Ironman California 70.3 Race Report

Finishing up a dissapointing day...
So I definitely needed a few days to take in everything that went down over the weekend. Lots of emotions; A lot of good things came from it, but also a lot of bad things...Unfortunately, one of the bad things was...well, my race. It goes to show, that no matter how confident you are, no matter how much training and prepared you are, no matter how much you visualize yourself at being successful, Ironman will humble you. I'm still in a bit of shock of my result - which I'll bare you the suspense...16th in my AG...166th overall. I really thought a top 5 was obtainable on a good day, and top 10 on a bad day; but my rookie-ness showed. Yes, I'm hard on myself -but I've always been and its a big reason why I keep getting better. I expect a lot out of myself; especially when I put in the time and work - this is no exception. However on a good note, I learned SO much from the race and now that I officially have my first 70.3 race under my belt, I feel way more prepared going into the next one. I just keep reminding myself that it's only March and this was really the "season opener." There are plenty of races ahead where I can redeem myself and not make the mistakes that I made....This is how it went down:

Chaos of T2
The week of the race James and I just put some final touches on fitness just to sharpen up. A few race pace efforts here and there, final tune ups and even a day off to get my body and mind ready to let it rip. There was a bit of a mis-hap during the week. Thursday was a really busy/stressful day at work which included a tradeshow all morning/afternoon, a quick run up to Oceanside to check in for the race during lunch, then back to Kearny Mesa to prepare/coordinate our Company wide BBQ event. This means cases and cases of beer to be lifted out of my car and into the ice chests. I was kind of in high speed mode and panic-ing a bit because of time constraints and usually I'm really good about not lifting with my back, but in this case I did and felt a tweak in my left lower back. Great...It bothered me the rest of the night, didn't sleep very well and when I woke up in the morning I could barely get out of bed...Seriously...a day before the race?? After struggling to brush my teeth and even go to the bathroom, I called up Dr. Brett over at the TRI Valley Chiropractic out of desperation and wanted to see if he could get me in there ASAP. As always, he came through. Dr. Brett is unique in that he is a professional Chiropractor and Massage Therapist. So he knows how to do athlete-specific ART (active release therapy) and adjustments. He's worked on a ton of professional athletes and I am very lucky to have him be a part of the Temecula Valley Tri Club network. He seriously worked his magic. He said it was very swollen and inflamed and as he put me in the pain cave rubbing that lactic acid out, he describes in detail what was going on down there. He made some adjustments, ice, stem and when I walked out there, it was night and day. It was sore, but I could actually bend over, he's the man!

Patiently awaiting...
Race Morning: We stayed the night at Amy's folks place so we could leave the kids with Grandma and Grandpa. I got up ~4:00am and got my stuff together, made one last adjustment to my bike fitting (1st mistake of the day), ate a sweet potato and a banana and then we headed down. On our way down it was drizzling and looked pretty nasty out. She dropped me off at T2 so I could set up my run transisiton (there were 2 this year). I then rode down to T1 and got set up. After getting body marking and chatting with James a bit, I walked down to scope out the swim course. The swim starts in the harbor but then swings out towards the ocean where it can be a bit choppy. It was pretty calm for the most part from what I could see, so I was not worried at all about the swim, I was ready! Since my wave was the 3rd to last one, I had an hour to kill before my race. Since they kicked us out of transisiton, I was able to find a chair next to a bfast stand and just hid from the wind and cold for a bit and watched the waves go off. This was the most relaxed I'd ever felt before the race. My body felt great, I already visualized the whole race and now it was just time to play it out. I did some light stretching and then eventually got into my wetsuit and got in line with the rest of my wave.

