Usually my race reports begin more as self-prescribed therapy diatribes about my mental state. But since I already got that out of my system with a forthcoming column on Lava Magazine’s website, I’ll cut straight to the race itself.
I woke up somewhat naturally at 4 a.m. after six hours of decent sleep. I was alarmingly calm, if there is such a thing. I couldn’t tell if I was super tired or had simply flushed my emotions out of my system. I decided to remain positive and presume the latter.
Speaking of flushing, most people can guess if they’re going to have a good race by how they feel in the morning – whether it’s jitters or lack thereof in their stomach. Me, well, if I poop four or more times before the race…it’s going to be a great day. I went an insane six times before the starting gun so by the race start I was downright giddy!
Apologies for that last paragraph. Only in triathlon can people get excited about pooping before the sun comes up.
Steph and I arrived at the race course by 5:10 a.m. and got a great parking spot. For those of you doing IM 70.3 Oceanside in the future, I do suggest an early arrival even if your wave starts late. Parking is hard to find, and if you don’t have to worry about it post-race you’ll be glad. Just pack extra warm, bring an extra water bottle to stay hydrated, and maybe bring an extra snack. I ate oatmeal with almonds, honey, raisins and cinnamon in my hotel room at 4:30, had half a wheat bagel with almond butter right before 5 and ate a banana about one hour before my wave started at 6:58 a.m. That turned out to be just the right amount of nutrition.
Time snuck up quick, and suddenly I was three waves away from starting. My wife spotted me in the sea of orange swim caps and we said our temporary goodbyes. Of course, that diverted me from obsessing over how once again how I was among the shortest in my group. The bigger they are….right?!
Swim: 1.3 miles, 33:55, 1:29/100-yard pace
Air Temp: Approximately high 50s
Water Temp: Approximately low 60s
Current/Chop: Low to moderate, glassy going out, slight chop coming back
When it was time to get in the water, I quickly dunked my goggles so they’d not fog up against my warmer body temperature, and of course I promptly peed in my wetsuit. I dunked first, ha!
No sooner had I swam towards the front of the starting “line” then I heard the countdown to begin the race. I couldn’t believe how calm I was still. No nerves, all emotional stillness. That was a victory in itself, let alone having the confidence to start my swim amongst the faster folks knowing I’d probably get swum over.
The horn blasted and off we all went. There was some light jostling but nothing brutal. I was able to get into a quick rhythm, sight easily and relax into my groove. I sighted every 10-12 strokes heading out towards the first turnaround because the buoys were so easy to spot. The sun was rising on our back-right side, so it illuminated the yellow buoys. I could tell I was really swimming well but knew that would change once we turned out of the harbor with more resistance and chop. And it did. I had a harder time sighting off the red turn buoys, partially because I didn’t read the race guide and forgot I should be looking for red buoys to begin with. Rookie move. On the return towards shore, I sighted a LOT more, as in about every 6-8 strokes. This slowed my pace but we were swimming into the sun a bit and I couldn’t quite see the buoys in front of me. Here’s another rookie mistake. You’re swimming parallel to the harbor seawall. Just freaking stay aligned with that! You really don’t even need to sight that much if you keep the seawall somewhat close to your right side. So I wound up following people more than I prefer. In addition, the water was filled with green and blue swim caps from previous waves. On one hand I was excited to be passing these people as it demonstrated how far my swim has progressed. But some of them were borderline panicky and would grab and cling to my legs, arms or shoulders if we were too close. Not cool, guys.
About 500 yards to the finish, I could feel my right calf and left adductor start to twitch. I couldn’t tell if it was from the cold water or other swimmers grabbing my legs. It didn’t matter though as I started to worry I’d cramp and lose momentum. Sure enough, with about 20 yards to the boat dock, my right calf seized up on me. I had to one-leg kick to shore and grab a volunteer to help me stand. I knew I’d be fine once I put pressure on the ground, so I didn’t panic. I saw the race clock at 33:49 on my swim time, smack in the middle of my projected range of 32-36 minutes.
I’m very happy with my swim, even though I came out of the water in 80th in my age group (out of 400-plus). Then, I saw from multiple people's data and my own the swim must've been around 1.3 miles instead of the normal 1.2. That was even more encouraging for me, actually. I’ve been working hard in the pool the last several weeks and my coach, Gerardo Barrios, helped me with a much more efficient kick that I think propelled me through the water better. There isn’t much I’d change about this swim except for reviewing the race guide more in depth. I’m excited to continue my swim work and improve more this season.
Bike: 2:46:31, 20.1 mph
Air temperature: Approximately 59 degrees
Wind: Variable around 5+ mph
In T1, it took me a while as usual to get out of my wetsuit and put on my shoes. One of these days I’ll start trying flying mounts. OK, maybe not. 3:52 later, I was on the bike, struggling to clip in to my pedals after recently receiving a warranty pair of Fizik F1 shoes. I made a spontaneous decision to not put on arm warmers despite the morning chill, stuffing them inside my Wattie Ink jersey instead to keep my chest warm.
