2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

Pre-Race

I was very excited to have qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships this year from my race in China last year. It worked out well that the race was going to be held in Chattanooga, TN as the race is not always held in the US (the previous year it was in Australia and next year will be in South Africa). I felt there was also no pressure to go and “race” and I could just go and enjoy the event. This race was to be a gathering of the world’s top athletes at this distance.

To put it lightly, I was also struggling a lot holding on to my fitness coming off Ironman Santa Rosa. Even with some major rest and recovery, I was having major issues battling fatigue. So the training I did leading up to Chattanooga was minimal at best. The best I could wish for was showing up and being able to complete the race without too many issues. On paper, I was at the lowest level of fitness I have been in over the last 3+ years. On top off that, I had gotten a cold the week before the race. I knew it was coming when Caden, who was sick, sneezed into my mouth while I was holding him the weekend before the race.

We flew direct to Nashville on Thursday before the race and got in town in time to check in to our Nashville hotel and catch our dinner reservations by 6:30. Friday morning we met up with our friends Chuck and Annie for a biscuit breakfast southern-style before the 2 hour drive to Chattanooga. The rest of Friday was spent at athlete check-in, walking the expo, quick run, dinner and a sunset riverboat cruise.

Chattanooga is a great location for a race. Our hotel was only a block from expo and the river. Ironman really took over the entire town. Since it was the world championships, and like racing in Kona, everyone was lean and looked fast.

 

Saturday morning was more biscuits at breakfast before watching some of the women’s race (all women raced on Saturday and all men raced on Sunday). After that, Chuck and I went on a short bike ride up and down the downtown area to do a final bike check. Then we went down to transition to drop off our bikes and gear. I got to spend some time just resting in the hotel while the kids napped before we all went out for dinner. After dinner I laid out all my race morning clothes and gear and was in bed around 9.

Race Morning

This race had the best starting time of any race so far. The men 35-39 group was in the 4th wave with a start time of 8am. That means I got to sleep in (relatively speaking). Alarm went off at 5:45. I could have slept in even longer, but I like to eat breakfast at least 2 hours before a race. I quietly got dressed, trying not to wake the kids who were both sleeping in the living room area of our hotel room. I kissed Camille goodbye and headed to the hotel lobby for coffee and breakfast.

Breakfast was hotel coffee (not great), oatmeal, a banana and hazelnut spread. After eating, I had another 30 minutes to kill before meeting Chuck around 6:45 for the walk to transition. In transition, I added my water bottles and Garmin to my bike and pumped up my tires. After some more waiting around, I finally changed into my wetsuit and headed to the swim start corrals.

I hung out with Chuck for a bit in the swim start area with the others in our age-group. Our age group looked like of the largest that was there. After watching the professional men start, we slowly inched our way to the starting line. As usual, our wave start was pretty anti-climactic. I was pretty far back in my age-group so it took a while before I got to the dock and prepared to jump in the water. They were only letting 6-8 athletes at a time in the water every 15 seconds or so. After it was my turn, I took a couple running steps to the end of the dock, and made an awkward leap, feet first, into the water.

Swim

It felt like I was jumping into a bathtub. The water was warm and I couldn’t believe they were having us wear wetsuits. My goal on the swim was the same as the goal for the race: just take it easy. I knew I didn’t have the fitness to go hard during any part of the race, so I just wanted to go easy and see how things went.

Right away on the swim, I was catching some of the swimmers ahead of me, which was shocking considering this was a world championship. The first turn came up pretty fast, and after going around the buoy we were headed directly into the sun. I didn’t bring tinted goggles, so sighting was pretty difficult. There were plenty of people around me, so I just followed everyone else.

I knew the first half of the swim was going to be slower than normal, considering we were swimming up river against a current. I continued to swim pretty easy and just tried to avoid the swimmers around me. After we made it upstream and around the turn, I knew it was going to be a fast swim back towards transition. I tried to pick a line closer to the center of the river, hoping for more current there. Time just flew by on the way back, and before I knew it I was able to see the swim exit.

I made my way to the exit stairs, where a nice volunteer grabbed for my hand to pull me out of the water. I walked up the stairs and tried to strip off the top half of my wetsuit before making it to the wetsuit strippers.

Swim Time: 32:39

Bike

After my predictably slow transition time, I was finally off on my bike. The first few miles were on city streets, making our way out of downtown Chattanooga. I took this time to get some sips of water and try to get my heart down from running through transition. Getting my heart rate down didn’t seem to work too well because after a few miles on the bike, we made a right turn onto a small residential street, and immediately began the long and steep decent up the first climb.

I knew there was going to be a long climb right away, but I don’t think I realized how steep it was. I definitely needed a smaller gear, or stronger legs, because I sure did struggle going up. I was also getting passed by pretty much everyone. I think I got passed every few seconds by someone during the first 20 minutes of the climb. I just kept reminding myself that I needed to ride my own race and focus on my own effort.

It also felt very humid to me. I was pouring sweat up the climb and my visor was fogged up to where I was not able to see very well. I noticed not many others were sweating as they passed me. I tried to drink water as to not dehydrate for later in the race. I really just focused on taking it easy. Every time I wanted to start pushing a bit harder, I just reminded myself my goal was just to ride and not to hit any specific power target.

The last part of the climb up Lookout Mountain was very pretty. The views were great. There was also lots of thick, green foliage. It felt like I was in a thick forest or jungle. The crowd support at the top was also great. It was surprising to see so many spectators that far out on the bike course.

The top of the climb wasn’t really the top of the climb. It was just a bit flatter, but still a climb, for another 40 minutes. Again, I just focused on trying to stay hydrated and getting in some calories. By the top of this section, I was really looking forward to the long decent.

On the long decent from mile 23 to 27, I got a nice long rest. I don’t think I pedaled much the whole downhill. It was a long fast decent, which was, unfortunately, also open to car traffic. I got stuck behind a big truck going down the hill, who was stuck behind a slow cyclist. I wasn’t going to risk crossing over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic to pass the truck. I assumed that wasn’t allowed in the race as it certainly wasn’t legal. But it was crazy how many people did. I got passed by lots of other riders who had no issues crossing to the other side of the road to pass, even when there was oncoming traffic. Lots of cyclists even squeezed between the truck going their direction and oncoming traffic. It was probably the most dangerous riding I’ve ever seen. Maybe that is standard in Europe, but there is no way I was going to risk my life for a few minutes of time in a race. So I was happy to just sit back and coast for the 10 minutes down the mountain.

The last hour or so of the bike was relatively flat, with some rolling hills. The course got much less congested at points, which was nice. During the last 10 miles I did see some large packs of riders pass me like I was standing still. One time, I was passed by 4 riders who were riding wheel to wheel before I looked back to see a large pack of at least 20 riders. There wasn’t much I could do but sit up and just let them all pass. Because I wasn’t worried about my time, it was better to just use the opportunity to relax and take a break instead of trying to fight for position.

I finally made it back into town and down to transition.

Bike Time: 2:44:22, 223NP 207AP

Run

Coming off the bike, I was still feeling pretty strong. Coming into the race, I was a bit worried if I’d last the 5+ hours of the race, considering I had hadn’t really done much training in a month. So overall, I was happy I was still going. Pretty much right out of transition, there is a nice climb to get things going. I could feel how slow I was going on that short climb. After that, we headed out on the highway towards the first turn around. The first turn around came up much faster than I was expecting, at mile 2.5. That gave me a nice boost of confidence. It reminded me how nice the 70.3 distance is.

I headed back toward transition along the Riverwalk and then finally made the turn to run over the bridge to the other side of the river. I knew the hills were on the other side, which I wasn’t looking forward to. I had run these hills in Ironman Chattanooga a few years ago, but must have forgotten how tough they can be. Even running over the bridge felt like a pain, with the long grind up the bridge and then back down.

Once on the north side of the river, we headed up the long Barton Ave climb. The climb really isn’t that bad, but when you’re already a bit tired from the day, it really starts to hurt. My weakness seems to be hills nowadays because I really feel myself slowing a lot more than others up each hill. At least, after the Barton climb there is a nice downhill to really pound on your quads. After the downhill, there was a right turn, and then right back up climbing back to the top of another hill. After the 2 climbs on the north shore, I finally made it to the pedestrian bridge to cross back over the river.

The crowds at the far end of the bridge were great. Tons of people lining the course cheering us all on. One lap down, one to go. I headed back out for a second time after saying hi to Camille and the kids who were waiting at the start of each lap.

The second lap is where I really started to slow down. I was starting to get tired, and my lack of overall fitness was starting to show itself. My pace really slowed down dramatically. Even though I wasn’t too concerned with a slow pace, I just wanted to keep going without stopping. I continued to do Coke and water at each aid station. I even walked 1 or 2 aid stations on the second lap just to refocus and put some ice down my jersey.

Finally made it over the bridge again. Just 2 more hills and I was done. I think doing so many full Ironman races really helps with perspective on the 70.3 runs. In a 70.3 I really look forward to hitting mile 10, where I know I only have 3 more miles left. Compare that to an Ironman, where I look forward to mile 18, where I only have 8 more miles left. So, during the whole run, the distance goals that I kept setting for myself throughout the race really seemed doable. It’s pretty easy to make it another 2-3 miles to the turnaround, when you’re used to marathon running distances.

The last 2 hills really hurt though. Even on the last hill, my right hamstring cramped up and I had to stop for a minute to stretch it out. I knew I was going to start cramping from dehydration, so I wanted to get to the finish before I started falling apart. After the last hill, I only had the bridge to run back over to the south shore before the finish. Even the bridge slowed me down and felt like a huge hill. At least, after the final bridge there was a long downhill to the finisher shoot and across the finish.

Run Time: 1:48:55

Total Race Time: 5:14:27

Thoughts

This was definitely a hard course. Even though I took it somewhat easy, I was exhausted at the end. It was worthy of a world championship race. With a swim, mostly up-river, a bike with a huge climb, and a hilly run it was a pretty epic course. At least we had almost ideal weather conditions for the day. It was great to be part of such a special race and be among all the best triathletes from around the world.

I’m also very happy to be finished with triathlon season for the year to focus back on getting healthy and fit again for next year.

2017 Ironman Boulder Race Report

Pre-Race

I knew Ironman Boulder would be a bit of an experiment due to the altitude. I signed up anyway because I really like Boulder and it seemed like a good race destination for the family. I figured I might not be super-competitive racing there, but at least it would be a good family trip which was relatively a short flight away and with good restaurant options (we seem to plan most of our trips around food). I also knew the weather might be hit or miss in June, but no weather seems to be as good as the Central Coast in CA.

Leading up to the race, I started to become a bit more concerned with the weather over altitude. The forecast was calling for some hot weather, in the 90’s. I really didn’t want to race in the heat, so I became obsessed with checking the weather every 30 minutes the days leading up to the race. It looked like at best it would be in the mid-80’s and at worse, in the mid-90’s. I was hoping for the former.

We flew from San Jose to Boulder on Friday before the race. Friday was the last day of athlete checkin, so I needed to make it down to registration pretty much as soon as possible when we got into town. Just walking around outside and I was dripping sweat down my head and back from the heat. It was over 90 degrees, and I was melting when in the sun. Not very encouraging.

Registration was quick as the expo area was almost empty. Usually the couple days before the race the expo area is busy and there is definitely a triathlon buzz in the air. I didn’t get that feeling here. There didn’t seem to be many athletes around town, or in the hotel. Even walking the Pearl Street Mall, we didn’t see many other athletes so it didn’t have that normal Ironman vibe. I guess that can actually be a good thing, because it’s easier to focus on vacation instead of the race.

On Saturday, we ended up sleeping in to get the kids some extra rest and then rushing to the Ironkids race at 9am. We barely made it in time for Iyla to race her 2 laps around the track with Grandma. After the kids race, we walked the huge farmers market and grabbed some early lunch from some of the vendors. I then got back to the hotel to get my gear bags and bike ready for the mandatory bike and gear check. Since transition 1 was at the Boulder Reservoir, which was about 6 miles from town, I had to ride my bike over to transition in order to get it racked and get my bike gear bag checked in.

I got back to the hotel around the kids nap time, so I stayed in the hotel room and watched some tv while Caden took a nap and Camille went shopping with her mom and Iyla. After nap-time, we got ready to meet our friends Chad and Lexi for an early dinner (and dessert).

My goal was to be in bed Saturday night, by 8:30 and to be asleep by 9. Camille took the kids to the grandparents neighboring room while I was able to get ready for bed. The grandparents took Caden for the night, so I wouldn’t wake him in the morning, which helped take some of the stress off me for the night.

Race Morning

Ironman Boulder started at 6:20am, which is about an hour earlier than usual, which meant I needed to get out of bed extra early. My alarm was supposed to go off at 3:45, but I was awake already around 3:30. I quietly got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where I had all my clothes laid out already. I got dressed into my tri kit, put on sunscreen, grabbed my bags and some food and headed down to the hotel lobby. In the hotel lobby, they had coffee and some food already out for athletes. Breakfast for me was a couple bowls of granola with berries and a banana with chocolate nut-butter and coffee. I was still pretty full from dinner the night before, so I tried not to go overboard on breakfast.

To save my feet from the 20 minute walk to T2, where I needed to catch a bus to T1, I got an Uber from the hotel. I got dropped off at Boulder High School, where I double-checked my run bag and added drink bottle, dropped off my run special needs bag (extra socks and athletic tape), and got on a school bus to T1. The bus ride was a short 10 minutes and when I got to the reservoir I made my way to my bike. I added my water bottles, Garmin and clipped my shoes on the pedals. I borrowed a pump to pump up my tires and then made my way out of transition to find a place to relax for the next hour.

I ended up meeting Camille and Iyla who had taken the shuttle to watch the race start. We were able to talk a bit while I changed into my wetsuit and ate a quick Clif bar 30 minutes before the race start. I handed over my morning clothes bag to the volunteers and made my way to the swim start.

My plan was to take the swim easier than normal. I figured the altitude would affect me the most on the swim, so I lined up at the back of the 1 hour group and in front of the 1:15 swim group.

Swim

When the cannon went off, I baby-stepped with the masses of others towards the start line. Rolling starts are always so anti-climactic. All this energy, waiting for the cannon, and then just baby-stepping with the crowd to the start line. We walked down the boat ramp and then 2-by-2 were able to finally cross the timing mat and take a running dive into the water.

The first thing I noticed was the water temperature. It was nice and warm. So no cold shock jumping in. I settled into a very relaxed pace and tried to just focus on long strokes. After the first few hundred yards, I was getting a little out of breath and had to breathe every 2 strokes to get in some more air. But overall I wasn’t as out of breath as I thought. Eventually, I was able to settle into my normal breathing of every 3 strokes with maybe an extra breath here or there.

The swim is a single triangular-shaped lap. The first leg was pretty uneventful. I think I started far enough back in the group to not get caught up with all the fast swimmers. So most of the people around me were going to same speed and I was able to relax and just try to swim in a straight line. Luckily we had some cloud cover blocking the rising sun, or else it would be right in our eyes and hard to sight the buoys.

After the first turn, I was still feeling good. I knew it wouldn’t be my fastest swim, but I was okay with staying relaxed and saving my energy for later. We started to get some chop in the water on the second leg, which made things a bit more interesting, but overall is was a very easy course.

It still amazes me how some people cannot swim in a straight line. I always see people zig-zagging across the course, so every now and then I had to put in some extra effort to get around those people. Because of that, I usually don’t worry about drafting and just swim my own line, unless I find someone I can follow that I can trust.

On the third leg, I started feeling like I wanted to move on from the swim. 2.4 miles is a long swim and gets boring and tiring at the end. I was ready to get out of the water and get on the bike. After what seemed like an extra-long time, I finally made it to the boat ramp and out of the water. I slow-jogged up the ramp while trying to wrestle off the top half of my wetsuit. I made it to the wetsuit strippers and got on my butt as they pulled my suit off and helped me off the ground and running towards my bike gear bag. A volunteer handed me my bike gear bag as I ran through to the change tent. All that was in my bag, were socks and a helmet. I sat in the change tent and put on my socks (which is very challenging with wet and grassy feet) and helmet as a volunteer picked up all my swim gear and shoved it all in my bag. Then I was off and jogging towards my bike.

