Otillo Cannes Race and Travel Report


I wanted to do a final race of the year, focusing on having fun and possibly traveling somewhere with the family. I was looking at some 70.3-distance triathlons as an option, but also wanted to try something a bit different and more adventurous. Otillo had just recently announced the addition of a Solo category to their Sprint-distance races, which really appealed to me. I honestly wanted to do the longer version of their races, but finding a partner can be challenging for destination races. The Otillo Solo Sprint seemed like a great end-of-season option because it was in a unique location, was relatively short, and something different from triathlon.

Getting Camille on-board worked out well too. Since Otillo Cannes was a swimrun race, I didn’t have to travel with my bike. So, I proposed a “lightweight” trip, where we could travel only with backpacks, no bike, and no stroller (I even offered to do all the heavy lifting of kids who refused to walk). Flights were relatively inexpensive into Nice, France, which helped seal the deal as a family trip. We decided to make it a fun and casual family trip, not over-planning the details. We were to fly into Nice for one night, then travel by train to Cannes for 3 nights, where I would race, and then travel into Monte-Carlo, Monaco for the last night before flying out again in the evening. It was also a great opportunity to expose the kids to two more countries this year. Camille and I had also been to Paris together and I had already been to the entire French Mediterranean in 2004. But I thought it would be great to revisit the area with a little more opportunity (money), compared to my broke college euro trip 14 years ago.

Getting There

We left Wednesday evening and drove to SFO. We stopped by our favorite Indian food restaurant, Rasa, which was an added bonus. Our flight left at 8pm, which meant we’d all be tired on the first 10+ hour flight to Zurich. We actually tried to stay up and sleep as little as possible on the flight as we would get into Nice around dinner time and then off to bed. Swiss Air was a nice change from some of the domestic airlines. The kids ended up falling asleep after a few hours, only to occasionally wake when meals or snacks were served. Luckily it was an uneventful flight. As an added plus, Swiss Air continuously passed out little swiss chocolate bars during the flight and they came by and gave the kids extra chocolate frequently. So, by the end of our journey, we had a nice chocolate bar collection going in our backpacks.

After a quick one-hour stop in Zurich (which is a very clean and pleasant airport) and going through immigration (with no line at all!), we were off for another 1.5 hours before landing in Nice, France. Having no checked bags, made the airport exit extra speedy. We caught our Uber Berline to our hotel. Uber Berline in France is amazing… only black Mercedes where the drivers all wear black suites and make you feel like a celebrity. In Nice, we stayed at the Hyatt, which is right on the Promenade des Anglais, which is the main beach strip. So, it was a perfect location for walking to the beach and to most of the restaurants in the area.


In hindsight, Nice was a quick blur. After getting to the hotel, we were able to get the concierge to get us a reservation at a recommended restaurant that was within walking distance. We dropped off our bags in the room, got dressed and headed out for our first French dinner, then gelato, and a walk around the area.

In the morning, I went for a short run at sunrise, while the kids slept in. We then went out for breakfast and coffee. My only grip about Europe in general, is how small their coffee portions are. I suppose they are meant to be sipped and savored. But no matter what I ordered, the portion was usually something I could drink in about 10 seconds and came in a thimble-sized cup I could barely hold with my thumb and index finger.

After breakfast, we went for a stroll along the beach and did a quick carousel ride with the kids along the main Promenade. We then decided to go to the train station and get into Cannes before lunch. As with most of our vacations, timing of activities is usually around our next meal opportunity.


After a quick 25-minute train ride from Nice, we made it to Cannes and Ubered to our hotel, the JW, which again, was right on the main street, right on the beach. We were lucky that our room was available to us even though it was only around noon. After dropping our bags, we headed out for lunch at a nice restaurant, right on the sand near our hotel. We spent the rest of the day being tourists: walking around, going on a petite-train tour of the city and eating gelato.






In the early evening, I went to a presentation on the history of Otillo put on by one of the founders. It was interesting to hear the passion he had for the sport and how he was optimistic of its growth over the coming years. I have followed swimrun, as a sport, over the last year or so and like the idea of the event. Swimming and running are both somewhat low-equipment sports, unlike biking. This makes the event appealing, especially when traveling. Biking is also the most time-consuming aspect of triathlon training, so swimrun is also appealing as potentially needing less time commitment compared to long-distance triathlon. Otillo, as a brand, is leading the swimrun movement. However, they are based in Europe only, so there are little (but growing) opportunities in the US for this event. Also, traditionally, swimrun is a partner event, where teams of two compete the course together. The reason for this is safety in the many open-water swims throughout an event. In triathlon, there is a single swim course, which can be more closely monitored for safety. A partner also adds a very interesting element to the race, where you need someone who is similarly matched in ability, but usually one is a stronger swimmer or runner, so you need to work together on each individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. All that being said, Otillo Cannes, was the first time Otillo offered a solo category for their shorter Sprint course. This solo category really made the event appealing to me.

After learning all about Otillo history and vision, I met up with Camille and the kids who were playing at the park. We went out to a dinner at a recommended restaurant. I originally thought we would be eating, what I envisioned as traditional French food. However, it seemed there is a lot of Italian influence, so most of the restaurants had pizza and pasta options. This made the kids happy of course. They basically lived off bread the entire trip.

Saturday was race day. My race started at 12:30, which was amazing. So, we had all morning to do what we wanted. We went out to breakfast for a micro-coffee and bread with jam. We then headed over to the start/finish area to sign in and get my gear. While swimrun has less “gear” than triathlon, it’s still a very funny looking sport. I wear shoes, a wetsuit, swimcap and goggles, a swim-buoy and swim-paddles. I get to swim and run with all that gear. So, swimming is odd with all that gear and shoes on, and running is equally odd, if not odder because I wear a swimcap and goggles with a buoy strapped to my leg and swim paddles on my hands. I seem to be attracted to sports where I just cannot look “cool”.

What made this event worse is they required all solo competitors to carry a swim safety buoy the whole race. I’ve never used one of these before. It’s a large inflatable buoy on a rope which is attached to your waist. You pull it along as you swim and it floats behind you to provide visibility to others, showing where you are. The issue comes in on the run. Imagine being handed a large mylar birthday balloon and having to run holding it at the same time you need to hold your hand paddles, and manage your goggles, etc. It was fairly awkward and ridiculous looking.

After check-in, we had a couple hours to kill, so we hung out on the beach, playing with the kids in and out of the water. The beach was small and well protected, and got fairly crowded with beachgoers and topless natives. The water was in the low-70’s, and had no surf at all, so was perfect for the kids to run in and out of. I was also able to swim around a bit and test out my safety buoy and my new goggles I had to buy because I forgot mine in the hotel room.

The Race

At 12:30, it was finally time for the start of the Solo Sprint racers. There weren’t many of us, maybe 25, so I tried to line up near the front, where the fast-looking guys were. By this time, it was already in the mid-70’s out and I was already getting a bit hot and sweaty in my wetsuit and swim cap while standing out in the sun.

When the race started, I knew it was going to be a fast start, so I picked up the pace right away. The first run was 800 meters in total to the first swim entry. There was a group of 5 of us running hard. I started to feel the burn right away and noticed I we were running at a 6 min/mile pace. The first thing I thought was, “I’m not going to be able to keep this up long”. I hadn’t run that fast in a long time. Luckily, the swim section came up fast and I had a moment to catch my breath while putting on my paddles and goggles before wading into the water, adjusting my pull buoy and falling in. The swim was 700 meters from the Cannes boat harbor, along the beaches and the main boulevard, back towards our hotel.