Getting ready for this cold swim!
Swim (1.2 miles): 37:04 (1:57/100 pace)- 76th out of the water

As we lined up in our waves, I focused on my game plan. Basically to line up in the front on the right side. Go out hard for 200 meters and then settle in. As I was in line I noticed the carnage already lining up from the previous waves. People literally doggie paddling, lying on their back, holding on to the lifeguard paddle board. I knew there was going to be a lot of traffic in the water. As we approached the water, I saw Rick from The Bike Shop which was really refreshing. He always has a way of lightening up the mood. He looked like he was having fun, it was now my turn. I splashed some water on my face to adjust to the cold and it actually wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Xterra Vegas last year ruined me on cold water - but also toughened me up because THAT water was cold, this was in upper 50's I believe...not too bad with my Xterra Votex wetsuit on.

My wave is off!
We got in about a 100 meter warm up and it was already time to go. The blow horn sounded and off we went. For the first 200 meters I felt smooth and fast in the water. Usually I'm knocking into a bunch of people, getting dunked which can really set off that heart rate. I put myself in good position though and I started smiling because this was EXACTLY how I invisioned it. After about 400 meters we already started running into previous wave traffic. I saw that I had already lost the front group, which was fine for me, I just wanted to make sure I stuck with the second....It didn't matter, the further we got into the swim, the more people I was running into, the more choppy the waves got and my pace slowed dramatically. I sighted ok, but I couldn't really just swim a straight shot because it was a washing machine of previous waves all up the middle so I would try to veer to the right to try and stay away from it all. This definitely had me swimming longer for the day, but I figured it would at least let me fall into a rythmn. As we neared the ocean, literally 5 foot swells had picked up. They weren't breaking because they were just coming into the harbor. I started feeling like I was lost at sea during certain points. I would look up to spot the bouy and all I would see is a huge wave coming at me! I literally just started laughing out loud, this is crazy! Felt like I was swimming up and down, up and down. I heard people yelling for help, paddle boarders paddling hard, people lying on their back...Seriously felt like chaos. I just stayed focused through it all though and did my best to navigate through a lot of swimmers, a lot of chop and tried my best to just get into a rythmn. I'm just really not used to swimming in waves/chop like that. We've swam at Vail before where the wind was howling and the chop was really nasty, but when you add in waves, darkness, sprinkling and hundreds of swimmers - you can't practice that!

T2: 3:43

As I got out of the water I saw the clock and was trying to do the math, but everything was a bit foggy. I knew I didn't have a great swim, but I also had the comfort that everyone in my wave went throught that same mess so I suspected all of the times would be slow...boy was I wrong. Props to them. I have a lot of work to do in the open water. T2 included a long I'm thinking 150 meter jog around the transistion area. I saw Amy and gave her a smile, I was having fun! At transistion I decided against the arm warmers because I figured the sun would come out eventually - 2nd mistake of the day. I threw on my new Kask Crono helmet and off I went. As I mounted, one of the volunteers yells out to me, "Cmon Wattie, Watties aren't slow..." stoked. Thanks for volunteering man, great encouraging words! I just laughed it off.

Right about where my awesome voluteer chatted with me
Time to go to work
Bike (56 miles): 2:43:13 (20.59mph) - 43rd off the bike

Since I was not running a power meter or a heart rate monitor, the goal was to just go off of RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort) and strategic points in the race. For the first 5 mins I just focused on calming down from the swim, getting in some nutrition and mentally preparing to hammer. As soon as those 5 mins were up, I started ramping up my speed. Then just 5 mins later my spare tube that I had only tied down with ONE rubber band under my seat fell off, landed and wrapped around my wheel well perfectly. Like, it literally seized my bike slowly. I quickly pulled over and thought I had a flat. It took me a minute to realize that my tube looked exactly like it did when you pull it out of a new box, only this time it was wrapped around my axle! Lesson #3 of the day, securing a spare tube to your bike....I tried to unwrap it from the wheel but no dice. I started panicing a bit, because I was worried there was nothing I could do. I even tried to muscle it tear the tube off...yea, good luck with that. I eventually took off my rear wheel and figured out a way to get it off, that sucker was on there. Relieved, I threw back on my wheel and hit the road again. All in all I think I lost ~5 mins here, maybe more. I wasn't too worried about it. As they say, expect 3 things to go wrong in a race - dunno if this was #2 (#1 being a sh*tty swim!), so I just let it go and raced my own race. I was worried about all of the traffic from previous waves, but it never came into play. There were a few guys for the first 20 miles where we would pass each other back and forth but eventually I dropped them and from then on out only one guy passed me for the remainder of the race....That is; except for the two times I had to stop and pee.

