Race Report: Iron Man 70.3 California (Oceanside)

The whistles go woooo!


Racing, beaching, grilling, beering with friends in Oceanside, CA… Throw overall, swim and run PRs along with an age group podium in there and you would start whistling wooo too!

Executive Summary

  • Oceanside was my second year of the race and my first 70.3 event. A follow up to Escape from Alcatraz, this race promised to be just as competitive.
  • I PR’d at the half iron distance with a 4:24:10, PR’d the swim at 28:03 (bigger milestone, 11th out of water in AG) and PR’d the run at 1:17:46 (3rd overall AGers).
  • My second age group podium (4th AG) in as many races this year affirm the hard work we’ve been putting in.
  • Even while performing well, this race was rich with learning experiences, tallying up to 2 easy minutes left on the table and a missed competitive opportunity.


On the quick Southwest flight, Vince and I could barely contain our excitement. He slept the whole way and I geeked out over the gear issue of Triathlete Magazine. Wainy picked us up and we were on our way to the headquarters for the weekend – a house for 10 dudes 2 blocks from the beach finish. The house was great, big props to Kahn for booking  this great house again.

Why, yes. Yes we were sitting next to each other tweeting at the airport. 

Tuning up

We scratched La Jolla cove to do our swim off the shore by the finish. Not a bad decision, huh? It’s amazing how much more enjoyable this is when your brain isn’t screaming at you because of the cold. The swimming was good and we even had a chance to frolic. Yes, frolic.

Between strides, swim and riding some of the run course, we had an 1:45 of light activity. Part of me did wonder if all of it together was overkill.

My Friday night consisted of eating bland, white carbohydrates, shaving my legs, massaging with a rolly stick and going to bed before 10:00. How rock and roll are we?

My jam for the day

The Smashing Pumpkins filled the headphones all week and Siva was in my head from when I woke up. That moment at 3:36…”I just want to get there faster” (cue the blow torch guitar)…was a much more fun way to think on the bike, “I, in fact, just want to get there faster.”

Race morning

I woke up feeling nice and relaxed, which is the single most important thing on race morning. I watched this awesome video my brother shared, which certainly reinforced the feeling.

Transition set up to race start seemed a bit rushed. I probably could have benefited from some strides or something to get the body a bit more revved.

Oceanside Transition

Wainy, Vince, Aaron and I taking a cute moment before the race.

The Swim

I’m currently working with Mohammed of the Embarcadero YMCA Masters program to graduate form a good bad swimmer to a bad good swimmer (credit Tim Smith). The point he drove home was “Slow and steady wins the race. But we don’t need the slow. Stay steady.” I really appreciated this frame of mind.

So when the gun went off, this is what I did. Certainly, a hastened start to stay with some slice of a group would be necessary, but I had the most even-keeled mental state of my life. Form. Reach. 1,2,3. 1,2,3. I felt really good, comfortable as I kept pace with a group. By the time we started making some turns, I even felt as if I was able to gradually turn the dial.

As we came into the last stretch, and the groups really started to pile up, I found one other blue cap that was matching me stroke for stroke and we came in together. I felt like I had a good swim and when I heard Faith, a strong swimming triathlete herself, yell, “Great swim Mike,” from the sidelines, I knew I was in a good position getting onto the bike.

PR swim time and AG rank

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Div. Rank Overall Rank Gender Rank
Total 1.2 mi 28:03 28:03 1:27/100m 11 224 186

Transition 1

After cramping 2 pedal strokes into EFA, I knew to suck down a GU immediately. No cramping today!
However, n00b moment, the ole’ chip on the outside of the wetsuit. I actually had to take a knee to get the suit over the chip. Lesson #1 of the day! You’re not above remembering the little stuff.
The Bike

As mentioned in the EFA race report, I had worked with Brett and M2 to recenter my riding focus. I headed into this race with new target numbers and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was a bit apprehensive about execution. Of course, M2 reemphasized, the most important thing is to register how you’re feeling on that day and put in the relative effort. I was feeling on target out of the water so off I went, working through the field.

