Nautica Malibu Olympic Triathlon 2017 recap

I have done the Sunday edition of the race 6 times, in fact it was my introduction to triathlon and, for a long time, in many ways a measuring stick of my fitness in a given year. All 6 times I raced it as a part of the tri team at work. But I really grew tired of the shitshow that the bike course had become over time... it's no fun to race when you have to primarily focus on being taken out by a random cyclist who's not comfortable riding along cars on narrow shoulders. The changes in the team did not help either. But I love the Malibu course, and so I have decided to sign up for the Saturday Olympic distance race despite the obscene cost of it.

As it turned out, it was my last triathlon of 2017. After I came back to tri training in the summer of 2017, I felt like I had never probably recovered from the San Diego marathon. Never having specifically trained for an Olympic course, to be successful I had to concentrate on the swim fitness, and also shift the focus of the bike workouts to some short but very intense intervals. It was a tough slog for me, but by the beginning of September I saw a good size gains in my FTP, and I definitely was swimming better than ever, thanks to the time spent on the masters team.

My plan for the race was to swim as aggressively as possible for the first 1k, then bring it home with a steady kick to get the legs going, ride at roughly 82% of the FTP, and then run with the HR not higher than 180 bpm. I felt pretty comfortable than this should get me off the bike perhaps in the 6-7th position in the age group, and if I could hold a 6:15-6:20 pace I'd probably have a shot at winning it. The swim was a bit of a wild card here, as I did not want to overswim my fitness and jeopardize the bike leg.

One nice thing about the Saturday race is that it is a cinch to get to. Tons of parking, easy bike racking and full 5 minutes between the swim waves, not to mention that I was in wave 4! Woot! Got up at 3:00am, had the usual fare of two slices of bread with peanut butter and 2 bananas, a cup of coffee, stretched and rolled and was out of the door at 3:50am. The drive took about an hour. By 5:20am I was checked in, had everything setup




and got bodymarked. Had a half of Clif bar, stopped by the portajohn a couple of times and was at the beach by 6:30am. Found a good Samaritan who zipped up my Huub wetsuit for me, and took a quick dip in the ocean. No real wave action, but the water was plenty cold - about 63 degrees or so. That was fine by me, as I feel comfortable in anything above 58. There was a sighting of dolphins, I jogged for 3 minutes to activate the core and then I had a GU packet, and then it was time to go get it done.

My wave went off at 7:15. There was a lot of pushing and shoving until we turned right at the first marker, and after that it was a smooth sailing... well, swimming. I concentrated on making sure that I stayed in the mid pack of the wave and that I swam in as straight of a line as possible. I did good on both counts - came out of the water with a bunch of people in my wave swim caps, and did not zig zag much - based on my Garmin file. Good visibility that day helped a lot - unlike the last year's race, we had no fog and the chop was minimal. Swim time ended up being 26:43, though my watch showed 25:47 - I must have taken some time to run to T1.

The T1 was quick and soon I was on my way to the bike start. The temps were in the mid 60s and the wind was pretty mild. Unfortunately, the first mile or so was very crowded and I could not do much (or even get on the aerobars), especially with the tunnel under the PCH being flooded and everyone riding a narrow improvised bridge over the water. Once I got to the open space, it was just the matter of putting my head down and hammering. The leg out was into the wind as usual, and it took a bit of work to find some a steady rhythm. But I was feeling pretty strong and basically was passing people the entire time until we got to the single lane zone right past Neptune's Net. A bit more of restrained riding there but soon we were at the turn around. On the way back it really felt good to have wind in my back and I was going about 23-24 mph the entire time except for the climb out of Leo Carillo. Got to the dismount with a lot of energy, but was feeling a little bit dehydrated despite having at least 20 oz of the Gatorade mix. The bike time was 1:06:01, about 30 seconds slower than I had hoped but I was definitely still in the hunt.

The T2 was pretty quick - but this time I decided to put on socks since I was going to run in Hoka Claytons that I just had not put a lot of miles on yet. Spent about 30 seconds extra there. Still kicking myself for that.

Onto the run! It was definitely a slightly harder course than the 4 mile Sunday version. A few more u-turns and a bit more concrete sidewalk running. But unlike the Classic distance, I had lots of open space and spent little time running around slower racers. I was maintaining the tempo I had planned for and quickly passed 2 of my m40-44 competitors in the first 1.5 miles. After that things definitely got harder and I started looking at the Garmin every chance I got. On the positive side of things, I was not seeing any more of the m40-44 or actually of much of anyone at all until maybe around the 4.5 mile mark where I ran into a large group hanging with some female pros. The last mile was definitely a trying experience as I started to feel a bit of a fade setting in. The pace dropped some to 6:21 min/mile... yet the finish line was close. I thought that I saw another m40-44 racer right near the finish line with maybe 0.15 mile to go - but I was not sure. But yes - he was there... I thought about doing one more surge to overtake him, but alas that was my moment of weakness. I was just not too sure if he was in my age group, and (lame!) decided to take my chance. Sure enough - I finished 12 seconds behind the second place. Damn it, putting on socks was not such a smart decision! 39:22 was the run time, and I missed out on the 2nd place by a tiny margin. The overall time was 02:16:31.

Had a bagel with cream cheese, a banana, some water and a shot of fancy coffee drink that some company was giving away at the finish line. Hung around a bit, got my medal and went back to the car to drive home and get some much needed SLEEP! But the sleep never materialized, and instead I spent a bunch of time watching NFL games in the company of my dogs.