The ride was uneventful through the first 20 miles. I was very pleased with my pacing and right on track to finish in 2:40, my goal time. Then, the backside of Camp Pendleton happened.
I forgot how deceptively hilly this course is!
I took it very easy on most anything resembling a hill the first half of the course. I was concerned I’d blow up on the run, and that was my not-so-secret weapon this year. I wanted to see what I could do after riding nearly 60 miles and hoped for a sub-7 minute pace. As a result, I kept my watts and heart rate constantly in check until roughly mile 30. At this point, I knew I had room to play with my Normalized Power – the data that tells you overall how hard you’re riding. Gerardo said I could ride with an NP up to 185 and I was still in the high 170s. So I started pushing to my FTP zone on bigger hill climbs and sustained that effort without overdoing it. By that point though I had lost precious time…I was off my pace by about 10 minutes and threatening to have an overall slower ride than when I raced Oceanside two years ago.
That would not be acceptable. My watts rose steadily and as we left the base I turned up the effort even more the last six miles. I cruised back towards T2 almost seven minutes slower than I had hoped. My legs were mostly fresh though, even though I experienced a few minor twitches in my adductors along the way. I had flashbacks from Ironman Boise 70.3 last year, where I rode so hard that I had to walk the half-marathon. I didn’t want that to happen again.
In the end, my Variable Index, which measures my power consistency, was dead on. The goal is to be between 1.0 (essentially perfect) and certainly less than 1.1. I was 1.05. Looking back, I think I rode slower by choice more than anything, though perhaps my nutrition could have been better. I drank one 20oz bottle of sports drink, one bottle of water, two Honey Stinger waffles (160 calories each), half a banana and four salt tablets. That’s roughly 500 calories consumed while I expended 1,900. I could have eaten another waffle and even a Bonk Breaker on top of that, or included honey in my drinks. However, I was not very hungry after my large pre-race breakfast so who knows. That breakfast probably gave me 700-plus calories. Nonetheless, I need to continue working on my race nutrition.
Finally, if I were to do Oceanside 70.3 next year, I’d train for it a little differently. I’d focus on attacking hillier climbs later in my ride, and possibly incorporating some harder bricks off greater bike efforts. I probably rode flat more than I should have in training.
Run: 1:33:55, 7:10 pace
Air temperature: 63 degrees, slight breeze
Shoes: Newton BoCo AT
At last, the run. I’ve spent the last four months heavily focused on improving my run technique and speed. My perceived success or failure of the race would hinge on it. As I ran out of T2 in a sorta decent 1:52, I quickly calculated that I needed to run a 1:30 half marathon to break five hours. Or something along those lines. My strategy going in was to follow Gerardo’s plan: Run the first two miles at 7:15, and drop five seconds per mile off that pace every two miles so by the end of the race I’d be running sub-6:50 miles.
It didn’t quite work out that way, but I came close. I actually chose not to force the pace but rather accept what my body was willing to offer. Again, I was afraid of cramping and ruining my day. Damn, there’s that “fear” word again! Still I was happy with what was turning out to be a very, very consistent 7:08-7:10 pace. Mile after mile, small hill after hill, I kept cranking out a pace that felt strong but relaxed. Confident, but not agitated. More important, I could focus on having fun, encouraging others, and not suffering. I was moving at a fast enough pace where I was mentally satisfied and still physically challenged to stay focused. I suppose that’s my sweetspot, and hence why most of my run was actually in my temp zone 3 heart rate. Nutrition-wise, I felt fine throughout the run. I stayed hydrated with water and cola at every aid station, and took two gels -- one at mile 3 and the other around mile 10.
Originally, my intent was to wait until mile 10 and turn up the heat on my pace. However, there’s still some decent grades on the back part of the course and I lost a tiny bit of momentum there. But I found my friend Sebastian, whom I was trying to reach the entire race. When I finally caught up to him at mile 11, I sped up for a bit and thought I was home free to enjoy a relaxed sub-5 finish.
I had no idea how close I was to blowing the whole thing.
I did run hard in mile 12 and into mile 13, but as I headed into the finisher’s chute I started to slow down and enjoy the moment. Big smiles, lots of high fives, maybe some arm swoops to rev up the crowd. Meanwhile, Seb was barreling down the chute behind me and almost caught me! Ryan, stop with the showboating!!!!
I finished the run with an 11-minute PR for my fastest-ever half marathon. But I only landed sub-5 by four seconds!
I’m stoked on my run performance, but a little disappointed in my effort. I didn’t quite push as hard as I could have. As you can see from my run data, this was mostly a tempo effort. And I felt great at the end of the race. As in I could have run another five miles at least at that pace. So, how do I push myself to work harder? Now that I know I can run in the low 1:30s at a half Ironman event, I think it will be easier to push. Now the goal is high 1:20s!
Overall, I’m very happy with my Ironman 70.3 Oceanside performance. I landed on the tail end of my expected time (4:47-5:00), felt relaxed and refreshed throughout the day and wasn’t really sore the day after the race. I’m eager to get back to training and have an extra spring in my step that normally doesn’t exist two days after a tough race. I certainly feel different than after Bandit!