Chula Vista Challenge Race Report

So this race ended up being the perfect way to end a really tough week of training - right smack in the middle of my Vegas build. The week leading up included the toughest masters swim sessions to date, 5x1 mile repeats, 1:40 run with 40 min HIM pace, 10 mins z4 pace. Bike was filled with some tempo work, long rides..etc. So by the time I toed the line for the race I was pretty beat down but still very enthusiastic to race. This was to be my first Olympic distance race of the year and I was hoping for a PR even with the tired legs. This is how it went down:

Pre-race: Of course we had to check in the day before all the way down in Chula Vista (which is close to the Mexico border (off the 805) for you non Californians. A problem arised when I forgot my custom Blueseventy Helix suit (click the link for a sweet review on this suit from fellow Wattie Caldwell Clarke) so after checking in and meeting another fellow Wattie teammate Chuck Feerick, I had to drive all the way back home and just ended up staying at home that night instead of with my in-laws down in San Diego. Morning came before I knew it with an early 4am wake up call and I slammed three scrambled eggs, a sweet potato and a little bit of sausage and then sipped on some Powerbar Perform on the drive down.

The race logistics were pretty tough. There was a shuttle to the start which took a good 30 minutes. From there it was a point to point race. Then once you finished you had to get shuttled back to your car. A little more headache then usual but it ended up working out fine. Once I got to the start line there were only like 5 porta-potties with a huge line. So my warm up consisted of standing in line and stretching. By the time I got out I had about a five minute warm up swim and before I knew it the horn sounded and our wave took off in a beach running start format.

Swim - 1500 meters: 24:55 (1:31 pace) - 4th in AG out of the water

The "beach" entry which was in the bay consisted of a 100 meter run through knee deep water before you could actually start swimming. I lined up in the very front closest to the first buoy. I wanted to invite the contact so I could get a good beating before I do in Vegas next month. The horn sounded and I sprinted out with three other guys to my left. I'm not much a dolphin diver so I ran as far as I could and then put in a good 200 meter effort, looked up and realized that I was in 3rd place with two guys ahead of me working together. This was new for me. Usually I'm struggling for position mid pack with my heart rate racing out of control. I was in third with controlled breathing, relaxed swimming and a smile on my face. Great way to start! After the first buoy we started making our way through traffic. We were the 2nd to last wave to go off so there was a lot of people to weave in and out of. About 800 meters into the race my shoulders started burning. It has everything to do with swimming in a wetsuit. I never get the same muscle aches/fatigue in the pool or OW when I swim sans wetsuit. I probably should be swimming in one more often - regardless it doesn't matter because Vegas is a non-wetsuit swim so my shoulders will finally be set free!!

There's no doubt that I was slowing down throughout the swim but I just kept passing others, sighting every 10 strokes and trying to keep my pace up. One of the biggest improvements I've made with my OWS this year is my ability to swim straight. Previous years had me swimming all over the place. All of those OWS out in Vail lake the past two years have really helped me learn to swim in heavy chop and sight efficiently. After making a final turn and heading to shore we made our way out of the water all the way up to T1. A lot of people had the course long, especially with the time stopping after the trek up to T1 - so my swimming time was a lot faster which made me happy because last month I swam 24:2x for 1500 at a swim meet. Progress.

T1: 1:08
Quick run to the bike. Like Ironman Oceanside we had to put our wetsuit/goggles into a bag before we headed out so added just a little bit of time there.

Bike - 40k (1,650 ft of climbing): 1:09:21 (21.5 mph AVG) 3rd fastest in AG

Getting on the bike right away I knew it was going to be a struggle to get through it. My legs just didn't have any life in them (as expected from the tough few weeks leading up). Right off the bat I had a guy blow by me but I just stuck to my game plan which was to try and stay as aero as possible through this deceivingly hilly course. With the life-less legs I tried to keep my cadence up as the bigger gears would just wear on me a lot quicker than normal. It felt like the entire ride just consisted of long slow gradual climbs with the occasional kicker, a short steep downhill from time to time but for the most part just relentless climbing.

