Thursday, December 19, 2013

Off Crutches....But I Got Work to Do!

For those interested in the knee status…….

It hurts.  It hurts something fierce.  It pretty much feels the same way it did at mile 18 of the marathon back in Hawaii, which I recall was paired with a pretty ugly grimace.  I came off the crutches a week ago.  I was a little wobbly at first as the leg muscles tried to remember how to walk again but by the next day I was pretty stable.  If I stood for too long it would get to quivering a bit since the muscles were so weak but that didn’t last long.  I didn’t feel much pain in the knee those first two days back as a biped, but the calf muscle and Achilles were really aching as they struggled to make up for the shortcomings elsewhere.

I went for an easy 1000 yard swim the next day and just refrained from pushing off the wall with that leg.  Last weekend I also went for an easy bike ride: 80 minutes at about 16 mph.  That bike ride was the only time I felt no pain.  Therefore, biking equals therapy.

It hurts to walk.  It hurts to stand.  The inside of the knee is painful to the touch.  And I’m not gonna lie…….it’s been pretty discouraging.  But Dr Hasty and Charlie Kresho the PA both said the knee would be irritated for a while and that I need to be patient.  I’ve also read from others online that have had microfracture surgery say that the first 2 weeks of load bearing were miserable.  So, there’s not really much I can do but cowboy up and take ‘er easy.  As long as what I’m experiencing falls within the realm of “normal” I suppose I can deal with that.

I’ve got a good start on a roll of fat around my midsection, and I’ve already retired two pairs of work pants until further notice.  I haven’t seen hair on my legs in years, so the fur is an unfamiliar look for me.  And the knee is a bit swollen and mis-shapen……..but for the sake of functionality I don’t mind most any bit of disfigurement as long as I’m not scaring kids away or nothing.

It’s good to be off crutches though and not have to plan ahead how I’m going to get my soda can from here to there, or how to get a hot baking dish out of the oven with one hand while balancing on one foot.

I guess this is progress in some fashion!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Having an Ablation? Here, This Will Help......

So, you were just scouring the internet to see what you could find regarding ablations, huh?  I did the same thing.  Good luck with yours......

Mine was for something called Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome, or WPW Syndrome for short.  Which is really unfortunate that this dude gets the credit because his name is just awful even if you abbreviate it.  Wolfy White Syndy flows a bit better, but it's not my call.  Anyway, so there's this passageway in the heart that electricity is supposed to fire to make the thing work.  I'm a little skeptical because I've looked at a lot of anatomy charts over the years and I've never seen where we could keep a battery for such things, but then I'm not a doctor.  With Wolfy White Syndy evidently I was born with a second passageway, which makes the heart capable of short circuiting basically.  This explains my high school cross country episodes and the ones I had at the Washington Tri and Goldsboro Tri in 2011.  However, it wasn't properly diagnosed until I was under anaesthesia for my knee surgery 6 weeks ago.  Oh well.  I guess I couldn't expect my baboon heart to work perfectly forever.

So, here's what an ablation is like (at least the kind I had since I've heard from other experienced folks that they had more involved kinds - like weenie catheters and breathing tubes and stuff - yuck!).  It's an outpatient procedure - not surgery really.  They go in through your groin, find a great big artery, and snake their way up to the heart, stimulate the "short circuit" (in my case up to 245 bpm) and then either burn or freeze the extra passageway shut.  I suggested using duct tape but the doctor said he was kinda clumsy and couldn't do it without the tape sticking to itself on the way in.  I hate that too.

 It was early in the morning.  I wasn't yet in the mood for an ablation.

I was nervous about being sedated and not completely knocked out.  I really had no interest in being a part of the gang during this procedure.  

A girl named Shakira shaved my mess first.  Think of your wildest dreams in which Shakira gets you naked and shaves your mess and it's.........not anything like that.  It was actually very demeaning.  When she was done it kinda looked like a poodle.  I still wonder what she was snickering about when she left the room.  Then they put an IV in you and take some blood.  Because you probably showed up with too much to begin with.  Today I seemed to be in the mood to be a bit of a squirter.  It looked like she had smashed a bunch of mosquitos on my arm when she was done.

Then you wait a pretty long time until it's your turn.  They need you to wait because the quicker you go through the process the less likely you are to "use other stuff," and therefore they can't charge you for as much.  In my case, in addition to the procedure they got me for some Vaseline for my lips, use of the tv, some blankets and some cute yellow footie socks.

