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!

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Dimond!

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The Dream

When I first started preparing for Ironman racing I didn’t really understand why so many triathletes spend so much time obsessing over changes to their bike or position or buying new and more aero equipment that saves seconds or maybe minutes over an Iron distance bike race. I understand that obsessing, talking about and planning are all part of the fun and lifestyle of the sport. But I didn’t understand why a couple minutes over a 10 hour race would really matter all too much. After I did Ironman Chattanooga, my opinion changed a little bit. I had placed third in my age group. The fourth place finisher was less than 2 minutes behind me and fifth place was under 2 minutes behind him. I was lucky enough to get a spot to Kona for my finish, but it made me look at those seconds and minutes a little bit differently. If, for Chattanooga, I hadn’t had a disc wheel, or hadn’t used an aero helmet, or had listened to my wife, and not shaved my legs, I most likely would not have received the Kona slot. Now what if I was on a faster bike, maybe I could place even higher. I began to see that little things in aggregate make big differences.

It was this reasoning, or maybe I just like buying new things, which made me start looking at what fancy new things I could upgrade for 2015. The most obvious was the bike itself: the foundation (and most expensive) of triathlon purchases.

Of course, the lure of a high end super bike is everywhere in triathlon. My research led me to a few options to drool over. I could dream of going after something tried and true like a Shiv or P5, or I could be a bit more risky with some of the latest hype over beam bikes. I started reading about beam bikes, and specifically the new Dimond and I really liked the concept and the look of the bike. It seemed like the rebirth of a great design, mixed with some new innovation. The story behind the Dimond also resonated well with me. Made in the USA by a small, emerging company.

As if the folks at Dimond were reading my mind, I got a nice informative message from them around the same time as I was doing my research on the bike. After learning a bit more from them about their bike and their company, I decided to take a big step and order my own Dimond frame, which they would make for me and have ready at the beginning of 2015. I will also say, that working with Chris at Dimond was a great experience. He was super responsive and helpful when it came to the whole process. I can’t say enough about the customer experience during the whole process.

Making it Real

While I waited for my Dimond frame to be built I had time to think about the components I wanted on it. I was really excited to be able to finally make the move to electronic shifting. I know I wanted to stick with Shimano, the real decision was Ultegra Di2 vs Dura Ace Di2. From everything I read, they seemed to function about the same. There was just a 1 pound weight difference between the 2. Deep down, I knew Ultegra would be the best option and save some money. However, I almost felt like such a high-end bike “deserved” the best of the best, which was Dura Ace. I know everyone riding bikes is very weight sensitive, and one pound is a lot of weight on a bike. However, it seems, that recently the consensus for triathletes is aero is more of a consideration than weight in most cases. Most triathlons are pretty flat with little climbing (compared to most road races). In the end I chose the more sensible route and did Ultegra Di2. Here is what else I chose:

Components: Ultegra Di2
Crank: Quarq Elsa RS with Dura Ace 53/39 rings
Wheels: Profile Design 78/Twenty-Four
Tires: Continental Gator Hardsheld
Brakes: Tririg Omega
Stem: Tririg Sigma
Bars: Tririg Alpha with Gamma extensions
Saddle: Fizik Tritone
Pedals: Speedplay Zero
Extras: D-Fly wireless transmitter, Tririg BTA mount, X-Lab cages, Lizard Skins bar tape

Even though I liked the Rotor Power Cranks on my previous bike, I wanted to try something new. Quarq had just come out with their Shimano ring-compatible versions so I thought I would give that a try since Quarq seems to get good reviews. I also chose Tririg for the entire front end of the bike. I liked the look of their bars, and the Sigma stem worked well with the Dimond-recommended Omega brakes.

I was originally going to go for some basic training wheels, but non-aero wheels just look funny on the Dimond bike. So I decided to use a set or aero wheels as training wheels, and I’ll figure out what to race on later. The Gator Hardshell tires are the best training tire (especially around here with all the broken glass on the roads).

Again, the folks at Dimond bikes were awesome to work with and helped me order all my components and even installed everything on the bike for me.IMG_0033 When the bike finally arrived, I was surprised how small the shipping box was. It was amazing to see how small the Dimond bike broke down when the beam is removed. IMG_0034

Due to my personality, I actually wanted to wait to really ride the bike until after I was fully fitted on the bike (I like everything to be ready to go). The Tririg gamma bars come extra long and needed to be cut on both ends. The Dimond seat post also only has an inch or so of adjustment once it’s cut. I didn’t want to do any cutting until I was fitted on the bike.

After doing my fitting with Chris at Burnham Coaching, I felt very happy with how I felt sitting on the bike. I was able to get a little lower in the front than on my previous bike and it felt really good. He did have to cut a little on my seat post and then I got my gamma bars cut down to the right length.

It took some time and figure the best way to dremel out material from the gamma bars because after cutting, there wasn’t enough room to insert the shifters. IMG_0063My father-in-law brought over his dremel and carefully shaved out some carbon to get the shifters to slide in. Once that all was done, I was ready to go out and ride.

The RideIMG_0070

Most people would take a new bike out on a short ride. My first ride was a 3-hour sweet spot (hard) ride. That shows my confidence in the bike and build. I think I may have kept smiling the whole ride. It really feels like you’re batman when you ride the Dimond. It just feels fast. And when you feel fast you go fast. IMG_0077

The Dimond is now my only tri bike and I use it for every ride (except on the trainer or in the rain). I love the way it looks and feels. The bike feels really solid. I like how it handles better than my P3. Even when the roads get rough and I get bumped around in the saddle, I feel a lot more solid than I have before on other bikes. So far so good, on this great investment in speed.

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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