With a 7 week gap between Escape Lake Geneva and Ironman 70.3 Los Cabos, I had ample time to take a recovery week, do a 4 week training block, and a full taper for the race. This training block was the biggest challenge to my mental fortitude of the entire season. As most of my team mates took their off season break, I was running on fumes. In many workouts, I failed to hold the same paces and power outputs that I had achieved routinely all season long. I had the pleasure of swimming and running with Cody Beals (I couldn't convince him to join me for a single bike ride) who planned to race Los Cabos as well. Unfortunately, a growing list of extenuating circumstances caused him to pull the plug on the race. However, having a sparring partner helped make the tougher sessions more enjoyable. Although my high end speed and power seemed to dwindle, the 70.3 specific workouts actually felt better than ever, which helped me to retain confidence. With lots of good heat training, I was set up well for a solid race to finish off the 2017 season.
The travel to Los Cabos went smoothly, and I was glad to share an Air B and B with Taylor Reid. He had a rental car when I arrived, which helped with logistics, as did his knowledge of the area and generally good organization (an area in which I sometimes lack). We managed to get our race prep sessions done on the days leading up to the race, and by race morning I felt ready for one last hard battle for this year.
The gun went off for the beach start, and I managed to have one of the better run ins. I quickly settled into the lead group of approximately 6 guys in front of me. This group stayed together until about the half way mark of the swim, at which point 4 guys pulled away, they were Terenzo Bezzone, Matt Chrabot, Kevin Collington, and Tim O'Donnell. Those 4 ended up finishing the swim about a minute ahead of myself and 3 others, including Luke Mckenzie and the local favourite Francisco Serrano.
I had a good transition, getting onto the bike right behind Luke. The first 500 meters of the bike course was up a fairly steep hill, where I quickly passed him and set the pace. Once up the hill and onto the main highway, the course had constant rolling hills, but nothing overly steep, and a couple longer uphill sections. I focused on maintaining a strong initial effort, with 2 goals. The first was to drop the athletes who exited the water with me, the second to catch the leading group. So, I tried to hold 300 watts until the situation suggested otherwise. After 10 minutes, I looked back and saw that I had nobody in tow, goal number 1 accomplished. This was also around the time I caught a glimpse of two athletes up the road, roughly 45 seconds ahead. This motivated me to hold the pace, and I managed to do so, catching Tim O'Donnel and Kevin Collington after 40 minutes of riding, with an average power of 298 watts, goal number 2 accomplished. I hadn't really planned beyond that, so I quickly formed a new plan, work with Kevin and Tim to stay as close to the leaders as possible, and to distance ourselves from any chasers. (For those who may not yet know, riding at the legal 12 meter distance still provides some drafting benefit, which essentially turns Ironman brand races into a "semi draft legal" affair.) We saw Terenzo and Matt at the turn around, they were roughly 2 minutes ahead. We also saw that we had about 3 minutes to our nearest chaser. For the rest of the bike, I spent roughly 40-50% of the time at the front, working fairly hard but not over extending myself. I had a minor issue with my chain dropping, it would come off if I pedaled hard in my biggest gear for some reason. I was able to get in back on without stopping, so this really only slowed me down a little bit on the downhill sections. The three of us finished the bike 2:30 behind the leading pair, and 5 minutes ahead of the nearest chaser Kennett Peterson.
I got onto the run course a few seconds behind Tim and a few seconds ahead of Kevin. My plan was to let them set the pace and try to hang on, but it became immediately evident that I'm not quite ready to run with those guys. I tried not to get discouraged as they slowly disappeared from sight, and focused on my own effort. It was hot, about 27 degrees at the beginning of the run and climbing. Despite being dropped by Kevin and Tim, I did feel strong and I was happy with the pace I was running. I saw Terenzo, Matt, Tim, and Kevin all increasing their lead on me at each turn around, and I saw that no chasers were gaining significant time on me. I ran hard even though it wouldn't change my placing, because I wanted to see how close I could finish to the top dogs. After the first of two laps, I was still feeling good so I increased the effort slightly. I happened to start my second lap just as a fast age group athlete (Matt Woodrow) was starting his first, and we ended up running the entire lap together, taking turns setting the pace. This helped me maintain focus, and I was able to actually have a slight negative split. I have previously struggled in the last 5km of the run, so I was very happy to see that. I crossed the line in 5th place, in 3:55:53. 7th in the swim, 3rd on the bike, and 7th on the run.
I was really happy with my performance on the swim, bike, and run. Only a 1 minute deficit to the leader was my best non wet suit swim of the year. On the bike, I held only 5 watts off my best average power despite a lot of sketchy sections where I was coasting and the challenging heat. I ran a similar speed to my other 70.3 races in the hottest conditions of the year. Unfortunately, my temporary room mate Taylor had an off day. On his best day I know he'd be right up there with the podium contenders.
All in all it was a successful trip and a great note on which to end the 2017 season. Stay tuned for a season recap post coming soon!