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Ironman St Pölten 2018 Race Report

Only a month and a half late, I finally get around to posting this. It turns out I’m not motivated to write while on vacation, and then coming back from vacation there’s a lot on one’s plate to deal with! But here goes…

Pre-Race

Ever since I elected German as my foreign language requirement in high school, I had wanted to visit a German-speaking country. My father’s side of the family has German-Austrian roots, and the rumor is that my great-grandfather came over to America from Austria as a stow-away, and upon arrival at Ellis Island, they asked for his name, he said it, and then it was spelled as “Fahsl”, though apparently the original spelling in Austria is Fössl. I found Ironman 70.3 St Pölten on the Ironman website which would take place on May 27, 2018 and after reading some race reports it sounded like a great venue. Sankt Pölten sits about 60km outside of Vienna, the course involves swimming in two different lakes (swim, run, swim, bike, run!), a somewhat hilly bike course, and a pretty flat run that goes through the town. Sounds perfect! I created a travel plan to: arrive five nights before the race in Vienna, head over to the race, then stick around Austria for another week post-race to do some sightseeing - IE have a “normal vacation”.  

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Vienna - St Peter's Church

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Vienna - Niemals Vergessen: "Never Forget"

Leading up to the race, training had been surprisingly good, especially for some unplanned mental stressors I was going through. I received pseudo-promotion at work which was rewarding but also meant more work for me. Secondly, our dog Sammy experienced a slipped disc seven weeks out from the race leaving him unable to move his rear legs, requiring fairly physically (and mentally) intensive care for a 60 pound dog. Finally, my uncle in Vancouver had been dealing with health issues and passed away a few weeks prior to the race. I had tempered my performance expectations but to my surprise – training actually went rather well.

Upon arriving in Vienna, jetlag was a major factor and I of course forgot to bring my sleep aids (drugs). We started off by experiencing Vienna café culture, tasting Austrian beer and coffee, and visiting some of the sights. I also got to practice my German, which … wasn’t actually that bad … but my vocabulary is pretty minimal. I will say that it got better with more practice. I put together my bike in the hotel room and did a 75 minute ride outside Vienna which was pretty fun.

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Belvedere Palace

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Inside Belvedere Palace

After three nights in Vienna we moved onto St Pölten, of which we rented a car in Vienna: a nearly new Opel Astra, which was actually really nice! It was a little stressful driving around Vienna, trying to make sure I wasn’t breaking too many European driving laws, and experiencing the Austrian Autobahn. Additionally, we were staying in a small town outside of St Pölten (Wilhelmsburg) which is hugely different than the large city of Vienna – fewer restaurants and fewer English speakers! It was fine, just added a little more stress, which is best to avoid before a big race.

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There was some sort of event going on in Maria Theresa Platz

 

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Traveling by car after your bike is already put together...

Later in the day I went to the race site to check in and I was rather impressed at the event production, especially for “only” a half Ironman. Big overheads, big vendor expo, and even a welcome ceremony! It was also cool that I found another Team ZOOT member but from the European team – Sidney from Munich. He did the race last year and showed me the two different lakes and the pathway in between. 

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Wachau Valley Wine region. Part of the bike course

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F
inisher's Chute / Turnaround area

The day before race I did a swim and bike, but admittedly got a little bit lost and ended up riding a little longer than expected, oops. Apparently roads on Google Maps in Austria aren’t always paved! I drove back to the race site to drop off my bike. I’m in the “Ironman all-world-athlete” bike rack and wow, my bike seems cheap. Virtually every bike had deep carbon aero wheels and most had electronic shifting (OK ok I guess my bike has both of those too, but they have more expensive frames and wheels!). I noticed there seemed to be a lot of BMC and Argon18 bikes. After check in I head home to have my traditional white rice pre-race dinner.

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In the start corral

The morning of the race went pretty well, I got a decent parking spot, checked on my bike in transition, then walked over to the starting area. What was pretty hilarious was the amount of public urination happing all throughout the woods! Now of course in the US people pee in the woods but usually they try to go off the beaten path, but not here – right alongside bike paths, etc. It was pretty funny. Anyways, this race utilizes wave starts by projected swim finish time. I said 35-38 minutes for my time, which put me in the latter half of the waves. I get into line and get ready to go!

Swim

Pretty good to start – jumped in off the dock, get into my groove. After about 3 minutes, things do start to feel a bit harder, it seems I’m not getting as much air – in the past this is when I’d have a panic attack. It’s like my body was doing fast efforts as a warmup, and now it wants time to rest and stretch and get the HR back down. Well I can’t do that in a race! So I ease up on the intensity a little bit until it starts to feel better. The first two turn buoys arrive quickly and then eventually I’m finished with 1k of swimming and we head out of the first lake. Next we run 275m on the path to the second lake, I pass a few people on this, and my HR is jacked! It’s pretty fun actually. Get to lake number two and I jump in and start swimming. Whoa! My legs are dead and my HR is still through the roof! So I don’t kick for the first 10 or so strokes, but eventually things calm down and feel a bit more normal. This turn buoy seems to come up really soon. I think about my swim form and some of the areas I’ve been working on – pulling from the lats, keeping the head straight in the water, and core tight. When I do all three, it feels like I’m rocketing through the water. After the turn, I see a group of three swimmers about 10 meters ahead, I think to myself – hey I wonder if I can catch them. Well I do catch them! Always encouraging in a swim to pass people in the last 1/3 of the swim, you feel like you’re heading in the right direction. Before long I’m at the end of the swim and I’m done! 

 

Time: 39:30, not a PR, but I’ve never had to run 275m in the middle of a swim before!

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Running from Lake 1 to Lake 2

Transition 1: Wetsuit got caught on timing chip. Never had that happen before, lost maybe 15-20 seconds, need to remember to really get the wetsuit over the chip in the future. So I come up to the rack my bike is on … and it’s the only bike there! Seriously! I’m thinking WTF, OK I know that Europeans are good athletes but I’m not THAT bad of a swimmer! But then I recall that with the wave starts and that I was on the “All World Athlete” bike rack that probably many of the others on this rack likely started in a wave earlier than me. But it did cause me to laugh, which is always good to do in a race.

Bike

OMG, spoiler alert, this was amazing. My plan was to ride the flats relatively conservatively at around 165 watts (starting closer to 160 for the first hour and closer to 170 the last hour), and then punch it once we hit the three major climbs of the route. The bike course was fully closed to traffic, which was awesome. It had a bit of everything, including riding 10km on the Autobahn (speed limit 130km/h, or in 81 in American), then through wine country along the Danube River, and finally to the largest climb of the day, a 1200 foot climb over 4 miles. I was anticipating the climb would be a slugfest, as 500 feet is at an average grade of 10%, but surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I start passing quite a few people (benefits of being lightweight riding up hills) and I recall a friend who raced Ironman Switzerland a few years ago said tongue-in-cheek in a race report: “It just felt so good passing all the Germans and Euros who think universal health care is a right when we all know true freedom is the ability to die from a curable disease”. I found thinking about this to be deeply amusing, which is always great to have a distraction when going through extreme physical exertion. On this road we also went through a number of small towns where many of the townspeople (villagers?) were out cheering “Op op op op op” and “Zooper!” (just say it in your head with a thick German accent). I can’t describe how enjoyable this experience was. I’m thinking to myself: “I’m racing on my bike in Europe on closed roads which are super smooth with townspeople cheering me in a foreign language with beautiful scenery. Is this a dream?!”. Seriously, I don’t know how else to describe how cool of an experience it was. Anyways, after the major climbs we start heading back towards town which happen to be into a headwind, but it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. Over the winter I had upgraded a few components on my bike to make it more aerodynamic, including a new carbon fiber base bar, the Tririg Omega X aero front brake, along with a new aero helmet. It’s hard to quantify, but at least it felt fast despite the headwind! I approach town and roll into town after completing the 90km bike.

