Monday, March 29, 2010

Ironman California 70.3 Race Report

"Running" with "patience" these two words I have combined the intensity of purpose and the quiet waiting upon Me you must have or else you will be overtaken in the race by fatigue of body and soul. So as I have told you before, come to Me and pour out your praise and your love and your worship. I will bless you and guide you and use you in My own good time and pleasure. You shall not be disappointed.

Above is an excerpt from the wonderful devotional "Come Away My Beloved" by Frances J. Roberts. This devotional was given to me by my Pastor Jeff Biddle and I have taken to reading it race day mornings. It helps me to connect with Him and remove my pre-race anxiousness. I have given Him my praise, love and worship and He has not disappointed me. To Him goes all of the glory for everything I do and accomplish.
My alarm was set for 5AM but I awoke on my own at 4:55. The weather forecast called for sunny skies, low 50's at race start and low to mid 70's by midday. Perfect weather. For breakfast it was a cinnamon raisin bagel followed by a banana. Transition would close at 6:30 and I wanted to get there by 6AM to set up for my 7:13AM start. Our hotel (Days Inn) was perfectly located .7 miles from the transition area so it was just a short bike ride from the hotel. I didn't feel too nervous but I must have been because I made another rookie mistake before the race even started. I found the rack where I was supposed to set up my bike and transition area. I had my gear set out perfectly and quickly ran to the Porta Potties. When I came back to the transition my bike was gone! I started to panic! Why would anyone take my bike and gear! I started looking up and down the bike racks in the transition and then realized my mistake. My race number was 1210, I had set up my transition in 1012! It was too late to move and I sheepishly told the guy next to me what I had done. "You better hide your numbers or you may get DQ'ed!" My race was already off to a precarious start. I hid my numbers as my rack mate suggested and started putting on my wetsuit.


The water temperature was cold as advertised at 59 degrees. Before the race I purchased a Zoot neoprene cap to help keep my head warm. Taking a tip from another triathletes blog I decided to wear wool socks while I waited to swim out to the start to keep my feet warm. The beauty of wool is it keeps you warm even when wet. The race officials did allow "booties" to be worn because of the temperature being below 60 degrees but I didn't have any of those. IMCA's swim start is in waves while in the water. As each wave starts the next wave swims out to the buoy start line. The up side is you are not in the water long before your race starts so you don't get cold treading water waiting. Most of the wait is on dry land in a crowded corral. As I waited for 30 minutes slowly inching my way to the water as each wave started, I realized my next two early mistakes of the race. One, I forgot to eat my GU and two I was already thirsty and did not have water with me like most of the athletes around me. Mad that I may come out of the swim hungry and dehydrated I closed my eyes, tried to relax and prayed. As they called my wave in to the water I fumbled to set my watch (why didn't I do this earlier) and started to swim to the start line. I'm a confirmed slow swimmer so I had a bit of panic wondering if I could swim to the start, maybe 50 yards before the gun went off!I made it with time to spare and then my race began. At the last minute I had decided to leave my wool socks on during the swim. How much can they slow me down when I'm already slow and at least my feet will not be frozen on exit. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the race swimming in wool socks! As I've said before, when you are sighting buoys in the water the distance seems so far but this time I just put my face down in the water and kept a constant steady stroke and with each sighting I could see my progress. I felt none of the panic that I had in previous races and knew I could do the 1.2 mile distance. As with any triathlon I got kicked and I kicked others. As I rounded the far buoy I was gaining confidence and even started swimming faster, but told myself to slow down and keep it steady. My swim time may not be indicative of this but I easily had my best swim ever in a triathlon. No panic, I was not cold, and I felt like I could have done a faster and longer swim. As I climbed up the boat ramp to exit the water, wetsuit strippers were on hand to unzip me and help me get at least partially out of my suit. Awesome! Note: I was not cold after the swim (neoprene cap and wool socks?)