All in all, I think that this was a successful race. I swam ok, bike pretty hard (19th fastest non-pro), and had the 6th fastest non-pro running split. I might accept an invite to go to Cleveland nationals next year since I think that this was a strong enough showing.

Now - onto the NYC marathon!

San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon 2017 recap

Why the hell was I even there? I guess that I just like racing. Signed up for this race for 3 reasons:
  1. San Diego Rock'n'Roll  2012 was my first marathon. I wanted to see how I progressed in 5 years.
  2. It was only $70 through a promo.
  3. In June of 2016 I was not sure if I was going to get into Boston, so I wanted to sign up for a late Spring marathon as a fallback.
So then I got into Boston and talked myself into racing the "inaugural" Santa Rosa 70.3 in mid May... and suddenly I had my hands full with 3 races in 7 weeks. I kind of considered both Boston and Santa Rosa to be the A races, and so had to re-allocate the time that would have normally been spent on running/recovering to cycling. As the result, I ended up with 22 weeks of mixed mode training and racing with about 37 miles per week of running all in all. In other words, this is about 25% lower than the mileage I'd consider standard for the marathon training. The big positive was that I got plenty of aerobic exercise, which made the tempo runs very very fast at low heart rate readings. Accordingly, in 2017 my times for 13.1 were about 5 mins better than my previous PRs, but running a full marathon in Boston on 39 mpw for 15 weeks proved to be not so awesome, even though I BQ'ed there.

Come mid May, I vacillated for a while thinking of just using my cancellation option that I paid an extra $10 for during the registration, but then the stupid part of me took over... and with that I decided to give it a go since I had a whole bunch of Hilton Honors points and there was a Hampton's right next to the finish line that I could book for $30/night after applying the points. I also was keen to test the theory that I had read on Slowtwitch that if you can hold a certain pace for 16 miles, you should be able to hold it for 26 miles. I was pretty certain that I can hold 7 min/mile pace for 16 miles, so in theory that'd would have given me a very solid PR. In other words, all kinds of cocky, stupid stuff but if you don't need to worry about BQ'ing, all kinds of self abuse suddenly seem like a good idea.

Saturday

Drove to San Diego in the afternoon, checked into my hotel and walked about a mile or so to the convention center. It was a bit crowded, but I got done with the packet pick up fairly quickly. I had no desire to hang around, so I walked back to the hotel and noticed that it was quite warm despite the cloud cover and definitely VERY humid - I was sweating from just a moderate walk. Huh!

Stopped by a nearby Claim Jumper for dinner. Had a beer and a chicken club sandwich with mashed potatoes. Was really really full when I left. Watched TV for a little while at the hotel, read the book and went to bed at 9:30.

Sunday

The alarm clock went off at 3:45am. I was actually soundly asleep for a change. The pre-race meal consisted of 2 strawberry pop tarts with peanut butter, a banana and 2 cups of coffee. I was out of the door at 4:45am with the intent of solo Ubering to the start line. Luckily a couple of runners downstairs graciously offered to split their Uber with me, so for $5 I a ride to Balboa park arriving at around 5am.

Walked to the gear trucks, sat on the curb, chatted with a few fellow runners, got my gear bag checked in and went to the porta potties. Just like 5 years ago, the lines were super slow moving, and eventually I just gave up and committed a quick pee behind a tree. No idea why this race sanitation situation is like this - seems like a ton of porta potties, but I guess for some 30k people+support at the start it is just not enough.


Made it into the Corral 2 about 5 mins before the start.  To be honest, I still did not have a very good plan as to what I was going to do race wise. From looking at the elevation profile I knew that
  1. there will be rollers for the first 10 miles
  2. there was a big drop coming at mile 11 or so 
  3. the hill on the 163 that used to be mid way through the race was now coming sometime around mile 22. 
  4. the elevation gain was going about the same as Boston
With that in mind, I decided to just hold the same pace I did for the Santa Rosa 70.3 run leg (about 6:50 min/mile) for as long as I can and, if things go well, re-assess at around mile 18. Wanted to be sure that I have something left in the tank to do that hill and then just blast down to the finish line. I also allowed myself  2 30 second pee breaks around miles 8 and 16 to break things up and give myself a breather.

The race kicked off at 6;15am. Oddly, for a while everything was happening more or less as planned. I jammed the first 12 miles running slightly under 6:50 min/mile, but the legs were not feeling fresh at all. From the mile 3 I was feeling like I had run a 10 miler already, mainly in the quads and the hip flexors. But I pressed on and was concentrating on not pushing the rollers too forcefully, having learned that lesson in Boston the hard way. There were lots of them for the first 8 or so miles, with a couple of decently steep but short climbs. The sky was overcast, with almost no wind and a muggy but cool air. After a while it started to drizzle a tiny bit and soon I realized that I was completely drenched from the humidity. But the weird thing was that I had to keep taking fluids at almost every other station - it sure felt like I was sweating up a storm. Even my feet were eventually swamped in sweat.

We left the downtown area, ran around Normal Heights (what a name) and eventually split from the half marathoners. Then after a while we were moving along the side (but in the opposite direction) of the runners just going through mile 5 or so. At one point I saw a bunch of school girls all decked in KISS makeup and costumes and had a really laugh. They were going completely nuts rocking out to Dr Love - fantastic! More looping through the neighborhoods and eventually we got to Presidio Drive, where the big drop was about to happen before we would cross the 8 freeway. We ran down that serpentine downhill that had some pretty steep sections where I had to slow down and go very gingerly since the pavement was a bit wet. Once I got done with descending, that's when the legs started to feel really uneasy for the first time. I was definitely doing ok aerobically, and the effort did not feel too hard, but the lack of training volume was not helping any. I was slowing down a bit, and I could tell that I won't be able to hold the sub 7 pace for that much longer. Saw the leading men while making my way through Overlook to to Mission Bay and they looked pretty miserable too, so that made me a feel a bit better but not really.

