Ironman Arizona 2013 recap

Woke up at 4, had 1 more serving of rice, a PB&J sandwich, a cup of mild coffee and a banana. Got to the park at 5:15am and ate a Clif Bar. Dropped of my SN bags and changed. Listened to death metal and was getting pumped. The pros went off at 6:45am and I lined up for the entrance.  Before the start had a GU and 4-5 oz of water. Jogged/jumped up and down for about 4-5 minutes. Got into the water, it felt about 64-65 degrees.

Lined up in the middle about 4-5 rows down. With about 2 mins to go, a woman next to me starts having a panic attack. She is bobbing up and down and trying to swim on her back. I grab her and some dude holds her other arm and we call a kayaker. He finally hears us and starts making his way to us. The woman is getting wigged out and I am trying to tell her that she is not done for the day. It is chaotic as the kayaker is trying to pull her up and people are swimming all around us. Finally she is secured and the gun goes off a few 5 seconds later. By now, I am probably 15 rows down and it is a wild stampede. I go through about 5 mins of fighting for space. Finally, I get some open water and swim without too much contact until the turnaround. The turnaround is a mess again, with people trying to cut it as close to the markers as possible. Once we turn around, I take my straight shot back to the museum building that I sighted before. Again, tons of open water as people are wondering off in all directions. I am starting to feel like I am getting a little too worked and I slow the pace down a bit. Before I know it, we come to the last turnaround and a bit of fighting ensues again. I swim up to the steps and get pulled in. The clock reads 1:19.

T1 - pull my wetsuit off right away and run having to dodge people being stripped by the volunteers. Run into the bag holding area and find my stuff quickly. Hands are a bit cold so it takes time to take my gear out of the bag and put my top on and shove food into the back pockets and then pack the wetsuit. I run towards the exit and grab my bike from the volunteer. Shove a Clif bar into my mouth before jumping on and wash it down with Diet Coke to hopefully kill off any fauna I might have swallowed in the water. The clock reads 1:30. 10 mins down the drain. I guess that I need to figure out how to do a better T1 in the IM format.

The goal was about 150 NP, and at least 500 calories intake from non-fluids. I get on the bike and I am shivering. Freezing almost. Takes me a good 15 mins to defrost. Of course, I barely put out any power in this condition. We get to Beeline and the wind is in our face. Ride to the top pretty slowly, and then get to bomb down back to McDowell. Awesome! Not a ton of drafting. The second loop feels much easier for some reason – that’s because the wind had shifted. Ride to the top is now super fast. The stomach starts to get a little tight, and the sun is in my back heating up my saddle and my rear. I eat my GU packets and my Clif Bloks 3 cubes at time but I am not a happy camper digestion wise. The ride down is painfully slow as it is again against the wind. I have to stop at the special needs area and grab 2 banana halves and refill my aero bottle. 2 mins go by and the cramps are gone. Back to Rio Salado and off to the 3rd loop. I try to drink as much as possible (I am using G2 grape flavor with about 20% water added on top) and I have to stop again to fill up the aero bottle and grab 2 more banana halves. Take away - need to work on my tempo rides. I can get faster, I know it. Bike time was 5:47:39.

Got to T2. I hand over my bike, get my run gear bag and try to change on the grass. I get accosted by a volunteer and get told to go to the tent and change. Whaaaat? It is hot and musty in the tent and quite dark too. Find a seat and put on my shoes and hat and my running belt with the number on it. Turn on my Garmin, and pack the bike helmet and some leftover food stuff into the bag. I keep 2 GU packets and a packet of salt tabs. I am out of the tent and the time reads 7:25. Another 5 mins spent.

