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).

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-18-42-22

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.

 

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-04-52

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-18-46-08

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-27-20

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

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-18-57-07

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

hefei-swim

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

hefei-bike

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).

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-18-49-46

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

hefei-run

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

Thoughts

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

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

Post Race

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

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

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

Back to Beijing – Monday

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

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

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

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

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-13-43

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-25-27

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-30-17

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-32-08

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.

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-40-20

phototasticcollage-2016-10-25-19-42-15

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

 

2016 IM Lake Placid Race Report

Pre-Race

Getting to Lake Placid was a journey in itself. I was a bit worried how the kids would handle the trip, but it ended up being a lot smoother than I thought. Our journey started on the Tuesday night before the race with a drive to a hotel near SFO. Then, on Wednesday morning we had a 6am flight to JFK followed by a 2 hour car ride to Poughkeepsie, NY, where we had another hotel for the night to break up the trip. Thursday morning, we finally made the 3 hour drive the rest of the way to Lake Placid. That’s a lot of travel with 2 kids, a giant stroller, and my bike (or my 3rd child as I often refer to it as). I was definitely pretty wiped by the time we arrived to our hotel in Lake Placid on Thursday afternoon. At least on Thursday all I had to do was the athlete check-in and put my bike back together.IMG_9582

Friday before the race, I started the day with a quick, 45 minute ride to check out my bike. This is where I first got sense of how hilly the bike course was going to be. We also had Iyla do the quarter mile kid’s fun run as her first ever race.IMG_9162 She did cry half the run though. After the race, we went on a boat tour of Lake Placid right before grabbing causal pizza to eat at the park during the Ironman opening ceremony.IMG_9874

Saturday, I ended up naturally waking up early and then went down to Mirror Lake for a 30 minute, 1-lap swim around the swim course. The water was super warm and the lake was flat, which was a great way to start the morning. Camille ended up doing a stand-up-paddleboard yoga class while I played with the kids in the park. I then gathered my bike and run gear and made my way down to bike check to drop off my bike and gear bags in transition. After lunch at the beach we took a taxi to our next activity which was pedal rail cars. This is basically like a paddle boat or 4-person bicycle, but on a rail car. You have a 2 or 4 person rail car you need to pedal down a 7 mile rail track. IMG_9732This was probably not the best thing to do the day before an Ironman. It’s basically like doing a 2 hour bike ride in the heat (or in our case rain and hail). It was a really pretty way to see the lakes and forest, but it did start hailing marble sized pieces of ice, in addition to pouring rain, which made for an exciting (and painful) experience. After getting cleaned up and dried off we had our pre-race dinner at a small Italian restaurant. Camille took the kids out after dinner so I could relax a bit in the hotel room and get my stuff setup for the morning. She also put both kids in the hotel bed and gave me the pull-out sofa in the living room, so I could attempt a better night sleep on my own.

Race Morning

My alarm went off at 4:30am. Pretty painful considering I wasn’t exactly used to East coast time yet. But I did get decent sleep considering race nerves, jet lag, a very uncomfortable pullout bed and 2 kids nearby. Luckily our hotel room had a fridge and microwave. So I immediately zapped my coffee in the microwave to warm it up and started making breakfast. I had a couple bowls of granola with milk and a banana with chocolate hazelnut spread. This was a pretty indulgent breakfast which I really enjoyed.

I got dressed in my race kit and gathered my bike bottles and made my way to the lobby to meet Chuck for the 8 minute walk down to transition. I got to my bike and pumped up the tires, put my nutrition and water bottle on the bike and clipped in my shoes. They make you leave your morning clothes bag in transition, so I needed to change into my wetsuit and lather up with body glide before the walk to swim start.IMG_9405

Swim start was a zoo. Lots of athletes and spectators. I tried to hang around the gate they would eventually open in order to get a good spot in line. IMG_9386The swim was a rolling start and was self-seeding, so you were supposed to seed yourself in line based on your swim time. I wanted to make sure I got close to the front with the 1 hour swimmers so I could have a better opportunity for less chaos once I got on the bike course.IMG_9374

I eventually found Camille and the kids who were hanging out in the VIP swim viewing area. We took a few pictures before I took the last few minutes to mentally focus on the effort of the day.

Swim

After the horn went off, I followed the masses of people who were surging towards the swim start timing mat. I ran a few steps in the water before diving in. Right away there was a lot of contact. I really didn’t want to surge my effort too much at the beginning and kept having to remind myself this is a full Ironman and a long day… no point in over-doing it right away.

The swim course is pretty much an out and back in the lake. After loop 1, you run out of the water onto the beach and then back into the water for lap 2. On lap 1, on the way out, I did think there was a lot of contact given that it was a rolling start. I definitely had to fight a bit for my position. It’s really amazing how aggressive and hard everyone can swim given the length of the event. It’s also amazing how at every race there are a handful of people that just randomly swim perpendicular to the course and plow through everyone. I’d be swimming along, and one of these people would just nail me from the side going the wrong way. It’s nuts.

I wasn’t able to get a good line on the first loop. I had to swim way to the left of the buoy line in order avoid people. During the first lap, I also was reminded of how long an Ironman swim is. Coming off Vineman 70.3 just 2 weeks prior, I kept thinking I was doing only 1.2 miles. During the entire swim I was just reminding myself to be conservative and to back off in order to keep my heart rate down.

The first half of the second loop was my favorite part of the swim. I was almost on my own this whole section. I was able to hug the buoys and follow the underwater cable which stretches along the whole swim course. After I hit the turn around on the second loop, things got a little worse as I began to hit the back end of the people on their first lap. This last section, was just dodging people and trying to stay out of everyone’s way, while maintaining as much of a straight line as I could.

I finally made it to the beach after the second loop.73_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_111432-2638607 As I got out of the water, I put my goggles on my forehead and tried to reach my wetsuit strap to strip down the top half. I think I have problems doing 2 things at once, like running and taking off a wetsuit. By the time I got to the wetsuit strippers, I hadn’t gotten anywhere and my wetsuit was still fully on. I had to ask the strippers to help unzip me and strip it down off my torso before jumping to the ground to have them rip it off my legs. If I ever volunteer at an Ironman, it definitely needs to be as a wetsuit stripper. I bet it’s a blast throwing people on the ground and ripping off their very expensive wetsuits.

I even got a quick cramp in my hamstring as I jumped from the ground, got my wetsuit pushed into my arms, and sent on my way towards T1. I tried to run through the cramp and luckily it went away right away (close call). The run from the swim exit to T1 is insanely long. It’s like a quarter mile. And everyone seems to want to run 6 min mile pace here. I got passed by like 5 people on the run in to transition.

In transition, I grabbed my bike bag and ran into the changing tents. The volunteers were really awesome. I sat down at a chair in the changing tent, dumped the contents of my bike bag on the ground and a volunteer picked up my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and put them in the bag for me. I quickly (okay, slowly) put on my socks, helmet and glasses and then ran out of the tent to my bike.

Time: 1:00:39

Placid Swim

Bike

Right out of transition on the bike is a nice downhill through the town. This was really nice because it gave me time to get my heart rate down from the swim and transition and offered a little break before the long ride. The downhill lasted a few moments before the climbing began. The first 8 miles is a long climb. At least the temperature was pretty cool still and my energy was high, so the climb didn’t feel that bad.

After the climb there is a very long decent to the town of Keene. The downhill is really pretty at times, passing streams and lakes. It was nice that the downhill was steep enough that I didn’t even have to pedal much. I tucked into a low aero position and just ripped on that downhill. I hit over 51mph, which I haven’t done since high school (when I was young and stupid). There were definitely a couple of sketchy moments on that downhill though from a couple bursts of wind. Nothing like a little wind and a disc wheel going 50 miles an hour in spandex to get the heart going.10_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_017511-2638544

After we got into Keene, the course seemed to flatten out a lot and I was able to find my pace. I wanted to try to be more aggressive in my pacing at this race to see what happened. I wanted to make sure I had enough in me for the run, but try to push a bit harder on the bike to see if my running would still hold.

