San Diego International Race Report

3:30am: Eyes open fast. On race morning when you wake up, you don't have the normal tired looking/groggy eyes when you wake up. They look like they do after you have a few cups of coffee...Ready to go! I jolted out of bed 20 mins ahead of my alarm clock. After packing the night before, all I needed to do was to start eating, hydrating and stay relaxed. My body felt great, I kinda had an unplanned taper for this race. I had only run once in 2 weeks (to try and get rid of my calf problem) and the past week was so busy at work that I only put in a few bike and swims. Even counting the race I only put in 4.5 hours of training time for the week which is my lowest to date.

Dinner the night before: The kids went home with grandma and grandpa so we took this rare opportunity and went on a dinner date in Old Town. There's a new restaurant called Soro's which serves Mediteranean food (which we love) so we gave it a try. I normally don't like to experiment with new foods the night before a race, but come to think of it, I've never really had a dinner that settled well the morning of a race. The excited/nervous stomach always wins that battle. I ate the Chicken Scampi with some salad and a glass of wine. Probably ranks as one of the top 10 meals I've ever had. So good, if you're in town eat there!

Race morning breakfast: 1 banana and tried something new, a potato with a little bit of butter and spike. I decided to not have coffee which ended up being a great decision. I wanted the caffeinated gels to have more effect during the race. Coffee gets me too amped up for race mornings and also makes me have to pee like crazy and gives me an unsettled stomach. Instead I sipped on 1 bottle of Gatorade Fit Perform which I also raced with. This is a new drink I added and tested over the past few weeks. I've found that I need a lot of sodium in hard workouts/races. It helps prevent me from cramps and does the job at the fraction of the cost of what Hammer Nutrition's "Heed" does--which is what I've been taking in the past.

Setting up transition
We gave a ride to a local Temecula Valley Tri Club member, Mike Hebebrand (who qualified for Kona last year) down to the race and once we arrived it was packed! Couldn't find anywhere near transition to park so we had to park pretty far away and next thing I know I have only an hour till my race starts and I haven't even set up my transition! Since I already racked my bike the night before, I had to walk/jog about a mile to transition with all my stuff. I saw local pro and fellow SDTC member Charisa Wernick jogging and said hello while she was warming up like I should have been by then. The fact that this was only my 3rd triathlon really started to show! Once I finally arrived, I got everything set up and actually felt really calm. I accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to warm up, so I just suited up, hit the restroom one more time and got in the water for a bit of a warm up.

Swim start (I'm in the middle of that mess)
1K Swim: The water felt refreshing. I was a little worried that it would be freezing like it was for my Xterra Vegas race. That water took my breath away and tightened me up! I got it about a 200 meter warm up and next thing I know we were all lined up at the buoy for a floating start. Everyone commented in the water that are age group seemed a little small. It seemed like there was only like 35-40 guys, but come to find out there were 96---I guess when you are in the water spread out, it looks different. I lined up towards the front kinda on the outside and convinced myself that I was going to have a good swim this time. The horn went off and instantly it became a brawl. I got socked in the temple, dunked under, swam over, goggles knocked - so I started doing the same to others and just swam as hard as I could the first 100 meters to try and find some open water. This never happened. Every time I would finally get into a rhythm someone would ram right into me or I would do the same. I'm pretty sure I was in the middle pack about 400 meters in, but I started slowly getting pushed towards the rear pack. At this point my heart rate was skyrocketing so I had to forgo my bilateral breathing to breathing every other stroke. This in turn jacked up my form a bit, but when we finally passed the last buoy and started heading in -I finally got in a rhythm and passed a bunch of people. I finished in a time of 16:50 (1:41 pace) which was a big improvement over Vegas.

T1 (2:24) After practicing the past few weeks on transitions, I felt like I improved but still about minute slower than the leaders in my age group...Still a lot of work to do. However,  I knew exactly where my bike was, threw the wetsuit off, helmet, glasses on and decided to get into my shoes then and run out while taking down a Powergel Latte (2x Caffeine!).

