Pro Triathlete Kennett Peterson Shares Struggles in Kona

In the days after Ironman Boulder, my 2nd place began to to get overshadowed by the fact that I’d qualified for Kona, which hadn’t been a goal or even something I’d been thinking about for 2019. Racing Kona wouldn’t be the most logical step to take in my triathlon career, since I still hadn’t won a race. Competing at Wisconsin or Chattanooga would have made a lot more sense in hindsight. Alas, the hurrah of Kona swept me away and I made the commitment to be there in October.

Unfortunately, my Hashimoto’s ended up getting in the way, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts. This entire year I’ve struggled with low energy and low motivation, and have been off and on depressed since the beginning of January. I managed to get through one block of good training in April and May, but that was it. I went in for blood work in August and my thyroid numbers were bad. But instead of being hypo, I was now hyper. The dose of thyroid medication I was on was too high, causing me to suffer from hyperthyroidism, which has many of the same symptoms of hypothyroidism—low energy, muscle weakness, and insomnia to name a few.

When I was first diagnosed in 2015 I never saw an endocrinologist because back then I was on Medicaid and no endocrinologists accepted Medicaid in Boulder, so I just worked things out with my primary care doctor. Over a period of a year and a half (it takes six weeks for a medication increase or decrease to show up in your blood work) we came to a dose of Armour Thyroid that seemed optimal for me. It most likely wasn’t, and my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) slowly began getting too low.

I decreased my thyroid medication early this September and things began slowly turning around. I had two good weeks of training in Tucson with Chris a month out from Kona, though a handful of days during that training camp I was completely spent and couldn’t put out any power on the bike or in the pool. With thyroid disorders, recovery is compromised and performance is unpredictable from day to day. On bad days, training feels like it does the before you get really sick with a head cold—you have no energy and you feel super off, but you don’t know why because you don’t have any cold symptoms yet.

Back in Boulder, I had a rest week followed by a fairly hard week of training, during which I finally put out some good numbers. In addition to two hard group runs, I did a five hour ride averaging 242, and a three hour ride with a 90 minute interval at 300 watts. Nothing groundbreaking, but this week was encouraging considering how my training had gone in the previous four months. I had a strong masters swim on Saturday and that sealed the deal for my confidence. I hadn’t felt good about Kona all summer, but now that my hormones finally began turning a corner, I became hopeful. It was a week out from the race, so I couldn’t have cut things any closer.

Some physical limitations cannot be made up for with positive thinking. While I’d had a few good days, October 12th wouldn’t be one of them.

The Race

Pretty quickly during the swim I felt off. I was unable to take powerful strokes, and felt myself drifting backwards in the chaotic froth of the first 400 meters. Instead of having the usual fight in me, I was content to let other pass by, and I dropped in with a small group of other stragglers and ended up just gluing myself to them for the remainder of the race. I realized how slow our dejected group of four was going by the halfway point because it no longer felt challenging, and I began daydreaming.

After coming out of the water and entering transition, I had to double back and search for my helmet visor, which had become detached in the bag. Losing those 30-40 seconds meant that I was no longer in contact with the three guys I’d swum with, two of whom were strong cyclists (Arnout and Weiss) and who ended up bridging to the main group.

It probably didn’t matter that I wasn’t with them, because once I got on the bike I found that I was struggling to average 23 miles per hour. My power meter wouldn’t turn on that morning before the race, which seemed like a big problem at the time, but having legs that don’t work is, of course, a bigger issue. By the first turn-around at mile six or seven I counted that I was seven minutes behind the tail end of the main group. I knew my race was over at that point.

Photo: Kenny Withrow (@itskennywithrow)

I continued onto the Queen K highway, still a few minutes behind the lead female, Lucy Charles, who’d passed me in the swim, and still losing ground to the one guy up the road I was able to see when I first got onto the bike. By mile 15 I got passed by the second to last place male. At this point I was just riding to put some distance between myself and town; I needed time to ride off my emotions and think about things before I spoke to anyone, had to suffer any type of cheering from spectators, or got back to my dark condo. I flipped it at mile 25 and soft pedaled home, almost in a state of disbelief that this was how my race went. After so many hours of training (well, not that many) and hours spent fantasizing and going over the race in my head, it was over before it really began.

