Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa (DNF)

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I charged my battery, but that’s none of my business

Can you write a race report if you only get 27% of the way through the bike before pulling out? Maybe this is more of a race blurb. Or perhaps I could write a sonnet. Well, whatever  this is, it’s pretty short and sweet, but plans moving forward are at the end so read along to get the latest!

This past Saturday morning, circa 7:03am, I knew I was in trouble. I’d just completed the swim in the cold, but way more bearable than expected, Lake Sonoma and run up the crazy steep, even longer than expected, transition to my bike.

I’d taken measures against the 45 degree air by putting a long sleeve jersey over my wet body.

I took my first few pedal strokes and my legs felt ready to roll, not to be taken for granted after a swim.

And then, after the small hill out of transition, I clicked my electronic shifter to shift over to “big ring.*” Nothing.

I clicked again and again and the bike wouldn’t shift. I, of course, charged the bike before the race, so I was shocked at the first sign of a low battery, a dead front derailleur. Especially after working with mechanics to diagnose and fix battery draining components weeks prior.

This was the internal thought process that led up to the decision to drop, for this blog post narrated by Morgan Freeman:

0.25mi: “Ok, the next two miles are down hill. Tuck, bomb, get to the bottom and get off the bike to change it with your hands.”

2.25mi: “I don’t think you can change electronic derailleur with your hands.”

2.26mi: (click, click) “Ok, time to spin your legs as fast as you can to keep tension and salvage a bike split and deliver yourself to the run.”

4mi: (going up hill) “Not so bad, maybe this is possible!”

5mi: (going down hill) “Crap. Most of this course is downhill or flat.”

15mi: “Yeah, spinning like a maniac and watching the race pass you is kind of dumb. At this rate I’ll be done about 30min slower than expected. Last option, does this aid station have mechanical support? No? Time to pull the plug.”

And with that pun, I rolled with my teammate Brad KS who’d dropped with a chest cold, to the next town where a gracious family of spectators gave us a ride back to Santa Rosa.

I’ve learned a couple of reasons why my battery could have drained in 36 hours. I’ve put them at the bottom of this post.

While it’s a major bummer that when I was fit and ready, I wasn’t able to race this big local race against such a talented field and my teammates, I realize things happen and like the cramping at Oceanside a month prior, it’s all part  of racing. It was great to cheer so many teammates onto podium performances.

But since we’ve had a tough start to the season with duds at the first two races, I’ve made the decision to race Chattanooga this Sunday, May 21. We’ll have a lot of guys there, it’s the site of 2017 Worlds and it’s a chance to put this fitness to work. Hopefully I’ll be smiled upon by the racing gods for good race luck.

Thanks to everyone for the kind messages, sponsors for the support, Dani for being in my corner and all my teammates for the inspirational finishes to light that fire.

 

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Podium studs enjoying some suds

*******

 

Reasons Di2 electronic could have lost charge:

  • How the bike was stored in the back seat of the car
  • Break cabling work week before race could have knocked something loose
  • Cold temperatures over night
  • In transition, something pressed or if the bike was knocked over ttriggering  the system response to freeze the gearing

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 California (aka Oceanside aka Cramp City)

They don’t call it Oceanside for nothin. Thanks, Jen, for the photo!

I do well with consistency. I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture, but let’s just say you can’t wake up at 4:30 for workouts without it. So in the spirit of that consistency that athletes hold so dear, I had a melt down in my first Ironman 70.3 of 2017, just like last year (though that was more of a freeze out).

Yes, Oceanside 70.3 didn’t go as planned. That might be putting it lightly. I was laying in someone’s front lawn putting ice down my pants at mile three of the run. It was a mess. But unlike last year’s bout with hypothermia, I was able to grit and bare my way to a finish. I even ran a few miles with Andy Potts! Keep reading to find out how I went from front lawn to finish line.

