Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa – 13 May 2017

This was my 4th race of the season and second 70.3 (Half Ironman) of the year and 6 weeks after my last 70.3 (Oceanside on 1 April 2017).  I was sick for the last 2 weeks with a hacking cough and general malaise (maybe Bronchitis, we’ll see) so I had a very good taper and came into this race very fresh.  I managed to PR but I still need a lot of work for the fall season.

Game Plan – here’s the original plan we put together (I made some updates for everything I highlighted in yellow, but the rest is the same).  Here are the goals:

Santa Rosa 70.3 – 2112 yard swim / 56 mile bike / 13.1 mile run

i. “A” Goal – Swim 34:30, Bike 2:22-2:28, Run 1:28-1:31: <=4:30-4:35

ii. “B” Goal – Swim 35:30, Bike 2:29-2:35, Run 1:32-1:35: <=4:36-4:45

iii. “C” Goal – Swim 36:30, Bike 2:36-2:45, Run 1:35-1:38: <=4:46-5:00

I had set up a Best Bike Split (BBS) profile for this race.  I used 82% of FTP based on 270 – link to BBS here

Pre-Race – I got sick on Sunday, April 30 and I’ve been racked with hacking coughs and an overall malaise.  I’ve been on a constant stream of Dayquil and Nyquil and things have gotten better, but there’s still an annoying cough so I’ll need to deal with that this week with the doctor.  I’m unsure how I picked up this phlegm-filled mess, but it felt like a combination of starting my taper and some shift in the weather here in South Bay all colluding to ruin me.  I eased off of training during this period and just did some short workouts to keep up intensity, but otherwise just rested for almost 2 weeks.

This screenshot is based off of today (1 day after race) so I can’t display my ramp rates and fitness leading up to this (it’s on another weird chart) but here are the stats as of Friday night (May 12):

ATL – 40.7

CTL – 74.9

TSB – 32.4

What does all this nerdery mean?  It means I was rested up quite nicely going into Santa Rosa 70.3 but that I had lost a little fitness (on paper) compared to my Oceanside 70.3 taper.

Thursday, May 11 – I picked up a friend (Rebecca) from South Bay at 0400L and started the drive up north.  We made a quick stop in LA then kept going and made it to Santa Rosa by 1130L, so I was quite happy with the time.  We then hit the expo and we managed to get in line by ~1150 so we had about 10 minutes to stand around before registration opened.  Once we got through that madhouse, we roamed around for a bit then made a hotel stop, then I hit up the rental house.  I bummed around for a bit then went to downtown Santa Rosa to meet the South Bay Triathlon Club for a pre-race dinner at “Lococo’s Cucino” Italian Restaurant – it was good.  After dinner I popped smoke to Safeway to get some groceries then headed back to rack out by ~2200.

Friday, May 12 – I was up by 0730L (thanks to someone at work who called me) and started prep.  My housemates (Julie and Liz) had started to cook and made coffee so I joined them.  We then all split off to do our own prep.  I did my bike and run by the house just to make sure everything was moving right, so I got in about 8 minutes on the bike (checked out shifting, aero positioning, helmet, etc) and did a quick 15 minute run (threw in some surges to test legs).  I then went downtown to drop off my run gear bag at T2 (point-to-point race) then had lunch at “La Rosa Taquiera” which was a good spot.  I synced up with my other housemates (Courtney and Mike) and we floated around for a bit at expo.

We made our way to T1 which was way up at Lake Sonoma (roughly 35 minute drive from downtown) to rack our bikes.  The drive gave a decent indication of the initial bike descent so this was something worth noting.  The venue itself was quite scenic and here are some pictures:

Once we racked our bikes, we went down to the water to scope out the swim.  It wasn’t too cold (61-62 degrees) with some slight chop but nothing too bad.

Of note, the run up the boat ramp from the swim to the bike transition area looked somewhat steep.  Some folks had heard that there would be carpet going the entire way up, but I laughed and said that wasn’t going to happen (ended up being right).  I also dismissed the difficulty of transition because I had done Escape from Alcatraz in the past and survived that cold, miserable transition in bare feet so I figured I would be alright here (ended up being dead wrong – I would later rue this decision).

Once we got out of transition, Courtney, Mike and I went to “Bear Republic Brewing Company” in Healdsburg and had an alright dinner.  We then went back to the pad and crashed and I was asleep by roughly 930-10pm.

Saturday, May 13 – I set the alarm for 230am then got up to use the restroom and make coffee.  I started cooking around 245am and everyone was up and moving by 3am.  I had my customary pre-race meal for a 70.3 – 2x eggs, 1x slice of bread with almond butter and honey, and a decent amount of coffee.