At that point I started taking caffeinated Clif gels every 3 aid stations. Really wished that I could have some Cola, but no dice. This was probably the lowest point of the race for me, as I was really dreading that I had miscalculated my abilities and there would need to be some walking in the near future. Coming out of the Mission Bay area, and tracking back along the road that we took on the way there, I saw a bunch of other runners, and they were definitely suffering. Eventually, we started climbing at around mile 19, very slowly but... suddenly I would see people in front of me slow down and walk, stretch, jog. Not race anymore in other words. I was not hauling ass anymore either, but I was still moving at a reasonable clip, so at that point I started to pass some people. Eventually made it to the off-ramp to the 163, saw the KISS girls one more time, they were still going nuts. Awesome!

Suddenly I started feeling better. That's when the actual hill at mile 22.5 presented itself. It was more of the same - I was not going super fast but was passing people consistently. About 1/4 way up I did get overtaken by a very fit looking runner chick - I tried to hang on and have her tow me up the hill but she was just stronger at that point and eventually dropped me once we started running down. She was absolutely flying!  She definitely helped me go a bit faster up that thing that just seemed to never end. Hurray for getting chicked.

Once I got over the hill, I knew that I was going to finish strong as long as the grade on the way down was not going to be too crazy. I still had some strength in my legs but could not do better than 7:20ish min/miles. The downhill was snaking all the time and I was trying very hard to run the tangents and not put any extra distance - as my watch was already showing an extra 0.12 miles by that point. I was very very happy to see the downtown San Diego again, and see us merge with the 1/2 marathon crowd - who were also moving at a zombie pace. There was a tiny tiny hill right after the 26 mile marker, and that seemed like a mountain... but soon enough I hit the finish line. Not going to lie - I was completely out of gas. Could barely see or walk. Somehow in the downtown area I picked an extra 0.08 miles and now my total was almost 26.4 miles. Grabbed some water and Gatorade and started slowly moving towards the gear pickup area - which was like 4 blocks away.

Eventually, I made it there, got my bag and my finisher jacket, got back to the hotel, stretched, showered, grabbed a few munchies and drove back to LA. Had to stop half way through to eat something and stretch. Even McDonalds tasted good at that point.


The finish time was 3:12:50 (Garmin file here), so this at least will improve my corral placement for Boston if I decide to run it next year. The first half of the race was run in 1:31:20 and I added a solid 11 minutes to the second half, so no negative splits here! Once again - this was a hard, painful run, but then again in 2017 I was 30 minutes faster than 5 years ago on almost the same course (yay getting older?). It is entirely possible that I simply had not been fully recovered from Santa Rosa, where I was probably not 100% recovered from Boston.

I got back to my house 3 hours later, and only then realized that I was totally and completely spent. Chilling by the pool never felt that good before.



Will take the next 5-6 days off completely, and will get back into swimming and cycling next week. Won't run til the end of the June, but will need to eventually get back into the groove to build for the NYC 2017!



Santa Rosa 70.3 2017 half recap

Prior to the race.

The focus of the winter and the early spring training was getting ready for Boston while maintaining a decent amount of bike fitness. That amounted to about 45 miles per week of running and about 100 miles per week of cycling. I did not swim at all until the week of taper before Boston, so in total I got in maybe 12 swims before the race. I felt reasonably ok about being able to race the bike leg, but the swim was likely going to be a struggle. However, since it was a wetsuit legal event in a lake I was fairly confident that in the worst case scenario I'd be looking at about 40 mins. 

Friday before the race

Got into Santa Rosa at around 11am. Found parking, and headed into the athlete's village. Picked up my registration, got the swag and met up with my buddy Brad who got there the night prior. We decided to head to the lake and survey the area after dropping off the bikes. It took about 35 mins to drive there - most of the drive was along a very pristine wine country with plenty of faux Italian/French architecture. Got to the lake, parked in the overflow parking, got my gear into the bike bag, pumped the tires and headed to the T1 area.This is what it looked like from the top:


The lake was looking awesome, by the way:


Noticed that my rack was towards the end of the transition, which meant a longer run from the lake. The ramp leading to the lake looked as fearsome as portrayed in the race director's videos he was posting on Facebook. It was steep for the first few hundred yards and the concrete was kind of rough and definitely cold. The view of the ramp from T1:


I could only imagine how unpleasant it would be after hundreds of feet will splash it with water on the morning of the race.

By the way, all 3 of those pictures were taken from the Facebook group page where they were shared. Hooray for full disclosure!

Headed back to Santa Rosa, dropped off my running gear and had a quick lunch at Mary's pizza shack (it was a decent bet that we would carb up there) with Brad who was by the way coming back to racing after taking a year off. I ordered a sandwich with cheese and meatballs. It was quite filling actually and reasonably tasty. After that I went to find my friend Cynthia's new house in Santa Rosa where I was going to crash for the night. It was about 3 miles from the starting area. Hung out with the incredibly hospitable Cynthia and her husband Shawn and their 12 month old, had a bit more food at around 6:30pm and headed to bed at 9pm. Felt asleep quickly which was a bit unusual for me - normally I toss and turn all night before the race like a rookie. This time - a total fucking blackout. Good!