Swim Time: 1:02:34

Bike

I grabbed my bike and ran with it up the hill to the mount line. Once on my bike, it took a while to get my shoes on, but I finally was able to settle in, rub in the sunscreen the volunteers had slathered on me, wave to Camille as I passed, and then settle into the aero position as I made my way out of the reservoir.

The bike course is 3 loops north of the reservoir, and then a few more miles back into town and to T2. Each loop had 2 climbs and 2 descents, so it was pretty easy to break up the race into chunks. Right away on the first loop, I focused on drinking some fluid and just getting a sense of how I felt. As far as I could tell, I was feeling pretty good. Nothing was too stiff and I didn’t seem to have any big negative effects of the altitude, so I was pretty happy with how things were going.

I knew it was going to be a warm day, so I tried to start drinking right away. However, I could see there was some cloud cover, which would help keep me cooler. My goal was to drink almost two bottles of water per hour along with about 300 calories of food and some added salt pills. Here was the specific plan I had laid out ahead of time:

Nutrition: 300 cal/hr = 1500 cal
3 gels = 270 ca
1230 cal from Perpetuem = 9 scoops

Hydration: 6150mg sodium total on the bike (7.5L or 10.5 bottles of water)
1700mg from Skratch in first bottle
945mg from Perpetuem
Need 14 pills total: 3 per hour

After the first lap, I was a bit ahead of goal power, which was nice. And I was feeling pretty good. My goal was about 215 watts and I was at 217 watts on the first lap.

The bike course was actually very pretty. There were some climbs and then some fast downhills with some rolling hills mixed it. I was a good mix of terrain to help pass the time. It was nice to look around and catch some views. Overall, I was happy with the course layout. The only downside was that it was all open to car traffic, which seemed a bit dangerous at times. There were a couple short sections where we were on a highway and getting passed by cars so I had to keep looking back and watching for cars every time I had to pass other riders. It felt like a normal training ride with the cars, but not ideal for racing.

On the second lap, I was still feeling pretty good. I tried to keep eating and drinking along with plan, but my stomach was feeling a bit more full and heavy. There were more riders on the course by then, so I had to pay a bit more attention with all the passing. My power dropped a bit on the second lap, but only by a few watts, so I wasn’t too concerned. It was fairly hard to keep power up on the long downhills and I was losing motivation to hold higher power on the climbs.

112 miles is a long bike ride. Especially without the music or podcasts I’m used to in training. That really starts to hit you around mile 70 or 80, when you’ve been on the bike a long time and start to get achy, but realize you still have a ways to go.

The last loop, I started to get somewhat uncomfortable. My bladder was always pretty full from all the fluid. My stomach was starting to get a bit off from all the starch in my nutrition and my body was getting a bit sore. This is all pretty normal, but uncomfortable nonetheless. I really was looking forward to the last long downhill to the reservoir on the last lap. I ended up really letting my power slip on that last section.

After the third lap to the reservoir, I was finally able to make the turn towards the finish line which was another 6 miles or so. That section was pretty empty and I only saw a few more riders during that time. Both my energy and power were pretty low during that section and I ended up getting passed by a couple riders in my age group. There were a lot of twists and turns on the course as I made my way back into downtown Boulder and to the high school for T2. By the time I got off my bike, I was starting to feel pretty beat up and ready to get off the saddle.

I was finally off the bike, running to get my run bag, and then slowly jogging in to the change tent to put on my running shoes, visor, glasses and race belt. I also grabbed another bottle of fluid from my bike for the first part of the run.

Bike Time: 5:05:30, 208NP/201AP

Run

Right away on the run, I wasn’t feeling the best. I was feeling a bit tired and out of breath. For me, it’s pretty usual in an Ironman run to feel horrible after getting off the bike. I think it’s just shifting the body from being in one position for 5 hours to another position and all the jostling involved with running when your stomach is already a bit off. Usually, I can start feeling better after the first 30 minutes or so.

I took a few sips of my bottle as I ran away from transition. In the first mile, I was feeling really fatigued in my lungs though. I came up to where Camille and the family were and I gave her a quick kiss and told her I wasn’t feeling well and something was off. I kept running, but had to stop at the next aid station and take a breather. I used the restroom at the aid station which ended up making my stomach feel better without the pressure of a large bladder. I also ditched my bottle of fluid and drank some coke instead, hoping it would help with my energy.

I started running again, but right away I was still feeling my lungs were really fatigued. I looked at my heart rate, and it was lower than expected, so I didn’t see anything wrong like dehydration or altitude issues. Usually, in an Ironman run, my body is telling me to walk, almost all the time. The trick is to ignore that feeling and push through no matter what. But this time, I could tell something was different, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I decided to walk a bit and see if that would “reset” anything. I walked for about a minute and I could feel my energy coming back a little. So I decided to run again. But after a few hundred yards, I was having breathing issues again where it felt like I couldn’t take in deep enough breaths to support my running. Almost like I was breathing through a straw. I checked my heart rate again, and all looked good. I had to stop running and walk again in order to catch my breath.

As I walked I tried to describe for myself what I was feeling, so I could sort it out. I felt like I had the energy to run, and I even wanted to run, because walking was frustrating. But I felt a tightness or fatigue/inflammation in my lungs where I could not get a full breath. If I tried to inhale a full breath, it felt constricted at the end of the breath and made me cough and tighten up in the throat.

From then on, I tried to do a run/walk cycle. I knew any good run time was lost, but I could still finish slower, doing a run/walk combination. But over the next 30 minutes, my runs became short and my walks longer. By then, I was getting my energy back and I felt like there was nothing holding me back from running other than this lung issue. Every time I tried to run, I would have to stop immediately because it felt like I was trying to run breathing through a straw. It felt like I could not get enough air to support the higher heart rate of a slow run. But the lack of air didn’t seem to come from less oxygen at altitude, but from my inability to take deep breaths, maybe from lung inflammation or from diaphragm fatigue. I was only able to take in about 30% the volume of air I would normally take in per breath.

It just got worse from there. I was limited to only walking and I was only a couple miles in to my marathon. I was getting passed by everybody and, at that point, was the only one walking. I certainly had the energy to run and really wanted to. Every time I tried, I could feel that breath restriction in my lungs and throat.

At that point, I stopped taking in any calories at aid stations and moved only to water. I figured, I probably was in fat burning mode at this pace, and wasn’t burning any sugar, so no point in taking in additional calories. I still felt like I had good energy. I was able to talk and joke with volunteers and spectators. Even walking, I still couldn’t take full breaths. It also helped to only breathe through my nose and keep my mouth closed.

All I kept thinking about was how my poor family would be stuck waiting for me, expecting me to run by at a certain time. I felt really horrible they were going to have to wait so long before they saw me again. So mostly I was feeling embarrassed that I would let them down. Also embarrassed walking passed the tons of spectators on the course. This race had some of the best crowd support and turnout I have seen at any Ironman. And here I was, walking by, early in the run course.

And that’s pretty much how the rest of the run went… I walked. I had a lot of time to think. I felt fine, and was in good spirits the whole time. I really really wanted to start running, or even do a run-walk. I kept trying, but as time went on, it was harder and harder to breathe through my mouth. So while walking, I had to take short breaths through my nose. Even drinking water became harder and I had to take baby sips.

So now I know what it feels like to walk an entire 26.2 miles. It takes a really really long time. Over 6 hours of walking. And 6 hours of not eating food and only drinking water. But I had good energy the whole time and only started getting fatigued towards the end. I think 6 hours of walking would make anyone tired.

I spent most of the 6 hours feeling sorry for my family and friends who had to wait it out. The rest of the time I thought about how I was going to tell this story or come up with a cool title for my Strava “walk” activity. I wondered if I could change the activity type on my Garmin from “run” to “walk”. I thought about a lot of odd things that I can’t even recall now. Either way, I made myself laugh a lot and spent a lot of time creating my own race narrative and storyline of what was going on. I definitely had to swallow my pride walking by all the volunteers and spectators. But overall, it was actually enjoyable. Instead of the pain of running, I actually had a pleasant time walking. I got to think, talk to people, stop and talk to family, and really pay attention to the experiences and faces of the other athletes.

But finally after over 6 hours of walking, I finally made it to the finish. I actually jogged down the finish shoot, cause there was no way I was going to walk across the finish. My legs were achy, but I had more energy at the finish than any other Ironman race.

Run Time: 6:14:46, 14:18/mile

Overall Race Time: 12:33:47

Thoughts

This was not the race I wanted. By far my worse time, by a couple hours. But it was actually a good experience and offered a nice perspective on racing. Now I know, worse case, I can always walk…. And walk for a long time. I also know I have good endurance. I can walk over 6 hours with no food without feeling the need for food, even after an hour swim and 5 hour bike ride. It was also a very humbling experience. Probably more so than anything I’ve done. A good lesson in humility overall.

I’m still not quite sure what happened on the run. It didn’t seem like a direct relation to altitude. Maybe somehow indirectly related. I’m still trying to figure that out. But I don’t plan on racing at altitude anytime in the near future until I do get a handle on how to prevent this in the future.

I am happy I stuck it out and crossed the line to get that 7th Ironman finisher medal. Overall, it was a great family trip and a good race experience.

2017 Big Sur Marathon Race Report

This was my 5th Big Sur Marathon. Last year, I had a really solid race and finished still feeling strong and that I could have given a bit more. So this year, I wanted to push a bit harder to see what would happen. However, I had given Big Sur my lowest priority of all my races this year and really wanted to treat it as a big running day and not a major race. So my taper was closer to half a week, which still should have been enough to feel good on race morning. It had actually been a long time since I had done a long or hard run outside, as a lot of my training was on the treadmill this year and I wasn’t really confident that my treadmill workouts directly translated to real world running results.

Race Morning

Oh the fun of waking up early for Big Sur. This race has the earliest morning of any race I have done, due to the hour long bus ride to the start (after the 30 minute drive from my house to the bus). So my alarm went off at 3:10am. I usually like round numbers when waking up, but I really wanted the extra 10 minutes of sleep. I quietly got on my run clothes, and then another layer of thick pants and a down jacket for the cold morning wait at the start line. I love how simple running is. No gear to worry about. Just shorts, shirt and shoes. Not like triathlon, where there is just a lot of “stuff” and logistical overhead.

Coffee was already waiting for me downstairs and I packed 2 thermoses. One for the drive to the bus and a second for the ride on the bus. I also made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as breakfast later in the morning. I drove to Carmel and parked on Ocean Ave, hoping to not get a parking ticket later in the day. The bus ride to the start was long and uneventful. It was still too dark to take in the views, so I just listened to a podcast the whole ride.

This year, due to the Big Sur bridge damage, the buses dropped us off about half a mile before the start line, so we had to walk on the shoulder the rest of the way to the start. I took the opportunity to eat my sandwich and drink more coffee as I walked. When we got to the start at the ranger station, it was still somewhat empty, so I found a good spot to sit and “camp out” for another hour and a half before the race start. I ended up just listening to podcasts and people watching most of the time. Sadly, I’m not used to sitting on the ground, so when I did finally stand up, both of my legs were dead asleep and locked up.

I tried to wait till the last minute before taking off my jacket and pants and heading to the start line. I made it to the start just 5 minutes before the start time.

The Race

When the race gun went off, I slowly followed the masses of people who took the entire width of the road. There wasn’t much room for going faster or slower than the people around me, so I just shortened my stride and tried not to trip on anyone. The first section of the race is a nice downhill through the redwoods. It’s a great opportunity to ease into the race while still holding good speed.

The first 3 miles went by really fast. It was just an opportunity to enjoy the race, feel the excitement of all the runners and find your mental cadence. After 3-4 miles, I started looking at my watch to see where I was pace wise. I was hoping for about a 7:15 pace, but I was doing better than that, at around 7:00 pace and still feeling strong. For me, mile 6 is a nice reality check. It’s just a long enough distance to start feeling it, but reminds you how long the race is. Just 20 more miles! Actually, 20.2. Crazy.

Luckily miles 6-9 went by fairly quick. The course has some nice long rollers, but you have great views of the ocean and the lighthouse in the distance. This is a nice time to enjoy the sun and start to mentally prepare for hurricane point coming up. The nice part of this year was the wind wasn’t too strong, there was maybe a light headwind, and the sun was out and visibility was great.

Mile 9 is probably one of my favorite parts of the course. You crest this little hill and turn downhill to the right. And then you just see the huge climb ahead up to hurricane point. You also start feeling that strong headwind. I always just smile to myself at this point cause I know that climb is going to be a beast. It’s a great feeling. By the base of hurricane point, I was ahead of my goal pace. I was at an average of 7:03 pace for the course so far. I was really curious what was going to happen to that pace after the long climb.

During the long slog up to hurricane point, I just tried to run behind people who were going about the same pace as me. The wind wasn’t too horrible, but it was strong enough where I could feel it slowing me down, so I did what I could to shield myself from it. I kept reminding myself of the false summit on this climb, but when I got to where I thought the top was, I turned the corner to see how much farther the real summit was. This climb is just cruel in such a long event.

I finally made it to hurricane point, where the wind was starting to get bad. I looked at my watch to see my average pace had dropped to 7:17. Crazy. I tried to speed up on the long downhill to Bixby Bridge and to mile 13. Bixby Bridge is a lot of fun, because so many people stop to take pictures. I love how you can hear the piano music all the way from hurricane point, all the way down to the bridge. Crossing the bridge, my average pace was back down to where I wanted at 7:15. So I hit my lap button and hoped I could do another 7:15 the final 13 miles.

I don’t remember much of mile 13-16. I just remember trying to get to mile 18. Mile 18 is usually where things start to get a bit messy, so I was hoping to get there in good shape. But at mile 16, I was starting to get pretty worn out. My pace was slowing and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold on to 7:15 pace much longer. Mile 16 is also hard, because you realize you still have 10 more miles about the same time you realize you’re feeling a bit beat up. But I finally made it to mile 18, where I set my new mental goal of mile 20, which would be only 10k from the finish.

Things started to go south at mile 18 though. I started slowing a bit more and I felt my heart rate rising, which isn’t a good sign. I knew it was going to be tough, but I started really falling apart quickly. My forearms also started cramping up, which is usually what happens to me right before everything else starts cramping. I knew this was the first signs of dehydration and probably too late for me to do anything about it.

By mile 20, I knew I was going to be a lot slower than last year. My pace had dropped to around 7:30 and I was really starting to struggle holding it. I was also starting to cramp in my inner thighs, which I thought was an odd place to cramp. I was now more focused on just getting to the finish without walking and not worried anymore about improving my time.

The last 5 miles of the Big Sur marathon are pretty challenging. There still are a couple longer climbs, which are hard to tackle, when you’re pretty fatigued. Those climbs really took a toll on me. It turned in to more of an Ironman shuffle than a slow run. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that bad, even in an Ironman. I was really falling apart and doing everything I could to not stop and walk. There were 2 climbs near the finish where I did have start walking for 10-15 seconds because I was cramping so bad. At least I was able to get going on my shuffle again. Even a shuffle is much faster than a slow walk.

I was just counting down the last 3 miles to the finish. I obviously had executed something wrong to feel this bad during a marathon. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but I just wanted to get over that finish line. I finally made it to the last mile, but my pace was over 8 minutes, and sometimes even slower going uphill. My average pace for the second half of the race was closer to 7:45, so I knew I’d be at around 7:30 for the full distance. While this is still a decent pace, it’s much slower than what I know I’m capable of, which was frustrating.

I finally made it to the finish line and was able to stop and rest. I talked to Camille and the kids a bit before walking through the food tent, grabbing a couple things, then meeting Camille to sit in the grass.