Thing is, after the first couple upticks in grade, my legs started to feel…a little like garbage. Did I not refuel as well as I’d thought out of the water? No, felt more like lactic acid, not cramping. Did I in fact “tune up” too much yesterday? I really can’t think that’s the case, effort was very non-intense. Was I too aggressive in my sharpening sessions during the week? I don’t think so. In retrospect, the thing that stands out the most is potentially not executing the rest, rolling and stretching necessary to digest some harder efforts in the previous week. I’ll cue that up as Lesson #2.

But in due time, I settled in. Pretty boring riding here – through the base, pass, don’t get drafting penalties, etc. 23 miles, in the books.

But then, no more boring! Holly from my team at Fitbit and her family, cheering wildly, signs in hand, greeted me at the turn onto the first climb. What a great shot in the arm – their excitement was contagious. Thanks, Holly and boys!

After topping out, 5 miles of rolling grassy hills ensued. I was a main driver in the group that had formed around me, but I did notice that I need to work on the fluidity cresting rollers so as not to have such peaks and valleys of energy (Lesson #3).
The first big climb, 300 feet in half a mile. I passed the whole group I was riding with on this climb and hit the exact wattage sweet spot. After the climb there was still some cat and mouse going on during the ensuing rollers. I used the next climb to put more separation into the group. During the final 10 miles, I was in perfect rhythm. Steady, steady. The same thoughts as the swim.
Lesson #4 was a big one and, what I believe, cost me at least a minute and the
Better use those unclipped feet to run your butt off into transition, wise-guy!

Better use those unclipped feet to run your butt off into transition, wise-guy!

opportunity for a true dog fight for 3rd in my age group. I thought we were rolling into transition and I took my feet out of my shoes, placed them on top and continued to ride in. “We still have half a mile,” a voice said as it passed me. My slowing allowed the 5 guys I was leading in to pass me heading into a no pass zone.So I rode the last mile essentailly powerless, sans shoes.

The voice was ultimately the 3rd place finisher in my age group. He was into transition and out and on his way to running a minute faster than me before I got into T2. Had I remained in my shoes, ridden meaningful watts for the last mile and led the group in, he would have caught me on the run, I would have looked over and we would have thrown down for 3rd place. RAATTT FARRRTTTSSS!!!

Lesson #4 is know the course! The difference between AG 4th and 3rd isn’t the biggest deal. What digs me the most is the opportunity to have competed at a high level and not racing my best (mentally).

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Div. Rank Overall Rank Gender Rank
11.6 mi 11.6 mi 31:02 1:02:21 22.43 mi/h
26.4 mi 14.8 mi 37:52 1:40:13 23.45 mi/h
56 mi 29.6 mi 1:24:53 3:05:06 20.92 mi/h
Total 56 mi 2:33:47 3:05:06 21.85 mi/h 5 114 10

The Run

The positive about the shoe flub up was have a bit of a fire under me out of T2. As I headed out, I felt good, smooth. In runs past, I have broken up mileage into different focus areas, mainly with a pace build plan. Leading up to the race, I decided I was going to keep the mantra – Steady. Steady. – and run 6:00s until I was ready to open up.

The first mile clocked in at 5:54, but I felt good. Second mile, 5:53. Felt good. It would go on like that across the flat beachside paths, but even the rolling neighborhood streets. In between miles 3 and 4 I saw Virgilio coming the other way. He’d started 3 minutes before me and, as expected, hammered the crap out of the bike. Ehhh, not sure I was going to be able to make up that difference. Was going to be tough.

I'm not a shoe nerd.,I just crush alot.

I’m not a shoe nerd,I just crush alot.