Right away, there were about 3 guys who just took off in the water, with no way for me to keep up. I was surprised how hard it was to swim with all my gear on. Not very hydrodynamic with all the do-hickeys hanging off me. I ended up swimming next to one other guy, and we made it to the beach together. Then there was a tough beach run. Running on sand in your shoes gets hard quick. I got to a flag and a guy who told me something in French. I couldn’t really tell which way to go, so I stopped for a second and waited for the guy to point. We had to run up the beach to the main street. It still wasn’t very clear to me, so I paused for a while until the guy behind me caught up and I was able to follow him. These were my first couple lessons in swimrun: I need to go fast, and the course is confusing, so I need to pay attention.

Together, we ran along the boulevard, dodging tourists, strollers, and dogs. It definitely kept me on my toes. Then, we both almost got hit by a truck turning across the walkway in front of us. The guy I was with darted in front of the truck, while I came to a dead stop and waited for it. Better safe than sorry.

We had a long run of about 2km to the next harbor and then to another beach where we jumped in the water again for a 600-meter swim. I was still on the feet of the other guy, when we both seemed to lose sight of where we were going at the same time. We both stopped and he asked me if I knew where the swim exit was. I said no and that I was just following him, hoping he knew. We paused for a moment and then both saw the exit flag in the distance at about the same time. Swimrun really requires a good sense of navigation and sighting. Sometimes I couldn’t see the swim exit from the swim entry, so I had to figure it out while I swam. Since the race wasn’t very crowded, I couldn’t even rely on others.

After we exited the swim, back on the beach, we had an 800-meter run along the sand back where we came from. The sand, this time, was really soft. I tried running close to the water, and farther up the beach, but it was all deep sand, which made me smile a bit as I stumbled awkwardly and as my shoes filled with sand.

I followed the same person back to the harbor, where we had to scramble on some harbor rocks and back into the water for a short swim across a small harbor bay and back to the beach and onto the main boulevard. I ran side by side with the other guy and we briefly chatted as we continued to dodge tourists.  We got to an aid station, where they only had large bottles to pour into a collapsible cup they had given out pre-race. Since mine was tucked deep in my wetsuit pocket, I had to pass and start the long run inland and uphill with no water.

This run section was the longest, at about 6k in total. We got away from the beach and headed up towards Californie. The streets weren’t bad at first, but then we hit a series of stairs, which started taking its toll. The guy I was running with started getting farther ahead. We were then taken off road, onto a steep uphill trail. It followed what looked like an old rail car path. It was way too steep for me to run so I had to walk it. By then, I had to take off my goggles and cap and shove them in my wetsuit, which I unzipped to cool down.

This long uphill section seemed to last forever. I wasn’t even sure where this hill came from. From the beach, it didn’t look like there was anything steep anywhere around. I even had to walk backwards a few times to give my lower back a rest. I guess this wasn’t going to be as fast a race as I thought.


Finally, the uphill was done and there was some flat road to run on. By then, I was getting pretty warm in my wetsuit. We were eventually taken back onto another trail. I then came across an arrow which pointed down the hill, and off the trail. I stopped because I couldn’t really tell where to go. Where the arrow pointed was down, what looked like, a goat trail, sharply down the hill. I laughed to myself and scrambled down the side of the hill. The steep animal trail took me to a creek, where we had to then scramble down the creek. I call it scrambling, because it was no longer running and I had to use all my limbs. Over and under logs, through some drainage tunnel, pools of water and deep mud. This was definitely my favorite part. It was so different from anything I had raced because, it made it fun (and slightly dangerous).

I finally made it down the creek and back to the road, for another short downhill run before another tunnel which took us to a small beach, by a group of naked beachgoers, and back into the water. The swim section was long at 1k, but the water was bright blue and I could see the bottom easily and lots of fish. It made the swim very enjoyable.

I started to pass some of the teams who had started racing a bit before the solo start. At least that helped with sighting. When I exited the water, I had to scramble across a section of large sea-wall boulders for a couple hundred yards. I never had felt comfortable going fast on these. It’s very dangerous and can easily lead to a broken ankle. I got caught by a team behind me. I laughed and joked with them that I would never see this is a US race.

After another short 800-meter run, with my heart in my mouth, I was back onto the beach and into the water for the second to last swim of 600 meters. I was beginning to get a bit tired at this point, but was still having a ton of fun. As soon as I started heating up, I was able to get in the water to cool down. It was a nice balance. After another 600-meter swim and 600-meter run I could see the finish beach a couple hundred meters away. I knew no one was in front or behind me, so I tried to enjoy the last short 200 meter swim to the beach where I knew the kids and Camille were playing. The beach was fairly crowded with people by this time, both on the sand and in the water. I had to swim around a number of people as I made my way to the beach. I got could see the kids and Camille at the shore. As I ran out, I high-fived the kids and up the stairs to the finish.

Race Thoughts

Overall, I had a really fun time. With the steep uphill and the scramble down the creek, there were some challenging and fun moments. I could see how I would need to really improve on my swimrun skills. It’s not just a matter of being a good running and swimmer. Knowing the equipment, the transitions, and the course is key. Overall, it was a great experience in an exceptional location.

Finishing Cannes

After the race, we hung out at the finish for a while, before getting an Uber back to the hotel. We had lunch at the patio restaurant of the hotel, before getting cleaned up. We relaxed in the room for a bit before heading out to another dinner and dessert.

The next day, after my traditional micro-coffee, we took a 20-minute ferry from Cannes to Sainte Marguerite Island. We brought a picnic lunch from the farmers market and spent most of the day, exploring the trails and beaches of the island.





We had our picnic lunch, explored the old Fort on the island before taking a boat back to Cannes. The rest of the day was spent on the beach in front of our hotel with the kids. We finished the day, with our last dinner in Cannes.


On Monday morning, we got up and caught the train from Cannes to Monte Carlo, Monaco. It was just over an hour-long train ride with some great views of the French Riviera. From the Monte Carlo train station, we were able to walk to our hotel (this was actually fairly challenging as Caden had to be carried).

We stayed at Hotel Hermitage, which is a great 5-star right near the casino area. We were lucky, as we had been with all our hotels, that our room was ready in the early afternoon. So we were able to drop off our bags and get cleaned up for lunch. We walked down the road to a great restaurant, which had an outdoor patio overlooking the harbor. Camille and I had a nice coursed lunch and wine, while the kids chowed down on bread (I think that’s all they ate most of the trip).

We spent the afternoon walking around Monte-Carlo, seeing the shops and casino. We also took a mini-train tour of the city to make sure we saw everything there was to see. In the late afternoon, we ended up going back to the hotel to check out their pool.

The pool ended up being quite the experience. The hotel had a beautiful indoor salt-water pool. But before you could get in, the staff had us change into hotel robes and slippers, which seemed to be required for entry to the pool. They had high end locker rooms, where they gave you a tour and handed you your robes, your personal electronic locker and your pool slippers. After we all changed, we first went to the outdoor hot tub. They had a beautiful outdoor area, overlooking the Monte Carlo harbor and a (not so hot) hot tub. Camille and I ordered wine while we had the hot tub all to ourselves. We then went back indoors and played with the kids in the pool.

The concierge had made a reservation at a restaurant in the Hotel de Paris, right next door. We had told him we didn’t have “fancy” clothes with us, but he said they would let me borrow a jacket at the restaurant and we would be fine. When we all showed up at the restaurant for dinner, the hostess politely said that we didn’t meet their dress code, but she would check if it was okay. She came back with her manager, who didn’t say anything, but looked us both up and down before saying we couldn’t eat there because of their strict dress code. For the record, I was wearing a tucked in collared button-down shirt. We did both have jeans on, but they were “fancy” jeans and probably more expensive than any of my dress slacks. Camille did have “fancy” flip flops on which seemed to be the deal breaker for them. So that was pretty sad. We both felt like low class people at that point.

We walked back to our hotel to get “mad’ at our concierge. He ended up calling a few others places, all of which were full. So, he gave us the option of Italian food or eating at the hotel restaurant there. We were somewhat tired of pizza and pasta, so we decided to eat at their restaurant. This started out being a letdown. We didn’t really just want to eat at our hotel. But then we found out it was a Michelin star restaurant and actually more fancy looking than the restaurant that turned us down.