(Here’s my Instagram – press follow to see more pics of me doing exercise)

First thing’s first…

Let’s get something out of the way: I was not having the race of my life only to be foiled by cramps on the run. Even though it was the new rolling swim start*, I swam the same (slow) 31min I’ve swam for the last two years. The first half of the bike felt great! The second half I could not attack on the climbs as I would/can/planned.

Consequently I got off my bike further behind the competition and really needed a stellar run to salvage a result. Instead of panicking, that’s exactly what I planned to do.

 

Some of these splits are not like the others…zapped by massive leg cramps.

 

Cramps…what’s the big deal anyway?

A fun fact about me is that I’ve never cramped in a race before. I mean, I’ve “been crampy” before, pressing my stomach up into my ribs while running to get rid of side stitches. But I’m not sure I ever understood how cramps could be so debilitating.

Oh, I get it now…

After feeling my way through the first two miles I started to turn up the intensity, only to feel my lower back tighten. I stopped at the aid station just before mile 3 to loosen it up and both abductors (inner thighs) went off like car alarms, sending me to the ground.

The volunteers at aid station 3 were great, bringing me bananas, pretzels, oranges, water and Gatorade (which I politely declined**). They brought ice, which I put down my pants and on my core. I rubbed the cramps, I stretched, I prayed. I did it all.

If you’ll recall, I didn’t have a second to spare on this run, so as this continued, I realized my race goals were donezo and for a second I thought about quitting. But that second came and went, and my new goal was to finish. Not for a podium spot, but for the volunteers who were rushing around to help me, the spectators who cheered when I stood up, for the team name EVERY MAN JACK plastered all over me, and finally for me – to leave the race stronger, wiser, and sure that I’m not a pansy.

Getting up, falling, and getting up again

As I shuffled away from the aid station thinking about how much ten miles was “gonna suuuuck,” Andy Potts came running by on his way to the finish. Of course the natural thought for anyone who just writhing on the ground would be to run with an Olympian and Ironman Champion, so that’s what I did. I could tell Andy was perhaps having an off day, so in a way we were helping each other out; it’s amazing how much better you can feel being pushed by someone vs. suffering solo, something visible in mile splits 4 and 5 above.

As Andy peeled off to finish, I turned up the hill for lap two and had there not been a railing lining the course, this would have been me:

Image result for faking dead punt gif

The abductors blew out for good this time and I came to a halt, grabbing the railing, and inching forward. A spectator told me I needed to walk or it would get worse, so that’s what I did. Then I began to jog. Then run. The objective for the rest of the run was to run just beneath the point of “cramp explosion,” which I was able to do while slightly building mile by mile.

As I crossed the finish, turned to give the crowd an applause; they spent their free Saturday morning standing in the sun willing a crampy gimp to the finish. Respect.

So what was it that caused the cramps?

I really wish I knew. As athletes we love to point to that “one thing” and say, “Aha! I will fix that and move forward!” But the reality is that I have a handful of theories ranging from fitness, to equipment, to health, to nutrition that I will discuss with my coach, Matt Dixon and the purplepatch crew. Having a coach and/or trusted, knowledgeable sounding board is really important to learn from situations like this and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by smart folks to get it fixed before Santa Rosa.

Thank you

Thanks to all my friends and family, teammates and sponsors who showed their support! It goes an especially long way on days like this. See you at Santa Rosa!

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* Ironman installed a new “rolling start” to the swim, which was a self seeded time trial start. This was great for the faster athletes to get out in the front of the race and while I wasn’t able to capitalize on it in the water, made the rest of the race much more enjoyable. I hope they adopt this moving forward!

** I cannot drink Gatorade, or other sport drinks, especially during intense efforts. I’ve thrown up while cycling and running after drinking it (Muncie), my stomach just can’t handle all of the sugar and food dyes. Sometimes it makes sense not to make a bad situation worse.

Race Report: Vineman 2014

Dwayne The Rock JohnsonThis was the one. The rock and the roll. The We Will Rock You. The Bee Bop and the Rock Steady. All of the Rock. The race where it all came together and showed glimpses of what kind of triathlete I can be. The shift from “coming back” to racing hard.

