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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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Whoops, deleted some stuff

Well, I did something rather dumb in IT-land.  

Back in January I published a redesign of this site and posted a few articles this year - including a race report on the Half Ironman triathlon in Victoria BC and a trip report on a recent visit to Hong Kong and Vietnam. 

The server that I was running was having some challenges, the site was generally "down".  Just like in the "IT Crowd", I tried turning it off and on again to no avail, so I decided another option to "terminate" an Amazon EC2 instance.  Big mistake - anyone who has worked with Amazon's Cloud services is probably sucking in their teeth right now ... it means that I lose the instance AND all the data ... and I had not recently backed it up.

Oops.

I was just thinking how I should really back up the site data.  Well, I guess I learned my lesson the hard way.  I have the redesign code somewhere on one of my computers so with a little bit of heads-down activity I'm sure I'll be able to restore it.  I have an offline version of the the Hong Kong/Vietnam trip report but I think I've lost the Victoria race report (and unfortunately Google has not cached it).  So for now, I guess back to the old site!  

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Ironman Arizona 2015 Race Report

(This should be read as somewhat tongue-in-cheek)

This past Sunday was the Ironman Arizona Triathlon (IMAZ) in Tempe (Phoenix): a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run in under 17 hours.  When looking at it as a whole, it seems fairly incredibly impossible.  I certainly felt this way not too long ago.  I had a friend do Ironman Wisconsin back in 2009 and that’s when I was first introduced to triathlon and specifically to Ironman racing.  IMAZ 2015 would be my third full-distance Ironman (having done Canada/Whistler in 2013 and Wisconsin in 2014) and I had high hopes for the race.  My training had gone quite well, no major hiccups, no injuries, and really pretty minimal-to-no work travel keeping me away from my bike.  This year was also different – for the first time I’d be racing Ironman with teammates from the Seattle Green Lake Triathlon Group (SGLTG).

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Phoenix Botanical Gardens with Mom and Alicia 

We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday and joined in on the second annual Underpants Run – which is a bit of a knock off from a tradition in Kona (the most well-known Ironman) – it was pretty fun actually, plus a good way to shake out the legs from the flight.  Did a practice ride on Friday, practice swim on Saturday morning (63 degree water, kind of cold!), final run on Saturday afternoon. Weather was looking great as well – forecasted a high of 70 degrees with a 20% chance of rain.  Everything was great, expectations were high for a strong PR time.  

12232750_490573444435485_8858398947581977291_oMost of the IMAZ Seattle Racers

Get to transition around 6:00am, add my nutrition to my bike, set up my power meter, attach bike shoes to pedals, throw the wetsuit on my legs and start warming up my arms with stretch cords.  Lots of music is played in transition, and the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten comes on (more to come on this), then I see Tracy Gayler in transition and she snaps a picture of me with the thumbs up!

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ood morning! Headlamps are key in dark transitions!

Swim

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cott Gayler and I.  He beat me by 7 minutes on the swim - maybe I should have tried to stay on his tail for the swim!  And yes I double-capped it, for "protection" ;)

For the first time, Ironman Arizona employed a rolling start (kind of like large running races, your time starts when you cross the starting line) vs a mass swim start.  In the corral I met up with Scott Gayler and we chatted a bit, talking about how perfect the weather was going to be.  First the male pros go at 6:40, female pros at 6:45, age groupers at 6:50.  I was in the water by about 6:53.  Tempe Town Lake is a bit murky – visibility is quite poor.  Normally you can see 5-6 feet in any direction – people to your side, people in front.  This is useful for drafting off other swimmers to go faster and save energy.  Nope, not here.  Going to have to sight (put your head up out of the water and look where you’re going) a lot.  Plus, it’s still dark out – the sun doesn’t ride until 7am, so it’s a bit of mayhem.  The course is rectangular-shaped and a single loop. It’s not uncommon for songs in your head to play back while I swim.  Well that damn “Fight Song” gets into my head… Stroke, stroke,  “This is my fight song”, breathe, stroke-stroke “take back my life song”, breathe, stroke-stroke “prove I’m alright song”, breathe, sight… repeat.  I’m thinking seriously?!  This song??  After about 35 minutes into the swim I make the first turn, another 3-4 minutes turn 2, head back towards the starting line (“This is my fight song…” ugh!), make turn three and then climb up the stairs after 1:20 and head into the Swim-Bike Transition (T1).  

Nutrition consumed: 1 gel with caffeine ~7-8 minutes before swimming.

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Get this damn wetsuit off me!

Bike

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One spends a LOT of time in the aero position at IMAZ

After a quick-ish four minute transition I hop on the bike.  Take my first gel and am on my way out to start the first of three loops to make up 112 miles.  The course is flat, really flat – probably a big reason why IMAZ is so popular.  People tend to think flat = easy.  While I agree to a large extent for those trying to complete a race (vs compete in a race), flatter = faster.  How fast depends on how hard you push which is the opposite of easy.  My general strategy was to use my bike power meter to closely gauge my effort and basically negative split each of the three loops.  Loop one was easy (as it was expected), and then during loop two it starts to rain, and then pour.  What?  This is the desert, and it wasn’t supposed to rain until 6pm!  WTF?  Now, given that we live in Seattle, cycling in the rain is not that big of a deal, need to use caution on turns and braking but otherwise … game on!  The problem is … I’m starting to get cold.  Really cold at times.  The rain does let up a bit, only to pick back up when I start loop 3.  My power numbers are lower than expected.  I try to push a bit but my body isn’t responding – could it be because of the cold?  I decide to follow my perceived effort and not try to kill it to maintain my targeted watts.  Closing out loop three and getting close to town, it’s raining buckets again, and I’m somewhat miserable.  This is ridiculous, it’s not fun, this is really stupid.  Then, one of the spectators is yelling at the racers encouragingly: “Bring on the rain, now THIS is racing!”.  This snaps me out, I say to myself, “he’s right, this IS racing… expletive expletive”.  I close out the bike course with a 5:53, which is right around where I wanted to bike.  I see Jonathan Nield at the bike transition and head off to T2 to switch to my run gear.