Cold rain was coming down around here
Peeing off of the bike was something I never really paid any attention to in this sport. I read about it in the different forums about "techniques" and when to do it and such. I just never figured I'd run into that problem. Why couldn't I just hold it for 4-5 hours? Well the good thing was, I was properly hydrated, the bad news was shortly after the big climb at mile 35 I had to go BAD. Like, it eventually took my focus off of the race, I had to go so bad. So on a few of the downhills I tried to let it rip with no luck. There was a lot of traffic from other waves, a lot of voluteers, marines from the base scattered everywhere, so it was pretty tough to find the right spot without getting a penalty or getting yelled at. I eventually just decided to pull over as I could't wait any longer. Of course I probably had the longest pee of my life as I watched everybody I worked so hard to pass, re-pass me. 40 minutes later, repeat. Lesson #4, learn to pee off of the bike. Despite the problems I had on the ride, I still nailed my nutrition. I felt good/strong the whole way. I climbed well, energy was up and for the most part I stayed focused. I think a few of the mistakes I made however was trying to make up for the lost time each time I had to stop (3 total). I would ramp up each time and then have like a 20 minute sufferfest before I settled back in. This probably hurt me more than it helped me. By the time I hit transistion I was ready to get off of the bike and try to get warm...

T2: 3:08

My transistion was money. Even with me putting on socks -it was probably one of my fastest transistions. Why doesn't the time show? Because I had to freakin pee again! This time I hit the porta pottie.


Run (13.1 miles) 1:23:29 (6:22 pace) - 16th place to finish

After the first 100 meters in my new K-Swiss Kwicky's I knew I was going to have a good run. First of all, I couldn't believe how great the shoes felt and how great it felt to get out and run. At this point of the run, I had no idea where I was at place wise. I knew I passed a bunch of people on the bike from my AG, but I still didn't know how I fared on the swim. So the plan was to just hit it from the get-go. First of all, the run course was a nightmare. With all of the traffic to weave in and out of, it really broke up my rythmn, often times I had to stop and wait for people to move, every 200 meters or so I would have to yell at people to move out of the way. I slammed head on into one guy when I tried to pass around the cones...Just a total mess of hundreds of people to pass on a bike lane when I'm going sub 6 pace and they are going sub 10 pace. This occurred for about 3 miles total for the run and the rest of the course opened up. It was a 2 lap course, so for my first lap the goal was to hammer, the 2nd lap - hang on! My legs and energy level felt great. I took gels, drinks, salt tabs and food at all of the right times which is usually uncommon for a newbie---so this is something I definitely am proud of about this race. My stomach felt great the whole race and even during the run, I was hungry and all of the food cooking in the background sounded really good, which is a great sign.

The only problem I occured during the run was my dreaded cramping. Now when I say cramps, I'm not talking about a side stitch or a little cramp like you get in your foot in the pool or something. These are the deep ones. The ones that can take you out of a race and make you sore for a week like it did for me at Soma. Everytime I would push the pace under 6 minutes I would start to feel them bite at me and slowly cramp - so I'd back off. I played this game with my muscles during the entirety of the run. I would push it just to the point it would start to grab and then back off. My foot stike, my cadence, my breathing, my form - everything was money. I felt like a compeltely different runner out there compared to my 1/2 marathon in January. I've come a long way. I just need to figure out my cramping issues, because you have to trust me when I say this -the way I felt on that run, I had a sub 1:20 in me. Get rid of the run traffic and I'm looking at a 1:16-17 I felt that good and strong. This was the one confidence booster I got out of this race was how hard I'm gonna be able to close in the future.

