06 April 2016

Race Report – Ironman 70.3 California (Oceanside) 2016

Here is my (as usual much too long and detailed) race report on Oceanside 70.3. 

Before “my” race I have to shout the praises of Team Challenge! First of all Team Challenge San Diego had around 30 volunteers working at the entrance/exit to transition, some starting at 4:00 in the morning! It was phenomenal to have them there and Kat’s brilliant idea to have our group of enthusiastic teammates and friends cheering and supporting made quite the impression with the volunteer leaders and Ironman. On top of that, darn near every athlete (2700) was encouraged or cheered for by TC Orange!

When I looked at who was on my “watch list” for this race there were 14 people (not counting the two I knew were out of commission) who took on this challenge that were also Team Challenge members – current or former. Of those I’d guess that maybe 10 started triathlon with us. This makes Kat, Linda, and I so proud. To us this means SO MUCH: an extension of our “tribe” family and our mission, an impact on lifestyles and self-belief, and more opportunities for spending a Saturday with some great friends!

For the first time at this race bikes were required to be racked in transition the day before – a ridiculous, needless hassle. This meant a lot of extra walking, not to mention driving and time wasting, on the day before the race but it was the way it was so nothing to do about it. The one advantage was that it allowed people to scope out transition and the swim course.

The morning started relatively cold (for San Diego) at 48 or 50*f. with a breeze/wind seeming to come from the east. Parked about a mile from transition and walked in, arriving at 5:00am. (That walk was another reason racking the day before was a bummer.) Got all set up, did my 100 arm pulls with my resistance tubing for a swim warm up (no water warm up is available), and lined up to wait for my wave. Wetsuit on and zipped and used old socks to help keep my feet warm. Phil and I were in the line together and I also knew the volunteer “sign holder” for our wave. Mom was just on the other side of the barricade ready to spectate and we got a nice picture together.

Wave 12 started at 7:14am. I handed off my morning bag, dumped my socks, walked down to the water via the boat ramp and finally got to pee in the wetsuit. They sent us to the start line about 40 yards out where I lined up at the front-center. For the first time I was racing with a friend and training partner in my wave. Phil’s first 70.3 was about to begin!

They started us and immediately I had clear water and no one pressing from behind – what a luxury! Followed a great line going out, although one of the big buoys was in shadow and I almost missed it. I began passing people from earlier waves at around the 3rd buoy. Out at the turnaround, closer to the breakwater of the harbor, it was somewhat choppy with a light swell. As I made the 2nd 90 degree turn I picked my line and headed back. It was all open water. I always assume I’m swimming the best route but not this time! I was way off course and adding yardage to my swim. Made the correction, joined back with the masses, and swam back in, weaving between and around slower swimmers.

I swam at a strong but reasonable effort for me – maybe slightly faster than Ironman pace. My time was slow for me by more than a minute but some of that was lost to my poor course line and no one to draft off of except for about 50 yards. It might have been slower if Phil hadn’t been in the wave, since goal #1 in my head was to get out of the water before him! Haha! SPLIT – 30:52 (2nd of 76 in age group) – goal :29.

I had a moderate effort run to transition (it feels long), sat down to finish getting the wetsuit off and bike shoes on. Then got everything else on. Knowing I get cold easily I took extra time and did what I thought would help: wore a dry long sleeved bike jersey over my tri top and pulled on my toeless tube socks for arm warmers. Also used the disposable hand and feet warmers in my bike shoes and gloves. The transition set up for this race was very crowded and tight. I was happy to have no company in my aisle until Phil came in a couple of minutes after me. Finally got out on the bike after the long run out of transition. SPLIT – 8min 16sec – goal :07.
I tried to stay calm, as I’m ALWAYS excited after the swim as I go through transition, and see most of the bikes still on the rack in my section. I rode by heart rate for the ride and maintained a zone 2 with a 120 average. I tried to keep the hill climbs in check but I guess I spiked it to 149 once. Heard Phil go by in the opposite direction on the one out-and-back section. There may have been more of a headwind in the first part than during the final 10 miles where it normally is. The hills were challenging and the first one doesn’t come until mile 29, where it rears its short but steep ugly head. I was glad to have dressed warmly as it still took me 8-9 miles to stop shivering and be comfortable.  By the first aid station I had my “arm warmers” off and dumped them in the trash heap. With a full zip on the jersey I could vent if it got hot while avoiding sun exposure to my shoulders and elbows. Even so, I only dripped sweat on the first climb.

The new bike is not dialed in for me yet. My lower back tends to want to be more curved than previously. My seat angle is different than previously too, and I’m not sure my saddle height is right yet either.  I also think I need a better ‘granny gear’ for the steeper climbs so I can be more efficient.  I love the FEEL of the new bike. My arms and shoulders feel like I’m almost locked into it. SPLIT – 2:58:55 (age group 9th place/15th bike split) – goal 2:48.

