Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Captain Cook Challenge and Cinco de Mayo Swim 2014

Two weekends ago, Team Mango hosted the Captain Cook Challenge, one of the most challenging events on the island.  Then last weekend, the summer swim race series kicked off with the Cinco de Mayo Splash.  Since we didn't recap the Captain Cook Challenge last week, I'm combining both race recaps here!

Captain Cook Challenge

Carl Koomoa and his Team Mango races hosted this race for many years before being forced out of Kealakekua Bay last year, resulting in an alternate race - the Escape to Puuhonua.  Luckily, Carl received permission to use Kealakekua Bay again this year and the Captain Cook Challenge was back on.  The race starts on the south side of Kealakekua Bay with a 1-mile ocean swim across the bay to the Captain Cook Monument.  After leaving the water, runners climb the 2-mile hike up to Napoopoo Road, with approximately 1500 ft of elevation gain. From there it's on to the bike, heading out to the highway headed south before turning down past the City of Refuge, and up Napoopoo Road for one more loop. The bike course finishes at Kealakekua Bay again before runners head out on a hot and unshaded 4-mile run on the old beach road toward the National Park and back.  No leg of this event is easy! 

Two years ago I tackled the first two legs of this race before tagging off to Jason for the bike.  Then we both did the 4-mile run (guess who won that one?).  Jason had a scheduled rest day this year, so I recruited John Ferdico to do the bike leg for me again, with both of us running the last 4 mile run.

Even getting into the water provides quite a challenge.  After carefully climbing over the slick rocks, you have to time your entry perfectly so you don't get slammed back into the rocks by a big wave. Once in the water, though, it's surprisingly sandy and a good place to wait for the start.  Once the horn goes off, everyone takes off on different lines to the monument. I ended up staying pretty far out, while others took a route closer to shore.  Pretty early on, the bottom drops out and you can't see anything but blue. Unfortunately about halfway through the swim, we started getting hit with jellyfish.  Mainly just the little annoying and somewhat painful sea lice type, but I did manage to get whacked with something different on my neck and arm.  Let me tell you, that impact and pain took my breath away! Although there was water patrol out there on SUPs, there weren't many other options at this point than to finish on. I kept thinking that if I swam faster I would eventually get out of the stingers. Turns out that didn't really happen until I got out of the water, but all that adrenaline led to my fastest mile swim ever - approximately 30:30 (34:00 minutes officially with T1 time).

After taking too long in transition to collect myself, I started out on the first run.  For some reason I didn't remember this being as hard two years ago.  I ran for about 2-3 minutes before slowing down to a walk/climb.  I tried to push myself in less steep sections with better footing, but still wasn't able to run much at all. (Of course there were lots of photographers out there, so I had to pick it up to run everytime I saw one of them).  But I was never so happy to see the end of a run!

First runner up and eventual race winner Chris Gregory
Yes, that's how we all felt!
I tagged off to John for the bike and sat down to catch my breath and try to figure out what to do about this stinging pain on my neck (turned out ice helped pretty well for that one).  After watching all the runners come up the trail, we headed down to T3 to watch the bikers come in.

This race is relatively small, with only 21 individuals and 3 relay teams competing.  At the end of the first two legs, we were in 3rd place for the relays.  The eventual winning team had quite a lead with super masters swimmer Jim McCleery leading the way and getting about 12 minutes on me on the swim. So John had some work to do.  He did a great job, catching up to Dave Cobb to put us in second place.

Then it was off on the run. Compared to the first run, this was a piece of cake! Even though it was hot and sunny, at least it wasn't straight uphill and I felt like I could move my legs.  My goal was just to stay ahead of John off the head start I had while he was transitioning.  I got to the turnaround and was heading back when I saw he was the next person behind me.  But I still had some people to catch ahead of me.  Disclaimer, though - all of the people I was chasing had done the full race and didn't have a couple of hours to rest before this run.  I really had an unfair advantage.

At the end of the day, we finished in second place in the relays with an overall time of 3:35:01.  And I'm pretty sure John will never do that again:

Full results from the race are available here. Chris Gregory finished in first place with a time of 2:34:05, a new course record. Sylvia Ravaglia was the first (and only) woman to finish the course with a time of 3:09:48.  Congratulations to everyone who participated in this epic Big Island event.  More photos from the race are available here. Also, big mahalos to all of the volunteers! With three separate transition areas, this was a logistically difficult race that went off without a hitch because of them.

Cinco de Mayo Splash

Then last Saturday morning, swimmers (and wanna-be swimmers) gathered for the Cinco de Mayo Splash at Ana'ehoomalu Bay, the first race in the Triple Crown series of swims over the next month and a half.  Jason and I were excited for this race, since it was going to serve as a big showdown between us. Jason beat me in the races last year, but since then he's taken some time off from swimming, while I stayed at it consistently.  I was hopeful the results would bear that out!  Thanks to Nori Becker for taking all of the photos at this race for us.

Another tricky ocean entry for this one.  There was a coral reef that you basically had to belly flop over to get to the start line.  But it was a pretty great day for an ocean swim.  The water was calm, the sun wasn't too bright and the water was relatively clear.  Apparently several people saw honus and rays near the start of the swim. 

The course was pretty direct, just a straight shot out to the Ocean Sports boat, around it, and back in.  Not surprisingly, high school senior Leahi Camacho was the first out of the water by quite a margin.  Rumor has it she swam so fast because she needed to get ready for prom that evening.

Other fast swimmers started charging out of the water a little while later, with a mixture of youth and experience.

Many minutes later, I was heading in on the home stretch. I hadn't seen Jason since the start, but I thought it was safe bet that I was ahead of him.  Then I took a breath and looked to my right and who did I see?  No, not Jason, but John Ferdico instead.  I decided there was no way I was going to let him pass me, so I had to pick it up for the last 200 yards or so.  He hung on, though, and I managed to just beat him up the beach, both coming in just under 30 minutes.

Can't breathe ... but can't let John pass me!
Then we started looking around for Jason. He wasn't hanging out on the beach, but about a minute later we saw him come through the finish line.  Turns out he had his own battle with John's girlfriend Ali, beating her out of the water by just a few seconds, too. Although all of us were pretty far back in the pack, it was still a lot more fun to have that healthy competition.

And then it was on to the post-race fiesta.

Chips and salsa, fruit, donuts and cookies all on the beach afterwards - a pretty perfect post-race!  Then it was on to the awards, which were won by some seriously fast swimmers.  Full results are available here. More photos are available here. Congratulations to all of the swimmers and mahalo to all of the volunteers!

Coming up this weekend is Peaman's Polar Bear & Pinto Bean Biathlon, a 3/4 mile swim and 3.1 mile run starting at 8:08 am from the Kailua Pier.