First half-Ironman of the season: check!
Ironman California 70.3 was a great & tough season-opener! I had a blast. No complaints about my race day, no excuses that "this or that" happened. It was a good day for me and I went out there and did what my body's currently capable of doing. So, now, I'm going to write too much about my day cause I'm still on a high.... bear with me :)
The highlights were: nailing my nutrition (thanks GU!), no stomach/GI issues, seeing countless friends on the course--including my lovely RAHA teammate Sara--the entire bike leg and successfully peeing during the run--twice!
I was pretty nervous the couple days leading up to Oceanside because quite frankly I'm way competitive and now with one full season of racing behind me, I've created benchmarks for myself. Add the that, I've built a significant network of triathlon friends and lots of folks have been wishing me luck, saying I'll kill it, Kona slot (ha!), etc, etc. I'm not saying "Oh I'm so popular," but I'm no longer just another anonymous face in the crowd--that certainly serves to motivate, but it also adds some extra pressure.
I've trained well since January, but I'm not peaking yet (patience!) so honestly my goal was to not be anal about times and just beat last year's Oside time (5:40). Then the night before the race my parents wanted my s/b/r estimates so they could be at the right spots. Whatever. Guess it was inevitable that I'd end up geeking out on times. I decided to give them my "fast" prediction: a 35 min swim, 2:45 bike & 1:40 run; with transitions: 5:05.
How it really went: 36 swim, 2:44 bike, 1:46 run and 5:13 finish. Not too bad; 27 min faster than last year, faster than Vineman too (but not Clearwater) with significant improvements not only in my times but in the way I felt.
As for my NEW age group. This was my first race in 25-29, and, again, I had no goals of placing anywhere significant. But somehow I ended up 10th! Woo Hoo! Plus, it was brought to my attention that I was the top 25-year-old in the AG (even though I'm 24) and the fast chicks who beat me were 27-29, so clearly seasoned veterans ;)
The only crappy part is (and I hate even bringing this up): I'm 24 until Monday, and had I been in the 18-24 division still I would have WON and had a Kona slot. Uggghhh. Not meant to be yet!
On to race report...
Almost slept the whole night through the night before (what?!) and was up at 4 am. Ate extra early to avoid issues. Success. Made bathroom stop in San Clemente during drive down. Smaaart move. Race bathroom sit is a joke! Meanwhile, it was freakin cold in Oside when I arrived, mid-40s--not cool. I found Sara, we giggled about our craziness and spent lots of time hanging out in bathroom lines. Before I knew it I was being corralled into our wave start, which is hands down the worst part of the race. Too nerve-racking for me!
Still all bundled up (especially compared to Sara, geez, what I wuss I am!)...
Almost go time... Swim
Into the water. Not so bad. But then we were treading water for several minutes before the horn--awful! My core temp was just drop drop dropping and I can only imagine how blue my toes were. I started the swim feeling cold and tight. Whatever, the plan was to just not over-kick and cause leg cramping. (Last year I had major calf cramps on this swim; common issue with me and cold water.)
The other goal was to not redline the swim; why waste good energy on my weakest leg only to go 1-2 min faster? I had a practice 1.2-miler a couple weeks ago and did it in just under 33 min. That was in a pool at about 90% effort. Doubt I'd get the same result in a body-thrashing cold ocean swim.
So I was swimming along and thought I was doing pretty well b/c I was passing tons of pink caps (the wave ahead of us). Unfortunately, I never found feet to draft off of, so the swim was all me (and all upper-body) the entire time. Got to the turnaround in what felt like good time.
We had blinding sun on the way back and I couldn't see a thing! At one point I briefly stopped to make sure I was on course, bad idea. I arched up a bit and that sent my legs into cramping mode. Crap. I swam the rest of the way with my feet dorsiflexed (aka not good form) to get the cramping to subside. When I got out and saw 36 min on my watch I was pissed. Bike time--it was on!
