Day 0 – Ironman World Championship

Race Report below.

First batch of photos are here:

and here:

Up at 3:45 (I had 4 alarms set) for an early breakfast. Stomach not doing so good with last night’s dinner + excitement of the day.

Walked down to checkin with Cindy, got there around 4:45 when they opened, per Bill’s recommendation – which was a good idea. We walked around the back of the KBH (Kamehameha Beach Hotel that hosts much of this), dropped off the SN (Special Needs with any favorite food that you can pick up half way through the run and bike) bags, then I went in for body marking. They take body marking VERY seriously – they tell you in advance not to put any lotion or sunscreen on because the ink won’t stay on as well. Then when you get there, they wipe your arms with alcohol to make sure they are clean, then they apply the numbers with inked stamps. If there are any touch-ups needed, they use a big black felt-tip marker. They then tell you to NOT put on any sunscreen on your arms until after the swim so you don’t smear up your number.

After that, a trip out to the pier to pump up the tires and top off the water bottles. I met Cindy back out in front of the KBH, handed off my pump and got a good luck hug and kiss. Then she headed back to get the kids up so they could see the swim.

I hung out in the lobby of the KBH, trying to chill. There is so much nervous energy everywhere, though, that there isn’t much relaxing to be had. Even a couple of the Pro’s I saw hanging out were antsy and couldn’t keep still. I saw Andy Potts trying to stretch and chill out back, but the reporters kept bugging him.

About 6:30, I headed out to the Pier and found a place to sit down with some of the other athletes, and listend to the Pro men then women take off. Around 6:45, they ushered us all down the stairs into the water. There were 2 foot swells that morning, so when we all swam out to the start line, it was hard to keep everyone back behind the start line. They yelled, “GO, GO, GO!!!” because, for some reason, the cannon wouldn’t fire. So, off we went!!


I seeded to the back middle. Even so, there was a lot of contact at the beginning – and almost the whole way through the swim. What was nice, though, is that these are all experienced triathletes, so the contact wasn’t overly brutal or agressive. Only slightly so 🙂

Due to the swells, it was really hard to sight the buoy’s on the way out. I followed the crowd, which was OK, but we did zig-zag a bit. Even when I was finally able to sight my first red buoy, I couldn’t see the next due to the swells, elbows, and heads around. After a while, the mast of the boat down at the turnaround became visible, and sighting off that worked just fine. I got to the second turn buoy at 51 minutes.

The swim back was a lot better – buoy’s were easier to see, and it was easy to sight off the KBH on shore. Nice steady swim back, catching a couple drafts here and there, put me on the shore in just over 1:35:11 – which is very close to the predicted 1:37 on my last long swim.

Felt great going into T1. Quick shower to get off the salt water, then change, slather twice in sunscreen, and off on the bike.

BIKE (Gale time)

The first 35 miles of the bike were pretty easy going. I started on my nutrition about 45 minutes in, and kept it steady for the whole bike: take 1/2 gel, wait 15 minutes, take the other half, wait 15 minutes, have something else (candy), then repeat. I noticed my HR was about 10bpm lower than I would have expected. Which surprised me because I felt good and rested. So, I bumped up the nutrition to 1/2 gel every 15 minutes, and that didn’t seem to do a whole lot.

The bike starts with an out-and-back south down the Kuakini highway. It’s a gradual climb out to the turn-around, then back down through Kailua, and the cheers of people lining the streets. Then you climb up the hill to the Queen K, where there is nothing and nobody except aid stations every few miles.

As I started down the Kuakini highway, I got to see my family cheering by the side of the road. It was easy to pick them out – we have this huge cast brass cowbell we picked up in Austria – you can hear it above the shouts of the crowd from blocks away!

35 miles in, I was feeling pretty good, and I had the thought – “Where are all these winds I heard about?” Just about then (of course) the terrain opened up to view the mountains on the north west end of the island. They were wrapped in clouds –  and the wind came down and said hello.

By the time we got up to the turnoff for Havi, my average speed was north of 17.5 mph, so I had hopes of a pretty good  bike split. There’s a long fast descent after the turn-off, then gradual climbing rollers as you go around the mountain up to Havi. As we got around the mountain, the clouds came over and gave us some break from the sun. Then a little sprinkle, which was refreshing on the climb. As we continued around the back of the mountain, the breeze started to feel more like a head-on gale, and the sprinkle turned into a rainstorm. The trees were all bent over from the wind, all of us were in our granny gears pushing up this mountain through the howling wind and rain. It was amazing. We finally got up to the turn-around at Havi, and I powered down the mountain with the tail wind. I backed way off toward the bottom – as the road turned to the south, the tail winds turned into cross-winds which were really spooky down in aero going 35mph.

It was down hill and pretty fast most of the way to the turn-off back to the QueenK except for that last big climb to to the turn, which was a bit of a slog. A lady I passed said, “I came down this going 45. Now I’m going up at 5!”

Once back on the Queen K, we had to fight a steady headwind all the way back to town. It had really kicked up, and was a fight for each mile. At places where it was coming at us at an angle, you could look ahead to the line of cyclists and see them all leaning way over to the right against the wind. As each mile ticked by, I could see my 17.5mph average gradually melt away, with my hopes of a sub-7 bike. I tried to boost my nutrition to 1/2 gel every 10 minutes, but felt a little bloat coming on, so backed down from that. Ended up doing 112 in 7:10. Considering the difficulty of the course, I’m OK with that.

I wrapped the  bike and geared up for the run. Had a FANTASTIC volunteer from Australia help me gear up and get ready. helped me with my stuff, getting sunscreen, gave me a pep-talk even and sent me on my way.

