Finding the fun in races is sometimes an exercise in perspective. In the Maui to Molokai I was worried that my flight from Seattle the night before was going to be a factor in my performance, but at the two hour mark I felt good. My plan was to get to the Kamalo buoy first and then surf my way home because that run can be so good, and for a few miles it was, but it did not live up to it’s reputation.
Once I got to Kamalo Conner caught up and passed me by a little bit. I knew that I couldn’t panic if I wanted to have a chance at getting back in the race. So I collected my thoughts, took a couple of sips on my drink and refocused. Within a couple of minutes I was back in the race with a few good glides and had passed Conner back. Even if you can’t win, these are the moments that make it fun. The exchange we had for the next fifteen or twenty minutes actually made the race for me. These are the times where you feel like you’re truly racing. Totally in the moment and giving each other your best, completely lost in the battle. For me that’s what racing is all about. I know we all race to win or at least do the very best we each individually can, but races within the race are the golden gems that pop up unexpectedly, and separate the most memorable moments from the general blur of delirious exhaustion.
In any case Conner dropped me eventually and did a great job of holding off a serious press by my cousin Ekolu. Later there was a moment after Conner got about a hundred yards on me that I thought I’d better make a move or it was over for good. So I really went to work and, in my opinion, really started to fly. Getting monster glide after monster glide, I started to gain some ground back, but just not enough, so that’s when I conceded and realized that this kid can really glide. I also realized that my concern about not having enough fluids at the start of the race was valid, and my early attempt to conserve fluids by not consuming all I wanted was costing me–I started to cramp. I popped electrolyte pills like they were candy but I was too far gone and they had little or no effect.
Life’s Little Lessons
As I’ve stated before, hydration is huge, and just because I know it doesn’t mean I’m immune to failing to heed my own advice. In fact many of the tips I share serve a second purpose in reminding myself of what’s important. Let’s face it, there are so many little things to remember for a long distance race like: Reach, twist, breath, use your peripheral vision, hydrate, relax, stay focused, electrolyte pills, gu, music, don’t drop the top hand, pace yourself, push yourself but not to hard, focus on the line, connect the bumps, etc., etc.. And then you start the check list over to make sure you manage them. One thing missed may or may not take you out of the race but forget two or three and you’re done.
A new little lesson is in false economies. I thought I would try to save money and not have an escort boat for this race but in the end it probably cost me more to not have one, as both of my main competitors had boats and I’m sure the support they received was very helpful. I’m not saying that I could have beaten Connor and Ekolu that day if I had had a boat, but I can’t help thinking I might have saved a hundred bucks and lost $4000.
So once Conner was clearly beyond on my reach I just kept paddling and repeating to myself “anything can happen, be prepared to pounce in case he makes a mistake”. It’s my philosophy that you always keep pressing because you never know what’s going to happen and if it doesn’t at least you gave it all you had. I don’t like to look back to see what’s going on behind me because I find that if I react to what’s behind me it breaks my rhythm. I like to just look forward and hammer, but on this occasion about a three quarters of a mile from the finish I peeked back just in case somebody was sneaking up on me. Sure enough, Livio was coming up my six o’clock and fast. I had to do something drastic or I was going to lose third. At this point in the race the wind had pretty much died but there was still small bumps running with us. It was time for a gut check. So after a few big deep breaths I put the hammer down looking for anything that would buy me a few feet that Livio might not get. Bingo! I got a small one that turned into about a twenty five yard glide. I worked so hard to get it that had I not, it could have been the end of me. Just that one little glide bought me some valuable real estate and some much needed confidence that motivated me to get another one which clinched third for me. Once we turned the channel marker buoy to head into the finish I didn’t realize how long two hundred yards could be. Nevertheless, the minute I crossed the line everything on me locked up. If I had fallen off my board I might have drowned. Lucky for me there were plenty of ice cold liquid muscle relaxants around.
Once again I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Conner for such a strong race. As I told him later, he really earned it.