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Race Time: 3:18:28, 7:34 min/mile

Post Race

When I sat down after the race, I immediately started cramping…everywhere. I was cramping in places, I didn’t know had muscles. My abs cramped up, my toes, fingers, the back of my neck and throat. It was not a fun experience at all. I could barely talk to Camille as every time I moved, something else would cramp. I was in worse shape than any race I have done. It took a long time before I could gather enough energy to get up and walk back to the car. Even at home, I didn’t eat or drink anything as my body just couldn’t take it. Not until a nap that afternoon, did I start feeling better and was able to get in some food and fluid.

I went into Big Sur thinking it was going to be a challenging race and training day, but I really got a giant slap in the face. More like a punch in the face. I didn’t think it was possible to execute this poorly on a relatively short race day (compared to Ironman). Live and learn I guess. I’ll have to come back soon and see if I can finally beat Big Sur Marathon and not have it beat me.

Thoughts

Being an analytical person, I really like to figure out what I did wrong. Race morning I weighed 172.9 when I woke up. After the race I weighed 164.2. So I lost 8.7 pounds during the race, or 3.95 Liters of water. That’s crazy, considering it was in the low 50’s for the race… so not very hot. There were 11 aid stations, and I took in a cup of Gatorade at 10 of those. Each cup was probably 6-8oz of fluid. So, say I took in 60-80oz of fluid or 18-24 oz per hour. That seems somewhat normal. But if I ended the race in deficit of 3.95 Liters, that means I should have taken in an additional 10oz per aid station. So basically, I should have grabbed a second cup at each aid station. I guess that’s only a sweat rate of 1.8L/hr, which is pretty low for me (I go over 3L/hr in the heat). Also, looking back at my heart rate for the race, I can see it decoupling from my pace later in the race. So my heart was really struggling with the lack of water in my body. So bottom line, I need to drink a lot more, even when it’s cool out. I wish there was a device that could tell me this on the fly. So that explains why I fell apart so horribly. Live and learn.

2017 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside Race Report

Pre-Race

Going into Ironman Oceanside, I didn’t really know what to expect from my performance level. Our whole family had been fighting illness for about a month. I had managed to avoid the first round of illness, but I guess my body gave up the second time something went around a couple weeks after. This time, when I got sick, I decided to take 4 days off from training, which was the week before Oceanside. If anyone knows me, they know I never give up training. I pretty much push through no matter what. So this just shows how run down I was feeling. Thanks preschool/swim class/dance class/kids parties. So my race was going to be great, because I got some extra rest, or not so great, because I didn’t get in all my training or really do any race efforts to feel confident during Oceanside. Either way, I was happy to reach Oceanside healthy and optimistic.

This was also to be my first race is the 35-39 age-group. I’m officially middle-aged. Scary. So while, I was feeling a bit run-down, my age-group was becoming more competitive. It’s amazing how endurance athletes get stronger with age.

I always think of Oceanside as a close destination race. But the reality is, it’s just as hard logistically as any race in the US. It’s just far enough away where it’s a really long drive and can’t be done in a single day (with kids anyway), but close enough where it’s debatable if it makes sense to fly. So I ended up driving by myself down to Los Angeles on Thursday before the race, where I would pick up Camille and the kids from LAX. This allowed me the ability to drive my bike down, while Camille could still work on Thursday and have a very quick flight from Monterey with the kids. We stayed the night in Anaheim near Disney before making the rest of the drive to Oceanside on Friday morning.

Friday before the race was spent doing the normal administrative tasks of athlete check-in, setting up all my gear and dropping my bike off in transition, plus the Ironman kids race. We ended up getting a hotel last minute in Oceanside right at the pier even though Camille has family right next door, due to our collective questionable contagiousness. Having a hotel was really nice as Iyla got some time in the pool, and I got to relax in the room a bit while Caden took his nap.

We ate dinner Friday night with family and went to bed at our normal time of about 9pm.

Race Morning

My alarm went off at 4:30am. I bit earlier this year because I wanted to get to the start earlier to get a good spot in line as the race moved from a wave start to a rolling start. Since the kids were still asleep in the same room, I had to quietly sneak to the bathroom and close the door. I had all my gear and breakfast already laid out inside the bathroom where I hung out the next 45 minutes, trying not to make too much noise. I had even brought in the coffee pot to brew some coffee for myself. Good thing the bathroom was pretty oversized. Breakfast was granola with milk, a banana with nut butter, and a good amount of coffee. After breakfast, I started on my 20 minute walk to the harbor and into transition.

I felt like a baby hanging out in transition because I was so cold. I was jumping up and down and doing whatever I could to stay warm. I should have brought a thicker jacket. I ended up putting on my wetsuit and then a sweater on top of that to keep warm. Must be my old age.

When it was time, I made my way to the starting corral and as close to the start of the line as possible. I tried to put myself near the 30-minute swimmer position. I figured this would be a good place to be and avoid some of the crowds on the bike.

Swim

The swim start was anticlimactic, as if often the case with a rolling start. I slowly walked down the ramp and into the water before diving in and starting a quick, hard effort. For the first few hundred yards, I had a hard pace going. After a few minutes of that, I knew I was going to need to slow down. I settled into my normal 70.3 swim pace and tried to just focus on my stroke.

During the first third of the race, there wasn’t too much contact with other swimmers. Most people around me were about the same pace, so we didn’t bump into each other too much. After a few more minutes, we did start running into the back of some groups of swimmers, which made the swim a bit more challenging. Overall, the first half of the swim was somewhat uneventful and I tried to focus on not swallowing any of that harbor water.

When I finally got to the turnaround point to swim back into the harbor, the sun was really in my eyes, and it was really challenging to see anything when trying to sight. I remembered this from previous years, and even with tinted goggles, I still couldn’t see other swimmers or the course buoys. I just had to look to the side and try to navigate based on objects to the side of the course. This made the swim back feel much longer than the swim out.

I finally made it back deeper into the harbor and was able to finally see the swim exit. I pushed a bit harder just to finish up the swim and was finally at the ramp and running across the timing mat. I forgot how long of a run it is from the water to transition. It felt like forever before I finally got to my bike.

Swim Time: 31:01

Bike

Changing into my bike gear took forever because I’m really slow at getting my wetsuit off. While most people can strip it off at a blazing speed, I have to sit on the ground to get the suit off my ankles. With the added time it takes to put my socks on wet feet, I have some horrible transition times. I finally was off running with my bike out of transition and to the mount line.

The first few minutes on the bike, I just tried to focus on settling into my position and getting my heart rate calmed down a bit. I then took some sips of water to get the taste of harbor out of my mouth and settled in to find my power.

My legs felt really stiff and tight right away. Trying to hold my power goal was more challenging than I wanted. This can be normal at the start of a race, so I hoped my legs would come back to me and it would be easier to hit my goal power numbers. The bike course was also busier than I had hoped. I thought that by starting the swim sooner, I could get some cleaner road on the bike. But it was still pretty crowded. I personally like to just zone out and focus on riding, so the extra riders around me made it more challenging for me to stay mentally focused on my own race.

I really enjoy the bike course at Oceanside. There is always something new to look at and it’s easy to mentally break the course apart into smaller sections in order to pass the time. I also like riding on base a lot. There isn’t really any car traffic and it’s fun to look around at all the base infrastructure.

By the time we got into the hills on the base, I was still riding at a lower power than my goal. I hoped some of the uphill would help me increase my overall average power, just so I could feel like I was able to hit my goal. During each uphill, I was able to take in some food and also stretch my back a little.

What I really like about 70.3 races, is all the leg distances are very doable. I can do a 2.5 hour bike ride in my sleep at this point, even with a heavy power goal. So the time and the miles went by really quickly, and soon I only had a flat 10 miles before the finish. I focused on staying as aero as I could and tried to keep my power up, even though it was somewhat fading and I was getting somewhat uncomfortable on the bike. I was looking forward to changing it up and seeing what would happen on the run.

I finally made it back into transition and was able to get off my bike and put on my running shoes. After a quick bladder break in transition, I was off on the run course.

Bike Time: 2:34:09, 21.8 mph, 225 AP/235 NP

Run

The run course at Oceanside it probably my favorite. It’s along the beach, it’s flat and fast and the crowds are awesome. It’s also really easy to break into sections in order to set small goals, and each section feels very doable at only a couple miles.

I checked my pace as I ran from the harbor and was somewhat disappointed to see that my selected pace was a 7:15/mile instead of my goal 7 min pace. Last year, I was running 6:50 pace pretty easily out of transition, so I knew it may be a slower run just from the initial feel. Also, my lower back was throbbing right away. I had played a lot with my bike fit on my own and maybe didn’t get it quite right, which probably hurt my run. Besides the slower pace and back issues, I was still in good spirits and enjoying the run.

I was able to hold on to the 7:15 pace for the first whole lap, which was promising. At least I wasn’t slowing down much, even though I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted. At each aid station I would do water over my head and drink a small amount of coke. On the second lap, I started to really feel less energized and I just kept thinking about making it to my next small segment of the run. My pace had slowed to around 7:20 or slower, but at least I wasn’t miserable, like during an IM run, and I was still enjoying the overall experience. I just had to keep reminding myself to hold on and keep going the last few miles.

It’s a great feeling to make it down to The Strand for the last time and see the pier and finish in the distance about a half mile away. I gave it one big push the last straight away. Definitely, one of my favorite race finishes with the crowds lining the road the last few hundred yards. I crossed the finish with my heart in my mouth, trying to hold on to that last push.

Run Time: 1:35:47, 7:18/mile

Overall Race Time: 4:50:19

Thoughts

I definitely didn’t hit my goal this race. I’m okay with that because I’ve been pretty consistent with all my racing so far, so having an off day is fine by me. And my off day, was just a little off, enough to be noticeable and to bug me, but not enough to really complain about. But it is amazing how little misses in goals can aggregate over a 70.3 distance.

I really look forward to my next race to see how I can improve. I’ll need to stay healthy before the race, fix my bike fit, and keep working on fitness in order to be successful next time. I’m glad Oceanside was a fun trip with the family and another great learning experience.

2016 Ironman Arizona Race Report

Taper Time:

Leading up to Ironman Arizona, I was starting to get mentally fatigued from such a long season of training. But at the same time, I still seemed strong in my workouts and still seemed like my fitness was improving. Even my race rehearsal workout two weeks prior to the race went really well and I was able to hit all my goals for that day. In the past, my race rehearsals have been known to not go so well.

In addition to mental fatigue, I have been fighting some tendon issues in my left ankle since before China, and even though it seemed to be very slowly getting better, I was still worried of what would happen to it during a marathon run. Sometimes I even worried about whether I would be able to race at all. I basically threw every effort I had at trying to address the tendon issues through massage, stretching, rapid release technology, etc. It never got bad enough to not run on, and I never missed a key workout from it, but it still worried me as I’ve always been fairly injury free over the past few years.

During my two weeks of taper, I was able to rest my ankle a bit more and focus on trying to stay healthy. The “stay healthy” part was hard as first Iyla caught a cold and then gave it to Caden during my taper weeks, which was a big stress for me. I raced Lake Placid with a sinus infection, and I had no desire to do another Ironman feeling sub-optimal. I must have stunk like oregano oil that whole time because I was adding it along with elderberry extract to water and drinking it a couple times a day as well as diffusing different essential oils in my office all day.

During my taper weeks I also started going to the sauna almost every day for some heat acclimation. The weather was calling for low 80’s for race day, which is much warmer than I’m used to here in Monterey. I figured, even if it ended up being cooler, a little sauna protocol would only be beneficial on race day. I started with 15 minutes a day in the dry sauna and worked up to 2×15 minutes with a quick cold rinse in between sauna intervals and also after each session for some hot-cold treatment.

Pre-Race:

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Iyla and I flew out from Monterey to Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon, with Camille and Caden following us later that night. The short flight to AZ was a nice welcome afterimg_5055 some of the longer flights earlier in the year. It was somewhat relaxing getting to the race site so far in advance, so I had plenty of time to relax and enjoy some family activities. We had a great hotel (AC Hotel Marriott) which was 1 block from transition and expo. The run course ran right behind the hotel, and the bike course was right in front of the hotel. In fact, from our hotel room and balcony, you could potentially see me 6 times on the bike during the race. img_4914It was a great spot.

I spent the next few daysimg_5020-5 doing the normal administrative activities: short ride on the bike course, swim practice, bike check, athlete briefing etc. We also had some nice family activities and Iyla did the kids run (this time all on her own, without needing to be carried). Because the kids had to take naps every day, it gave me some good opportunities to just relax in the hotel room and rest up.

Race Morning:

Sunday morning started at 4:30am. I was thankful Camille had the kids sleep in the hotel bedroom with her and gave me the hotel living room and pull-out couch, so I could get ready without worrying about waking the kids. I actually got decent sleep that night, only waking up a couple times during the night (which is normal for me when I’m pre-hydrating). Right away, I started getting breakfast together, as I wanted to eat 2 hours prior to the start. Breakfast was granola with blueberries and a banana with chocolate hazelnut spread and a couple cups of coffee. I was still pretty full from dinner the night before (where I really stuffed myself), so breakfast was a bit lighter than I wanted. After breakfast, I got dressed and collected my race morning things to head down to transition.img_5018

After the quick 5 minute walk to transition, I found my bike, put my nutrition on, clipped my shoes in and synced my Garmin. Then I found a seat and just relaxed for a bit before the start. After sitting a while, I finally got my wetsuit on and handed in my morning clothes bag and lined up for the corral. My goal was to start as far forward as I could, to avoid congestion the first lap on the bike. When they opened the corral, I made my way to the front and had a seat on the ground where I ate most of a Clif bar and sipped on some salted water (I add salt to all my water the days before a race).

After we saw the pro men and women start, it was time for the rest of us to get ready.

Swim:

When the cannon went off for the amateur group, they opened up 2 sections of the corral gate for us to make our way down the stairs and into the water. Once down the stairs and to the water, I made an awkward jump, feet first, into the water. The water felt cool, but nice, and I started a steady effort to the first buoy.

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The first couple hundred yards, there wasn’t too much contact and it felt like a somewhat calm start to the race. The first quarter of the swim I did get hit a couple times (for some reason, it’s always the women who clobber me), but during the rest of the swim, there wasn’t too much contact, just the occasional person who can’t swim straight and plows into the side of you. I always second guess whether it’s me or the other person not swimming straight, but almost every time, I’m pretty sure I’m the one swimming the correct line, and the other person is just way off. At times I got pretty frustrated and had to put in a quick, hard effort to get ahead of these encounters.

At the turnaround, the length of the swim really set in. 2.4 miles is a long swim, and tires me out more than I anticipate. At least it was really pretty to watch the sunrise over the lake as I swam. I kept reminding myself to take it all in and enjoy the sunrise and beautiful sky during the swim.

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The final quarter of the swim seemed to take forever, but I finally made it around the last turn and toward the exit stairs. When I got to the stairs, the volunteers were awesome at helping me out of the water and up the stairs without falling over (I’m sure I would have fallen back down the stairs and into the water without them). The wetsuit strippers were right at the top of the stairs and I almost didn’t have any time to get the top of my wetsuit off before I was on the ground with two volunteers tearing the wetsuit off my legs. They threw the suit back in my arms and sent me on my way. I was handed my bike bag and ran into the changing tent, where I put on my helmet, glasses and socks.

Swim Time: 59:12

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Bike:

Before getting on my bike, I had volunteers coat me in sunscreen. I made the mistake of trying to rub it in as I ran towards my bike. So right when I got on my bike, I reached down to ratchet my shoes tighter, but my fingers just slipped on the knob and I wasn’t able to tighten my shoes. I must have tried ten times, but it was just too slippery with the sunscreen. So the first quarter mile of the bike, was just me fiddling with my shoes, trying to get them tight. I finally got my shoes tightened and settled into my aero position and tried to get some fluid in me.

