Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kona race report from Skinfit athlete Adam Zucco

Race reports are something I do not do too often at least not on a public form. I do think it is important to reflect and think about pros and cons, but usually have a hard time thinking that anyone wants to know what TV shows I was watching the night before. HA HA.

This year Hawaii went very well for me, I have received several requests of “what happened?” So here it goes, without the local broadcasting included.

The day before the race at Hawaii is always the same. You are assigned a time to check in your bike. The volunteers are amazing and you receive a personal escort to the transition area with detailed instructions with how to do the entire process. As you get to transition you are walked through a coral, much like race horses where reporters write down everything about you and your bike and equipment. It is a bit surreal and the first time you realize the stage on which we are all about to perform. It is a very cool experience.

Beyond that, I do everything the same for every race I do the day before and morning of the race. This was no different. Pasta or something similar, protein, light veggies if any, simple, consistent, usually effective.

The Race.

Morning of the race I woke up, had my breakfast and caught a ride from Yuri and Lindsay down to the start line. The numbering process was nothing less then professional and efficient and I was through it quickly. Got my bike situated, realized that I had left my Garmin on in my bag the entire night before and was just hoping it had enough juice to get me through the ride. Nothing I could do about that now I thought.

I went and hung out with some friends Heather and Keith, then Danny. Keith and Joe (two of the best friends a guy could have) volunteered to help in transition and were there to take my items in the am, the pump I had, etc. Talk about eliminating a lot of pre race stress knowing those guys have you back! Heather had a toe injury I helped her navigate. She and I found an awesome fix and it was a nice distraction to have anyway.

I found Danny at the swim start. We discussed heading down to the water when the pros started at 6:30 and to tread out to the deep water start soon after to get our spot. I had warned him this was in my opinion the worst part of the race. This swim start is SO BRUTAL with contact. The area is tight, the athletes are all fit, and everyone thinks they are going to win in the first 10 min so they are willing to fight hard for position. It is the most contact I suffer in a swim every year, and that is BEFORE the start!

This year was no different. As Dan and I fought to keep our front line positions and tried to stay back from the paddle boarders trying to hold us back it was so intense. Then BOOM, we were off! I was POUNDED. I was eventually relegated to an inside lane which honestly was a relief. I was trying so hard to not swim close enough to someone’s elbow to catch one in the face. When I got to clear water it was so nice to just have that that I was reluctant to fight back into the pack. I could tell I had missed the first group selection about 600 into the swim. I saw a gap of clear water between my group and the front group, told myself to relax; it is a long day and just follow the fastest feet I could. Honestly I thought I was in sub 55 shape. To see the 58 swim was disappointing (I didn’t know it at the time) but could tell on the bike right away it was just average. I told myself Ironman for me is not about the swim, it never has been to just relax and let the day come. I also reminded myself my Ironman training partner Scott Iott went over an hour here the year before and still broke 9:30, a time I could only dream of.


In Ironman I transition slowly. In years past this has been a tactical decision to calm myself down, get ready for the next segment, then go. This year I went much faster, it was one of my pre race goals. However I was still about 2-3 min total time slower then the guys in my AG I raced against. I need to get faster here still. Not much else to say about this transition.

The Bike

My plan for myself and my athletes was to use the power meter, but to also use speed. I have tried it in training several times with my athletes as well as myself. It had worked perfectly. I told everyone who asked I felt I could ride 4:50- 5:10 pretty comfortably depending on conditions.

Keeping an eye on my power I also used 15 min increments to check to see if I was averaging 22.5 mph or more. If I was, and could do so letting my power drop, I decided I would. I had speeds in mind that I felt if I could do with very little effort, I would take the speed with the rest instead of trying to maintain a certain power and also a faster speed.

Going out the first 40 miles guys were passing me pretty good. I was passed by like 10-20 guys in total. I was going well over 27mph pushing like 140 watts and those guys felt the easy effort and decided to ride to their fitness instead of goal time. It is an interesting debate which I can get into later, another post perhaps. My philosophy on this day though was if this island was going to give me any gifts, I was going to take them. So if I could easily go 27 mph hour, I took it.

At mile 40 you make a turn up to Hawi which is like an 18 mile climb. I remember thinking “I’m almost half way into this and feel so fresh still, I am going to make a move here and see if I can crack a few guys.” It worked. It was windy, hot there, and hardest part of the course. I had a smile from ear to ear! I was LOVING it. I felt so good and strong and didn’t think about racing, more just how well I had ridden that summer at races and camps, and just had fun with the 18 miles like I would in training. I passed heaps of guys going up that hill that were starting to realize they had gone too fast.

When I got to special needs I stood down to get my stuff. This year it was too windy to risk the ride and mess with bag option. It took me a min, but I got situated then was off again. There is a 10 min or so descent which is more like a false flat (little steeper) but you get some tailwind and it is so motivating to see athletes coming up the hill at you. I was JAMMING going downhill, but again, didn’t push. 33mph without pedaling!? Sure, I’ll take that! It took me 18 miles to catch a couple guys who skipped special needs because I was not pushing too hard here.

When we got to the bottom I saw Tim who I have never been by at Ironman and we exchanged good lucks and talked about the wind heading back. I told him I was holding back till now, and was absolutely ready for this. At that point someone pointed at us and informed us we were 24th, and 25th amateur overall. OK that was SO COOL! I was at the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS holding back in the top 25 70 miles into the race. This was the only time I started to focus on things outside of my control. I wanted to be top 20, so dialed it up a bit. When I was into the top 20, I wanted top 15. When I got to 15, I wanted top 10! I had to have a conversation with myself to let that go, it was never the pre race plan, and it didn’t matter. No sooner did I have that conversation, my garmin computer mount broke off!