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Bike Time: 2:53. It was also lower on the power than I had planned, maybe too much sightseeing and not enough hammering 

Run

In T2, after I took what felt like longest pee ever, get started with the run. After having run barefoot from my bike around a large field and get into my On Cloudflow shoes it felt like running on clouds (trademark?)! Some background on my run – I have had a small stress fracture (GASP!) on my right foot the few weeks prior to the race. I did see my PT, fortunately it was a minor one, but enough to keep me away from all but the minimal amount of running the two weeks leading up to the race and plus taking some mental energy worrying about it. It seems most races around this time of year I will have some sort of minor running injury, but somehow on race day they are magically fixed. I assume this is due to a combination of having fully warmed up (via swim + bike) before running, plus the race-day adrenaline, plus since in a race I’m pushing so hard it’s usually my legs/muscles that hurt the most and the existing injury doesn’t hurt that much comparatively! Leading into to the race my assumption was that the stress fracture was going to hurt, potentially a lot, but that I probably wouldn’t notice it too much compared to everything else. From a long-term risk standpoint, it was relatively low – it wouldn’t help the healing process but it shouldn’t make it that much worse – but I might have to lay off running for a few weeks after the race.

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Anyways, back to the race, I did feel the stress fracture at first but was more or less enjoying the sights and scenery around me. Typically I try to take the first 3 miles fairly easy, trying to get my HR down and settle in. After the 3 miles is when I consider the run to “actually” start and then try to pick it up. It was warm (78-80F) but not terrible. Ever since Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year, it seems my ability to run in the heat has dramatically improved, primarily due to taking in more BASE salt during the bike and early stages of the run. Also, that race was 93F, so almost anything feels cool compared to that. I did have some light cramping around mile 2-3 where my pace slowed a bit, but the BASE salt helped and then my first gel around mile 3 also was a boost. I distinctly remember around 7km (1/3 of the way through) that my foot didn’t hurt any more … at all. This has been the best my foot has felt running in weeks, I kind of couldn’t believe it. Chalk this up to another case of race day magic I guess? I also saw a few Team ZOOT Europe teammates on the run, which was pretty cool. On the far end of the course we go through the town of St Pölten and there are a number of outdoor cafés with people enjoying their frühstuck (breakfast) while watching triathletes run by only a few feet away!

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It is a two-loop run course and once I start loop two there are significantly more people on course, which also means I am passing a lot more people as well, which always gives me a mental boost. Around mile 10 is typically when I decide to pick it up, IE where the real suffering starts. I tend to focus on the small things – drive from the hips, force the elbows back, push off the big toe, stand up tall. This tends to work quite well and I ended up having my three fastest miles of the day to close it out. Finally, I am back at the turnaround point where you either go right for loop two or left to the finisher’s chute. To me, this is the absolute best part of the race, the hard work is done, now is your time to celebrate – though I always end up sprinting to finish, maybe I need to celebrate a bit more. I cross at 1:38:00 for the half marathon, my personal best by almost a minute despite being hot and having a stress fracture. Not too shabby, I’ll accept that!

Total Time: 5:19:30

92/245 in division, 452 / 1515 Non-Pros

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After the race I chatted with some other athletes, a guy from Venice, a guy from Munich, and a few other randoms. I don’t consider myself an outgoing person, but it’s really easy to do after a race. I certainly needed to take some time for my body to cool down a bit, I didn’t want another post-race puking incident like at CDA last year. But eventually I felt good enough to have a post-race beer and some fruit. Pick up a finishers shirt (yes, they had finisher shirts for a half!) and head home to clean up. 

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Earning my finisher's beer

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With Sidney from Team ZOOT Europe

Post-Race

In closing, the experience of racing in Austria was awesome. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. The competition was very strong, the course was super cool, the fans cheering in German was awesome, and I was able to close out with a personal best run. It’s likely that maybe if I had a few more days to adjust to the time zone or had a little less stress in my personal life (and once in Austria) that I could have performed a bit better, but honestly – I think I raced the best I possibly could have on the day, and you can’t do better than that!

After the race, we hung around Austria for another seven days. We spend three nights in Salzburg visiting a number of Sound of Music sites to experience childhood nostalgia from watching the movie growing up. Then we closed the trip with three nights in the Alps in Innsbruck, where I went on an amazing solo bike ride in the Alps and we saw some more sights around the mountains. The Alps are truly a magical place and require a return visit.

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Melk

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Salzburg - Mirabell Gardens

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Salzburg

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Hohensalzburg Fortress

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Zell Am See

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Innsbruck, on top of Nordekette

 
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Ironman Cozumel 2017 Race Report

Back in the fall of 2016, a number of friends from the Seattle Green Lake Triathlon Group had the hair-brained idea to choose Ironman Cozumel on November 26th, 2017 for their first Ironman. Personally, at the time I thought it was a foolish idea: it is difficult to train for a hot/humid race after September in Seattle, flying to a race is always more difficult logistically (ie – expensive and stressful), and there might be limited support from friends/family at such a faraway race. Spoiler alert – I was wrong! The idea caught on and many people registered and many people committed to visiting to cheer/vacation – there are definitely worse places to visit. Anticipating a huge case of FOMO (fear of missing out), I thought “sure, why not” and decided to throw my hat into the ring. I was fairly unmotivated for the race for most of the year, thinking it would be a “for fun” race and not concern myself with the performance.  However, after Ironman Coeur d’Alene in August where I had a bad taste in my mouth after my lackluster performance in the heat that I became very motivated and excited for the race. Leading up to Cozumel I had a good block of training performing many of my rides indoors trying to try to adapt to riding in heat (vs riding in 40/50 degree weather in Seattle). My electrolyte plan was significantly adjusted in order to deal with the heat, a big part of the plan was to heavily utilize BASE Salt, which proved to be excellent. I was also finally seemingly injury free - having dealt with hip / glute issues off and on over the past year.

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Packing the bike. A necessary evil.

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First ride on the Island Friday morning

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Cozumel is "not ugly"

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Mandatory Guacamole

I arrived to Isla Cozumel (“isla” is “island” in Spanish – I’m learning!) on Wednesday, November 22 after a Redeye flight through Miami. Redeyes are never ideal, but it went by surprisingly quickly. Right from going through customs, it was a little more of an adventure than I expected. Unfortunately, my spouse and translator (Alicia) had been sick the week leading up so we changed her on the flight to the next day so I was on my own. I had assumed since it was such a tourist town that everyone would speak English and it would be easy to get around. Addresses in Mexico are a bit different and it didn’t help that my Airbnb didn’t have a specific number but more of a general location, plus my driver didn’t really speak English. Through using Google Maps on my phone plus some other passengers in my van who could translate, it ended up being just fine. In an era where we have answers to just about anything within seconds away (ie we’ve become very intellectually lazy), it was kind of nice to let go a bit and try to figure some things out. It all worked out. 