Going into the bike, I had a more aggressive power goal than any previous Ironman. Luckily, I was able to ride at my goal power for 5 hours during my race rehearsal so I knew it was doable. Plus, I knew this ride was going to be under 5 hours if all went well, so mentally, I was confident I should be able to hit my goals on the bike.

The bike course is super simple and super fast: it’s 3 out and backs with the out being a bit of a false-flat climb and a bit of a downhill on the way back. I knew the first lap would be the best opportunity to go fast as the course was pretty clear of people. So on the way out on the first lap, I just focused on power and hydration. I had planned on each loop being a little over an hour and a half, which is a great way to mentally break up the course.

I was able to hold really good power on the way out on the first lap even though we had a good headwind. The last little bit was a bit steeper and the wind was becoming frustrating. I got to the turnaround at 55 minutes of ride time, which had me worried that I wasn’t going to make it the full lap in my expected time, even though my power was above my goal. That worry soon disappeared when I started heading back to Tempe as it was a slight downhill with a tailwind and I was just flying. I was going 30-35 mph all the way back into transition. I got back in about 35 minutes and under my expected lap time, with a higher average power than I expected.

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Each lap was mentally like the first, where it was a long slog out and then just screaming fast on the way back. Mentally, I just focused on going strong on the way out and then resting a bit more on the way back and focusing on staying as aero as possible.

The second and third laps got a bit more congested. I was always passing people. I tried to use each person to slingshot myself a bit farther ahead and then work on catching the next person. Every now and then, it got a bit dangerous and some people were swerving all over the place trying to eat or drink. I was also surprised how little drafting I saw in this race, even with the 3 laps. Everyone I saw (at least on the same lap as me) was riding legal. For the most part, I just focused on my own race and trying to eat and drink according to plan.

For nutrition, my plan was to take in 300 calories an hour on the bike. This was higher than the past couple Ironman races, but I knew I would need more calories with the harder effort I was planning. Calories would be from 3 gels I had in my bento (2 Spring Sports gels and 1 Hammer gel) and the majority of the calories from Hammer Perpetuem which I had in my aero water bottle. I ended up not quite finishing the bottle, so I maybe got 280-290 cal/hr. For sodium, my goal was about 6g of sodium on the bike: 1700mg from a Skratch Hyperhydration I started with on the bike, 945mg were in the Perpetuem, and the rest from a few Precision Hydration salt pills per hour on the bike. I also tried to do almost 2 bottles of water from aid stations per hour, or based on how I felt and the weather. Overall, I thought this was a good nutrition strategy as I was able to carry all my calories without needing to stop at special needs, and only relied on aid stations for water every ten miles.

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By the third lap, I was starting to get a bit tired and was actually looking forward to getting off the bike and start running. I was still holding goal power, but it was getting harder and harder during the last lap. I just focused on making it to the last turn-around and the downhill back would be a little break before the run. There were a couple really strong riders I was riding near on the last lap, as well as a few women pro athletes who mentally helped push me through the last lap. After another screaming fast downhill, I finally made it back to transition and to the dismount line.

Bike Time: 4:43:47, 222 AP, 226 NP

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Run:

As usual, my bike-to-run transition was insanely slow. After I got my running shoes on, I had to stop to go pee, which took forever. By then everyone I came into transition with was now a couple minutes ahead of me on the run.

Running started off a bit awkward. My feet didn’t feel right and my lower back was a bit achy. I knew this feeling was the norm for Ironman, and I was hopeful it would go away soon. My energy was also pretty low, but I knew from experience a couple Cokes would help a lot with that. I had grabbed another water bottle of Skratch Hyperhydration in transition to start my run with for a big dose of sodium. I knew I really needed to focus on hydration to ensure I could keep running the entire distance.

The first few miles, I just tried to get into the groove of running and tried to get the Skratch down. I really wanted to switch to Coke in order to start feeling a better. The run course was pretty empty during the first 5 miles. There were times I couldn’t even see anyone in front of me and I even questioned a couple times if I were still on the course. Once I crossed over Tempe Town Lake I saw a few more people on the course and the aid stations had a bit more crowd energy which really helps.

Every aid station, I would drink some Coke, maybe some water if I was really thirsty, and also pour 1-2 cups of water on my head to stay cool. I would slow down a bit for the aid station, but still try to run through if I could. Later in the race, there were a couple aid stations I walked because I just needed a little running break. I also carried some salt pills with me on the run, and tried to take a couple per hour to help with hydration and to keep me thirsty.

By mile 8, I could feel some cramping coming on in both my hamstrings and quads. This was really worrisome because I never know if I’m just going to cramp up and need to stop, or if the cramps will never really come. I could start feeling my quads start to twitch with cramps, so I opened a mustard packet I was carrying and hoped it would help. I’ve never used mustard, but I’ve heard it has helped others, so I had grabbed some in the airport to carry on the run. It seemed to help as I was able to keep running without stopping.

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I finally made it back to transition and to the halfway point. But I ended up twisting a bit funny at an aid station trying to grab a cup and my left hamstring just cramped up. I stopped at the end of the aid station and tried to stretch it out. I also took in another mustard packet for good measure. I probably stopped for 45 seconds to stretch. Luckily, it went away enough for me to keep running but I could still feel the tightness in my hamstring as I continued to run. Any slight deviation from my normal run stride seemed to cause me to cramp up.

When I started the second lap, I could feel any energy quickly draining from my body. I just focused on making it to mile 16… then to 18…. then to 20. At mile 20, I knew I only had 10k to go and I was just hoping my body wouldn’t cramp. After the short climb on the second lap, I knew I only had a few more miles of downhill to go to the finish. My pace on the second lap was really dropping and I just did anything I could to keep the pace up, which now had fallen to 7:40. The last few miles, I got passed by a few more people in my age group who seemed to have a ton of energy left as they blew by me. I just didn’t have the energy to keep up.

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I finally made it to the last mile, which seemed to go on forever. I ended up following a guy in my age group who had just passed me and we ended up coming down the finisher shoot together. At that point in the race, I didn’t really feel like sprinting, but we both really picked up the pace and did a full on sprint to the finish line. After crossing the line, I walked over to a sidewalk and just laid down. The medical staff quickly came over to make sure I was okay, so I decided I’d better get up and go meet the family.

Run Time: 3:18:53, 7:35 pace

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Overall Race Time: 9:09:31, 8th Male 30-34

Thoughts:

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I’m extremely happy with my time as it’s a PR by over 20 minutes. I knew it was going to be a fast race, but I think I did really well on the bike and still was able to hold on for a good run time. I can still see areas where I can improve and gain some good time, but I think it was a well-executed race. I had previously thought that doing a 9:15 Ironman would take me a few years of work, so already beating that goal feels like an amazing accomplishment. What is amazing is the number of insanely fast athletes out there. Looking back on the last 4 years of IMAZ times a 9:09 would have gotten me first place for 2 years and a close second place in 2 of those years, but this year, it was only good for 8th place. It just shows how perfect of a day this year was and the level of athletes that are out there doing triathlon.

I look forward to continuing my journey on improving my fitness and speed at this distance… but first a nice break and some holiday fun.

Ironman 70.3 Hefei Race/Travel Report

Wanna go to China?

Our journey to China started with an email sent out by Ironman inviting athletes to China and offering a good travel package which included race entry, hotel, daily breakfast, airport transfers, and more. The email also said to ask about an additional AWA (All World Athlete) discount. I never really thought about traveling all the way to China for a 70.3 race, but the package was pretty inviting. I forwarded the email to Camille, mostly as a joke, and simply asked, “Wanna go to China?” I wasn’t even really expecting a response from her, so I was surprised that she seemed eager to learn more and asked for me price out everything. Crazy. I ended up connecting with the Wanda (who owns Ironman) travel agent to get complete pricing and also priced out airfare and train tickets. Overall, the pricing was probably less expensive than most domestic races I do, and the turn-key nature of the travel package made things really easy considering this planning was less than 2 months from the race. We made the quick decision to make a family trip out of it. One new passport (for Caden) and four Chinese Visas later, we were all set.

Getting there

China is pretty far away…. So we made the decision to take a redeye flight from San Francisco to Beijing. This is a direct flight and we would have time to do the family tourist thing in Beijing both on the way to the race and on the way back. Our flight left at 1:30am on Wednesday morning before race weekend. So we ended up starting the trip by leaving in the car for the airport around 9:30pm on Tuesday. This is later than I usually go to bed on a Tuesday, so it took some mental effort and a good amount of coffee to keep me alert for the drive to SFO.

Camille and the kids packed pretty light, doing carry-on bags only. I on the other hand, did not pack light. I had 2 bike bags (frame and wheels) and a carry-on for all the stuff I needed to race. Triathlon is a very high maintenance sport. Plus we had a stroller and a car seat (which snaps into the stroller). So it was slow going from our car, to the airport shuttle, to the ticket counter.

img_2413By the time we got to our gate, we didn’t have much time waiting around before it was time to board. This was going to be my second time flying to Asia but the longest flight I’ve been on so far at over 12 hours of flight time. Traveling with the lap baby is probably the hardest part of the flight. We had 3 seats, and 4 of us. Camille took the burden of holding Caden most of the flight while he slept. Iyla slept the majority of the time too, which meant I got a good 6 hours of bad sleep, which was actually better than I expected. The rest of the time spent was watching movies and trying to eat horrible horrible airplane food.

We landed in Beijing at around 4am Beijing time. It was a long process getting through the immigration lines, then getting our bags, then customs. I was happy my bike was there waiting for me though. We had arranged a private car for us through our hotel in Beijing, so the hotel img_2421rep met us in the airport by holding a sign with our name on it (I always see this at the airport, but have never had someone do it for me. It’s actually very nice). He helped carry our stuff and showed us to our driver who was waiting with our van.

Thursday – Beijing – Day 1

We got to The New World Hotel in Beijing and were able to check in around 5:30am, even though our reservation was not till that night. They didn’t have our suite ready yet, but they gave us another room to use to shower and change until the nicer room was ready. How awesome is that. I’ve never heard of a hotel that would give you a second room to use at 5:30am until your other room is ready at 3pm. Very nice of them. We got settled in the room and were able to shower and change. Our room also came with access to their executive lounge, so we were able to go there for coffee and a breakfast for the family. Again, really nice of the hotel to let us have access at such an odd time. Probably one of the best hotel service experiences ever.

I went for a short 30 minute run from the hotel over to Tiananmen Square, where I had to walk there were so many tourists (I guess they all go early in the morning). This was a good time to just shake out my legs from such a long trip. I was hoping for some sun to help maybe reset my circadian rhythm, but I guess there isn’t much sun in Beijing. Mostly fog/smog. The air was pretty bad, and I could feel it running. The weather app on my phone said the air quality was somewhere between unhealthy and hazardous. Awesome.

My first order of business at 9am when the concierge got in was to get my bike shipped to Hefei. I originally wanted to take my bike on the train with us the next day to Hefei. However, everyone I talked to said I can’t take my bike on the train. The Wanda travel agent told me this, Ironman said the same, the tour guide had told me, the hotel concierge and the people we bought the train tickets from. So now matter how much I wanted to keep my bike with me and not ship it, it didn’t seem like it was possible. I was originally told that shipping my bike overnight to Hefei would only cost like $45, so it seemed pretty easy. However, the hotel concierge said he called a few parcel companies and no one could do overnight (for Friday arrival with a race on Sunday). So one of the parcel company reps got to the hotel and the concierge helped me explain what I needed. He basically said 2-day shipping was the only guarantee and it would be about 1000 CYN ($150). 2-day shipping was super scary for me because I still needed to put my bike together, test ride it and bring it to the mandatory bike check in by Saturday night. The shipping guy said it would be there before Saturday night (which could be too late for me). After going back and forth for about an hour, I finally said okay, as this was my only option. At this point, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to be able to race if my bike didn’t make it in time. It wasn’t too fun giving my $10k+ bike frame (I kept my wheels with me) to someone and getting a paper back in only Chinese, all done through a translator. All part of the experience I guess.

We had hired a private tour guide along with a van and driver for the day. She met us at the hotel at 11am and we loaded up to see the sights. We first went back to Tiananmen Square where we walked the square and she told us about the history. We then walked through the Forbidden City. That was a couple hours, and the kids were actually pretty good (as long as I pushed Iyla in the stroller).

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What’s crazy is the amount of attention Iyla and Caden got. Everywhere we went we got swarmed by people taking pictures of the kids, touching them and trying to kiss their cheeks. It was really really weird. I guess 2 blond-haired blue-eyed kids is hard to come by there and the Chinese are just fascinated. Also, having 2 kids between parents is pretty rare considering the single child policy just recently ended in China at the beginning of the year. You don’t see anyone with 2 kids there. I guess touching other people’s kids is a sign of affection there, but it was frustrating for me because we literally could not stand or go anywhere without being swarmed by people who wanted pictures with the kids. They even had no issues removing blankets or covers off the kids while they were sleeping in the stroller without asking. It was nuts everywhere we went.

 

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We were then taken to a recommended (by Lucy, our tour guide) local Chinese restaurant. img_3603I was expecting the food in China to be amazing. We eat a ton of Asian food at home, but we actually almost never eat Chinese food, not sure why. The restaurant food was okay. I think what turns me off the most about the food there is the meat quality. I think, back home, we expect a certain quality muscle meat. But in China, they kind of are less picky about only using lean cuts of muscle. So, lunch had some good flavors, but overall, nothing to write home about. The food was a bit like what I would expect from a hole-in-the wall Chinese restaurant back home in a strip mall. This was pretty much true for all the non-hotel food we had during our trip. I guess I just have a Western palate.

After lunch, we drove to the Temple of Heaven and spent a couple hours walking around and taking pictures (and, again, being mobbed by people). img_3622We finally got dropped back off at the hotel around 4:30pm. By then we were pretty exhausted. We got our new room at the hotel and went back up the exec lounge for a very early dinner of mostly rice, soup, and cheese (very random) and, of course, wine. We were all in bed and sleep by 7:30pm.

Friday – To Hefei

On Friday morning we were all up and awake at 3:30am. That’s what happens when everyone goes to bed at 7:30. Everyone was hungry, but nothing in the hotel was open so we ordered room service breakfast. At least I was able to get my coffeeimg_2693. We relaxed in the room till 6:30am when the restaurant opened, and we went down for breakfast #2. The breakfast buffet at the New World Hotel is pretty extensive. Pretty much anything you could want, Asian or traditional American. I ate until I was stuffed silly. One important note about China is, they serve coffee in basically a tea cup everywhere you go. So each coffee order is maybe 8oz at the most. No one, in my circle of friends, only drinks 8oz of coffee. I can easily do a pot most mornings, so I had to order coffee over and over and over again every morning during our entire trip to get the “normal” amount of coffee needed to get me going.

After breakfast we got into a car our hotel had arranged for us to take us to the Beijing train station. The train station was surprisingly easy and efficient (compared to airport travel). You show up, go through security very quickly and then wait for the ticket check gate to open for your train, which opens maybe 10 minutes before the train arrives. From what I saw, one could easily show up at the train station 15-20 min before their train and be fine, which is a great way to travel. The company I bought the train tickets through had a detailed document on how to read your ticket and find your train, so that was pretty painless.

Right away, I noticed a few people with bike bags who were also waiting for the train. I guess they had hired a Chinese tour guide to help get their bikes on the train. I chatted with her for a bit and she filled me in on some tricks which would help get larger bags on the train. After that, I wished I had my bike with me and not unaccounted for in some Chinese parcel truck. I made the decision, that if I ever saw my bike again in Hefei, I would keep it with me on the train back and save some money in shipping.