I can’t say enough for how pretty the bike course is. It’s really a great tour of the mountains through the forests, streams and lakes. It’s really something amazing. I tried to enjoy the scenery as much as a could while focusing on my power and nutrition.

For the first loop of the bike course, I planned on 300 calories the first hour and 200 each additional hour from UCAN. I also started the bike with a bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration to load with sodium right away. I would also do 4 SaltStick caps per hour with the water I got from aid stations. I tried to hit 1.5 bottles of water per hour at a minimum, but I lost track while riding, so just filled up every aid station and drank as much as I could comfortably. The plan for the second lap was to pick up another bottle of UCAN to continue with 200 calories per hour and also pick up another bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration for another huge dose of sodium. In all, I drank probably 85% of my first bottle of UCAN and 80% of the second bottle, so I did under 200 calories per hour on the bike.

After a bunch of flat and rolling hills on the first loop we had the long climb back up to transition. This was a lot of time just climbing and sweating. At the top of the final climbs there was great crowd support which really helped with the motivation. After almost finishing the first loop I was already starting to feel a bit tired.

I stopped in at Special Needs to grab my extra nutrition and then was off on my second lap. The second lap seemed a bit more monotonous than the first. It was getting a little harder to keep my power numbers as high as the first loop. At the bottom of the first long decent when I was able to really focus on my pace, I started counting down the miles. Ironman really is about managing discomfort (until the end, when you’re managing extreme discomfort). This is where I start setting small goals, like getting from mile 80 to mile 90. And I compare that goal to something I know from home. So, if I only have 10 miles to my next goal, then I tell myself that 10 miles is just like riding from Del Rey Oaks to home (something I do all the time).24_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_045260-2638558

There were a couple sections on the second loop where I really wasn’t around anybody. Sometimes I couldn’t even see anyone in front of me. It was pretty lonely. The last 20 miles really seemed to drag on. My power was still good, but not as good as the first loop and not as good as I wanted it. Plus, it was starting to warm up into the 80’s so it just felt harder to ride hard. The crowd support on the last climb of the second loop also kind of dulled out. I guess even the spectators were getting tired. I also got a big cramp in my left quad on one of the last climbs. This really worried me because you never know what’s going to happen with a cramp, it can really bring things to a halt quickly. I was lucky that a quick massage with my hands made it better.

I finally made my way back to Mirror Lake and to the last couple downhill miles to transition. I was really looking forward to getting off my bike and doing something different (even running). I hopped off my bike at the dismount line, handed my bike to a volunteer and tried to run the best I could to my run bag and changing tent. My feet were super stiff and painful trying to run off the bike, which wasn’t a good sign. I think I limped into transition more than ran.

Time: 5:27:40, 20.51 mph, 203W AP, 214W NP

Placid Bike

Run

Coming out of transition, I had grabbed my last water bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration, for another hit of sodium as I started to run. I tried to drink a few sips from the bottle as I ran, but my stomach wasn’t really sitting well. Right away I was worried about running a marathon in the heat of the day when my stomach just wasn’t right. I also had to pee really bad. I ended up stopping at the second aid station, at about mile 2, to pee, which made my stomach better. I guess my full bladder was what was causing the stomach discomfort.

I started drinking Coke immediately at each aid station. I started feeling a bit better slowly and finally found my Ironman running legs after a few miles. But almost immediately after that, both my feet fell asleep again and it felt like I was running on pins and needles. Since this happens at almost every triathlon, I wasn’t yet worried about this.

The run course is a long 5.5 mile out and back, followed by a short 1 mile out and back section along Mirror Lake. You do this twice. The 5.5 mile out and back section starts with some very steep downhill sections, followed by a long winding and rolling road through the forest. The first 5.5 miles went by pretty quick, because there were lots of new things to see and I just tried to focus on a sustainable effort. The way back got a bit more challenging because there were some hills that really slow you down.

I was lucky that at mile 10, the numbness in my feet went away and I was able to finally feel the ground again. Just in time for the steep climb back to transition. Mile 13 came pretty quickly for me. I was happy how I was feeling half-way through the run, but still nervous about what was to come. I knew the hardest part of the day was still to come and I know how things can change very very fast.51_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_083960-2638585

The second loop of the run really started to zap my energy. The run course was pretty exposed so the sun felt like it was just sucking up any energy I had. I went from feeling okay, to feeling pretty beat up. My eyes went from looking around to just zoning out in a blank stare at the road in front of me. Every aid station, I would still do Coke, maybe some water and then pour water on my head and ice down into my tri suit.

My pace was also slowing more and more and it took a lot more energy just to keep going at a reasonable pace. The second loop was also a lot busier with more and more athletes, a lot of whom were walking or barely running. It’s hard to find the energy to run fast with so many people around you walking.

The last climbs of the second loop were painful. I was really zoned out, but still happy to be close to finishing. For me, during the last parts of an Ironman run, I almost have 2 parts of my body. I have my brain, which, although foggy at times, is always analyzing where I am in the race, what sections are next, how I feel, reminding me to drink, etc. Then I feel like I have a shell of a body, which is just there suffering and taking the brunt of the physical punishment. My brain keeps barking commands to the body and the body just does what it can to handle the effort. It’s a really odd feeling.

27_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_047582-2638561I finally made it to the last 1 mile out and back along Mirror Lake. Right then, my left hamstring cramped up so bad I had to stop. I tried to stretch it for a moment and then started running again, but it quickly cramped so bad I had to stop again. This really worried me. I didn’t want to have to walk the last 2 miles after coming so far. I took another minute or so to really stretch it out. I tried running again and it seemed to hold up pretty good. I think when my brain knows the finish is coming, my body starts shutting down.

The last mile of the course was great. It was a slight downhill to the Olympic Oval and the finish and the crowds were great. I finally made it into the Oval, around the track and to the finish. It’s great to hear Mike Riley say your name and feel that sense of accomplishment.39_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_059665-2638573

62_m-100729084-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1320_098718-2638596

Time: 3:26:35, 7:53/mi pace

Placid Run

Race Time: 10:02:35, 10th Male 30-34, 35th overall

Post-Race

The volunteers at every Ironman are just amazing. Right after crossing the finish line a couple volunteers always help you make it around the finish area and keep you from falling over (which I probably would have done without them). I was able to get a family finisher picture with Camille and the kids and then was handed some pizza and fruit. A volunteer led me to a chair and I just sat there for a while just zoned out. I finally ate a few grapes and drank some water and ended up throwing out the rest of the food as my body wasn’t in the mood for anything.

After every Ironman, my body really just hates me and just wants to curl into a ball on the bed. The hardest part of these races is collecting all your equipment and bike and getting it all back to the hotel room. This race was no different and I had to stop a few times on the walk back to the hotel to throw up. Just awesome.IMG_3247

After sitting in the bathtub at the hotel for a very long time, I finally started feeling a bit better and my appetite was coming back. Sometimes after an Ironman, I don’t start feeling hungry till the middle of the night or even the next day. I felt pretty lucky that I started getting hungry after just a couple hours. We ended up going out to eat and getting a burger at a great place overlooking the run course.IMG_9547

Lake Placid is definitely a hard course, but well worth it for the scenery and support. It seems the town really likes Ironman there and the energy is felt in all the spectators and volunteers. I feel like I put a good effort into the race and hit my swim and bike goals. I think I can still work on a better run, but overall, I’m happy with my performance.

