Ironman 70.3 Oceanside 2017

11:51 AM

Alternatively titled: Don't race with bronchitis.

No appetite, hardly any sleep, held together by various medications for the cough AND for allergies (thank you to the hot, windy conditions in SoCal). Thought that I was feeling better, but that was definitely not the case.

Race goals--given the current situation--were as follows, in order of importance:
A. Get to the starting line
B. Get to the finish line
C. Finish under 7:00:00
D. Beat last year's time 6:56

Race Expo
Located near the race finish line under the pier at the Junior Seau Beach Community Center. I had a hard time finding the check-in area last year, but this year I remembered to walk all the way through the expo to find the building. Standard paperwork and procedures as with any Ironman event, but this race is unique in the sense that many volunteers are from on base (US Marine Corps Camp Pendleton). The check-in process was streamlined and efficient, and I was out and reunited with Greg in no time. We checked out the SOAS Racing tent at the expo, found our friends, and went to lunch. After some last-minute bike adjustments and making sure my gear was ready for the early morning wake-up call, we headed off to rack my bike.

Pre-race visual checklist

48:20, 2:33/100m 
Zero appetite. Managed to eat a banana and three bites of oatmeal, but couldn't keep anything down--not a good sign. We walked a mile to the transition area and I felt so much dread thinking about the day ahead of me. After telling Greg "Don't let me sign up for anything ever again", I wandered through the swim corral and lined up near the 40-45 minutes sign. This turned out to be wishful thinking, because the cold morning air + salty ocean water triggered non-stop coughing spasms once in the water. Super fun. I got acquainted with two different lifeguards and almost quit on two separate occasions. Eventually I made it to the turn, got kicked in the goggles, and fought my way through the swell and the blinding sun. Every single time I popped my head up to sight, the recurring question was "Is that a buoy or a lifeguard?" I was still feeling quite miserable, and was grateful to be hauled out of the water by the nice volunteers at the boat ramp.

One of the volunteers happened to be my teammate, Megan. She unzipped my suit, recognized our team colors and my name, and started cheering! That was a much-needed boost that halted my little pity party.

Internally contemplating a DNF
I started running out of the water, to try and warm up after the swim. Greg cheered for me and I just looked at him and shook my head sadly. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was planning to turn in my timing chip and that today was the most expensive swim ever...

3:27:12, 16.22mph

The best that I felt all day

I promised myself that I would reassess at the next aid station, and bail if I was still feeling terrible. Due to some unfinished business from last year's race (a slow speed crash and a trip to the medical tent), I developed a game plan for success this time around:

Go conservative on the first half of the course.
Be patient.
Race your own race.
Stick to the nutrition plan.

The first half of the course flew by, and I made sure to follow my usual plan (25 oz Nuun Plus + 2 Nuun Cherry Limeade tabs + 3 Clif Shot Bloks Margarita/Ginger Ale) and take in enough before the big hill. Suddenly it loomed ahead of me: a big, sweeping letter S that winds upward about half a mile at a 10-12% grade. It felt like forever. My legs burned, I felt like I was standing still, and I did my best to try and (gradually) tack up the hill to make it a little easier. Finishing the climb was amazing! I did not crash, I did not fall, I did not unclip and walk like last year.

The rest of the course was rolling hills with two challenging climbs. I started taking the descents aggressively after the Basilone descent, and tried to put some time in the bank before the headwinds. I made sure to stay within the legal distance behind other athletes because the referee gave a penalty to the cyclist in front of me for drafting!

My plan for the first half paid off; a group of people in a car saw me approaching the cyclist ahead of me and yelled "PASS HIM"...I was surprised that I had the power to click into gear after gear and make the pass successfully. I leapfrogged with one of my teammates Adrienne and eventually saw another teammate, Rebecca near the closing miles of the course. It was great seeing SOAS rocking the bike course!

Where is my rack? Overall, non-eventful but I tried to mentally prepare myself for the slow and painful run ahead. I tucked a sleeve of Shot Bloks in my pocket, and threw a water bottle in the other.

2:26:45, 11:12/mile
The Oceanside run is a two-loop run course from the harbor, to the pier, down the Strand, into the neighborhoods, and back. It tends to get hot and there is minimal shade, and it is "flat and fast" with some inclines/declines going from street to beach level. The elevation changes are not a lot to write home about (compared to the bike course, naturally), but on tired legs it is just enough to break up your rhythm.

"Do I really have to run a half marathon right now?" I yelled to Greg, who smiled and waved as I was exiting T2. The energy on the run course was phenomenal; so many people cheering, so many friends along the way, and aid stations were plentiful. I was hopeful that my running legs would stick around.

On loop 2, I hit the wall. But it really felt like the wall had hit me. I actually stopped when I saw Greg (now joined by my sister) and said, "I can't do it. I don't have it today." My legs were so heavy and I had no luck moving them at a decent effort. My medicine wore off and I was definitely struggling. And very under-trained.

"You can do it! Just drink some water!" My sister suggested, waving her poster at me. I took the water out of my back pocket, poured it on my head, and started trudging along. I was at mile 8. I had suffered enough at this point and I could walk the next few miles and still make it under the cut off. Familiar faces of SOAS Racing teammates on the course both racing AND supporting, Adobo Velo cycling (Michelle, Celin, Jerold), and Buenaventura Triathlon Squad (Keith, John, Coach Britt via John's phone!) were all out on the course. So many friends, so many high fives, and it pulled me through.

Getting to the final stretch was such a relief. I could see my SOAS teammates cheering for me. Yvonne rang her cowbell and continued the team tradition of booty slapping, and when a badass group of teammates tell you to kick, you have no option to decline.

Post Race/Results

I reunited with Greg and my sister, and we all walked back to transition. Greg had been pretty accurate with tracking my progress throughout the day, and I felt instantly bad that he witnessed the slow decline of my "run" splits. But he did inform me that I beat my time by ONE MINUTE.

Swim: 58:02, ranked 50
T1: 6:21
Bike: 3:32:18, ranked 36
T2: 5:35
Run: 2:14:42, ranked 34
Total: 6:56:58

Swim: 49:20, ranked 39 (8:42 improvement, PR. Thought it was closer to 9, but math while getting to T1 is hard)
T1: 6:34
Bike: 3:27:12, ranked 28 (5:06 improvement, PR)
T2: 5:22
Run: 2:26:45, ranked 28 (+12:03)
Total: 6:55:13 (1:45 improvement, PR)

Overall, there were was a great improvement on the swim especially with all the incidents. I felt the strongest on the bike, even with no riding for about three weeks. And the run...well, I knew that was going to be rough. I had a lot of good reasons to not start. I had more reasons to quit. But I knew that deep down, I would deeply regret it if I didn't try. I surprised myself with this race, especially because it was the hardest finish that I have ever had to fight for. So far, this has to be the race that I'm most proud of because I honestly did not think I would make it to the starting line, much less the finish line.

I swore that I would never do this race again. But now that the dust has settled and I finally got some food and sleep, I'd like to take another crack at it--maybe the third time will be the charm and I'll put together a decent race in Oceanside. Also, the post-race SOAS Racing rooftop party...need I say more?

The best team around!
Due to an unfortunate yet expected relapse after last weekend's effort (how is it possible that this cough got worse?), I have been laying low and sleeping through my lunch breaks at work for the last week. I miss the swim + bike + run life, but I need to rest up and finally get through this thing.

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