Solid long weekend in Puerto Rico for the Ironman 70.3. I got to hang and race with my buddy Walter and see a bit of San Juan in the process. We both had solid results too, which made the trip better. Walter took the win in M45-49 and I took out M30-34. Great way to start the season. It was also fun to catch up with other athletes that I know from training camps and see them out on the course laying the smack down.
FINISH TIME 4:27:11
Swim 31:16 Bike 2:21:45 Run 1:27:36
1st M30-34, 4th Amateur, 25th Overall
I’m pleased with how the race unfolded. I had a decent swim considering a bit of chop on the water and the crowds (I was in the last wave); I held close to the power I wanted to on the bike; and I was able to push just enough during the run (that is one tough run course!) to come out on top.
Given that I’ve typically struggled at this distance, I was happy to pull together a decent race. Also pumped to have earned a spot to the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, TN taking place in September.
- This would mean that I executed pretty well & would have the added benefit of getting Ritch Viola off my back about my 70.3 personal best of 4:37! Ha! But in all seriousness, I knew this PB didn't reflect my training, so was eager to bring it down.
- Qualify for 70.3 Worlds
- This race is going to be fun, with lots of friends and a HUGE EMJ crew joining. Getting qualification out of the way early would mean that my other 70.3 races would be more relaxed.
- STRETCH GOAL: 1st in M30-34 & Top 3 Age Group Overall
- While early in the season, I felt really fit and figured if I raced to my ability, I should be able to take out M30-34 and had a good chance of being top 3 among the other non-pros.
While I’ve had some success at the Ironman distance and the Olympic distance, 70.3s have never gone all that well. I typically do them early in the year and am not in legit shape for them. Last year, I rocked up to Oceanside 70.3 in early April and had my ass handed to me. I had taken a lot of time off at the end of 2015 and simply wasn't in good form early on. This year, with Puerto Rico 70.3, I wanted to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again.
After Kona in October, I took a some of time off doing mostly unstructured training (lifting a bit, no-agenda running, occasional Tower 26, spin classes, Saturday long rides with friends), but never took a big chunk of time away from swim-bike-run. Just enough to be mentally recharged. By December 1st, I was getting back in my structured training routine of 12-16hrs/week. My goal was to show up to the Endurance Corner Tucson Camp in shape, unlike last year. I also didn’t want to get embarrassed at the EMJ Vegas Camp, which was right before the Tucson Camp. If I could show up to those in shape, I knew I could really log some big gains over the 10 days of training and show up to Puerto Rico ready to rock.
All said and done, the camps went really well and I came out of the 10 days of training feeling strong. Then, 10 days after Tucson Camp, I was en route to Puerto Rico.
Walter and I were staying at the host hotel, Caribe Hilton. This race is super easy from a logistics standpoint if you’re staying here. It’s a half mile to the swim start and a quarter mile to transition. The expo is in the hotel too. Pretty sweet.
I had Thursday, Friday, Saturday to check out the swim course and run course. I also rode the majority of the run course on Thursday to make sure my bike was working properly after the flights (LAX-ATL-SJU). While the swim course (in a protected lagoon) and run course (pretty much 2 loops of an out-and-back) are easy to trial prior to the race, the bike course is not. In fact, I did my 30 minutes of riding each day at the hotel gym on a spin bike.
Here's what the Thursday, Friday, Saturday looked like... pretty standard 70.3 taper for me from coach Justin Daerr.
Swim: 30' chill at swim course w/ pick-ups as you feel like it
Bike: 30' on spin bike with a few 30" pick-ups mixed in
Run: 20-30' on run course, sub 160 HR
I tried to get the workouts done fairly early each day so that I could do some work and simply relax in the afternoon. Lots of time with my feet up just chilling.
FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS: Sometimes finding vegan or otherwise healthy dishes in race locations can be tough. I definitely struggled during the first day in San Juan (quickly learned to ask if meat was in things, since it's in damn near everything in PR, ha!), but was able to sort things out by day 2.