2016 Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Pre-Race

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

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

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

Race Morning

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

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

Swim

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

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

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

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

39_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_038341-2263088

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

vineman swim

Bike

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

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

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

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

10_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_008466-2263059

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

12_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_011627-2263061

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

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

vineman bike

Run

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

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

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

22_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_022288-2263071

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

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

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

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

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

vineman run

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

58_m-100726466-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1357_057980-2263107

Thoughts

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

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

Big Sur Race Report

This year was my fourth time doing the Big Sur International Marathon. There are not many opportunities to run on Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast, so I thought it was time to come back and do this race again after not doing it for 3 years. The last time I raced here, I was pretty much doing only run training, and this year, I am more focused on triathlon, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would go. For my race goals this year, I put BSIM lower on my priority list because I wanted to keep the focus on triathlon, but still have the opportunity to see how my running was coming along. I knew going into the race, I would try to hold a solid pace, but not go out there for a PR or to kill myself chasing a time. I still have a very long season left and I need to figure out a way to maintain fitness and motivation till November.

Race Morning

The BSIM experience starts very very early in the morning. I don’t think I have ever done another race where I have to wake up at 3am and not even start the race till about 4 hour later. If anyone knows me, they know I’ve been a sleep nazi lately. I really love getting a full night’s sleep, and after having a new baby in the last 5 months, I can really appreciate what good sleep can do, and know what bad sleep can do. So I wasn’t super happy when I had to be out of bed at 3am, with not great sleep the night before.
I pretty much had everything ready to go when I got out of bed. I grabbed 2 thermoses of coffee for the trip to the race start and all my stuff and was out the door at 3:20am. Running events are really great, because there isn’t much gear to think about. I pretty much wear everything I need out the door. Just some food, coffee and a sweater and I’m good to go.

I drank my first thermos of coffee on the 30 minute drive to Carmel to get on the yellow school bus for the longer trek to the start line. I pretty much sat quietly during the full hour bus ride to the race start, sipping on coffee and listening to a podcast.IMG_2664 We got to the race start area around 5am, which meant, I was going to be sitting around for almost 2 hours till the race start. I found a spot to sit on the concrete, and pretty much sat there for the rest of the time, drinking coffee and eating my breakfast (and trying to stay warm). My goal was to eat breakfast about 2 hours before the race start. I brought two burritos I made the night before with eggs, sausage, cheese, and avocado. I also started sipping on a Skratch Hyper Hydration about 30 minutes before the race start, just for a quick pre-load of sodium.IMG_2667

The Race

It was odd that given all the waiting I did before the race, I actually barely made it to the start line before the start of the race. There were just so many people trying to make it up to Highway 1 for the start, it was pretty slow going, and I was one of the last people to get in place before the race started. The race start was pretty mellow, with a nice downhill slope. I just kept it somewhat slow and steady and just went with the flow of people.

After the first couple miles, when the race started thinning out and went from 2 lanes down to one lane of highway, I started thinking about pacing. My goal was to be at about a 7:15-7:20 pace for the whole race. A little faster on the downhills and (obviously) slower on the uphills. I actually tried not to look at my watch for pacing queues too often and just go by feel as much as possible. I wanted to look around and enjoy the scenery and not be focused too much on pacing by the number.
At about mile 5, the gradual downhill ended, we started getting out of the trees and on to more open coast. With that, the wind really started picking up. I was really starting to get hit with the headwind and could feel it just holding me back. It was like someone was just pushing at my chest, trying to keep me from running. It was somewhat frustrating at that point, but also expected for this course.

After about 6 miles, I started taking fluid from the aid stations every time I came to one (about every 2 miles). Usually just a cup of Gatorade. The weather was really cool, but I was starting to saturate my shirt with sweat, so I wanted to stay on top of my fluid replacement. The first 10 miles of the race went by very fast. I don’t even remember keeping track of miles, or pace too much.

By mile 10, the wind was getting pretty silly. I felt like I was pushing hard, but not really going anywhere. I tried my best to draft off people, but it wasn’t working too well. I couldn’t really find anyone going at the pace I wanted, so I kind of jumped from person to person to draft, but mostly was on my own.

Mile 9-10 is a nice downhill run in full view of what was ahead, the long 2 mile climb to hurricane point. That climb seems to go on forever. The wind during the last mile of the climb to hurricane point was insane. There were a few times, I almost gave up and started walking because it felt like the wind was pushing me so hard, I wasn’t going any faster than a walk. I know the race is known for its wind, but this was pretty tough. After I hit the top of hurricane point, I knew I had at least passed the hardest part of the course, which was a nice relief. I made the mile decent to Bixby Bridge and the halfway point of the race.

Mile 13-16 was fairly uneventful. I continued to try to enjoy the scenery and to spend time looking around and the amazing views. I still took Gatorade every aid station. Mile 16, was the point I started to get a bit tired. 16 miles was the longest training run I had done (the weekend before), so mentally, my brain started focusing on miles to the finish after this point in the race. From there, I had to make smaller mental goals so I could focus on hitting those and not focus on the entire distance. My first goal, was to keep pace till mile 20. Mile 20 was only 4 more miles, which is pretty easy to do and I knew, once I hit mile 20, I’d only have 6 miles, and 6 miles seems pretty short. At mile 20, I set a new goal, of making it to mile 23. I can run another 3 miles, no problem…. And then I’d only have 3 more miles to go.

By mile 22 or 23, it was still pretty cool outside, but my shirt was soaked, my shorts were soaked, and the sweat was starting to soak my socks, which is no fun. I know from experience, that once my socks are fully wet, it’s only a matter of time before the blisters start, and then I can get myself into a very unpleasant situation. I still was only doing a small cup of Gatorade at most aid stations. I didn’t feel the need for any other nutrition, so I didn’t take any food (although the strawberries at the aid station around mile 23-24 looked pretty good).

The last few miles, the course was pretty busy from all the walkers doing the other race distances. It kind of became an obstacle course. I think there were a couple times I almost ran into people. I noticed this year, that most walkers had headphones and/or were busy on their phones or taking pics with their phones. It seemed a lot of people weren’t paying attention to where they were going or who was running up behind them. I guess that’s the world we live in now, where we have to dodge people who are on their phones and not paying attention.IMG_2686

The last mile was pretty fun and I tried to speed up a bit for a strong finish. I was still feeling pretty good energy-wise, but my legs were pretty beat up. I sprinted across the line, and was happy to be able to stop and walk.

Overall, I had a great race and was pretty happy with hitting my goals. It’s kind of crazy how hard running is on my body. Those long road miles just really beat me up. I can’t believe I’ve done that distance of a run after a 112 mile bike ride. It’s really just mind blowing.

Time: 3:12:54, 7:21 min/mile, 11th Male 30-34

IMG_2671

2016 Ironman Oceanside 70.3 Report

Pre-Race:IMG_2610

Leading up to Oceanside, I didn’t really know how well I was going to do. I didn’t have a good sense if I had improved in overall fitness over last year at this time. Looking at my numbers and training metrics, it almost seemed like I was less fit this year than the previous year. I had some good training days, but my overall volume was still much lower than some of my friends training for the same race. I also had some health challenges (allergies and infections) and other commitments (new baby) over the winter which didn’t help my overall confidence leading into the spring. Overall, I was feeling good and happy and didn’t feel like I needed to put pressure on myself to perform. I feel that just enjoying the journey and the process can be greatly rewarding in itself.IMG_2612

This race was going to have a different dynamic for me because I was going to be making the trip to Oceanside solo, without any family. Good or bad, I was still looking forward to an enjoyable trip, with plenty of stops along the drive down in SLO and Santa Barbara for family and good food. Even without family around, I still felt pretty busy the Friday before the race, checking in to the hotel, doing the athlete pickup, walking the expo, checking in my bike to transition and going on a short 30 min run to get my legs moving.