We somehow got directed to the VIP access line through ticket check, so we got to go through first to the train platform. Maybe because we had cute kids, or maybe because we looked like we had no idea what we were doing. The train was already waiting for us so we quickly got on to find out seats. img_3872After getting on the wrong car and pissing off a lot of people with our stroller, we finally found the correct car and our seats. We had gotten first class tickets to get a little more leg room on the train. What a deal. For a little bit more money, you get huge seats with more leg room than you would ever need. I could fit my bike bag (if I had it) in front of me and still have room to stretch out. The first class car was also almost empty, with maybe 4 other people in the entire car. So we got to move around at our leisure. The train ride was 4.5 hours, so we settled in for the long trip. Caden fell asleep in the car seat right away and we set Iyla up on her Kindle and she too eventually fell asleep. The train is nice because you can see a lot of the country side. We covered 1000 kilometers in that 4.5 hours, so we got to see a decent amount. Mostly it looked like small farm plots with scattered cities and towns. What’s odd about the cities, is all the buildings were the exact same. They basically designed one 30-story building, and then built 15 of them to make a city. It was odd.

We finally made it to Hefei, got off the train and found the person holding the Ironman sign with our name on it. We got shown to our van and taken to our hotel, Wanda Realm, about 20 minutes from the train station. Wanda had built a city within a city, called the Wanda Cultural Tourism City or simply Wanda City. It was basically a collection of 5 high-end hotels around a small lake with a theme park and indoor mall. Wanda was building these cities all over China and the one in Hefei had just opened a couple weeks before we got there, so everything was essentially brand new.

I was originally a bit worried about the hotel, considering they had just opened. Hopefully they had worked out all the kinks. However, upon arrival, you could tell, they pretty much had everything dialed in. They appeared to be over staffed, because they had staff everywhere who were always offering to help (maybe we always looked confused). Everyone was very helpful and friendly. Definitely one of the best hotel experiences I have had. Our room was also pretty nice. img_2767We had the “family room” which had a living/play room which included not just a living area, but also 2 large bunk beds with a slide coming down from the top bunk, plus another bedroom with sitting area and a nice lake view and a small kitchenette. The room was also fully stocked with brand new, never used, kids toys, including stuffed animals, Tonka trucks, etc. Everything was just top notch.

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After getting settled in our room we decided to walk down to Ironman village for check-in. img_3893It was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, along the lake-front walkway, to the entrance to the theme park where Ironman village was setup. I got my race packet and walked the expo for a bit (stopping every few seconds for someone to take a picture with Caden in the stroller). After that, we were pretty tired and decided to eat lunch/dinner at the hotel restaurant (it was only 3:30pm). I guess when you wake up at 3:30am, you eat dinner at 3:30pm.

I was supposed to go on a quick bike ride that day, but since I didn’t have my bike I decided to go to the hotel gym and do an evening spin on the hotel stationary bike (it was that or rent one of the beach cruisers they had in front of the hotel). On my way down to the gym, I saw a couple guys unloading a large box from a van in front of the hotel. It was roughly the size of my bike case so I waited till they brought it into the hotel. I went right over to them and looked at the shipping label, and sure enough, it was for me. They had put my bike case in a couple cardboard boxes and then wrapped everything in bubble wrap. img_3928Sweet, I got my bike. I forgot about the gym and took my bike back to my room to start putting it back together. I spent the next hour assembling my bike. Luckily, everything was in good shape, except for 1 piece of expensive carbon fiber, which had snapped. No worries though, I could replace that when I got home and I used electrical tape to hold it in place for the race. Putting my bike together was enough to fully wipe me out, and we all went to bed shortly after that, around 8pm.img_3930

Saturday – Before the Race

As a family, we slept in a bit till 4:30am, which was an improvement. I went for a short swim before breakfast (in the hotel 25m indoor pool). Luckily, the hotel buffet breakfast (included in our package) opened at 5am… thank you Wanda Realm! The breakfast buffet was even more extensive than in Beijing. I ate tons of white rice with fried eggs, ground meat in chili oil (yum), an obscene amount of bacon (probably the best bacon I’ve ever had) and the unhealthy amount of coffee and banana bread. I pretty much stuffed myself silly, which is what I would expect at a buffet. Since it was 5am, we pretty much had the entire restaurant to ourselves (we were the first ones to show up).

After the feeding madness, I decided to take my bike out for a spin outside. It was sprinkling a bit so I was able to get my bike nice and dirty. I ended up riding with a guy from Texas (our entire hotel seemed to be only foreigners doing the race) and it was good to be able to chat while out spinning the legs out. The bike seemed to be working fine. This was actually my first ride on my new race wheels. Nothing like trying something new during your race.

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After riding and getting cleaned up, we ended going back to the buffet for “lunch” around 10am right before they closed their breakfast service. That’s one benefit of waking up early, you get access to the free buffet for 2 meals. We then walked down to the mall to do some shopping. The mall was pretty nice with 4 floors of high end shops you would see in the US (Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, etc). They also had a fun bakery with some awesome Chinese cream puffs (yes, I eat a lot). img_2947Walking the mall was pretty slow going since we got surrounded everywhere we went with people taking selfies with our kids (FYI, the selfie stick is insanely popular in China. Everyone has them and every street corner in Beijing had someone selling selfie sticks. Clearly the US needs to catch up with the selfie stick craze).

After the mall, we walked back outside to Ironman village and to the Ironkids race that Iyla was going to partake in. Camille took Iyla to race the 500m kids race and I stayed with Caden to watch and get pictures. Iyla did great, and actually ran the whole way without crying, which is an improvement over Lake Placid Ironkids. Iyla even got some great pictures with Craig Alexander who was hosting the race.img_3191

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Logistically, Ironman 70.3 Hefei is horrible. The start, T2 and finish are all in different locations. My plan on Saturday was to walk over to T2 to drop off my run gear and also head to T1 to drop off my bike and bike gear, all of which is mandatory on Saturday. So after Ironkids, we made the 30 minute trek to T2 (yes, 30 minutes each way walking). All that just to drop off a single bag which included running shoes, a visor and a number belt. On the walk back we stopped for coffee, which ended up being a huge ordeal because the whole area had just recently opened and no one seemed to know how to make coffee (in a coffee shop) or speak English. We even seemed to have interrupted their staff training on how to make coffee cause there were like 4-5 people working at the coffee shop, all of whom didn’t seem to know what to do. So through a couple translator apps on our phones and though a picture menu on their ipad, we ordered, what looked like an iced coffee. In the US, it’s generally expected to get in and out with a coffee in a few minutes, which is why I was surprised after we ordered, they made us sit down at a table and brought us hot water in tea cups, as if we would be waiting a while for the coffee (hot water or boiled water is everywhere in China and offered at all restaurants). Our coffee stop ended up being 30 minutes, but at least we ran into another couple from Texas who made the recommendation to skip the athlete briefing I was planning on attending before getting my bike and bringing it to T1. I was told that the trip to T1 was 1 hour by bus each way!! I had better get a move on if I want to check in my bike by the cutoff. I was thinking a 10 min bus ride at the most. Crazy.img_4209

So we hurried back to the hotel, where I got my bike and my bike gear bag and rode back to Ironman village to get on the bus to T1. That was a journey in itself. They had hired city busses to get athletes and their bikes to T1. So I spent an hour in stop-and-go traffic through downtown Hefei, holding my bike. At least I expected it and had brought my ipod, so I was able to listen to podcasts the whole way. We finally made it to T1 about an hour later. I didn’t even walk over to see the lake I’d be swimming in because I just wanted to get back to the hotel in time for dinner. I spent forever waiting to pump up my tires (the people in front of me all seemed to be doing it for the first time in their life) and then racked my bike and walked back to the bus. Every race, I always feel bad about leaving my 3rd child (bike) over night, outside, in the rain, without me. So sad. At least the bus ride back was only 45 minutes, but I did have to walk 15 minutes back to the hotel from the bus drop off. So overall, the logistics of this race were pretty horrible. That’s a lot of time, overhead and walking the day before a race.

I ended up meeting Camille at the neighbor hotel, Wanda Vista, for dinner since our hotel’s restaurant was booked for an Ironman event. Dinner was buffet, as usual, but pretty high end stuff. So I stuffed myself as usual. They even had really good ice cream and macaroons as part of their dessert selection. The entire restaurant was just foreign athletes (Americans, Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders). After dinner we went back to our hotel and got ready for bed. I think we all went down around 8:30 or 9pm.

Sunday – Race Day

Sunday morning started earlier than normal. The race didn’t start till 7:40 so I would typically like to eat breakfast about 5:30 (2 hours before). But because I had an hour journey from the hotel to the swim start, I needed to start my day and eat a bit earlier. The hotel was nice enough to open the breakfast buffet up at 3am! I set my alarm for 4am, which was probably the time I would naturally wake up anyway. I got up, got dressed and went down to the restaurant where there were a number of athletes already eating quietly by themselves. I ate the normal fare of coffee, white rice with eggs and bacon (I skipped the awesome chili oil today). Plus a good amount of banana bread, cause it was that good. I ate slowly while browsing Facebook on my phone.

After breakfast, I went back up to the room and starting getting dressed in my race clothes, sunscreen, etc. I got my water and nutrition bottles out of the fridge, loaded up my morning clothes bag, and said goodbye to everyone. I made the 15 minute walk in the dark to the bus loading area near the finish line at the theme park entrance. The bus ride was pretty quiet as I assume most of the Chinese locals were still pretty tired from the early morning start. I mostly browsed the internet (Facebook, Strava, Slowtwitch) on the long ride to the swim start.

When we got to T1, I made my way into transition, grabbed my bike shoes from my bag and found my bike. img_4225Everything looked good, so I put on my nutrition bottles, synced my Garmin and clipped my shoes into the pedals. What’s funny is the bike next to me was also a Dimond with a similar color scheme. The guy who owned that Dimond was also wearing the same Dimond kit and had the same Roka shirt on that we had both bought in Kona. He was like my Asian twin.

I had a good amount of time to kill before the start, so I went over to look at the lake for the first time. img_3402Maybe I should have done the practice swim in the days before to see what it was like to swim and sight in the lake. But I’m always hesitant to do open water swims in foreign countries…. You never know what’s in the water and what you may get from it. The Ironman announcer did make me feel better about the water that morning when they announced that because some were concerned about the lake water quality, they had drained the lake, “scrubbed” the bottom and refilled it with new water. All on top of having filters continuously running to clean the water. So that was good to hear. Way to go Wanda and Ironman!img_4231

After hanging out a bit, I finally started to get my wetsuit on and made my way to the entry chute where you need to drop off your morning clothes bag. I ran into Brad Williams, a US pro, who I had met at breakfast one morning (he was the only other person at breakfast at 5:30). We chatted for a bit before he had to head down for the pro men start. About 25 minutes before my start, I ate a Clif bar and finished my bottle of water, which I had heavily salted with sea salt.

It was going to be a rolling start, so you were supposed to self-seed according to your anticipated swim time. I didn’t want to be stuck behind a bunch of people getting on the bike, so I wanted to be as far front at the swim start as possible. I found the “under 30” start wave, which was to be the first wave, and tried to get to the front of that. As usual, it felt like I was part of a herd of cattle being moved down the cute. They really were metering how athletes went into the water, way more so than any race I’ve done. They only let groups of maybe 25 athletes down to the dock at a time. Then they had 3 lines, and would only allow 3 athletes into the water every 5 seconds. So they were really trying to create a consistent flow and entry… kind of like the meter lights getting onto the freeway (if there were 3 lanes of cars waiting at the metering lights). When it was my turn to go, I jogged down the rest of the dock and jumped feet first into the water.

Swim – 1.2 miles

Immediately I could tell the water temperature was nice. There was no shock for me getting in the water. I started to swim strong along the buoy line. During the first few hundred yards I was already running into the back of people. I’m not sure why they had seeded themselves in the front, but it was tough to get around those first few groups of people. After that, I pretty much had clean water without contact the rest of the race. I could feel people at my feet, tapping me every now and then, which I don’t really mind, and I tried to find my own feet to follow if I could.

Pretty soon, I was already at the first turn buoy which meant I was about a third of the way done. The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful. I tried to stay strong but reserved. I also kept reminding myself not to swallow any water (better safe than sorry). I hit another big turn buoy, which I thought was two-thirds the way done with the course, but I soon got confused as that didn’t seem to make sense based on how I remembered the surrounding buildings. After some time, I came to another turn buoy. Not sure what was going on here, I thought the swim was a triangle, which meant 2 turns and 3 segments. Maybe I should have reviewed the course ahead of time. I finally started to see the start/finish area in the distance, so I knew I was coming into the finish. I tried to keep a strong pace and stay on course.

The swim exit was a nice carpeted ramp which made for a fast exit. I struggled to reach my zipped cord as I ran from the water. I guess I have really bad shoulder mobility because it took a long time to get my wetsuit unzipped as I ran. I grabbed my bike gear bag off the hanger and ran into the changing tent. I stripped off the rest of my wetsuit, sat down in a chair and put on my socks, helmet and glasses. I got up, and ran to the end of transition to get my bike.

Time: 27:32

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Bike – 56 miles

As I got going on my bike, I was feeling pretty good. My legs weren’t as stiff as they’ve been in previous races and I was able to put out good power. The first 15 miles of the course is on city streets through Hefei out towards T2. You then head east along the lake to a turnaround point where you head back along the lake to T2. The first part in the city was pretty wet from the rain the night before. There were some good crowds which was nice. What’s crazy is they had blocked off the entire road for us. I don’t remember if it was 3 or 4 lanes, but either way that’s a lot for a bike race which is single file. So we had this huge road to use. On top of that, the road was fully barricaded with a security guard on either side every 15 meters. It felt like I was riding along the Champs Elysees in The Tour. It got even weirder when we hit the long road along the lake. We weren’t in the city anymore so there weren’t any spectators around, just the occasional group of onlookers at some street corners. But we still had a full 3 lanes of road to use fully barricaded with guards. They had guards every 15 meters for 56 miles! That’s insane.

For the first two-thirds of the bike course, I didn’t even see many other cyclists. It was just me and one other guy leap frogging each other. There were times I couldn’t see anyone in front of us and couldn’t see anyone behind us. Just us, on 3 lanes of new road, fully guarded (from nobody). It was a very odd experience.

My power was pretty good up till the turnaround along the lake which is about two-thirds the way through the course. On the way back, I got passed by a group (not a pack) of about 6 riders. So I got on the back of the last rider, while keeping my legal distance. The issue with a group of riders is, they naturally just bunch up over time. So someone will grab a drink and coast for a bit and then everyone behind them will start running into the back of them. So someone will surge to get in front and then everyone chases that person and it starts all over. I hate this part of triathlon because it just causes mental fatigue. My power just started dropping because I had to coast every now and then to stay far enough back from the rider in front. I could maybe do a huge surge and try to pass 6 guys or I could hang back and just take the rest and hope to make it up on the run. The problem with surging is, just like in a car, when you go to pass someone, they naturally speed up because no one likes being passed. So it really takes a lot of energy to pass a group of people and it may end badly. There was even a time when the group in front of me bunched up too much and a referee riding next to everyone gave one guy a drafting violation. So that was good to see. At least the officials were enforcing the rules. So I decided to save my energy and hit my power when I could, but rest when I could as well.

My nutrition plan on the bike was 200 calories per hour. I did this with 2 gels (1 Hammer malto-based gel and 1 Spring Sports gel, which is rice and banana) and the rest of the calories from Hammer Perpetuem (malto). I used my BTA bottle for fluid. I started the bike with a Skratch Hyperhydration in the BTA for a sodium hit and then I refilled with water from the aid stations as needed. The day was pretty cool, so I didn’t go through too much water. I also took four SaltStick capsules during the bike for some additional sodium.

The last few miles of the bike went by very fast. I mostly focused on going pee before getting into transition (gross, I know). I’m not good at this, so it takes me a number of miles to get things going (especially with the guards on the course looking at you… makes is awkward). I coasted a lot doing this, but better to coast on the bike and still make forward progress then stopping on the run and making no forward progress.