With this race, I punched my ticket to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Though I’ll be racing the ITU World Championship in Edmonton, Alberta six says earlier, I had to take the qualifying slot. It felt too right after this race and the Tour de Canada will be long, but not impossible.

And what would Vineman be without Pops V. being there for support?! In fact, it was a pretty stellar race weekend all around – Vince’s folks got a place on the river and we stayed with them and AD for a relaxing home base. Nothing like a home cooked meal the night before a race to top off the tanks.

Executive Summary:

  • Dramatic race that involved a catch at mile 10.9 of the run and a 2 mile kick to the finish
  • My best Ironman 70.3 result to date:
    • 4:15, PR
    • 3rd Amateur
    • 1st Age Group
    • Amateur run prime
    • Personal fastest 70.3 bike split
  • Swim was passable, but fell off the goal pace after show portion of river zapped energy
  • Began the bike feeling wonky, but settled in and worked a very solid split through traffic to set myself up for a good race
  • Hit the run with Vinny, and took off to chase down 1st AG, punctuated by a 2 mile kick

Race Song:

My dad and I listened to the National on the way up to the race and it was a really fun drive. So this song was playing in my head during the bike portion especially. The National is awesome, they are from Ohio and this is a good tune for a chill, but uptempo vibe. What else could you ask for?

Swim:

Rough waters into T1, don"t faint

Rough waters into T1, don”t faint

Russian River is shallow enough to stand in most areas and mild in temperature. This usually means a pretty cohesive wave start, as sighting is as easy as it can get. The gun went off and my goal was to stay on Vince’s feet and come into transition with him. He started to pull away – he’s swimming really well right now – and I fell in with another group.

We made the turn and as we came back, the water bottomed out. I began dolphin diving because I thought that would be quicker than scraping rocks. This used too much energy so went back to the swim.

As we came into the final 200 meters, it really started to get congested with all of the waves ahead of us. This seemed to liven up the guys in my group, as it started to get rough. One guy in particular was straight swimming on top of me. I tried to keep my cool and get away from him, but the heart rate sky rocketed.

Swim Result: 30:57, 19th AG, 142nd OA

Transition 1:

I got out essentially gasping for bread and really felt off going to my bike. As I took the bike off the rack and began to run away I began to go dark and had to stop and collect myself. I ran my bike up the hill and slowly got on the bike, not sure what to expect.

Bike:

After starting timidly, I was able to turn the dial up a bit. Nick Giometti and I cut our way through many, many (many) people from previous waves. Unfortunately, I had my “On your left!” callout on speed dial.

Traffic aside, I was feeling great and keeping the foot on the gas. Half way through, I checked in on the numbers and I felt I was able to get stronger for the second half. Always Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.02.51a beautiful thing when that happens.

M2 had me spend the previous two weeks doing specific extended efforts and detailed long rides, as well as pedaling exercises to increase efficiency. I found myself referencing this – especially the pedaling efficiency drills – to keep power smooth and steady.

My good vibes and quick pace got majorly squashed however as I hit the roughly 1 mile long No Pass Zone coming into Transition 2. I felt the full weight of being in the last wave. It seemed some folks at the end of previous waves were content to sit up and (literally) not pedal as they coasted in. Passing here was grounds for disqualification, so all I could do was “coach” folks (took every ounce of strength to not have a jerkface tone) that the race was not over and we needed to keep it rolling. I knew I was having a great race and had the potential for podium. But here I sat, not pedaling the last mile of the bike.

Bike Result 2:21:26, 4th AG, 32nd OA

Transition 2:

After tiptoeing like a running back through the folks getting off their bike, I saw Vince running in with his bike ahead of me. I hit the rack a few seconds after he did and as I put my shoes on, he yelled out for me to pick it up and come with. He was out probably 15 seconds before me and I sprinted out to catch him.

Run:

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.03.12I ran the first mile in 5:34 as I caught up to Vince and he had to tell me to dial it back as I was still in “catch up” mode. And off we ran together, like we had so many times before on the roads, trails and track, picking off people one by one. We kept checking in with each other, “5:43s, cool it;” “6:12s, pick it up;” “hit that shade;” “pace this hill.” It was awesome, and our pipe dream for every race we do together. We were cruising.

