Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lieto - Knocking on the Door of Victory!

Leading over 80% of the race was one step closer to taking it all.

I am back at home in Danville, and starting to unwind from all the travel. Kona was great this year. The whole experience was awesome starting with training in Hawaii in September to the 2 weeks before the race training in Kona. It was a great transition for me from my last bit of training and the taper and mental prep heading into race day.

Race day came, and I was feeling very relaxed and calm about the day ahead. I never got caught up in the hype and stress of the event. My attitude was much more relaxed and the little things didn't bother me. I was there to enjoy myself and my family and race the best I could. I knew there was nothing more I could do to get ready for the day so I was confident with the preparation I put in and what was awaiting me that day.

The swim was great. The water was calm and clear and we got to follow Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, who are two of the most well known surfers and Big wave surfers. They paddled on stand up surf boards so it made it really easy to spot them and know where I was in relation to the front of the group. At one point I was maybe 8 people back from the front and I felt that I needed to move around the guy I was following. I went with my instinct and as I moved around him there was a guy just to left that I swam up on and as I was breathing to the right I saw that the guy I passed was getting gapped.

He and and line of other guys where dropping off the pace. That was the perfect move for me at that time and saved my swim. I just kept moving around people to make sure I was no farther back then 3 or 4 people. I felt really relaxed the whole swim and just followed peoples feet to conserve energy. As we came back to the Pier a small group of 4 people started swimming very fast. I assumed they were just going for the swim prime, which is the first person out of the water. So I let them do their thing and I exited about 5 seconds behind them in 5th place. That was a solid swim for me and I felt very good heading out on the bike.

Everything went smooth at the start of the bike and by mile 2 or 3 I was into first place setting the pace. I set my pace and didn't look back. I wanted to separate myself from the group of riders before I got out of town. I was in front but maybe only a 20 second gap, but I didn't look back and kept going my pace and my lead slowly grew larger and larger. I went through the bike prime with a 2:30 lead and by the time I got to Hawi, which is the turn around point, I think I was 4:30 up on the group. I was feeling good and comfortable. But as I made the turn to head home my glutes got tight and it was hard to hold the same power. For the next 15 to 20 miles I struggled with my power and energy level. During this section I got caught by Torbjorn Sindballe. I was able to up my watts and keep him within range of about a minute.

Out onto the run I was able to catch and pass him by mile 3. I was running a comfortable pace, and I had to make sure to keep my pace in check. It is very easy to run to fast the first 10k or so of the marathon. I was very comfortable with my pace and built a good lead. I came through mile 10 with a great lead and took the run prime. It felt great to be leading the race this whole time and I was not going to take it for granted. I kept my pace and I was getting splits that Chris McCormack was gaining on me. I knew he was running fast and I also knew that in the past he has had trouble going to hard in the beginning of the run. I didn't let that fluster me and as he got closer I slowed my pace down a little to conserve some energy in preparation for his pass. He came up on me and immediately I jumped on his shoulder and ran stride for stride with him.

My goal coming into this World Championship was to win. I didn't have the goal of top 3 or top 5 or 6th place. I wanted the win and wanted to give every opportunity to complete that. So I had to try and run with Chris. I was hoping I would feel ok and run with him for as long as I could and wait for him to falter. Anything can happen out there in the brutal heat. He could have cracked at any moment and I wanted to give myself the best chance to win. After a while I realized that his pace was a little to fast for me. I had to let him go and hoped for the best. Heading into the energy lab he was only about 20 seconds in front of me. My feet and legs started to hurt more, and the heat in the energy lab is greater than anywhere else on the course. Once inside, Craig Alexander passed me and at the same time I had to stop for a moment and regroup.

The pain that you go through in an Ironman can be enormous, and for me at that moment it was unbearable. I mustered it up and started running again. Coming out of the energy lab I was still in 3rd place, but was running extremely slow. The feeling of the weight of the world on me and the pain I was feeling was killing me. I started crying out for help because I couldn't physically do anymore myself. I prayed to God to literally carry me the rest of the way. Under my power I knew I was done. I slowly made it up to the highway and started feeling better for a while. At around mile 21 or 22 my body and energy was gone. I started walking and swaying from side to side, my head cocked back and mouth open. I felt like I was going to fall over at any moment and pass out.

My body tingling and the heat was feeling unbearable I knew I had to keep moving at least to the next aid station so I could cool myself off. I made it to the aid station limping and once there I soaked my body down with ice water. I got some calories in me and finally started feeling better and moving again. It was a little late because during that time I was passed by 3 more athletes. Now I was in 6th and realized that I had to stay strong to hold my position.

It is amazing how quick and easy you can go from leading the race to 3rd and then with a small set back for a moment you can go to 6th. And I could have easily gone from 6th to 16th or off the charts completely. When the heat and the pain hits you it hits you hard. I was able to hold my position to the end and was grateful for that and grateful that it was over. After efforts like that and feeling the way I did from the effort I gave all day when I cross that line I question what I was thinking being out there and why I push myself the way I do. I made a goal to race the best I can and every race I go into I race the event to try and win , I try to race for the ultimate prize. I do the training and the preparation, but it is God that supports me and allows me to race to that potential.

I thank all of you for your support and prayers and I thank God for the desire he has given me to race and for being by my side every step of the way and carrying me across that finish line on October 13th in 6th place.

I was knocking on the door of Victory, and yes I will be back. See you all next year!

Chris Lieto

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