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Wednesday night dinner at Jeannies

I put together my bike on Wednesday night (kudos to the Ruster Sports Hen House for avoiding airline bike fees!). Breakfast for the next three days was three scrambled eggs mixed with an Avocado (from Mexico obv). I did my first ride on Thursday morning with Alex – it was quite gorgeous but Cozumel traffic is a little crazy at times. You’re sharing the road with cars, buses, motorbikes, horse-drawn carriages and other bikes - It was kind of exhilarating! After collecting Alicia from the airport, we went back into town and had some Mexican food for lunch while watching the NFL football … oh yeah it’s Thanksgiving. Weird! In the evening, our group enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner at a Mexican restaurant and they did a decent job actually.

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Thanksgiving lunch

Friday, I tried to go to the swim finish for an official practice swim but they canceled it due to rough chop and wind, so went for a run instead – it wasn’t super-hot but I surely sweat up a storm. Humidity, blech. Regardless, I was feeling pretty good, felt quite ready. After the athlete briefing on Friday afternoon, Alicia and I joined Scott and Tracy to a beach outside of town and it was much quieter there – was great to get away. I swam for a few minutes and could really appreciate the extra flotation from the salt water, it was a luxury to have the water help my hips stay higher (ie better body position = faster swimming) – though like a jackass I swam with my wallet in my pocket. Wet Pesos, ugh. Friday night was this ridiculous underpants run – apparently a tradition here at Cozumel (along with Kona) – however it was really fun. We played follow-the-leader to one of the locals leading in stretching and dancing to some up-beat music and then a simple 1K footrace. I took it pretty easy, but the amount of energy was really contagious and a good time was had by all.

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A Beach!

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Cozumel Underpants Run

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Is this still considered a "Mexican Coke"

On Saturday, I slept in and skipped the practice swim, but did a 45-minute ride ending at transition 1 around 1pm to drop off my bike and transition 1 bag. One thing I noticed was that it felt rather warm. My bike computer was registering 87 degrees on the road – which is about the same road temperature where I was getting lightheaded and dizzy and Ironman CDA three months ago. I’m thinking this is a potential danger sign, I need to make sure I keep up on the electrolytes. After getting back into town I take a bit of downtime to review my race plan, of which I am trying something new after listening to some Kona-based podcasts.

My focus was on six key areas of the race:

  • First 10 minutes of swim: long strokes, get a rhythm, breathe, get used to salt water coming into the mouth while swimming
  • Last 10 minutes of swim: focus on good catch, strong push back “rip and grip”, pass people who are slowing down, good kick to get prepped for biking
  • First hour of bike: fluids! Don’t get caught up in a pack or be pressured into passing more people than I need to early on, get a pee in within the first 90 minutes, don’t overdo it
  • Last hour of bike: keep the head down and in the aero position, pedal from the hips, engage the core with a stable upper body – gain energy by passing people who are slowing down and/or not aero
  • First “out” section of run (first 4.3 miles) – focus is to cool self, remove heat at the same rate of taking it on – use ice/water on self, cap the heart rate at bottom of zone 2 (135). HR can come up a few beats after this section
  • Last “return” section of run (last 4.3 miles) – go-time, bring run cadence up to 186, run like Patrick Lange (the winner from Ironman World Champs), these are the best miles of the day

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Team mates and our taxi driver on the way to T1

I had my traditional white rice dinner as my primary dinner meal around 5pm, but then also met up with some team mates for a little bit of pasta dinner after that. Then to finalize my morning plans (ie – what nutrition/etc do I need to bring with me in the morning) which for some reason takes forever and then off to bed around 9pm.

Race morning my alarm was set for 4:15am so I could meet up with team mates at 5am to catch a taxi to transition 1. I arrived there with plenty of time to air up my tires, attach nutrition to the bike, and take care of bathroom needs. Catch another shuttle to go two and a half miles-ish up the road to the swim start and before you know it I’m lining up in the 1:10 – 1:20 starting corral. 

Swim

I find Shannon in the corral and we approach the start – once we get closer to the ocean we see a number of waves in the exact direction we are going to be swimming in … IE a huge tail wind – this is going to be a fast swim! We jump in and get swimming. It was a little bit of a shock how shallow the water was, once I got in my feet hit the sandy/hard ground – fortunately there was nothing sharp (like a coral reef) down there to hurt myself on. It actually wasn’t all that chaotic to start and immediately I start seeing some fish around me. It was amazing. I did have to watch my line as the wind was blowing us off course a bit. I pay attention to my focus points – establish my breathing and set up a good rhythm. There are so many fish swimming around! I even see a diver 50’ish feet below the surface, this is amazing! I must have a huge smile on my face during the swim. It’s pretty great. I do start to take in some salt water, but it’s actually somewhat tolerable.  I play leap frog with a couple of other swimmers and keep passing buoy after buoy. After 30’ish minutes I’m thinking to myself – “how much farther?” – if it wasn’t for all the fish and scenery I might be bored – swimming one direction for 2.4 miles is a long time – most races there will be turns or multiple loops to break up the swim. Also at this time I’m thinking that I’ve had enough salt water, I wouldn’t mind wrapping this up soon. Eventually I see the docks of the Chankanaab park indicating we’re getting close to the end. I think about my second focus area and start to really engage the core and push the water back. Round the one turn buoy and really pick it up – I pass a few more people and beat them to the swim finish. I look at my watch and can’t believe my eyes – 59 minutes and change!  What?! My previous best was 1:17 at Coeur d’Alene three months ago. This is amazing! 

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It's actually really hard to get to the zipper on this swim skin!

Swim time: 59:48
Place in Race: 574

T1 

I use the showers for about 15 seconds to try to rinse some of the salt water off me, pick up my transition bag and head into the change tent. Literally the only thing I have in my T1 bag is my bike helmet (with visor) – so I take off my swimskin, goggles, and swim cap to put into the bag. Apparently we get our sunscreen applied within the change tent by a local Cozumel high school student – I had to instruct him where to apply sunscreen, and he put a LOT on, you’ll see from the pictures. Unfortunately I needed to be super explicit on where to put sunscreen, so the area behind my shoulder blades got a bit burnt (more pictures later). I head out to my bike, pick I up to head towards the mount line and I’m on my way.

T1 Time: 4:49
Place in Race: 400 

Bike:

2025_037552Expertly-applied sunscreen. Though I'm sure the salt water didn't help.

The bike course is three times around the main road of the island. Traditionally there is a prevailing wind from the east which becomes a head/cross-wind on the east side of the island. However – today the winds were rather light and from the North to start, dying down as the day went on. My goal for the first hour of the bike was to keep power way low and focus on taking in liquids so that I would be hydrated enough to have to pee. The first two hours of an Ironman bike are usually pretty enjoyable – you’re going at a relatively easy pace and taking in the sights. You’re still (mostly) on loop 1 so everything is still new.

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Thanks Dex for the photo

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Thanks Tracie for the great photo!