Race day

Got up at 3:10am, had 3 slices of raisin bread with peanut butter, 2 bananas and a can of Starbucks doubleshot espresso with cream. Drove to the mall parking lot near the start, got the bag, and headed towards the shuttles. The looked long but somehow 5 minutes later I was aboard a shuttle. A lady next to me was very visibly nervous and could not wait to tell me that she did not know how to swim freestyle and was going to breast stroke her way through. I had my doubts, but assured that this was totally doable, I'll probably burn in hell for a bit for this.

Got to T1 and got out of the shuttle. Holy shit, the parking lot was literally swarming with triathletes! The porta potty lines were ridiculous too. Went in, got the tires pumped, packed my nutrition and salt tabs, filled the water bottle... left myself about 20 mins before the start at 6:25am to get to a toilet. Well, not so fast! I got done at 6:22am and had to haul ass down to the boat ramp only to find the line of people already entering the water! Quickly chomped a GU packet, washed it down with some Gatorade and 18 minutes later started swimming with my feet were already frozen solid. 

Swim

The sun was in my face and had trouble seeing the first 2 or 3 buoys. The water temps were in the low 60s but I got used to it after a minute or two. But then we turned right and suddenly everything was clear and I got into the rhythm, despite some chop and the swells coming in from time to time. To be honest, there were so many people in the water that I did not even bother to sight and just followed the bubbles in front. The pace felt easy and the whole lake was a giant draft. Before I knew it we crossed back under the bridge and exited the water. The swim took 40:01, uploaded here. Ouch.

T1

I was kicking myself for not bringing with me a pair of flip flops to wear on the way out of the water. Plenty of folks were smarter than me... I actually ran up that ramp and sort of jogged to the top of concrete path all the way to the parking lot. Along the way was trying to pull the wetsuit down my ankles but it was not budging, Have to mention that it is a roughly .25 mile run - the ramp is .22 miles and my bike rack was towards the end. I had to run AROUND the edge of the T1, not straight to the bike racks. I got to my bike in T1 and pulled the wetsuit down hard - and the legs cramped big time! Finally I got it off and had to make a decision about the arm warmers. I was shivering bad so the wind vest was definitely a go, but I could not see myself spending anymore time putting those things on. Grabbed the bike and ran to the exit. T1 time was 8:59.

Bike

This was my first race on my Cervelo P3, so I was a little bit cautious not knowing what to expect from the bike in terms handling and the position. I got it in mid April and by the time I had it all built up and fitted... was just not enough time left to test it out in real conditions. I had a few issues with the seat post slipping, and the 11 speed chain already popped once... all of this was weighing in on my mind.

The exit was crowded. Some tall dude in front of me got on his bike but was probably in too high of a gear - and so he toppled right over into the ditch. I stood on the pedals and pushed through the short incline and was off to the races. Grabbed a quick gel with double caffeine and crossed the bridge. The powermeter was acting up and my right foot was having trouble clipping in. Finally I got to the descent out of the lake and was able to relax a bit. The descent was quick and fast but I  was not rushing it since I was too cold to go hard or react to the emergency braking situations. 

The first 10 miles went by quick. Got out of the lake park, rolled along the wineries on Dutcher Creek for a bit and eventually got to the 1st climb. It was a bit steep, with some sections of the grade in the 8%+ range but nothing killer. After that it was again more rollers and a few flattish sections. Basically the old Vineman route in reverse. Got to the 1st aid station and refilled my water bottle and dropped the vest. I was mainly fighting the road surface up until mile 26 or so, which was where we hit the second climb. Again no problemo.

After that there was a long stretch on Westside road which was all rollers and that was one section of the course that I knew really well from my past rides in that area. I started to feel some fatigue once we turned onto Laguna road and was feeling kind of hot and cold for the rest of the ride. Nutrition wise I was sticking with my plan of 3 squares of Clif Shot blocks every 20 mins, a 3rd of a Clif bar and 1 Salt Tab every hour on the hour. There was a stretch of some really terrible pavement on Guerneville Rd at miles 45 through 49 or so. I was nearly nauseous from the road vibrations. The final 4 miles were back in Santa Rosa and were very very crowded with cyclists going 3 rows wide in a single traffic lane. I just hung in there and cruised to the finish. Ride time turned out to be 2:48:30, uploaded here. Most importantly, I felt ready to make up some time on the run.

T2 

Easy peasy - shoes left clipped in, ran up to the rack, parked the noble steed, swapped the helmet for the hat and the number belt, put on my Cliftons and ran out. It took me a good 40 seconds to get to the end of T2 - 2:54.

Run

I felt great, really did. Running on a smooth bike path,  along the side of a nice stream in a mostly shaded area was a big plus. I was passing people the entire 13 miles, no joke. Felt had a crazy good vibe going all the way through maybe mile 10 and by then I started to get a bit hot. Was taking Gatorade and water every station and Cola every 3 stations. Had a bit of a panic through mile 8 when I realized that I am heading towards the finish line... finally saw the turn around like 0.3 miles from the finish. Phew.

The second lap was also pretty fast sort of following the first lap. Started fading a bit around mile 11 and 12, but I never felt like the wheels were going to come off. Was still passing a ton of people. Kicked up the last mile and finished strong. Run time - 1:29:02, uploaded here. Overall 05:09:26, for the 39th in the 40-44 age group out of 343.

After

Ate 2 slices of pizza and 2 bananas and a Cola, chatted with some folks, got my gear bags and my bike, showered and drove to my buddy's house in San Carlos where I had some sushi, some wine and a damn good company of my old friends. Crashed at 10pm, had a great breakfast in the morning with my hosts and then drove back to LA with 3 (!) stops to stretch the legs.