The first lap was in the books at sub 6 pace. I’d added the Saucony Fastwitch 6 to my arsenal before EFA and I was really liking the ability to groove at a quick turnover, with the extra bit of stabilization for my suboptimal collapse.

Pain smile for Whitney, heading back for more on lap 2

Pain smile for Whitney, heading back for more on lap 2

Almost like clockwork, after the first lap was completed, I turned in a 6:07. Shyte! And after pouring a bunch of water over my head, the blisters (4 to be exact) started raging and all I could think of was “Knives Out” by Radiohead. It was going to be that kind of run, huh? Alright, first gutty moment of the race…for the next 7 miles. But 6:07, not good. Make up for it on the next mile, at least half the difference, run a 6:00. Good, nailed it. The turnaround for lap 2 caused some additional slowing. I think that 6:07 was due to the twisty-turny run on the pier, aid stations, congestion, etc.

They got a photo of me freaking out about getting my pace back down.

They got a photo of me freaking out about getting my pace back down.

I knew that it was going to be tough getting back down to 5:50s at mile 9 as I climbed up the grade into the neighborhood, so I held low 6:00s until the turnaround mile, where I was able to go back sub. Alright, mile 12, continue the sub-6! Wasn’t meant to be. Rollers swallowed me up and 6:05 it was. With 1.1 miles left, there was no more time to put off the burn, time to go.

I ticked up the pace back to low 5:50s and hit the downhill before the beach which would be the venue for the final 0.75 miles. “Breathe easy, it’s just three quarters. You’re at the track with Virgilio and Vince, you’ve done the whole workout and now you just have to nail the last three quarters.” I “led” each of the last quarters on the way in, turning the dial up for each one. I hit the chute with music blaring, people cheering and, up on the toes I went to close strong. Race clock read 4:40; I’d started 16 minutes after the Pros; 4:24, new PR. Boom goes the dynamite.

Aside: Seeing Virgilio, Vince, Brett, Kahn, John, Dan and others out on the course was something special. The M2 guys had trained together since Jan 1 – we knew each other inside and out. So encouraging each other along the way was extra meaningful, because we all believed in one another.

Run PR, 3rd run overall AG

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Div. Rank Overall Rank Gender Rank
0.8 mi 0.8 mi 4:22 3:10:46 5:35/mi
4.1 mi 3.3 mi 19:04 3:29:50 5:46/mi
7.4 mi 3.3 mi 19:28 3:49:18 5:52/mi
10.7 mi 3.3 mi 19:27 4:08:45 5:53/mi
13.1 mi 2.4 mi 15:25 4:24:10 6:23/mi
Total 13.1 mi 1:17:46 4:24:10 5:56/mi 4 63 56
The sexy Italian and his 3rd place trophy, the triathlon Disney Dad and his 4th place trophy

The sexy Italian and his 3rd place trophy, the triathlon Disney Dad and his 4th place trophy

Post race fun:

Grill, beers(s,s) and Tom Foolery with the guys. I also spent the afternoon/evening with my awesome friend Jenny who I hadn’t seen in a couple years, but lives in SD. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Bread eating contest

John leading Vince in the bread eating contest. #refuel

Key Takeaways

Swim: Continue putting in the yards and effort with Mohammad, it’s paying off.

Bike: On rides, focus on accelerating, cresting and exceeding rollers. Lost too much time to improper pacing on rollers. Oh, and know the course.

Run: Even pacing worked better than “breaking up the race.” Very positive to bring it back after the pace slip. Have a feeling this run split will only get better with the right kind of work.

Other: Be more mindful of rest and rolling before race.


As always, thanks to my family and friends that are always so supportive. Ali, wish you were there – if for no other reason than for the Stone Brewing bar that was across the street from us. Thanks to M2 Revolution for getting me ready to roll and for being such a great group to enjoy a race with. Thanks to GU for the nutrition before, during and after the race – truly great stuff. And to the city of Oceanside and all the volunteers! Till next time!

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