After rounding the southern tip of the island, we hit the menacing Eastern side. There is a slight headwind, so I stay patient and maintain a good aero position. Plenty of people I am passing are already upright and not using their aero bars. This is really foolish – I was amazed at how many people I would see out of their aero bars – but to each their own. If they want to go slower that’s their prerogative. Towards the end of loop one we head into town and I’m rather surprised how many locals are out cheering. After a few more turns we are on the main “Quintana Roo Drive” and I see our team’s cheering section which is uplifting. Round the final turns in town and start heading back down the Western side of the island to complete loop one. Loop two is relatively uneventful but I do stop at special needs to get some more chamois cream and wow that is amazing – I think the salt water made the saddle a little more uncomfortable than normal. It is also starting to warm up a bit.  I see our cheering section again which is again fun. Starting loop three I try to take some of my clif shot blocks and then a big gag reflex starts up. Uh oh. I end up spitting out the blok and I’m trying to assess what to do. I figure I must be overheated. My bike computer is registering 88 degrees. Need to cool myself. Trying to pour some water on the back of my neck and head helps a little bit but it’s not enough. Whenever I try to drink, my stomach feels a bit upset. I make the decision to back off the power to try to digest, wait a few minutes and then pick it back up. The feelings of wanting to quit are slightly coming up (this is normal). This helps a little bit but I’m still not feeling too much better so I once the next aid station comes up, I stop and get off the bike and drink about a quarter of a Gatorade bottle. I then take a cold water bottle and stick it in my jersey on my upper back in between my shoulder blades. This may just do the trick. It feels pretty great. I still take it a bit conservative – so I alternate between slowing down a bit to eat/drink and then picking it back up once it digests. I exchange my cold water bottle once more before the end of the ride (I also open up the nozzle slightly so that cold water drips onto the back of my neck). I’m getting into the last 20 miles go back to my focus area – keep the head down, maintain aero position, pedal from the hips. It’s working – I’m passing people who are not in aero.  Feeling strong at the end of the bike ride and passing people who are fading is a HUGE emotional boost. I ride into T2 feeling good, despite having a few down sections of the bike.

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Bike time: 5:57:21
Place in race: 474

T2 

Once in transition 2, the change tent is a bit warm – it is enclosed (via tent flaps) for privacy but it also has the effect of making it super hot in there. I decide to put on my calf sleeves in T2 since my calves were cramping badly in CDA three months ago, and I’m all set to go so I decide to take the gel I packed in my T2 bag. Chase with some water and whoa … um I don’t feel very good. I sit back down to help digest but after about 10 seconds I have to keel over and vomit on the ground. Repeat the vomit action three more times, it’s really pretty gross. I am thinking to myself … um, how am I supposed to run a marathon now – don’t I like “need” some of the nutrition I just evacuated? One of the volunteers (another local Cozumel high school student) is staring at me in kind of a shocked face and I ask him for something to wipe my face off. He gives me some pieces of the roll of toilet paper on a table and this helps. I take a few minutes to continue to clean myself up and compose myself, take some more water and try to clear my head. Move on out of the change tent and time to start a marathon in the heat.

T2 time: 8:51
Place in race: 495 (yikes, moving backwards in transition – that never happens to me!)

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Current weather: not cold

Run

When I started the run I was at about 7:10 race time, so I knew I that I would need to run around a 3:50 marathon in order to break 11 hours, but given my stomach issues from the bike and my glorious T2, I can’t really think about that – I just need to get moving and find a way to get into a rhythm and a groove. The Cozumel run course is three out-and-backs of approximately 4.35 miles out and 4.35 miles back. I think about my goal on first “out” section: cap my heart rate around 135 and try to cool my body as much as possible – ice in the jersey (and shorts) and water on the head. With the many out-and-backs, it’s also a time to see my teammates and where people are. While running I’m actually not feeling all that bad.  I also decided that I would NOT look at pace on my watch, just primarily heart rate. I do, however, get a vibration after each mile so I have an idea of how fast I’m running, which is very high 8’s.  After about three quarters of a mile I see our cheer section, Alicia and the others. After about two miles I decide to try another gel, and fortunately it goes down OK. About 2/3 of the way through I hear my name “Hey Eric!” – it’s Amanda coming from the other way! Wait, she’s in front of me? Oh, that’s cool. Good for her. I make it to the turnaround and let my HR come up a few beats to 137/138. Things are feeling good, as I get closer to the turnaround I start to see some more teammates – Wismar, Amy, Ben, and eventually Joseph (on lap 2). So I assume I must be in third place from our group. I complete loop two in about 1:16 and am thinking – OK if I can maintain this pace I’d run a 3:48 marathon, I’m in very good shape.  Take a second gel and it goes down the hatch OK and I pass our cheering section again.  After a little bit I notice my HR seems to be dropping and I start to feel a little bit tired. Well, that’s not surprising. I trudge on – I know that I have some home made BASE “rocket fuel” (carbo pro and Nuun) that I had frozen overnight – I just need to make it to that and I’ll get a boost of energy. I catch up to pass Amanda and give a few words of encouragement. Near the turnaround there is a live band playing some Metallica which give me some energy (not entirely sure why – I’m not a huge Metallica fan…) and then I hit the turnaround.

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Another great picture by Tracie, I think the best picture of the day for me

Shortly after is the special needs where I eagerly pick up my Rocket fuel … but it wasn’t frozen anymore in fact it was quite hot and not very refreshing. I had to slow to a walk to digest it – I kept hitting my chest to try to burp and digest. Unfortunately I ended up walking off-and-on about one minute and then eventually started running steadily again. Loop 2 had significantly more people on it and it seems the only people running faster than me were people on loop 3 about to be done … ugh that would be nice. I finish up loop 2 and start to see more team mates. I look down and see my total run time is now 2:38, which puts me closer to a four-hour marathon. Hm, I can’t continue this trend – if I don’t break four I’m going to be disappointed in myself. The sun is getting lower and it is just slightly starting to cool and I think the Rocket Fuel is kicking in.  I know that I’m going to be catching up to Joseph soon.  For loop 3 I start taking in Pepsi as my drink of choice and that also seems to be helping. The sun has gone below the horizon and I recall passing the mile 19 sign and thinking “this is the best I’ve felt all day!” – I’m feeling energized, my running form is improving and my HR is climbing to where it should be (high 130s/low 140s). Shortly after this I see Joseph and make the pass after providing some more words of encouragement. At this point I’m finally having the run I wanted – I go from having creeped up in the mid-high 9 minute miles to back into the mid-8’s (though I wasn’t really looking at pace). I make the final turnaround and I’m thinking OK now is the final piece of my race plan – high cadence, “upright” running like Patrick Lange, and now is the time to press. My cadence goes from 182 to 184 and then eventually 186. I focus on leaning forward with the hips and driving the arms back. It’s very difficult but it’s feeling good. The Pepsi at each aid station seems to give me a mini boost each time and I’m quite literally passing people left and right.  I pass the mile 23 sign and pick it up again. The last several miles are a bit of a blur, I recall seeing Scott Gayler on the side of the road with a GoPro getting ready to run with me – I wave/nod at the camera and then I believe I start running faster making it harder for him to stay with me – kind of a dick move but what can I say, I was totally in the zone! My last three full miles are the fastest of the day – 8:23, 8:08, 7:33. Just before the turnaround I see Amy finishing up her second loop and say hi, then I get to the turnaround and gladly flash the number three to the volunteer and he points me towards the finish chute. In my head I’m saying “YES, I’m fucking done!!!!” This moment, honestly, is one of the absolute best feelings of the world – you’ve put in all the time, and now is the ceremony of finishing. It reminds me of waking up on Christmas morning as a kid. You finally made it to the day and are shortly going to be opening presents. I could almost argue this moment is better than the finish. After a few hundred feet I enter the finish chute, pump one arm then lift both arms above my head and cross the line with a four minute run PR (in arguably much hotter/harder conditions). My lap times were 1:15:44 / 1:22:49 / 1:15:41 – so my last loop was actually the fastest! My goal is to always get faster throughout the day, but never have I actually finished a run faster than I started. It was also really cool to see that the one Ironman race I did not have my running pace displayed on my watch was also the fastest I’ve ever run.

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Current weather: not as hot. Less than a mile to go - fastest mile of the day.

