This was my 9th triathlon of the season and 4th 70.3 (Half Ironman). This is my third week in a row of racing (I raced the Santa Cruz 70.3 14 days prior and the Malibu Olympic Triathlon 8 days prior). I was a bit tired going into this race, but the goal was to rip it and get revenge from last year’s attempt
Ironman 70.3 Superfrog – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Game Plan – Here’s the original plan I put together. Here are the goals:
- “A” Goal – Swim 33:30, Bike 2:15-2:21, Run 1:37-1:40: <=4:40-4:45
- “B” Goal – Swim 34:30, Bike 2:22–2:27, Run 1:40-1:43: <=4:46-4:51
- “C” Goal – Swim 35:30, Bike 2:27-2:30, Run 1:44-1:50: <=4:52-5:00
I had tweaked Best Bike Split to account for different wattage levels, so these were at 85% / 83% / 80%. I figured I’d aim for an aggressive top end, even though I was tired from racing over the last few weeks, but I figured I may be able to hold at least 80% or higher because the course suits me (flat and windy); the screenshots are below and the link is here:
Pre-Race – There wasn’t anything too special leading up to the race. After the last few weeks of racing my overall fitness had stayed about the same but my bike fitness was on its last legs while my swim and run were still alright. I was still nicely tapered and rested leading up to Sunday.
This is a screenshot of the PMC and the highlight is on race day. Here are the stats leading into the race as of Saturday, September 23rd:
ATL – 49
CTL – 70
TSB – 17
These numbers mean I was rested and ready.
Saturday, September 23 – I slept in a bit then got up to shower, eat, and pack the remaining gear into the car. I noticed an oil leak at this point (I’ll allude to this more later) and was out of the house and on the road by 9am. I got to Imperial Beach around 1130am and grabbed my packet and other gear. I put the stickers on my bike and did a pre-ride for ~15 minutes to test the legs and make sure the bike was in proper condition. I dropped the bike off in transition then got in a 15 minute run. Everything felt fine, so I grabbed some food by the pier and headed to the hotel.
After I checked into the hotel, I took a nap then got up to get to dinner around 6pm. When I was getting more gasoline for the car, I noticed the oil was leaking more. On the drive to dinner (Olive Garden), I noticed that the temperature gauge on the engine was starting to climb. I made it to OG then ate (soup and salad combo, always wins!). After dinner, I walked over to target to get more engine oil. I topped up the engine and things seemed fine, so I started driving back to the hotel. On the way back, the engine kept heating up and I was getting worried.
I made it back to the hotel parking lot and my coolant was boiling when I went to check on the engine. I walked on foot from the hotel to an Autozone that was about 10 minutes away. I grabbed some coolant and then ran back to the car to top everything off. I kept the car at park and idled the RPM from 1000/2000/3000 just to test everything out and the temperature wasn’t rising.
I drove the beast around the parking lot and the temperature was still rising. I figured that my best course of action was to make it to the race (13 mile drive) and then deal with the car later. I went back to the hotel room to finish prep (make gatorades, lay out food and clothing, etc) then tried to catch some sleep. I finally fell asleep around 1am and my first alarm was set for 3am.
Sunday, September 24 – I got up at 330am to eat and prep. I wanted to leave the hotel early in case I had car issues and I wanted to be on-site right at 5am so I could lay out my gear and get in the restroom line before it filled up. I was out of the hotel around 440am and on my way south.
My car looked to be alright, but on the drive down, the engine started to heat up again. I knew I was almost to race parking, but when I got off the interstate to make the exit, my car stalled. I made it up the short climb and barely turned (power steering and engine were gone) and parked on the curb with my hazards on. I called my insurance and requested a tow truck come claim my vehicle. I waited about 20 minutes and the tow truck came around 515-520am. We tried driving the vehicle onto the tow truck but it was toast, so the driver had to use tow the beast up the ramp. I then asked the driver to drop me off at the race site which was 3 miles away. Once he dropped me off, I asked the driver to drop off the beast at the Toyota dealership in Chula Vista and I’d come to claim it later.
I managed to make it to the race at roughly 530-540am then geared up. While still preparing, my insurance called me and told me that the Toyota dealer was locked up, so they had to put the beast into storage and that I would have to coordinate with them later to take it to the dealer. I wasn’t too thrilled about any of this but opted to just focus on the race and deal with the rest later.
Both bikes next to me failed to show up so I had a generous amount of transition space yet again (same as Santa Cruz 70.3). I had no issues preparing but realized I left the anti-chafe in the car so had to borrow some from another gentleman. I warmed up with the StretchCordz, took a salt pill and gu, then rolled out to swim start.
