It seems like ages ago that I crossed the finish line for the win twenty minutes from where I grew up at Ohio 70.3. That’s because, it was. The end of the season and beginning of post season have been wild, with six of the past eight weekends involving travel. And while I’d love to say that I’ve been sitting on these incredibly dynamic race stories, waiting to share them with the world, I’m here to tell you that’s just not the case.
For all intents and purposes, these races were very similar and fairly vanilla in how the played out: a slower swim, followed by a faster bike and run led to an overall win at Ohio and a 3rd Amateur in Santa Cruz. But what I realized is these are the kind of races that are all about repeatable execution. In place of my standard Race Report format, I give a quick hit on the race phases and how I prepared similarly for both races. My hope is that triathletes from first timers to AWA frequent flyers will find a helpful nugget or two below.
– Eating for a late wave: A lot of race reports go into detail of what was eaten for breakfast. I think (and hope) most of the time this is because the author is writing the race report for their own record as much as they are for others. I’m not going to go into the details of my breakfast (ok, leftover white rice, almond butter and bananaIcouldn’thelpmyself), but what I’ve tried to master is “the late wave.” At every race this year except for Vineman my wave went off about an hour after the race started. Whether you’re first from the gun or a later wave, it’s important to dial in the timing of your eating. This can come from trial and error at races, and lord knows I’ve tried and erred, but it is also good to pick a few big training weekends to practice what you eat and when you eat it. If our wave is at 8:00, I’ll eat at 5:00, sip on a bottle with a hydration tab (GU is my fav) and top off with some bites of a bar 7:00 before our gun. Then at 7:45 I’ll have either a caffeinated gel or half a Red Bull. It’s important not to over eat, but this combination of my personal preference and purplepatch’s philosophy works for me to keep the engine fueled for a later start.
– Swimming with the right goggles: I swam in a way that felt just fine at both races, but came out behind, again. This isn’t new, but there were slight sighting issues at each: Ohio had blinding sun and Santa Cruz was foggy with a big distance at the turn buoys around the pier. Luckily I chose the right goggles for each — for Ohio I used mirrored amber lenses to ward off the sun while in SC’s fog I opted for the clear orange lenses for better visibility and color enhancement. My goggles of choice are the Roka R1 goggles because their ergonomic design makes sighting feel like looking through a windshield and they’re offered in a variety of lenses. It’s important to come to race with a pair of mirrored and a clear pair to be ready for either condition above. I had real trouble seeing buoys at each race, but would have had to stop and squint had I not brought the right pair.
– Handling the bike: The bike legs at each race were technical, but for different reasons. Ohio because there were 37 turns over the course of 56 miles. Santa Cruz because of rough roads and the subtlety of mastering big rolling terrain. Each because as late wave races, there was a ton of athlete traffic. In both races I had a solid bike split, and while that was partly because I was able to put my head down and ride hard, that only goes so far in both of these examples. In training I really focus on lines taken on descents and turns, being cognizant of my weight distribution, when to continue pedaling and when to tuck. I’m also obsessive about my gearing and being on the right cadence. Lastly, I embrace road bike group rides in the offseason, because I love it, but also to keep my edge sharp around unpredictable athlete traffic in races. This offseason I’ll be mountain biking to get even further out of my comfort zone and establish better handling. It sounds so obvious, but I know being a good bike handler earned me time in these races.
– Hydrate on the bike to setup the run: Ohio was hot and humid and at Santa Cruz I wore a vest, socks and toe covers on the bike as it was just over 50 degrees. The principle of nailing hydration on the bike to set up a good run is pretty well known throughout the tri world, and it’s definitely something purplepatch preaches. But it’s important to know that not all races are equal. And while my needs were very different for both races, my system was the same: A serving of hydration mix up front in my Torpedo (bottle/straw), and a concentrated bottle of hydration mix behind my saddle. At Ohio I shot for two bottles an hour and concentrated the rear bottle accordingly, squirting some into the Torpedo and mixing with water at aid stations. I started the Torpedo with pomegranate GU Hydration powder because of the slightly higher sodium, knowing my sweat rate would be higher, and concentrated the lemon-tea flavor in the back bottle for caffeine and flavor variation. At Santa Cruz, I only needed about a bottle an hour as it was very cool and I did not sweat nearly as much as Ohio, going only with lemon-tea powder throughout.
And while it’s great to have this system, it’s also important to be flexible. The rough roads at Santa Cruz ejected my rear bottle and I didn’t realize until it was too late, going almost miles without hydration. I do not usually drink the hydration beverage on the course as it makes me sick, so when I hit the aid station I filled up with water and nursed and extra GU with every sip.
– Good socks matter: I used to get the worst blisters giant bloody holes in my feet during races. But whenever I trained in the same shoes (Saucony), I never had this issue. I decided not to go with any weird, new approaches on race day to prevent blisters and just convince myself the stabbing pain wasn’t there because I’m kind of crazy. But over time I learned that this was definitely from dumping water over my head on the run, something I wasn’t going to stop doing, especially in hot races. However this year, Sock Guy is a sponsor of ours. I had only trained in their socks and continued to race in what I was convinced were my “race socks.” But after Swiss cheese feet at Vineman I made the switch at Ohio — zero blisters. Only to be repeated at Santa Cruz. I’m not sure why the Sock Guy socks worked so well, but they really did and are my new “race socks.”
– When you’re cranky on the run, you probably need calories: It happened in both runs, but at different times. Ohio it was as early as the second mile, and in Santa Cruz it was just after the 10K mark. My pace sagged a bit, the going was getting tough, and my mind went from positive to negative. We’ve all had those moments, but the key is learning how to get out of them. Matt Dixon told me recently on a Team EMJ discussion that usually when you go to that negative mental place, often it is because the fuel tank has hit the red bar before “E.” So in both races I took an extra few seconds at the aid station to really make sure I got my fill of the good stuff (in my case, Coke and/or Red Bull). And in both cases I went on to have pretty good runs with faster running at the end.
– Embrace the finish: Both races had really cool finishes. Ohio’s was on the track at Ohio Weslyan University, a track I’d run on in high school. My family and dear friends were in the stands. Santa Cruz had the infamous beach finish and while it’s thankfully much shorter than when it was Big Kahuna, it’s still prefaced by a bombing downhill into town with tons of spectators. Dani and friends were in the crowd on the beach. In both cases, I was hurting trying to get every last second on that clock, but the feeling of finishing a big race, especially when it’s such a cool finish line, was not lost on me and I soaked it up and felt alive.
So while neither race had “marquee” moments, each were more experience notches on the belt. Casual and competitive athletes alike can and should always be learning. Have race tidbits you picked up this year and are worth sharing? Leave them in the comments section below!
And in case you thought I was going to leave you without some #badracepics, fear not, I have plenty. Some are almost decent!
Ironman 70.3 Ohio:
Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz:
And if you made it this far on mobile, I owe you a drink…