Run time: 3:54:13
Place in race: 258 

Total Time: 11:05:02

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After the race I’m certainly pretty tired and my stomach is a little uneasy. They had cooling poolings (ie ice baths) available which was pretty “cool” (terrible joke). I really take my time as I don’t feel like puking again like I did after CDA so I mainly just drink some Gatorade and get some ramen noodles (which I only drank the soup). The Gatorade doesn’t actually taste that great but what does is Pepsi. Joseph finished up shortly after me at 11:31 and I chatted with him for a bit. I picked up my finishers shirt and got my finishers picture then met up with Alicia to head back to the Airbnb (fortunately only a few blocks away) to clean up and go out and get some Mexican food. I check in on my team mates as many are finishing, but there was one finish I didn’t want to miss – Mikayla’s … as her boyfriend Dexter was planning to propose after she finished. I slowly walk back to the finish line area and chat with my teammates and then see Mikayla finish and the proposal worked great. The announcer (Michael Lovato) came down and let Dex speak into the microphone along with her answer – kudos to Ironman for letting this experience happen.  Shortly after Mikayla was Melody who finished her first Ironman after having two previous DNFs in 2015, it was pretty awesome to see both of those finishes.

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Ironman Numero Cinco 

IMG_1354Congrats to Dex and Mikayla!

As for how I evaluate my execution – I would probably rate it at about and 8 (maybe 8.5?) out of 10… ie I’m pretty happy with it! I had a plan of hyper-focus on six areas of the race and I nailed them all. Nutrition was solid and I only had a few minor cramping issues which went away quickly - total opposite of CDA. For maybe only 30-45 minutes of the race I was really hating life which has to be a new personal best. I feel like it's usually more like 90 minutes.

I would have loved to have broken 11 hours on the day, and with that amazing swim I was well-positioned to do so, I’m just still learning how to tune my body to race in the heat. It was significantly better than CDA three months ago, but I still didn’t quite have the bike I wanted to due to the stomach issues. Throwing up in T2 didn’t help either … hell that was probably five minutes on that alone that could have been the difference in going sub-11.  Oh well. But seriously, whenever you can finish strong on the three sports it’s usually a good (if not great) day.  It was also a pretty great experience seeing so many teammates and friends out on the course – both from gaining energy from seeing friends as well as it’s nice to have a bit of friendly competition to take your mind off slogging away for hours on end. 

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Post-race tacos 
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The areas where my Cozumel high school student missed the sunscreen. At least not as bad as Joseph!?

The next few days were relaxing and sightseeing around Cozumel. We rented a moped and drove around a good portion of the island. Tuesday was spent at all-inclusive beach on Tuesday called Mr Sancho’s with about 30 of us. The funny thing about this resort was that it was about 90% people from cruise ships. Without sounding too much like an ass, let's just say it was a culture shock after having been primarily around Ironman athletes for the past four days. After about 2pm the place started to clear out a bit and it was pretty great. I definitely pigged out and enjoyed my first significant drinking in months - like four whole drinks!

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Post race ceremony

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Well we didn't win the team award, but we took a picture on stage anyways

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Meeting the great Sebastien Kienle!/p>

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Southern tip of the island

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Mr Sanchos with friends and team mates

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Having a "cold coconut" at Playa Del Carmen before heading to the airport. Well worth the 40 pesos.

As for what’s next … winter sports time! I picked up cross country skate skiing last winter and loved it. I plan to enter a few XC ski races this winter (and likely get my ass kicked) to see if I can improve. Once the spring/summer hits I plan on racing Ironman 70.3 St Polten Austria in late May and then Ironman Canada (full) again in Whistler in late July, with some local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons sprinkled in.  I really enjoyed traveling to a new part of the world to compete in triathlon, and I really wanted to experience a triathlon in Europe. From what I hear, there are some super fast people there and I am likely to get my ass kicked, but I'm sure the experience will be awesome. I had originally considered doing a full Ironman in Europe but the thing is a full Ironman triathlon requires several days of downtime before the race, then you race all day, and then the next day is mostly shot – so roughly a four-day commitment.  A Half Ironman is really “only” a two-day commitment, which allows more time for vacationing and sightseeing. I’m also looking forward to seeing how much of my 200-level college German I can use! After that I’m looking at a fall marathon, ideally, I’ll make it into the Chicago Marathon lottery in October.

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Six days after Ironman, playing in the mountains outside of Seattle. 

With that, thanks for reading, catch you on the flip side. Bonus picture - my five Ironman finish pictures in one:
  Ironman5

 

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IM70.3 Canada and IMCDA Race Report

In the span of 30 days I competed in Ironman 70.3 Canada in Whistler British Columbia and Ironman Coeur d’Alene (CDA) in Idaho.  This post sums up the month and is a bit lengthy.

Ironman Canada 70.3

My primarily goal this triathlon season was to peak for Ironman CDA in late August but also to compete in Whistler on July 30 as I had been wanting to get back up there to race the half Ironman distance, which was only it’s second year.  I had previously completed my first full Ironman in Whistler back in 2013.

I had been having a great build-up to Whistler over the past two months since IM70.3 Santa Rosa back in May and had been posting some great numbers in my workouts.  Due to the timing of CDA, I only had one week of taper for this race instead of my normal two-week taper but no big deal and I was in the zone.

We drove up Friday to Whistler and for whatever reason, everything took longer than It should.  Seattle Traffic, slow waiters, Vancouver traffic, Whistler traffic.  Kind of painful but still made it in OK and was checked in to the race Friday evening.  On Saturday morning I was planning to ride my bike to the race site and do a warmup swim before transition opened (because you can’t drive there) but I apparently forgot my bike lock at home (it probably would have been fine to leave it, but nothing would piss me off more than to have a stolen bike the day before a race) so I decided to skip it and just do my 50 min ride instead.  Was feeling great.  Weather forecast was about perfect – high of 75 with little to no wind.

IMG_0974Whistler Olympic Village - I suppose I should have taken a picture with the Olympic rings but that was tourist haven

Race morning I elected to walk the two miles to the swim start vs boarding the bus (it was actually a really nice walk).  I reached transition at 6:45am as we were told they would close transition at 7am as the full Ironman race would have started by then.  It turns out that they ended up keeping transition open so I could have actually arrived even later!  I spent the time chatting with a few others from Seattle – Mandy, Alex, Roland then eventually got into the swim line up.  I even ran into a guy named Barry who swims in the lane next to me at my local pool that I had never actually spoken to.  Small world.

At 7am there was no wind and the water looked great.  At 9am, there was some no-so-insignficant wind and some tall waves.  I think it might have been wavier than Santa Rosa.  Due to these conditions I decided to start off a little bit easy and build into it.  However, the good news is that for this rectangular-shaped course you start off into the wind via the long-side of the rectangle and head back with the wind.  After making the last turn it was a pretty sizeable crosswind so I tried to keep my direction pointing upstream into the wind to be a (hopefully) shorter course than others.

Swim time: 39:55, place in race: 570. 

Not my fastest swim, but it did feel good. 

T1 was cool because it involved wetsuit strippers – IE you pull your wetsuit down to your waist and they help pull it off.  Quick stop in transition (34th fastest T1 of the day) and I’m off on the bike.  T1 time: 2:40, place in race: 380 (yes I passed 180 people in T1).

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Riding along Sea to Sky Highway

Bike: pretty awesome.  The course is always going up or down and this favors me.  I’ve got the benefit going uphill because I’m a skinny bitch and I’ve really gotten better at keeping power up and staying aero in the downhill.  With exception of steeper hills (more than 7% or so) I usually pass more people going downhill than up.  The reason for this is that most people ride really hard on the uphill and really easy on the downhill.  I ride a little harder on the uphill and try to maintain power on the downhill – some people call this “flattening the course”.  I’d recommend this if you haven’t tried it – you do have to be comfortable riding at high speeds though.