When they finally came to get me I was ready to go.  Pee.  I was ready to go pee.  So, I hobbled (still on crutches, here folks) to the bathroom with my white rear end hanging out of my gown before getting back on the gurney.  I gave my love to my wife and they wheeled me off to a room full of EKG screen things and video and machines that go "PING!"  I think this room was the hospital refrigerator as it was really, really unbelievably cold in there.  They started putting all kinds of sticky frozen EKG-type patches on my back and chest, which evidently were to ensure that I was completely freezing.  Once I was trembling uncontrollably from the cold, I think the nurses were satisfied enough to hook up the comfy juice to my IV (Versed and something else that is more for the pain).  And then the cold went away immediately, enough that I offered them my blankets in case any of them were cold.  They must have been really tough since they all declined.  The guy with the skull cap and goatie was the important one in this group, since he was the Drug Master.  He told me if i felt anything all I needed to do was ask and that he had plenty of drugs.  I tried to get his cell phone number.

I have to skip some stuff now because this part is all really fuzzy.

There were 3 big machines right in my face blocking my view of anything, but I could just barely see Dr Frazier (he looked really far away!) and the edge of a tv screen or two.  Judging by the show on the screen, he likes incredibly boring tv shows, but he was really into it.  "This is awesome!  Look at this!"

I didn't know who he was talking to but he had my interest peaked.  "What's awesome?!" I said and here came skull cap dude sticking something in my IV.

Sometime later........Dr Frazy again: "Oh this is so cool." 

"Hey, Dr Frayfray, what's cool?"  And then skull cap dude comes out again from behind his desk and knocks me out again.

Later......Dr Fre says something else and I barely get my mouth open as I look towards skullcap guy's desk and, bam, he's juicing me up again.  Lights out.

I don't know how many times that all went on.

These are the probe-zappers in my heart.

And then it was done!  I was getting wheeled back into room 13 where Angie was and I was feeling good but a little hungoverish.  The procedure was a success.  After they zapped the secret passageway in my heart the first time they evidently decided they hadn't got it all so they went back in and zapped it again.  I guess that's why I ended up with a hole on each side of my groin.  There was some confusion in between zaps as evidently they had told Angie they were wheeling me out prior to the decision to go back in, but all is good.  I got a twofer.  I'm sure that will show up in the bill as well.

This is a picture of a bunch of squiggly lines.  The doctor works himself into a trance, and then starts doodling lines like this until he works himself into a frenzy and the lines become uncontrollable.  At that point it's time to zap the heart.

I had to lay still in the bed for 4 hours before they would let me stand and walk, pee, and discharge me.  That was kind of boring.  I tried to make up hospital jokes.  "You will pay for your insulin!"  I thought it'd be cool to be the one to get to say that in a menacing way.  Obviously, I was still under the influence.

 The post procedure test: can you walk around the block?  Fail and they've gotcha in their clutches and get to force you to buy lots more stuff, pass and you go home.  Never been so nervous in my life!

Pretty simple procedure really.  And I was glad that they didn't determine my heart was 2 sizes too small since here we are right before Christmas.  I was nervous about that.

I went home and ate some Chinese take-out, which is always good for the heart, and then hit the sack.  I got a good look at my junk when I was taking off the bandages.  It looked like the poodle had been shot with an arrow in the head and you could see the bloody entry and exit wounds.  This is not a good look for me.

But all feels great the next morning.  I can't wait to try out my new ticker!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

This evening I planted the foot hard going up the garage steps and broke a mess of stuff on top of a cabinet during the process as I tried to catch myself and keep my body weight off of the healing knee.  That marks the 4th time in 4 weeks that I've slipped up on that, and the 2nd time that it happened on those steps.  I go up and down flights of stairs at work but those damn 4 garage steps continue to intimidate me.

What a great feeling that welled up inside me today as we drove home from a day spent in Raleigh.  I was hungry to ride my bike again, and I'm very hopeful that after next week's visit with the doctor I will be able to remount my beloved Merle III the P3 and get to work on this pathetic mound of a gut I've acquired during this process of growing cartilage anew.  But it is a deeply hopeful feeling and I'm energized in the thought of riding again.  Oh, and swimming too.  But yeah, riding moreso.