Palmeras @ Hilton Caribe had a solid breakfast setup and Pina Colada Club @ Hilton Caribe (ridiculous name, but solid veggie dishes) was great for lunch. Dinner was sketch near the hotel, and we ended up at Rosa Mexicano which was pretty sub-par. I'm sure there's way better stuff in Old San Juan, but we were pretty keen to keep things walking distance. I ended up hitting Pueblo Miramar Supermarket (a mile from the hotel) and was able to really load up on solid goods there.
Walter and I were up around 4am. Pretty standard wake-up time pre-race. I felt like I slept alright, having gone to bed around 8:30pm. I launched into my pre-race routine from there.
At about 5am, we walked over to transition and set-up our bikes. The cool part about this race is that you have plenty of time to go back to the hotel after you set-up in transition, especially because the swim start is just a 15-minute walk from the lobby. So, after setting up our bikes, we went back to the hotel. I chilled for 45-minutes during this stretch and did a Headspace meditation session and then listened to some music to help focus my mind and relax a bit.
We walked to the swim start around 6:35am and got there for the start of the women's pro field at 6:55am. My wave was the last to go, so I had about 30 minutes to warm-up and focus. I squeezed into my swimskin and did a 10-minute warm-up on the other side of the lagoon. My warm-up is typically 3 minutes easy, 5 minutes build, 2 minutes easy.
I made my way to the front of the 100 or so people going off in the M30-34 and waited for gun. My game plan was pretty much to go hard from the start. With Oceanside 70.3 last year, I remember finishing the swim feeling like I had paced it like an Ironman as opposed to a 70.3. I didn't want that to happen again.
When the gun went off, I pushed at a decent pace for a few hundred yards and got on someone's feet. I was on him for maybe 200 yards before he totally detonated and I swam right over the top of him. He definitely didn't pace well... From there I was pretty much on my own. At the first turn, maybe 800 yards in, I sighted a couple times to look for swim caps in my AG ahead but saw none. At this point, maybe 10-12 minutes into the swim, I started to really swim through other age-group waves.
With no one to draft off, I just put my head down and pushed, popping up every 10 strokes or so to sight. While it was crowded, this was no Kona washing machine, so I managed swimming through people without too many issues.
I hit the exit ramp almost exactly at 30 minutes. Given that I was in the last wave, the ramp was a bit crowded. I took this extra time to get at my swimskin zipper and find my balance. I got up the ramp and crossed the timing mat with a 31:16 swim time. Not great, since normally I'd want this to be under 30 minutes, but also not bad. It looked like I was in the top 5 in my AG coming out, so I chalked it up to a slower day in the water for all, especially for the last wave. (Turns out I was 7th out of the water in M30-34, so it was likely a little slow.)
It's a long run to T1, so I pushed this 500+ meter section pretty hard. I cruised into transition, drilled some GU Roctaine drink and a half a bar (more on race fueling here if interest), and grabbed my bike and helmet. As I set off for the exit, I snapped the built-in sunglasses lens/ visor off of my helmet. Haste makes waste... I had to turn around and grab my run sunnies, which probably costed me a minute. Not ideal, but not the end of the world.
I got on the bike and started to get down to business. Goal would be to ride 215 watts for the first 45 minutes and go from there. Hopefully hang on to 215 or even go up to 220.
215 felt alright for the first 30 minutes, but for the next 30 minutes 210 felt more appropriate as I closed out the first lap. At the start of the second lap, I felt pretty good and inched closer to the 215 range. I kept this up until about mile 35. At that point, my power started to fade. I think this was a mix of fatigue along with a bit of a headwind and the crowded course. From mile 35-50 I rode 207 watts, but then picked things back up from 50-56 ridding 212 watts.
The bike course was crowded and passing was a challenge at times. I had to do a bit of surging then soft pedaling. (My VI was 1.02, which isn't that bad, but it probably should have been 1.01 given how flat this course is. I think that speaks to some of the surging.) Being the last wave isn't all bad; I definitely got a bit of a boost from the constant passing of people. I was passed just twice, both early on, and ended up overtaking both the people before starting the second lap. Definitely a first for me since I'm not an uber-biker.
