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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.  

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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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Ironman 70.3 St George 2015 Race Report

Race Leadup

This past weekend was Ironman 70.3 St George in the desert of Southwest Utah.  It is known as being one of the toughest half Ironman triathlons around.  1.2 mile swim in 60-64 degree water, 56 miles of very hilly roads (3600 feet of climbing) through gorgeous red rocks, and 13.1 miles of hilly running (1200 feet of climbing, yes ... 1200!) without an ounce of shade in 90+ degree temps.  It is also the North American Pro Championship for professional triathletes, so there were a number of well-renowned pros in attendance. 

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Landing in St George 

This would be my first triathlon of 2015 and a set up to my next race in Victoria BC, another half ironman tri.  I knew this was going to be a challenge – the course is very unforgiving and there are few opportunities to train in the heat during the Seattle winter.  Still, this type of course suits me well – anything hilly tends to fall into this category.  Gravity is your friend when you weigh only 126lbs, it takes so much less effort to cycle and run up hills.

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Ironman Village on Thursday - fairly quiet for now

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Previewing the Snow Canyon climb 

Arriving in St George on Thursday afternoon, we were greeted with 90 degree temps.  Oof.  Fortunately it’s a “dry heat”, but it is still hot.  Nutrition the week leading up to the race was vital – especially electrolytes.  The last half-Iron I completed was also hot and I cramped badly on the run, want to avoid that this time!  I had consumed a LOT of Nuun tablets, including three the day before the race. Checked into the race, my in-laws Gene and Deb also arrived on Thursday, had some In N Out burger (you know, for some more salt ;) ), previewed the infamous Snow Canyon climb on the bike course and then went back to the hotel to start re-assembling the bike…

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Something appears to be missing here...

SHIT!  Um … what happened???  A piece from where my seat post goes into the seat tube broke off during shipping.  The saddle won’t go in.  After freaking out for about 10 minutes I work on assembling the rest of the bike and realize this is probably something minor, and I’ll head to a bike shop in the morning.  Turns out this isn't uncommon as it's a very poor design and the newer Felt's don't have this any more. (post-edit, turns out it is NOT replaceable and I can get by for a little while.  The risk of a "catastrophic failure" is near 0. But at some point I guess I get to go shopping for a new frame... or bike. So that's ... good?)  At the bike shop, we jerry-rig a solution – use some electric tape to hold down some of the protruding pieces, file it down, put the seat tube in, then slap the sleeve back on and tighten it down.  It’s pretty damn secure and is going to have to do.  Attend the athlete briefing, water temp is 62 degrees and now it sounds like the drafting rule is FIVE bike lengths now not three and the penalty is a full five minutes if you are caught.  Wow.  Will have to keep that in mind.  Head to T2 to drop off my bike and do a short swim - 62 degrees doesn't seem TOO bad.

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The swim venue at Sand Hollow State Park.  We swim around this island actually.

Race morning goes fairly smoothly.  4:15am the alarm goes off and normally on race morning I want to shoot myself (until I get my coffee), but not today – I was feeling fairly refreshed.  Gene dropped me off at T2 around 5:10am, I took the athlete shuttle to the start and went to transition and got things settled.  The event camera man recorded me airing up my tires, and I made the video (see 4:11)!  Unfortunately I was in a later wave, 7:42am with half of the M30-34 age group so I had some time to kill.  I watched the pro men and women take off, then eventually started a light jog and put on my wetsuit.  Caught up with my swim wave in line, tried to warm up my arms a bit and then got into the water once the previous wave went off.  Had 3 minutes and then …

Swim

GO!  This time around I figured I should try to go a bit aggressively at the start and then settle into my pace.  I figured I would do 200 “hard-ish” strokes and then settle in.  Well, about sixty strokes into it things start to go haywire.  The right side of my swim cap starts leaking.  My right goggle starts leaking.  I stop and adjust the goggles and then the group of guys I was with leaves me in the dust.  Hm, oh well.  Another 40 strokes or so and I’m having trouble breathing.  I slow down a bit, and now my body feels hot.  Damn, it must be this new wetsuit – it’s smaller than my previous one (which was a little too big).  Why did I get this XS wetsuit, maybe I should have gotten the S?  Now my head is hot.  Oh no!  That’s the problem… my new cold water neoprene swim cap (which I’ve swam with three times this year) is too hot!  I’ve never raced with it, only practice-swam!  What do I do?  OK I’ll breast stroke a bit.  Hm, nope that doesn’t help.  Sidestroke?  Negative.  Dump more water down the neck of my wetsuit – oh man that’s cold.  That doesn’t help.  I’ve got to get rid of this extra cap.  There’s a safety kayak with two people hanging on!  So, I pull up to the kayaker, ask if she’ll take my swim cap, she does and reacts “wow that’s really hot!”, put my race cap and goggles back on, she says she’ll take it to lost and found, I thank her and am on my way.  Oh man, my head is cold now!  What is this, amateur hour?  I had to laugh to myself about this because what else am I going to do, I was on-schedule for my worst triathlon swim ever!  Go through my old tricks of fighting panic attacks (count strokes, use breast stroke to sight, my “glide/side/wide” mantra) and finally have a solid swim for the last 0.5 miles. 

Swim Time: 43:36, place in race: 1549
My second slowest half Iron swim time – about five minutes off what I probably should have swam at.  They say you can’t win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose it.  Sigh. 