One word on the volunteers – I love the volunteers on these races, and Cindy and I have volunteered to give back. It’s a great time and appreciated by the athletes in all these events. The volunteers here, though – they are absolutely amazing! If you are ever able to volunteer at any Ironman event, I encourage you to do so.

RUN (Shuffle in the darkness)

Anyway, I headed out on the run and couldn’t keep a run up for long without getting dizzy. Low glycogen. So, I did a run/walk, 20 steps walk, 100 steps running, and kept that up, trying to get as much nutrition as I could without getting sick.

The course makes a small loop around town, then goes down south along Ali’i drive for a 5 mile out-and-back. I saw Cindy and the kids on my way out, and on my way back, a friend of mine, James Booth who flew out the night before to see the race, was there. I stopped to say “hi” and get some hugs from the kids. The kids ran with me all the way back into town, until I had to turn up toward the Queen K. I think that was one of the most memorable parts of the day.

Once on the Queen K for the last 16 miles, it got dark, quiet, and lonely. There are a couple big rollers that seemed to go on forever, then you get to the Energy Lab turnoff. For the pro’s and top age-groupers, the Energy Lab is tough because it is all lava fields, and they get there in the hottest part of the day. For us regular people, it’s tough because it’s pitch black, and by the time you get to the bottom, you know you have 8 mile miles to go, including the climb back out of the lab. In the context of a 140 mile ironman, 8 miles may not seem like a lot. But those are the toughest 8 of the day.

Along the run there were some walking wounded. Cramping up late in the run is apparently really common, and I saw a couple people just sitting on the side of the road, waiting for their cramps to go away – or to take a nap.

Bill had told me, if you have to go to a run/walk, make sure you run at least twice as much as you walk. I started with a 5:1 run/walk, then that went to a 4:1 after the first 10 miles. When I got to the hill leading up to the Energy Lab turnoff, that dropped down to a 2:1, which I kept up until the finish. That kept me at about a 15 minute pace.

By then, my HR was very low, and I couldn’t get it to go up. I took in the nutrition I could stomach, but my stomach gets very sensitive in the run, which seems to work against me in these long events. I ended up just sucking on gels and letting them dissolve in my mouth to get me through.

About 2.5 miles from the finish, you are still out on the Queen K in the dark, and faced with the last couple big climbs before Palani road. But even that far out, you can hear Mike Riley calling in the Ironman finishers. However terrible you may feel, it pulls you forward.

After the climb up the Queen K to Palani road, you run down Palani. It’s only maybe a quarter mile, but it’s steep and very hard to run on tired legs. Then you make a loop down Kuakini before making that last turn down Ali’i. Ali’i is completely packed all the way down to the finish, 1/2 mile down the road. It is a huge party with lights, music, and cheers. The finishing chute is lined with people 5 deep screaming and cheering everyone on. If you have ever watched the Ironman broadcasts on NBC, it is everything they make it out to be. The finish line is up on a platform, so you can see the whole crowd, the pier, everything. I looked down at Mike Riley (the ‘voice’ of Ironman) who was standing at the bottom of the ramp. He looks up and points at me, “Kim Essendrup! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

I don’t know what my finisher pic looks like, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to shout, laugh or cry. I maybe did all three.

Ended up with a 6:21 run, for a 15:24 Ironman overall – that’s only 3 minutes off my PR, and exactly in the middle of what Bill and I estimated (14:30-16:30). The Kona course certainly lived up to its reputation today, so I’m satisfied with a sub 15:30.

Today, my triathlon will include a nap, a massage, and a beer 🙂

And a few thanks…

Thanks to God for the health, ability, and opportunity to do crazy stuff like this.

Thanks to my wife, Cindy, who is the most amazing person ever. I think nobody understands the level of patience displayed on her part, unless you either are, or are married to, an IM athlete. Also to my kids for putting up with Ironmania, long weekend rides & runs, sweaty hugs, and stinking up the place for the last 6 months.

Thanks to Bill at Camelback Coaching for helping me prepare for this event. I learn something new every time I talk with Bill, and have grown enormously as an athlete and a person as a result. Somehow he helped keep my training steady through a very crazy travel and work schedule this summer, and got me to the finish line more ready than I could have imagined. I don’t know how I would have finished this without his help. If anyone is interested in taking it to the next level, or training for a really big event, I encourage you to give Bill a call –

Thanks to Mark Konietzka of Trifamily racing. 10 years ago I was a complete couch potato. I signed up for his GCC tri-class and participated in my first tri in 2002, which he organized. It was my first ‘athletic’ anything, really. Thanks to his open, supportive approach to the sport, it stuck, and it has completely changed my life. Thank you, Mark! My kids have started doing his races, and it’s been a great experience. If anyone reading this wants to try out a tri – or even a duathlon (no swimming) you should check out Mark’s races at

Thanks to Ironman and WTC for keeping the lottery alive! Triathlon is about the every-man (and woman), and the lottery keeps it real, by allowing regular people like me to participate. Don’t ever stop!

And thanks to all my friends, family, and coworkers for putting up with me for the last 6 months. You’ve had your own ultra-endurance event hearing me go on about this stuff every day 🙂


3 responses to “Day 0 – Ironman World Championship

  1. One hell of an achievement, well done… I’m sure you feel 10ft tall and all your family are so proud of you.

    All that training and 15 hours of pain, personally I still think you are a crazy b*stard 🙂

  2. Pingback: Finding Inspiration in Race Reports | Crossing the Finish

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