Soma 70.3 Race Report

Wow, what an experience. I learned so much from my first 70.3 over the weekend and I want to make sure I document everything about it. So warning, this is a long post! There are some things I know I did wrong, others I nailed and overall I am so glad that I did the race because I really wanted it under my belt before tackling Ironman 70.3 CA next March. Not only did I get to take part of an amazing race, but Amy and the kids came out with me and we were able to stay and see some good friends for four days.

The Slice dolled up with an 808 and 1080

We rolled out Friday morning-ish and the kids actually handled it pretty well compared to last time we went out there and I almost got a ticket. We just threw on a bunch of Disney movies and they slept a lot. By the time we got to the Shirley's is was about 5pm and Eric and I headed out for a ride right away before it got dark. I had the Zipps on the Slice that Mike let me borrow and boy were they fast! The roads out in AZ are amazing. Most of them are newly paved because of the heat damage which causes them to constantly have them repaired. We put in a few race pace efforts and my legs felt surprisingly good after a 6 hour drive. After the ride we cleaned up and hit up Loco Patron with some more friends for a few beers.

The next day Eric and I headed down to the EXPO while the Amy, Kim and the kids went over to the fire station that was having a fair going on and then they hit up the Botanical Gardens near by. It was hot. 100 degrees hot. I was starting to get a little concerned about the next day because I really haven't spent a whole lot of time training in the heat. I sat in on the "Athlete meeting" grabbed some swag, went for a quick ride, checked in my bike and then Eric and I went on a quick little run. After that we just headed back to the house and relaxed. Kim made an amazing dinner (chicken, rice, veggies) and it was lights out at 9pm.

EXPO, Athlete talk
Wake up call was at 4:30am. I ate my typical oats, peanut butter, honey and banana cereal and started sipping on EFS and water. Eric volunteered to get up early with me, not go out with the guys the night before and cheer me on before going to a long Cardinal game...Great friend! I think he's hooked now to do it next year with me! We headed out at 5am and I was surprised how relaxed I was. Usually I'm pretty amped up for a race, but for some reason this race didn't intimidate me at all. I think a few things happened here.
1. I had put in a lot of open water swims. I've always felt unprepared and a little intimidated by the swim. This time (even though this was my longest swim in a race) I felt ready to tackle the swim.
2. For some reason since the race is a lot longer, it calmed me. I feel like sprints and Olympics are so short and intense, your margin for error is so little. I knew if I had some issues in any of the disciplines, it wouldn't make or break my I thought.
3. I was very mentally prepared for this race. I knew it was going to be a long day and I visualized out every scenario I possibly could have going in.

Just before the start
As soon as I got to transition, I set up, got body marked and headed out for a 15 minute progressive warm up. I got back, stretched a bit, took in a caffeinated gel and before I knew it I had my wetsuit on and dove in to get in a 10 minute warm up before they forced everyone to get out for the national anthem. The water was 73 degrees and I had a full suit, so it felt very comfortable to say the least. It's the best I'd ever felt going into a swim. I was calm, confident and excited to race my first 70.3! My wave (39 and under) was set to go 3 minutes after the pros. I never saw where they took off from, so after the cannon went they let us in and after a few strokes, they were yelling for us to get to the start which was like 200 meters away! Everyone just starts b-lining it over to the start..."30 seconds until the start of the 2nd wave!" I heard the announcer yell. Great, looks like I'll be swimming long today. I was probably only about 50 meters away from the "official starting line" but regardless it got the heart rate up in a hurry and I had to swim through back of the pack traffic. Not the best way to start my first 70.3, but learning experience #1.

Entering T1
Swim (1.2 miles): 38:28 (1:49 pace)
19th out of the water out of 58 in my AG
There was a lot of your usual thrashing for the first 400-500 meters or so and then I finally settled it. I found and fixed a lot of the flaws with my swim over the past month and it's really improved my stroke. I felt very calm and in control the whole time. My sighting was great and didn't struggle with my typical zig-zag issues that I'm normally used to. Before I knew it, it was time to make the turn back to the start. I told myself once I made that turn that I'd pick up the pace the rest of the way in. I started passing quite a few people and actually got settled into my first "pack." I've always read about these...ha. We were all kind of working together and I knew I was on pace to have a decent swim. It wasn't until about 500 meters to go that I saw another cap color (from the wave behind us). I took it as a good sign, because normally I'm getting passed by a ton of them and rarely see any of MY cap color in sight! The last 300 meters I started to struggle. My legs even started cramping. Are you kidding me!? I slowed way down and just let my arms do the work the rest of the way in. The weird thing is, I only use a 2 beat kick - pretty much use it solely for balance, so I thought it was pretty strange that I was cramping up. As soon as I exited the water they had wetsuit strippers which was awesome! They tore it off quickly and I started making the 150 meter run to transition. As I passed by Eric yelled out my split time, "37:25" as I passed by and was fine with that. It was right about where I'd predicted my time weeks back.