IMG_2619

Race Morning:

Race morning I was up at 4:50am. I actually got decent sleep, going to bed around 8:45 and sleeping pretty good. I love hotels where you can turn down the thermostat enough to make the room really cool at night. I had taken a big risk by not grocery shopping the day before for my race morning breakfast. IMG_2621The hotel said they were going to do an early “breakfast” for athletes at 5am, but no one seemed to be able to tell me what they would have ahead of time. One person told me “just coffee” and someone else said “only coffee and oatmeal”. I feel that recently, I’ve been less concerned and picky about my pre-workout fuel. A lot of my workouts are even fasted if they are done early enough in the morning. That, and I was too lazy to go to the store the night before. So I just hoped they had something decent. Since it sounded like there would be 100% chance of coffee at the least, I figured I’d be fine. I could go for 4.5 hours on coffee alone. The breakfast ended up being really decent (for a hotel). Lots of fruit, bagels, pastries, oatmeal, etc. I pretty much tried a little of everything until I was full. Normally, I’m pretty picky with ingredients and food quality, but I was just happy they had options.

After breakfast, I went back up to the room, got dressed and then made the 1.2 mile walk from the hotel to the harbor. Setting up transition was pretty uneventful. Since my bike was already there, I just had to lay everything out. I didn’t even add air to my tires. I figure, the less things I had to do and the more I could just relax the better. I feel I always do better when I’m relaxed and the typical tension in the air in transition usually just makes me anxious. I was able to catch up with some friends and take my time getting into my wetsuit. I finally made it to the start shoot and we made our way to the boat ramp, waiting for our wave start.

Swim:

I was surprised how warm the water was, as we made our way from the boat ramp to the in-water start line. I had heard some people complaining about how cold the water was going to be (62F). I guess, with the only ocean swimming I usually do being in the cold Monterey Bay, everything else feels warm. I took a spot on the far side of the buoy line, hoping to avoid some congestion and risk having to take a longer line.

When the horn went off, I put in a solid effort to sprint ahead of the main group. I ended up with about a handful of people from my wave after the first couple hundred yards and then settled into a more sustainable pace. I tried to pace the swim more on the aggressive side. I felt like I was swimming at an effort between “solid” and “kinda hard”. I just kept telling myself, “don’t swallow any water”. Who knows what’s in harbor water. I just didn’t want it in my stomach.

About half way to the turn, the few people I was swimming with started hitting the back end of the wave in front of us. I tried my best to avoid running into the back of someone, but it required me to do a lot more sighting, which just wastes energy. Around the turn around point, the chop started getting pretty rough and I was getting tossed around a lot. As we turned to head back in to the harbor, the sun was directly in my eyes and I lost sight of everything. I couldn’t see a thing with the sun. The best I could do was keep swimming and hope I was going to right way. I just got glimpses of people around me to somewhat guide where I was going. The way back in to the harbor also got pretty crowded. There was a good mix of lots of waves by then, and it was much harder avoiding people.

I finally made it back to the boat ramp and started the LONG run around transition and back to my bike.

Swim Time: 29:24

SwimStats

Bike:

The beginning of the bike leg is always a bit awkward. There are just lots of people doing lots of things. It’s kind of just a mess. It took a few miles to really start settling into things. I tried to keep a strong pace right off the start. My goal was to hit about 240 watts Normalized Power for the ride. I did this a couple weeks before and still felt good at that power for 2.5 hours, so I knew it was very doable with some effort and sweat.

I like the Oceanside bike course because it seems like there is always something different to look at and that keeps your mind busy and away from thinking about the burning in yours legs. This year, I felt like there was less congestion on the course, especially during the first half. There was some initial congestion, but once I got on the base, I didn’t feel like I was around the same people very long. Some races, it feels like you play leapfrog with the same handful of people the whole time, and I didn’t get that this race.

There are some good climbs on the course that forced me to stand in the granny gear, but I actually really like that about Oceanside. Mixing it up and changing positions and muscles is always welcome. What’s also good about a bit of climbing is the downhills. The Dimond bike just kills it on the downhills. I can easily coast in an aero position on the downhills and pass a few people who are still pedaling hard. I love it.

I feel like the bike leg wasn’t eventful, but in a good way. I didn’t get frustrated at people leapfrogging the whole race, I didn’t see packs of people forming, overall it was great. The pace was just at that point where I had to concentrate on pushing hard and couldn’t just let my mind wonder. I think I was pretty consistent at 240 watts most of the ride.

For nutrition, I tried to do 200 calories an hour from UCAN. This is actually more than I usually take on any training ride less than 4 hours. So I knew I was going to have to force it down a bit. I ended the ride with still a fifth of the bottle left, so I ended up with just about 170 calories an hour. A bit light, but it didn’t affect me at all. I figured I could always just prop myself up on coke during the run if needed.

For hydration, I think I could do a little bit better next time. I started with a BTA bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration just to immediately load with sodium. Then I tried to drink somewhat to thirst, or a bit ahead of thirst. I didn’t really count the bottles, but I filled up every aid station, so I probably did about 96 fl oz of water over the 2.5 hours on the bike.

Bike Time: 2:29:07
NP/AP: 242/235 watts

BikeStats

Run:

I got off the bike and still felt like I had good energy. I know a lot can change when you run. Running is just so hard on the body that a lot can happen in a short time. I had originally planned on starting off with a 7 min/mile pace and holding that. My real goal was to run 6:50 pace because I knew this was doable off the bike. I mentally envisioned this as a short run (just because it’s not the full marathon like in an Ironman). I figure, even worse case and I really fall apart, I can fake it for almost 13 miles. I could, at least, fake it for 10 miles and then just do what it takes to do the last 3 miles.IMG_2625

What I like to do off the bike, is just run at a conservative pace for the first few minutes before checking my pace. Then, after a few minutes, check my pace and see what I’m doing. That usually is a good indicator of how I’m feeling and how the race is going to play out. After a few minutes of running, what I thought to be strong but conservative pace, I looked and saw I was running 6:45 pace. I was pretty happy with that and decided to slow down just a hair to be safe.

The run at Oceanside is just so much fun. Because it’s two out and back loops, it really breaks up the run into very small and manageable chunks. Plus, the run along The Strand is just awesome. Can’t beat running along the ocean with a huge crowd. I stuck with my cooling and hydration strategy from Kona where at every aid station I dumped water on my head and back and drank a cup of coke (actually, they used generic “cola” which sucked. I usually don’t drink coke, but if I do, I want the real thing).IMG_2628

What was truly amazing about the first lap, is that it was really really empty. I mean, there was no one on the course. I got to see all the pros go by, which was incredible. They run so fast, it’s just insane.

I kept drinking “coke” every aid station, knowing I didn’t fuel too well on the bike, so I thought the simple sugar would keep me going. On the second lap, I was still going strong but getting a bit tired. The course started to get prettyIMG_2627 crowded and I had to dodge people the entire second lap. I finally hit mile 10, just before the last turn around. I knew I could run 3 miles in my sleep. There have been so many hard training runs where I have ran the last 3 miles just destroyed. So I know I can run 3 miles on fumes. But I was still feeling pretty good. I picked it up a hair the last couple miles. Well, my pace probably didn’t pick up too much, but my heart rate sure did.

Oceanside finish is one of the best finishes outside of Kona I have done. Just an amazing crowd and a great view.

Time: 1:28:34
Pace: 6:45/mile

RunStats

Thoughts:

There was no rest after the race. I didn’t even stop to get food, but actually ran (yes ran) to my hotel so that I could get my bags out of the room before my late checkout time. That was pretty painful. At least a got a quick shower in before finally going back to the finish and to the athlete food area. I was the only athlete in the post-race food area already showered and dressed.

I feel like Oceanside was perfectly executed. I was able to pace slightly better than my aggressive goals. This was really the first race where I didn’t do a lot of pre-race planning for pacing, hydration or nutrition. I kind of just let things go and hoped for the best and that seemed to pay off. I’m not sure I can get away with that for a full Ironman though, so I may have to go back to better planning for an IM race later in the year. I think I can fake my way through a 4.5 hour workout, but not through a full day in an Ironman.