Afterthoughts

I might return next year for this race when it happens in July. Well organized, and if the roads are somehow fixed up - it will be a killer little race. 

Boston 2017 recap

Pre-race.

Qualified last year with a 3:11 time, but after that did mostly IM type of training with no real significant running volume. Started to get a bit more focused in the beginning of 2017, but for most part the volume was quite low – about 12 weeks at 43 miles per week average with a lot of bike workouts mixed in as I was also training for the Santa Rosa 70.3. As the result, my bike fitness got way better than what it normally is in Spring, but my run fitness was probably a bit less than optimal. Additionally, I started having some hip and hamstring tightness on the left side, and had a really hard time stretching it out. For the last 2 weeks before Boston I tapered off the run volume and replaced it with the swim volume feeling that it is the right move.

Day 1.

Got to Boston at around 4pm. Got super duper sore just sitting on the airplane. Dropped my stuff off at the hotel, hopped on the T and got to Hynes Center at around 5:30pm. It was crazy packed, the streets, the entrance, the expo – very busy as expected.

I’ve noticed that it was really really warm and humid that day. Not a good sign. Got my registration and my packet and shot right out of the building. Grabbed some groceries and then stopped by PF Chang’s in Cambridge for the fried rice combo.


Back in the hotel by 8pm and asleep by 10pm.

Day 2.

Woke up, ate a small breakfast with a sandwich and coffee. Next was my 2 miler shakeout run. Holy crap, was it hot and humid and windy at the same time! The temps were in the mid 80s and it felt sort of tropical. The first mile into the wind was pretty horribad, and the return was a bit better but not very encouraging. Was astonished to see a number of French speaking runners just powering into this muck the day before the race – and going HARD!
Got back to the hotel, showered, walked around Cambridge - which was almost completely shut down because of Easter Sunday. Took the train to Boylston to meet up with the member of my tri team also in Boston for the race. Ended up at a pretty generic Irish pub, had a sandwich and french fries. Back to the hotel at 4pm, lazed around for a bit. Got my gear set up for tomorrow, had plenty of fluids, and went to bed at 10pm. Did not sleep well at all.

Day 3.

Woke up at 5:30am, ate the usual PB and Banana sandwich with coffee. On the T by 6:30am. Dropped off my gear bag and headed for the bus with a bottle of Gatorade and 3 small Clif bars. Shared a bus seat with a gent from Oregon named Norm. Got to the athlete village 8am. Could have slept for another hour easily…
Hung around the tented area, ate a little, drank a little, chatted with a few runners. In the corral by 10:20am after a surprisingly long walk through the village – I was assigned to the Wave 2/Corral 1. It already felt warm – not as bad as the day before, but the sunshine was direct and definitely felt a few degrees warmer than the real temps. Humidity was also quite high. We kicked off right on time at 10:25am. My plan was to stick with the 7:14 min/mile pace for as long as I could until Newton, give up a couple of minutes there and then make it up from mile 23.
The first 2 miles were mostly downhill with one or 2 minor climbs. The crowd of the runners was very thick and we all moved in unison with very little space between the runners. The crowds were loud and insanely supportive. The entire stretch had almost no empty spaces where no one would be cheering. Held the pace quite well for the first 8 miles and was ahead of the schedule by 30 seconds. Decided to reward myself with a quick pee break. Started running again and was about 15 seconds behind at the next mile marker.
From the nutrition and hydration perspective, the strategy was simple. A cup of Gatorade every drink station unless I am taking a gel that mile, and small sip of water, with the remaining cup and a half of water dumped on the head, back and shoulders. I would eat a Clif gel every 6 miles and in case of cramps, I had salt tabs.
Started to feel a bit bad at mile 10 – the constant rollers were beginning to grind me down. I would lose 5-10 seconds on every uphill (and they were coming in all the time) and would not get all of them back on the downhill. Was trying not to get frustrated and kept my emotions in check. The mind was in a good place, and the tempo felt very very manageable. By mile 15 was about 68 seconds behind, and decided to take another pee break before we would get to the Newton hills.
I actually went through the major inclines without feeling fatigued or even noticing them very much. But the downhills were my undoing and I would give up 30-40 seconds per major hill. By mile 23 I accumulated about 5 minutes of debt and the legs were starting to give up the ghost a bit. I knew that I had enough in me to finish up at the pace about 30 seconds slower than the target, and I sort of let it go and started paying way more attention to the crowds and a few attractive female runners near me than to my watch. Lots of people were walking by then with cramps and heat exhaustion clearly visible. I had to get paramedics to check out a runner who was running figure 8’s in the lane next to me. I basically floated around for 20 minutes or so and once we turned to Boylston Street, I picked up the pace a bit to just finish strong. 3:16:54 was the finish time, enough to qualify me for 2018 if I want to go next year. Garmin file is here.
Walked to the gear tent, got my bag, changed, rode the T back to Cambridge, and hobbled over to the hotel room with a few other fellow crazy people from all over the world. Ate, showered, stretched and hopped back on the T for a dinner with Kevin and Carrie who wanted to celebrate. Lots of good food, probably more wine and desert than necessary – good times.



Day 4
Woke up, stretched a bit more, ate, Ubered to the airport – and off to the Big Apple!

Takeaways:

  1. Boston requires a significant investment in training focused on running the rollers and downhills efficiently and fast.
  2. The weather can be a huge factor. In Boston it is likely to be all over the place and can change significantly intra day.
  3. A late starting marathon can throw your body a curve ball. It sure did throw mine off.
  4. In Boston pace and hydration can be the difference between a great run and a walk for the last few miles. Think through your strategy and stick with it. If you are feeling good after the Heartbreak hill, make it a race.