I'm exhausted of the crutches, and I've nearly worn out my welcome using them as an excuse to lay around in utter laziness while Angie puts up with it.

Anyway, I'll live.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Race Bib Coaster Project

3 weeks into my 6 week cartilage harvest in my knee post surgery and I’m going out of my mind.  Out of complete boredom I decided to try to make some coasters out of my Ironman Hawaii bib number.  Or you can buy them online for anything from $20 to $40 for a set of 4.  The DIY way costs about $7 and takes about an hour total time, assuming you aren’t going to just sit there and watch glue dry all day.  If that’s your thing, this process takes most of a day.

And you don't need this blog to follow the process.  There are plenty of other blogs out there that detail it pretty well.  

Here’s what you will need:

4 to 6 white 4”x4” tiles
Mod Podge
Foam Brush
Clear Acrylic Sealer

You probably don’t want to use your real bib number.  Well, maybe you do.  If you do it’s likely going to be too small to completely fill the tiles though.  So you might want to add some other stuff to the ensemble, like the date of the race or your finishing time.  I opted to print my bib a bit larger than actual size so it would fit on six 4”x4” tiles.  I printed the bib so it just about filled an 8.5”x11” sheet and it seemed to fit pretty well on the tiles.

I picked out some tiles at Lowes that were very rough.  Some of them were overly pitted but I wanted them to be rough so the paper would adhere better.  I haven’t tried this on smooth tiles but I suspect it’d be good to scuff them up a bit with sandpaper if you try it.

After cutting the bib into 6 pieces I also decided to bevel the edges of each square of the puzzle so the corners wouldn’t be easy to snag and peel off. 

I put a layer of Mod Podge (find it at your local crafts store) on each tile using the foam brush and then placed the bib piece on and added a layer of Mod Podge over it.  I chose matte finish but there are tons of different styles of this stuff so pick your poison.  I also went with a foam brush so I wouldn’t have little hairy pieces of brush stuck to my artwork.  The Mod Podge will look white and filmy as it dries.  Don't worry.  It goes away.

I let that dry for about an hour and then added a second layer of Mod Podge.  I then let them dry for about 3 hours and then I sprayed a thin layer of clear acrylic sealer over each tile to protect them from any moisture that they might collect with a nice cold brewski sitting on top of them.  After 10 minutes I sprayed a second layer and an hour later one more layer.

I let them dry for a few hours and then added some felt pads to the bottom so they wouldn't scar the table.

And that’s all it took.  Pretty darned simple!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Post-Op was Tough to Hear Today

Running the Boston Marathon.  Maybe returning to the North Carolina Triathlon Series to try and place as an Open Master.  Xterra would be fun.  Perhaps the Blue Ridge Relay with all my running buddies.  A destination Ironman like Brazil and definitely qualifying for Kona again and getting to race that course feeling fit and healthy.

I should maybe wait a bit to post on a day when I feel a bit better about things but, whatever, it's my blog.  I had my post-op with Dr Hasty this morning.  It went differently than how I saw it in my head.  I guess I was kind of hoping he'd say, "Damn, what you did to your knee is freakin' gnarly!  I've never seen anybody do something like an Ironman on such a crap knee before!"  And then we'd both laugh and he'd tell me to hang in there and that in a couple months I'd be able to start running a little more and more, and, "Oh hell yeah, go ahead and sign up for Ironman Brazil 2015!  You'll be as good as new by then."

Oh man, I don't know if I'm gonna be able to run again.

He said in a year, maybe so.  But the pain will still be there.  The surgery didn't fix anything.  It helped a bit.  It hurt to walk the last two weeks before surgery and I guess that pain will go away.  Damn, I sure hope so.  But the impact of running is a different story.  The new cartilage isn't as good as the stuff God gave me when I rolled off the lot all shiny and new.  The running pain I've been dealing with will still be there.

This was the picture of the spot that concerned Dr Hasty.  I guess this is like a Before picture.

Microfracture surgery involves drilling holes in the bone til it bleeds.  Your bone is supposed to grow new cartilage out of those holes.  This picture shows the bleeding has started.

And I'm gonna need a knee replacement.  We didn't really talk about time frame because by then I was bothered enough that I was afraid his speculation would only drop further bad news.  But if I try to run, the countdown to knee replacement surgery accelerates.

 I will be able to bike and swim.  And knit.