One bad thing about having a well-executed race, is not knowing where to go from here. I don’t see much low hanging fruit for future improvement. Sure, I can keep working on aerobic fitness, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good as the top guys in a 70.3 race. There are a few lifestyle tweaks I can make and hope for some gain there, but I’m not sure there is too much to be had on that front. At some point you hit a point of diminishing returns for the effort and sacrifice needed for marginal gains in fitness. I guess one area where I can gain some big time in a race is transitions. At Oceanside, my T1 time was almost 5 minutes. I feel like I some mornings I have breakfast and coffee faster than that. I feel like I’m going fast in transition, but obviously there can be a lot of improvement there. Maybe a few minutes can be had between both transitions.

I would really like to do Oceanside again next year, so we’ll see what happens with scheduling. It’s a great race and the energy is one of the best of any races I have done. There is a reason all the fast people show up for this race, it’s just an amazing experience.

Ironman World Championships Race Report

Pre-Race:

Race day started a lot earlier than usual at 3:50am. I usually like to sleep in as much as I can and only wake up to get food in with enough time to let it digest. The bus from our hotel to the start left at 4:30 am so I needed to be up and ready extra early this time. I drank a couple cups of coffee and got dressed, then started eating breakfast as I waited for the morning bus.

Breakfast was a French roll peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cup of yogurt with granola. I brought some extra bars with me for the morning just in case I got hungry later.

I got to transition and got the tattoo body marking. This is the first Ironman I’ve done where they weigh the athletes in the morning. IMG_1971That made me a bit worried about the hot day ahead. I weighed in at 172 lbs!! That’s 12 pounds more than I weighed when I left for Kona. I’m either carrying a lot of water or I’ve had one too many iced mochas. At least I’d kill it on the downhills.

I finally made it to my bike. The volunteers were awesome. They brought me over a pump and held my bike, while I pumped up my tires. I loaded my nutrition on the bike and synced up my Garmin bike computer. IMG_1972After getting my bike all checked, I still had almost an hour and a half of downtime before the start. I ended up leaving transition and hung out with my family, once they had made their way down to the swim start.IMG_0297

IMG_1978

After the pro start, I started getting dressed and slowly got in line to make my way into the water. I ate a UCAN bar and drank a Skratch HyperHydration to finish off my salt pre-loading plan. I ended up hanging out on the beach for about 5 minutes until Mike Riley started telling everyone they needed to be in the water. The last thing I wanted to do before an Ironman was tread water for 20 minutes.

I didn’t really have a strategy for where to place myself at the start. I couldn’t really tell what position offered the fastest line. So I just found a spot and put myself about 4 rows of people back from the line. I figured this would be a good place for my swim skills, not in the front with the real swimmers, but not in the back of the line either. I just treaded water, watched the clock on the pier and tried to enjoy the whole experience of the sunrise, helicopters and drones overhead.

Swim:

1162_102039

When the cannon went off, I surged forward and started off with a strong pace.1162_102052 I figured, this would be the coolest (temperature) part of the whole race so might as well put in a little more effort before the heat slowed me down. Right away there was a ton of contact with all the other swimmers around me. I was used to a little contact, but it would usually die down. But here, it was relentless. I was getting kicked and smacked all over. Every time I tried to look around to see how to avoid the masses of people, I didn’t see an escape. I even tried backing off a bit just to let some swimmers around me go ahead to avoid getting beat up, but then I would just get swum over from behind. By far, this was the hardest swim I have done in a race due to the violence. After about 15 minutes, things got a bit better as I found my pace with the swimmers around me. I was then able to relax a bit and watch the sea floor and pay attention to sighting ahead.

At the turn-around, things became a bit more congested and violent, even though I made a pretty wide turn to avoid the congestion. I looked at my watch and saw I was under 30 minutes, which was a good sign. I know a lot of people had told me the swim back to shore would be slower, so I was still expecting a slower overall swim time.

The swim back to the pier was a bit more uneventful, which I was grateful for. I picked a strong, but not too aggressive pace. I could feel my swimskin cutting into my side, and I just hoped it felt worse than it was. I really didn’t want to deal with an open wound the rest of the day.

As I got closer to the swim exit, I checked my watch again and saw I had already passed the 1 hour mark. I knew it was going to be a slower swim, but mentally, it’s hard to see numbers which are slower than you want. Overall, I put in a decent effort and was happy I survived a very tough and physical swim.

Swim Time: 1:04:24

T1:1162_008159

The run through transition was pretty long. They make you run from the swim exit, all the way around the entire pier before getting your bag and running into the changing tent. All I had in my transition bag were socks and glasses. I had rolled down my tri-suit under my swim skin with the hopes of being able to put in on while running through transition. That didn’t work out at all. I couldn’t get my tri-suit on with my wet skin. I needed a volunteer to help pull my sleeves up on my tri-suit. After I got dressed, I got to my bike, put on my helmet, and ran to the exit with my bike.

T1 Time: 5:06

Bike:

As usual, the first few miles of the bike were just about getting situated and doing a self-check. I felt decently good, and didn’t have any issues putting out power. We made our way south on Kuakini Hwy before quickly hitting the turn around and making our way back north.1162_037723 I was happy to not only see my family cheering for me out of transition, but also only a few miles later as we worked our way up to the Queen K.

Once I started heading north on the Queen K, everything got a lot more quiet and serious. The crowds of people went away, and for the first time I could start feeling the heat of the morning. I became a bit worried as I could feel my face getting warmer already. I started to just focus on power and thinking about my nutrition plan.

This is the first race where I didn’t have a really good idea of what my pace should be. I ended up deciding to just go more by feel. I knew what I could do, but wanted to be cautious about the heat and the run to come. I really wanted to be more conservative and maybe learn about how I handle heat, than over-do it and end up in a bad situation. If anything, I thought I could probably go harder earlier when it wasn’t yet as hot.

My nutrition plan was to start with 300 calories from UCAN the first hour of the bike and then back off to 200 calories per hour for the rest of the bike. I had a single bottle of UCAN behind the saddle for the first half of the ride, and then a BTA bottle for water only which I refilled every aid station. My goal was to drink at least 70% of the BTA bottle between each aid station, which would put me at about 1.5L/hr of water. Each aid station had 2 water pickups, at the front and at the end. The first pickup, I would refill my own bottle, and the second pickup I would dump on myself to stay cool.

Read more about my hydration plan here.

At mile 7, I was already out of water on my bike and I was looking for that first aid station. As I came up to it, I noticed they weren’t even setup yet and they had nothing to give out. Not a good start to my race if I’m already thirsty and out of water on mile 7. I had to wait to the next station to get my water.

The ride up to Hawi didn’t disappoint. It looks just like the pictures I had seen of the lava fields. Kind of like the moon, but hotter. 1162_034136I don’t think the heat was as bad as I expected, because I really expected the worst, but I would still start feeling overheated over time and would need to mentally focus on the next aid station where I could douse myself in water again. I really wasn’t enjoying my aero helmet as I had no vents in the top. All I wanted to do was dump water on my head, but I couldn’t do that with my helmet. The best I could do was pour cold water down my back and arms and sit up and spray my chest as well.

The first penalty tent I came across was packed, with a line out the back. After that, I made a very conscience effort to stay very legal. I think I burned too many matches on the way to Hawi trying to pass groups. Sometimes I would look down as I made a pass and see 300+ watts. I think the adrenaline of the pass masked the pain of putting out so much more power than I should have.

The course seemed to be somewhat rolling, where I was always on a gradual incline or decline. I could tell the Dimond handled really well in the cross winds and downhills because I would always pass people at those times without much effort at all.

There were times, when the wind started picking up across the road, but it didn’t seem bad at all. No worse than back home in the Salinas valley.