The dinner ended up being one of the best of the trip. Overall, the food was amazing and the service was great. Camille and I did one of their tastings and also added some additional items. They even made a butter pasta just for the kids, which was one of the best pastas I’ve had in a while. Then we all split a chocolate soufflé. On top of that, they brought out petit fours for us and gave us some breakfast bread (cake) to take with us. It ended up being a great way to finish off the trip.



On Tuesday morning we woke up and started packing our bags after I went on a brief run. The hotel had an included breakfast buffet. After a very long trek across the hotel to find the breakfast room, we sat down for an over-the-top buffet and (finally) some great coffee. After breakfast, the hotel gave us a ride to the train station to catch our train back to Nice. It was going to be a long day of travel.

When we got back to Nice, we still had some time to kill before our flight at 3pm. Near the train station is a park/zoo. We took the kids there for a while, where we walked the ground and were able to see lots of animals. We then walked to the airport, a half mile away (glad we all only had backpacks).

After a short 1.5-hour flight to Frankfurt, we barely made our connection and got to our next flight just in time. Only a 12-hour flight back to San Francisco. Luckily, the food was half decent on the flight and the kids slept a good portion. Immigration was a nightmare in SFO and we had to wait in line while holding our sleeping kids for over an hour. Then another shuttle and a 1.5 hour drive home. A long day, which is the price you pay for an amazing family adventure.

2018 Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report


Going in to Mont Tremblant, I didn’t have the focus on the race that I usually do. Mental energy on training and racing had taken a backseat to everything else going on in life. I was still looking forward to the family vacation aspect of the race. The only issue with the “family” part of traveling, is all the “family stuff” we needed to take with us. In addition to my bike, we had 2 car seats for the kids, a 2-child stroller, and all our bags. It was a struggle just to fit everything in our car and haul it on the shuttle, through the airports and fit into our rental car in Montreal. For some reason, both our kids don’t seem to like walking on their own in public. So not only did Camille and I need to juggle all the bags, we also needed to somehow carry Caden while trying to convince Iyla to walk on her own, despite her severe “leg pain”.

We arrived to Mont Tremblant after a 2-hour car ride from Montreal on Thursday evening before the race. After getting situated in our rooms, we grabbed a nice Italian dinner and were able to walk around the village. Everything in the village is no more than a 5 minute walk, which is perfect (again, because our children don’t seem to like walking on their own). We grabbed an ice cream before heading back to the room for the night.

Friday was spent with family activities, which are plentiful in Mont Tremblant. We started off with the Ironkids fun run in the pouring rain. Iyla was a trooper and did the 1k run in a downpour. We then rode the luge, which both kids loved. We also took the gondola up to the peak and then hiked over to the observation deck for some pictures. I went for a short run, while the kids relaxed at the hotel in the afternoon and then we went to the Ironman welcome banquet in the evening. While not all races have a welcome banquet, I’m glad that Mont Tremblant had one. The food isn’t the best, but the overall energy of the event is great. It’s amazing to hear all the stories of other athletes and see everyone in one place before the race. After the banquet, we headed over to the VIP reception area for drinks and a great view of the fireworks show Ironman puts on. Overall, the welcome ceremonies were the best of any race I have done.


Saturday was more of an administrative day. I went to the lake for a quick swim in the morning. There was a coffee boat you could swim out to and get a cup of coffee while you held on to the side of the boat. The water was very choppy in the morning. The whole swim was fighting through chop and waves. The rest of the day, I was a bit nauseous and sea-sick from the rough swim. I guess I wasn’t used to open-water-swimming because this was my first since my last race. I took my bike down to the Dimond booth for a quick once-over and then brought it to transition to rack my bike and drop off my bike and run bags in the transition tent. I got a little bit of time, resting in the hotel as the kids played in the room and before dinner. We had dinner reservations at a nice restaurant at the Fairmont, and we ended up being very lucky that the kids behaved so well during dinner. I’m always nervous in restaurants with the kids, expecting a break down at any moment. We’ve been very fortunate though that the kids are usually so well behaved.

My goal was to be in bed, asleep, by 9pm. But since Caden wasn’t in his routine and crib and was sharing a bed with Iyla in the living room area of our hotel room, he was up chatting and talking for a while each night and didn’t want to fall asleep. Plus, 9pm is only 6pm at home, so it was challenging to get myself to sleep on time.

Race Morning

My alarm went off at 4:30am on Sunday. Race start was 6:45am, so I wanted to be eating breakfast at 4:45, two hours in advance. I was lucky we had a hotel suite because I could get ready in the bedroom and bathroom without waking up the kids. I got dressed in my tri suit and clothes and headed down to eat in the hotel breakfast area. The hotel was very accommodating and started serving breakfast early for all the athletes. After some eggs, bacon, banana, a couple pancakes, and lots of (crappy) coffee, I was off on my quick 5-minute walk to the transition area.

I first found my bike in transition and dropped off my 2 bike water bottles and Garmin. I then dropped off another water bottle in my run bag before walking to the swim start by the lake-front. I got to the swim start much earlier than I expected, so I took a seat and sipped on my salted water (I add salt to all the water I drink 3 days before the race) and played on my phone for a while. I got a text from Camille saying she was at the start as well with the kids, so I met up with her to say hi and take pictures. Around 6:15, Camille and the kids made their way to the VIP swim viewing area on the dock and I started to head into the start corral, where I got changed into my wetsuit.

Unfortunately, while standing in the start area, Mike Reilly announced that the race start was going to be delayed 1 hour because of the thick fog over the lake.

After another 45 minutes of waiting around in my wetsuit, the professional men and women started their race, which was fun to watch. After another 15 minutes, the rolling start for the age-groupers finally began. I had seeded myself in the fasted swim group (1 hour), so I was up to the start line within a couple minutes of the start. Ironman had a green-red stoplight setup, where 6 athletes lined up and were released with the green light every few seconds… similar to the meters getting on a busy freeway.


At my green light, I ran from the beach into the water. The water was shallow for a while, so I could run out pretty far before having to dive in. The water was nice and warm at 75 degrees, so no cold-water shock. I began swimming fairly strong from the start. I was lucky that most of the people around me were swimming at about the same pace, so there wasn’t much contact initially.

The swim is on large rectangular loop of 2.4 miles. There was still some thick fog on the water on the swim out to the turn around. Every time I passed a buoy marker, I wasn’t able to see the next marker in the distance because of the fog. I just followed the people around me, hoping they were pointed in the right direction, until I could spot the next marker. This continued for 12 markers until the first turn buoy. Overall, the way out was very uneventful. I tried to catch some feet and draft as much I could. There were the occasional swimmers who just could not swim straight and were all over the place. I think for the most part, I chose a good line and didn’t veer off course too much.

At the halfway point, I looked at my watch and saw I was right on track for a 1-hour swim. I tried to just hold a strong and smooth pace without pushing too hard. On the way back, I would tell some people were getting a bit more antsy and aggressive and there was the occasional contact with others trying to fight for position. During the last few hundred yards, I began to start feeling like I had been swimming for a while, so I was ready to be done with the swim.

The swim finish was at a bird watch area, and I began to be able to tell as the water got thick and smelly. All I could think about, what “please don’t swallow any of the water”. I was ready to get out of the bird-waste filled water ASAP. I finally got to the exit stairs where a couple volunteers grabbed my hands and pulled me out of the water. I got up the stairs and managed to get the top off my wetsuit surprisingly fast. I ran to the wetsuit strippers and jumped on the ground, as they pulled the suit off my legs and pulled me back to my feet. There was a long, quarter-mile run from the swim exit to the changing tent. At least it was carpeted, and lined with people cheering.