Run To Remember 2017 recap

Started running again in January in order to build for Boston. A little sluggish in the first 2 weeks, but started to get into the rhythm of the training. The typical schedule is something like this:
  • Mon - 6-8 miles running
  • Tuesday - 6-8 miles running with some speedwork
  • Wednesday - 4-5 miles easy running + 20-25 miles hard cycling
  • Thursday - 6 miles medium effort running + 20-25 miles medium effort cycling
  • Friday - long run
  • Saturday - long bike + 4 miles running easy
  • Sunday - off
So with that going on for a month, I thought it'd be a good idea to test the waters and see what I can do on a short course. At the end of January I ran a local half marathon in Griffith Park and did ok, basically matching where I was last year in January. I was encouraged by this development (even though I was sore as hell for 3-4 days), and so I signed for the Run to Remember half which is basically a collection of my lunch time running routes in Hollywood.

Did a little bit more work than I should have during my ride on Saturday the day prior, so the legs were not super fresh come Sunday morning when I rolled out of bed at 4:45am. Had my usual Clif Bar with a side of banana and cashews, plus coffee. Got to the Grove at around 5:45am, parked, picked up my bib, went back to the car... listened to the radio, peed in the bottle to avoid the stupid long lines and went downstairs again to take my space by the starting line.

The sub 7 min group was a little sparse so I had plenty of room of stretch and do some basic warming up. The weather was awesome - high 50s, plenty of sunshine, clear and cool. Kicked off at 7:01am, and the first 1/2 mile were a real struggle - I was trying to find some space to run, and it was a bit of an uphill, so the pace was really punishing. By the time we got to Melrose I settled into a good rhythm and was averaging 6:21 min/mile. We ran into the Paramount lot, where the water station was manned by my Tri team members. Grabbed a cup of water from Agnieszka and proceeded towards the Bronson gate. I know I look like I am being chased by cops in the picture below, but that's just how much of a savage I am.




There after a quick lot detour the 10k and the 1/2 marathon crowds split. I was able to see the field in front of me and by my estimation I was about 20th from the front.

I knew that the climb up Western and Hollywood blvd is coming up, so the rest of the run on Melrose was the effort to get as close to the group up front. For some reason I made it up Western with ease but once I was on Hollywood blvd I really started to hurt. The pace was still high, all the way to the turnaround on Vermont, but I was really struggling. Heart rate was in the mid 170s, no bueno. In my mind, I just needed to get past Normandie on the way back and then get my shit together on the downhill all the way back to Melrose.

I got to the turnaround and I was actually 21st there. The runners in front of me looked pretty young, so I thought that I had a decent shot at placing in my age group. The downhill back to Melrose was a nice relief for my quads and I was ready to take on the Melrose hill - TWICE! Climbed it quite gingerly, knowing how unpleasant it really is even on a training run.  Got back to the Bronson gate of Paramount and here we merged with the 10k crowds - or put differently, the walkers of the 10k crowd.

From here to La Brea it was mainly all about dodging the walkers, trying to not get jammed into the curb like it happened last year when a lady in front me decided to suddenly stop and bolt in a coffee shop. The average speed dropped to 6:34 min/mile. Finally got to La Brea and from here we had our own lane again. Suddenly I got dropped by a group of 3 runners. Chased them all the way to the 3rd street where a did our last turnaround, and were within a mile or so from the finish line. I caught all but one of them, but had him and one more running in my sight all the way to the finish line. Finish time was 1:25:54, official time 1:25;52, the Garmin goodness can be seen here in all of its glory.

Got my medals, picked up a few bananas and a Nesquick's protein drink and walked back to the car - slowly! Got home and actually discovered that I finished 23rd overall, and took the 1st in my age group. Yay me!

IM Los Cabos 2016 recap

Thursday

I fly in at around 2pm, get a car, shop for groceries at a local WalMart (lots of bread, strawberry jam and Jiffy Peanut Butter, along with Gatorade, beer and Pepsi) and head to the hotel. I am pretty beat from the travelling, but decide to go for a run at around 5pm. It is intensely hot and humid. I am sweating like crazy after 2 miles and cut my run way short.  The rest of the night is spent eating PB&J sandwiches and drinking beer while watching the Thursday night NFL suckfest.

Friday

I show up for the pre-swim at 7am at Palmilla.  The water is very calm and super warm with very little chop and no visible swells, but a bit of a current on the way back. Swim about 1000 yards and do not feel like swimming more would make any difference. In the afternoon I head into town to pick up my registration packet along with my bike from the TriBike Transport. The registration process is a bit chaotic, and then I find out that half of my numbers have the wrong name printed on them (I am not Nick). Without missing a beat, some industrious human working the “Problems?” window prints my name on a bunch of blank labels and just slaps them on top of my numbers. Along the way it turns out that the Mexican triathlon federation wants a onetime registration fee of $10, and even that is kind of comical – window 1 collects $10 without any receipt and sends you on the way to the next window that refuses to release your bib numbers without a receipt from window 1. Then window 1 and window 2 confer and decide that you are good to go.
Back at the hotel I put my bike together and go for a ride at around 1:30pm. It is on the Highway 1 with the shoulder randomly appearing and disappearing as construction trucks and buses zip by you at the speeds approaching 80 mphs. After 10 minutes I decide that my bike works fine and I do not feel like becoming roadkill, at least not just yet. I turn around dodging the traffic and go back. I have to cross the highway one more time to get back into my hotel which is a whole different level of scary (and stinky).