Overall, the bike course is very flat. There are some very minor rollers, but it’s a fast course. In fact, it’s a net downhill. Good thing I recently lowered the front end on my bike because aero is everything here. There is no need to ever get out of the aero bars or get out of the big ring on this course.

As I got to T2, I hopped off my bike, ran to my rack and then ran to grab my run bag off the bag rack. I went to the changing tent, put on my shoes, took off my helmet and ran out of the tent as I put on my running visor and race belt.

Time: 2:20:48
Power: 224 NP / 208 AP

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Run – 13.1 miles

The run started off on a walkway that was made of rubber, like a race track. It was pretty nice. Right away I could tell I was a bit stiff in the legs and lower back. I tried to keep my pace around 7 min/mile because I know that should be easily doable. I hit the first aid station right away and took a sip of Coke. I kept this up pretty much every aid station during the run: a cup of water on the head and a Coke in the mouth.

The run is 2 loops, starting with running away from the finish until a turnaround point, then head back along the same road, past T2, then to the finish area where you continue on to lap 2 and back out toward T2 and to the turnaround point. Overall the run is very flat and on a closed road. There is a bit of an uphill/downhill as you cross over a bridge, but that’s about it.

Also, there was a bit of breeze picking up which I could feel as I ran into it. I tried to hide behind other runners if I could. The first loop was pretty empty. Since I had started at the beginning of the racers during the swim, there weren’t many people out running yet. I just tried to focus on form and keeping my pace up. My lower back was a bit achy though. I know during most runs, I tend to feel better over time, so I just remembered that and kept drinking Coke to help keep my energy up.

The second loop came by quick, but I still didn’t feel like I was able to pick up the pace like I wanted. I was still struggling to hit 7 min pace which wasn’t a good sign. The Coke was helping, so my pace was getting better slowly, but I just didn’t have that extra energy I like to have at the end of a 70.3 run. Mile 10 came up pretty fast and I knew I only had 3 more miles left which I could easily suffer through if needed. I can’t count the number of training runs I have done where it’s just pure suffering the last few miles (usually in training it’s due to dehydration).

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I could hear someone behind me keeping pace with me so I looked back hoping to not see someone who looked my age. As he passed me, he looked like my age. But the problem with a rolling start is, I have no idea how far ahead or behind of me he is in the overall race. So the last mile, he picked it up and I followed him. I said “I hope you’re not in 30-34, cause I don’t think I have the energy to sprint you to the finish”. We talked for a bit and I found out he was pretty far ahead of me in the overall race (maybe I should have pushed harder if I was able to talk to someone the last mile of the race). We finally made it back to the finisher shoot and through the finish.img_3327

Time: 1:31:40, 7:02 min/mile

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Overall Race Time: 4:25:46 (PR), 10th Male 30-34

Thoughts

I think Ironman did an excellent job making sure this event was successful. The overall execution of the race was top notch. The security was just insane. All those guards on the bike course and also guards every 5 meters on the run course is just over the top. One Ironman guy we met on the plane home said there were 12,000 security guards in addition to all the volunteers.

The course was very flat and fast for swim, bike and run. I would say that the logistics was really hard. No one wants to bus an hour to the start and T1 and have to walk 30 min to T2. That’s a lot of extra effort.

Post Race

The rest of the race day was spent collecting all my gear (which included a long and painful walk back to T2) and then making my way back to the hotel to clean up and pack up my bike and the rest of my equipment. That evening we went to the Ironman rolldown and award ceremonies. img_3343I knew the Kona slots were out for me as I had been 10th in my age group, but I knew I had a chance at getting a 70.3 World Championship slot. Originally I was told they had allocated 6 Kona slots to my age group, but after the race, they had updated that to only 4 slots based on the number of starters that day. So I immediately knew Kona was out since there were a ton of people who had come to the race with that as the goal. They also allocated 4 70.3 championship slots, so I knew I had a chance of getting one of those if 2 people declined or had spots already.

The rolldown went painfully slow. The room was packed and they did the Kona slot allocation before starting on the 70.3 World Champ allocations. I was starving at this point because I had really only eaten a bit of rice between after my race and the ceremony. Considering we were used to eating dinner around 4-5pm, waiting till 7 was tough. The 4 Kona slots went to the top 4 in my age group. However, when we got to the 70.3 WC slots, a couple people declined so I was lucky enough to get a slot. I happily paid for my entry since the race is in Chattanooga in 2017, which I really enjoyed visiting a couple years back.

We then went in for the banquet and awards ceremony. Although, getting to the banquet, we found it was standing room only (no tables or chairs), and after taking one bite of the food, we decided to get out of there and go get some real food. That was $20 not well spent (thanks Ironman). We took our sleeping children to the hotel restaurant for some better food (and dessert of course).

Back to Beijing – Monday

Monday morning started off in the traditional way… buffet breakfast, where I stuffed myself silly for the last time in Hefei. After breakfast we gathered our bags and found the van that would take us back to the train station. This time, I was going to try to take my bike bag with me on the train, so we had a bit more luggage which was cumbersome to drag through the station with the kids, stroller, etc. We ended up getting to the station a bit early so we sat and waited until the ticket check opened. This time the train was only stopping at the station for 3 minutes, so we needed to really get it together to get on the train in the limited window. I was happy when we made it through ticket check with the bike bag, which was the last inspection point. I can only assume the ticket lady didn’t want to deal with 2 frazzled foreigners with 2 cranky kids and a ton of luggage, so letting us through quickly was probably the best for everyone. We made it to the train, stowed our luggage and settled in the for 4.5 hour train ride back to Beijing.img_3419

The Beijing train station was super busy when we arrived. We had a bit of challenge finding the guy holding a sign with our name as there were so many exit points. We eventually found the car we had arranged through our hotel and made it back to the New World Hotel in Beijing. I will say again, this hotel is awesome. When we arrived, the driver must have called ahead because the manager was out waiting for us outside the hotel. He brought us right up to a private reception desk on the top floor where he gave us the details about the show and dinner we were going to that night. Pretty great service.

We only had a moment to get to grab a coffee, get to our room and shower and change because we had to leave for the Chaoyang Theatre acrobat show (a must see in Beijing). When we all got to the theatre, I was a bit apprehensive about the show because the theatre looked like a dinky old theatre and tourist attraction. There were crowds of tourist groups waiting outside. We must have looked outside our element and confused (as seemed to be the case this entire trip) because a man came up to us and asked us for tickets. I was obviously apprehensive about showing a stranger our tickets. But after showing him our tickets he helped us into the theatre, got us a child booster and showed us to our seats. Again, excellent service. What’s odd about the theatre, is the seating along both sides is only for tourist groups, and it quickly filled up with the tons of groups streaming in. The center section of the theatre must have been only for individuals or families buying tickets because no groups were seated there and it was mostly empty except for a few couples here and there. These seats were also labeled as “VIP”, which made me feel extra special (or maybe that we overpaid), but also seemed to be synonymous with “white foreigner” or “confused tourist” based on the rest of the trip. So we really had the whole area to ourselves, which gave us a nice view of the stage.

The show was pretty amazing and much better than I expected. Just from the look of the theatre, I wasn’t expecting much. However, the production quality of the show was just horrible. Way worse than any grade school performance. The music was way too loud (maybe I’m old) and it cut in and out and just ended abruptly with the acts, the lighting was horrible and ill-timed, and the announcements were super cheesy. But the performances were just amazing. It seems they found the best performers in the world at different acts, but had no more budget for production quality. Iyla loved the show and we all came out very pleased.

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After the show we needed to get to our restaurant for dinner. The hotel had given us instructions to hand a taxi driver to take the 15 minute taxi to dinner. The problem was, it was rush hour and finding a taxi was a nightmare. When we finally all piled into a taxi and handed him the Chinese instructions, he seemed confused. Since taxi drivers don’t speak English, and we don’t speak Mandarin, we definitely had some communication issues. After a while, it seemed he couldn’t understand our directions or where we wanted to go, even after lots of pointing on the paper. So we just had to get out of the taxi, frustrated. We went back to the theatre and found the same man who had helped us to our seats, since he spoke English. He was nice enough to come outside and spend the next 20 minutes getting us a new taxi and explaining to the driver where we needed to go. However, after about 20 minutes in this taxi, driving around, I could tell the driver was confused. He kept driving in circles. I pulled up my phone and pulled up the navigation to the restaurant to show him. He had his own navigation, and there seemed to be some confusion about if the restaurant was really at that location. After driving around some more and us starting to get worried, Camille ended up calling the hotel concierge who was able to direct the driver to where the restaurant was supposed to be (not even close to where the navigation said). Even when we got out of the taxi at the location, we still had a hard time finding the restaurant within the courtyard where there were a number of other high-end, trendy eateries.

img_3465After all that, we finally made it to Duck de Chine, even though we were all pretty tired by then, and very late for our reservations. This is supposedly the best Peking duck in Beijing, so I was excited to try it. Caden fell asleep right away at the table and Iyla looked like she would fall asleep in her chair any second. We, of course, ordered a Peking duck with all the trimmings, some side dishes and a bottle of wine. Only a few minutes later, they wheeled out a cart with a full duck on it, hit a gong, and began carving the duck table-side. It was cool to see the process and the family-style plating was excellent. They serve the duck with tortilla-like wraps, some thinly sliced veggies and a few dipping sauces. Overall, it was a great meal, and I’m happy we had the experience of Peking duck in Beijing.

Last Day – Tuesday

We still had one more fun filled day in Beijing before we’d have to catch our 9pm flight back home. After finally sleeping in to 7am, we got breakfast (yes, buffet) and met Lucy, our tour guide, to start our day. We loaded up the van with all our luggage and checked out of the hotel before setting off for the day. Stop one was the Summer Palace. We took a nice long stroll through the Summer Palace, while stopping for plenty of pictures with the kids. img_4302We then boarded a “dragon” boat on Kunming Lake on our way back to the Palace exit where our driver and van was waiting for us.

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We then had about an hour and a half drive to the Great Wall. We ended up stopping at a recommended restaurantimg_3655 where we had some local food and some great jasmine tea. One of our dishes had Sichuan peppercorns, which are going to be my new favorite peppercorns to use. They have a menthol-like cooling feel, but, at the same time, light your tongue on fire. It’s a great spicy addition to an Asian dish like wok-fried spicy green beans.

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After lunch, we were only a few minutes away from the Great Wall. We were lucky to be able to park close to the chair lifts that would take us up the mountain to the wall itself. I was originally hesitant about the possible crowds at the wall. I’ve seen pictures and heard horror stories about the crowds you can get. phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-38-21Our tour guide told us we needed to go early or go later in the day to avoid the crowds. We ended up spending the late afternoon at the wall, and it was almost empty, which was amazing. We spent a couple hours hiking from tower to tower on the wall. The kids were even on their best behavior. Iyla loved running (and climbing) on the wall, and she called each watch tower a princess castle, so it worked out well for all of us.

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We ended up staying at the wall till around 4:30. Iyla and I got to take the toboggan down the hill back to the car which was a lot of fun. Camille missed out because they wouldn’t allow Caden on, so she got stuck back on the chair lift for the ride down the mountain. We piled back in the van and made the 1.5 hour driver to the airport. By the time we got to the airport is was dark out and we were all pretty tired. It was a long process to finally get to the gate (the airport is huge), so we didn’t even have to wait long before we were getting ready to board the plane.

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This time, the plane was almost empty. Instead of the 4 of us sharing the single 3-seat row, we actually got 2 rows to ourselves. So Iyla and I shared a row and Camille and Caden shared the row in front of us. It was nice to actually have some more space. Iyla helped herself to 2 seats, using them as a bed, while I got stuck with a single isle seat and a crappy neck rest.

img_4519The flight back was as expected… a couple hours of horrible “sleep”, a couple hours of bad movies, a couple hours of bad “food” and a few child breakdowns with crying and screaming and a whole bunch of nothing (12 hours in-all).

Finally, we were back in San Francisco and oddly it was 5pm on Tuesday which was 4 hours before we left on the flight. Just in time to get dinner number 3 (2 dinners on the flight). Oh right, first there was immigration, then baggage claim, then customs, then Iyla’s huge breakdown on the bus shuttle to the car, then a long car-ride with a dinner stop. But we finally got home… just in time to go to bed.

Thoughts

Overall, it was a great trip. For us, it was a fairly last minute decision and somewhat impulsive which made it nice. The planning was kept to a minimum since the Ironman travel agent did most of the work. And the private tours made things really easy in Beijing. Traveling with 2 young kids that need to be carried and pushed most places is very challenging. I’m not sure I can do a long trip again until at least one kid can walk around without complaining. There were also times I wanted to leave one of the kids in China. But overall, everything went really well and I’m very happy I went. The race itself, seemed like a small part of the trip, but it was very well put on. Also, China seems like one of the safer places (including the US) I have travelled to. Maybe that was just the nature of what we chose to do. I think next year we’ll do more domestic travel before getting the courage (or forgetting the past) to do another big international trip.

 

2016 Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Pre-Race

Vineman was going to be a short in-and-out style race. The plan was to drive up Saturday morning and then drive home Sunday after the race. The drive up to Windsor ended up being not super fun. Iyla ended up either carsick, or sick from a fever, almost right away when we got in the car. She pretty much was throwing up the whole car ride. Add that to a lot more than anticipated traffic, and it was a challenging day. I ended up really late to athlete check-in and was about 30 minutes late after the cutoff for dropping off my bike to T1. So I basically spent the entire day in the car stressed out.

At least we got in a nice dinner plus ice cream with friends in Healdsburg, which was enjoyable.IMG_3145

This was going to be our first night in a hotel where Camille and I would share a single bedroom with both kids. We actually had a 2-room suite, but we thought it would be better to leave the living room free for me to use race morning to eat and get ready without waking anyone else. Not sure this is a good move. The short story is, Camille and I maybe slept 2 hours that night. It was pretty rough.

Race Morning

I was out of bed at 4:30am and started making my breakfast and coffee. I already had my coffee ready to go and just had to heat it in the microwave. For breakfast I had a piece of avocado toast and another piece of toast with plenty of hazelnut spread and then a banana with more peanut butter. Seemed a bit more than I usually eat, but for some reason I was pretty hungry for how early it was.IMG_0543

I was able to get a ride to the swim start with a friend, which was really great because I didn’t have to worry about getting the kids ready and in the car. My bike and most of my stuff was already in T1, so the morning was really just standing around and watching the swim waves go off prior to my 7:16am start.

Swim

The swim waves were fairly small, with maybe only 40-50 athletes, which makes for a mild start. The water was really warm, in the low 70’s, which made it comfortable whileIMG_3154 treading water for the few minutes prior to the start. After the gun (or was it a horn), went off, I put in a hard effort for the first couple hundred yards to clear most of the people and then settled into a more sustainable pace. I was actually really lucky that I found the feet of another swimmer going at about the same pace I wanted to, and just followed him from start till finish.

Vineman swim is very unique. You keep getting glimpses of the rocky bottom through the murky water during the entire swim. Every now and then my fingertips would scrape the bottom of the riverbed and I’d have to modify my stroke to not keep hitting bottom.

The turn around point, was pretty funny because it got really really shallow. I bet it was a foot or less of water. Pretty much everyone around me was walking around the corner in the knee deep water. I decided to stay “swimming” and kind of stuck my hands in the dirt and rocks and pulled myself along. I’m not sure if that was faster than walking, but I figured that walking through water actually takes a good amount of effort and wouldn’t be any faster.

The second half of the swim went by much quicker. It also took some more effort because I would hit the back end of a few of the previous waves and had to weave my way through some of those swimmers. Overall, the swim was pretty mellow and very enjoyable with no ocean chop or salt water to deal with.

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Time: 28:46, 1:29/100m

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Bike

My swim to bike transition was still a bit slow.IMG_0542 I got to my bike just before my friend Chuck. By the time I finished getting off my wetsuit, I looked up, and he was gone…. and I still needed to put on my socks and helmet. I need to figure out these transitions.