It is mid-day and then sun is still quite warm, probably in the mid 70s. I start my run and the whole herd of us is moving towards the east end of the park. It is confusing since I have no idea whether someone is running their second loop or not. My heart rate monitor starts glitching again, and is showing a 190 bpm HR. I know that I am not quite having a heart attack, and in fact my breathing is smooth. I get angry and pitch the heart strap at the next trash can. Feeling liberated. Some rollers in the first mile. I come to the first drink station and get some water. Take it in and the stomach is unhappy again. The pace is still good – about 7:55 min/mile. At the next aid station I take some cola and a wet sponge. It feels much better. We turn around and are now running back to the Priest bridge. I alternate between Cola and bananas, followed by tiny sips of water, between drink stations. The stomach is not super happy about it, but I feel like I will fight through this. Cross over to the other of the lake and run a little slower but still within the 8:10 min/mile pace. The voices inside my head are beginning to talk about how cool it’d be to go sub 11. The next 6 miles are a blur… I get back to the T1 area and feel like going number one. I am tired of peeing myself and jump into a porta potty. The pee looks dark. Crap! I take a salt tab and it makes my stomach churn. I switch to almost 100% cola for the next 4 miles. Eventually I make it back to the T1 area and I am feeling pretty spry now for whatever reason. I notice a 7:55 min/mile pace at one point. Cross the Priest bridge and am now seeing the sub 11 mile goal fading. Garmin is projecting a 3:39 finish time for the run… and my heart just goes. I try to pick up the pace but it makes my quads cramp. I make it back to the turnaround under the freeway, grab water at the next station and a banana… water makes me throw up. Gross. I have to slow down to keep going. My mind starts to wander a little and the next 2 miles are a blur again until I make it the hill on Curry road. I know I need to walk that hill or else I may be forced to walk the last 3 miles altogether. I also walk the last incline to the Priest bridge and I am elated to know that I only have 1.5 miles to go. I forgo taking fluids or food at this point and just concentrate on moving forward as fast as I can. I come to the split between the loops and I can hear the noise from the finish line. Going about 7:20 min/mile at that point, not even sure why. I come to the finish line and am overwhelmed by the crowd. Crossing the line, it reads 11:10:05. A 3:46 run, nothing to write home about under the normal circumstances.

I get seated by the volunteer and drink my chocolate milk, and grab some chips and pizza and water. I am almost delirious. My kids find me and call me. I am now realizing that I am done. Suddenly I feel much better. I find my clothes, change, grab the bike and my gear bags and we head out. Wife parked about a mile from the finish line, and is joking that I can always ride my bike back. I seem to be walking ok though. We get back to the rental, I shower and we all go to Grimaldi’s in downtown Scottsdale for pizza and beers. I am feeling great. We get home and I black out into the darkest sleep where no dreams dwell.
All in all... this being my first IM, I think that I could have done better transitions and probably more tempo bike rides.

Nautica Malibu Classic Distance 2013 recap

Got up at 3:30am, had a PB&J sandwich with some banana and a little bit of coffee. Had half a bottle of Gatorade on the way to the race, and 1/2 of Clif Bar. For the warmup, swam in the ocean while Bret Michaels was desecrating his old hit song. Got used to the water and then got out and ran for 90 seconds. Chatted with some fellow racers, and had a GU packet about 15 mins before going in.

Noticed that the current seems to be sweeping people south, so I lined up on the right, and swam northeast. Hit the buoy almost head on and rounded it smoothly. There was no congestion at all, and I seemed to be falling into a good rhythm. The breathing and puling felt just right. Before I knew it, it was time to swim back. Caught a few waves and made it to the shore very quickly. Swim time 13:54.

Had a decent T1, somewhat delayed by one of my fellow racers almost dropping my bike. Bike leg was a bit of a mixed bag. I had a really hard time navigating my way around slower age groupers from the previous waves. There was literally no room to move in the parking lot exit, and most downhills had people descending in packs of 2-3 wide. The congestion got a little lighter once I got out of Leo Carillo's parking lot. Still a slowish ride by my standards. I could have taken chances on the downhills and the parking lot. But I have decided not too... the risk of crashing and jeopardizing my IM training was not something that I liked too much. Bike time was 51:53.

Clipped out of the cycling shoes right near the dismount point in T2. Ran in dodging some late swimmers (wtf?). The helmet somehow had a buckle stuck... lost another 10-15 seconds.