The first part of the bike course was into the wind, then a turnaround with a tailwind, then the last 30km home was back INTO the wind with a big incline.  How big of an incline?  Well there were three significant descents on the way out where I was over 40mph most of the time in the tuck position, maxing out at 47mph (was trying to get to 50!).  This led for a pretty slow return on the way home and I kept thinking – “Yeah I’m glad I’m not doing the full Ironman today”.  Make it back into town and dropped my bike off at T2. 

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Finishers Chute

Run: My general strategy on the run is to go ridiculously easy the first 2-4 miles of the run (but it actually ends up being a reasonable pace – what “feels” easy tends to still be fast at the beginning) then gradually pick it up.  This course was slightly uphill for the first miles so I ended up not going quite as “easy” as I would have liked.  After the first four miles I usually pick it up for a bit, closing with the strongest final 3-4 miles.  Around mile four/five I realized that I wasn’t really able to pick things up – if anything I started slowing down.  Mentally I was struggling with this: “why is this going on?”  Could it be because I did not have a full two week taper?  Maybe, let’s just run along and see if I start feeling any better.  Mentally, I kind of shut down on this – I knew I have CDA coming up in four weeks and is the priority, I had gorgeous scenery around me, let’s just enjoy the day and see what comes of it.  In retrospect, I realized I just didn’t have it in me to go deep into the well of pain for this race.  There are probably only a few times per year one can really do that and I decided to NOT do it for this race. Part of me feels a bit guilty, but part of it is just being honest with myself.  After the race I met up with Alicia and her parents and enjoyed a bit of the Whistler atmosphere / environment before packing up and heading home the next day.

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With Alicia post-race

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Excellent post-race food - beer and poutine

Lake Meridian Sprint Tri

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Seattle Green Lake Triathon Group at Lake Meridian Triathlon

Two weeks after Whistler, I felt like doing one of my favorite local races – the Lake Meridian Triathlon.  They offer both a Sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon.  I have participated in the Olympic distance the past few years (having nabbed 5th, 2nd, and 3rd in my Age Groups).  With CDA in two weeks, I could either compete in the Sprint and go as hard as I want or race the Olympic and only really focus on one of the three events while keeping it relatively easy on the other two.  I elected to go with the Sprint.  This also served as a good opportunity to try out my new Swimskin in a race, which I had purchased in anticipation of Ironman Cozumel later this November.

Short summary: the swim skin is much more convenient to transport to and from the race but definitely not as fast as a wetsuit (at least for me).  The additional buoyancy from the wetsuit really aids the position (and speed) of the swimmer.  In the end, it wasn’t a super-fast swim, post-race analysis has me at 63rd position after the swim.  Another quick T1 had me passing 28 people putting me into 35th position getting onto the bike.  One of the luxuries of the smaller races is that I can actually count the number of people in front of me at turnarounds to get an idea of where I am in the race.  At the turnaround I was in 20th position and passed a few more before T2.  Another quick T2 has me out on the run in 17th position.  Now the fun really begins.  I track down about 5 people before the turnaround and then pass a few more after the turnaround to finish in 8th overall and actually won my age group in a triathlon for the first time.  Granted, the Olympic distance probably attracted many of the fast athletes but it’s still pretty awesome considering I did my first triathlon in 2012 and was 80th out of 167 and this race I finished 8th out of 206 finishers.  It was a great confidence booster.

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ost-race candid shot (via Tracie Gayler photography)

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aking first place in my age group at the Lake Meridian Sprint Tri

 

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Which now leads us to the main event, Ironman Coeur d’Alene at the end of August, or IM CDA for short.  CDA has a bit of an interesting history with me as it is only about three hours of where we used to live in Eastern Washington and I had actually considered doing that as my first Ironman race back in 2013.  Ever since then, the race (illogically) seemed too “close” or “common” to do the race in prior years - I suppose I thought it would be around forever so that I could participate any time and I would want to choose more “exotic” Ironman races.  Well it turns out (after I had signed up) that 2017 would be the final year running the race - primarily due to lower participation numbers in the event.  My guess is this is due to perhaps some oversaturation of Ironman races in North America, the difficulty of the course, and/or the slight decline in popularity of triathlon as a whole.  Or maybe more people just felt like me - “I’ve never done it before, but it’s been around a while so it must not be that special”.  

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ur Airbnb host had a sweet cruiser bike - maybe I should ride that instead?

Having had a really solid several months of training this year along with some well-executed races this year (such as the two races above), my confidence was high.  I knew that the race would be a challenge, and that there would be some dark periods, and that it would be hot - the forecasted high was 93 degrees F with it hitting 90 by about noon.  I was expecting it to be particularly challenging miles 7 - 23 of the run (kind of a long stretch!) where I would have to dig in and be prepared to tough it out.  Pre-race prep went well - low stress, I completely shut out from work the 48 hours before the race - removing any additional mental stresses.  I even had an Airbnb one mile from the start so I didn’t have a long way to go in the morning.  I had a nutrition plan with electrolytes to account for the heat and was ready.  

 

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Racked and ready to go - with the coveted end-of-rack spot!

Race morning came and everything went smooth.  Prep my nutrition, check over bike, calibrate power meter, take care of bathroom needs, warm up the arms a bit, quick dip in the water, and get in line for the rolling start just behind the 1 hr, 16 minute sign.  No stresses, good energy, I was ready.  Race start happens and I even get to high-five Mike Reilly (the “voice of Ironman”) before going into the water.  

The Swim

I’ve been working pretty hard on my swim the past year - having gone to a few sessions where they film me underwater and give me some advice.  My pool times have been improving conservatively 5 seconds per 100 yards - my body position has been better and I’m working harder.  Perhaps the biggest difference is that I have all-but-abandoned the “breathe every third stroke” so that you end up breathing on both sides pretty regularly.  It seems that most introductory-triathlon material seem to recommend this - on one hand it is nice to be able to look on both sides of you, BUT what I realized is that for me, when I do this, I have worse body position whenever I breathe to my left AND I do not take in as much oxygen since I am not breathing as often.  I think this lack of oxygen has been a major cause of many of my swim panic attacks over the past years.  I can’t recommend it strong enough - abandon the “every-third-stroke” breath for beginner triathletes!

Anyways, to my frustration - despite having gained great speed and feel for the water in the pool - it just simply hasn’t been translating to triathlon races.  My times have actually been slower, albeit likely due to having some windier/wavier swim courses than usual (such as Whistler above).

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eeling good after completing loop 1 of the swim course

However - CDA was just about perfect.  The water was great, perfect water temp (71), the water is pretty clear, waves weren’t too bad for most of the course, and actually the rolling start spread everyone out.  I completed loop one and looked down at my watch and saw a time that was 37-something and was pleased, especially considering it took me 40 minutes at Whistler to complete the same distance.  Loop two went just about as well as loop one - I focused on form - getting on the side, engaging the catch early, brush the thumbs next to the side on the pull, and keep the body taught.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever said this - but I was really enjoying it and I wish the swim was longer.

Time: 1:17:43 (a three minute PR!).  Place in race: 372

Quick T2, feeling great, and get out onto the bike.  Place in race: 272.  