Right away on the bike, I could tell my legs were a bit stiff. I wasn’t able to easily put out the power I wanted. I decided to back off a hair and see what happened with my legs. It took a good 30 minutes of riding before I got into the groove of the effort level I wanted.

I played leap frog on the bike with Chuck, for the first half of the course. That actually helped pass the time and made things a bit comical. He would pass me every uphill and I would pass him every little downhill. I usually hate doing this and it usually makes me frustrated, but it was fun to joke around with a friend on the bike to add to the experience.

The bike course is really pretty. I tried to enjoy the scenery when I could, but mostly only through the corner of my eye. I was mostly worried about the bike leg going in to the race because this is when you really find out how the day is going to play out. I was worried that with my lack of sleep, I really wasn’t going to hit my numbers. I was somewhat right because I was riding about 5 watts lower than goal.

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I mostly focused on power and on drinking water when I could. I was lucky that the day started off pretty cool and I wasn’t sweating much. I still wanted to stay hydrated though, so I tried to drink water every 10-15 minutes. My plan was 200 calories per hour from UCAN, but I ended up not finishing my bottle, so I probably only did 170-180 calories for the 2.5 hours. My first water bottle had a packet of Skratch HyperHydration in it to load with sodium. I also took in 4 more salt pills during the course of the bike with the water I got from aid stations.

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The last 20 miles of the bike course went by pretty quick. The course is somewhat rolling, with some short climbs, but pretty fast overall. I was pretty happy with the number of athletes I saw on the course. I didn’t really feel like I was ever hindered, slowed down, or required to speed up because of other athletes. So between the swim and the bike, I felt like I was really able to have my own race.

Time: 2:26:01, AP 229 NP 236

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Run

T2 felt fast for me. However, the second I got on the run course, I had to go pee really bad. In about a mile, I got really uncomfortable. I debated running through it or stopping to go pee, but I figured I’d probably end up running faster with the stop than being horribly uncomfortable the rest of the run. Side note: I’m sorry for anyone who reads this who does not do triathlons but these are the real challenges of longer racing and are major factors in overall performance and time. It’s usually just minutes that separates the top 5 or 10 athletes in a field, which is almost the time it takes to stop and go pee at an aid station.IMG_0544

After my stop, I noticed my average pace, with the stop, had dropped to an 8:30+ pace. That was insanely discouraging. I knew there was no way I could fully make up that time to the pace I was hoping for. On top of that, I wasn’t running all that fast. I tried running at what I thought would be 7 min pace, but when I looked at my watch, I was closer to 7:15 or 7:20, which wasn’t a good sign.

Right away on the run, I started drinking coke at each aid station. I would dump 1-2 cups of water on my head, maybe ice down my shirt if I could grab it, and a cup of coke to drink at each aid station. The coke seemed to help a lot because as the run went on, I felt better and better. Each aid station was hit or miss on the drink temperature. One aid station would have really warm water and warm coke, and the next aid station the drinks would be ice cold. Not sure what was going on there.

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I think I ended the run feeling much better than how I felt when I started the run which was odd. One contributing factor was my feet fell asleep almost immediately as I started to run. I think this has happened at every race I have done. It feels like I’m running on35_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_035052-2263084 pins and needles and I think it really changes my gait as I have no feel of the ground or how my feet are landing. It’s really not a lot of fun. That went away at about mile 10, so I dealt with that most of the race.

The Vineman run is pretty rolling. It felt like I was always going up or down. Around the half-way point, we enter a winery and run through the dirt trails around the vines. It’s a really cool experience (minus the rocks I kept stepping on).

The run back felt pretty good. I was somewhat conservative in my pace in the first half, so in the second half, when I knew I was going to make it back to the finish in one piece, I was able to relax a bit and try to keep the speed up. The miles really ticked by from mile 8 on. Usually, this is where the miles drag on, but I was feeling good….maybe I should drink coke every day.

Aside from the couple positions I lost going to the portapotty, I didn’t really pass anyone or get passed by anyone in my age group, so it was more of race against myself. The finish line came up very fast, and I was happy to be done before the heat of the day.

Time: 1:33:56, 7:10min/mile

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Overall Race Time: 4:33:44, 9th male 30-34

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Thoughts

After the race, I felt really energized, which shows I could have pushed harder on the run. It was also nice to have some energy after a race to spend time with family and friends.IMG_3159

The real take-away from this race for me is the logistics of the kids. They are at the age, where not having naps and getting out of their routine affects the day and affects the overall experience of the event for the family. I think we’ll need to figure out how better to integrate racing and vacation with the family given we now have 2 kids in tow.IMG_3160

Quantified Self: Metabolic Efficiency Test

I’ve wanted to do metabolic efficiency testing for a long time. I think you can play around with your nutrition and really dial it in, but it’s always nice to have some more exact measurements to better define and guide your own n=1 experiments. I personally just like to look at data, and if anything, use it as a learning experience and a form of continuing education for myself.

Endurance PTC is really the closest place around that has the equipment for a Metabolic Efficiency Test (MET). This past week, I drove to Mill Valley for a couple hours of testing with them. Here are the results of those tests.

Body Composition

The first thing I did with Tim at Endurance PTC was a body composition test. I thought this was going to be a little more scientific, but it’s really just the old-school skin caliper test. He tested my skin fold thickness at 3 different spots on my body (multiple readings at the same locations): belly, thigh, and ribs. The results, 12.5% body fat. That’s a bit higher than my Withings scale tells me every day (it says 8.5%). I secretly wanted to be under 10%, but I’m not sure if these numbers actually have any meaning for me in terms of performance. I don’t think you can say that if you went from 12% body fat to 10%, you will be a better athlete. In general, it seems better to be lower, but for me, it may not be the case. I think the more important thing here is to track changes and not the value itself. I don’t anticipate going in and doing skin caliper tests often, so I don’t think this was a super insightful test outside of reminding me I need to be aware of all the dessert I enjoy so much.

Sweat Test

Endurance PTC also offers Precision Hydration sweat tests. I thought this would be very applicable to my performance as I’ve always struggled with hydration due to my extreme sweat rate. The more I understand about sweat rate and sodium depletion, they better endurance athlete I think I can be. I really feel like a major limiting factor in my training and racing is the amount of fluid I lose from sweat.

The Precision Hydration sweat tests are pretty interesting. They put 2 quarter-size disks on your forearm with a chemical on them that makes that part of your skin sweat. Then they add an electric current, which you can’t really feel, to that disc to push the chemical into your skin to start the sweating on that area. Then they remove the discs, and collect the sweat on your skin and run that sweat through a machine which analyzes the sodium content of the sweat. You can see the process here. The idea is that the sodium content of your sweat does not vary much as your sweat rate increases or decreases. You always lose about the same amount of sodium per volume unit of sweat across all different sweat rates.

I had done the Levelen sweat test previously, which seems much less accurate, and had put my sodium loss at 1400mg per Liter of sweat. This Precision Hydration sweat test put my sodium loss at 1024mg per Liter of sweat. So this looks like I lose a little less sodium than I previously thought. This may explain why I looked like a bloated pig after my last race. Good to know. Now I can better plan my sodium intake during long training days and races.sweattest

Metabolic Testing

The last, and most time consuming test, was the Metabolic Efficiency Test. Tim at Endurance PTC looked me up to the Respiratory Gas Exchange system while on a stationary bike. This machine measures the amount of Oxygen I breathe in and the amount of CO2 I breathe out while riding the bike. The ratio of CO2 eliminated to O2 consumed is the Respiratory Quotient (RQ). This is a way to measure metabolism to see what I’m “burning” at different exercise intensities. An RQ of 1 is pure carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism, where a RQ of .7 is pure fat metabolism. My goal was to see how much fat and carbohydrate I burn when I am out riding. The ultimate goal here is to train your body through nutrition and training to be better at burning fat and to burn more fat at higher intensities.IMG_3060

The test was designed to start me at 120 watts on the bike and step me up by 20 watts every 5 minutes until 240 watts. This would give me a range of sub-max power outputs on the bike applicable to the types of races I do. I will say, it’s pretty uncomfortable to have your nose pinned and breath through a tube on a trainer up to 240 watts. Very do-able, but very awkward. IMG_3061

Here are the results:

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I was secretly worried that I was a huge sugar burner. Most people who know me, know I have no concept of moderation when it comes to dessert. So, while I’m pretty picky about the quality of the dessert, I pretty much will demolish all sugar put in front of me (especially if it’s homemade with love). So I was pleasantly happy that I was still able to burn a good amount of fat at higher intensities.

My cross over point, where I burn equal sugar and fat is around 210-215 watts. This is about Ironman pacing on the bike.

My Fatmax point, where I am the best fat burner (if I wanted to burn lots of fat) is 160 watts, which is pedaling fairly easy. So if I wanted to burn off all that ice cream which converted to fat, I’d be better off going out and doing a very easy bike ride than going out and doing a hard ride.

I think this data is going to be very useful for planning out my nutrition strategy for long races, like Ironman. I think I can probably get away with consuming less calories from sugar than I previously thought, looking at this data.

Another interesting take away is that my Metabolic Efficiency Zone, where I am the most metabolic efficient (more fat burning) is 140-180 watts. In theory, I should be spending a lot of time in this zone training, where I would be “teaching” my body to be a better and more efficient fat burner. The reality is I never train this low on the bike. So maybe I need to slow down my easy rides. This also probably means, I should slow down my easy endurance runs, as I assume this data would translate over to running as well.

Overall, I got a lot of good data from these tests and I’m glad I did it. I think this data will guide more trial and error testing on my own in terms of training and nutrition.

Ironman Hawaii Hydration and Sodium Planning

With a high sweat rate comes challenges with athletic activity an athletic performance that I am all too familiar with. When it’s a hot day out and I have a workout, I usually fall apart. All of my worst training days have been when it’s hot out. I can easily lose 10+ pounds of weight during a long run or bike ride if I don’t pay attention and plan my hydration needs.

This has become more of a front and center issue in the last couple years after choosing to start Ironman racing and training. For shorter distances, sweat loss can be managed without too much thought. With the long distances, I really needed to make sure I understood how to manage water loss and dehydration for both training and racing. I have been lucky up till now that all of my Ironman events have been in relatively cooler weather. Training in Monterey County also tends itself to mostly cooler weather, especially in the early morning or later afternoon, when I tend to do the majority of my training. When I qualified for Kona, I knew I would have to take a serious approach to understanding my sweating “problem” and my overall hydration needs for hot weather racing. I knew I couldn’t just cross my fingers and hope for a cool day in Kona… it wasn’t going to happen.

My first step was to quantify my sweat rate. This is very easy to do. I simply weighed myself before and after workouts, and also weighed all the fluids I consumed during my workouts. I could calculate total weight loss over the length of my run and bike ride and account that for sweat lost during the activity. I started doing this in August, leading up to Ironman Kona for key workouts (typically on hotter days). I also recorded the average temperature during the workout and also my average pace or power for the workout. My hope was to correlate a sweat rate to a temperature and to an effort level. With this, I could approximate my sweat rate for a given effort level and air temperature.

Here is a sample of the data I collected for my bike rides:

bike sweat rate

From the above, you can see that 1.5 L/hr was a rough idea of my sweat rate on the bike. The last entry is actually my Ironman Kona Race Rehearsal, so the power would be close to race day. You can see I lost over 16 lbs of sweat on that ride, and it was under 70 degrees out. That’s a lot of sweat! I nailed the hydration though, because I lost no weight at all on the ride.

Of course, I really didn’t hit any temperatures which would accurately represent the heat I would get in Kona. I was lucky to see some unusually high temps for Monterey, but that still wasn’t enough. I wonder if there is a maximum sweat rate at which you really can’t sweat any more. I imagine, at some point I would hit my maximum sweat rate and temperatures above a certain point wouldn’t matter as I wouldn’t sweat any more.

Here is a sample of the data I collected for my runs:

run sweat rate

From the above, you can see I can easily hit 3 L/hr sweat rate when it began to heat up above 80 degrees. To me, this was most disturbing part of my findings. 3 L/hr is a ton of sweat. There is no way I can drink anywhere close to 3 L/hr while running.

During this time of testing, I was also doing sauna heat acclimatization where I would sit in a dry sauna for 15-45 minutes 3-4 days a week to prepare for the Kona heat. Heat acclimatization increases blood plasma and also increases ones sweat rate and affects how quickly they begin to sweat. I could see the affects of this in the data as my sweat rate did seem to increase per temperature/pace over time. I’m still not sure if this is a great strategy for me. Given that I already sweat more than most, I’m not sure I want to make my body sweat even more. I’m not sure that extra sweat means more cooling or if it just means I can dehydrate that much easier. I’m still not sure heat acclimatization works for me and my situation, where I already have a very high sweat rate at baseline. I need to do some more research on this to see what is best for me next time.

I also did the same testing for swimming, but I noticed I didn’t really lose any weight swimming. The only weight I lost swimming was actually due to going pee (yes I get out of the pool or wait till after the workout) and not due to any sweating that I could measure. My fluid loss for swimming was under 0.1 L/hr.

So I now had my expected and approximate sweat rates for swimming, biking and running. Next, I wanted to learn more about sodium and electrolyte loss and replacement. The easiest and most cost effective option was to do a Levelen sweat sodium test. For $75, Levelen will send you a piece of gauze to tape on your forearm during a short run to collect sweat and sodium. They also provide you tweezers and a tube to pull out the gauze after the workout and ship them back the sweat soaked gauze for analysis. I did this simple test during a 45 minute run in 75 degree weather. Here were the results:

Sweat Rate               2.42 L/hr

Sweat Na+                61  mmol/L            3395 mg/hr

Sweat K+                  7.0 mmol/hr

Sweat Cl-                   60  mmol/L            5140 mg/hr

NaCl loss                    8.5 g/hr

levelen results

Just as I expected… I was on the extreme end of the scale for sweat rate and also sodium loss. The above equates to 1403 mg of sodium lost per liter of sweat. That’s a crazy amount of sodium! The FDA RDA for sodium is 2300 mg per day for an adult. That means, in 1 hour of running (3L of sweat), I lose almost 2 full days intake of salt…. In 1 hour!

So now, I had a good idea of my sweat loss rate and also a data point for my sodium loss rate. Now the question is, how much do I need to replace during a race. All of it? Some of it? None of it? Certainly, I knew I needed to replace most of my fluid loss. I know that when I get below 155 lbs of body weight I feel pretty crummy and fall apart on the bike or run. So I know I can’t lose more weight to get below 155 (or I cramp up and can barely move). But what about sodium? I’ve never really taken salt pills or any sodium supplement outside of what was in my sports drink and food.

The new school of thought, specifically from people like Tim Noakes and Phil Maffetone is, you just need to drink to thirst and do not need to supplement with electrolytes like sodium. I have been following Tim Noakes and his ideas for a while. I have read his book Waterlogged, and listed to countless podcasts and read countless articles from him. His concept is very appealing because it relies on listening to the body and only drinking when thirsty. This is really appealing because it takes all the work out of trying to stay hydrated… just drink when you’re thirsty and you’ll be fine. Noakes also doesn’t recommend sodium supplementation when exercising because, he says, our bodies have enough internally stored sodium to sustain us and that sodium loss (as measured per the test above) has more to due to your daily salt intake from diet than your sodium needs during exercise.

The problem for me is I have used this theory and have had very limited success with it. I tended to train and usually race using thirst as a guide for water intake, and also not supplemented with any sodium. The problem for me, as mentioned above, is I always fall apart on hot days or long workouts. All my race rehearsal training days, where I worked out for 5-8 hours, have always been huge failures due to dehydration (as measured via body weight loss). I always cramped up so bad I could barely move and barely made it home. I feel like I’m pretty in touch with my body and how I’m feeling, but maybe I have no idea when I’m thirsty and I don’t drink when I should. Whatever it is, the drinking to thirst theory doesn’t seem to work well for me right now.