But things can always get worse. Much, much worse.

I spent the rest of the day watching the race on my computer from bed since seeing it in person was too difficult to stomach. Adelaide and I packed up the next day and moved into an Airbnb with both sets of our parents. Throughout that day and the next I felt like I’d wasted a once in a lifetime opportunity, and wasted the time of so many people, including the time of Adelaide and our families, in addition to my sponsors. By day three, I was doing better. We’d been snorkeling, did a night dive with manta rays, drove to Volcano National Park, and Adelaide and I had been running on Alii Drive each morning.

On Thursday, the last day of our trip, roughly three hours before we needed to be at the airport, I was body surfing on Magic Sands beach. A wave built up and I went for it even though I knew I was too far in and that I would go over the falls and get pounded. I’ve surfed and body surfed for my entire life, and feel very comfortable in the water. I’ve wiped out a thousand times on much larger waves without incident. This was just a little three footer, so I didn’t think there’d be much of a consequence of being pummeled by it. As it flipped me, I tucked my chin and covered my head like normal. It was a steep beach, and the water between me and the shore had been sucked back into the wave as it approached, making it just a few feet deep when I went head-first into the sandy bottom. As the top of my head impacted the sand, I felt and heard two distinct pops in my upper back, followed instantaneously by pain. I instinctively wiggled my toes and fingers a quarter second later, fearing the worst, when I was still underwater. I popped up in the wash with the wind slightly knocked out of me, and as I made my way to shore, a secondary tiny wave knocked me off my feet in my weakened state. I regained my balance and staggered to my beach blanket and layed down in a good deal of pain. A few minutes later Adelaide appeared, wondering why I’d gotten out so early. We’d only been in the water a few minutes when I’d wiped out.

She rushed over to the lifeguard stand when I told her what happened, and a lifeguard appeared above me. He suggested I go to the ER. “Someone gets a spinal injury here every day,” he commented. We opted for urgent care instead.

As the urgent doctor manipulated my head up and down and side to side, he told me that my neck and back were fine. “I wouldn’t be able to do this if there was something broken. He’d be in a lot more pain,” the doctor told my mom. Exactly what I thought, I thought to myself. Just a back strain. After all, the pain had let up a bit at this point.

My mom and Adelaide insisted that I get an X-ray anyways. After Kathleen (Adelaide’s mom) drove us to the radiology building, we went back to the Airbnb and packed. Or, I should say, Adelaide packed for me as I laid in bed with my eyes closed. An hour later we got a call from the radiologist, who said the X-ray showed a small bone chip on my cervical spine. It could also be an anomaly, or just part of my bone structure. The x-ray wasn’t detailed enough to confirm anything. To be safe, we decided to go back to the urgent care for a neck brace on our way to the airport. The doctor—the same one as before—said the neck brace probably wasn’t even necessary, and that I only needed to wear it in the airport where I might be run into and knocked over by another person. He adjusted it to the loosest setting and sent us on our way.

It was a miserable day of travel home because in addition to the neck and back pain, I ended up getting super sick with a really bad head cold that had started as a sore throat earlier that morning.

Fast forward a week and a CT scan and MRI showed that I didn’t just have a minor bone chip. I’d broken my neck. I suffered a stable burst fracture of C7 without damage to any soft tissue. The other day, while my neurosurgeon pointed out the damage to my vertebrae on his computer, he said “This is the type of injury that paralyzes people. You got lucky.” My throat had gone dry so I nodded. Paralyzation has been my biggest fear since adulthood. I have no fear of spiders, flying, confined spaces, or most things people are normally afraid of. Yet, even the thought of my own death doesn’t bother me that much. Paralyzation, or losing a limb due to amputation, would be the worst possible thing to happen to me, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to cope with it. Most fears seem to be based on activities, animals, or other tangible things: being at the top of a cliff or walking by a barking dog, for instance. Conversely, my main fear—a very specific injury—is the result or consequence of another person’s phobia. I’m not sure if this makes me more, or less, rational than others people.