The water was in the high-60s and the surf was negligible, so this was going to be a relatively easy swim compared to the previous year. However, they reversed direction of the start/finish so we wouldn’t get as much of a current as last year. We self-seeded and I started at the front of the “30-35 minute” sign and figured I’d attempt to roll with the big dogs. Note that this swim is a 1 lap swim, followed by a run back to start, followed by another 1 lap swim, then a run to exit and off to transition.
Swim – this was relatively straightforward. There were 3 buoys total – a red turn buoy that had us turn left, followed by 1 yellow sight buoy, followed by another red turn buoy that had us take a left towards shore. I just focused on finding a good rhythm and draft pack. The current was taking folks to the left of the first turn buoy so a few of us swing a bit wide at the start to angle in and it seemed to work. There wasn’t much of a melee at the turn buoy but I thrashed a few folks who were bagging. On the second turn, we had to swim east directly into the rising sun, so sighting was very tough. I just followed feet and hoped they were angling straight. We made it through the surf for the first loop and I had swam ~14 minutes, so realized this was good. The run back to the start arch had me gassed, but I kept moving and then jumped through the surf to start the second loop.
The second loop was a bit slower than the first. The run gaffed my rhythm so it took a minute to get in a groove. On the final turnaround, the sun got me again and I lost all feet, so I angled more towards the pier until a lifeguard pointed me to the masses, then I managed to catch a draft pack and swim in. I swam faster last year in harder conditions but we had a current then, so this was pretty much a full effort swim with no aids, and I was pleased with my time and the fact that I wasn’t too gassed when I ran out.
Final Swim – 32:23 – 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 – This was a bit of a smokefest. We had to wind down a snaky-chute past a bunch of the bikers so it was a bit chaotic. I moved as quick as I could but wasn’t too fast here. I got to my bike, ripped off the wetsuit, threw on socks and shoes, then helmet, then grabbed my bike and was out.
Final T1 – 4:44
Bike – This bike course was 4 loops which was mentally tiring, but these courses ultimately suit me as I can time the splits and calculate how fast I need to go to reach a certain time. It took us about a mile to meander through town and get onto the Silver Strand Highway, so I just focused on making sure everything was working and started to wake up the legs.
Once we hit the strand, I started to let it rip and settle into aero. My HR was in the 170s by this point so I knew that the last few weeks of racing were catching up to me. I focused on keeping up with nutrition and maintaining a cadence that wouldn’t spike my HR too high. I managed to lower HR in the mid-to-high 160s and figured that was good enough. My quads weren’t fully 100% but since this course was flat with no climbs, I was able to tuck in and start laying waste to the field. The rest of the bike was relatively tame. I had no one pass me the entire time but I wept as I watched my watts get lower and lower after each lap – I couldn’t hold 80% so just opted to do what I could. I realized I could hit a PR bike still so managed to push the last bit, but the bike was closer to 57 miles so I hit 56 at ~2:22 but didn’t hit the final mat until 2:25. This was a PR bike for me but I realized I was under-strength here – I’d like to do this bike again at full strength.
Final Bike – 2:25:31 (PR) – link here
T2 – This was pretty fast. My bike rack was right by the bike in so I leapt off the bike, racked everything, threw on shoes, grabbed my hat/run bottle/sunglasses and was off.
Final T2 – 1:33
Run – Based on last year’s race, I categorize the Superfrog 70.3 run as the hardest 70.3 run I’ve done. This run is 4 loops, but there is a big stretch on the sand that adds up to ~7 miles. My legs can handle the sand, but I can’t maintain much speed as there’s no rebound. On the first lap, I followed the 1-2 guys that got off the bike with me (19 year old and 44 year old males) and we hit the soft sand right away. We then swung a left onto the pavement and into the aid stations. Once on the pavement, I booked it and dropped both of the guys, but once we hit the sand they overtook me and we played leap frog together for a few miles. On the sand stretch back, we stayed as close to the shoreline as possible to hit the hard sand as this saves more energy and you can move faster.
The rest of the run was pretty miserable up to mile 7. I just focused on sticking to my fuel plan and keeping and even pace. This ended up paying off. At mile 7, all the salt pills, gu, coke, and gatorade finally kicked in, and I was able to start really moving.
My friend Rebecca and her SOAS race team spectated and cheered on the course, so seeing them was a good boost of energy and they snapped several race photos, so I was grateful for their presence.
The other 2 guys I was jostling with faded and I started picking things up. I got faster on the second half of the run so I was quite pleased. Once we hit the final turn after the 4th lap, I sprinted through to the finish line as I had a guy right on my tail. I managed to improve my time from last year but it looks like the run was a bit short…probably to make up for the longer bike.
