• Derek Stone

Taking Risks and Letting Kona Roll


This may be a prelude to my race report, but I wanted to talk about when it may be appropriate to take risks.



As an age group athlete completing at an ironman event, you need to be pretty calculated to get to the finish line. From power numbers, pacing and nutrition the level of detail to these numbers is non-negotiable. Sometimes shit happens and you just don’t have the day. But sometimes you take risks and it pays off. And sometimes, it doesn’t.

Going into Louisville, I was pretty confident I could break 9 hours. I figured I would swim a 52ish 2.4 mile swim, bike 5:05 and run a 2:55 marathon to cap it off add transitions and I’m right around that benchmark. The problem is, I strained my hamstring in France. I ran one 17 mile long in after France and it was killing me! I considered pulling out of Louisville and starting an early recovery and build for a marathon. Well, I decided not to do that. Run very little, very short and very slow. I also saw a PT Chris Wolfe who has helped keep me glued together.

On my drive up to Louisville, I received a text from a teammate saying the swim was cancelled due to toxic algae. WTF is this? I never knew algae was toxic. I may not be the fastest swimmer, but I swim well against the AG field and I knew this would change the dynamic of the race.

To keep this short and to the point- The bike start was a Time Trial start with athletes departing every 5 seconds. It was cold in the morning, so I worm my tri suit, arm warmers and I put my special needs bag on my chest to block the wind and plastic in my shoes to minimize the windchill. The bike was uneventful. 112 miles of drinking a lot of sugar and eating GU Energy gels. I couldn’t have been happier to get off the bike.

The Run and the Risk-

As I began the run, I looked at my watch and I saw 5:XX… Shit. Slow TF down. I tried. And I did. After a couple of miles, I fell into a 6:31 groove. My plan was to run 6:50’s for the first 3 and then pick it up to 6:40s. Well, I decided that Kona was off the table, this was the day to see how fast I could run a marathon on less than 25 miles a week average for the last 2 months. Honestly, I felt great. Until I didn’t. I was flying. Until I was falling. Just to paint a picture, I do not lap my run splits every mile. I keep it on a rolling average, so it smooths out to manage to and overall pace. After I made the first loop of the 3 loops, I began to settle into a solid groove and just rolled with it. But wait, I looked at my watch and the average pace was 6:24… I was going faster…. I knew this wasn’t good, so I backed off a bit. After looking back at my strava splits, I put down a 6:02 and 6:00 at mile 9 and 10. At this point I was all in. I still felt great and said, if there is ever an opportunity to take a risk, today is the day. I remember at mile 16 things began to settle in. The fatigue, the lack of volume and the massive amounts of sugar I consumed all day.

I knew it was about to get hard. I approach mile 18 and I could feel my legs getting heavier and my heart rate rising. I wanted to walk so damn bad, but I knew if I began to walk, the fatigue would quickly compound, and it would become more and more challenging to run. I just picked off each mile until I finished the 3rdlap. The home stretch. The slightly uphill finish. The end of the battle.

I took a risk on October the 13th. In the back of my head, I knew it probably wasn’t a smart bet. But sometimes, if you have the flexibility and there is no goal in mind, it can provide an opportunity to find your limit. Now, it’s not like I would have saved 10 minutes if I ran smarter. Maybe 3 to 4 tops which is still a lot of time. I also didn’t fall over and crawl or walk for that matter. But I did slow down. All things considered; I can’t complain about the result. I went into the race on low volume to an injury and I ran like an idiot.

I think it is important to step out of the “numbers” game every now and then and just race or even complete a workout with someone else watching the numbers and pushing you rather than adhering to a prescribed pace. Now, I’m not saying, go out and dig yourself a hole. Just go out and complete a workout with someone who is slightly faster than you and try and hang on or see if you can push the boundaries a little more if you have a race with no expectations.

I did, however, set an expectation for myself. I will run a 2:50 marathon off the bike. I really wish that never came out of my mouth because I do not particularly enjoy sitting on a bike for 112 miles but my experience in Louisville put me in an interesting place and I am ready for another full ironman. But not until next year!

Why I let Kona Roll:

My cousin is getting married on the day of Kona and he said I can wear my birthday suit.

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