Photo: Carolyn Peterson

If my vertebrae had been dislodged just a bit more and pushed inwards towards my spinal cord, I wouldn’t be able to walk, control my bowel movements, or have full strength in my arms. That my disc didn’t rupture and none of my ligaments were harmed is also incredibly fortunate. Already, just a week out, I don’t have very much pain, so it’s a good thing that I got checked out, otherwise I might be out riding today.

Because the fracture is stable, I don’t need surgery or to wear the halo that has been made famous in the triathlon world by Tim Don. However, during the next six to eight weeks I can’t be in a car due to the possibility of being in a crash, must keep my neck brace on at all times, and I obviously can’t train or do anything that would jeopardize my neck. I assume this includes using a pogo stick, jumping on the trampoline, or doing box jumps and back squats, though I think dancing should be fine since it doesn’t involve the neck at all:

Kona…Race Thoughts and Behind the Scenes–Watch Here

By Bill Plock

It’s been a little over a week since Jan Frodeno set a world record time at the IRONMAN World Championships and Boulder’s Tim O’Donnell had the race of his life coming in second and breaking the eight hour mark–and no doubt, the lives of 52 other Colorado athletes will never be the same either.

If you watch this video what you will see and hopefully feel is what it’s like to be there and watch and what it’s like to see how the race unfolds, who makes it happen and what the finish line is like.

We start with a stroll down a dark Ali’i drive at 5am and a busy hotel filled with athletes and supporters. We take you out on the pier before the swim which most people can’t access. There we have a quick chat with Erin Trail, a Colorado athlete who is volunteering. We gather a few quick thoughts from World Champion Craig Alexander and take you out on the bike exit.

We offer you some commentary, talk with volunteers, the medical director (there are a 120 physicians at the race) and what it takes to make the race safe. We meet the head referee of the kayak crew, a group of Team in Training supporters and fast forward to some partying German spectators and watch locals Pete Young and Brett Kessler finish. Well, actually Pete moved to Florida earlier this year–but a Coloradan at heart!

Enjoy the clips a little raw but real!

Three Coloradans, top 10 in Men’s Race at IRONMAN World Championships

By Bill Plock

Kailua Kona–Tim O’Donnell (T.O), Ben Hoffman and Chris Leiferman finished second, fourth and tenth in Saturday’s IRONMAN World Championships respectively. T.O. became only the fourth person in history to break the 8 hour mark finishing in 7:59:40, 8 minutes behind champion, Jan Frodeno who set a course record of 7:51:13 for his third title in five years.

It would be hard to fathom a better second place under any circumstances. T.O. would’ve won on most any other day, but he faced a very hungry, two time world champion in Jan Frodeno. T.O. told 303’s Rich Soares at the finish line that he was very pleased to go sub 8 at the age of 39 and was pleasantly surprised his nagging foot injury didn’t hurt is marathon (stay tuned for entire interview and future podcast).

At the press conference following the event (which you can hear the entire, very entertaining press conference on 303 in the very near future) Jan eluded to not taking anything for granted and racing relaxed with a nothing to lose attitude. In 2017 he injured himself and walked a good bit of the marathon–but still finished. In 2018 Jan didn’t compete so he put everything he had into coming back in 2019.

But T.O. had his own motivation and some doubt. At the pre-race press conference T.O., who battled a couple of injuries all summer, admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect and hoped there might be a silver lining of freshness from not being able to train as much as usual. To have his best day as a pro, in the most competitive conditions, a bit unsure of his fitness, was an inspiring performance.