Side note: I broke the "something new on race day" rule and thankfully it went fine! I unexpectedly got a sweet Zoot Zenith wetsuit last week and never had the chance to test it out. But I trust Zoot and the great group of people there so I took my chances, wore it on race day and am sooo glad I did. The wetsuit rocks!!! Please don't let my swim time be a reflection of it's qualitiness.
Exiting...What's wrong with a little cat nap in T1?! Lots of work ahead still :) T1
I need to learn how to do the bike-shoes-already-clipped-in maneuver. But I did feel pretty efficient in T1 and not too out of breath, so it was a good call not to redline on the swim. Also, I bought some sweet long socks from Target to use as arm warmers in anticipation of frigid temps (Linsey Corbin-inspired!) but I never got to use them, and they disappeared somewhere, bummer--they were so cute! See: However, can't complain about the awesome weather by 8 am! So off on the bike it was... Bike
I swear, if I ever give up triathlon it will be for cycling. I love it! Plus, this course is such a good representation of SoCal with the pristine coastline, lush green landscape and undeveloped mountains. Plus, my equipment was looking sharp and set up to fly. Bike glamour shot:
As soon as I got on the bike I had a GU, and continued having one every 40-45 min. Just those, water and electrolyte tabs. Worked perfectly. Another new thing I tried was lightening up my bike by getting water refills for my aero drink at aid stations vs. loading my bike with bottles. Success again! I did have one additional emergency bottle--my fav Vineman bottle, and it bounced out on those white road bumps. Crap!
One of my goals for the bike was to catch Sara . I knew she would kill me in the water, but I knew I had a chance to catch up. I finally saw her at this little out-and-back section and she was about 6 min ahead of me. Crap. I was hammering so hard, but again, not redlining. Patience and pacing are key on this course--the back hills are no joke.
Before I knew it, we were making a right into Pendleton. Then I saw the infamous "hill at mile 30" that last year, Mirinda Carfrae described as the "hill leading up to heaven." Yea, it's that big, but it's not so crazy like the hype would have you believe. Although, this year tons of peeps walked up and everyone goes at what looks like an ant's pace. Quite funny.
Here's the bike course profile with my stats from the iBike, see the hills?...
After the first big hill, the ride got GNARLY. The winds were INSANE. Crosswinds gushing so hard that I was more frightened then I've ever been on my bike, especially because at that point I was going pretty fast on some of the descents. Not to mention I have 808's and I'm 130 lbs, so relatively light compared to some guys--Mother Nature was pushing me around as if I were a little toy, and there was definite white-knuckle gripping. But I focused, gritted my teeth and hauled ass knowing I needed those precious high mph's.
We hit more big gut-wrenching hills, then the crosswind turned into a headwind for waaay too long. I was pushing 180-200+ watts and going really slow for how flat it was--demoralizing and major ouch.
Finally the winds were a thing of the past, and the last 15 miles were a hammer sess--I kept it 23-26 mph nearly the whole time. I was smiling--on target for a good bike split! I passed a lot of people and felt surprisingly great, although maybe not so great to run 13.1 at my goal pace. Uh-oh! The mind games started, and I began to question my ability to run at all. At that point Ms Kona caught up to me, and she inspired me to keep pushing hard for the last 3 miles of the bike. Thanks Beth! As I hit transition, I was stoked to see an overall avg of 20.5 mph (up from 18.5ish mph last year), and I beat my "fast" predicted time with a 2:44, which is also 15 min faster than I did this bike course last year! T2
As you can see in the above pic, I was right behind Beth coming in, and out of impulse, I tried something new: took my feet out of my shoes while still riding in. Worked out fine thankfully! I was pretty fast in T2, so much so that I was certain I forgot something, but I didn't. I ran out just behind Beth, and never saw her again (except when she passed me on the other side of the loop probably 3-4 miles ahead).