We geared up and rolled out and was out of the house by roughly 340am.  We parked downtown and headed to the expo to board the buses to take us to Lake Sonoma.  We boarded by 415am and all of the housemates (Julie, Liz, Mike, Courtney, and I) were on the same bus.  We got to T1 at roughly 510am and I ran directly to the porta potty line before going into transition (rookie mistake to not hit the bathrooms first…always go as soon as you get to a race to avoid the massive lines).

Once I got into transition, I set everything up and was done fairly quickly.  However, I left my pre-made Gatorade at the house so I used water on my BTA bottle instead and had to adjust nutrition (took a gu immediately on bike) until I could make it to the first aid station (speaking of rookie mistakes…).  I had brought my bike pump with me and made sure Julie, Mike, and Courtney were squared away.  I checked on my friend Emily from Master’s Swimming and made sure she was alright, then we dropped off morning clothes bags and headed down to the swim.  I downed 1x gu (heavy caffeine), 1x salt pill, and a water bottle on the way.  I had no time to warm up with bands before I dropped off my morning clothes bag so I was preparing to go swim cold.  I took Emily and met up with Courtney and Mike at the “33-35 minute” swim seed (a person literally holding a sign that says 33-35 minutes) and we waited.  I did about 30-40 pushups just to get everything moving.  We started moving towards the swim start line by 630am and ran into the water as a 4-person draft group.

Swim – I wanted to push the pace a decent bit up to the first buoy to bypass the straphangers then start settling.  I gunned it a bit hard and fought through a melee at the first right turn.  I just held and focused on cadence, breathing, and form while sighting and fending off the slower folks that we started to drop.  I couldn’t keep track of whether everyone was still with me but I felt some slight contact on my sides and legs so figured someone was still sticking with me.  The sun was directly in our eyes by this point so trying to sight big yellow buoys was more difficult than anticipated and I actually ran into some.  I held the line well and kept pushing through the turns.  After the third turn, I hugged the shoreline (we watched the professionals finish their swim and it looked like a good idea) and kept up the pace.  We lost a good group of draft packs in front of us since we chose the shoreline, but I felt like it was a better idea.  The buoys were held way out wide, so those packs that stuck to those buoys after the third turn were creating an extra gap back to shore and I didn’t want a part of it.  Hugging the shore was a good move as I hit the plastic barriers and slingshotted around those with a direct line into the swim exit.  I started putting my energy into the kick to get my legs moving as I learned long ago to kick hard the last ~200m to get blood back into your legs for the upcoming run into transition, otherwise you get out of the water wobbly and dizzy.  I made it out of the water, hit the watch, then started running up the boat ramp.

I learned later that we lost Mike and Emily at the first turn due to the crazy melee but Courtney stayed with me for the swim until the end, where she found another swimmer and stayed with him and she finished 30-40 seconds ahead of me.  Overall, this was the best swim I’ve done considering the pacing, fitness, tactical maneuvers and the fact that I wasn’t tired at all when I finished.  I credit Coach Mike, Coach Dana, and Bryan for helping me get my swim squared away.  Between all the swims, Master’s sessions, and ocean training, things are finally coming together here.

Final Swim – 35:11 link here

**Note – My garmin times are different than the official times.  I stopped my watch as soon as I hit ground, but I think the timing chip portion was a little bit north of the swim exit.  The “official” times on the IM website stand, but these are what I have based on what I hit on my watch.**

T1 – Utter and complete nightmare.  The run back to the bikes was miserable because the ground was so cold and hard that my feet felt like concrete cinderblocks trying to move.  I hustled as fast as I could and passed a bunch of folks, but moving at any run was almost impossible in bare feet.  Next time, I’m bringing some beater sandals to run in and leave them by the swim exit (may tie a balloon to them for identification).  I made it to my bike and put my wetsuit/swim cap/goggles in the bike bag along with my bike pump.  I then tied everything up, put on my shoes and helmet, grabbed the bike, and escaped.  This was the worst T1 I’ve ever done.

Final T1 – 6:53

Bike – I had done Vineman 70.3 in the past and some of the bike course was the same, so I expected this bike to be relatively easy compared to Oceanside 70.3.  We had a slight climb out of T1 and then went over a bridge.  Once we got over the bridge, we started a multi-mile descent with some turns and switchbacks.  There were signs that said “No Aerobars” so everyone was upright.  The descent looked gnarly on the drive up, but it wasn’t hard.  The issue for many folks was the cold but I was unfazed.  I just focused on pushing the pace to get warmed up and making sure I didn’t crash on the descent and I didn’t have any troubles here.  We finally stabilized on some calmer terrain and I got into aero to start doing some work.  I looked at my numbers and they were far higher than what I had done in training or expected to hit, so I just went with it and focused on RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) and just going by feel and Heart Rate.  I took my gu, water, and salt pills until the first aid station, then chugged a gatorade and put another gatorade on the back.  I went about 3-4 miles then filled up my BTA bottle with my backup gatorade and pressed forward.