I look so fraile and broken!
It was awesome to see Amy, her folks, the kids and some friends out there cheering for me. Ironman indeed puts on an amazing event. It's not just your typical race, it's more like a production and they delivered! As I hit the second lap, I kept paying attention to everyone I was passing in my age group. This is when I started thinking I got worked. I can always tell when I'm up against someone fast just by the way they look, by their run form and just how they look physically. Everyone in my age group that I passed looked to be going ~8 min pace which told me right away that I'm waaay out of contention. I still had some hope though and pressed on - Maybe they were on their first lap??  Once I finished, I couldn't believe it was over. It seemed like we had just started and now it was over. I knew the stops on the bike cost me and my swim was slow, but I had no idea that I was flirting with the 5 hr mark. Honestly, once I found out my time - it crushed me. Even if you take off 10 mins of stoppage time off of the bike, I'm still OUT of the hunt. Slow swim, long transistions...a lot to work on!

4:50:37 16th in my AG (out of 250), 166th overall out of 3,000 competitors

Now that may not sound bad to some people, but when you put in the time, energy, work and effort I do - this really was a tough one to swallow. I sacrafice a lot to do this sport and although I love to swim, bike and run, I do it to compete and nothing else. I hate to lose and I really hate to get my ass handed to me. Not to mention I wanted to qualify for Vegas here. Now I'm gonna have to take the time off work, throw down another Ironman entry fee and spend more money to try and get a qualifying spot out in Boise or Kansas. Trust me, I know this sport is not easy and I can't expect to go into this event (as a first timer) and kick everybody's butt in one of the most competitive fields in any Ironman of the year...but that is indeed what I expected of myself.

I was pretty down for a few days as I took it all in. I chaulk it up as another learning experience. The race really humbled me and although it pushed me to the brink of whether or not I should be doing this - I've bounced back and am VERY hungry to redeem myself. I told myself that I would give this year 100% no matter what the outcomes. As long as I keep doing all of the right things in training like I have been, the results will come. The talent is there, the motivation is there and the support system is there...I just have to give it time - so I'm letting this one go and heading on to the next one..which in this case is Wildflower. One of the toughest 70.3's in the nation. Can't wait to toe that line.

Huge props to my Wattie teamates that crushed it out there including John Shilt who placed 3rd in my AG!

Other Teamates:
John Shilt - 4:28
Doug Close - 4:30
Christopher Masilon - 4:44
Chris Liou - 4:49
James Adams - 4:50
Derek Liou - 5:04
Peter Leavitt - 5:14

Thanks for reading and thanks everyone for their kind words, it means a lot. Some more pics from the weekend!

Getting ready to swim
Owner of The Bike Shop, Rick volunteering at swim start
Heading out to the start
150 meter run to T1
An ambulance pulled right out in front of us here, almost hit him!
Narrow streets I was talking about...
New Wattie Ink kits were bad ass out on on the course
Kids trying to stay warm (with Autie Madison)
Leaving a cold tough day behind...
Ironman owned me last weekend, but I'll get my revenge!


Damie said...

Hey babe- great race. Seriously. You put it all down right here- you are learning rookie things, the swim is crap when you have to weave through people, stuff happens on the bike, and as usual you crushed it on a frustrating run (the pictures of you and a million people on the run looks insane! I bet you were dying to just hammer through it!). You are fit and ready to take this to a new place. A very random comparison, but I never think of M Raelert as a 4th place finisher...he should win- it just was one of those races. I don't think of you as 16th in your AG- just one of those days. You are frickin' killing it and will nail it next time. I love your honesty. Keep it up!

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