So, I'm in the unique position of having the opportunity to try to prove a physician that he's wrong., and Dr Hasty would love for me to do so.  Not near as badly as I would like to though.  And those races at the top of this post will still be out there if I do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kona in Pictures: The Days Before the Race

Now that my Ironman World Championship 2013 race report has been up on my blog for a while, I kind of feel like I only told a part of the story.  The race on the Big Island is so much more than just the race, and I experienced a ton of great stuff throughout the two weeks I was on the island.  I want to capture those memories on my blog as well, so this one's dedicated to all the fun I had OTHER than what happened on the race course. Some of it is pretty par for the course touristy stuff that you'd expect someone doing Ironman to do or see, and some of it maybe not.  This will be Part 1: the days before the Ironman.  Later I'll share from the week after Ironman.  So here's the rest of the story......more or less in pictures.......

I could not handle the excitement when I woke up to my first morning in Hawaii, smack dab at ground zero of triathlon's epicenter!  I couldn't sleep.  It was hardly even Tuesday morning when I kissed Angie, told her I was sorry that I'm so darned excited, but I was rolling out of bed at 4 am.  Jet lag probably had a hand in this decision too.  I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas day.

All that came to a screeching halt when I picked up my phone to catch up on the world and saw a very rare email from my cousin in New Orleans.  It said something was very wrong with my Aunt Joycelin, and to get my dad immediately.  Oh no. I woke him up, which in turn woke up my mom, my sister Cindy and her husband Mark, my sister Ginger, and of course Angie had already woken up with me.  Dad called only to find out my Aunt Joycelin had just died.  One minute she's washing her hair, the next minute gone.  And what a selfish thing that we're all over here in Hawaii.

 Excited beyond containment to be in Kona, thoughts about crawfish boils in New Orleans with my aunt, her amazing red beans and rice, visiting for Mardi Gras, and what am I doing here yet don't I deserve to be here?!

Dad quickly made reservations to head back home to Idaho and then straight on to New Orleans for the funeral.  I only got to spend that one day with him in Hawaii.  It was a really big deal to me that he had come out for this, but there was no question that he had to go back and support his sister's family and say a proper farewell to the last member he had in his immediate family.  Just like that, my dad was with us in Hawaii and then gone back to the mainland.

 I was so glad to see my dad in Hawaii to share in this amazing trip.  We at least got to ham it up for a few yucks Tuesday morning after we had all arrived the night before.

We had a great crib for this vacation.  A beautiful house with a spectacular view and a backyard that was super relaxing.  The pool was a surprise as it wasn't there when we rented it last December.

Our crib in Hawaii.  It was in a gated community precisely where the first bike turnaround is on Kuakini Highway.

The backyard of our house was perfect for parties.

 The pool was a bonus!

 First order of business was breakfast at Island Lava Java in Kailua-Kona Town.   It's kind of an uppity coffee nook right across the street from the ocean, and a great place to see some of the pros hanging out.  However, I actually did not see any pros hanging out there.  I bumped in to them in various places around town completely out of blind luck.

Island Lava Java.  Order up!

Scott Bikes had a big display going on at Lava Java, and this wall was dedicated to superfast uberbiker Sebastien Kienle, who happened to be my pick for the win on Saturday's race.

  I spotted Mark Allen at his coaching tent from our table at Lava Java and couldn't help but go bug him for a photo.  I was shaking I was so excited!  Dad attempted to take the picture but he wasn't up on smartphones, so it turned out to be a bit of a comedy of errors.  Mark was super nice through it all and kept saying, "I should be videoing this!"

Next after breakfast we set off into town on the beautiful Ali'i Drive to get my bike from TriBikeTransport, get registered for Ironman, and get a short swim in. The trip didn't start very well though, cuz mom stumbled over a curve and busted her knee and her ankle up pretty good.  We were having a rough time getting our momentum going on this trip!  Luckily she wasn't hurt too bad.  It could have been a lot worse.

This was my first look at the pier and Dig Me Beach, from the other side of the bay.  It was a breathtaking and somewhat emotional thing to lay my own eyes on such a historic place in this sport.  Honestly, a place I thought I'd never get to see about a year ago.

I snagged a photo op with Chris Lieto on the way to registration.  I liked his style of racing - bike your ass off and hold on as best you can in the run.  It almost worked for him in 2009 when he held the other pros off and managed 2nd place overall.  Sadly, he was sitting out this year again for an injured achilles tendon.