Swim Time: 1:00:47


After putting on my helmet and bike shoes, I was running off to find my bike. I hopped on at the mount line and was off and pedaling. The first thing I noticed, because it’s the first thing I look at, is my power wasn’t showing up. For some reason my power meter wasn’t recognized. After disabling/enabling it in my Garmin, it still wasn’t working. Great. I’m a very numbers-driven person and do all my bike riding paced off of my power data. Power is really the only thing I look at my entire bike ride, on every ride I do. After a few minutes of panic, I soon realized that this may be a great opportunity to actually try to ride by feel. I could shed all the pressure of being held to a number and instead, just focus on riding. It was like being thrown into the stone-age and forced to survive. So, like my ancestors, I was out riding without power and forced to listen to my body for pacing queues.

The first part of the ride is rolling hills and then a bit of a downhill towards the highway. Initially, I was just focused on getting my legs warmed up and getting some fluid in me. I was lucky that I started the swim a bit early because the bike course wasn’t very busy yet and there wasn’t too much passing going on.

The bike course is 2-loops with a long out-and-back section on the highway, followed by a handful of miles of mountain road climbing. The air was still cool, so the blacktop of the highway didn’t feel as bad on the first loop. I didn’t look at the course map in detail before the race, but I knew the general layout, so in my head as I got on the highway, I calculated I probably had about 20 miles of highway riding before the turnaround point. The highway road surface was in perfect condition. Very different from the California roads I’m used to. They seemed almost freshly paved. The highway was mostly some very long rollers. So, it felt like either slightly uphill or slightly downhill most of the time. There were a few sections where I had to get out of aero and stand up to climb and a few faster downhills, where I just tucked into aero and stopped pedaling. My general rule of thumb is to tuck into aero and coast when I get over 35 mph.

What was new for Ironman Mont Tremblant was there were a number of course referees riding bikes on the course. I had heard about it, but it was really amazing when I actually saw it. On the highway, I came across a referee riding a road bike. This guy clearly was a very fit road cyclist because he was really hauling. I had just been passed by a few people who were clearly drafting off each other and I could still see them in the distance. This referee saw them as well and made a huge effort to catch them and give a rider a drafting violation. When I eventually passed the ref, all I could mutter to him was “that was awesome, you’re amazing”. I could never imagine being on a road bike and powering up to a triathlete in full aero gear. He must have been a super-biker. Pretty cool! Overall, I saw a number of drafting violations being handed out, which I was happy about. It makes me feel good to know the rules are being enforced.

On the way back on the highway, I could tell I was sweating a bit more than normal for a morning bike ride. The high humidity was getting to me and I had a constant flow of sweat coming off my face and onto my bike. Eventually, I made it back to the village around mile 40. Then there was the Duplessis section of the ride, which everyone had talked about before the race. This was a long 5-mile section of the course, which had a lot of steep punchy climbs. Overall, I didn’t think it was as bad as everyone made it out to be, but there were some definite steep climbs where I was standing in my lowest gear. I could also feel the humidity a lot in this section. The air felt thick and wet. I could see all the salt stains on my black kit. People riding around me even commented on my salt stains. I looked at my shoulders and it looked like some high school crystal-growing experiment with all the salt buildup on my sleeves.

My nutrition plan was for 300 calories an hour on the bike. I had about 1650 calories with me on the bike from Hammer Perpetuem in one of my bottles (so thick, it was like paste), plus a bar and a gel. For sodium, my plan was for 6760mg of sodium on the bike from Skratch Hyper Hydration and salt pills. This was the hungriest I have ever been in an Ironman bike. Usually, I’m forcing myself to eat by the end, but during this ride, I went through all my calories and was still hungry. So, in the end, I started grabbing Gatorade at aid stations instead of water, so I probably took in an extra 200 or so calories above my plan.

The second loop on the bike was much less exciting. I knew what was ahead, so it was more about focusing on pedaling and not dropping effort too much. On the way back on the highway, my back and feet started getting sore, so I spent more time coasting on the downhills, trying to stretch out my back. I started counting down the miles at mile 90. This is the point in an Ironman where I start getting antsy and uncomfortable.

The second time on Duplessis was slow. I took it pretty easy on the hills because I knew I had a long run coming up. The sweat was really coming down now and I was looking forward to the turnaround and the downhill into transition. Turning back into transition, I tried to tuck on the downhills and get in some “rest”. I was really looking forward to getting off my bike and being upright again.

Headed into transition, I reached down to take off my shoes, as I coasted in on my bike. I immediately cramped in my abs and couldn’t reach down to get my other foot out of my shoe. So I had to really slow down and reach my hands into the air to stretch out my abs. I finally got both feet out of my shoes and soft-pedaled the last hundred meters to the dismount line.

A volunteer grabbed my bike and I ran down the transition area towards the changing tent. I saw Camille and the kids in the stand right above transition, so I was able to wave and say hi as I ran by. They were having a great time, enjoying cotton candy and plush seating.


Bike Time: 5:13:21


After getting on my shoes, visor, glasses and race belt, and a quick potty break, I was off and running. I actually felt better this time running compared to a lot of other races I have done. My pacing goal was a bit slower than other races because I knew how easy it is to slow down at the end, so I decided to start off a bit slower and see what happened.

Right away on the run course there is a steep, punchy climb which crippled me to a crawl. So much for watching my pace. At least the crowd support was great at the beginning. The first 3 miles was a lot of short ups and down, which actually take a lot out of me. We then got on a rec trail, which is a long out and back to the turnaround point at 10k. Of course, the first 10 miles or so, my lower back was throbbing and both of my feet were dead asleep. This is something I now have gotten used to as it happens every race, but it’s horribly uncomfortable and makes it hard to get in a good pace.

On the way out to the first 10k turnaround I could feel some cramping in my body. First, my forearms started twitching, which is a sign the rest of my body will begin cramping soon. Right after that, I got a huge cramp in my hamstring which brought me to an abrupt halt in the path. I stepped to the side and tried to stretch it out. I also had a few mustard packets in my pouch for just the occasion, so I opened up one and took it. That seemed to help as the cramps went away and I was able to start running again. By this time, my pace was way worse than I wanted. This actually took some pressure off to do “well”. I realized my run was going to be slower than I wanted, so I decided to accept it and just enjoy the experience. I ended up cramping a bunch more this lap and had to walk often. I then switched to walking through aid stations and stretching if needed, but tried to run from station to station.

I finally made it back to the village. Running down the hill through the center of village to the halfway point was fun and painful. The crowds were huge, but the downhill just killed my quads. I saw Camille and the kids and briefly stopped for high-fives for the kids. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good for the 13-miles I had already ran. I had been going slow, but I still felt like I had it together.

That “togetherness” quickly changed and the wheels started coming off as I went through those punchy hills again the first few miles of the second loop. At least I was at mile 16. Only 10 more miles. 10 miles feels like a long ways when the wheels are coming off already. As I cramped on the side of the trail again, I could really feel the energy draining quickly. It’s amazing how quickly I can go from feeling “okay” to feeling like death.

I could tell other people were feeling the pain as well. I saw a few people collapsed on the side of the trail, with medics attending to them. Just looking at the faces of other people I pass is a very eye-opening experience. I could see the pain and suffering of everyone. It’s a very hard day. For me, the hardest part of an Ironman run is from mile 16 to mile 20. This is the section where I feel horrible and everything is telling me to stop and I still have over an hour of running left (at least at this pace). After mile 20, things seem to look up. This is where I tell myself I only have a 10k left and I start counting down the miles. A 10k doesn’t seem like that far considering what I have done in training.

For nutrition on the run, I was grabbing a coke and maybe a water at every aid station. I also had a gel at the start of the run and a banana piece somewhere in the middle. But most of my calories were from coke. I would also do ice down my shirt and water on my head every aid station as well, in order to slow down my sweat rate. I also aimed for about 3800mg of sodium during the run, or about 3 salt pills per hour after an initial hit of sodium from Skratch Hyperhydration when I started running.