So here I am, 40 miles to go, holding my compute in my hand. SHIT. I didn’t feel I “needed” it except to keep me in check, but I wanted the file from the race. If I held it, I could do bottle exchanges, If I tucked it into my shorts I may not get the file… OK this garmin and I were not getting a long this day. I remembered I had a zip lock in my pocket! I put the garmin in the bag, then poked a hole in it and stuck my aero bar extension through it flipping the garmin up and over my crossbar. Problem – SOLVED (at 24-26 mph!) Rolling again.

When I was in the last mile of the bike I remember thinking to myself that I could ride like this another couple hours. I felt pretty good. Maybe too good, should have gone faster?? I just knew I wanted to run the marathon.

Off the bike 16th OVERALL AMATEUR! 4th in age group.

Transition 2

OK, sorry Jim, I had to take a leak so I did. And yes it cost me a few spots.

What also cost me some time was wrestling on the plastic glove I promised I would wear. Whatever, need to get a bit quicker here. Will do so.


I started the run with my garmin on, but no settings turned on. Traditionally I would see mile splits, etc. I don’t want that this time. I wanted to run on feel, occasionally checking in on myself and pace. First mile was sub 6 min, maybe too fast, but SOO easy. I told myself to not judge it and just keep the pace very easy, and not to panic when the paces became realistic. I would check in with 5 mile splits on the watch. My first 10 miles were so consistent. I felt great.

I saw my friends and then eventually athletes I coach on the course starting as I was coming back from the first 9 mile out and back. I definitely used them as motivation and inspiration. I wanted to have good form and send the message all was good each time I saw them. A few I high five’d so hard I thought I broke my hand. I couldn’t help it, I was feeling awesome.

Mile 10 is Palani. This is a long steep uphill I have always walked. I wanted to run it this year and I did. This was the first time I felt really hot and out of breath. Over half way up is an aide station I decided to walk, drink, and recover a second, then run again.

Doing the 5 mile splits was awesome because it helps circumvent the obvious mile stones such as half way, etc. When I went through mile 13 for example it occurred to me I was half way and might want to check my time. 1:32! Holy shit, I have had 70.3 at that pace.

To be honest I started to get a little teary. Over 10 years I have chased this feeling at Ironman, today was shaping up to be my day! Holy crap! I immediately checked myself and thought I have a LONG way to go. Focus on form. Lindsay was out cheering for me which was cool. I told her I felt good and was going well. While talking to her I was running through the women’s pro field which is still surreal.

Mile 16 you turn into the Energy lab which is a 4 mile out and back. My plan was to capitalize on the downhill momentum to drive pace down. I had been looking at my watch pace a lot more in the last few miles willing the next 5 mile interval to be over. I could tell I was starting to fade a bit. When I turned on the downhill and my pace remained at about 7:20 I knew I was starting to see chips in the armor. I told myself I was running into wind, but I still knew the pace should be faster for the effort. Damn…

Ok I go to the energy lab mile 17 and 18 were dark miles for me. I saw guys closing on me I had never beaten before in my life and my legs were getting pretty tired. Running up and out was hard. There is no other way to put this. The love affair with the day was about over and I started to do the “What if I run walk” talk with myself. So I stopped and walked for the first time. I had no idea what my total time on the day was. I just knew my marathon split was going well and that if I struggled through the last 9 miles I still had a shot to break 10 hours, something I had not done yet.

I walked 1 min, told myself to stop feeling sorry for myself, got to the top where there was an aide station. Walked through that saw Lindsay and told her it’s make or break time. You don’t bring your family and wife to battle and I had to go to war with the last 6 -7 miles of this course. I told her to please go wait for me at the finish line. She understood and was off.

For the first time in all my long distance life I recovered! Lotus and Trev were out cheering me on from time to time, but O rand 4-5 of those mile at a sub 7:25 pace. With 2 miles left I asked Trev if I had a shot to break 9:45. He laughed and said if I run 8’s I was going 9:18! OMG!!! That was all the motivation I needed for the last 2 miles. I wanted 9:15.

I go to the finish line and couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how else to say it. So many times I thought about how emotional I would be if I could ever go 9:30. I was getting teary running down Alii, the crowd was awesome. I slapped hands with every little kid that wanted to and just soaked it in.

8th 35-39 AG (12 min off the win)

32nd overall Amateur

85th overall!!!!!!


What changed? Nutrition was a big one in the race and daily living. Training, well kind of, I always train hard. Mental – ABSOLUTELY! This combined with nutrition which needed to be there for me to change my mental game I think were the two largest. Jim and I talked the a couple days before and after. He said for the first time he felt I was “ready”. I no longer seemed to fear failure. Once you make that leap, you can accomplish awesome things. I didn’t. I knew I could blow up. I also knew that I had done everything I could to be ready for this race and needed to just go do it. I didn’t care what my doubters thought. I had confidence in my ability no matter what the outcome was that day. Of course I am happier that I went 9:16, but honestly would have been proud of myself if I went 12 hours. I did everything I could have done this year. I will have bad races for sure in the future, and I hope to have great ones again, but either way I’m going to just do the best I can.

A few images from Kona

--Adam Zucco on is way to a 1 hr PR...9:16!

--Clayton Treska racing to support breast cancer...awesome job!

--Yvonne Van Vlerken on her way to the pro podium!