Along the wall at Dig Me Beach are posters of the past winners.  Dave Scott won six, and what makes him so fascinating to me is that his first Ironman wins were won with pretty pedestrian times (by today's standard).  But he figured out the sport - pioneered it - and built himself into a triathlete that could compete with anyone's time still to this day.  He proved anybody can do great things if you put your heart and soul to it.  I wished I would get a chance to meet him but I never did.  I don't even know if he was there this year.

 This one's for my friend, CC Wilkins, who has done this race 3 times.....the lucky bastard.  I remember him striking this pose in his last visit to Kona at this same spot.  I think he was facing the other way, but I couldn't make the photo op work that way.

They had this huge poster in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel (the host hotel) that had the names of all the participants on it.  I wonder what they did with it after the race.....

Just checking to make sure they got it right........

The wrist band always makes an impending Ironman feel just a little bit more official.   Registration was way too formal with too many serious questions, so I tried to inject a little humor into the conversation with the volunteer that processed me through the herd.

After registration we hit the Ironman Merchandise Tent where I spent an exorbitant amount of cash on the finest narcissistic Ironman World Champ paraphenalia I could find.  This was also sort of a trick I was playing on myself: my injured knee left it questionable to some point as to whether I would finish the race.  With clothes that indicate I finished the race, I would now have to or all of it would be useless clumps of cotton and polyester.  It's just a personal rule not to wear something advertising an event I haven't done.

Then it was time to set foot on the sand of the famous Dig Me Beach where the race would start and have a bit of a practice swim!

Getting ready for a dip in the clear water of Kailua Bay.  This is the most amazing place I have ever flailed around in an attempt at swimming.  In just a few yards you're over coral reefs teaming with fish - triggers, tangs, parrot fish - and even the occasional sea turtle.  Quite a bit different than the waters of Chocowinity Bay.....

 Swimmers practice their stroke in the salty water of Kailua Bay.  That's Mauna Loa volcano in the background.  That steeple in the center, however, is the most tell-tale bit of the skyline to me and I've been fascinated by it for years. Later on I'll show you a bit more of this historic landmark.

Every morning during race week Dig Me Beach is crowded with hard bodies from around the world.

After my swim, I recognized the guy that came in 2nd in my age group (40-44) at IMFL last November (I came in 5th).  This was his 10th time at Kona I believe.  I have no idea how someone affords to do that, especially all the way from Europe. He's a triathlon coach.

This is Hunter Hobson, and he is 100% prime grade A badass.  No, he's not a pro.  But he is a damn good triathlete.  What's far more impressive is that he's a Marine F/A-18 fighter pilot and has also flown the #2 position in the Blue Angels.  Gimme my dream job!!!!  He and I met at IMFL last year as well, and bumped into each other several times on the course.

I love how Hawaii is full of spiritual places.  This was such a peaceful spot right on Ali'i Drive - prime real estate but not for use.  Just a place to respect and reflect.  Now, just next to it was a major hangout for bums but those guys know a great hangout when they see one too.

That afternoon I went for a quick ride up the Queen K highway to give the bike a shakedown.  I rode up to the Energy Lab, which is the most desolate part of the run course, just to take a peek.  The bike felt great and I found myself saying over and over again how unreal this was to be here and actually in this race.

The entrance to the Energy Lab, just off of the Queen K.  No bikes allowed so I just took a gander and saved the experience for race day. (I would have gone for a run in there prior to the race but since my knee was a bit of a liability I was avoiding all running until the race)

Merle takes a break on the Queen K.  The road is super smooth with massive shoulders.  It's like this road was designed with a World Championship long distance race in mind.  I opted to borrow Carl Bonner's 808's for the race rather than go with something more sidewind friendly and lower profile.  It turned out to be a good decision at least on that day.....

At the Expo I bumped into another badass.  This is Colin Laughery from Boulder, CO.  He and I evidently swam head to head and biked head to head at IMFL without even knowing it.  Now, he dropped me like a bad habit on the run (he went 3:10 and I went 3:20) but basically by pure chance we pieced together how our day unfolded simultaneously over the months after Florida through Tweets and Slowtwitch posts here and there.  Maybe it sounds weird, but when you share time on the course at Ironman with someone, it can develop into a lifetime friendship.  And that's one of the cool things about Ironman to me.  Colin would go on to have an amazing race on Saturday.  He blogs too.  Click here for his side of the story.