Final Run – 1:44:52 – link here
Overall Time – 4:49:03 – link here
Results – 8th AG, 27th OA – link here
Based on my goals going into this, here’s the breakdown:
Actual Swim – 32:23 – A+
Actual Bike – 2:25:31 – Solid “B”
Actual Run – 1:44:52 – Solid “C”
Actual Total – 4:49:03 – Solid “B”
I’ll give this race a B based on my actual times vs. predicted. My swim went very well, my bike was alright, and ran was about what I expected based on this course. I was hoping I could go under 1:40 but I need more work on the sand apparently.
Here’s a breakdown of 2016 vs. 2017 on the same course:
2016: S – 32:32 / T1 – 3:53 / B – 2:34:22 / T2 – 1:30 / R – 1:47:33 / Total – 4:59:51
2017: S – 32:23 / T1 – 4:44 / B – 2:25:31 / T2 – 1:33 / R – 1:44:52 / Total – 4:49:03
I was able to improve my time at this course by ~10 minutes, so I achieved my objective of getting revenge from last year and getting a faster time. This was also my second fastest 70.3 time, and considering I was a bit gassed going in, I’m happy with the result.
- Don’t let “real life” issues interfere with your race – this is easier said than done. The entire debacle with my car wasn’t ideal, and there will always be things that happen outside of your control. However, you can control how you react to it. I’ve seen very physically prepared athletes crumble because they lack the mental strength to deal with adversity when something bad happens. I still struggle with this in training (tired from work, don’t want to train, etc), but when it’s race time, it’s time to throw down and focus.
- When you feel like crap on the bike/run, focus on your plan – I couldn’t hang onto my planned watts on the bike so I focused on fueling properly and keeping my HR low for the run. I felt like trash for the first ~7 miles of the run until all my nutrition kicked in, then I started to negative split the back half. When all else fails, stick to your plan.
- Have a plan to deal with real world events – I realized my car may potentially break down so I prepared everything even more carefully the night before and planned to leave extra early in case something did happen. Since I left early, I had enough of a buffer for the tow truck to come. In hindsight, I should have just took an Uber to the race and deal with the car later – this will be a good lesson learned for the future.
- I need to work on transitions. I’ve gotten sloppy and it shows, so I need get some tri-specific shoes and get back to the good old “flying mount” like I used to do in my 20s.
- Bike – I’m starting to finally hit a point where my bike fitness / prowess is overtaking my run fitness. All the time spent training in ERG mode on the indoor trainer has paid off. I still have plenty of glaring weaknesses on the bike (hard for me to redline, hard for me to hold race watts for a long duration) but compared to a few years ago, my bike is leagues ahead of where I was in the past. This is a combination of improved bike fitness and improved aerodynamics as I’ve found I’m quite slippery in aero compared to others.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with this effort. I managed to deal with some unfortunate pre-race issues and almost PR’d at a course that negates my strength in this sport (run). This was my last “major” race of the season and now I’m about to enjoy the off season. However, I still have to deal with the car issue and move into a new apartment, so October will be a “maintenance” month until I can get back to real training in November.
I feel good going into the next block of training as Santa Rosa 140.6 will be my big race of early 2018 as I’m focused on qualifying for Kona. I still have a lot of work to do and I’m slower than my peers that I need to compete against for a slot, but things are moving along.
Congratulations to everyone who raced!
Car Update – ignore if you’re a triathlete, this is simply for my own posterity:
After the race, I called the tow truck company to haul my vehicle over to the dealer. However, they couldn’t move anything out of storage on the weekends (what kind of policy is this???) so I had to stay in San Diego for the night. I ate lunch with the SOAS crew and made some new friends. After lunch, my friend Mike picked me up from the race along with all my gear and took me to La Jolla. I stayed with Colleen as she swam as part of a relay team with other SMOG swimmers for the La Jolla relay swim.
On Monday, I called my insurance and they instructed the tow truck folks to drop my car off at the dealer. After we checked out of the house, we drove down to Chula Vista to see the dealer. The car was there and the service folks were starting to work on it to figure out what was going on.
I roamed around San Diego a bit the rest of the day – I went downtown to the library, got a massage, ate some ramen, then headed back to Chula Vista. The service folks then let me know what happened:
Evidently, the main cylinder head gasket wore down and broke (235,000 miles on my car) and the engine got flooded with coolant or other gunk. This took out the radiator and thermostat. The bill is roughly ~$4k for labor and parts replacement and probably would be more as I would just have them replace the timing belt while they were there. After looking up the price of my car on Kelley Blue Book, I sadly realized that “The Beast” was not worth as much as I thought, and the cost of repairing the car was far more than the actual car itself.
I asked insurance if they could cover this but they told me they couldn’t (normal wear and tear), so I’m working with the dealer to see how much they want for this. In the meantime, it looks like I’m getting a new car…I’ll be enjoying this new car payment for a minute.
RIP “The Beast”: 2007-2017