Bike

Well, at least I had some positive momentum with how the swim ended to propel me into the bike.  The wetsuit strippers helped pull off my wetsuit, got to my bike (with shoes already clipped in of course ;)), put my wetsuit into my bike transition bag (so they can take it back to the finish line end of race), and then head to the mount line and ride.  Fortunately, there was practically ZERO wind today, so this was going to be a good bike day for me.  Strategy – try to emulate a race simulation bike ride from two weeks ago – 140 watts for the first hour, 140-160 watts second hour, 160+ watts for the third hour, trying to avoid going over 180 and rarely over 200.  I realize that those watts are not the highest, but again I am light and I knew I have a hilly half marathon looming.  The great thing about the power meter is the ability to know what output you are actually doing when your brain may be telling you something else.  Coming out of the swim your adrenaline is going crazy, HR is often spiked, and it’s hard to know how “hard” you really should pedal.  I was passing people left and right at 21+ mph and was worried I was going too hard.  Nope, 140-145 watts, right on schedule.  Groovy, this is going to be a great day.  I roll through the first half at around 1:16 and I’m thinking “OMG, I’m definitely going to break 3 hours on the bike”.  Well, naturally – the harder part of the course is the second half, plus the temperatures are rising and fatigue sets in.  Snow canyon was indeed tough, that 7-8% climb at the end of a 900 foot hill is always going to be challenging.  A number of people were walking their bikes up the last part (sucks to be them!).  The reward is a long 1100 foot descent, with much of it over 40mph, that was fun.  Many people don’t pedal and take advantage of their aerodynamic tri bike, and I continued to pass a number of people downhill (despite my light weight!).  Roll into T2, take off helmet and sunglasses, put on my socks and shoes, put on visor race belt, get some sunscreen and am on my way.

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My best bike leg to date.  Variability Index of 1.06 for those interested ;)

Bike time: 2:56:12, place in race: 833.  Bike PR by over 10 minutes!

Run

Running after biking during a tri is often a strange feeling.  On one hand, your muscles have been biking for a few hours so the running motion causes them to feel odd.  On the other hand, the transition change (and the spectators around transition) sparks adrenaline which provides energy.  For the first half mile usually feels pretty good, but the next 1.5 miles after that often suck and I think there is no way I can run a half marathon.  After 1.5 miles I check my watch time for the run and realize it still says 0:00.  Turns out my watch got paused during the bike and remained paused for the run.  Well, let’s start it now.  To add to the suck factor, the first three run miles at St George are almost all uphill, gaining over 400 feet, with some steep grades.  You then get to go down a bit, only to go back up.  In short, you’re rarely running on flat.  Did I mention that it’s almost noon, it’s nearly 90 degrees and there is no shade? 

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Yep, no shade + nearly 90 deg

The good news is that a light breeze did pick up and I never really felt “hot”, just really tired.  I knew this was going to be tough, and just decided to keep moving and not dig too deep, at least not right away.  My slow swim already set me far back that I’m not going to worry too much about my time/place and just try to enjoy the experience.  If I couldn’t sustain my current pace, I slowed down.  If I felt OK, I sped up. What I found most striking about this is that almost everyone was walking, similar to a full Ironman.  In an Ironman, almost everyone walks a portion of the marathon – some more so than others.  In a half Iron – usually much fewer walkers.  This had a lot of walkers, so given that I’m passing people left and right, there wasn’t much point to dig too deep and potentially hurt myself or suffer heat/sun stroke.  I did force myself to run the whole time, except at aid stations … which I admittedly spent a little too much time walking through drinking gatorade/water/coke.  After reading other race reports, I developed a good strategy at aid stations to take a cup of ice and put half down the front of my jersey, half down the back (and sometimes a little in the tri shorts!) and it kept my core cool.  Again, I never felt “hot”, just physically tired!  What helped get me through was a new modified mantra I picked up from Chris “Macca” McCormmack – who says that in an Ironman there is really just “30 minutes of shit” you have to deal with in the day.  Well, I decided to adopt that for a half Ironman.  I figured 10 minutes were on the swim.  The last 5 minutes of the snow canyon climb.  10 minutes of the first big run hill, and then approaching the last hill on the run before the final downhill 3 miles I told myself I only have “5 minutes of shit” left.  And you know – I was right!  I look down at my watch at the base of the last hill, and then when I get to the top, sure enough 5 minutes have passed.  I roll into the finish line at a decent clip, the clock is still set to the pro start, and I honestly have no idea what my finish time is.  I was expecting to find out from my watch but since it was paused I really don’t know – and to a certain extent I didn’t care (surprising for me!) - just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Run time: 1:48:53, place in race: 487

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Cool down a bit, try to find some shade to stretch, then get some food.  Eventually I go to the information booth and learn that I finished in 5:33:44.  Not bad!  I was hoping for around a 5:30 and given my shitty swim, I am perfectly happy with that time.  That time also puts me in at the top 24% overall, top 35% in my age group.  Stopped by lost and found, no swim cap :(  Sorry Mom and Dad, I lost one of the Christmas presents you got me!  Overall I really enjoyed this race - I would definitely come back again - I want a redo of my swim and I have a better idea what to expect on that hilly run course.

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Looking ahead to Ironman 70.3 Victoria on June 14… the bike will still be pretty hilly (but not as hilly as this), but the run is flat and shaded!  Can’t wait!  Some other pictures from nearby Zion National Park - we saw a lot of people in IM StG gear that day - a popular place! 

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Court of the Patriarchs 

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Viewing the Great White Throne from Big Bend

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Walking towards the Narrows

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