The last few miles of the run were painful. This is where I know I’m going to finish soon, but it still hurts a lot to get each foot moving. I finally made it back to the village and to the short downhill through the center of town. It feels so good to turn left at the sign which points straight for the second loop and left for the finish shoot. I was giving every little kid that put his hand out a high-five down the shoot, even if this caused my sides and arms to cramp.

As I went up the finish line ramp and across the finish I looked up to the balcony and waved to the kids and Camille. Ironman number 9 was done!

Run Time: 4:17:19

Post Race

The absolute best thing about Ironman branded races is the volunteers. All of them are just amazing. Especially at the finish line where 2 volunteers help every athlete that finishes, by holding then upright and asking questions (I assume to assess their cognitive state) and walking them to wherever they need to be: either food, a seat, or the medical tent.

I took a seat in the food area and just zoned out, looking at the ground for a while. Some athletes were piling plates with food and really chowing down. I wish I could do this. There has never been an Ironman where I finished and wanted anything else in my body. The last thing on my mind was eating. My only thought was, what is the fastest way to get back to the hotel bed and curl into a ball.

I ended up finally getting up and exiting the athlete area. I found Camille in the VIP area which overlooked the finish line. They were serving dinner to all the VIP spectators. I thought about eating, but then quickly had to excuse myself to go back to the hotel to lay in bed. I stayed in bed for a few hours while I had Camille go get my bike and gear. Eventually, I came around and had an insane appetite. Camille went out and got me take-out, which I devoured before a restless night of sleep.

Ironman continues to be a learning experience. It is a ridiculously hard event. Not only is training very challenging, but the race itself really pushes me to my limits. This is the reason I have been drawn to this event over the years. I think it teaches me a lot about myself, my limits, and my motivations. Ironman is about understanding your internal motivations. Being closer to understand what makes me tick helps in all aspects of my life and across all domains I tackle.

However, I continuously think that maybe this event is not for me. I have a crazy high sweat rate, and so I cannot overcome falling behind on hydration in an event this long. When I hit 4-ish percent dehydration, it’s game over and I’m walking with my head down. Maybe I’d be better off at a 70.3 distance where there is more nutrition and hydration flexibility. I have 2 weeks of no exercise after Mont Tremblant to think about this and what adventures are next. Most likely I’ll be back soon for Ironman #10.

2018 Wildflower Experience Weekend Report


It has been 10 years since I raced Wildflower as my first long distance triathlon, so I jumped at the opportunity to race again now that they brought the race back after a year off and there was enough water to actually swim. 10 years ago, I raced Wildflower Long Course and then got married the next weekend. This year, I signed up to race the Long Course as well as the Olympic race on Sunday before going on vacation for our 10-year anniversary. Wildflower would also be our first real camping experience with the kids. We bought a giant 10-person tent which was almost the size of our living room. We decided to be fairly minimal on the camping food. We didn’t bring a stove, only snacks and some breakfast items. The festival area was supposed to have a number of food vendors, so we figured we could just buy food we needed when we were there and not worry about packing the camp-kitchen.

The great thing about Lake San Antonio, is it’s only an hour and a half drive from home. Even so, the kids started complaining about the long car ride after about 15 minutes on the road. I think it took more time to pack up the truck than to actually drive to the campsite. The Triathlon Club of Monterey had a few sites and had saved us a nice large spot, where we setup camp. Holy moly was it hot though. I was dripping wet setting up the tent as it was in the upper 80’s when we arrived in the late afternoon on Friday. I knew I was in for a tough race in the heat.

The rest of Friday was spent doing athlete check-in and then walking the festival. I’d say, the biggest downside to Wildflower is the mile walk from the camping area to the festival area. A mile doesn’t sound like much, but it’s on a dirt trail, down a huge hill. Pushing a stroller with 2 kids makes for an epic journey each time. At least they had a nice kids playground in the middle of the venue which the kids loved. Even the food selection was pretty good for such a remote race. They had beer, wine, a variety of food vendors, with some healthy options, and even coffee and ice cream vendors. Plus there was a constant rotation of bands on stage during the whole weekend for a fun soundtrack for the day.

After a couple meltdowns, a couple liters of sweat and some cursing, we finally pushed the stroller full of kids up the sandy hill and back to camp for the evening. The rest of the night was spent relaxing and making some s’mores by the campfire.

Long Course Morning

I’m not sure if it was good or bad, but the race didn’t start till 8am, and my wave didn’t go off till 8:25am. This was a very late race start compared to what I am used to. The downside was, it would be a hot day, with the run ending right in the middle of the day. But at least I got to sleep in, which was needed after not the best night sleeping on the ground with the kids. I snuck out of the tent and ate some granola, banana and nut butter for breakfast at 6:30. The whole campground was coming alive with athletes getting ready and heading down to the start. I took my time getting ready and helped wake up the kids, who didn’t want to seem to get out of bed. For some reason the kids hate getting into bed, but never want to get out of bed in the morning.

I grabbed my backpack full of gear and rode my bike down the huge hill to transition. It was actually pretty fun to ride down that hill at 35mph in flip flops and a t-shirt. Poor Camille was stuck making the trek with the kids alone with the stroller. Transition was pretty well organized and everything went fairly smoothly. I setup my transition space, got body marked, and spent the last hour just hanging out watching the swim start area. I finally got my wetsuit on, grabbed my goggles and cap and started walking down the boat ramp to find my wave start group. 5 minutes before our wave start time, they let us all in the water to do a quick swim warm up. I don’t think I’ve ever warm up for a race, so I just waded in the water and splashed it on my face to help with the shock of water. The day was already heating up and I was beginning to sweat in my wetsuit standing in the sun.


When the cannon went off, I ran the 10 feet into the water and dove in. There was a 20 meter swim out the boat launch and then a left turn to the first buoy. I tried swimming pretty hard the first couple hundred meters and then slowed down to a more manageable pace. It seemed like our age group spread out pretty fast, with a group of fast swimmers going out in front of me, that I wasn’t able to keep up with. The first quarter of the swim was fairly uneventful. I tried to swim pretty hard, but also wanted to slow down and save something for that tough bike and run coming up. As I got closer to the turnaround buoys, we started running into the back of the women’s age group that went off ahead of us. This took a lot more energy because I needed to sight every few strokes to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone. Then, I had to plan my path around groups of swimmers I was going to pass. After the turnaround, I was still feeling good and trying to stay on a strong pace. I picked a line closer to the buoys for the way back because there seemed to be fewer swimmers there. As I got closer to the last turn buoy, I started to get into the back of the next group of swimmers from a couple waves ahead. This got a bit dicey and there were people doing backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke, and anything else you could imagine. One day, I’m not going to be shocked to see someone doing butterfly the wrong way on the course.

I guess I should have looked at a map of the swim course because I didn’t realize I had to go around the right side of the final buoy, even though we had to stay to the left of all the other buoys up to the end. So I had to make a major adjustment to go around the last buoy on the correct side before lining up for the exit ramp. After one last push for another hundred yards, I finally hit my hand of the boat ramp as my queue to push my body upright and start running out of the water. The “run” up the long boat ramp was tough. It felt slower than a walk and I was getting passed by people just hauling up the incline. I tried my best to keep my heart rate low, but it was pretty discouraging to get passed by so many people. I finally made it back to transition and got my wetsuit off. In bending over to put on my socks, my stomach started cramping and I just laid down on the asphalt for a few seconds to stretch out and try to get my socks on again. So much for a quick transition. At least no one expects me to be fast. I wish someone got a picture of me just laying out in the middle of transition with my hands above my head and one sock halfway on.

Swim Time: 30:31


After fumbling to get my feet in my shoes, I was finally on my bike. The first couple miles are just beat up asphalt around the lake, but it was an opportunity to rest a bit and try to get my heart rate down. Then came the nice climb up from the lake in my “granny” gear getting passed my tons of people. After the climb, I was finally able to get into my aero bars and try to get into a mental cadence as we made our way out of the park and to the main road.