Then it is time to figure out how am I going to get to the race on Sunday. The host hotel (Hampton Inn) attempts to collect $15 USD for letting me use their race shuttle on Sunday, but then backs off. The concierge lady is nice but she is less than informed.

At around 4pm I go to the pre-race meeting and there is more chaos there. The 2 men wrecking crew running it consists of a super suave US expat along with an older Brit expat, but in a typical local fashion neither one is certain on the subjects of the course's vertical gain, the layout or the rules of what sort of gear will need bagged and dropped off on Saturday. At the same time both are insistent that no bikes will be allowed to be brought in on Sunday. And lastly, they flat out state that there will be no access to the bike gear bags in the morning. I leave slightly frustrated but not too worried.

Saturday

Gear bags and bike drop off at the T1 at 11am – again more chaos. Some teenager manning the entrance decides to body mark and let people into the T1 at the same time, creating a sizeable line. Then everyone is let in in and the event team kids run around and randomly body mark only 1 spot on your body (i.e. the right shoulder in my case). The bag drop takes place in a completely unmarked tent and no one working it knows for sure if the bike gear bag must contain shoes and helmet or neither or both. Everything seems to be improvised on the spot. It is 11:30am and it is already hot hot hot.  I leave the helmet, the shoes and the glasses in the gear bag and head to the T2 back in town (no address, just go by a drawing on the map!). I find it in a completely unmarked tent in downtown San Jose del Cabo situated in the middle of a busy road with just a couple of teenagers again manning the process. I leave my stuff there and hope that it works tomorrow. I am starting to get into the whole go with the flow thing that the locals use as an excuse for everything.

Sunday

I get on the shuttle at 5am (for free, yippee!), and the first thing I see is a bunch of people from my hotel bringing their bikes on the shuttle. I ask no questions at this point. We get dropped off at the top of the hill at Palmilla where I hear and sort of see (it is dark) the kids who are there to collect our special needs bags. They they just kind of stand there and wait for you to give them the bags. Then naturally I see more people zipping down the hill on their bikes in total darkness along with a whole bunch of bike gear bags brought in.  I get into the T1 and soon realize that I can access my bike gear bag and proceed to take the helmet, shoes, number belt and glasses out and set up a proper transition mat by my bike. No one says a word.

The 70.3 race kicks off at 6:15 with the male pros and the female pros leaving at 6:20 and the rest of the field leaving at 6:30am. The announcers are completely focused on the 70.3 field until about 7:15 when they remember to give some terse instructions for the full. The buoys are still being towed, and then we line up in what supposed to be self seeded corrals and head into the ocean at 7:30. It is already hot. It takes me about a minute to get into the water, and the swim is nice. No fighting for space and the water is warmer then the hotel pool. The course is kind of rectangular with 3 left turns to make. My watch goes off at the half point mark and – I see that only 31 minutes elapsed which is good for me in a non-wetsuit swim. We make the second turn and then the current suddenly picks up along with a sizable swell. It is now a fight, and after the 3rd turning point the chop is bad enough that my goggles start to leak and I can’t really breathe to the left anymore. It takes me almost 50 minutes to complete the 2nd leg which also turns out to be about 300 yards longer than expected. I get out of the water and can barely see from all the salt water in my eyes. 1:21 is my swim time.

T1 gets done quickly and I head out. Cannot not quite get all the sand off my feet but that is expected in a beach transition where the carpet does not really work very well. We head up the Pamilla hill and I am sweating like a pig. Nutrition wise the plan is to eat half a Clif bar (macadamia white chocolate, yummy!) and 6 Margarita shot bloks per hour long with 2 salt stick tabs giving me me about 325 kcals total with 850 mg of sodium. For the liquids I plan to take water only with an occasional bottle of Gatorade to mix things up.  The plan works very well as I have no issues with staying hydrated or fed.

The ride to Cabo San Lucas is unremarkable but the heat is unrelenting. I maintain about 170w of NP. The first big climb (there are 4 in total) is not bad and the ride down is definitely fun. I grab my first water bottle at a water station at the bottom of the hill and a little kid manning it holds on too it too tight and I almost get dropped. The ride back to San Jose is much harsher facing the wind and the fumes from the cars that are at a total standstill on the other side of the highway.  I make it to the turn around and the guy manning it is so confused and has no idea who needs to go where. The screwy thing with the course that you come to this turnaround, go up the hill and then if you are doing the half or finishing your 2nd lap of the full you get to ride past the WalMart to the T2. But the airport hill needs to be done, and the amigo completely fails to communicate it. I head up the hill to the toll road and that 2nd climb does not disappoint. I drop a good number of of people on the climb (still lots of slower 70.3 riders on the road), and then head down to the roundabout for the 2nd loop and turn towards Cabo San Lucas. Pass the special needs and pick up the rest of my nutrition and a small Coke that really hits the spot at that point.

What the Mexican culture lacks in the areas like being organized or planning ahead, it more than makes up for that by displays of an enthusiastic attitude along with employing hordes of rules enforcement people. The Ironman is no exception to this modus operando. On the bike course there is no drafting at all because the officials on their scooters are out in force  looking sufficiently menacing. On the other hand, things like setting up water stations equidistant from each other are not something that the organizers would put too much effort into. Also, the volunteers working the stations are out in huge numbers and are going bananas for every rider passing through but the timing mats are way too few and missing on one of the 2 major climbs.

