Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz – 10 September 2017

This was my 7th triathlon of the season and 3rd 70.3 (Half Ironman). This was my first triathlon in 2 months and first 70.3 race in 4 months.  This was my “A” race for the year so I felt pretty prepared.  I’ve lost roughly 12-13 pounds since my last race in July and I’m down to ~152 pounds, so the nutrition and training are now in sync.

Santa Cruz 70.3 Triathlon – 800y swim (shortened due to fog), 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Game Plan – here’s the original plan we put together.  Here are the goals:

      1. A” Goal – Swim 33:30, Bike 2:22-2:28, Run 1:28-1:31: <=4:30-4:35
      2. B” Goal – Swim 34:30, Bike 2:29-2:35, Run 1:32-1:35: <=4:36-4:45
      3. C” Goal – Swim 35:30, Bike 2:36-2:45, Run 1:35-1:38: <=4:46-5:00

We tweaked the power around in BBS a bit and I was aiming for 85% or 0.85IF.  This is about the highest top-end that I would want to do for a 70.3 race…anything higher than this and I’d probably have to walk the run.  The link is here

Pre-Race – I got into a bike crash on Saturday, August 12 and that was the last long ride I had until this race.  I kept my bike legs alive on the trainer but coupled with the crash, missing some longer rides, and a wedding, my bike fitness was not at the point-end as it was in mid-August.  However, my swim and run were there and I was well rested and tapered, so this was the best I felt going into a race all year.

I forgot to grab a screenshot of my CTL / ATL / TSB from Training Peaks the morning of, so I’ve put the screenshot of my PMC above with the values for race day.  Here are the stats from Saturday, September 9th leading into the race:

ATL – 50

CTL – 73

TSB – 19

These numbers mean I was pretty rested and ready to crush it.

Friday, September 8 – I slept in and took my time to leave.  I was on the road around 9am and got to Santa Cruz around 4pm.  I went straight to the expo to pick up my packet and get some gu’s.  After that, I went to our VRBO house to meet Genn and her husband, then we had dinner downtown.  I prepared the bike by putting all the stickers on and swapping out race wheels, putting on the aero bottle and bento box, and testing out the bike computer.  I was in bed by about 10pm.

Saturday, September 9 – I was up around 7am so I could start my warm up bike and run.  I biked around the block a few times.  I hit a bump and my entire front end went down, so I had to pull over and tighten everything up and re-adjust.  I had gone into ERO Tuesday to make some tweaks because of the bike crash so I was a little spooked by this new development, but everything seemed fine after I tightened the bolts.  I got in a quick 15 minute run with some quick strides but nothing crazy.  Our friend Mike came by the house so we all had breakfast and were done by around 11am.

I then left alone to drop off my bike at the race expo and I was done by ~1220pm.  We had a D3 lunch I had to setup at one of the local restaurants so I was there by 1240pm.  We all met at 1pm and it was a good time.  We broke around 230pm so I headed straight home to rest and prepare the remaining gear.

Courtney, Mike and I met up at 5pm to meet Peggy and her crew at an Italian place downtown.  Dinner was good, then we were back home around 7pm and I was in bed by 9pm.

Sunday, September 10 – I was up by 330am to cook and gear up.  Normal breakfast and coffee, no real issues.  I was out of the house by 440am with Mike and Courtney to find a good parking spot.  I had scoped out a public parking area next to the race so we got situated and headed into the madness.

I was setting my gear up and tried to calibrate my power meter, but I quickly realized my PM battery was dead because of the red light.  I used my spare but that was dead too, so I ran to Mike to get his backup battery which worked.  If he didn’t have a spare battery, I would have had to bike by pure feel…and that’s always a crapshoot depending on how you’re feeling.  Once that debacle was cleared, I got the rest of my gear in place.  The two bikes next to me never showed up so I had plenty of real estate – the other athletes next to me remarked on how I was “setting up camp.”  They didn’t compalin when I offered them the real estate to store their bags though…

Mike and I warmed up with our swim bands then we all exited transition at 630am.

We headed to the swim start and got in some good warmups out in the ocean.  However, we were quickly informed that the swim would be delayed due to the intense fog – we couldn’t even see the pier that was a few feet in front of us.  We roamed around for a bit looking for some extra food and water.  When we got back to the swim start, the announcers said that the swim was being relocated to the other side of the pier and wouldn’t start until 8am.  All 2000 racers then started walking over to the other side of the pier, and we were all herded into a giant corral to wait.  I had to pee in my wetsuit 9 times before we finally started the swim.  In total, we waited around 75-80 minutes from when we were supposed to start the swim and when we actually began, so I had to do some nutritional math in my head to adjust on the bike.  Due to the time delay and fog, the swim distance was shortened from 1.2 miles to 800 yards…good news for average swimmers like me!  The race folks finally got everything going and we were in the water around 820am.