Ben Hoffman, with a blistering time of 8:02:52, smashed his second place time from 2014 by nearly 17 minutes on a course no more favorable than last year (perhaps more than 2014) when Patrick Lange set the course record, now broken. In fact the winds were stronger this year and there was even rain on the bike course—which Jan blamed newcomer, Britain’s, Alistair Brownlee for “ordering” as he seems to triumph in the rain quite often. The two time gold medalist, Brownlee finished 21st despite a flat and an overall time of 8:25:03.

In between Hoffman and Brownlee, Longmont’s Chris Leiferman finished tenth in his Kona debut finishing at 8:13:37.

It was a great day for Colorado with Andy Potts finishing 14th, Joe Gambles at 36th and Kennett Peterson started the bike but ran into some trouble and pulled out. Boulder Ironman winner, Matt Russell (who frequently is in Colorado) finished 17th.

For the women, “sometime” Coloradan Heather Jackson (8:54:44) finished fifth behind winner Anne Haug of Germany, 8:40:10.

Other Colorado pro’s, Lesley Smith finished in 22nd, Danielle Mack was 32nd and three time World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae pulled out on the bike course.

52 athletes from Colorado towed the line on Saturday and the state with the highest per capita athletes fared very well!

303’s Coverage of Kona, Why? For You and Us–all of Us.

By Bill Plock, President of 303Endurance/Triathlon/Cycling

People often wonder why 303 goes to Kona to cover the IRONMAN World Championships. Or ask why 303 even exists? Who we are and so forth. When Sandi Weibe crossed the finish line last year wearing a shirt we had given athletes from Colorado, it just seemed so clear and that picture pretty much answers our why. We go to Kona and to the local school yard bike rallies, local triathlons and crits and everything in between as much as possible to help make our endurance community that much better. That much more connected and simply that much more celebrated.

At arguably the worlds most prestigious endurance event, stories unfold, missions come to life and the triathlon world converges in a showcase unique to the sport. It’s the place to be.

We are there to celebrate the journey of the 52 Colorado athletes racing on October 12th. We want to tell their stories. We have asked each one of them to share their journey and hopefully in the next 10 days you will read and hear many of them.

If there is one gesture that defines the reason, it is our offer to each athlete of a handmade Christmas Ornament designed and made by Glassmith2. They are a second generation engraving company based in Boulder and they make the age group awards for IRONMAN.

Braden Todd, Owner of Glassmith2

But more, they are a couple, Alison and Braden Todd, with kids and a dog and an entrepreneurial spirit trying to make a small business succeed. They are great people and Braden is a sixth generation Boulderite. Braden’s great grandfather was the first person ever graduate from the University of Colorado. It’s this kind of connection that we strive to bring to the endurance community.

When Sandi crossed the finish line wearing a shirt, not really designed to race in, I was so touched she wanted to represent Colorado, just like we do. In such an international atmosphere, to see our logo cross the line meant a lot.

Khem Suthiwan
Rich Soares

We try to make it fun, we work hard. We interview all kinds of people, give you podcasts to listen to all week and find stories and cover the race. We try to share the experience of the island and bring you more than just recap of who won. We strive to share the culture, the atmosphere and the friends we see and make along the way. And Khem Suthiwan’s food scavenger hunt was a big hit last year—lets see what she comes up with this year.

We have Rich Soares’ awesome finish line interviews and podcasting excellence and Kenny Withrow’s artistic views through the camera–he also on assignment for a major publication so we won’t have him full-time–dang it!!

We have great sponsors that make this possible with some outstanding exclusive discounts to offer you from Clever Training and BASE Performance, and a chance to win a frame from Blue Competition Cycles and much more to be announced soon. Check out that deal on an indoor trainer from CycleOps. We have a landing page that shares not only the names of who is racing, but a place to find articles and podcasts, sponsors specials and some fun stuff–and of course the sponsors offers and more https://303triathlon.com/kona2019/

We will be bringing you events all week and feature stories on people like Beth and Liza from Crested Butte, check out this video on them from NBC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA5AJCtQRaY

Kennett Peterson with Mike Reilly at IM Boulder 2019

We just finished a podcast with professional Kennett Peterson of Boulder as he prepares for his first trip to Kona, keep an eye out for that. He gives some really great insight on what he is thinking and feeling heading into his race and some other thoughts on being a pro triathlete.

