IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico recap...

I looked forward to this race all winter, as is typically the case with my first race of the season. My coach James Loaring and I decided this would be a good first race to get my feet wet at the 70.3 distance among stiff competition. The start list included several Olympians, and several more 70.3 and IRONMAN veterans. I knew that on paper I would be able to compete well, but with a lack of 70.3 experience I decided not to set a specific place or time goal. It was all about gaining experience and making sure I just GIVE’ER.

The few days leading up to the race were surprisingly busy. My dad came with me for the trip and helped a lot with logistics and costs (by helped a lot I mean he paid for pretty much everything). Thanks for all your help dad! By race morning I had a good understanding of the course and the race plan, so there was nothing left to do but execute!

The swim conditions were relatively calm, and the start was crowded which worried me a little. After the first few strokes I ended up with lots of space. I got on some feet and I actually stayed on the same feet for the whole swim! It was the perfect draft, just a little easier of an effort than if I swam it solo, but certainly moving quicker than I would have on my own.I got out of the water in the chase pack, with 5 athletes ahead and only about 1:30 down from the leaders! I quickly put on my “swim to bike” running shoes for the 500m run to transition. This actually ended up being a mistake as I lost a few positions to athletes who ran barefoot. But I managed what I THOUGHT was a good transition and got on the bike second from that pack.

Taylor Reid quickly passed me and I decided to stay 12m back from him to let him set the pace. Around then, I noticed a flapping noise and looked down to find my speed suit was still on. I took it half way off running to the bike and forgot to take it off the rest of the way, “oh CRAP” (perhaps not the exact word used at the time). As I wiggled my way back into the suit as quickly as possible, Paul Ambrose went by. Once the suit was on, I put in a surge to bridge up to Ambrose and decided to stay 12m behind him, who was 12m behind Reid. “OK now time to settle in, I’ll just look down and grab a drink from my bottle with 110 grams of carbs aaaaaand it isn’t there….FRIG” (Again, it may have been a slightly different word used at the time, I can’t recall).

Here I am in my “heat suit”.  Photo by Triathlete.com

Ok so now I’m doing the math, I have 700mL less fluids and 110g less carbs, so If I grab 1 bottle of Gatorade and 3-4 gels at the first aid station that should get me back on track, or close enough. So I rode in my speed suit (which became more of a heat suit) 12m behind Ambrose until the first aid station about 20km into the ride. To that point the effort was appropriate, about 285 watts on average, and Reid remained ahead with no intent on letting us pass. I yelled for gels and slowed at the aid station to a near stop, only 1 of the about 15 volunteers had gels, she had one gel, and I didn’t see her until I was past her. I managed to get a Gatorade at least, but by the time I re accelerated I was at least 20 seconds down on the duo ahead. I then worked very hard to try to bridge, later analysis showed 318 watts for 5 minutes, but I made up no time. For those who may not know, there is actually a significant drafting benefit 12m behind the athlete in front. I was surprised at how big of a difference it made, though I also think Reid may have strategically put in a well timed surge at that aid station.

I settled in to my race effort of 285'ish watts for the next 30km (my average power at the end of the bike was 277 watts and normalized power 282 watts), I saw Reid and Ambrose pulling away but tried not to let it phase me. Another bottle bounced out so I had to hit the 2nd aid station for yet another Gatorade. About 45km into the ride, the next pack of 4 riders caught me, Reid and Ambrose had caught the 2 leaders ahead (Kanute and Potts). I fed off the energy of this pack of now 5. 4 of the 5 of us took our turns at the front, but on the second lap of the bike we had to weave around the age group athletes which slowed us down some. The 5 of us finished the bike all fairly close together, a little under 4 minutes down from the 4 leaders.

I promptly had a terrible transition, I put one sock and shoe on before realizing I had yet again forgotten to take off my “darn speed suit!”. My T2 was 42 seconds slower than eventual race winner Taylor Reid, to put it into perspective.

I started the run in 8th place, and quickly passed 1 guy to take 7th place. From there it was a long, lonely, tough run. I paced conservatively despite feeling pretty good, becauseI knew the hills and heat would catch up with me in the second half.

On the run, photo by Triathlete.com

The guys in 6th and 5th were moving faster than me but Paul Ambrose was fading a bit from 4th (over 4 minutes ahead to start the run). Although I paced well, the long day still got the better of me and I faded slightly in the second half of the run. I finished 7th, in 3 hours, 57 minutes, and 26 seconds.

Overall I was happy with the physical performance. I held my own in a very competitive field which I am proud of. The mental performance left something to be desired. To prevent the bottle issue, I will use an elastic to secure my bottle from now on. As far as the speed suit goes, I found it pretty uncomfortable during the swim and I doubt it made me any faster because of that. I don’t think I will use one again as shoulder flexibility and range of motion is probably more important than the drag savings it provides. If I do go back to using one, I certainly won’t try wearing it on the bike again.

Well that’s it! My first IRONMAN 70.3 in the books. Next up is St. Anthony’s Olympic Distance Triathlon, followed by St. George 70.3 North American Championships.

Thanks for reading!