Swim – since this was only 800 yards, I slammed it as fast as I could.  I had deliberately chosen a bright pink swim cap and put purple KT tape on my calves so that Mike and Courtney could tell it was me so we could form a draft pack.  Mike and I stayed together and we proceeded to crush everyone in our path…it was glorious.  We hit 3 yellow buoys on our right then made a sharp right turn at the first red (right on red).  On the second right turn, Mike got on my right and we stayed together.  However, my goggles fogged up and I lots him – I just chased feet at this point.  I was also pretty gassed as I went all out and evidently I need work on my 800 yard all out efforts…whoops.  I was hoping for the whole distance swim so I could test out my 70.3 swim fitness, but we’ll have to wait another time.

Final Swim – 12:55 – 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 long!  We had a slog to get from the swim exit to the soccer field for our bikes.  I moved as fast as I could and ran by a bunch of folks.  I got the shoes on, then helmet, then grabbed my bike and rolled out fast.

Final T1 – 5:53

Bike – I was worried about being able to throw down and hold some real watts so I figured it was time to lay down the gauntlet.  It took about 4 miles to get out of town and on PCH because of the course setup, so I pushed it while staying upright.  I also took in my spare gu since we waited so long on the swim.  Once we got to PCH, I dropped the hammer and let it rip.  I just focused on pushing hard but keeping my HR under 170.  I knew that if I stayed in the 160 range it would be uncomfortable but I could hack it.  I passed everyone I saw.  A few people passed me, but I passed them right back and no one actually overtook me during the entire race.  I hit the first 28 miles in 1:10, so I realized that I could potentially go around 2:20 if I was having a good day, so I let it rip again on the back half.

However, not all was perfect here.  I dropped my salt container with all of my salt tabs at mile 15 of the bike right after the first aid station.  I was on a descent so there was no way I was going to recover it.  I did some more nutrition math in my head and realized I would hit the minimum amount of sodium I needed per hour, but my run was going to hurt.  I stuck to my gatorades and gu as scheduled then decided that I would get extra salt on the run.

We hit the final 4 miles into town so I couldn’t keep up my pace due to turns, people, etc.  We hit T2 and I was pretty pleased as I had finally PR’d my bike after 2.5 years.

Overall, this bike race course wasn’t too bad.  It was like riding PCH here locally – cold, flat, a decent amount of rollers, and car traffic surrounding you.  This bike course suits me because I can just hold aero the whole time and let it rip.

Final Bike – 2:25:59 – link here

T2 – this was fairly easy.  I ran in, racked my bike, slipped into my socks and shoes, then grabbed my hat, sunglasses, race belt, and run bottle at once and put them on while running out – no issues.

Final T2 – 2:00

Run – I knew this one would be tough because of losing my salt.  I started taking more salt tabs right away to try and stem the damage.  I hit my first 3 miles around ~6:50 and felt great.  I kept drinking my coke and took in gatorades at the stations.  As the run wore on, we hit some hills, ascents, and descents.  Around mile 5-6, we hit the trails that went around for awhile.  I was feeling the misery by this point as my pace was dipping into the 7s.  I just focused on holding on and kept taking in more salt tabs while grabbing more cokes and gatorades at aid stations.  There was no shade or wind on the trail section, and the sun was out in full force so the heat was building.  The last 3 miles were pretty miserable.  Luckily, we hit the pavement with the ocean breeze so it helped me to keep a stable pace.  The last mile was god awful so I just powered through it.  I finished and was glad it was over because I was about toast.

This run was surprisingly tougher than I expected.  I was told the run was “flat and fast” but I thought that the combination of hills, ascents, descents, trails, and heat made this run far more difficult than I had prepared for.  Coupled with the salt debacle, this run was not pretty for me.

Final Run – 1:33:27 – link here

Overall Time – 4:20:13 – link here

Results – 8th AG, 61st OA – link here

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

Actual Swim – 12:55 – no ranking (not comparable to real 70.3 swim)

Actual Bike – 2:25:59 – Solid “A”

Actual Run – 1:33:27 – Solid “B”

Actual Total – 4:20:13 – ?

I can’t really rate this race because it wasn’t the whole distance.  I’m pleased with my effort and training but we’ll have to see how I do on a full 70.3 course with no shortened swims/bikes/runs.  I’m bummed that I lost my salt and I think it cost me my run, so I took a note to have a backup salt canister with me on the bike (2 canisters total) in case this happens again.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Bring multiple CR2032 batteries in case the backup power meter battery fails.  Mike and I had just talked about this the night before the race, so good thing we did.
  2. Have backup nutrition on the bike if you can fit it – if it’s small enough and doesn’t add too much weight, bring it.
  3. Push harder than expected on a 70.3 bike – I had to push several times and hold way more than my normalized power to get the numbers for both average and NP up.  I include zeros in the calculation (coasting, no pedaling, such as descents, etc).  Therefore, I had to slam it decently.  However, this didn’t adversely gas me out as my fitness was decent.  My VI was at 1.05 and my TSS was way under the high point so I was able to get away with it.  If I went purely on feel, I would have either overbiked or underbiked…but the following the power made it just right.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with this effort.  I felt great on the bike and I was finally able to hold the right amount of watts (0.8IF).  My run, even though I struggled, was still a PR.  I PR’d on the bike and run and got top 10 in my AG, so it was a good day.  The old adage of “follow the process” is bearing fruit.  I have a few more races left this season so the goal is still to enjoy the process and continually become a better athlete.

Congratulations to all my fellow D3 and South Bay racers!

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