Out of the main road, there were still a number of punch climbs and quick, fast descents. It certainly kept life interesting because it was a mix of “granny” gear climbing, out of the saddle and then fast, aero downhills at 40+ mph. This type of riding seemed to just repeat the first quarter of the 56 mile loop. There were still a number of people on the course, so it varied the efforts a bit.

After about mile 25 the road flattened out and there was just a long stretch of road, as far as I could see. I tried to get mentally focused on my power goal, but the roads started getting pretty rough. I was getting bounced around a lot and spending a lot of effort just making sure I wasn’t going to hit any potholes. Luckily, my Dimond bike is pretty good at absorbing some of the little jolts, but it was still hard to just ride and zone out.

My only complaint about the bike course, besides the rough roads was the amount of water handed out at the aid stations. At each aid station, I refill my front BTA with water. Most aid stations were hand filling bike bottles from larger water bottles or a water truck. The problem for me was that most people were only filling the bottles a quarter way up. I assume this made sense to them because most people grab one bottle, take a few sips, and then toss the bottle before the end of the aid station. So it seemed smart to not fill them up all the way and waste all that precious water. But for me, I needed all that water. So each aid station, I had to slow way down in order to grab 2-3 bottles. Every now and then I was lucky and someone had a full bottle, but for the most part, it was tough to take on the water I needed between aid stations.

My goal was to do 2 water bottles an hour since it was such a warm day. I also did 300 calories an hour from a nutrition bottle I had on my down tube. As the ride went on and I began to feel the heat, I also had to use some water to spray on my neck and back to stay cool and slow my sweat rate down.

Finally, I made it to the bottom of Nasty Grade. Just one long long climb up the mountain and 15 more miles and I can get off this bike. Nasty Grade is pretty self-explanatory… it’s long and slow. I tried to take it easy and not raise my power too much, which is hard when you’re grinding in your smallest gear. By about half way, my head was just baking in my aero helmet. Not air flow combined with no vents in a helmet is no fun. I think the name Nasty Grade may come from that plateau at the top of the climb where you think you’re done and then you make a right turn just to see another giant climb ahead. Nothing like a false-summit to put a smile on your face. A smile that says “this is a silly sport”.

After Nasty Grade there is a long and very fast decent back towards the lake. I started to get a bit uncomfortable at over 45 mph with a disc wheel, not knowing if there will be a gust of wind around the corner. After a few more admin miles, I finally made it back to the park and towards the lake. Another couple rollers and I would be off the bike. My power was dropping a bit, but overall, I was at about my goal of 240 watts normalized power, which was conservative enough to leave some in the tank for the run.

After a nice rest down the hill to the lake, I was into transition and putting on my run shoes, hat, glasses and number belt.

Bike Time: 2:47:29, 223 AP, 237 NP


Right away on the run, there is a fun staircase to run up. Well, I kind of walked up, because I was tired already. I ran by a lady who seemed to be overly enthusiastic about cheering me on… maybe because of my cool neon socks. I smiled nicely and continued to run by before I realized that nice lady was Camille and the kids. So I had to run back to kiss and high-five them all. Nothing like running backwards in a race.

Most of the run is on dirt trails around the lake. Right away, I had to walk all the punchy little hills. I just didn’t have it in me to run up these short steep dirt hills. At least there were a lot of other people walking them too. My lower back was also throbbing. Usually, I have time off the bike to stretch out my back a bit. The run course here didn’t allow me to do that. Some hills during the first 4 miles, I even walked backwards just to give my lower back a rest.

Walking the hills was discouraging, but most people were doing it, so it actually allowed time for a bit of talking and joking around with some of the other racers. The course was very packed. There was a 10-mile trail run going on at the same time on the same course, so there were a lot people to go around during most of the race.

At this time, the sun was directly overhead, and there was very limited shade and it was in the upper 80’s. It was getting tough. Each aid station, I had to dump 2-3 water cups over my head and back to stay cool. My shoes were squishy with water.

After about mile 9, I actually started to feel much better than the first 4-5 miles of the run. I was able to find a bit of rhythm and my back had loosened up, so I couldn’t feel it anymore. I think that made all the difference in the world. Without back pain, I was able to slowly run up the hills. My pace was still slow, but I knew it was a slow course overall.

I finally made it back to the paved road section of the course and then hit the long downhill to the pit. I had totally forgotten about this section from the 10-years prior, when I very distinctly remember walking the uphill out of the pit feeling miserable. At the turnaround, there was the final 1.5 mile climb out of the pit. At least I would be close to the finish once up this hill. Luckily I was still feeling good and was able to slowly run up the whole hill and keep going at a good pace. After the final run through the campground there was a long .75-mile section of super steep, quad pounding downhill to the finish. I tried to keep the downhill run under control. It actually felt great to stretch my legs out, even though I was nervous my quads would just cramp any second. After the downhill, there was just the finisher’s shoot left. I pushed hard for the last minute of running before crossing the line.

Run Time: 1:50:03


I forgot how tough the Wildflower Long Course is. Definitely the hardest course of this distance I have done. That run is just brutal. I’ve never seen so many people walking in a race. I was happy to finish 7thin my age group at a race which is just hot and hard and draws a talented group of athletes.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the festival, eating food and watching the kids climb on the pay structure.

The hard part about Wildflower camping are the logistics of getting your bike out of transition and back up that hill to the campgrounds. That’s a whole effort on its own and really finished me off for the day. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the triathlon club group. They even brought in a pizza oven on a trailer, which was a huge highlight for everyone, especially the kids.

I had to spend some time cleaning and drying my gear off and getting ready for the race on Sunday. While the rest of Wildflower was out partying, dancing, and listening to the DJ, I was in bed early at 9pm with my earplugs like an old man.

Olympic Morning

No alarm clock for Sunday. A 9:25am race start gave me lots of down time in the morning. I purposefully tried to move as slow as I could. I was still fairly stiff and tight from racing the day before, so I wasn’t optimistic about a good race. My goal was just to go out and cruise. It was going to be another warm day, and 2 days of going hard in the heat didn’t sound very exciting.

I finally road my bike down to transition and set everything up the same as the day before. Except today, I had another hour and a half before the race start. So I just found a place to watch the sprint race which was going on before the Olympic start. I also ran into an old friend who I used to swim with maybe 20 years ago who was also racing in my age group. That added a bit of pressure to swim a bit faster.


After a long and slow morning, I was anxious to get started. For some reason, even though I thought I would just go easy all race, I lined up in the front line at the swim start. So when the cannon went off I was forced to run in hard start swimming hard. Right away, I saw my friend Steven take off like a bullet to lead the group. I tried to follow behind him, but wasn’t able to hold on. I fell off the back of his feet and tried to find a more reasonable tempo for the rest of the swim.

There seemed to be a lot less people in the water than the day before. But the swimming abilities of the athletes seemed to be a bit more varied. So almost immediately, I ran into the back of the next age groups and tried to get around the varying strokes and techniques of the swimmers.

The swim went by slower than I originally thought. A 20-minute swim seems fast, until you have raced the day before and spent all weekend in the sun. I felt somewhat motivated to go hard because I could tell I was 2ndor 3rd. Back at the boat ramp, I got out of the water and tackled the long climb up to the transition area.

Swim Time: 23:18


They didn’t joke around on this bike course. Right out of transition there was a huge “granny” gear climb away from the lake. Nice and slow. On the ride out of the park and onto the main road, I again tried to find my cadence. My bento box had been making a ton of rattling noises this whole time, and all of a sudden a screw came loose and the bento started flapping around and hitting me in the legs. I had to slow down and slowly unscrew the last screw with my fingers. I finally was able to get the bento off my bike and a threw it into the bushes. Finally, I was able to settle down and try to sort out my power, $50 dollars lighter from my tossed bento (which I was able to find in the bushes as we were driving home).