Nutrition consumed: 2 gels, 2 clif bars (cut up in 1/8s), 800 calories Carbo Pro + 2 Nuun, 1 pack Clif Bloks, half a pack of Gu Chomps (and water)

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Finishing Lap 1 of the bike

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Yes, off the bike!  Yes it's wet out.

Run

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Smiling on the run, you're not allowed to have fun while racing!

First steps off the bike – whooooa legs.  That feels funny.  Not terrible, but just crazy.  The rain is letting up a little bit, but transition is really muddy.  I didn’t throw a hand towel into my T2 bag with m running shoes because I wasn’t expecting it to be raining!  Try to wipe my feet off onto my legs, throw on my socks, running shoes, visor, race belt and am on my way!  I actually did not have a super-detailed strategy for the run, mainly just to not walk and to pick a point in the last 6 miles where I would “go”. The first two miles are super easy, and I try to go as slow as I possibly can, but I can’t get any slower than 8:00 miles.  OK sure I’ll hang out here at this pace for a bit.  After two miles, we make the first turn and onto a dirt path, which would normally be really nice on a regular day.  I see Jim Burho starting his run and Scott Gayler shortly after Jim.  But, since it poured it was basically a mud pit.  This seemed to completely zap my energy and never felt the same after that.  My form still seemed good, I seemed to good bounce/flow, but my pace gradually started to slow.  I did cramp slightly at the start of the run, so I took in gatorade near the beginning and the cramping never got bad.  Around mile four I saw Cortney (and someone else, who was it?) cheering me on and gave a high-five as I passed.  At mile six I passed Aid Station #5, which is exactly where I volunteered last year!  That was a nice mental boost and I continued to trudge along.  For a two-loop run course, there is a sign that says “Loop 2, LEFT, Finish line, RIGHT”.  The person in front of me is finishing, the volunteers at the sign cheer her on.  I head to the left and the volunteer says “We’ll see you soon”.  Aw, thanks. I finished the first half in about 1:57  Well – there goes my goal of running a 3:45.  Let’s at least try to stay constant and maintain a sub-4 hour marathon.  Running along lap 2, I still feel quite sluggish – I look down at my watch and am seeing 9:15’s/9:45’s, and sometimes above 10:00.  I can’t believe I’m running this slow – I can’t even TRY to run that slow on my own.  WTF body?  Why aren't you cooperating?  To further annoy things, I had to pee a lot – I visited the porta-potties a total of seven times on the run!  It’s like I had broken the seal!  The good news is that I’m passing a lot of people on their first loop, which is always a mental boost.  Around mile 19 I see Scott Jozi for the first time of the day.  I come up to him, chat for a few, mention I’m struggling, but doing better now that I’m chatting with him.  After 30 seconds or so I leave him and then hit those last 6 miles of the marathon.  

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Less enjoyment on the face, probably a good sign I'm not slacking off. 

Continue to battle through and then at mile 23 I decide that I am going for this.  I pick up the pace.  It feels like racing a 10k but at a really slow pace.  I continue to pass more people, get some good encouragement from the crowds, and I remember the absolute best moment of the day – getting back to that same sign towards the end with the decision point, but this time, “Finish Line, RIGHT” – I still remember that moment like it just happened and brings me such elation.  Maybe a quarter mile is still left, I see Alicia there, blow her a kiss, then enter the finisher’s chute.  Lights are on, music blaring, Mike Reilly says “From Seattle Washington, Eric Fahsl, you are an Ironman!”. This is actually the first time Mike has announced my name.  I see my parents, Alicia, and Loren (who rocked a 9:28!).   Fellow SGLTG Kirsten is there at the finish line to help me get my medal, finishers shirt, hat, pose for pictures, and helps me find athlete food and massage (Thanks again Kirsten!).  

Nutrition consumed: 6 gels, ~6 small cups gatorade, a lot of coke, a few sips of red bull (blurgh) and water

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Worst finishing line photo ever?  

My run time was a somewhat disappointing 4:07 (my slowest ever Ironman run time … whaaa?), but it ended up with a final time of 11:29:25 – a 30 minute improvement over my previous best time at the distance (last year in Wisconsin was a 11:59:49).  It placed me in the top 20% of all finishers.

Total calories consumed: ~2600 calories in 11.5 hours.

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My goal was to be on the lower end of 11 hours, which I suppose technically I did!  Very happy with the overall effort, still not quite sure why the run was so slow, I think perhaps being cold from the rain must have sucked out some of my energy and left me with a little less in the tank to not be able to run to my potential.  But I can say it was a real blast to be there with a number of teammates, both racing and volunteering.  It was always a pleasure to see each other on the course, encourage each other, and tell war stories after the event.  Finally, for anyone who has ever aspired to do a triathlon (from a super-sprint up to an Ironman), I’d say go for it!  Everyone starts somewhere and we all seem like idiots the first time we “tri”.  I was a downright terrible swimmer, a mediocre biker, and a untrained runner just three years ago, and now I’m finishing in the top 20% of one of the toughest endurance sports in the world.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Just start small.  Oh, and have fun.  Unless you're trying to compete to the top of your age group, then stop having fun you slacker and go faster!

11223568_490822754410554_2990670045770544714_oAlicia and I at the SGLTG after party - Fat Tuesdays!

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