Starting off feeling ok and on pace: Run
The run was fun, hard as hell and a definite mind game of "don't quit!" Love it! My longest brick runs in training at this point have been 6-7 miles, and that certainly showed: I held onto my goal pace of 7:30-7:40 miles until about mile 6. Then any speed I had just turned off. I definitely was not bonking, and my cardio felt good (still not redlining), but my legs just aren't yet conditioned to hold that pace 4+ hours into a hard workout. That's ok. What I did out there shows the training I've done so far is working, and I've been planning to increase my bricks as the season progresses, so all is good. Although, I was secretly hoping that the strenuous run training I've done the last 3 months would pay off in a 1:40 run (especially with an early-season open half-mary of 1:37) but it didn't. Oh well.
Highlights of run:
1) No tummy issues, which I was def nervous about given the recent issues I've been having. So yay on that! I win on the nutrition front. I did have some huuuuge deep burps on the run though, typical. Thanks again, GU!
2) My body felt fit, in good form and I had no debilitating/aching pains anywhere (minus the general pain of racing). Every half-Ironman run up until now has been somewhat of a death march for me, with some specific body part screaming in pain (knee, foot, etc). On this go-around, all body parts were in good shape! And it wasn't a "death march," except maybe the last 5k. On the right track.
3) I had to PEE, so I did baby! Clearly I hydrated well enough on the bike in order to need to pee. But there was no way I was stopping to go. Hell no! So I just decided to push and see if I could pee & run at the same time. It worked! The pee came out in little bursts every time I would strike. Made me laugh. It was clearly obvious that I was going for anyone who might have been looking. Whatever! It worked so well, that I went a second time later on. I tried to time it with an aid station to disguise the pee while pouring on the ice water, but that didn't work. I just went when I had to. Judge if you want :)
4) Thanks to Zoot, I had the most comfortable outfit and shoes ever. I ran in my laceless Ultra Speeds, and they were rad! Of course I didn't wear socks, and even on the hard concrete/asphalt, my feet felt great. Like butta! Not to mention, there was good drainage (ya know with the pee and water-pouring at aid stations), and not one blister. Only thing: maybe a thicker insole on the next round to support my midfoot. Also, for the first time ever, I didn't chafe from my outfit--my body is especially thankful for that today!
5) Crowds cheering the whole way. It was so motivating to have spectators, friends, my parents, aid station folks screaming the whole 13.1 miles. Keeps me going! Thanks to all of you.
Oh, yea: I never passed Sara on the bike, but my mom said I was only 45 seconds behind her coming out of T2. After not too long, I saw her just ahead. Eventually I passed her, which blew my mind because Sara is a better runner than me. When I did catch up, she said she was bonking, so I stuck with her for a bit and offered her my Gu. She declined and said to go ahead and don't hold back with her. So I did. The best part is, she only finished 2 min behind me, which goes to show are fitness levels are similar--even more reason to train together! I love that girl.
And finally, I had enough left in the tank to raise up my arms as I crossed the finish. Another first, as usually I'm dying when I wrap up a 70.3.
Wait for it... There it is! (I think that's Toby to my left on the sideline!)...
All in all, my final thoughts:
-Never underestimate the mental side of this sport. I had 100s of excuses of why I should stop throughout the day, but I never gave into them.
-I walked away from the race knowing that the training I have done up until now shined through--minus the swim--and my training will only continue to evolve/get more specific for 70.3 as the season progresses.
-Thanks to my mom & dad for being the best sherpas a single girl could have :)
-If I were forever bound to just be an average age-grouper, that's ok because I love the triathlon community and everyone involved. Seeing my friends and knowing so many people on the course was THE BEST race-day gift/motivator/reason to smile, shout and have FUN!
-Time for more hard work (after recovery)!
Few more pics...
So, yeaaa, uhh, how bout that race? Duhhh, what was I thinking on the swim?!... All smiles with Sara always:
Congrats to Ironman's newest pros for a stellar debut... Charisa & Ian, you guys rocked!!
Winners Michael Raelert & Mirinda Carfrae. Amazingness from them both!