Tuesday night Angie and I went to the Slowtwitch party.  Slowtwitch is a triathlon forum that I have an addiction to.  It's my morning ritual to have my coffee and catch up on the forum with all that's happening in the world of triathlon.  I hardly know anyone on the forum, other than recognizing their names, but I thought it might be a good chance to meet some folks and they give away cool prizes too.  I did get to meet two celebs in the world of endurance - Chrissie Wellington and Chris Boardman.  Both Brits!  Angie also won a cool pair of Monster earphones!

Chrissie Wellington was super gratious about the photo op and looked fit enough she could have jumped into the pro field at the last minute on Saturday and left them in her dust!

Chris Boardman was at the Slowtwitch party to give away a new Boardman bike as a door prize.  Pete Jacobs - last year's winner - rides one of his bikes so he was essentially here in support.  I loved watching him crush the old Tour de France prologues in his day and I had always read that he had a dry sense of humor and was somewhat dull.  Not at all! He was very talkative with a witty sense of humor that would have put him right at home in a Monty Python sketch!

Wednesday started with another breakfast at Lava Java followed by another swim in the bay.

Well, here's Lava Java again!

The bay was looking as inviting as ever and the pier was starting to take shape for the Ironman on Saturday!

I wanted to swim to the Coffees of Hawaii boat.  They set up about a quarter of a mile in the bay and hand out free coffee to the swimmers.  It's one of those must-do things I guess.  On the way to the boat there's a sign laying in the sand at the bottom of the harbor telling you "This way to the Coffees of Hawaii."  Love it!  Unfortunately, I got there just as they were setting sail for shore.  Dammit.  Strike 2!

Heading out for a swim!  I broke one of the cardinal rules of triathlon: don't try new equipment right before a race.  I had just bought a Blueseventy P03TX swimskin and this would be my first test run.  It worked like a charm.

That afternoon, Angie, mom, and Ginger and I went for a drive to Hawi.  I wanted to test ride that section of the course since the winds can get pretty crazy out there.  I wanted to know now rather than wait til race day what those winds felt like.  So we loaded the bike in the van and drove north.  What an amazing island this is!  Take a nap for just a few minutes while driving around the island and you may wake up to wonder if you're in the same place at all!  The landscape and the foliage changes so much depending on what part of the island you're on.  We left the desolate lava fields around Kona to emerge in a town surrounded by greenery in the quaint little village of Hawi.  We all fell in love with the quiet little community!

We stumbled on this nifty little sushi place in Hawi called Sushi Rock and ate there for lunch.  The bathroom situation was perfect small town nostalgia - grab the key and follow the painted footsteps around the building to the closet in the back.  And the food was outstanding!

After lunch, we continued the drive up the highway and watched the world around us turn into a Jurassic Park jungle.  At the end of the road we were treated to an amazing view of a black sand beach hidden among jungle covered cliffs.  Breathtaking!

We didn't stay at this spot long.  There were obviously raptors in the area, and none of us were keen on being eaten that day.

What a view!  Ginger and I both would have loved to make the hike down there, but that would have been a dumb idea for me.  I wished Ginger could have gone, but we were all holding her back.

After taking in the view, we drove back to Hawi and I mounted my bike.  "Just 10 miles!" I told them.  "Watch your odometer and when you get to 10 miles just pull over and I'll jump in."  They let me go on ahead.  I was nervous.  Really nervous.  The winds didn't "look" bad on the drive up, and Ginger said she didn't feel any strong winds driving the van.  But this was where the winds typically came blowing off the mountain from the left and if you weren't ready for them when you came out of a spot where the road had been cut out from the mountain and offered some protection, you could be in for a big surprise.  I had heard about folks getting blown across the road, even blown off their bikes.  And getting in your aero position on the bike or trying to reach for your water bottle was a good way to lose it.

 Ready to head out for a ride out of Hawi. Desperate for anything that might help me deal with the pain in my knee on race day, I visited the Kinesio tape booth and gave their stuff a shot.  I don't know if it helped but it didn't matter.  On race day when I tried to tape up the knee in T2 before the run I got the tape all tangled up in itself anyway and just chucked it.