Exiting the swim (notice not too many yellow caps...)
30K Bike: You don't understand how excited I was to get on my bike. I was even thinking about it during the swim. With the Slice in my artillery now, I knew I could post some good numbers on it. With the lack of swim skills I needed it! Most things you read tell you to ease into the bike, but with it only being 18.6 miles, I started hammering from the get go. Within the first 10 minutes of the ride I passed probably 40 people. A lot of them were from the earlier under 29 wave but I also saw tons of them from my age group. This got me pumped so when we started hitting the climbs, I hammered even more. Out of the 18 miles, I'd say only about 5-6 miles are flat. The rest is rolling (sometimes steep) hills. I stayed aero basically the whole time except for the really steep climbs where I just got out of the saddle and hammered some more. I didn't get passed at all during the bike except for one time going down a hill, I was pedaling pretty hard and this dude just flies by me with his $10k bike and wheels and he's not even pedaling! I guess there's something to say about having nice wheels, although it doesn't matter when you can't climb because I passed him back up right away on the next climb and didn't seem him the rest of the race. After I reached the tip of the climb for the 2nd time (2 loops) I started flying and as I approached a corner I decided to stay in the aero position (going pretty fast) and I felt my front wheel slip underneath me and grab again a few milliseconds later. Holy crap, that was awesome! I think I might have been smiling most of the bike, especially when a rabbit was playing frogger with the cyclists. He ran right past me and another rider and almost hit a racer going the other way and the guy yelled out some obscenities...Me and the other guy laughed it off and then I refocused and hammered. I had a sensation for this race that I have not had probably since my last race running competitively which was in the CanAm games in Boston, MA (back in 02?). It's kind of like you're in the zone. All pain kinda goes numb and a deep focus is enact. It almost feels like you're a machine and your just guiding it along. I braced this sensation and with each pedal stroke a burst of fire and energy filled the machine that I was guiding towards speed. Everyone I passed, I passed with authority like I was on a mission. Even though this was only my 3rd tri, I felt like I had been doing this for years. And I have. This is competition. This is pushing through pain. This is going fast and I was having a blast...My time ended up being 47:26 (23.5 mph) which I thought was decent considering the hilly course.

Leaving T2 (Matt on the left in gray)
T2 (1:17): As I approached T2 about 1/2 mile out, the first setting of fatigue in my legs finally hit. I think my effort played out perfectly. I took in about 3/4ths of my Gatorade bottle and felt pretty good. I got out of my shoes and just pedaled on top of them about 100 meters from the transition area. I dismounted, ran to my transition area, threw on my shoes, bib, visor and Garmin and as I started running out, took in another Powergel Latte but no fluids.

10K Run: As soon as you leave T2, you go through about 100 meters in the sand and as we ran up onto the sidewalk I ran past a few guys and then Matt - who I just recently met through the Tri Club yells, "James, is that you?" It startled me because I was kinda in the zone and I said, "Dude you must be having a good race or my swim reeeaally sucked (his wave started 5 mins behind me)! "He said, well I'll see you at the finish line!" I don't know if it was the gel or what, but it seemed like I couldn't get my heart rate down. I was breathing like I was doing intervals and I look at my Garmin and I'm only doing 6 minute pace! My tri suit felt tight and constricted and overall I was a little uncomfortable that first mile which I hit in 6:01.