Once I started getting close to Hawi, the clouds moved in and it began to rain pretty good. The rain felt amazing. The water was warm, but I knew it was keeping me cooler than with no rain. I made the turn-around at Hawi and quickly stopped at special needs to grab my second bottle of UCAN. I also filled my BTA with another Skratch HyperHydration for another huge dose of sodium. I did that on top of around 5 SaltStick pills per hour.

The downhill leaving Hawi, was very fast. We had a good tailwind for a handful of miles. It was a bit dangerous because I really couldn’t see well in the rain going that fast. Eventually, the rain ended and so did the tailwind. Back in the lava fields, it started heating up again as the clouds disappeared and I was in the direct sun again.

The last 25 miles really took a lot out of me. I started feeling uncomfortable on the bike and really wanted off. My power was dropping and my perceived effort was rising. I let my power drop as I didn’t want to push hard to chase a power number in this race. The road felt like a long uphill, with no downhills. I was starting to worry that I was suffering a bit too much too early. My stomach also didn’t really like the hot UCAN I was forcing down. I decided not to drink the last couple ounces.

As I made it past the airport and back into town, I could see the runners on the course and I was looking forward to something new and getting off the bike. The crowds back in Kona were awesome and put some life back in me. Transition came up quick once we got into town and I was finally off my bike.

Bike Time: 5:14:31, 193 AVG PWR, 204 NP PWR

T2:

Nothing exciting about T2. Looking at my time, I took a while, but there was a lot of running around the whole pier.

T2 Time: 3:54

Run:

The crowds on Ali’i were amazing and really gave me a much needed boost. I was still pretty tired and my stomach wasn’t perfect, but overall, I was happy I was still going. I did a quick body check and decided I needed to back off the pace because it felt harder than it should have. Again, I really wanted to be conservative. Running down Ali’i towards Keauhou was a lot of fun. There were lots of groups setup along the course cheering and playing music. Everyone had hoses out and would spray the athletes (if they wanted) as they ran. It felt great to be hit with water every few hundred yards.1162_050492

Right away, I decided to walk every aid station. There was just too much to do to be able to run through. I drank water and Gatorade every aid station (with a goal of about 10oz per station) and also dumped 2-3 water cups on myself, took sponges and dumped 3-4 cups of ice in my jersey. I would try to pack my jersey, front and back, with ice every station. The combo of cold water and ice on me seemed to really help cool me down. I could feel my body really start suffering in the heat leading up to each aid station.

After the turn around in Keauhou, I really wanted to start walking. I didn’t seem to have the mental and physical energy to keep going, and the heat was just zapping energy from me. I set a goal to run to each aid station, 1 mile apart, and then walk all I wanted after that. After I got water and ice on me, I was able to muster enough energy to run to the next aid station.

However, at this point, my pace was really suffering. I was running about 8 min/mile pace and then walking the aid stations, which put me closer to an 8:30 avg pace. I decided it was the best strategy for the situation even though I knew my time was going to be much slower than any previous race.

After getting back in to Kona we made the right turn up Palani. I looked up Palani and immediately knew I was going to have to walk it (I guess most the pros walk it too). I figured running wouldn’t be much faster and would only destroy me fully. After Palani, I finally got out on the Queen K and began running again.

Out of the Queen K, there were no crowds of people like on Ali’i. It was all business. Mentally, I just tried to focus on the next aid station. I ended up switching to water and coke at each station at mile 10. The coke seemed to help a bit more, but my stomach still wasn’t happy.1162_060826

I finally made it out to the Natural Energy lab and turned left off the Queen K. We had a nice long downhill run through the energy lab before turning around and running back up to the Queen K. At that point, I mentally started doing better because I knew I was almost done and I knew I would finish even though, physically, I was breaking down pretty quickly.

The run back into town seemed to take forever and seemed to be all uphill. I would feel it getting a little cooler as the sun was getting lower on the horizon. The run going down Palani was painful and fun as the crowds were out and cheering everyone through. As I made my way back to Ali’i I tried to really enjoy the whole experience of the finish.

Ali’i was packed with people and I could hear Mike Riley yelling out finisher names. It was a great experience running down the finisher shoot and to the line. I’m super proud of being able to have raced in Kona with all the other amazing athletes. I hope to be able to come back soon.1162_092718

Run Time: 3:45:17

Final Thoughts:

Kona was an overall great experience, and so far, my favorite Ironman. From a training and racing perspective, I put a lot of effort into learning about myself for this race and how to handle and manage heat. I’m really happy I put in the time to come a bit closer to learning how I handle these types of stresses. I loved the overall experience of Kona. Aside from walking around dripping sweat, there are lots of great things to see and activities to do. I was able to also meet so many great athletes and hear their amazing stories.IMG_1993

Ironman Canada Race Report

Pre-Race

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

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

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

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

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

Race Morning

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

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

DSCN0758

Swim

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

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

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

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

Swim Time: 00:59:29

T1

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

T1 Time: 05:33

Bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bike Time:5:40:42

T2

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

T2 Time:3:34

Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run Time: 3:35:26

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

Closing

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

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

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

Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

Taper

I’ve heard that some people feel really energized during their taper weeks, leading to a race, with extra energy they can barely control. I’m the opposite. When I start to taper, my body takes the opportunity to completely fall apart. Good thing I am beginning to see this as a trend in all my races, or I’d be worried. In my two week taper I really felt horrible. I felt tired and fatigued all the time and I barely wanted to even do the easy workouts for the day. I tried my best to get good sleep every night and continue to eat pretty clean. I tried not to limit my diet too much and even ramped up the food the couple days before the race with some extra carbs thrown in for good measure. No giving up anything the week of the race like I’ve heard others do with coffee or alcohol. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a tradition to still have my red wine the night before racing.

The Morning

I slept surprisingly well the night before the race. I never have slept horrible before a race, but this night was exceptionally good. Went to bed around 9pm and woke up at 4:50am, which is very close to my normal sleep any other day. Breakfast was a couple cups of coffee, and a huge bowl of greek yogurt with berries, granola and honey and a packet of Justins almond butter. My goal was to eat about 2 hours before my race start at 7:05. After breakfast I slowly got dressed and grabbed my nutrition bottles from the freezer and got on my bike to ride the mile to transition.

Setting up transition was pretty low key. It didn’t take me long to do, so I had a lot of time to just hang out and watch other athletes as well as try to ignore all the nervous energy in the air. I’m notorious for not being able to find my bike coming in to transition, so I made sure to walk the transition and find the best way to spot my bike.

As they got closer to my wave start, but put on my Roka wetsuit and made my way to find my group.

Swimming

I find wave starts pretty anti-climactic. I really like the mass starts because of the energy. The wave start just feels small and unimportant. The start was an in water, swim start. The water was really warm (especially coming from Monterey), so getting in and wading for the start wasn’t an issue. I don’t really even remember the sound of the start (was it a gun, or a cannon, or a beep). I just started swimming when everyone else did. I knew I could sustain a pretty strong pace for 30 minutes and not worry about tiring myself out.

The swim was fairly uneventful. I didn’t find anyone’s feet to draft off after the first few hundred yards, so I was on my own. There were people at my feet, which I usually don’t mind as long as they’re not annoyingly swatting my feet. Pretty much all I thought about the whole swim was, don’t swallow any of the nasty harbor water.

There were a couple points in the swim where it was hard for me to make out the next buoy to sight. That and every now and then I’d come across a pack of swimmers from a previous wave and have to either go around or fight my way through.

As I existed the water on the boat ramp, I looked at my watch and saw 30 minutes. I was really expecting to be a couple minutes faster than that. 30 minutes should be very doable at an even moderate pace. That was somewhat disappointing for me right away.

Swim Time: 30:27

Biking

I was pretty happy there was some fog and it was cool out. As I got on the road, I got situated in aero and did a quick body and leg check to see how I felt. My quads seemed a bit fatigued which was odd. After getting away from all the people leaving transition I just tried to hold form and focus on keeping my power where I wanted it. My goal was to hold 230 watts, which is a pretty good effort for me over 2.5 hours. I knew it was very doable as I had my race rehearsal at that power for 3 hours without issue.

