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.

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).

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

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. 


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

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.


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

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).  

Ben, Amy, and I after finishing

Green Lake Friends

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!

Wine tasting 

Bodega Bay with Lyle, Christina, and Moly!

Point Reyes

Point Reyes is just a LITTLE bit windy

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