Once I hit mile 40, I coughed so hard my stomach actually cramped up, so I had to get out of aero and stretch for a bit.  It went away 2-3 miles later but it was annoying enough to wound me in the middle of a race.  For the last 15-16 miles, I started to pee so frequently on the bike (6-8 times in 10 miles) that it interrupted my riding and it was harder to hold consistent power, so I just kept everything moving forward as best as I could.

We started to hit the outskirts of town so I made sure to get all my salt pills and gatorade in preparation for the upcoming run.  It took a minute to finally get to T2 and the bike course was slightly longer than expected, so I lost some time in the final miles as we all had to slow down to make it in.

Overall, this bike course was alright.  Some of the road conditions are sub-optimal and some road bumps were not marked, but otherwise the police support, volunteers, and overall venue were superb.  The only issue I noted that affected race performance was the wind – we had some gusts and headwinds that added enough variability into the mix that it affected my power and pacing.  I’m glad I’ve been getting more “aero” as it seemed to help get through the wind.

Final Bike – 2:29:27 – link here

T2 – This wasn’t as bad as T1.  The race officials had blocked off multiple parts of an entire street which served as our transition.  I had to run down most of the transition to make it to my rack.  Some goon had racked his bike next to mine the opposite way so I had to push his bike out of the way and get into my T2 bag.  I racked the bike, took off my helmet, then put on socks and shoes.  I grabbed my race belt, hat, and water bottle and started running and put those on while moving.  I fled the scene to get out of the madness.

Final T2 – 2:53

Run – I felt strong on the run so I knew that my nutrition on the bike went well.  I had put de-fizzed coke in my run water bottle the night before so I drank this constantly during the run.  I learned from Oceanside that the volunteers may hand out pitiful amounts of coke so I wanted to make sure I didn’t fade again because of that.  I kept the pace and effort even throughout the run and just focused on holding an even RPE.  The course undulated quite a bit and we hit some stairs and turnarounds (run was in a park) so the run pace would change even though RPE remained constant.  I had planned to take more salt pills according to my nutrition plan, but the salt pills actually got stick in the salt container and wouldn’t move so I abandoned that plan.  I took in my gu at 60 minutes and kept moving.  I ran out of coke in my run bottle around mile 9-10, so I took in more cokes and gatorades at the aid stations.  I felt strong throughout the run and managed to get more energy as the race progressed.  I picked up the pace on the last 2 miles and once I hit mile 12, I started my kick.  I kept the kick going until I hit the main street and then I started the sprint.  I sprinted the final corner past the turn-around and down the entire straightaway.  I crossed the finish line and almost hacked up a lung with my death cough but got some coke and pizza and was alright.

Of note, this was the strongest I’ve felt on a 70.3 run to date.  I never walked or stopped the entire time and actually got faster and felt stronger towards the end.  I looked at the data later and saw that the run was a bit short (12.9) and other runners seemed to confirm this.

Final Run – 1:33:36 – link here

Overall Time – 4:48:15 – link here

Results – 26th AG, 140th OA – link here

Based on my goals going into this, here’s the breakdown:

Actual Swim – 35:36 – Solid “B”

Actual Bike – 2:30:18 – Solid “B”

Actual Run – 1:33:35 – Solid “B”

Actual Total – 4:48:15 – Solid “C”

I give this race an overall “C” ranking my actual times vs. predicted.  I achieved a new PR at this distance (old was 4:50 at Galveston 70.3 in 2015) and felt strong throughout.  However, T1 cost me some time and I can still do better on all 3 legs.

Here are some key takeaways and actions for the upcoming season:

1. Aero – I swapped out my butyl tubes with Latex (thanks to Shift Cycles here) and I’m sure it helped me as my ride seemed a bit smoother.  Barring my new long-sleeved kit and a few adjustments on the rear cages, I’m probably as aero as I can get on this bike barring an aero test at a wind tunnel or velodrome.  I’ll head back into ERO Sports at some point this year to see if we can make anymore tweaks, but I feel pretty locked in and solid in the aero position.

2. Weight – I’ve slimmed down to 160 pounds so I’ve lost 12 pounds since January.  However, I’m still carrying around a decent amount of body fat so improving my body composition and strength to weight ratio will be a top priority for the summer season.

3. Bike Power – The numbers I put out during this race were far higher than anything I’ve done in training so there are two possibilities:

  • Possibility One – I need to re-calibrate my power meter and see what my watts look like since the weather up north was colder (more likely)
  • Possibility Two – The extended rest helped me achieve a breakthrough and allowed me to push higher watts which means an increased FTP (less likely)
  • I’ll need to do an FTP test in the next few weeks to verify.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with this race.  I’m at my highest level of fitness as of this writing and back on par with how I felt in 2015.  I have a lot of work to do over the summer but I am enjoying the process of training and I’m looking forward to the fall races.

I had a great time seeing all my D3 teammates and South Bay Tri teammates do well in their races and achieve their goals.  Keep up the hard work!