It was HOT. We were hitting the aid stations hard – water over head, ice down shorts. We hit the SFTri aid station together and it was nice to see familiar faces as we barked “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” And then at La Crema Vineyard, as Viva Pink energetically manned (womanned?) the aid station, we again made our preferences very clear.

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.44.45La Crema is one of my favorite parts of the course, because it reminds me of a cross country race: soft dirt trail around the perimeter of the vineyard, spattered with tree cover. I mentioned something about the pace and got my first lukewarm response from Vince and knew that I was driving at least for the moment.

We made it back onto the road and as we went for the turnaround at mile 8, we saw Bradley from team Every Man Jack coming the opposite way. I knew Brad was a strong athlete and that there couldn’t have been anyone in front of him. I also knew that I was going to catch him, as long as each of us continued running as we were. A major if, because in that heat, who knows when the wheels could come off. But I was feeling great, considering, so I pointed him out to Vince, who at this point was a step behind and I got no response.

This is when I knew I was going to finish the run without Vince. With new energy I surged into the turn around, and saw Vince three seconds behind. I gave him the wave, the same wave he gave to me out of transition, and got the thumbs up in return. Damn it. I wanted to continue crushing this run with Vince, but I knew I was on my own.

Mile 9. Lock and load.

Mile 9. Lock and load.

I locked in and the chase was on. Again, I bulldozed through the SFTri aid station, “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” Only Bradley wasn’t the first guy from my age group that I passed. I didn’t realize it, but Ezra Becker (M25-29) was between us. As I passed him, he said “Go get ‘em…” to which I gave a response of agreement, which may or may not have been English.

Ten seconds is how far Bradley was ahead of me at mile 10 and it took some serious self-awareness to not go for it all at once. “Still 5K left, no need to get it all now.” As it turns out, it wasn’t that easy anyways, because though I was running faster, Bradley was still running well. At mile 10.9, I finally settled in behind Bradley. And an internal dialogue occurred over about four seconds:

“If I go now, I have to kick for 2.1 miles… Ouch. Do I have that? Would it be safer to run with him a bit and kick later?”

“But what if he has some crazy 400m kick that I don’t know about and punches me out at the end?”

“At this speed, I’m not convinced we won’t get caught by someone behind us…”

And it was this last one that sealed the deal. I took a breath, stepped aside and punched it. The longest kick of my life was on.

The final two miles were 35 seconds faster than the two miles before them.

The final two miles were 35 seconds faster than the two miles before them.

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.03.45After I made it down the hill and was about a mile away from the finish, I had a moment where I thought, “Move made, settle down and finish.” But I that passed immediately as something told me I had the chance for a special overall result. And so I continued and was fueled by the crowd that lined the return back to the finish.

As I made the turn into the chute, I was up on the toes as there was no pain, there was no exhaustion, only joy and a healthy dose of Heem that comes with a race well run. I zipped up the M2 kit before crossing the line, got a big welcome from the man, Eric Gilsenan, who loves M2, and broke the tape.

Run result 1:19:07, 1st AG, 8th OA

Overall result 4:15:15, 1st AG, 16th OA

What I learned:

I proved to myself that I can push the bike and still run hard. This was a big takeaway. I also now know that I race faster when I’m actually racing – that is, racing with and against others. I’ve always known this, but it really materialized.

It’s important to always be racing against something or someone, even internally, to have your best result.

I feel like I managed hydration and nutrition well with GU Brew, GU gels, Picky Bar and water/coke.

Finally I learned that I have the potential to be a pretty solid triathlete! I’ve always had this as a goal, but this race was affirming for the possibility.

Thanks:

Thanks to my family and friends for the support, it means the world. M2 for his guidance and the M2 community for the training atmosphere. GU for the goods to keep me going. All the volunteers and the Vineman crew for putting on a great race every year.

Onward – rock!