Monday, April 1, 2013

Ironman California 70.3 race report

Rich about to go paddle-boarding post-race.

Having watched my husband and so many friends toe the line in Los Cabos just two weeks ago, I was really looking forward to getting my own race season underway this weekend. I was a little slow to get really focused in training since last November’s Cozumel race but I had been having some decent swim and great bike workouts in recent weeks. The run had been looking particularly questionable, but I’d even had some fantastic runs in the last 2 weeks!

The lead up to my first race of the season could not have been much better. Rich and I flew down to San Diego on Friday morning and immediately drove to meet our host for the weekend, Katya Meyers, at the PAC pool in Carmel. After a short, stretch-out swim, we headed to meet Nick Nicastro, the man behind SagMonkey to pick up our bikes for a quick spin and run to shake out the legs. Nick was staying in a house convenient to transition so he offered to keep our bikes until the following morning rather than pile everything into the rental car. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Nick and the service he provides. The rest of the day was chilling and we did not even have to think about dinner as a friend who happens to be a personal chef, Jess Cerra, had generously offered to cook up a pre-race dinner for Beth Walsh, Rich, myself and a few other friends. It was delicious and so nice to not have to worry about shopping and cooking.
The alarm sounded at 4:15am and after a lazy 15mins checking email and Twitter, we finally got up and dressed and ate a breakfast of almond butter and bananas on toast washed down with some Nuun-infused water. 

We drove to meet Nick at SagMonkey and picked up our bikes, dropped off our run gear and then headed to T1 to get set-up. It’s great to race with my husband. He came to check on me as soon as he was organized and we spent the time leading up to our race starts together. He was set to start 16mins after me and we figured that I should see him about halfway into the bike, as I am usually 5-6mins slower on the swim and he usually rides 15mins faster in a half-ironman.

My wave departed at 7:17am and the gun took me a little by surprise as I never heard the 10 second warning. It was a smooth start and I was barely touched as I set off swimming. I swam tight to the yellow buoy line and had clear water to the first red turn buoy at which point, I found some feet and never left them for the rest of the swim. I found myself fighting a few times to hang on as the feet seemed to swerve (or I did?) but those feet dragged me to the finish. I was beyond ecstatic to see 31:XX on my watch. Last year I swam 36:XX and the year before was 34:XX. This is the fastest swim I have ever done and I thought to myself right there: “I don’t care what else happens today, I just got a swim PR and I’m happy!”. People have talked about a short swim and that’s possible (my Garmin measured 1.18mi) though Andy Potts only swam 1min faster this year. I think the conditions were much calmer this year with no swells.

Into transition and the run was long and slow as I was stuck behind a few folks on the narrow carpet but I was soon on to the bike and feeling pretty good. I began drinking and fuelling (Nuun and Clif Bloks are my 70.3 nutrition of choice) and was flying past lots of people with no one passing me. The course can be a little tricky with lots of bumps in the first few miles (and last few miles since you return the same way). 11 miles into the bike course, I hit a bump really hard and heard a loud “smack” noise. I continued riding but quickly realized something was wrong, as I was not moving very fast in spite of the 200w I was supposedly putting out. I thought that I had a flat. I pulled to the side and got off the bike to check the tires, review the wheel speed sensor (it had stopped working so I wondered if it was hitting the wheel or was caught somewhere) - all good - and then get rolling again. The issue had not disappeared. I ride a few more hundred yards and then pull over again. A guy stopped (such nice people racing in triathlon!) and asked if he could help. I thanked him and said I was fine, just trying to figure out what was rubbing my wheel. I watched as a few girls in my age-group rode by (Sandrine Micoleau who had exited the swim with me, Polly Crawford and Cherell Jordin, both of whom usually swim slower than me). I was getting frustrated trying to figure out what was rubbing. I did think to myself that my husband would probably be along in a few minutes so if I was still on the side of the road, he’d stop to help me. I was trying to be methodical, checking things on my bike, reviewing the front and rear brake calipers to see if either were catching. The front wheel was causing the problem but however I adjusted the brake caliper, the wheel continued to rub. I was beginning to feel chilly and frustrated but I kept reviewing playing around with the front brake caliper/wheel. Suddenly, as I was spinning the wheel, trying to adjust the brake, the front wheel almost slid out of the fork… the skewer was loose! OMG. That’s why I could not fix the brake… it was the entire wheel that was unstable. I quickly tightened it and got back on the bike and became focused on catching back the ladies that had just passed me by. I was doing a little cursing to myself as I had really wanted to ride a 2:3X:XX bike split (and had told my coach and Rich that was a goal) and knew that with good conditions, it was within my capability. I also knew that with my swim time, I could possibly race close to 5hrs which would be a dream time on this course. I know… I was getting ahead of myself!

I quickly got my head back in the game and focused on re-catching the ladies that had passed me by. Rich rolled up around mile 20 and I gave him a quick recap of the events before he was on his way to a speedy 2:24 bike split (13 days after Los Cabos!). I was riding hard and looking for the Nytro kit of Polly Crawford, as this would give me some confidence I was back in the race. I caught Polly on the rollers after the big hill and we traded places back and forth a few times on this section before I rode away from her on the flats (riding steady watts usually means I pull away on the flats). I continued to fuel well and feel good through the rest of the bike ride and watching my SRM, I was thinking a sub 2:40 bike time would be close! Indeed, I hit T2 in 2:39:40 but of course, that did not account for the time on the side of the road :( My official bike split was 2:46:09.

After a quick transition, I hit the run course and was feeling pretty good. I clicked off the first few miles in around 7:40 pace (did not eat anything the first 3 miles?!?!) but was pretty disillusioned to see Angela Bancroft leading the AG, quite a ways in front of me (and running fierce! She looked awesome). Rikka Aramo was not far behind her and I spotted Cherell also way ahead of me and looking very strong on the run. I think I gave up right about that point. I walked the next aid station, took in some food and thought to myself that this would be a nice run but I didn’t need to make myself hurt since I wasn’t catching anyone! The miles slowed to 8min+ but I was just fine with that. Polly ran by me but I was fine, giving out a few cheers to fellow OC team-mates and watching my husband back up his recent Ironman AG win with a very solid race here. My stomach was in a good place all day and as the miles clicked on, I picked up the pace a little more, bringing the miles splits back under 8mins. I crossed the line in 5:10:00, slightly faster than last year but not a PR for this course, and it was well off the top 3 in the AG. It was good enough for 5th place.Rich also scored 4th in AG so we showered and ate Mexican food at Katya's house before heading back to Oceanside for awards.

5th place AG

Women's and men's 40-44 podium
Men's 45-49 podium
Who knows what would have happened without the mechanical, I couldn’t control that part of the race… but I could control how I ran… and the effort was not good enough!

I have a few more running races coming up over the next few weeks before my next triathlon in late May. Time to make myself suffer on the run!

Spring-time mule cocktail at The Pearl

Rich and I spent Sunday morning hanging at the beach with Katya and her husband, Andy, before meeting up with Linsey and Chris Corbin, Steph and Britt Swanson and Luke McKenzie for a late lunch at the Pearl… awesome food and cocktails!

Seal pup
Huge halibut that divers caught off Tides Beach