As we headed up the coast, I did notice my heart rate was much higher than I expected. At 230 watts, I would expect my heart rate in the 140s and I was seeing it in the 150s. I was a bit concerned, but I usually try not to pay too much attention to heart rate during races as all the race excitement and transition usually gets it going higher. I just focused on looking at power, focusing on my breath and trying to enjoy the ride.

I really think that having a positive attitude while racing is so valuable. I always remind myself to look around and enjoy the moments during each part of the course. I even try to smile at people or say encouraging words as I pass them or get passed.

The course was a really great bike ride. We weren’t in traffic like some other races I have been in. Lots of rolling hills and a few good climbs and lots of pretty scenery. The fog started lifting and the sun came out about a third of the way through the ride.

I will say the Dimond is a fast bike. I just flew by people on the flat sections and downhill’s without too much effort. I will say, I don’t think I passed anyone on the up hills. I try to flatten the course by not going to high above my target power on the climbs. And this means, it feels like I am going very slow and easy on the climbs. People would blow by me like I was standing still every climb. I guess we all have our different strategies.

For nutrition, my goal was to take in 300 calories an hour. I knew the bike would take me about 2.5 hours to complete. I had 2 HoneyStinger honey gels, 1 HoneyStringer gummy packet, and they rest of the calories came from a UCAN bottle I had behind the seat. Because it was pretty cool, I only drank 2 bottles of water from my BTA bottle (refilling it only once). I did bring salt with me, but dropped that on accident right away, so I never was able to take any.

The last handful of miles on the bike, as I made my way back to the coast, were really nice. It was flat and I had the whole road to myself. I could only see one person way in front of me, and couldn’t easily see anyone behind me. It was kind of nice to just be alone on the road.

As I made my way back into transition, I wanted to try something new to speed up my transition times. I wanted to dismount the bike and leave my shoes on the pedals. In all other races, I run back to transition in my shoes, which is uncomfortable and slow. I really mis-timed this and ended up taking off shoes about a mile before transition, so I had to pedal the last mile with my feet on top of my shoes and not in my shoes.

Bike Time: 2:33:26

Running

As usual, as I started to run, I did a quick leg check. It seemed everything was normal. I had that weird feeling I always get running off the bike. My “on paper” goal was 7:15 pace to start with and then pick it up half way through if I felt strong. I decided to try for a 7 min pace right away since I was feeling good and then I could always back off a bit if needed.

The run is pretty flat except for a few quick steep sections where you’re going up or down to the Strand. Those sections really take some effort to get through.

What always happens to me during races, is my feet fall asleep and I get that needle feeling in both feet. I cannot figure it out. But that happened after a couple miles of running and I really lose a lot of feeling in my feet. Luckily it went away after about 8-9 miles. I really need to figure that out.run

I never really have a great nutrition plan on my runs. I just took in sports drink from every aid station and then dumped a cup of water on my head. I figure the run is only 1.5 hours, so it’s not long enough to really put a lot of effort into nutrition.

I was able to keep a good 7 min pace the whole run. I even had to hold back a few times because I noticed I was picking up the pace. I kept telling myself to wait till mile 10, then pick up the pace all you want. Once mile 10 came, I was starting to get somewhat tired, and I ended up really not picking up the pace at all.

finishI will say, the crowd support coming in for the finish is amazing. That was the best experience of the whole race.

Run Time: 1:30:37

Thoughts

I really enjoyed this race a lot. I think the course is great. It also helps to have family that has a condo right at the finish. Logistically, the only pain was having to go back to transition after the race to pick up my bike. That mile walk was hard, especially since we were in a rush to get in the car to make it to Santa Barbara for dinner reservations.

Looking back on my times, I have a lot of room for improvement. I was happy that I hit all my pace goals, but my transition times were downright horrible. Everyone else in my age group around my splits are doing 3 and 2 min transition times and I’m doing over 4 min in each transition. I could easily gain 4 minutes just by being competitive in transition times. That’s something I really need to work on.

I’ll definitely be back next year!

IMG_0417

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

Pre-Race

We did a one-night stopover in Atlanta before driving to Chattanooga on Thursday before the race. I spent the next few days doing the normal pre-race admin things like checking in, picking up my bike, getting my things ready. Our typical enjoyment often comes from finding good restaurants for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We found a few great places in Chattanooga. The one thing I wish I had done one of the days leading up to the race is drive the course. I just didn’t seem to get the opportunity.IMG_7422

I was a bit worried about what the heat and humidity was going to be like in Chattanooga. Living and training in coastal California, it often doesn’t get over the mid-70’s. Experience has shown me that I just do horrible in the heat. In Chattanooga, one of the first things I noticed was the sun felt really intense and I would sweat just standing around at the expo or anywhere not in the shade. This was a bit concerning for me, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Overall, I didn’t feel too nervous about the race. I was looking forward to the challenge and excited to say I completed my second Ironman (just to show the first one wasn’t just a fluke). I did feel a bit of personal pressure to meet or improve on my time from Ironman Brasil. I knew this would be a bit of a challenge since Chattanooga had a longer bike and a tougher run.Chattanooga 1

Race Morning

Alarm went off at 4am. I got a decent amount of sleep, only waking up 3-4 times to use the restroom. The excitement of what was to come easily hides any feelings of morning tiredness. I had bought some breakfast to make in the hotel room from Whole foods the day before.IMG_7549 I didn’t want to wake Iyla who was sleeping in a crib in our room, so I sat in the corner of the hotel near the front door and the bathroom. Breakfast was a few cups of cold-brew coffee I heated in the microwave with creamer, bread with peanut butter (lots and lots of peanut butter), and w plain greek yogurt with granola. My goal was to eat as much as I wanted 3 hours before the start of the race. After breakfast,, I slowly go dressed, put on sunscreen and filled my water bottles.

Around 5am, I started walking down to T1 with all my stuff. This seemed a bit early to me for a 7:30 start, but I felt everyone was going to get to the swim start super early and the rolling start was first come first serve in line. I loaded up my bike with nutrition, synced my GPS, blew up my tires (this took a while cause it was my first time with a disc and using a crack pipe). I then got in line for the school buses which were busing athletes and family members to swim start. I told Camille it would be better for her to just show up for the swim finish since I was told the swim start was not spectator friendly. This also allowed Iyla to sleep in a bit more so she’d be easier during the long day ahead.

Getting off the bus at the swim start, I had to walk another half mile to the end of the line. I couldn’t believe how long the line was. Granted, it was made of athletes and family, but still. I just sat on the ground in line for what seemed forever. I had a granola bar while I waited and sipped on some water.

The race start was somewhat anti-climactic. I really liked the mass start of IM Brasil. It made the race exciting and felt like a competition. In Chattanooga, I couldn’t even tell if the race had started. The line slowly started moving and people slowly started changing. Eventually, I put on my swim skin and got ready. I only saw the water a few seconds before I had to jump in. It really was not an exciting start to my race, just walked down the dock and carefully jumped in feet first… and I was off.

Swim

I started the swim pretty easy just to get a feel for things. I had never swum in a swim skin before, so I didn’t know how it would feel. There was such a wide area for swimmers that there was virtually no contact the first half of the swim. I swam at a decent pace, but didn’t feel like I was pushing at all. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the morning and to enjoy the sunrise. Every 3rd stroke I’d get a glimpse of the shoreline and sunrise. It felt so relaxing and calming to take it all in.

There were swim buoys lining the course, but when I sighted, I could see much farther down the river and the buoys in the distance. Instead of aiming for the next sequential buoy, I aimed for the last buoy I could see in the distance. This put me off to the far right of the course and into deeper water due to the curve of the river. I noticed most swimmers were closer to shore, but I figured the deeper water would mean more current and it was clearly a straighter shot.