Finally I started feeling better around a mile and a half so I picked up the pace. Then it happened. The calf I was so worried about sent a sharp pain almost like I just got bit by something. I look down and my Garmin reads 1.88 miles..."Wow, I've got a long way to go," I said to myself.  Every left foot strike sent a sharp pain straight up into my brain telling me to stop. It was then, like some people do when they are in a jam, I prayed. Sorry for those of you that are not religious -I don't share my beliefs on this blog because everyone has run into a christian or anyone religious for that matter that offended them in some way...I'm sorry.
However, I want to keep this blog real and praying is what I did. 100 meters later I come up on this guy that is running with a prosthetic running leg. I sincerely believe this was the answer to my prayer. This guy's missing half of his leg, from which the half that he does have is on fire and I'm complaining about my strained calf...As I ran by him, before I could even say anything, HE said good job. I said, "Likewise...." and headed off. The challenged athletes are so inspiring to me and this guy Michael Johnston (who finished in an impressive 2:00) that I passed inspired me big time. I hit my 2nd mile in 5:48 and my calf wasn't getting any better. At this point I just kinda embraced the pain, altered my form a bit (compensating more on my right leg) and started pushing harder. It's so hard to explain but the pain and hurt that you feel in triathlon is so different than it was for me running. Everything on your body is on fire, everything is just one step away from cramping up - and everything in your mind is telling you to slow down. To me, that's when you know you are pushing hard enough in a race. I pass through the 5k in 17:45 and at this point I've passed a lot of people and each one I go by has a fancier racing kit - so I know I'm getting close to the leaders in my age group.
Coming down the home stretch
One guy I remember most looks at me as soon as I come up on him and he said..."Aww man, dude what age group are you??" I said yours man, let's do this together..." He said, "Yea, it's only about 2 miles right??" He lasted about 200 meters and laughed saying, "Yea, your too fast -see you at the finish..." I don't think that chatty guy was pushing it hard enough....Mile 4 comes at a 5:39 clip and that's when I see Ryan and he runs up and gives me some encouragement. I asked him if he had any idea what place I was in - but he didn't. He said I looked super strong and that I could catch a lot more. I push harder. 8k comes in 28:31 (5:20 mile) and I just feel like I'm flying. I keep passing more and more guys and already wondering what I could do if I just learned how to swim better! Then with about a 1/2 mile to go it happened. Cramps. With me being so focused and feeling good (besides my screaming calf) I decided not to take in any fluids or gel during the run. I didn't want to break my rhythm. This was a mistake. Both of my lower quads started locking up bad. Maybe it was that last mile split....It was the same type of cramping that I got at the end of the Rock and Roll AZ 1/2 I did in January. The type where your legs just start giving out from underneath you. I stopped and walked a few steps every 400 meters. I was really getting worried that I wouldn't make it! I was on pace to break 35 mins (which was my goal), but as I looked at my watch at 6 miles it read 35:05 and knew it wasn't gonna happen. I jogged as fast as I could in and finished with a 36:38 (9th fastest run split on the day).

At the finish I was happy to see a lot of the pro's recovering in the athlete area and some age groupers. I had no idea where I was. I felt like I had a good race (I know I had a good run), but I also knew that my swim sucked. Amy was telling me that I was probably about the 30ish person to finish and that the pros weren't that far in front of me. I started getting pretty excited joking that I was gonna quit my job if I won my age group...haha. Not so much. I finished 6th in my age group out of 96. I was the 31st amateur with a time of 1:44:35. One second faster than Matt (who I passed earlier in the run) so I'm excited to have a great training partner! At first I was bummed because I thought I was one place from the podium, but come to find out, they only award 5 deep when there are over 100 in your age group which we were just short of. I put things into perspective and realized that I'm still so new to the sport and I can't expect to win big races like this with only 2 triathlons under my belt and a total of 4 open water swims in my life.

The thing that I took the most out of this race is that it lit a fire inside of me to get competitive in the swim and dominate my age group. I never intended to get back into endurance sports after I stopped running competitively and moved on to wife, kids, and a career. But I'm starting to realize with enough discipline I can do it all. I know my body well enough that if I really wanted to I could get back into 14:15 5k shape or run another sub 4:05 mile. The muscle memory is there, I'm still young (in my my prime if you ask me) and I feel like I can tolerate pain and stress easier. But I'm done with running, it's time to change the chapter. So I guess you can say I want to make a comeback, but this time in triathlon and this time I'm coming back with a fierce.


Anonymous said...

James, what a great re-count of your race. I felt like I was there! I am stoked that you are a part of The bikes Shop's Tri Team. You will be a fantastic example for new atheletes to follow. Cheers, Rick at The Bike Shop Temecula

James said...

Thanks Rick, I couldn't have done it without the help of The Bike Shop these past 8 or so months!

Rachela said...

This was a great blog James -like someone said above it made me feel like i was there- great job on your race i love you!!!

Post a Comment