Simon Butterworth winning Kona

Locally we have some the best resources around to offer you tips if you are racing. One such person (“lad” is a better word in his Scottish accent) is Simon Butterworth has offered three major tips for racing in Kona. That article will be published soon. Very interesting tip about waiting to drink at least 30 minutes after the swim to let the sea water invariably “drank” settle in.

But settle in, follow us here, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, grab a cup of coffee, a beer, a friend and enjoy our coverage.

Aloha,

The 303 Team!

IRONMAN World Championships

Kailua-Kona, HA

 

The IRONMAN World Championship centers on the dedication and courage exhibited by participants who demonstrate the IRONMAN mantra that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.® On October 12th, over 2,000 athletes will embark on a 140.6-mile journey that presents the ultimate test of body, mind and spirit to earn the title of IRONMAN.

 

Event details and registration here

 

*To the best of our abilities, this information is correct. Please check the event website for the most accurate information.

303 Team’s Takeaways from Kona

By Bill Plock

The 303 team kept busy all last week in Kona bringing you news and stories, here are few highlights.

 

People wonder why we send such a group to this race and the answer is not simple, but yet it is. Kona showcases the greatest triumphs. It celebrates athletes from around the world with 2,400 stories from over 50 countries. Colorado is everywhere. From third most represented state of athletes to having many companies and industry and media professionals present. At the USAT partner party, half of the people there were from Colorado. Colorado has a big impact on Kona.

 

 

1. Colorado rocks with 38 amateur athletes competing and five of them ending up on the podium:

– Nicholas Noon 2nd
– Kelly Phuah 3rd
– Diana Hassel 3rd
– Matthew Malone 4th, this was also a 45th place finish Overall
– Simon Butterworth 4th

2. Four Colorado based pro’s ended up in the top 10:

– Tim O’Donnell 4th
– Mirinda Carfrae 5th
– Kaisa Sali 7th
– Andy Potts 8th

 

3. Records were broken

– Fastest Male race: 7:52, Patrick Lange, first time finish was under 8 hours.
– Fastest Female race: 8:26, Daniela Ryf, broke her own record by 20 minutes!
– Fastest Male swim ever: 46:30 (amateur set the record)
– Fastest Female swim ever: 48:14 (Pro Lucy Charles, 4 min faster than the next pro)
– Fastest Female Bike Split, (Pro Daniela Ryf, 4:26, 18 min faster than previous)
– Oldest finisher, 86 year old Inada Hiromu of Japan

 

 

4. Presumably, the most weight loss finisher with Marcus Cook losing about 250 pounds and carrying a life size cut-out of himself at his most weight through the finish line that brought a massive roar from the crowd.

 

 

 

 

5. More people seem interested in what Khem was eating than almost anything else based on our Facebook post of her “guess what I am eating contest”.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Colorado has great industry representation: BASE Performance, Newton, BOCO Gear, Triathlete Magazine, Rudy Project, Ceramic Speed, Stryd, Scratch, Stages, and TrainingPeaks.

 

 

7. Simon Butterworth and Bob Babbitt do look like Elvis

 

8. The Pros have fun too: Patrick Lange proposed to his girlfriend right after he crossed the finish line saying it “was the best part of day”, after winning and breaking a record. Sarah True said, “I felt like I was just riding bikes with friends,” after finishing her first Kona.

 

9. Bill Plock Sleepwalks and tries to get out of a condo in the middle of the night.

 

10. The 303 team went through six bags of gummy bears, 2 tanks of gas, shot over 500 pics, conducted 8 live podcast interviews, swam to the coffee boat a few times, was up at 4am and back home at 1am covering the race from beginning to end.