At some point I glanced at my Garmin and I saw an average pace of under 1:10 per 100 yards. “There’s no way”, I thought. That’s the speed I would sprint for about 200 yards. Seeing that, I knew it was going to be a fast swim. As I got under the bridges and closer to the finish of the swim, it became more crowded. I had to go around quite a few people which is always annoying.

The finish was pretty fun as there were stairs coming out of the water and onto the landing. A volunteer reached out her hand and I grabbed it and she helped pull me out 0809_000557of the water and up the stairs. I looked at the race clock as I went over the timing mat and saw 1:08. I had no idea how far back I started from the first group, but I knew it had to be at least 15 minutes, which meant a fast swim.

Swim Time: 00:46:11, 1:11/100m pace

T1

Nothing exciting here. I suck at transitions. I take my time to put on socks and get sunscreen on. This time I didn’t put my shoes on but ran to my bike in socks and then ran with my bike and shoes in hand to the mount line. I put on my shoes at the mount line. Even though it wasn’t really dangerous to do so, I’m not sure if I would do it again (I don’t want to piss anyone off). Volunteers were great by the way.

T1 Time: 5:59

Bike

The first part of the bike was just getting through town and out into the country. I took this to try to settle down and do a self-check on how I felt. I felt pretty good and energized and my power seemed good for the effort I felt. As expected, it was a bit crowded on the road and I struggled to find my spot among the other athletes and keep far enough from the rider in front of me. The bike is seems to be my weakness. Not only do I not have great fitness on the bike, but I usually ride alone during training where I can focus on power and nutrition. In an IM race, it seems you are always playing leap frog with the same handful of riders, which can be frustrating.

The course had a lot of rollers, and every athlete seemed to have a different approach to how to handle these rollers. My goal was to flatten the course by maintaining my 0809_050442power on the uphills and downhills. I would allow myself to get a little higher in power on the ups and drop a bit on the downs, but overall, I wanted to stay consistent. Other people had different strategies. Some sprinted the uphills like they were going for king of the mountain and then tucked into an aero position and coasted the downhills. Because of all the variations in how athletes handled the rollers, I kept passing and then being passed by the same people over and over again.

My power numbers were reading a bit lower than I wanted, but I was feeling good, and I kept reminding myself that it was better to be conservative on the bike. I knew it all came down to a solid run. I tried to enjoy the scenery and focus on my nutrition.

On the bike I carried 2 bottles of Perpetuem with 660 calories each. I carried a BTA bottle with water which I refilled at each aid station. For solid food, I had 2 Stinger Waffles, 1 Stinger Chew and 1 Stinger honey gel for about 350 calories per hour. My goal was about 2 bottles of water per hour (if it was hot). I also had Salk Stick capsules, which would be my first time using them, and I went for 2 every 30 minutes.

The second loop of the bike was a little better, where there were less people around me and I was better able to focus on power. This quickly ended when I got stuck behind a huge construction truck (it was an open course) which was going about slower than me and I couldn’t pass. This lasted about 15 minutes and a bunch of us ended up not being able to pass for a while and just bunching up behind it.0809_012620

I passed mile 112 right at 5 hours on the dot. It felt odd to have to keep going since the 112 number is so ingrained in your mind. The last 4 miles were pretty lonely and I could only see the guy in front of me way in the distance. During the last mile, I felt like I was really ready to get off the bike, but my overall energy wasn’t too bad. I rolled into transition without too much fuss, ready to get on to running.

Bike Time: 5:11:15, 21.59 mph avg.

T2

Did I say I’m slow in transition? The volunteers were great. I had a volunteer point to a chair to sit in, where he then dumped my run bag for me and collected things as I started shedding them. I was really amazed at the help. In Brasil, there was no help at all. I took a while because I wanted to change my socks and also put Vaseline on my toes. I usually struggle with blisters during triathlon so I wanted to see if putting Vaseline on my feet would help at all. After using the port-o-john, I was out on the course.

T2 Time: 4:15

Run

The run is when everything gets interesting…. And real. So far, the swim was easy, the bike was uneventful and now I had a marathon in front of me. Right out of transition, there is a long half mile climb. I just looked at my watch and saw an 8:30 pace which didn’t make me happy. Once it flattened out, I knew I had about 8 miles on the 0809_025477first out and back section. There were a few people that flew by me, but I just let them go. I know to run my own race on the marathon and save it for mile 18. The first section was pretty uneventful. I tried to get into a good stride. I took sports drink and water every aid station and dumped any extra water on my head and back. I also took sponges every aid station and stuffed them in my tri suit.

Another runner in the age group above me passed me, going just a little faster than I was going. I decided to use him to pace me and I quickly got on his heels. I saw him keep checking his watch, so I knew he’d be a good pacer as I seemed he had a goal pace in mind. I ran right on his heels from that point all the way till the end of the race. I apologized to him for running on his heels, but he said it was fine. He was also full of energy ad hi-fived all the volunteers and seemed to be in really good spirits, which was really a great motivator for me and very uplifting.

When we crossed over the bridge, the course got a bit more challenging. The hills weren’t that bad, but they really slowed me down a lot and killed my average pace. Coming through and starting the second lap, the crowd was amazing and really energized me.

On the second lap I started to feel a bit better and felt I could pick up the pace a bit. I was still on the heels of the guy in front of me and we were just blowing by other runners. We were running about a 7:30 pace, which isn’t horribly fast, but I felt like I was running a 6:30 pace by the number of people we were passing who were starting their first lap. I was still just doing sports drink and water and not really eating anything, but at least I felt good.

0809_063860At mile 18, I was still feeling pretty strong, but then at mile 19 things started quickly changing and I began to feel tired and I really need to push it to keep a 7:40 pace. We crossed over the bridge again for the hills and then things started getting hard. My head started getting more foggy and I was less aware of what was going on around me and more tunnel visioned toward the ground in front of me. At this time is started raining a bit, which didn’t bother me too much. It kept things cool, and I was too far in to the run to care about feet being wet. My pace up the hills was really slow and I really struggled to keep moving at a good rate.

The last bridge back toward the finish area had a slight incline to it, but it felt like a huge uphill. At that point, I was feeling really run down, but my spirits started lifting as I knew I was almost done. I kept telling myself to really enjoy the last mile and take it all in. Right at half mile to go I felt a sharp pain in my little toe as a blister burst. But it was too late to really matter as I was almost done.0809_061562

I picked up the pace as I went through the finisher shoot to finish strong. I really had no idea what my overall time was as I never went through the math during the whole race. I was just happy to be finished. As I crossed the line I heard Mike Riley call my name, which is a great experience. As I crossed the line I saw my wife Camille and daughter Iyla at the finish. She had my finisher medal and put it around my neck and gave me a hug and a kiss.

Run Time: 3:22:43, 7:44/mi pace

Overall Race Time: 9:30:23, 3rd Place Male 30-34

Post-Race

IMG_7604After the race, I had a couple slices of pizza from the finisher tent and then slowly walked back to the hotel with Camille and Iyla. I felt tired, but in good spirits. I showered and just laid on the hotel bed for a bit. Then we made our way back to the finisher line to watch the other finishers. We hung out in the VIP tent which was great because they had a catered meal and a great, uncrowded, view of the finish while I ate.

The next day, I still didn’t know how many Kona slots were going to be allocated to my age group. I had feeling it would be about 3, but I had no idea. DSC01712We went to the Ironman breakfast (which was absolutely horrible by the way) and then watched the award ceremony. At some point, they posted on a piece of paper in the back of the room the number of slots per age group. I was ecstatic to see there were going to be 3 in my age group! I ended up getting a Kona slot, which I never expected going in to this race.

Overall, it was a great race with perfect weather. The course was fairly challenging but very doable. Chattanooga really pumped me up for my races in 2015.IMG_20140929_112004_508