Final bike split was 2:21:45. I came off the bike in 3rd in M30-34.
While I came off the bike in 3rd in M30-34, I actually had no idea where I was in the race. I figured I was in the top 3 given the swim + bike combo, but knew I'd have to run well to be in contention for the win.
As I came off the bike and hustled through transition, my legs felt pretty smoked. It didn't help that mile 1 is a gradual uphill. I focused on cadence and waited for my legs to start feeling normal. I hit the mile 1 marker in 6:46. Slower than I wanted, but I stayed calm and simply tried to pick up my cadence and get back to at least 6:30/mile pacing.
As you head out towards Old San Juan, there's one main hill that comes at the end of mile 2. It's a 10% grade (try putting your treadmill at 10%!) that's maybe a quarter mile long. It's tough, but at least it ends quickly. From there, mile 3 is downhill and mile 4 is flat as you do an out-and-back along the water near the forts. I got through these first 4 miles pretty well, back at 6:30/mile pace, and my legs started to feel normal.
After the turnaround, coming back through Old San Juan means you get to climb what you previously descended, making mile 5 (and mile 11) the hardest of the race in my opinion. You're running uphill for more than half of each of these miles, and much of that is at a 5% grade. As I hit this section, my pace slowed considerably, but I still felt in control. Once over this climb, I refocused on 6:30 pace as I ran the 2 miles back from Old San Juan to the transition area.
As I came through the turnaround to start lap 2 around mile 6.5, I got directed the wrong way by one of the volunteers. Thankfully, this happened to a friend last year, so I only went about hundred yards before realizing that I had gone the wrong way (towards the finish line). While this added 30 seconds or so to my time, I started the lap 2 PISSED that I had gone the wrong way. It definitely lit a fire and I was determined to get that time back.
My pacing for lap 2 was very similar to the first go-round. I was pushing hard and the fatigue and heat of the day were setting in. As I started mile 12, I reminded myself that it was now pretty much all downhill with just 2 miles left. I wanted make them count, so really focused on holding 6:30 pace.
With about a mile left in the race, I started to slow a bit. Just as I did, I had a weird feeling that I really needed to get back on my pacing. While I had no idea what place I was in, something told me that I needed to dig deep and keep pushing.
It turns out that 1st place in my AG was just 20-30 seconds up the road. As I passed him with about a quarter mile to go in the race, I wasn't sure if he was on his first or second lap (and wasn't even sure if he was in fact 30-34, but I had a feeling). I turned towards the finish and saw that he did as well. I then really pushed it, dropping my pace to 5:35/mile for the last minute before crossing the line. I ended up beating him by just 18 seconds.
Afterwards, we had chat and he told me that we were 1 & 2 in the age group. Thankfully we both would be earning slots to 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga -- I was happy to not rob him of a slot to Worlds so late in the race. (If reading this, great racing out there Gerard!)
Run time was 1:27:36, which comes out to a 6:41/mile pace. A bit off from my goal of 6:30/mile but enough to get it done.
Slack-jawed, suffering like a dog. Big thanks to Jose Fuentes who was taking photos on the course. We didn't meet, but he somehow tracked me down and emailed me the first photo below.
Again, I was pretty happy with how things went. While I took the AG win, I missed out on landing within the Top 3 Amateur Overall rank, ultimately coming in 4th OA. Something to shoot for next time!
As I mentioned earlier, Walter took 1st in M45-49 and had the 3rd fastest amateur bike split with an absurd 2:15:46. While he put a chunk of time into me with the bike, I was able to run well enough to just barely win our bet -- my time vs. his time -10 minutes. The hot course with a tough run definitely suited me better. Even still, he bought the drinks following.
Next stop, Oceanside 70.3. A quick turnaround, with this one coming just 13 days after Puerto Rico. I'll look to share more on that in the next week or so.