The team was graciously sponsored by:

 

 

Infinit Nutrition

Coeur Sports

Base Performance

Blue Competition Cycles

Kona: It’s More Than Just the Race

It’s generally understood that Kona, i.e. the Ironman World Championship, is different from all the other Ironman races. Often people associate this difference with both the fact that you have to qualify to earn your spot at the start line (or earn it through one of seven other ways), and that therefore the athlete field at the race represents the cream of the crop. And while all of this is certainly true, it’s just scratching the surface of why this race stands out so dramatically from just about any other race you’ve attended.

First off, because this is like the Superbowl / World Series / Stanley Cup of triathlon, the crowds are insane. And Kona is a really, really small little town normally. Just as a comparison, based on some back-of-the-napkin calculations, here’s how Kona compares to, say, IM Boulder:

KONA IM BOULDER
City Population 12,000 111,000
Number of Out-of-Town Athletes 2400 1000
Average Size of Athlete’s Entourage 4 1
Total Entourage 9600 1000
Additional Visitors: Staff, Volunteers, Industry, Media, Triathlon Royalty 3000 200
Total Athletes, Entourage, Visitors 15000 2200
Growth of City Population due to Event 125% 2%

So, as you can start to see, Kona is busting at the seams – and then some – during race week. Not to mention the fact that people start arriving 7 or even 10 days before the race, rather than the Thursday of race week. Because of that, you need to set up lodging and rental cars as early as possible. And you need to anticipate that everything is going to be busy – parking lots, restaurants, local street traffic – everything.

One thing that’s really neat about the crowds, though, is how international it all is. (I mean, it is the World Championship, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.) Athlete briefings are given in seven different languages – English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and German. And everywhere you go you hear different languages and accents. It really, truly deserves the title of a world championship event.

Beyond the crowds, there are other things that separate Kona from all other events. Every year, triathlon royalty descends on Kona to celebrate the spirit of Ironman. Legends Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and Paula Newby-Fraser and Hall of Famers Mike Reilly and Bob Babbitt are in attendance virtually every year. Plus you have roughly 100 current pro triathletes in town to compete in the race. All of them are out and about, hosting and participating in events at local restaurants, through Ironman, at vendor booths, and at the Expo. The celebrity selfie opportunities are endless!

Speaking of the Expo, this one is like no other. You’ve got the official Expo, about a quarter-mile from the pier which houses the transition area. Nearer to the pier, you’ve got the main merchandise tent and the mini-merch tent. But then, for a solid half-mile down Ali’i Drive (the beachside road that is famous for the race’s finisher’s chute), you’ve got the “unofficial” Expo: dozens and dozens of tents from every triathlon apparent, equipment, and nutrition vendor you can think of. Some go so far as to create pop-up stores right there on Ali’i drive, and many offer limited edition Kona apparel and swag specially designed to commemorate the race. Which is all to say: if you head to Kona, bring a wad of cash and an extra duffel to accommodate all the shopping you’ll inevitably do during your trip.

Finally, as if you weren’t busy enough chasing down triathlon royalty for that coveted Instagram shot and snagging as much Kona swag as you can without tipping over into overweight baggage surcharges, you’ve also got to make time for the non-stop event schedule. There are daily swims from the Pier, so popular that they require a pop-up bag check tent for several hours each morning and include a stop at the famous coffee boat, about a half-mile off-shore from the pier. There are big-ticket events like the VIP Aloha Reception and the Evening of Champions, the ever-popular Thursday morning Underpants Run, pro meet and greet’s at sponsor tents, Bob Babbitt’s daily “Breakfast with Bob” interviews, and so so so much more.

I think this is why so many make the trip to Kona as spectators, rather than as (or in different years than as) competitors. Race week in Kona is all about soaking in the best of everything the sport has to offer and hoping to pick up just enough good juju from Madame Pele as to get to come back again another year.