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DA Bike

The CDA bike course is kind of like a boomerang with two out-and-back sections.  The first out-and-back is 14 miles total and the second one is 40 (along with most of the hills being here).  My coach and I chose a really conservative target power to ride for the course, and I was on track to hitting that - with minimal periods of stupidy (riding harder than you should early in the bike course).  The hills on loop one were easy (they usually are), and I’m coming back into town finishing up loop one and feeling pretty great.  However, around mile 60, my legs did start to feel a little weaker (not unexpected, riding 60 miles is pretty tiring).  But it was also starting to heat up and I was getting hot.  At an aid station back in town around mile 70 I started dumping water on me which seemed to help a bit.  However, about five miles later we started climbing up the largest hill and then I started to feel a bit lightheaded and dizzy.  What is going on?  I’ve never felt that before - it was starting to get a little danger zone and so I immediately tried to drink some more water, take in my extra electrolytes I didn’t think I would need, and I eased up a bit.  I couldn’t believe how low my power was for going up a hill and it was frustrating.  I haven’t felt this bad on a bike in some time and that I can say I was actually not prepared for that.  It was a dark period for a little while (which happens) and I was very much contemplating saying “it’s not my day” and dropping out.  I definitely swore off ever doing another Ironman again (which most definitely happens during every Ironman :) ).  My calves and hamstrings started cramping a bit - I took in all the electrolytes I had with me and then I ended up getting off my bike at at aid station around mile 85.  I stretched out my hamstrings and stop and drank some Gatorade.  I did start to feel a bit better but much of the damage was done and I could never really get back into my groove.  The rest of the bike ride was relatively uneventful - it was low power, low confidence, but good aero bike position.

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Total time: 6:36, place in race: 327

Fairly disappointing - this marks my second slowest Ironman bike and perhaps the first time I ever went backwards in placement on a race.  So much for the negative split power plan.  I’m thinking - how am I going to do this damn marathon - I guess I could walk it.  

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unning along - however - equipped with Rocket Fuel!

In T2 I take a minute and try to stretch my hamstrings and start off in 295th place.  Knowing my legs are probably shot from the bike ride - I start off at a conservative pace and frankly my confidence a bit shot.  It is warm out, to say the least.  I did start off feeling semi-satisfactory - a great thing about the CDA run course is that it goes through a neighborhood and many of the neighbors were out with their hoses offering to spray people down - it was great.  Energy wise I was extremely spent and my hamstrings and calves started cramping at times.  I resigned to walking at aid stations and up hills - it became an afternoon of issue management - how can I make myself feel better: typically it involved taking in more salt, nutrition, etc.  I also developed an effective cooling strategy - ice down the back and a little in the front of the jersey (and occasionally in the shorts), water on top of the head with the visor on but tilt the head back slightly to prevent the water from coming over the brim.  Despite the weather being over 90 degrees, I never truly felt “hot” while on the run due to the cooling strategy.  Nutrition started to get tricky at times as my stomach was becoming picky, after mile 15 it didn’t really want any gatorade or gels so I had switched to Coke fairly religiously.  I recall my fellow triathlete friend Loren’s comments about Coke (summarized): “It’s so bad for you, the only acceptable time to drink Coke is during an Ironman”, which made me laugh.  Alicia was a cheering champ near the start of each loop with her cow bell and dancing which was also a boost.  I did get a second wind around mile 13 when I took some “Rocket Fuel” from the BASE salt tent (thanks to Phil Nelson for intro’ing me to the BASE salt folks beforehand) which seriously helped - mentally and physically.  This second wind lasted a good 8-9 miles until about mile 22.  It was a pleasure to see some friends who were racing their first Ironman - while I was almost to the turnaround of lap three I came across Tony on his lap two and I walked with him for a few minutes to chat about the day - after that it was time to get this thing done.  Finally, one last guilty pleasure was seeing a number of athletes laying down in the grass in defeat due to the heat - while I obviously don’t wish any ill-will towards them it’s reassuring to see that others are having trouble and that my day could be a lot shittier.  Calf cramps hit me at times which caused me to do a super weird shuffle so I walked a bit until they became “normal”.  Once I hit the park near the turnaround - I was home free.  On a multi-loop run Ironman course, there is a fork in the path - more loops go one way, finishers go the other way.  I can’t tell you how extremely satisfying it is to finally take that path for finishers.  I had a huge smile and even started pumping my fist - it was a really hard day for me and I persevered.  Turning onto Sherman Ave with the finish line was even more amazing - I was surprised at how many people had lined the streets.  My smile was even bigger, nothing hurt any more.  I heard Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) announce my name and crossed the line of my fourth full distance Ironman race.

Run Time: 4:32:54 (by far my slowest, but what are you gonna do), Place in race: 199 (out of 824)

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inishing up a tough day

Af the finish line I saw my friend Jeff who was volunteering as a finish line “catcher” (not everyone is coherent and/or able to walk well at the end of the race).  I received my medal, finisher's hat and TShirt, and then gave Jeff a hug and in the embrace I cried for about 10 seconds.  It was a huge emotional release and couldn’t help it - it wasn’t the day I wanted but I persevered and found a way to keep going at find a way to bring the intensity back.  I composed myself, got my finishers picture, and then laid down on the grass for about 5 minutes with my heart still pumping.  I got up and went to get some athlete food - Alicia asked me to get her a piece of pizza and I picked up some oranges, grapes, and chicken broth for myself.  Before I gave her the slice of pizza I took a bite and had an immediate gag reflex.  I spit out the tiny bite and thought I would be good, then within five seconds I was puking (pretty much all liquid).  Pause and repeat four times more.  Glamorous.  Another 30 seconds and I was feeling much much better.  A volunteer brought me a wet towel to clean myself up with and then I drank some Gatorade and Chicken Broth and no more issues.  A little later I was able to eat the grapes and oranges.  Eventually grabbed my gear and headed back to the Airbnb.  Once I had my phone it was amazing to see all of the congratulatory messages on social media and for that everyone.

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mile time - I look so glamorous with all of the salty sweat.

What I learned

I learned a lot about how my body reacts to heat.  Ultimately, I just didn’t take in enough electrolytes for what the weather dictated - and once I realized the issue I needed to react faster.  It’s hard to simulate the heat + intensity + the duration of workout and so I didn’t know what my body would need, but I believe I now have a better plan for future hot races.  I also realized I made two minor mistakes - one is that I need to bring calf sleeves for hot races - I don't know if it would have prevented my calf cramps but it probably would have helped.  The second was that I was about to use my 3x sodium Clif Shot bloks but changed back to regular at the last minute thinking that I had enough electrolytes.  Again - not sure it would have solved but it wouldn't have hurt.  I also learned a lot about issue management - the day was constantly about figuring out “next best action” - what should I do now that will help me get to the finish line the fastest?  Usually it’s to take in more nutrition but sometimes it honestly is to slow down temporarily (with the goal of picking it up later).  Things ebb and flow in a long race and there will be times when I do start feeling better.  

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fter the finish - I sat here for at least five minutes.

While I am disappointed in the outcome, I am not at all disappointed in the journey. I do actually have another Ironman race later this year in Cozumel, Mexico in late November and I hope to apply my new lessons about racing in the heat.  I also find it somewhat comforting to compare this to my race at Ironman Wisconsin three years ago - I still believe that was my “best executed” Ironman race, having fully achieved my physical potential for the day and I finished just within the top quarter of all racers.  This race, I had a really tough day having severely underperformed but still finished at virtually the same percentage ranking.  

What’s next is to take some time off from training and pick things back up in preparation for Ironman Cozumel on November 26.  It will be hot, humid, and windy.  After this month I would like to think I better prepared for that and hope to get closer to solving the puzzle that Ironman racing and put in a strong performance.

