An Inside Look from an Athlete/Coach/Neighbor

The Fountain - Beginner's Mind article

If you’ve ever wondered what the Ironman Triathlon look like from a participant’s perspective, here is your chance. Your neighbor, Ricardo Rodrigues, here in San Elijo Hills participated this last October in the big race in Hawaii. Here is his recount of the big adventure both as a coach and as an athlete.


The skies were clear and the winds were calm. That is how our wonderful and challenging day started in Kailua-Kona Hawaii. The Ironman triathlon organization is finally getting the hang of creating a world class event that is both spectator and athlete friendly. The new swim exit and transition were more efficient making it faster for the athletes and easier to follow by those watching.


The overall time for the swim was slower than usual. It was a little choppy at the half way point, but maybe the current was a big factor. The fastest was pace 1:10/100m. Faris Al-Sultan was right there with 49:54.

Female Michellie Jones exited the water in 3rd place with 54:55.

What a fast day in Hawaii with calm winds (well, in terms of Hawaii it was almost no wind at all. However, at mile 50 climbing to Hawi, of course there were some cross winds and from mile 85 to 110 it was a mild head wind which makes a very long, hot ride. Records were broken (overall Torbjorn Sindballe, 4:21:36 pace 25.7mph and some other age groupers). Faris had the impressive 2nd fastest ride at 4:25:24 pace 25.3mph. Normann Stadler (the promise on the bike) had 2 flat tires, getting him to DNF the race with frustration. Natascha Badmann, as always, was on top with the 2nd fastest ride at 4:52:00 pace 23 mph followed by Michellie at 4:54:13.

It was really hot (90°). With the lack of wind, it was necessary to hydrate and ice ourselves at every aid station until later in the afternoon.

Peter Reid (the promise on the run) could not develop his speed and was passed by Cameron Brown which had the 2nd fastest Marathon of the day at 2:50:13 pace 6:30mpm.

Kate Major led the women at 3:02:19 pace 6:58mpm and Natascha with the 3rd faster run at 3:06:25 passed Michellie at mile 19 to conquer the lead for good.

Coach Perspective of some pros

While training for Hawaii I had the privilege to train and meet some pro athletes. Here is my take on their performances:

Normann Stadler: (DNF) As the defending champion, the media was all over him. He was composed approaching the race like a true champion. He embraced the sport and placed himself as just another top contender and was in excellent shape for the race (as I noticed while riding and running with him on my key practices). On the other hand, I think that the pressure of being the defending champion, was where he lost it as soon as his mishaps occurred. Understanding that performances are like a roller coaster, with many ups and downs, especially on a race of that magnitude, he was still able to restore his performance and prevailed.

Peter Reid: (3rd place 8:20:04) A great athlete, but when it comes down to his preparation for the bike, he over does it. He even mentioned that he had over trained himself twice, taking him out of most of the preparation races for Hawaii. He also appeared to be very skinny. As a determined athlete though, the 3-time champion proved that he could hold a 3rd place despite his personal adversities.

Faris Al-Sultan: (1st place 8:14:17) One the fastest swimmers while training at the J.C.C. in La JOlla. While at the Swamis ride on Saturdays, he didn’t make any moves or follow any breakaways initiated by Normann and Jurgen Zack. Not drawing attention to himself was a very smart move. At 27 years old, Faris still carries his bike on a carton box and is a very modest athlete. In my opinion he had the most solid overall race of all times, by combining a fast swim, bike and run.

Natascha Badmann: (1st place 9:06) the 6-time champion proved that besides having one of the fastest bike splits, ran the 3rd fastest marathon to reach the highest place in the podium.

My personal experience…

I’m glad I’m in one piece and happy to tell you my stories. This year in Hawaii was a little bit different for me. I had more support than I had ever had before. I got there earlier than the previous years and had better equipment, but I trained less, and more targeted because of the limited time I had available. Here’s an overview of my experience.

SWIM: At the start, I was situated in the middle of what became a giant washing machine. It was hard to move along up to ¼ of the way. After that, I was moving like never before. The ocean was choppy, but I was making moves from one fast feet to the other. I even bridged gaps, but like always, finding the perfect assistant feet to save my energy. 1000 meters to go that was it. I was on the tip of the iceberg with one guy ahead of me and hundreds of others behind us. I made my move and led all the way to the end so I wouldn’t get cut up with the crown behind me at the transition. MY BEST SWIM EVER AT AN IRONMAN RACE! 1h P.R. in Hawaii (no wetsuit). Smooth transition…

BIKE: It was hot. I was feeling good and not rushing myself too much up to the 20th mile, and then I got to a rhythm. I was hoping for more wind, but it didn’t come until the climb to Hawi. At the top, Patrick Baldwin caught up to me. It was good to see someone I knew. They messed up my special needs bac and I had to come back some yards to exchange it. On the way down, I really went for it. Back to infamous Queen K. Hwy. There was a head wind for about 30 miles to the end of the bike. I felt afterwards that I could have pushed myself a little bit faster, but I had my fastest bike split in Hawaii. 5:06 P.R. in Hawaii. Another smooth transition, legs are fine…

RUN: I got to a good and comfortable pace right away at 6:47min/mile. I started to drink some coke and eat some gels. It was really hot…ice, water and coke on every aid station, but when I hit mile ten, I ran out of gels and right when I got to the biggest hill of the race. (BAD TIMING). As soon as I turned the corner, I felt like walking and at the same time, Dan Plummer from Wheels on Wheels (my sponsor) was taking pictures on the bottom of the hill. I walked two steps and started my shuffle to the next aid station. Fig Newton’s, coke, gel, water ice, sponges, (What else have we got here?) I walked to the end of the hill so my stomach could transform all that into energy. (Patrick was having a great race and passed me for good).

I started running again and began to feel better and kept all the way to the turn around on the Energy Lab. From there I really picked up my pace and started to pass a lot of people. I sprinted the last 2 miles to pass 4 athletes from my age group. A good, but not great, marathon for me. 3:22h

Happy ending with 9:35 P.R. in Hawaii.


Ricardo Rodrigues

Multisports Coach