Had a good run. Again, the course was narrow and crowded, so it was hard to navigate. Ran an extra 0.1 miles just trying to find space to pass people on.Had a GU at around mile 1, and then just maintained my 5K pace. Tried the H3O drink that Herbalife provided, and it was as expected - gross and chemical tasting. Enjoyed the awesome ocean side running. A beautiful day all in all. Run time in 26:05. I might have been able to speed up a bit, but who knows. No need to second guess myself. Overall time was 1:36:24.

Met the family, walked around, had some junk food.

I have to say that the bike course needs to be somehow re-thought. A few things make it very unpleasant and somewhat dangerous in my opinion.

1. Let's face it, this event draws a lot of people who are not comfortable on the bike. They tend to compensate by riding in groups and blocking the narrow space available to pass them. I saw 1 official who might have assessed some penalties to the blockers right in front of me, but none were announced.

2. Letting the mountain bike division start the swim with some of the 40-44 males pretty much insures that some of us will have a tough time navigating the bumps in the parking lot with some rather unwieldy and slow bikes around. Couple this with a decent number of bad riders from other waves and you have a dangerous situation on some rough pavement. I easily lost about a minute today trying to make my way through the narrow spaces between the bumps and the curb.

3. The Trancas intersection on the way back - pedestrians were allowed to cross practically in the midst of cyclists descending at 35mph+. It is was a close call this year and the same thing happened to me 3 years ago.

4. Cars on the PCH were flipping u-turns right through the cones numerous times. I cannot tell you how dangerous this was. The cops either did not see it or chose to do nothing about this.

My immediate suggestion would be to move the start of the ride to the south end of the beach and avoid the unpleasantness of the parking lot racing. I also think that this would allow for much wider space for runners as they can go up Wetsward beach road which runs about 2 miles out. I also really wish that the organizers could simply close the PCH for a stretch of 9 miles to somehow alleviate the congestion in the bike lanes.

Wildflower 70.3 2013 recap

Got up at 4:45am, had my PB&J sandwich and coffee. Drove to the lake, and was racked and ready by 7am. Spent an hour reading the newspaper and watching the fellow racers. After the 3rd wave went off, stretched and jogged around. Then enjoyed the next 10 minutes of piece and quiet in the sun.

Only had about 6 weeks to get back into swimming, so I have decided not to exert myself and just get through the swim saving the energy for the run. I waited for about 30 seconds to get into the water and did not fight for space. Still got kicked around quite a bit but the crowd cleared pretty quickly. The rest of the swim just cruised. If I had more time to train, I shoot for a sub 40 min time, but this time the goal was to save energy for the bike and the run. Swim time - 43:50.

Given that the temps were getting into the low 90s, I have decided to actually wear a cycling jersey on a bike to get a little bit more body covered. Took a little time to put on.

The bike course is a loop around the San Antonio lake. The roads on the side of Monterey county are horrible. But it is a fun course nonetheless. I had a decent amount of time to get into cycling shape. Was shooting for about 3:15, but had to dial the effort down a bit once the temps have gotten above 90 F. I knew that the run will be brutal, so I backed off on the hills and climbed them in the easiest gear possible. But something was wrong with the bike - after about 20 miles my right calf and hammie started to ache. Only after the race I realized that someone must have knocked my bike on the ground - the seat was slightly turned to the right and I am pretty sure that the rear brake was rubbing a bit. Bummer. Bike time - 3h 26m 37s

This race is all about preserving energy for the run. The other things was that I chose to stop twice and actually refill my aero bottle since warm Gatorade/water was turning to HOT Gatorade/water in no time.I suspect that a lot of racers who later walked the hills on the run course chose to save 2 minutes of stoppage time but then lost good 20 minutes having clear dehydration (and maybe even GI) issues.

Again, changed into my Asics running jersey that helps with cooling a bit. Boy did it pay off! Spent another 20 seconds or so re-applying sun screen.