The ride back to Cabo San Lucas feels a lot harder now – the heat is just unrelenting, even more cars are at a complete standstill on the other side of the highway stinking up the air and there is a stretch of about 10 miles with no aid stations. I now make sure to stop at every station and either exchange the water bottles or just grab one and dump it all over my body. I do the climb at San Lucas (the 3rd big one) and head down hurting a bit. The course is now pretty desolate with a rider seen maybe every minute or so.  My second salt stick dispenser jams and I cannot get any salt tabs out of it. I am very glad I grabbed a spare baggie of Salt Stick tabs out of my special needs. The rollers are getting harder and harder even though they did not get any taller or steeper compared to the 1st lap. My NP slowly drifts towards 165w but my heart rate stays steady.

I catch myself starting to drift off a bit and now only concentrate on eating every 20 minutes and steadily riding the hills without spiking power. We get closer to San Jose and (it is roughly mile 91) I notice that my NP is now 192 and climbing and my TSS is nearing 287 with less than 20 miles to go. How did that happen? Then I notice that my 10 sec average power alternates between a cool zero even going up a hill and 800+. The P1 pedals are drifting and I am pretty sure that it is from the heat from the pavement that got to them.  I can stop and try to recalibrate but with only 1 major climb to go I decide to ride by my heart rate which is still steady. The last or the 4th climb to the airport road is just frustrating but I power through it and drop a couple more people in the process. I still have no idea where I stand scoreboard wise but it feels like I might be in the top 20% of the field right now. The poor soul manning the turnaround suggests that are 3 laps to do but I know better and just bomb down the WalMart street to the T2. Its pavement is so rough that I am afraid to reach down and unbuckle my shoes before the t2 bike catchers do their thing. My ride takes 6:02 to complete.

I grab my run gear bag and head into the changing tent. I sit down to only realize that I am completely baked.  It is a weird feeling – and I have to talk myself into going out of the tent. Running 26 miles just seems wrong at the moment, but I am that stupid sometimes. The first 2 miles along the hotel corridor are in same searing, tiring heat. It is literally punishing to the point that having a bucket full of water dumped over me only keeps me damp for 2-3 minutes. The upside to this is that worrying about having wet feet in this situation proves to be completely unfounded. I stop at every other station and drink a cup of Pepsi. Eventually I get jacked enough to find some running rhythm. It carries me through the first of 3 loops. I even start to notice things around me – like the totally enthusiastic kids manning the stations, and the strange practice of having race officials writing down bib numbers at turnarounds located literally a few yards after intermediate split timing mats. The heat is starting to subside and I run with a lot more ease.

I now notice how utterly boring the run course really is. It weaves around the hotel corridor and the marina and the city gardens replete with the cows, butterflies and barely covered ditches and then suddenly drops you into some backstreet behind the city hall only to make do a U-turn and make you back to the city hall passing the finish line within maybe 100 yards. I complete the second loop and it is now getting dark (the time just got rolled back 1 hour in the morning so what used to be 7pm is now 6pm).  I push through the hotel corridor one more time and it is hard to ignore the fact that for every runner there are now 10-12 people walking or weaving. Not good. The run over the bridge to the marina is in total darkness and I try to not get hit by some kid on the bike or an official riding a scooter.

Yet all good things must come to an end and I finally cross the marina bridge for the last time and come back to the city hall. The Ironman does this funny thing to me where it takes things that I normally love to do (Cycling! Running!) and subtly pushes them to the point where they are just not fun anymore, forcing me into this sort of mental game where I have to maintain focus or else things start to go bad. I cross the finish line at 3:59 looking dazed enough to have some helpful volunteer escort me all the way to the feeding station which serves pizza by slice, cookies and ramen noodles (!!!) along with water and Gatorade. Then it is time for a good massage from 2 very enthusiastic students of the local massage school and to head back to the T2 which is about 3 blocks away from the finish line. The entrance is of course right at the furthest end of the T2, but I am totally stoked to find my bike and bags intact and grab one last Clif bar for the night.

But would this really be a race in Mexico without more fun and games? As soon as I find my bike a gentleman comes up to me and starts asking for my helmet. I explain to him that I am not planning to ride my bike but he insists and it does not look like my Spanish is working. I finally pull the helmet out of my T2 bag, he checks the number on it and leaves me alone. I get dressed and head out, and one of the dozen or so kids manning the exit takes my timing chip.  I ask them where I can find a taxi and one of them tells that they are queuing up a block away on a fairly shabby looking street. This turns out to be totally true and I immediately secure a taxi van. As I am loading my bike and my bags into the van, one of the T2 kids runs up to me yelling “Chip! Chip!”. I tell him that it was just collected it and I don’t have it but he does not believe me and inquires if my heart rate monitor band, my 910xt and finally my cadence meter are all “Chip!”. I kind of get ready to fight him but the taxi driver gets in the middle and probably tells the chip collector to get away from his fare. $25 later I get back to my room… and then I realize that it is all over along with my 2016 season.  I go downstairs, order a cheeseburger and nachos along with 3 Heinekens and get back to my room to sleep a very brief sleep of death.

Back to triathlon

Took a week off, and slowly started getting back into tri specific training.

The numbers for the week of May 11th (6h 57m):

  • Swimming - 1h 39m
  • Cycling - 2h 40m
  • Running - 2h 38m
The numbers for the week of May 18th (10h 19m): 

  • Swimming - 2h 27m
  • Cycling - 3h 50m
  • Running - 4h 1m
I am keeping the swimming volume on the lower end for now (about 2100 yards per session) since I am concentrating on short intervals to get the cadence and speed back. It really sucked the first week after no having swam a yard for 7 months. Cycling is primarily 2 Zwift sessions (3-4 laps of Watopia at what 5% of what is probably my FTP right now) and 1 longer ride outside on the weekend.