I didn’t really have any pacing goal for this race. I knew I should be able to hit a higher power goal than the day before because of the much shorter course, but the power really wasn’t there. I ended up finding a rhythm at about the same power as the day before. Today’s crowd was definitely a lot younger. It seemed to be mostly college kids out on the road. Again, I felt like an old man. Other riders were a lot more aggressive on some of the climbs too. People would fly by me on the climbs only for me to pass them later on the descents.

I had the expectation of a very short ride, which made it seem to last longer than I expected. The turn-around at mile 12 did come fairly fast, even with all the hills on the course. I didn’t feel like I spent much time on the aero bars because I was either climbing or tucked into aero on a downhill. I just tried to drink water when I could. I didn’t really plan out my nutrition because the course is so short. I just took 150 calories of sports drink on my bike and did the rest water.

I was starting to get a bit stiff on the way back, but I was having a good time. Short course racing could be a lot of fun. Just go out and push. Before I knew it, I was back at the lake and flying down the hill towards transition.

Bike Time: 1:15:24, 233 AP, 245 NP


I think I actually had a fast transition. I didn’t even notice putting on sopping wet shoes from the day before. Back to the same few miles of running as the day before, but without back pain. I still had to walk some of those first couple hills though. I also think I walked every aid station. I thought it was odd that I was walking so much on a 10k run. For a 10k, I should be pretty much running as hard as I could, but there I was walking parts of the course. Just shows you how challenging this race was. Even the college kids were walking, which made me feel a lot better.

At mile 4 there is the same long, mile-or-so climb, which I had to grind out again. At least I was able to run up. I was tired, but still feeling good. Mostly I was motivated because I knew I was in the top handful in my age-group. I didn’t see many people pass me on the bike and I had passed some back on the run.

On the last long downhill I tried to go as fast as I could just in case someone was sneaking up behind me. I sprinted all out down the finishers shoot, hoping not to pull a hamstring.

Run Time: 46:41


I was pretty happy with 3rdplace in my age-group in a race I didn’t really plan on racing. It’s been a long time since I’ve done an Olympic race, and I can see how hard they can be if you really want to go fast.

One thing that was unfortunate is that my timing chip didn’t work at all, so I didn’t know my time or place until days later. I had an idea, based off my gps times, but nothing official until mid-week.

Wildflower lived up to the expectation of a very challenging and hot race. It was a great atmosphere and lots to do and see for the whole family. The race organizers did a great job making the event feel like a festival, and not just a triathlon. Plus, it’s so close to home, it works out well logistically. Wildflower will be a top contender as a go-to race every year if I feel the need to continue the suffering.

2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report


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.


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


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


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


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 Santa Rosa Race Report


Ironman Santa Rosa was just on the heels of Ironman Boulder, so I didn’t have a lot of time to train between the two races. I was hopeful that I would be able to carry over most of my fitness from my Boulder training into Santa Rosa. While Boulder had the elevation, Santa Rosa had the potential to be a very hot race. So starting 2.5 weeks out from Santa Rosa, I began sauna sessions as often as I could in the mornings or after workouts. For me, the challenge with sauna sessions, is it leaves me somewhat dehydrated all the time. Even taking in extra water and salt throughout the day, I was still short on overall water (based on weight), which I was trying not to have affect my workouts.

Two weeks out from Santa Rosa I had my normal race rehearsal which is a 1.5 hour swim, 5 hour bike and 2 hour run, with a few hours between each session to eat a meal and relax. I had a great swim and bike, but came back from the bike a few pound underweight, which put me in a bad spot for the run. I ended up only running about an hour and giving up on the rest of the run because I was too dehydrated to continue. Not a good thing, but at least a reminder of what happens when you run low on water in the body. So I didn’t have that extra confidence going into Santa Rosa, especially when the weather was calling for 90’s temps.

Since race day was Saturday, I only had Friday for athlete check-in and bike and gear check-in. Saturday morning, I got out on a quick 20 minute run in the morning. It was still a bit warm for my liking and I came back drenched in sweat, like I had jumped in a pool. At least the forecast was now calling for only low 80’s on race-day, which is much more manageable than 90’s. We went down to the expo for check-in and the athlete briefing. In the meeting, they said that the water temp was measured at 76.4 degrees, which meant, most likely no wetsuits for the swim. Good thing I had brought my swimskin just in case. Hopefully it still fit.

While the expo and T2 was downtown Santa Rosa, the swim and T1 was almost an hour drive away. No way did I want to spend another 2 hours in the car just to drop off my bike in T1 on Friday before the race. TriBike Transport offered their bike shuttle service for only $40, where they would take your bike to T1 and rack it for you. Best deal ever!

The rest of Friday was spent relaxing at the hotel pool with the family. Instead of going out to dinner, we decided to just order in to the hotel room and let the kids run around a bit. I’m always happy to stay in and relax, especially the day before a race.

Race Morning

It seems races are starting earlier and earlier. Ironman Santa Rosa had a 6:10am race start. There was no professional field this race, so age-groupers would be the first in the water. So my alarm went off at 3am! My earliest race morning to date. Since I didn’t want to wake the kids, I snuck into the bathroom to get dressed. I grabbed all my bags, which were already laid out and headed to the hotel lobby for coffee and breakfast.

Breakfast was the usual granola and a banana with chocolate hazelnut spread. I wasn’t super hungry since it was so early, but I tried to force it down. I met up with my friends, Chuck and Rob, who were also staying in the same hotel at 3:45am for the 15 minute walk to the busses. After dropping off my bike special needs bag (extra tube and CO2), we got on the bus for the hour ride to the lake.

It was still dark when we got off the busses and into transition. Even though I thought we were one of the first busses to get there, it was still pretty crowded with people who had driven themselves. I found my bike and was happy to see it made it to the rack without me. I added my nutrition and water and synced up my Garmin bike computer. I also dropped off my bike gear bag with my helmet, shoes and socks inside.

Mike Riley came on the loudspeaker and announced the morning water temperature was exactly 76.1 degrees, so it would be a wetsuit legal race. I couldn’t believe it. No way did the lake water temperature drop to exactly the cut-off temperature in 1 day. Leave it to Ironman to find the one spot in the lake which was probably 76.1 to make most of the athletes happy to use wetsuits. So much for my edge in the swim. And good thing I brought my wetsuit just in case.

After putting on my wetsuit, I dropped off my morning clothes bag and walked with Chuck down the boat ramp to the swim start. We found a spot in line right before the 1:10 swim time marker, which was a bit farther back than I wanted, but seemed like a good spot to be.


Since we were a few minutes back in line, it was a slow start after the cannon went off. I slowly inched my way with the masses of people down the rest of the boat ramp. I finally got to the edge of the water and kind of stood there looking for the timing mat, so I could know when I could start my watch and begin my long day of effort. I looked back and saw I had already crossed the timing mat. Shoot, why was I just standing here then. I tried my best to rush a bit fast into the water and then just did an awkward flop into the water as if I was trying to keep my hair dry.

Right away, it was hard to see the buoys with all the people, so I tried to do my best to just keep moving forward. I was a bit faster than most of the people I started with, so I just tried to make it around other swimmers as I made my way to the first turn buoy, which was only a couple hundred yards from the boat ramp. After the first turn, we had a long straight away. I ended up a bit farther out from the buoy line, just to avoid running in to people. That first section was still crowded and it took some extra effort and extra sighting to stay straight. I made to around another couple buoys and then headed back to the boat ramp. The sun was just coming up over the dam and right in my eyes, and it was hard to see the buoys at all. I just found a spot on the bridge to sight with. I was still passing people every now and then, and it seemed like it took some extra effort to get around people and fight for my spot.