Was worried about the right calf/hammie as they were bugging me on the bike. But they were not a problem, again pointing to the seat being the root cause. So... the last year I walked a good 1/3 of the course. This year my goal was to walk no more, except for a couple of really steep parts where walking just as fast as running, and actually race the run leg. The course is made of brutal hills, rolling trails, dust, little to no shade and then the last 4 miles on the smoldering pavement! Fun course. I also made every effort to pour water on my head and torso every chance I got, and take in as much drink as possible. Still after scaling the summit at mile 5, I was hot and starting to feel slightly dizzy. But then I got into the camping grounds and the kind people along the run path hosed me down a few times. I was rejuvenated. Picked up the pace and got in and out of the pit quickly. Had a little bit of an issue with the left foot but nothing too bad. Finished strong - 1h 54m 59s. The run went exactly as planned.

Was not too tired, just hot. Got my medal, collected some snacks and walked out to pick up the bike and my gear.  A lack of swim training and a relative lack of time in the saddle limited my ability to perform faster - spent all winter training for the LA marathon.

Overall - a great race. It's an experience. Highly recommended, despite the brutal conditions - hot, windy and no shade.

LA Marathon 2013 recap

Got up today at 4:15am. Had a cup of cooked oatmeal, a banana, a yogurt, about 6 oz of OJ and a small cup of coffee. I was shooting for about 700 calories for breakfast. Got picked up by my buddy Ankur and his roommate at 5:20am and headed to the Dodgers stadium. Mistake #1 - could have stayed home for another hour. A drop off was quick and we were there at 5:45am. Walked around, hit a portpotty twice, saw a few peepz from my team and headed to my corral.

For some reason, the corral entrance reminded me of the Soviet era line at a liquor store. Everyone tries to get in, people pushing, chicks trying to squeeze in with their boyfriends even though you have to pre-register for a corral spot.... stupidity abound. Once in, it was actually nice since I found a spot by the concrete bench and put my bag of stuff down. Warmed up for a little while - mainly short slow runs, some kicks, shuffles and then 4 strides... Now the right calf started aching during the strides. Oh oh...

The elite women went off at 7:10am or so (all 7 of them, LOL), and then people started pushing towards the front of the line. Now this was looking more like a Slayer concert with people angling for the spot at the stage. Poor volunteer kids were getting pushed and shoved, albeit gently. Mayor speech was short and the gun went off for the rest of the field. We were out of the gate in about a minute after the start of the run.

The right calf was still sore. I had to stop for 20 seconds and massage it. Suddenly it just quieted down and I was on my way downhill. After the first mile I was already way behind my pace... I started trying to catch up. The first 3 miles were mainly downhill and I was getting close to 7:25 min/mile on average. The we started climbing the hill on Temple st and running towards Silver Lake. I was not making up lost time anymore. Not good.

We got to Sunset and it was roughly about 10 km into it. The crowd thinned out and I no longer had to contend for a corner space or watch out for the elbows. Lots of people were out supporting the run and the atmosphere was  plain awesome.  Still I was stuck at 7:30min/mile and I saw no real way to accelerate as I knew that the Hollywood area is going to be full of short, sharp rollers. Eventually I worked my way down to 7:28min/mile at around mile 12. I actually was getting hungry despite having eaten a GU gel at mile 7. Started grabbing orange slices that were abundant throughout the course, and a banana slice here and there. Saw some kid giving away potato chips and grabbed a bunch - thanks kid, you were an awesome help!

Had another GU, as we blasted down Doheny. Again lots and lots of supporters... a very encouraging setting. I was checking for the signs of fatigue as were getting past mile 15 and saw little... quads were tightening a little from the hill running, but nothing too dramatic. The average pace was at around 7:29 min/mile. Then came the stretch on Burton. Pure sufferfest for some  reason. A non-ending false flat, with a nasty wind in my face. Got to turn around on Wilshire and run a short while til the intersection of Santa Monica. This is where I started to feel the legs talking to me. I knew that I had some appreciable rollers ahead of me as we would cross Westwood and I was getting worried.