Some other various pictures (mostly from Whistler)

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Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa Race Report

For 2017 I wanted to compete in an early-season 70.3 triathlon and was initially targeting St George (I raced it in 2015).  However, when I saw Ben and Amy had signed up for Santa Rosa on May 13 (Ben’s birthday), I thought – hey, that sounds like fun (and my birthday is the 15th).  So I decided to register the next day, not exactly realizing the race would balloon to over 3000 registrants.

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Pre-race checkin 

Leading up to the race my training had gone well with one minor hiccup – I started Cross country skate skiing this winter and on my first day I overdid it a bit and strained my right glute.  It’s taken me months to get over it and get back to the speed and volume of running I had before I strained it back in January.  It still bothers me a little bit at times.  Additionally, Seattle has had a pretty cold and rainy winter.  While I was still able to get out and ride my bike, I actually had not been in the open water at all this year – I just didn’t think I’d get much of a benefit of swimming in mid-50’s water (the water temp at the race was 62).

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The joys of packing and unpacking a bike

After a relatively uneventful day of travel on Thursday into Santa Rosa I spent Thursday night putting my bike back together without any hiccups.  Friday was spent doing a short run in the morning, drop off the bike at the lake, short swim (first open water swim of 2017!), and then dinner with Ben, Amy, and Melody Saturday night before the race.  

Race Day 

Race morning started with the alarm at 3:40am (ugh) as we had to catch shuttles from the finish line (in Santa Rosa) to the swim start (30+ minutes away).  I met up with Ben, Amy, and Melody and we arrived around 5:15am to the race site.  After the normal pre-race porta-pot stop and transition preparations I head down to the start.  I elected not to warm up in the water – this was probably a mistake.  I was afraid of getting warm only to stand in the mid-40's weather while waiting to get started.

I line up in the 35-37 minute swim group and the rolling swim start goes off.  It takes a little over 10 minutes and then I’m up to the line and starting to swim.  I decide to take it fairly easy to start with – it always takes me like 10+ minutes of swimming to start to feel comfortable.  Well, this was no exception – After a few minutes I do some breast stroke to try to find the turn buoy.  We round the first turn and things start to go better.  Turns 2 and 3 are uneventful but then whoa – headwind with waves!  I find a good group of people to draft off of which helps and I am thinking to myself “oh, this is kind of fun now”.  Eventually round the final turn and get out on the boat ramp, check my watch and see 41 minutes … ouch - I sure chose wrongly on my finish time.  Looks like I either should have swam more in the open water this year, should have chosen my lines more closely, the course may have been “slow” due to the wind, or all of the above

Post-blog note, the swim was indeed longer due to weather / course / etc.  Median swim times were almost two minutes slower compared to St George 70.3 a week earlier.  

Place in race: 1159

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I'm thinking - man I guess that was kind of a shitty first half of the swim. 

The swim-bike transition is up a fairly long boat ramp with some elevation gain.  Most people were walking but I did not.  I jogged with a purpose the entire way, not letting my heart rate get too high, but I was moving.  I didn't exactly "shove" anyone out of the way but I did "gently move" some at times.  As mentioned above the weather was a bit cold in the morning and the first two miles of the course descend about 600 vertical feet, so I actually dried myself off with a small hand towel, rolled on some arm warmers, and then put on an additional zip-up bike jersey for warmth - never have done that before (but never had quite a cold morning to start biking in).  I then roll out with the shoes clipped into the pedals (big time savings there!).  Total time: 6:41, place in race: 792.  Yep, I passed 367 people in T1!  I like to tell myself – a fast transition can help negate a shitty swim.  So there you go. 

Bike

It was pretty fun.  It would be fun to bike in general.  It’s super scenic and the roads are (for the most part) in pretty good shape.  The first few miles are a wicked fast descent, of which the race organizers forbid the use of aero bars for safety reasons (probably too congested).  Not a terrible idea, but I wouldn't have minded going faster.  Then we get to the first climb of the day which served as a nice warm up … and then a series of rollers, straightaways, tailwind, headwind, cross-winds, and more.  However, the course did have a net-negative downhill (the finish was lower than the start) and overall it was much more tailwind than headwind.  With the bike I try to break it into thirds and by hour, basically first hour is easy-ish, second hour is harder, and the rest of the ride is fairly intense.  Physically, this always sets me up stronger for the run and it also has the huge mental boost of passing a good number of people towards the end of the bike, some of who may have passed me earlier in the ride.  Total bike time was 2:46:12 with an average speed of 20.22mph, a significant personal best.  

Place in race: 592

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On the bike with my extra jersey and arm warmers. It actually worked out pretty well.

After an uneventful T2 (though I did apparently pass 43 people in transition) I started off on the run.

Run

So as mentioned before my run has been a bit of a frustrating struggle this winter/spring.  I didn’t really know if the glute was going to bother me, so I decided to shoot for a reasonable run split of 1:40 (my PR is 1:38).  I start off pretty easy and take a similar approach like the bike of splitting into thirds and increasing effort throughout.  The first four miles were easy, super easy – I did feel my glute being a little tight so I didn’t want to press too early.  It was really enjoyable.  I started counting people that I pass.  After four miles the course does a U-turn and I start to pick up the intensity a bit.  The funny thing about picking up intensity is that of course you are getting more tired – so you’re trying harder but not necessarily going any faster.  The course is a little odd in that it is two un-even loops.  The first being about 8.5 miles and the second being about 4.5 miles.  I decide that for loop two I am going to pick it up.  I’ve been reading an interesting book called “How Bad Do You Want It” by Matt Fitzgerald, and it is all about stories of medium-high profile athletes and the mental (and some physical) challenges and cues they go through to get around them.  One of the themes is that anger can be a key motivator.  That second loop I would think about an extremely sad and yet unfair situation that happened to some close friends.  The thing is, it worked.  It really did.  My pace almost immediately drops 20-30 seconds per mile.  I passed so many people on that second loop (granted most were slower runners on loop 1) it was kind of a blur.  My last mile was the fastest and I ended up running a 1:40:05 split.  I mean, it’s not a PR but it was probably the best-executed half iron run I’ve had.

Final place in race: 412

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Always so glamorous in the finisher's chute 

Crossing the finish was really an out-of-body experience, but not how you might think.  It was a sense of relief/joy of finishing but it was a huge emotional release – a combination of the physical exertion having ended, a well-executed race, and the emotional rollercoaster of thinking about this "motivator" i mentioned earlier … I started bawling semi-controllably for about 30 seconds.  A volunteer asked if I needed to go to the medical tent.  And then I was fine.  It's a pretty crazy experience.  

After i leave the finish chute area I Met up with Alicia and Lyle/Christina/Moly who came up to visit from Oakland.  A little bit later some of my teammates Ben, Amy, and Melody all finished as well.  We exchanged some war stories and remarked at how glad we were that we came down and did this race (plus apparently, Seattle had another shitty rainy cold weekend).  

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Ben, Amy, and I after finishing

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Green Lake Friends

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Post race celebration

 

Post Race

After the race we did some sightseeing in/around Santa Rosa, did some wine tasting, and then eventually met up with some friends on Monday (my birthday) for my favorite pizza – Zachary’s in Oakland.  Overall, a huge success on the weekend – and I am feeling super pumped for the rest of the triathlon season!

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Wine tasting 

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Bodega Bay with Lyle, Christina, and Moly!

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Point Reyes

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Point Reyes is just a LITTLE bit windy

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Alicia making a new friend, Liz and Dan's baby William

 
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