Kona Race Report




Larry Bird was one of the greatest all time three-point shooters in the history of basketball. There is something about a three-point shooter that people love. It is the long shot in the purest sense. The three-pointer is a relatively low percentage field goal, but the payoff of 1.5 times a regular field goal makes the calculated risk worth the chance. Not only was Larry Bird one of the greatest three-point shooters, but he wore jersey #33 as if to put a claim on the number 3. It was his way of saying, “I take the long shot, and there is nothing you can do to defend it.”


I feel a little bit like Larry Bird. I love to take the long shot. I love to race from the front. I love to take a risk. Yesterday was my third consecutive attempt at racing the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, and I am proud to say that it was my third completed attempt. I’ve never had a great race in Kona, and I am still trying to figure out the best approach. I have never had a good bike split in Kona, each year I have “popped” on the bike with considerable distance yet to complete. Once I bonk on the bike it makes for a very difficult marathon. This year, I told myself I would be patient on the bike and wait for the action to settle down a bit. I did nothing of the sort. I crossed the finish line yesterday as the 33rd finisher of the race, and Larry Bird instantly popped into my head, whenever I see number 33, I always think of Larry and what his jersey symbolized.


The swim start was a bit chaotic. I like to start on the left side of the swim because I breathe to my right, that way I can I see most of the action. While we are supposed to start behind the Gatorade inflatable, the right side of the starting line was creeping further and further out. We were getting warned by the starter and the surfboard paddlers who were there to keep us in line. The attempts were futile, and when the cannon started I was already behind in the race and blocked by a couple of surfboards. That was only a minor problem in the swim as I was quickly and easily in the front pack and feeling fine. At the first turn buoy I was kicked in the right eye pretty hard and I dropped back a little. This was the mistake that really cost me some time. Around the second and final turn buoy there was some separation in the pack. Since I was towards the back I wasn’t in a position to close the gap and I was stuck in the front of a second pack. You never want to be at the front of the second pack. It means you are swimming too hard, and going too slow. Better to be at the back of the front pack and swimming faster with less effort. Oh well, there were still some good riders in this small pack, including Chris McCormack, the 2007 champion. I was quick through the change tents but slow at my bike as I put on arm coolers for the ride. I was already a bit behind the group of riders. I rode hard to catch-up, too hard in retrospect, but at the time it was the gamble I thought I needed to take. Since I was already behind, I could use the pacing and the slight 10m draft effect of this small pack to catch up to the leaders. I stayed with the pack until Kawaihae then I started to cramp a little bit, I knew I was riding too hard and I had to back off the pace before I really popped. If I took it easy up to Hawi I could get my special needs bag and fuel up for the rest of the ride. I rode with a small group containing Michael Lovato (9th last year) and Patrick Vernay (6th last year), but the group dwindled quickly as Vernay and another rider both got drafting penalties. It took me a while to get my lunch out of the special needs bag, but once I got it out I was fine and feeling much better. I could still tell that I spent a little too much time riding too hard, but I figured that feeling would fade if I just kept the pace under control. The effects of riding too hard, never did fade away, and in fact they only got worse. I am not sure what was going on, but I had a killer headache on the ride. I was consuming salt capsules more rapidly than planned, I was sweating salt, and I could smell my own awful body odor. I was consuming plenty of salt, fluids and calories for the ride, but something just wasn’t right. My HR was too high for a long time, once I got it down, I had a hard time getting it to come back up. I could not for the life of me generate significant power on the bike. I coasted several times, and wanted to take my helmet off, because my head hurt so bad. I was upset at myself and kept audibly yelling at myself to HTFU and finish this ride. I was relieved to get off the bike, which is never a good feeling during a long race, but once on the marathon I made it my goal to break 9 hours for the day. I started off fine, but still had the killer headache. My stomach was a bit unsettled and I walked through the first aid station grabbing everything I could. Two waters, two Gatorades, two Cokes, water on the head, and sponges, I started running again quickly but I was not feeling well. It didn’t take long for the Coke to kick in and I was back. My legs weren’t there to run super fast but I knew if I just held it steady I could still pull off a decent marathon. 9 hours was going to be a stretch. I kept plugging away on the run. I had a few miles around 8 min mile pace, but I also had a few miles under 7 min mile pace. I was averaging around 7:30’s and that felt fine at the time. I focused on my technique and I kept picking off more and more runners. I am not usually one to pass people on the run, but when I blew up on the bike it put me behind where I would normally be. I continued the routine of drinking two Cokes and two waters at every aid station. I would take two salt capsules every 5 miles on the run. Towards the end of the run, about mile 22, I dropped my fuel belt bottle with Red Bull in it. I bent over to pick it up and my left hamstring seized in a cramp. I walked and had to stop and stretch for a while. I got it to relax then I took another two salt capsules. I could tell my legs were on the verge of cramping more, so I took two more salt capsules at mile 24 just to get to the finish line. My mile pace slowed considerably the last 4 miles but I was still moving forward and knew I would make it to the finish line. 9 hours was now out of the question, but I was just as happy to make it to the finish line in 9:06. It was not as fast as my debut at Kona in 2007 (which I thought was a bad race), but much better than last year, and I had my fastest Kona marathon so far with a 3:16. If I can run a 3:16 here after I bonked on the bike, I know I can really light this run up when I feel good. It was great to get another year of experience in Kona. I will review the race a thousand times and try to take away as much information as possible. In the meantime, I’m going to practice my three-pointers, the only way to get better at the long shot is by practicing.


Tollakson, TJ


Places 38/39/32

Age 29


Swim 00:52:52

Bike 04:52:37

Run 03:16:06

Finish 09:06:20


Work Hard,