Took another GU and tried to keep the pace from dropping past 8 min/mile. Not terribly successful... was hoping to find someone to draft off since the had wind really picked up and could not find anyone willing to go at my clip... Eventually got to the VA site and at that point I knew that I'd be about 5 mins behind my goal time. There was no way I would be to run a 42 minute 10k from that point. I was so bummed by this realization.

Ran down San Vincente without too much enthusiasm. It was getting really freaking cold too! 54 F with wind. The crowds were very good as we hit Santa Monica. Finally saw my kids and wifey and my dad at the 14th street and it gave me a good moral boost. From there I ran pretty strong and hit the finish chute sprinting. Walked past the KTLA crew as they were interviewing some guy and apparently they caught me on TV. Yay! Finish time was 3:21:57, a PR but almost 7 minutes worse than the goal. Link here.

The organizers for some reason intended for everyone to walk down Ocean Ave almost til the Santa Monica Pier. I was getting cold, hungry and thirsty all at the same time. Grabbed a bagel, 2 bananas, water and cliff bar and a space blanket and sneaked past the barricades. Started walking towards my dad's place on Euclid and I was getting really cold, like nearly hypothermic. Wife had to come pick me up half way into my mini deathmarch. Got to my dad's place, took a hot shower, changed into some clean clothes and had some chicken soup with a huge chicken breast. Life was good again, except for no BQ for me today.

Gonna take a day or 2 off and then get into the pool.

Camarillo Half marathon 2013 recap

Was supposed to run 14 miles today, but where's the fun in that if you can race instead! Picked up a registration for the Camarillo 1/2 marathon in October. Of course, what was a good idea back then, did not seem that hot this morning - with 43 F outside and a pouring rain. But hey - beats running in a 90 F dry heat, right?

Headed out to Camarillo, and the rain really picked up once I got off the 101. I parked near the starting line and got my packet - the environment looked pretty nasty. They were running a full, a 1/2 and a 5K, with staggered starting times (7:00am/7:30am/8:00am respectively). I felt for the people running the full - the rain just stopped and the road was caked in mud.

Soon after I put on my gear and left the warmth of my car. Warmed up for 5 mins or so, and did some stretches. The 1/2 had attracted a decent size crowd, probably close to 200 people or so. The gun went off and we headed out towards Las Posas, as "Highway to Hell" was blaring my my headphones. By the way, I have been running with Ironman Series Yurbuds for about 9 months now and gotta say that while the sounds gets a little distorted, they do stay in place no matter how much I sweat.

In any case, I wanted to see if I can maintain a consistent 7:15 pace throughout and it felt pretty easy on this course. Miles 3 and 4 were somewhat uphill, but then it was a nice stretch of a downhill coming up. It was getting warmer, and I was considering losing my gloves. I passed a few people running a half, and for a while was running solo, with only a few runners ahead by about 1/4 mile. Lots of drink stations were setup along the way, it felt like they were there every 1/2 mile. In one case the station was set up on the other side of the road, which was strange - but the road was closed to traffic, so it was not too bad, except for additional few yards I had to cover to get there and back to the edge of the road. The road was covered with enough slippery mud to make this for a challenging few miles, especially when we headed back towards Camarillo airport.

The last 4 miles were run around the airport, and it was a little confusing, since the road was sort of open to traffic. At one point we ran across the way, and the car was coming in from behind :). In any case, I was at about 7:12 min/mile coming up to the last 2 miles. I picked up the cadence a little, and started sprinting once we hit the turnaround behind the airport. Passed a few more people, and boom - ran into a serious headwind. Thankfully, we turned off the main road and ran on some dirt path for the last 1/2 mile. I hit the finish line, the watch was showing 1:34:36, which would make it for a solid PR.  Results here.

The organizers had a small table with your typical post race food - bagels, bananas, oranges, pretzels and some Recovery Powerbars. The Powerbars were pretty dense and chewy, and had to be washed down with 2 glasses of water. I liked them overall, but Clif bars are better IMO. In any case, hung around for a bit, talked to a few other finishers, and then headed back to the car.

When I got home, my entire backside was covered with dirt and mud! Off to watch the second half of the Wild Card weekend. And look at my ferocious finishing line look: