Ironman 70.3 California - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Oceanside, California
United States
Ironman North America
65F / 18C
Total Time = 6h 22m 33s
Overall Rank = 1450/2191
Age Group = M45-49
Age Group Rank = 148/220
Pre-race routine:

March 18, 2010 - Woke up with shortness of breath, the same I'd been having for a few days. Since I had the same symptoms 8 months before, I suspected what it was, confirmed by a trip to the ER, a CT scan, and a hospital admission. My second round of pulmonary emboli. More commonly known as blood clots in the lungs. Yup, just like Serena. Me 'n her are tight.

I'd had a battery of genetic tests to find out where they came from the first round, but my questions were never answered. Now I had a second unexplained round, which meant a lifetime supply of blood thinners (or, in the paralance of the trade, "an indefinite course"). At teh time, I resigned myself to never doing another tri due to being on thinners and the issues raised by training on them.

Training on thinners (they don't actually "thin" your blood, they just make it take longer to coagulate) can be risky. Shit, getting out of bed on thinners can be risky. But then again, getting out of bed can be risky.

This was two weeks before Oceanside 70.3 2010, which I had signed up for trying to come back from the first round of clots. Ironically, I was already a DNS due to rehabbing an old ankle injury. I've had to miss a bunch of races the last two years due to clots and other injuries trying to get back to where I was.

Eventually, I realized: You can live life in fear of the chance of something bad happening and lament your circumstances, or you can live your life. I finally came to a place where I decided not to live in fear of what might happen, but just "get out and do shit" (within reason, of course).

I do train differently now though, primarily on the bike. I don't ride certain routes, or with large groups, or ride particular sections of PCH, or do super long massive solo rides into the Santa Monicas anymore. I ride a computrainer indoors during the week. I test my levels weekly and adjust the meds accordingly. I do what I can to still live my life, but take reasonable precautions.

I decided to take another crack at Oceanside. It was my first HIM back in 2007, and it's a local race. Mostly I signed up simply to feel like I was back in the game. In the weeks leading up, the training was going well, but again I was plagued by injuries trying to come back too far too soon - hip, calf, hamstring - interrupting run training. I ran 50 or so miles total in Feb. and 50 or so in March. I think I declared myself out of the race at least twice. :)

In some ways I was wondering if coming back with a half iron wasn't biting off a little more than I could chew. Before I got sick, I could step up to a half with minimal extra training and get through it on my base. Now I had to work for it, having gotten completely out of shape. Of course, this meant that I wasn't taking it for granted. In tris, as with many things, once you step up and do something that you didn't think you coul ddo, you get a sense of accomplishment, but you also became jaded about it. Hell, I've done an IM, I can do anything. Now I had to step back and take it seriously again, and appreciate the distance for what it was.

But, like everyone else that does these, I adjusted, overcame the challenges, and made it to the start line. Eventually, I just came to the conclusion that I'd go out, go at IM pace (whatever that means) and enjoy the day, then get my hat and shirt. In a way, it was good to take the expectations off the race and just remember why I like to get out and race. I will never be vying for the podium or a Kona slot so I have to remember to have fun sometimes.

With the help of my chiro Dr. Dan, I made it to the start line healthy, if not more than a bit undertrained. Two weeks before I met Doug and Mike at Oceanside and rode the frontside of the bike leg, and ran 3 miles on the run course. And realized that I was in for a very long day.

I also had a theory that experience and a little bit of fitness counted for something in a long course race. I had to come up with something. I aimed to put that theory to the test at Oceanside.

Anyway, everyone has their own obstacles and limitations, and we all overcome them to get to the starting line. These just happen to be mine. AND, they are miniscule compared to some of the CAF athletes out there getting it done. Long story short, there is no excuse.

On the bright side, my swim training was going well :)

on to the race.....

Wendy and I drove down on Friday noon-ish, checked in, napped, had a nice Italian dinner with Wendy, Lisa, Kevin, Jeff and Rick, scouted the swim course and sea lions, then went back for a fitful night sleep at the Holiday Inn.
Event warmup:

Arrived at transition about 6 am. Got a decent spot, then proceeded to hang out at the racks waiting for the 7:39 wave start. They kept coming through transition saying they were closing, get your wetsuit on and get out. riiiiggght

I was in Wave 20 of 23.

Sipped gatorade, had 1/2 bagel with PB, Watched Andy Potts (eventual winner) come raging thru transition 2+ minutes up on the field. awesome

I got into the start corral about 7:20, Kevin waltzed up late, coffee in hand, and made his way up to me. I knew I wouldn't be seeing him much that day, but we had a good time shooting the shit. Never saw Rick or Jeff all day. Didn't see Lisa until the run.

Because the harbor area is small and you can only get in 3 minutes before your wave start, "warmup" consisted of swimming the 50 yards to the start line.
  • 30m 34s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 27s / 100 yards

I had gone down to the boat ramp the night before and put my hands in the water. Didn't seem too bad. It was a bit worse throwing my whole body in though. A couple minutes of chest tightness from the cold as I swam out to the start, but by the time I reached the start I didn't notice the temps. I'd say it was a nice 60. In the wetsuit and 2 caps I was perfectly fine.

I placed myself on the right, towards the boats, about 2 rows back. I wanted a good swim but didn't want to get in the scrum, or in the way of guys that were gunning for slots. There is actually plenty of room and the waves are pretty small, so this was a pretty clean start,just like 2007. The horn went off, and off we went.

I wasn't sprinting, but I stayed out near the front. Not a testament to my swimming skills, but other triathlete's swimming skills I think. I only made contact with a couple people from my wave as I went out and veered a bit left to get on the buoy line. I had scouted the course, so I knew it was a short shot through the harbor, left at the pier, then 7 yellow buoys out to the turn, then orange buoys coming home.

I moderated my effort pretty well, every time I felt like I started working, I backed off and tried to regain my stroke. I haven't swam in a wetsuit but once this year, and it takes getting used to. my left shoulder got a bit fatigued.

I was surprised at how open the course was. I was in wave 20 of 23, and figured it would be a minefield out there. Full of grenades. It wasn't. Until the first left turn. Started catching white, yellow, purple, whatever caps. Slalom swimming. I made an effort not to swim over anyone, I never do, but alter course so I go by. Albeit closely. I won't swim over you, but I will lock up arms if we're close enough. Apologies. I got mine though, when I swam next to a woman going very slowly with very high elbows. Got clocked. Had to keep one eye forward to avoid the breast strokers, didn't want a kick to the gut, or head, or......

The cloud cover made for great navigation and I hit all the buoys dead on. Once we cleared the breakwall, a south swell and a bit of wind chop made things interesting. It was almost like a real open water swim. It looked as if people around me were struggling a bit. The turnaround came quickly, then it was time to head home. The tip for this course is on the way back, swim as far right as the guards will allow you. You should be brushing along the bait tanks and the docks, straight to the ramp. Those that swim the buoy line --and there were lots-- are just swimming needless extra yards.

I swam right along the floating bait tanks. The previous evening we watched several big bull sea lions hanging out there, trying to figure out how to get in. I wondered if they were below me.

Drafting - I honestly did not see anyone else from my AG. Part of that was I was out in front. Part of it was the crowd. Part of it is I just suck at drafting. But I was frustrated that I never found anyone to draft off of.

Was happy that I didn't get passed until I was just about getting out of the water. I was wondering what 50-54 ladies were muscling me out of the way. Turns out it was M35-39s in silver caps catching me. Last time they caught me before the final right turn out in the harbor. This was a good sign,I thought.

Swimming up the boat ramp into the crowd, I put my feet down too early and it was deep. One of the volunteers grabbed my arm and pulled me through up to my feet, it was awesome. As I ran through people kept trying to pull the suit zipper, that helped as well but I really didn't want it, and ended up with one arm half off.

I felt very good coming out of the water, I had paced well and was ready to ride.

I have to say I looked at my watch (I wasn't going to time myself or run splits, but at the last minute, at the horn, I pressed "go." I may be slow, but I am competitive) and saw 30:18. The 30 minute curse once again! In 5 HIMs I haven't been able to break 30 in the swim. My pool times say I should. I broke 60 in an IM. I swim with my masters coach who swam a 25 today. This is a deep water start with a a short finish to the mat, so it's not like I can blame anything on getting through surf, or a long run up the sand. 1:27 for me in the pool is warmup pace. I should be able to do this.....

On the bright side, it was a 2 second PR for an HIM swim

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know my time is good. And yes, I feel the same way you do right now when someone says "Man, I really should be able to break 1:40 on the run, not sure why I am running 1:50..... :)
What would you do differently?:

Nothing. Pace was perfect. Despite the time, I was happy with the start of the day. I didn't hammer, got a good time, and felt like it was a nice warmup
Transition 1
  • 05m 35s

I knew my swim was good because I felt fairly good running the length of the looooong transition and I didn't feel my heart was in my throat. Once I reached the carpeted area though, I walked a bit.

Got to the rack and fooooorgggoooot... whhhaaat.... toooo. ... dooooo. Seriously, everything was in slow motion. My apologies, but I did sit down to get my socks on. Not the greatest transition ever. But thank god it didn't cost me a Kona slot /sarcasm
What would you do differently?:

  • 3h 13m 21s
  • 56 miles
  • 17.38 mile/hr

Goal for the bike was pace the first 25 miles easy and comfortable in preparation for (1) the hills and (2) the run. In 2007 I started in an early wave so spent the entire bike getting passed by all the slow swimmers behind me. :) Here I started at the back, so only the speedy 35-39 year olds would be passing. Much better on the psyche.

I had ridden the frontside two weeks before, so I knew where to cruise, where to moderate, where to work it. There aren't really any hills, but there are some rollers. I really focused on staying comfortable though, and everyime it started feeling like an effort I backed off. My shoulders and neck were tight on the very first road in Camp P, that wasn't a good sign.

I got passed, did some passing, didn't see any drafting. Not much to report on the frontside. Grabbed a water at the first aid station.

At Cristianitos, there is a short no pass zone on the bike path. Everyone rushes to get into position so so not to be stuck behind someone going too slow, but no matter what,everyone is going different paces. Several of us dutifully got in line, then watched as a girl on a road bike proceeded to pass us all on the left. We all looked over like... "really?" There were two folks going reeeeaaallly slow though, so the line of us dis squeak on by. They probably looked at us like... "really?"

Things were going well, then we entered the Cristianitos Gate. I knew the hill the marines call "Mt MotherF***er", or something similar, would come into view soon. It's the first real hill on the course, and on the elevation chart it looks like it's leaning backwards. I had resigned that I might have to walk this hill this year. Add to this a nice headwind. So that's why the front side felt so easy.....

It didn't look that bad, but it was pretty steep. But it's short, and although lots of folks were walking, and it looked soooo good at the time, I wouldn't let myself walk. That is, as long as I could keep the pedals rotating, which was in doubt a few times.

Made it up and over, but it seemed to just sap my legs for a bunch of miles. I started looking for the 5 mile markers rather than having them come to me. Worse, my lower back and shoulders weren't letting me stay in aero for very long. There are a bunch of rollers and two smaller climbs. And false flats into the wind. Very demoralizing

Somewhere between miles 35 and 40 I started to doubt the wisdom of this thing I was doing, and worse still how the hell I'd not only finish the bike feeling like crap, but then run (hah, "run") a half marathon after, when my longest run in the last two months was 7 miles. Hit the 2d and 3d hills, and saw people walking those as well. I took comfort that they were hurting more than me. Nice, huh? Whatever gets you through.

After the hills is a lot of downhill and a lot of opportunity to make up time, but still into the wind. Since I couldn't stay in aero for more than a few minutes, I was this big freaking sail pushing into the wind up on the bullhorns. My legs actually felt really good. If I could have stayed in aero I could have pushed a lot harder. C'est la vie.

Finally made the right onto Vandegrift and headed back to base. This road never ended. It is notorious for a headwind as you snake down a canyon to the ocean, but honestly since we'd had headwind for the last 20 miles it didn't seem worse, just like more of the same.

I snuck a peek at my watch. I had told Wendy I'd be off the bike around 11:30-11:45. I hit T2 at 11:29 or so. Small victories. Yay me.

Nutrition was a 3 hour bottle of Infinit taken every 10-12 minutes or so, and one gel.
What would you do differently?:

My time in 2007 was 3:11. At that time I had been doing a LOT more really long rides, including centuries, lots of climbing. This time my longest ride was 65, had a few 60s, 55s etc. but certainly not the mileage I was doing before. Most miles were inside on the computrainer doing intervals. It helped, but there's a big difference between an hour in aero on the trainer and two hours on the road. But the fitness seemed to be there since the time was essentially the same under harder conditions.

Maybe I should get a bike fit :) Losing weight would make those hills a bit easier too....
Transition 2
  • 03m 21s

A bit better than T1. still pretty slow. nothing of note to report
  • 2h 29m 42s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 11m 26s  min/mile

On to the run. I knew with certainty that I was going to blow up, I just didn't know when. In '07, I was blissfully unaware of the "blowup phenomenon," until mile 8 when it hit like a ton of bricks. This time, I knew it would come, and probably before mile 8 given my run training, or lack thereof. So I just needed to do whatever I could to manage the run up to that point and not invite it unnecessarily early. In other words, slow down, walk the aid stations, walk the small hills, run easy with a steady pace in between.

This is a 2 loop course. I must admit I'm of two minds of looped courses, my opinion being based on where I happen to be on the run. Seeing the mile 10 marker on your first loop sucks. Seeing the Mile 3 marker on your second loop rocks! So I guess I hate looped courses on the first loop, and love them on the last. That's fair.

I felt good to the first turnaround. Taking gatorade and water at every aid station. I didn't really have a plan for nutrition on the run, so took gels every 3d station or so. I held off on the Coke until lap 2. First cup was not flat, and warm. blech.

Wendy was at the run start, but by the time I made it back to the turn off of the strand, she had moved to just south of the TCSD aid station. It was a good location, something to propel me forward, and something to look forward to on the way back.

Coming back on the first lap, it started to go a little south. I think about mile 6 it started getting hard. I didn't walk anything but the aid stations and small rises (I don't think....), but around mile 7 it was already into survival mode. This was my longest run in the last two months, but I knew it wasn't an issue of not being able to finish.

At the end of he first loop, coming over the bridge, I ran up to a bald guy in a CAF tri top, I knew it was Hans. I stopped and walked with him a bit, haven't seen him since IMAZ. We talked about his amazingly difficult work in Japan, and how it affected his training. I started running down the hill and, at the turnaround actually wasn't devastated that I had to do it again.

Also saw Paul (pgoldberger) and Tim (Waterdog) out there,,,, or they saw me. Funny, I see Paul once a year, on the run or bike course of a race. :) Tim used to post here, but stopped. He still puts in insane training hours.

It was easy to break the run into sections. The strand. Pacific from aid station to second aid station. Pacific to turnaround and back. I leapfrogged with another guy that was walking a bit. He'd walk, I'd run by. I'd run, he'd walk by. We got to talking, but he was on his first loop and I was on the second. Thank god, I couldn't imagine having to do that twice at that point.

It's very difficult. You can plan the walk breaks, and force yourself to keep running. But you're running, running, running, then all of a sudden you're walking, and you don't really remember how that happened. That occurred a couple times and I forced myself to run to the next break.

At the far turnaround a cop was stationed. Both times he said "this is what you got up for this morning. This is why you are here." He was right, the pain wasn't to be avoided, but to be embraced because that's why we were there. And everyone hurts in that place, whether you are walking, running 10 mm or 7 mm. But,the second loop as I ran up to him, I said "you know what makes me happy?" "No, what?" I will NEVER see your face again!" That got a big smile.

I had some IT pain on the run that caused me to stop a few times. It got worse, but not horrible.

I gave up trying to take splits at mile 1, since I knew what a mind fuck that would be. But I had my watch on, and I knew what time it was when I reached the far end. Starting at 7:39, I knew if I could finish before 2:04 I cold at least PR the course. I wasn't sure I'd make it, as I would have to run most of the return leg. I was going to walk at the pier, and at the TCSD aid station, as planned, and just see what happened. But Chris showed up and motivated me not to walk at all, even up the Breakwater hill. I was so happy coming down the hill from the bridge, then the straightaway to the finish. I felt good coming across the line, tired, but not destroyed.
What would you do differently?:

I was only able to run about 50 miles total in Feb. and 50 total in March, and those were inconsistent and interrupted by injuries. My longest run in weeks was 7 miles, and this year I think 10. In 2007 I ran a bunch more, and had 3 half marathons under my belt.

Overall, my 2007 time was a dismal 2:34, but 2011 was a bit-less-than-dismal 2:29, a 5 minute improvement on less training.
Post race
Warm down:

Got a massage, then Wendy came and found me and I had some anemic pizza,talked to Tim in the "lounge." Gathered my stuff, back to the Holiday Inn, went to see Rick and Kevin next door, then took a shower and nap.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Although I was slow, I am pretty pleased with even just being able to finish, and more so doing better this time on the course with harder conditions and less training. Must be that experience stuff. :)

Event comments:

Say what you will about WTC, they do put on first class races.

Last updated: 2011-01-18 12:00 AM
00:30:34 | 2112 yards | 01m 27s / 100yards
Age Group: 16/220
Overall: 212/2191
Performance: Good
Course: O'side harbor out to the entrance and back
Start type: Deep Water Plus:
Water temp: 60F / 16C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 05:35
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
03:13:21 | 56 miles | 17.38 mile/hr
Age Group: 137/220
Overall: 1337/2191
Performance: Below average
Wind: Headwind
Course: One big loop, north through Camp Pendleton and San Onofre along the beach to San Clemente, east on Cristianitos, south through Camp Pendleton through the hills.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 03:21
Overall: Below average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
02:29:42 | 13.1 miles | 11m 26s  min/mile
Age Group: 148/220
Overall: 1791/2191
Performance: Below average
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]