T1: 1:30
I was in and out pretty quick here since my wetsuit was already off. I threw on my Garmin 300, stuffed my Tri top with three Powerbar Latte Gels, 1 flask of EFS Gel and three Margarita shot bloks. I had 2 bottles of EFS loaded up in my bike, ready to go.

Bike (56 miles) 2:30 (22.4 mph)
5th fastest bike split
I was excited to get on the bike. In every triathlon I've done, I'm so used to just hammering right out of the gate and riding hard the entire time. I felt like this distance allowed me to relax a bit, especially at first while I gathered my bearings from the swim. I waited a bit to take in calories, which was some good advice I'd received. Especially after swallowing a little bit of that nasty lake water, no need to piss off the stomach...yet. I slowly got up to speed and into a rhythm. The bike course was three laps each 18.6 miles and change. My goal was to simply lock into 50 minute laps which was going to give me a 2:30 ride time. The course was filled with numerous U-turns and sharp corners. Very hard to stay in a rhythm when you keep breaking it. Add a nice head wind and heat for most of the course and the flat course everyone talked about wasn't as fast as you'd expected. However, I was also very mentally prepared for this. One thing I didn't expect was how much drafting was going on. It was kind of hard because of all of the U-turns and narrow roads to not get stuck behind someone, but I remember a lot of legitimate drafting (full on packs) going on...bummer, hate seeing that. I stayed on top of my nutrition...and now that I look back on it, maybe too much. I know one thing I did wrong was not take in enough water. During the whole race I only took in about a 1/2 bottle of water. I only took in liquid calories. Since that's all I do in training, I thought I'd be ok---but with the heat, I now know this was part of my problems to come. I went through the first lap in 49 mins, second lap in 48 and after starting the third lap I was feeling amazing. I really felt like I was in control, my heart rate and perceived effort were low and I was having a lot of fun! I was enjoying racing on the bike. I had multiple battles going on with different guys throughout the whole race, something I am not used to. I even chatted it up with some guys as they went by me or I went by them.

Hurting but smiling coming in!
With about 8 miles to go I stood up out of a U-turn to get back up to speed and this is when things got ugly. My quad and hamstring on my left leg cramped up. I immediately sat back down and got back in position. They went away, but I started to get a little concerned. I decided to bring my speed down a bit, take in some liquids and try to get my body in run mode. I felt like they went away and as I passed by my cheering squad towards the end of the ride I gave them a thumbs up and a smile. I was ready to tackle this run and win the thing. I knew I was towards the front just because of the quality of riders I was with. I figured there's no way any of these guys can run with me so I was pumped to get out and handle it. I cannot emphasize how good I felt here both mentally and physically. I felt like I was on cloud nine. The heat, the pacing, none of it was going to stop me from absolutely killing this race.

T2: 2:09
As I went to take my shoes off just before transition, the evil cramps came back again. I decided it would be best to get off my bike first to avoid crashing! As soon as I arrived, my whole cheering squad witnessed the ugliest dismount and run to my rack ever. I was cramping all over the place. Both legs were seizing up and no matter what I did, they got worse. I REALLY slowed down and took my time in transition. Every time I bent down to change my shoes or put on my race belt, the cramps would come in full force. Still, I was very positive. I was 100% sure that I just needed to "loosen up" a bit before I got my running legs under me. A volunteer saw how much I was struggling in transition and came up and asked if I was alright, I said "I'm fine! No big deal!" and slowly hobbled away.

