner dolphins!) and social hour that “Dig Me Beach” necessitates.
Today is Saturday, October 12th, exactly one week prior to the day of the doomed or race day and is the day many athletes choose to do their last long ride. It’s well known that if it’s Saturday one week prior to the race, there will be a German contingent that gets together to ride to Hawi and back at speeds most could only hope to maintain on race day in a roving pack that would make any bike racer drool. Today was no different.
Paula and the local Encinitas contingent would be heading out at 7:30am but while those who chose to swim would be leaving later. Since I (Huddle) was still trying to get in shape, I decided to swim and then coerced Roch to leave at 9am. Roch, in turn, coerced Chris Legh, Belinda Granger and one of Chris’ friends to go out at 9am as well. Always thinking ahead, Roch had assured that we wouldn’t have to get any wind on our faces with this group. As we hit the Queen K our group of five caught up to a group of three that happened to have last year’s third place over all woman, Nina Kraft. I’m thinking, “Great, now we’ve got 3-professionals and two of the top women in the race. We’re going to be dropped at any second.” One mile later my fear was realized when I flatted. Roch took pity on me and helped change the flat.
Fast forward to the Scenic Point 15-miles later and we see that Belinda, Chris and friend have turned around. Chris does another u-turn and join Roch and I. Roch, spots Paula and the Encinitas crew on the return leg and u-turns to join them on their return from Kawaihae. Chris and I continue on only to come upon Natascha Baddman running what looked like 6 to 6:30/mile pace out in the middle of nowhere between the Scenic Point and the Waikaloa. Hmmmmm. Spousal equivalent and coach, Peter, was seen putting bikes in a car about a mile before and it became clear that we had just gotten a glimpse of some very specific pre-race workout that the women’s defending champion was involved in. It’s now about 10:15am and I tuck in behind Chris for a motorpace out to Kawaihae.
When we’re about 5-miles from the turn, we see a group including Spencer Smith, Jurgen Zack, and Norman Stadler – hammering. They’ve just ridden to Kawaihae and are looking to get back home very quickly. The group with Nina Kraft is also on the return along with various stragglers who seem to have been shelled off the back of the various groups returning. Chris and I pull into what used to be the 7-11 and now is the Kawaihae Market and Deli for some much needed fluid replenishment. Upon exiting, Mathias Brain pulls up in a car. Mathais did a 9:20 in his first ever Ironman race in Brazil. The ITU short course specialist has moved up to the Ironman distance and seems interested only in gaining experience at this new distance. We depart Kawaihae and start up toward Hawi when Chris McCormack pulls along side. “Hey, this course sure isn’t flat! I can’t believe I missed that turn back there. When will it get windy? It doesn’t seem that bad.” I look over at Chris and say, “You must be new here.” We give Macca a briefing on when he can expect some stronger blows and he’s off. I think Chris (Legh) is briefly bummed that he has to drag some old age-grouper as he watches one of his rivals ride up the road. Chris is coming off of a 2nd place finish at Ironman Wisconsin but, since he didn’t qualify for Kona’s 2002 event, he’ll be spotting for Ironmanlive.com and training for his final triathlon of the season at Ironman Florida in Panama City. If today’s ride is anything to gauge his current fitness by, I’d say he’s got to be the odds on favorite.
The wind today is about normal for the Big Island. The wind really picks up about 9-miles out from Hawi with some strong gusting cross winds. This is just a warning of what’s to come as we turn straight into it at the sign to Mahukona – it’s blowing a steady 25 to 35mph straight into our faces but, since I’m sitting in the lee of Legh (no pun intended), I’m riding relatively easily at a constant 14 to 15mph – impossible on my own. Christ gets me to the turn around and we scream back the 19-miles returning to Kawaihae in about 40-minutes. That’s FAST! After another stop, one vanilla Coke, two Gatorades, one gigantic water and a PayDay candy bar, we’re back on the road to town.
About half way home from Kawaihae and we run into Multipsorts.com athlete Alexis Harvey who’s on her 4th flat and has no more spares. We stop to help but neither of us has a sew-up and we call her hotel to get her a ride home – what a way to spend your first ride. As we get Alexis squared away two riders zoom by and Chris and I look at each other and recognize the form of Natascha and Peter! As we take off I doubt whether we’ll get close but I’m on Penny’s wheel and within 3-miles we’re going by, arguably, the fastest female on a bike in our sport (though Karen Thurig’s debut may dispute this). Within 10-seconds of passing, Peter leads Natascha back by us so we sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m sure Chris could ride faster but am thankful that he decides to sit back and take a lesson.
I watch and watch but still can’t pick out what it is that makes Natascha so much better than the other women in the Ironman fields. She’s incredibly aero on her Cheetah frame as she sat behind her husband spinning at 95rpms. After 5-miles of sitting in, she rides up to Peter, he hands her a watch or heart rate monitor receiver and they have a discussion. Then, another or mile or two up the road, Peter pulls off to return to their car which is parked at the side of the road about where we saw her running on the way out and Natascha takes off like a shot! Chris picks it up and I tuck in but within a mile we’re 10-seconds back. I’m thinking, “Damn! Is she going to hammer like this all the way back to town. Half way up the hill to the Scenic Point, she coasts, does a u-turn, and smiles and waves on her way back her car. It’s now 2:30pm and I’d love to know what the workout was today and what she’d been doing since we saw her running 4-hours ago.
Chris drags me back to town and dumps me at the condo so I can go up, drink and eat whatever’s not nailed down, and pass out.
Day two is complete!