Oceanside 70.3 (3:59:18, 10th [DSQ])
For those of you close to me, you know that the past year has been a grind! I closed the 2013 season off really well and was in great fitness going into 2014. Plagued by an early season stress fracture and a very nasty collarbone fracture which required surgery, I missed the entire 2014 season. After a hiatus of a year and a half, I was hungry to race again in good form. Despite a small cold I caught leading into the race, I came into Oceanside mostly healthy, fit, and ready to go!
My training leading up to Oceanside has been consistent and strong. I have been getting stronger on the bike, am continuing to build my swim back to where I was last year pre-break/surgery, and am running as well as I usually do. A few weeks prior to the race, I got an added kick of fitness from a 10 day training camp with QT2 Systems down in Clermont, Florida. As the race approached, I was looking fit!
The trip to Oceanside started with a familiar drive from home in San Francisco to Los Angeles, where I grew up. Brianna and I got an opportunity to enjoy the comforts of home for a day and be surrounded by family. After a one day pit-stop, we ventured further south toward San Diego … unfortunately for Sadie, no furry friends could join. Thanks to LA traffic, I arrived at the pro meeting with 2 minutes to spare and one very full bladder! The remainder of the day flew by as I settled into the hotel and joined Brianna and her family for a nice dinner. Before I knew it, my alarm was blaring and I was up slamming down my breakfast. By now this had become routine, and I sat upright in bed pondering the effort that would soon be upon me.
The Swim (27:17)
For the first time in a long time, possibly ever, I felt really positive about my swim. My “usual” thought process during the swim is as follows (no holds barred on the expletives … I’m giving it to you real):
0 – 25m: "Go!"
25m – 200m: "Sh!t! F@*k! Ouch! I can’t breathe! Holy sh!t! Feet! Stay on feet! Too fast! Slower feet! Too slow! Ouch! [Swallow giant gulp of sea water] Yay, open water! Sh!t … I’m alone"
400m – 1000m: "Ugh, this sucks, I want to just stop"
1000m – 1500m: "Just get to the bike!"
1500m - Finish: "Almost there! This is taking soooo long!"
Somewhere around 1600-1700m: "Is that a girl?!?! Dammit!"
Finish: "Okay, time to start racing"
With a large field of around fifty pro men, there was plenty to distract me from my usual train of thought. The start was more chaotic than usual given the masses, but a wide start line provided a bit of relief from the usual turbulence. I got a decent start and settled in well, quickly finding a small group of swimmers that seemed to be an appropriate pace. About 500m in, I felt I was swimming a bit too easy so I took the reins and went to the front of my pack for the next 1000m. With about 500m to go, another swimmer came up strong and pulled our group all the way through. While not a fast swim, I felt very good about the effort and was happy with the sense that I was “competing” and was with people for a change. The other major highlight, none of the lead women who started three minutes back caught me!
The Bike (2:13:38, 308w)
The bike started on a fairly flat section of road which provided the opportunity to quickly get up to speed and slip my feet in my shoes before hitting some very subtle rollers. Once my feet were in, I built some speed and immediately turned my attention to nutrition. The first thirty or so minutes of the bike are focused on two things: fluid intake and finding a rhythm. This period also always tend to feel like a grind as the legs start to get warmed up, this race was no different. Early on, my legs felt a bit strained from the effort. From experience, I know this is just not being warmed up yet and not a sign of physical fatigue going into the race. I continued to press on the power output and by five miles my body usually starts to find a bit more of a rhythm.
In the first hour of the bike, I focused on getting in sufficient fluids (2 bottles of PowerBar Perform for me). Unlike normal, I rode more by feel rather than a specific wattage target. That said, I tried to keep things around 315-320w for the first 30 minutes, and 310-315w for the remainder of the hour. There was a bit more variation than normal as one or two riders were maintaining pace with me and we had created a rotating paceline: each rider is spaced the legal 12m apart and the second rider moves up to the front as the lead rider fall to the back. While the draft benefit is minimal, you will notice about a 10% decrease in output to maintain the same speed. Eventually our group diminished to two, and was soon after broken up completely and I was off on a usual solo effort.
The second hour of the bike was focused on maintaining my position on the bike, keeping power consistent, varying pace appropriately when I felt twinges, and keeping momentum on the rollers and hills. There were 3 decent climbs on the course, I allowed myself to bring the wattage up to 360-370w on these sections. While this is a bit more than most would do, I am very comfortable climbing and find that this effort actually rejuvenates my legs a bit from the varied cadence, pedaling dynamic, and muscle tension. For each of the hills, I was keenly focused on pushing over the top and spiking the power a bit here so I could carry momentum into the downhill. As a leaner cyclist, downhills are not an advantage to me and I try and get as aerodynamic as possible to limit my losses.
The final 10 miles of the bike were key on the Oceanside course. The terrain flattens out, with some sustained false flats, and a decent headwind from the offshore breeze. I had caught two others in this section and they tagged along behind my train. While no one likes to give others a free ride, I’m fairly confident that I can outrun them and wind up doing my own pace to maintain my race. I pushed this section and maintained 310w, which is about my overall average. That said, it isn’t uncommon in most races for the last 10 miles to be below average. Coming into transition, I increased the cadence a bit to shake some of the effort out of my legs and prepare for the run.
Strava Bike File:
The Run (1:13:24, 5:33/mi)
Coming from a running background, I rarely feel the “brick” sensation that most do. I often fly out of transition and, while a little numb to pacing, run a very smooth, fast first mile. I clocked my first split around 5:15, which was around what I had anticipated. From here I wanted to settle into the mid 5:20’s to low 5:30s. The steep, short hills in the first few miles caused some alteration of pace, but overall I was very consistent. The goal on the hills is to keep turnover the same with short, quick steps and not to force the pace.
My pace stayed consistent over the first 8 miles and I was gradually reeling in competitors ahead. Brianna and family were well positioned on course to give me updates on my time gaps, although they seemed to be keen on giving me time to top 10 whereas I thought catching 12 would be great. Mile 9 and 10 were definitely where the race got a bit tougher. The effort picked up a touch and the pace dropped by about 10-15 seconds per mile. While not major, this is certainly a sign of some fatigue as well as a small deficiency in run training, which I expected. I snapped out of the brief funk when I hit the final turnaround with 2.5 miles to go and saw the close proximity to the next 3 competitors. I picked up the gear and made swift passes over the next miles. I closed the last mile well but could visually see I wouldn't be able to bridge the gap to the final person, Kevin Collington, sitting in 9th place. I eventually finished 9 seconds behind Kevin.
Strava Run File:
The Race that Isn't on Paper:
If you looked in the results, you’ll probably notice that I am not listed as being 10th. While I was able to brush off the bad luck of injuries and illness, I still dragged a bit of bad mojo with me. Due to a fatal crash in the second year of the race’s running, the race directors imposed a strict 35mph speed limit on a short 1500 foot section of the bike course. I hit this section a bit quick and only saw the second of two speedometer setup in the middle of the section, causing a delayed response to my speed. Despite hitting the brakes hard and cutting a lot of speed, my total average speed wound up being 0.2mph over the permitted speed for the section and resulted in my disqualification. I spent over 30 minutes discussing with Jimmy, the lead race official, to try and argue my case and my clear compliance with the spirit of the rule. While sympathetic to my case, Jimmy had to enforce the letter to the law. The officials were very professional in discussing with me and I respect their decision; at the end of the day, it was my responsibility to ensure better compliance with the rule.
Despite the final outcome, Oceanside was a breakthrough race for me and is a great start to the season. I look forward to my next race at Ironman 70.3 Texas in just a few short weeks!