I finally made it back to the dock, ran out of the water and then back in to the water for my second lap. That’s when things just got nuts. Right away on the second lap, I was running into swimmers that just had gotten into the water on their first lap. It was a nightmare. It felt like a washing machine of people I just couldn’t get around. There were people doing all kinds of things: backstroke, breaststroke, just sitting there treading water. I’ve never seen such a large group of people, not really swimming. I don’t mind slow swimmers, because usually they are predictable in their stroke, so I can make it around reasonably easily. But when swimmers just decide to stop swimming and rest, or to start a breast-stroking with a wide kick, then they are not predictable and it gets really dangerous.

The whole second loop was like this. Outside of Kona, this was my hardest swim because of all the contact. I had to sight almost every other stroke to avoid running into people who were just stopping all the time. I got kicked in the ribs a couple times by some breast-stokers. It was a real mess to try to swim though the back-of-the-pack swim group.

I finally made it back to the start/finish and out of the water. I quickly pulled the top of my wetsuit down as I ran to the wetsuit strippers. After I got my wetsuit stripped, I started the long and slow jog up the quarter-mile long boat ramp and into T1.

Swim Time: 1:02:39


After my predictably slow transition time, I made it to my bike and then ran to the mount line. The bike started with a short little climb before a long 2-mile decent away from the lake. The first downhill was a nice way to settle into a lower heart rate after such a long run through transition. I was able to tuck into an aero position and pass a handful of people right away.

The first sections of the bike course were great, there were some rolling hills through the wine country-side. I prefer rolling hills to just flat roads, as the variability feels nice and I have a couple opportunities to stand out of the saddle to stretch a bit. The temperature was still pretty cool, so I took the opportunity to stay up on my fluid and take in some of the nice views of wine country. The course also got pretty empty. There were times I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me and I got a bit worried I was still on the course. Every now and then I got a glimpse of an aero helmet way in the distance, so I knew I was still on the right road.

My power was also doing really well during the first half of the course. I was well above my power goal and was feeling pretty strong. I also tried to stay up on my calorie intake. My goal was to try for 300 calories per hour, but I would be okay with reducing that towards the end of the bike if it warmed up too much or if I wasn’t feeling it. I also was doing 3 salt pills per hour (2 at the top of the hour and 1 at the bottom) to keep up on my sodium intake while taking in straight water from aid stations.

We finally got to an out-and-back section of the course and I could see a large group of fast riders where a few minutes in front of me. And then behind me by another couple minutes were just a ton of riders. So I was pretty happy with my position since I didn’t have to worry about anyone around me. If I could just keep on my power, I could really ride my own race.

After about 40 miles, most of the nice scenery was gone and I was beginning to feel a bit bored and tired. I was looking forward to mile 66 when I knew I’d go through transition and see the family and maybe get a little more energized. After about 60 miles, I finally made it back into Santa Rosa and on to city streets. The course still seemed empty, but I liked the change of scenery. There was quite a bit of turns and corners as we moved through the city streets. Mile 66 finally came and I rode through the transition area and waved to Camille and the kids as I started the looped section of the course.

After mile 66 the rest of the course was 2 loops around Santa Rosa city streets. The first part of the loop was actually on a nice road with a bit of rollers. But then we were turned off the nicely paved road and onto some horrible side streets with just nasty roads. There was one road which was just littered with potholes and ruts. The road was also open to car traffic, so not only did we have to avoid all the huge potholes, but also do that while watching for car traffic. There were times I thought for sure I was going to snap something on my bike, I was being rattled so much.

After what seemed like a long and tiring loop, I made it back to the transition area to wave again to Camille and the kids and begin my second and final loop. This time, it was starting to warm up a bit, so I tried to spray water on my neck and back whenever I could. The course was also pretty crowded the second time around with riders on their first lap. It took more energy to watch out for other riders, but at least I was able to slingshot around riders one at a time and make some good forward gains.

At this point, I was really ready to get off the bike as I was getting more and more uncomfortable. The second round of pothole roads really took its toll on me. I didn’t even try to stay aero, I just sat up and tried to protect myself from the jolting as much as possible.

I finally made it back towards transition and was able to hobble off the bike and into the change tent.

Bike Time: 4:56:53, 221 Normalized/216 Average Power


Camille had told me that I was 3rd off the bike, but I had assumed I lost a couple places with my long transition time. Also, right away on the run, I could tell I was a bit low on energy. I wasn’t feeling bad, but I didn’t have a lot of extra energy to get moving fast. So I settled into what felt like a good pace, but was actually much slower than I wanted. Even at the first aid station, only a couple hundred yards into the run, I had to walk to get ice and water. This was my first race using a handkerchief around my neck to keep cool. It had a pouch sewn into it to hold ice, but it took some extra time at the aid stations to fill it with ice before tying it around my neck.

The run course is 3 loops along a recreation trail. The way out has a slight downhill on hard dirt path and the way back is a slight uphill on concrete. I actually liked the layout because 3 loops is pretty easy for me mentally to handle. There was also some shade from the trees, which kept some of the sun off, which made a huge difference. I started the run around 12:30, so the sun was directly overhead most of the run, so I still got hit with a good amount of heat and sun exposure, which I think slowed me down.

After a couple miles, I got passed by my friend Adam, who I knew had come off the bike right behind me. He looked really strong and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep pace with him. All I could do was settle into what seemed like a manageable pace and hope I could keep it going.

The first loop came and went pretty fast. I made it back to transition, where I said hi to Camille and the kids. I was somewhat frustrated at my slow pace, but at this point in the race I just wanted to keep going and get to the finish no matter how that happened. I was walking every aid station to get in enough water and ice. Even though I didn’t like the idea of walking, it seemed to help mentally, so I kept it up.

The second loop, was pretty tough for me. At mile 13, I was pretty happy I was halfway done. I wasn’t feeling that bad, but I was pretty low on energy. I felt drained. I was taking coke at every aid station along with water. I also did 1-2 waters on my head and ice down my front or in my neck scarf. For salt, I was taking 2 pills every 30 minutes.

At the far end of the second lap, I took a HotShot, which I’ve used before. I just have never in the middle of the run. It’s a spicy-sweet mix of sugar and capsaicin spice. Bad idea. About 5 minutes later I felt nauseous and had to walk for a few minutes. I was finally able to muster he energy to keep running even though my stomach wasn’t too happy.

After passing Camille and the kids again a little after 16 miles, I started to get a little motivation back. The nausea had finally gone away and I was happy to only have 8-ish more miles. My pace was still around 8:30 when I was running and with the walking at the aid stations, was hovering at an 8:40 average… one of my slowest Ironman runs. But I was actually pretty happy I was holding this pace the entire run. So I wasn’t slowing down too much, I just wasn’t able to go fast.

I finally made it to the turn around on my third and final lap. Only 5 more miles and I was done. I could run 5 miles no matter how horrible I felt. I was counting down the miles from then on. It’s a great feeling to see mile markers above 20.

The last mile seemed to go on forever. There were a number of twists and corners around the downtown area that just kept coming and coming. I could hear the finish line, but it took forever to get to the finish shoot. It’s always a great feeling and emotional to run down the carpet of the finishers shoot. It was great to hear Mike Riley say “…and from Monterey, father of 2 and full-time engineer, Mark Reith. You are an Ironman Mark!” He sure is good at making everyone feel special.

Run Time: 3:44:09

Race Time: 9:56:56, 7th Place Male 35-39


Even though I didn’t have the run I wanted, I was still very pleased I got 7th in my age group (and missed Kona by 1 spot). I’m very happy I have the ability to keep moving even when not feeling the best. I did have a good swim considering the conditions and a very solid bike time. I seem to be turning into a good cyclist (maybe at the expense of my run). I’m also happy I was able to improve on my Boulder performance and get a bit of redemption.

I’m happy this is my last full Ironman of the year (as I’m pretty beat). Only 70.3 World Championships next.

On to Napa and spending time with family and friends with good food and good wine.

2017 Ironman Boulder Race Report


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.


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


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


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


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.

What’s with the hair

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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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


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



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).


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.



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.


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.


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


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


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


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).


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.