Kona Recovery: My 2012 Race Report

It all went so smoothly.  I arrive on the island three weeks before the race, in the best shape of my life.  The first week was spiked with volume and intensity before I started my long-awaited taper.  Exactly 10 days out of the race is when it happened…

It was a brick run like any other—this would be my final hard session out on the Queen K, with a 90-minute effort on the bike and a hard run to follow.  I was tired, but I hit all my times.  Half way through the run, coach handed me some water out of the team-car, which I tried to grab at full speed.  Right when I grabbed the bottle, my right hand got stuck on the side mirror of the car and I hit my hand hard and twisted my fingers back.  Right away I knew there was more to this little accident than a simple bruise, and finished my workout while in serious pain.  The next three days, my massage therapist worked on getting the swelling down, but the pain didn’t go away.   The X-Ray confirmed what we already knew in the back our minds would be a difficult scenario—a fracture in the fourth metacarpal.  It took me five days to realize that I could still race and perform.  No question—the obstacle that I was forced to overcome would be a big one.

I toed the start line in an attempt to make the impossible into something that was actually possible.  Just several hundred meters into the swim, my splint came loose and I had no other option but to stop and re-wrap and adjust it.  By the time I was ready to go again, I was far back and was focused on limiting my losses.  I picked up the speed, caught a few guys, and remained 150 meters behind the group for the remainder of the swim.

The pain was bearable, but the functionality was not where it should be, so I exited the water about 2 minutes behind the first pack.  It took some time to unwrap my splint and to get everything I needed for the bike with 1.5 hands.   The toughest challenge of the day was mastered—or so I thought.  But catching up to a flying lead pack in Kona, where the pace is extremely high for the first phase of the bike, takes a lot of effort.

Forty minutes later, I was at the tail end of the main pack and allowed myself to take a breath and settle in.  It was impossible to make up more ground since the guys were all lined up within the legal distance and passing many of them at a time was a serious endeavor.  On the way to Hawi we lost a few soldiers to Madame Pele and once the uphill section came around, the group split up and I was able to make my move.

A few single guys were up the road so I bridged a big gap, and Sebastian Kienle (GER) came by.  It was the perfect scenario for me, so I followed him all the way to the front.  At the turn-around I got my special needs bag and somehow managed to get my bottles out and continued to push the pace.

The toughest part was getting water bottles on the course—since the pain was sharp when I tried to get them and I tried to avoid grabbing them if I didn’t have to.  I managed to get off the bike–Pete Jacobs (AUS) in second and myself in third.  My bike split was the fastest of the guys in the top ten, so I knew that at least my legs were functioning properly.

Even after losing a bit of time in T2, I started my marathon strong.  The fatigue set in, but I maintained pace, until somehow all of the stress, my negative thoughts since the accident, the pain in my hand, and distractions took over my mind.  I started walking and finally stopped, took a breath, and then continued to run.  I stopped again and told myself that it was time to quit.  My coach Michael and my wife Alicia somehow managed to talk me out of it.  Even though I dropped from 5th to 12th place, I thought I might be able to come back.  Suddenly I was able to run again, and I made up ground and passed a few more guys.  5km to go, the fastest runner in the field was Bart Aernouts (BEL) came dangerously close and I had to dig deeper than ever to maintain a top ten place—which I managed.  Crossing the line, I was disappointed, but soon started to realize what I was able to achieve that day.  A top ten place is still very respectable—but more importantly I won the fight against the negative thoughts in my mind—and this is what Ironman is all about.

Now I am proud of what I achieved out there this year.  With good luck on my side next year I should be back on track to chase the dream.

Thanks for believing in me,


2 Comments On “Kona Recovery: My 2012 Race Report”

  1. A good read mate, well done.

  2. Hey Dirk,
    So glad to hear that you have pulled up well from Kona. It was really inspiring watching the way you went about it on the day with the obvious difficulties and pain. Best of luck in Cozumel and hope you come away with the win.

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