So confident at this point...ha
Run (13.1 miles) 6th place starting the run
As I made my way on the run course, I was limping pretty bad and saw Eric and I told him, "Dude, all I need is a mile under me to loosen these legs up, I'm fine!" Literally about 200 meters later my whole left leg completely locked up. I screamed for about a minute, the cramp wouldn't let go! There were some spectators that just fled from the scene when I started screaming. Whenever I'd try to stretch it or walk on it, then my other leg would cramp up. I was a total train wreck. I slowly started on my way again, desperately taking in more shot bloks, gels, and anything I could get my hands on at the aid stations. I eventually settled into 8 minute pace for about 800 meters, walk, then start up again. But each mile the cramps got worse and to add insult to injury because of me trying to save my race with taking in tons of calories and salts, my stomach started getting very angry with me.
At mile 4 I had never been so happy to see a porta-pottie. It saved me from what could have been a very embarrassing day. I continued to limp along now at 10 minute pace and we went down underneath a bridge and I smelled one of the worst smells I ever have. It smelled like I put my head in a sewage tank. It's funny when I look back at it now, but as soon as I smelled that, seconds later I was "Brraaaahhh, braaa, belch...yuk." Threw up everything I had in me...Horrible! Love the Hurt right?? Believe it or not, I still figured I'd get through this. I knew it was just a rough patch. So stubborn..I understood throwing up and diarrhea are very common in 70.3's and I was committed to finishing this thing. However, when I hit mile 5, things continued to get worse for me. My leg cramps became so bad that I was limited to just walking and then when I'd try to take something in at the aid station, I would instantly throw it up. Dizziness, goose bumps...This was not just a rough patch, body was shutting down. So when the first lap ended, I walked myself straight over to the med tent and called it a day.

This was my first DNF ever and it didn't come without a fight. I really feel like I made the right decision. Did the cramps come from lack of water and salts? Lack of training? Heat? Probably a little bit of everything. The winning time was 4:42 in my age group. All I had to do was put together a 1:30 (6:52 pace) 1/2 marathon and I would have won the damn thing. Oh well, not going to let it get me down. I took away a lot of positives from this race.

1. I'm mentally stronger then I was when I ran competitively

2. I'm on the fast track for great success in triathlon

3. I'm very hungry for success at this distance.

4. I love this distance.

Me and the boys, well earned beers!
After the med tent, I walked back over to the ole' porta potty for one last date and then finally met up with my family/friends. I was able to take in some water and finally I just passed out under a tree for a 1/2 hour. I was out of it. As soon as I woke up I felt like a new man. I even considered getting back out there and finishing, but I already turned in my timing chip. Relax! Once we got back to the house I passed out again, ate a bunch and then later we hit up Four Peaks Brewing Co again; something my wife and I have been craving since we last visited. They had a great Pumpkin Porter that was probably the best I've tasted and we just grubbed on a lot of food, watched the world series and I finally let go of the fact that I didn't finish. Overall I had a good 1st year of triathlon and am excited about what next year holds. Some exciting things in the works right now and look forward to a week completely off before I slowly start building back up for 2012!

Thanks for reading and thanks to everyone for their nice comments, it means a lot. And most of all thanks to our amazing hosts, the Shirley's for taking in four more into their already full household. It was fun!


Mike said...

Great Job James,
keep notes on all the things that went well...what you did well, and what you could have done better during the race and before during your preparation. You will so well next year. Don't forget to sign up for the Vineman 70.3 Half on Tues at 9am....quite the race! Mike

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

Just came across your blog. I'm local to AZ, I've done this race 3 times now and race in Tempe all the time. Our heat is tough. You should have seen people when we had IMAZ in April… it was ugly!

That said, about a year ago I was turned on to an electrolyte product called recovery e21. I was on their sponsored team last year helping spread the word. It's a company based in AUS, but is now distributed in the US by my husband and I. The company was not ready to figure out US distribution and marketing and I believed in the product enough to take it on, doing it out of my house :)

Anyway, It's the best supplement I've ever used, and I haven't had to take another salt pill since I started using these. They not only have sodium, and potassium but ALSO magnesium which is key for cramping…. Check it out here! Best of luck at Oceanside. I did that race in 11. It's a great one!

fc3arch said...

Sounds like a great learning experience for future races. I love your writing style, esp. "There were some spectators that just fled from the scene when I started screaming."
I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts. Good luck on your road to Kona.

James said...

Thanks! Man, it was funny reading this post from three years ago. I've learned a lot since then! thanks for reading

Post a Comment