After the slight uphill that takes you out of Hawi, you get a long down hill.  The wind was at my back and I was flying!  I looked back and saw the van and figured they were nervous for me too and just wanted to check things out for the first couple miles and make sure I was okay.  I was still nervous about what was ahead, but I was okay.  I was MORE than okay.  Because now I was cruising uphill in the biggest gear I had at 35 mph.  I was having the time of my life!  And that's how those 10 miles went.  All tailwind, and never the slightest gust that chiseled away even the smallest chunk of my confidence.  I hoped it would be like that for race day, but knew anything could happen between now and Saturday.

Cruising down the highway out of Hawi.  What a glorious ride that was!

When we got home we had a little time to chill on the patio.  I got a little over zealous telling stories.  You had to be there.

 This pool wasn't here when we rented the place.  I held back any complaints about it though since I didn't want to come off as a whiner.  I guess I just made the best of the situation.

That night Ginger, Angie, and I went to the Welcome dinner and sat with some old friends from Greenville.  Doug Thompson was there with his family after finally getting a lottery slot that he had dreamed of for so long.  It was good to see him again.  I wasn't impressed with the food at the Welcome dinner and the whole thing kind of dragged on.  We left before the race meeting started after the dinner.  I just wanted to go back to the house and chill.

 The guy I'm talking to in the green jacket also qualified at Ironman Florida. He's 79 years old and has plenty of energy. Don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do something.

Thursday was the Underpants Run!  Way back when, the American athletes started poking fun of the European athletes for prancing around all week in their Speedos, so what started as just a goofy joke turned into a (somewhat) bonafide run complete with donations to charity.  I couldn't run, but I could at least show up and support.

 Really, this is perfectly normal behavior to be walking down the street in your nut huggers.....

Me and my sisters, Ginger and Cindy at the Underpants Run.

I liked her shoes....

Pete Jacobs, Chris Boardman and others were off for a bike ride but got hung up behind the Underpants Run.

 Angie pretends she likes my smooches in the big banyan tree at the finish line.

The days are starting to run together on me at this point, but I think I also went for a swim on Thursday.  Dave and the Mirras had arrived so I met them at Dig Me Beach.  Dave was showing me a side I was unfamiliar with as he was totally embracing some sort of spectator mode.  He was soaking it all in and I could see his Intensometer was merely taking inventory of stimuli, harnessing it for home, and that once on North Carolina soil again he was going to unleash the fury with a newfound intensity the moment he could get back to training.  Dave is all about triathlon right now and is already a beast at it.  Some day I'll probably have to toe the line against him.  There may be a little fear in that for me, or maybe I know he'll be reading this and I just want to pump him up a bit.  I tell him that after Jan 1 he and I can't be friends for 2 years since we'll be in the same triathlon age group.  Once I age up to the 45-49 age group I'll call him up again and see if he wants to go for a ride.  It was great to have him and his family there in support and every time I looked at him I saw the opportunity of his hotel bathroom waiting for me at the King K Hotel on race morning.  Heh!

I couldn't coax Dave into joining me for a practice swim but he was there to support any way he could!

Eric Hinman is Dave's friend from Syracuse, and he qualified at Ironman Lake Placid a coupe months ago.  Dave wouldn't swim with me, but Eric was all over it!

Early morning swim practice while the sun rises over the volcano in the background.

Eric and I managed to find the coffee boat that morning and enjoyed a cup in the greatest venue in the world for a caffeine boost.....the beautiful panoramic view that is Kailua Bay!

Thursday was also the day to prep my race bags, since the next day I'd be turning them in to the racks in transition as well as my bike.  I'm annoyingly organized.  Most of this task was already completed before I even got to Hawaii.

Everything laid out where it belongs, ready to go into the bags.  I added Superman duct tape to my bags to make them stand out against the rest more, but the tape wasn't really quite colorful enough.

Friday was race day eve!!!!!!  Today would be all about bike check in. This is a big event for the athletes at Kona.  When you check your bike and gear in you walk through a gauntlet of equipment counters.  These folks tally every brand of equipment you bring in from your bike to your helmet to your wheels, etc.  It all gets tabulated into the Kona Bike Count (and equipment count) and is a huge marketing tool for the brands that sell this stuff.  Everybody wants to know what those that made it to Kona use.  Cervelo was the obvious winner of the bike brands and I was doing my part to help them out.  For my efforts, they were there in a tent to hand out a free Cervelo Kona shirt to all that ride their bikes.  