Dismounted the bike without incident, leaving shoes in the pedals. I always feel excited and happy to be done and move on to the run. It was a short run to my spot in the rack. As I took off my helmet and bike jersey and changed shoes I talked to a cute little 2 year old who was watching with his mom along the fence. He knew my helmet was orange and my run hat was white. I made the long run to leave transition. Just outside were the great Team Challenge volunteers. I hugged Linda and also gave our awesome team manager and fearless leader a hug before I was off.

Mom wasn’t far down the way so I stopped for a quick kiss before really getting going and trying to find my groove. Instead, I found hamstrings telling me to knock this sh…stuff off! I teetered on the edge, trying to avoid cramps, taking more frequent walk breaks, even stretching at a couple of time. Stretching made it worse. Despite my experience and my recent blog post on runpacing, I started out too hard. My hammies insisted I slow down or they were going to cramp on me just to show who’s boss. I did slow down and after exactly 15 min I got into a pretty good flow. Watching my heart rate instead of just pace proved helpful in keeping me in check. My hope was that by the 2nd loop (a bit beyond the ½ way point), I would gradually be able to build the effort, pace, and heart rate. (see mile splits below)

Around mile 8 or 9 another 60 year old came up along side and we chatted a little. I said I was taking whatever my hamstrings were willing to give me, hoping I might be setting him up for my surprise finish. I let him get ahead a little but then stayed within sight of him for nearly 3 miles. I felt like I’d found a chance to gather strength for the final push and I made some gains and started reeling him back in with about 1 ½ miles to go. I was relishing the chance to actually race someone head-to-head who had the same start time as me and who I knew was my competition. It was fun to try to size him up and to maybe even give him what I thought would be a false sense of confidence before the kill. The kill never happened. As I pushed slightly more, the hamstrings began to seize. Next came the inner thigh by the knee and I had to back off. At this point I lost him. By the time I got back to being able to finish strong for the final 1/3 mile, he was too far ahead and finished 22 seconds ahead of me..

So often these long tests of endurance are about competing with yourself. Yes, many of us will compare how we did with the field, or our gender, or our age group, or our friends/teammates but for much of a race like this it’s about challenging yourself. Maybe you create ‘secret’ rivals with others who are near you on the course but that’s more a pride and motive thing to drive you a little more. For me, having this guy right there tapped into a different, more immediate racing motivation.  Unfortunately the battle I imagined didn’t actually happen. SPLIT: 2:00:39* (in 8th place/8th fastest split) – goal 1:57 [*best ½ Iron run split]
Because Linda was still working her way back from transition/volunteering, waiting until our last athletes came in on the bike, she didn’t make it over in time to see me finish or to pass the Team Challenge flag for my finish line photo. I always look forward to seeing her at the end but these things happen and we always feel it’s very important to support our athletes.

My finish time was a somewhat disappointing 5:43:39. My best time on this course is a 5:33:53. (I now wonder how the heck I did that.) Anyway, a couple of minutes were lost on the swim, the bike was a good 10 minutes slow, and the run wasn’t bad but was affected most by hamstring cramps, or potential cramps.

The Whys of a slower than expected performance: Less than perfect training over the final few weeks, including a less than ideal taper. Not enough long rides or long enough week day rides. A new bike that isn’t dialed in fit-wise and fits differently than my 8 year old bike. The mistake of not carrying electrolytes on the run as it may have prevented or at least tricked my body into not cramping on the run. Finally, being as involved in triathlon as a coach funnels some of my available triathlon energy to others who I’m helping to be successful. While that can ADD energy and spark to my own race, it can also drain some energy away IF I don’t have my game plan in place well in advance. I made the mistake of not being well prepared for my own race day and it showed. All of this is on me, no one else.

Now I intend to refocus on triathlon training at the start of May, armed with some reminders of what it really takes to do well at Ironman Arizona in November. Before I get back to full-on triathlon training I have this little side goal of running the OC Marathon on May 1 in under 3:55 which is the Boston Qualifying time for 60 year old male geezers like me.

Times and run splits:
Swim 30:52 - 2nd age group, 124th male, 146th overall
T1 8:16
Bike 2:58:55 - 9th age group, 582nd male, 699th overall
T2 4:57
Run 2:00:39 - 8th age group, 610th male, 749th overall
Finish 5:43:39 – 8th of 76 (53 started) males in 60-64 age group, 610th male, 749th of 3255 athletes overall

1 mi 9:40 – 126 Heart Rate (average)
2 mi 9:54 – 124
3mi 9:04 – 130
4mi 9:36 – 131
5mi 8:58 – 132
6mi 9:17 – 133
7mi 9:06 – 132
8mi 8:43 – 134
9mi 8:59 – 137
10m 8:55 – 137
11m 8:58 – 138
12m 9:13 – 136
13m 8:57 - 135 

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