Flanny and I have been really working on my riding style. In the past I have been guilty of getting out of the aero position too often. Not only getting out of it but also hammering out of the saddle too often and burning matches before I can even get to the run where I can do the most damage. So for this race I was in the aero position 90% of the time. On the really steep climbs I would get out of the saddle but it was with easy gears and gave me a chance to give my over-used muscles a break and stretch out a bit. I eventually passed and caught the one guy that passed me during the race, I just kept picking people off and tried to stay as focused as possible. I blew up with about three miles to go. It seriously felt like I was going 13 mph up these false flat hills. I couldn't tell if it was hilly or if my legs were giving out. Probably both. I was happy to see the T2, slipped out of my shoes and was happy to start the run.

T2: :43
They had a different set up - almost Ironman style. I handed my bike to a volunteer, they yelled out my number and I was given my run shoe bag where the volunteer helped me get my shoes out, took my helmet and then I was out of there.

Run - 10k (425ft of climbing): 37:08 (5:59 pace)

The run was advertised as a 6.5 mile trail run (I had 6.7) so the times were pretty slow overall. We ran through the community horse trails that had killer views and some really steep climbs and even stairs! This is definitely not the ideal course for me as I'm more of a "rhythm runner." Whenever I break my rhythm it's hard for me to get back on pace which is what this course did over and over again! I got off the bike after passing only one guy in my AG so I figured I was in third place. Time to do some work! I made my way through the previous waves. I knocked off the first two miles in 5:59, 5:49. I've been training over the past several months on tired legs to run 5:45-6 minute pace - it has become almost second nature and even with the tired legs this seemed semi-comfortable. After clocking mile three in 6:03 and battling some hills I finally saw a guy from my AG and I was coming up on him pretty fast. Whenever I make a pass in my AG I want to do it with authority to mentally defeat them so they don't try and stick with me and it worked with this guy. He just kinda snickered as I passed him because I think he already was in cruise control. At this point I figured I was in 2nd place with only one more kill to go. Mile four in 6:06 and I was hurting pretty bad. These steep kickers where a lot of people were power walking up started to wear on me. Then I saw a guy in the distance that was going about my same pace making a ton of passes like I was. I knew this was my guy. For the next mile I slowly crept up on him and this is the big turning point in the race was for me.

You know that point of the race (almost always towards the end of the run in a triathlon) where you could care less if someone from your AG passes you? Where all of the competitiveness is thrown to the waist side because you are hurting so much? That's where I was when I came up on this guy. I was hoping so much that he was in a different AG and that the guy I was chasing was waay far ahead so I wouldn't have to battle with one mile to go! However, I really wanted to see what I could do to win this race. As we approached mile 5 which was at the top of a pretty steep climb I just stuck on his heels up the climb and tried to conserve as much energy as I could so I could make another pass with authority at the top of the climb. I heard him laboring and I knew it was time. I passed him at the top and put in a really hard 400 meter effort (Garmin showed 4:40 pace) and I refused to look back. I just pretended he was right on my heels all the way to the finish. Finally once we got closer to the long finishers shoot I looked back and he was long gone. I put in a 5:47 mile which included a stair climb haha and almost put a minute on him. I had no idea what my finishing time was as my Garmin was all jacked up. When the guy I passed arrived we chatted it up and he thought we were #1,2 but not totally sure. After talking for a bit I headed up to the results and saw that I was 2nd place. Bummed. Never even saw the winner because he put 1:30 on me in the swim and another minute on the bike. Just not enough real estate to catch him. I had the fastest run split in my AG and 3rd split overall.

Final Results: 2nd AG, 7th overall - 2:13:17

Even though I missed my PR by like 20 seconds, I've really learned to not care about what time you get in triathlon. Somehow age groupers are so obsessed with times/splits with a sport that isn't measured by exact distances! Unless you run on the track or do swim meets, times really don't belong in triathlon. It's all about PLACING (please tell your friends). Courses are short, long, accurate - who cares? Placing is what qualifies you for WC's, placing is what gets you on the podium and placing sends you home with hardware. In this case I was sent home with a 2nd place beer stein. The beer garden was all you can drink and they even gave you a commemorative pint to drink out of. I really enjoyed the whole Chula Vista triathlon/bike shop vibe. Pulse endurance is who ran the race - their bike shop had a kegerator and all of the employees where totally cool. After chilling with Chuck waiting for awards, we got a really good free massage and then called it a day. Overall I was very pleased with the results that I had given the beat up legs.

Next stop? What I've been waiting for since I started this sport. To toe the line with the best at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. Bring it!


JustinNorCal said...

Great job James!

Damie said...

Nice work!!! Speedy! Good luck in Vegas :)

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