The gauntlet of equipment counters sit on the other side of the barriers while the athletes bring their bikes to the pier.

 None of the press was too excited to photograph me and my gear as I wheeled it into transition but my lovely wife was!  Damn, I didn't even get a glance from fellow NC rez Herbert Krabel of Slowtwitch press (in the background in the white shirt and goofy hat)!

Evidently your helmet needs to be out of the bag and visible.  I didn't know that.  I got hollered at and I felt like a rookie.  Still, it looks pretty silly to be wearing an aero helmet when walking your bike so all you veterans kinda looked silly to me too.  A photo was taken of my bike, presumably for insurance purposes, and then a volunteer escorted me through the whole transition process.  I really liked the guy and I hate I forgot his name.  He had been to Greenville for something or another but lived in Hawaii now.  He took me to rack my bike in its designated slot.  Even just racking my bike here was something I've always wanted to say I've done.  The transition area has that green plastic patio stuff on it and the racks are just slots that your rear wheel fits into.  Much nicer than a rail to rest your seat on and a muddy field.  

He then took me through the rows of racks for the bike-to-run transition bags and the swim-to-bike transition bags.  Right in front of me was Dirk Bockel, one of my favorite pros, going through the same process.  This was the coolest thing ever......was I really doing this?!?!

 The swim-to-bike transition bags all racked up.  Which one is mine?  

 Dirk Bockel has a breakthrough Kona race coming up.  I know it.

The other interesting part of Bike Check In is watching the pros come in to check their gear in.  They get swarmed by photographers and it's a good chance to see the big names and what their kits look like for this year.  So, we went upstairs across the street to Splasher's to grab a bite and watch the pros do their thing.

Sebastian Kienle wheels his Scott Plasma into the transition area.  I didn't realize until just now posting this picture that right next to him is my friend Colin Laughery!

My family and the Mirras were already at Splashers when I got out of the check-in process.  But something was going on at the table behind us.  An older guy was setting up a spread on his table with some old trophies, books, and things......and he was wearing a shirt that clearly showed he was in the first Ironman in 1978!  I went over to chat with him and, sure enough, it was Tom Knoll, 6th place at the first ever Hawaii Ironman!  I was so honored to meet such a legend of the sport and he was such a nice guy that loved telling stories.  I bought his book, which proceeds go 100% to charity (I got to choose one - cancer research).  

As if that wasn't enough, Gordon Haller joined his table.  Gordon won that first Ironman and was competing again this year.  These guys were the mack-daddies of the sport, the founders, the ones that came up with this crazy idea in a bar that started with a silly conversation between swimmers, bikers, and runners that suddenly decided to throw it all together in an athletic feat so insane only 12 takers toed the line to begin with.  Now look what they started!!!!!!  We chatted with them for a long time...........and I was sipping way too many beers for an Ironman the next day! 

Tom Knoll clearly loves the sport and sees it as a tool for giving to others.  He has done countless charity runs since his younger days in the Marines and I got the feeling the last thing he cared about was making any money off of it himself.  I could have chatted with him all day.
Gordon Haller was just as easy to listen to as he told his stories.  Dave and I chatted with him quite a bit.  Gordon ran over 80 miles the week prior to that first Ironman.  I guess there weren't a lot of tri coaches around back then.....
 The official leaderboard for the first Hawaii Ironman in 1978.  Back then it was in Oahu.

 That's my sister in the background whoopin' it up.  You don't get to meet a legend very often.  Very glad I got to meet Gordon.

 Dave and I were having a great time at Splasher's spotting pros dropping off their bikes at the transition area.  The beers were flowing a bit too well.  I needed to get out of there if I was going to finish an Ironman the next day......but really I wanted to stick around.

Sister Cindy, me, Angie, and Dave hanging out at Splashers the day before race day.

Standard protocol the day before an Ironman....

 NOT standard protocol the night before an Ironman.  Frank Fisher texted me just in time before I gave myself a refill and talked me out of it.  You can see the TENS unit attached to my knee as well as tape residue from the Kinesio Tape I had tried out that day.

Race day would be the next day.  To read about how that part went, you can click here.  Stay tuned for my next report where I'll share pictures from the week after Ironman and more amazing things we saw in Hawaii!