I took my time to drink water, eat a GU, spray on sunscreen and put on my trusty SLS3 Compression socks. All of this takes time but most important for me is being prepared and not forgetting anything. I know the transitions are free time and its something I should practice but haven't made it a priority.
GOAL 7:00
ACTUAL 10:59

I left transition leaving my arm warmers behind since I had considered wearing them for warmth and sun protection but decided against it) There is a short very steep climb out of the harbor and then the first 20 miles are on relatively easy terrain. I found myself averaging 22 to 23 MPH and was tempted to ride harder but held back at maybe a 70% perceived effort. My legs felt great but I knew that all of the major hills were not until mile 29 and I had heard rumors that some people have to walk one of the hills. I also wanted to be very careful not to push my self to hard on my strength, the bike, only to falter on the 13.1 miles I had to run later. Thirty miles in I saw the hill. It looked impressive from a distance but in my experience you can never truly judge a climb on the bike until you are on it. At the base of the hill was an aid station with volunteers handing out water bottles to anyone who wanted one or two. Maybe its my bike experience but I was thinking "why would I take on three pounds of water before riding the toughest climb on the course?" I rode past the eager volunteers and started the climb. Before I know it, I was already in my lowest gear (39x23) and just turning the pedals over at 4 - 5 MPH. It wasn't a matter of making it up the hill, I was more concerned with what this hill was doing to my run time! Halfway up the climb there they were, racers walking their bikes. Even a guy with an aero time trial helmet which made me wonder how many seconds he saved wearing an aero helmet while walking up the hill? In his defense I was estimating the grade to be 12-14%. I talked later to some athletes who confirmed this and said it has some short sections that are 16%! Ouch! If I had to do it again I would consider a 39x25 gearing set up on my bike to save my legs. I talked to a few guys who were running compact cranks for this race. Nobody told me! Despite the hills, the course was beautiful and the roads were in good shape. I should also mention there were very strong cross winds on the back side of the course that made things sketchy with my high profile wheels. The final 12 miles are mostly downhill as the course headed back to the coast pushed along by a nice tailwind. I also witnessed for the first time "on-bike evacuation", or peeing on the bike, something that I've heard is commonplace in Ironman events. Unfortunately this woman didn't realize she was peeing during a strong cross wind that blew her urine in the the face of another competitor! Fortunately as I was passing her I was on the windward side but I can tell you the recipient of her "evacuation" was not too happy! As I headed towards the transition area I looked at my computer and saw I had done a great ride. I could have gone harder but I was focused on staying within my goal time so I could have a good run.
GOAL TIME 3:25:00

I racked my bike, ate another GU put on my hat and running shoes and then asked a volunteer to spray me down with sunscreen again and stopped at the "Potty". (I refuse to "evacuate" on the bike)

I've had some strong "brick" workouts preparing for this race but I've never done a half marathon after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike. The first mile is always the hardest as your legs now adjust to running versus spinning. It's important to run easy until the legs adapt...they always do...eventually. I was trying to settle in to my goal pace of 9:35 minute miles which by my normal running standards is slow even for my ability. As I reached the 2 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw I was running roughly a 10 minute mile pace and my legs did not feel great. I was disappointed that I was running so slow and began wondering if I might have to walk near the end of my run, something I never do. Much of the run course was on the strand next to the beach in Oceanside before it went up a short steep hill one block to a residential road with a few minor hills. There were tons of people along the race course cheering on everyone who was trying to finish, and with everyone's name printed on their bib number people would call you out to personally encourage you. It was a beautiful day and running along the beach in sunny weather was much more fun than my last race running around a lake in the pouring rain. My legs did start improving and after finishing the first of two laps I was gaining confidence I could finish strong. The key was keeping my heart rate under control even though my legs felt better and I was tempted to run harder. I had no experience to draw from how hard I could push myself and wanted to be conservative. As I hit mile 11 of the run, I looked at my watch and knew it would be close for me to make my goal time of 6:30:00. I started picking up the pace at the same time as a woman in front of me. She was my carrot and I was chasing her to the finish. We were both flying by other competitors and as we raced the final mile people were yelling our names. With 400 meters to go I could see the race clock in the distance and knew I would make it. I had a huge smile on my face the entire way to the finish line. When I found my wife Liz I was surprisingly overcome with joyful laughter and emotion hugging her and repeating "I did it! I did it!"


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