I decided for Kona, to not follow that school of thought and go back to a more prescribed approach to fluid intake and sodium intake, at least as a starting point.

So next I needed to figure out how much fluid and sodium I should take at Kona. On the bike, I knew I could manage the 1.5 L/hr of water I would be losing as I had practiced taking in this much water quite a few times. The run as another story. There is no way I could drink anywhere near 3 L/hr to replace all my fluid loss. I’ve heard some say that about 800 mL/hr is about all you can absorb. I was hoping that wasn’t true.

I next contacted Skratch Labs to get some help. They seemed to be really on top of helping endurance athletes with their hydration needs and I liked their products for all of my training. Skratch was a great help, and after a couple back-and-fourths over email, I got a great understanding of how they approached hydration and fluid replacement. From this I began to build out my baseline formulas for my Kona hydration planning.

The starting point is your baseline body weight and then a maximum acceptable dehydration level. Skratch said that they have seen 4% dehydration as an acceptable level before performance loss. I would agree with this based on my data, as my baseline body weight is 162 lbs, so 4% dehydration would be about 155 lbs (right where I notice I begin to fall apart). From there, they key is really pre-loading with fluid before starting the race. Using something like Skratch Hyper Hydration Mix, you can use the extra sodium it has to help with water retention to preload your body with sodium and fluid.

If I am able to pre-load my body with fluid, and taking into account an acceptable level of dehydration throughout the race, I can come up a level of fluid replacement needed in the race which will be a certain level less than the fluid lost due to sweat.

Here is my data I put together in preparation for Kona:

fluid calculations 1

I start by entering my body weight and level of acceptable dehydration after the race. I also enter anticipated race times (don’t need this too much as you can plan on a per-hour basis if needed). I then enter all my expected sweat rates for swim, bike and run.

The output on the right, shows my acceptable fluid deficit per hour in mL (293.9). This means, for a 10 hour race, I do not need to replace 293.9 mL per hour of my sweat loss. So if I sweat at 1 L/hr, I would only need to take in (1L – 293.9mL) 706.1 mL/hr of fluid in order to be fine and still be at only 4% dehydration after the race.

From there, I estimated I can pre-load fluid the days leading up to the race and race morning up to a total of 1.5 L. This would mean my body would be heavier when I started the race by that extra 1.5L of fluid I would be holding (with the help of sodium). This would then put my acceptable fluid deficit even higher at 443.9 mL/hr.

In the totals you can see I expected to lose 18.8L of fluid during the race but only needed to replace 14.4L during the whole race.

Next is to figure out how to replace that 14.4L of fluid throughout the race. I obviously cannot replace it during the swim (unless I end up drinking ocean water).

fluid calculations 2

I played with different replacement rates for swim, bike and run. I put in 0% for swim, since I would not be drinking any during the swim. I tried to hit over 100% replacement on the bike, just because I knew it was easier to handle drinking water on the bike than while running. If I hit 102% replacement of fluid on the bike and only 57% replacement on the run, then I still could hit that 14.4 L of total fluid needed. I thought this would be the best strategy for me in Kona.

This level of fluid replacement ended up being about 70% of my BTA bottle per aid station on the bike and about 10 fl oz of fluid per aid station on the run. Pretty doable.

One other very important thing to note (that Skratch brought to my attention) that plays into this is managing body temperature. If I could use external cooling to lower my sweat rate, I would be in a much better position and not need quite as much fluid replacement, and more wiggle room with these numbers. Keeping the body cool by dumping water on your body during the bike and run, and using ice could really bring down my total fluid needs by reducing my sweat rate. I didn’t know how to really quantify this, but I knew I chose moderate sweat rates based on Monterey temperatures so, I figure I could just use as much cold water and ice as possible as an experiment in Kona. If anything, I would just be less dehydrated at the end of the day if all worked out.

Now that I knew how I planned to replace fluid in the swim, bike and run, I just took my sodium loss rate and figured out about how much sodium I needed to hour and per bottle of water I took in. This would not be all the sodium I lost in sweat, but just like water, I would replace most, but not all, sodium loss for the day. I then thought about when I could take in Skratch Hyper Hydration (pre-swim, bike special needs) and added up how much sodium what was. I took my total sodium needs, subtracted what I would take in from Hyper Hydration (and what is in my food I take in during the race) and then calculated about how many SaltStick pills I would need per hour or per bottle of water.

All of this is a bit overkill, I think. I really just wanted to use this as a starting point to figure out how to manage sodium and fluid intake for Kona. I think sometimes, you can overanalyze things which ends up hurting more than helping. But I guess that’s all part of the fun of triathlon. Triathlon is one big problem (or maybe lots of little ones) that is fun and interesting to figure out.

In the future, I really want to do another sweat-sodium test for another data point to further validate my own data. I think I have a much better idea of my fluid needs, but am only really scratching the surface on sodium needs. Plus what about all the other electrolytes! I think I would really need to spend a lot of time training and racing in the heat to really dial this in, which probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Ironman Canada Race Report

Pre-Race

This was my first visit to Canada so the trip to Whistler was highly anticipated for me. I will say, that the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is just amazing. Lots of thick green forest mixed with steep rock faces and aqua-blue water. The scenery did not disappoint. We got in to Whistler the afternoon of Thursday before the race and settled in to our hotel before walking though Whistler Village. The village reminded me a lot of other mountain ski towns in the summer such as Tahoe. The venue seemed a bit different from other Ironman events I have been to. Normally, Ironman seems to be the center of all activities, but in Whistler, Ironman seemed like a small event amongst a lot of other visitors and activates around the area. The downhill mountain bike scene seemed to really be front and center in terms of what people where there for. What’s great about the village is all the food choices and even a nice grocery store for anything you could ever want in addition to lots of options for coffee and dessert.IMG_8967

I made my way down to the Ironman village, and picked up my race wheels from RaceDayWheels.IMG_1587 What was nice about this trip is I didn’t bring any wheels with me. I brought only my bike, which saved me an extra checked bag. I used my Ruster Sports Hen House with their new carat case to pack up my Dimond bike (super easy by the way) and just put my rented wheels on when I got to Whistler.

On Friday morning, after coffee with the family,IMG_1618 I decided to take my bike out on the road for a quick ride and make sure everything was in working order. The weather report called for scattered showers throughout the day and I wanted to get out before more rain came in. DSCN0759On my ride, the roads were pretty wet, but at least it wasn’t raining (I hate riding in the rain). I rode 15 minutes on the highway toward Pemberton and then back. The roads, aside from the puddles, were in great condition, and I was looking forward to having the whole lane for the race instead of just the shoulder. I spent the rest of the day, relaxing with the family and enjoying the area by doing the Peak2Peak gondola ride.

IMG_0690Saturday morning was bike check-in day. They had early bike check in at 9:30 for AWA athletes, so I packed up my bike and run bags and rode the 2 miles to Alta Lake and T1. There weren’t many people there yet as the shuttle busses hadn’t started yet. I racked my bike and covered the aero bars and seat with some plastic bags I had. I really didn’t like the idea of leaving my nice Dimond in the rain all night. Right after I checked in my bike, I got my wetsuit on and swam an easy lap in the lake. The water temp was great. IMG_0711Basically, it felt like swimming in a pool, not too hot and not too cold. There was a bit of chop from the wind which made going out a bit harder than coming back. Overall, it seemed like a great swim venue.IMG_0715

The rest of Saturday was just relaxing with the family (and checking the weather every 3 minutes). The weather report for race day showed a lot more rain than both Friday and Saturday. I was a bit worried because I really never ride in the rain, so I wasn’t excited about spending all the time wet on the bike. I figured rain was still better than being hot.

Race Morning

Sunday morning my alarm went off at 4:30am. I actually got a decent nights sleep, falling asleep a little after 9pm and only waking up a couple times at night. My goal was to eat breakfast before 5am to give me a couple hours before the cannon went off. Breakfast was a couple bowls of granola and milk with raspberries and a sliced apple with lots of nut butter on top. After breakfast and getting dressed I made my way down to T2 to get on the bus to T1. I was happy it wasn’t raining yet, but the ground was soaked and the sky didn’t look too promising.IMG_1643

T1 had its typical nervous energy as everyone went about their morning routine. I didn’t have much to do as I decided not to even pump up my tires due to the wet road I knew was ahead. I spent most of that hour talking with friends and trying to enjoy the experience. I finally put on my wetsuit and headed toward the water to watch the pro start. I tried to wait till the last minute to get in the water as I didn’t want to waste any energy treading water before the start, and I’m not one to warmup before an Ironman.

DSCN0758

Swim

I really like mass starts. They are much more energizing for me. When the cannon went off, I started my swim fairly strong and settled in with the masses of others, trying to find feet to follow. There wasn’t too much contact as I didn’t start right along the buoy line, but a little offset, towards the shore to try to find a cleaner (but longer) line to the first turn buoy.

On the way to the first turn, I could tell it had started to really rain…hard. I felt bad for all the spectators out in the rain watching. Then I started to think how wet I was going to be on the bike. The first and second turn got a bit tight, but I slowed down and took my time around the buoys.

Overall, the swim was pretty uneventful. I really only have a couple speeds when I swim, so I don’t really think about pace, but just try to swim strong without too many hard efforts. Towards the end of the second lap, we started coming up on swimmers finishing their first lap. Things got a little more chaotic as the group I was with tried to get around and find a clean line. After the last turn buoy, it felt like there was a lot more chop in the water, and that last segment really seemed to take forever.

I walked out of the water and over to the wetsuit strippers who helped me get my wetsuit off, then I was off to the changing tents.

Swim Time: 00:59:29

T1

The first thing I noticed in the tent was how hot and muggy it was in there. It was also really busy. I had to find a chair toward the far back because most of the chairs were already taken. I guessed it was due to the bad weather and everyone taking a little longer to put everything on. I struggled for a bit getting my arm warmers on and rolled up… not too easy when you’re wet. I put on my shoes, helmet and gloves and headed toward my bike. I did have a wind breaker in my bag, but chose not to put it on since at that time, I wasn’t cold at all. Probably a big mistake.

T1 Time: 05:33

Bike

It was raining pretty hard when I got on my bike and started settling in. Just a few minutes into the ride, and I was already soaked through and starting to get cold. Within a few more minutes I could feel my jaw shattering and my whole body started to shiver and shake. I was getting really really cold, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I tried to get in some nutrition by drinking some of my UCAN and eating a gel. My goal was 300 calories and hour on the bike from mostly UCAN and a few gels (just to mix it up). It was really hard to even drink from my bottle as my jaw was tight from shivering so much. By the time I got to the base of the Callahan climb, I was in full convulsive shivers.

I was really looking forward to the long climb up Callahan by then, hoping I could up my power and warm up a bit. No such luck. Sitting up out of aero, I got hit with more wind on my body and it made me even colder. I was starting to become really miserable. More miserable, than I have ever been on my bike and definitely the longest I had ever been that cold. All the way up Callahan, I kept thinking about how was I ever going to run off this bike feeling like this. My whole body was shivering and my lower back was even shivering and aching. I was really worried about all the wasted energy my body was using shivering: I needed that energy for the run.

Going down Callahan was really bad. I was ice cold. I tried to take it really slow, but I didn’t have much braking power at the time. My wet brakes on carbon wheels weren’t really doing much to slow me down. On top of that, I could barely squeeze the brakes, my hands were so cold and my bike was shaking like I had speed wobbles from my shivering as I went down. After making it down Callahan, I made my way back to Whistler village and then out toward Pemberton. The whole time, I was just doing what I could to stay warm. I was freezing and shivering all the way to Pemberton.IMG_1709_cropped

Once I made it down to Pemberton and started the long flat section, the rain started to ease a bit and I started warming up. I began to feel a little better and even stopped shivering. It wasn’t till then I was really able to look around and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I still felt pretty strong along the flat and was able to hold power and get back to focusing on my nutrition.

The long climb back to Whistler seemed to go on forever. Most of the climb back wasn’t too steep, but there were sections that had a good grade and really slowed me down. From Pemberton, I had about 20 miles up climbing to make it back to Whistler. The first 10 miles had some good climbs broken up by some short downhills. The second 10 miles was a lot better and was just a slight uphill grade, but I could at least stay aero. This last section really got me tired, and I was seeing my power harder to hold where I wanted it. I was just ready to get off the bike.

I finally made it back to the village and tried to stretch a little while coasting through all the chutes until T2. I was still very stiff and my lower back was more tight and sore. I finally was able to get off my bike and make it into the T2 tent.

Bike Time:5:40:42

T2

I was really slow moving in T2. I left my arm warmers on, just in case the run was cold, but took off my gloves and even changed out my socks for dry socks. I was really moving slow. I had to hit the washroom on the way out in order to get everything out of my bladder, and that added another couple minutes to my already slow pace getting to the run.

T2 Time:3:34

Run

Right away on the run, I could tell it was going to be a tough day. I usually have good energy from the crowd and seeing family coming out of T2DSCN0765, but this time, my energy was low and my body was already achy. I had to really slow down my pace and I was really worried I’d be walking later in the run based on how I was feeling. Right out of T2, there is a nice climb which really hurts. So right away my heart rate felt like it shot up and my pace dropped back to what felt like a crawl. On the gravel and dirt trails, I wasn’t feeling too great. My stomach started to bother me and I had to walk a small hill because I didn’t have the energy to run it. Due to my stomach being upset, I really wanted to stop and rest to see if I could reset myself, but I kept moving past aid stations without stopping.IMG_1741

Around 4 or 5k, I saw a bee land on my chest, and then felt the sharp pain of its stinger. I cursed out loud. I figured this was a sign I needed to stop. I found the next aid station and stepping into a porta-potty and sat down. I looked for the stinger in my chest, but there wasn’t one there, just a small red mark. I ended up sitting there for about 4 minutes. I knew now, my run time was going to be way off my goal, but at least that took some pressure off me to go too hard. I eventually made it back on course and started running again. My average pace had dropped to 8:30 already with the stop, not good compared to my goal and what I knew I could do.

I slowly started to feel a bit better in my stomach. Just stopping somehow reset everything and I began to feel normal again (normal for the marathon part of an Ironman). I was able to get my pace back to 7:50 or so, which is still slow for me, but much better than walking. I ditched my arm warmers as the sun started coming out from the breaking clouds.

I mentally, just thought about completing the first lap. After 13 miles, I gave myself permission to take Pepsi at the aid stations (I was only doing on-course Gatorade till then). Also, mentally, after the first 13.1 miles, it feels like the home stretch. I made it through the first lap and started the second lap. I then told myself just to keep it up till mile 18. Mile 18 seems notorious for when the wheels really start coming off for most people. At mile 18, I was still going, slowly, but still chugging along.

What was nice, was I never really got to that deep dark place at mile 18 or 20 like I knew could happen. I think maybe the slower run helped not burry myself too deep after that brutal bike.

I finally made it to the turn off, where you go left to make another lap, and right to the finish. I was almost there…. Or so I thought. That last section seemed to go on forever. There was a little more uphill, some windy paths, and a long loop up through the village path before making it down to the finish shoot.DSCN0778

I was able to ear my name being called as I crossed the line.

Run Time: 3:35:26

Race Time: 10:24:44, 8th in AG

Closing

It was truly an epic day. Hearing the stories from others who went through similar challenges on the bike, made me feel a lot better. Through a lot of the bike and run, I thought I may be walking to the finish, so I’m really happy I was able to keep going.

I’ve never been a bath person, but I have never wanted to get in a hot bath so much in my life as when I finished. After getting my stuff and hobbling back to the hotel, I sat in the hot bath until I finally got some feeling back in my limbs.

I’m really happy I chose Canada as the venue for my first Ironman of this year. It’s a great location for this great race. Even though, the weather wasn’t ideal leading up to and on race day, it’s still a great place for family and athletes. I also learned a lot about myself from this extra-hard experience. It was even sunny and warm the next few days while we finished out our vacation in Whistler and Vancouver.