Ironman 70.3 Oceanside | April 1, 2017
The 2017 Race Season has officially begun! And for those who don’t know what “my race season” is - I compete professionally in the sport of triathlon (swim - bike - run, back to back to back). Last weekend was not only my season-opener but it was Ironman 70.3 North America’s season-opener. Located in Oceanside, California, Ironman 70.3 Oceanside has long been one of the most challenging races in the 70.3 distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run) across the nation for two reasons: #1: April in California usually has a mix of weather, not to mention the cold water temps and wind factors and #2: the depth of the the PRO field. It’s the ultimate “test your winter base training agains the who’s who in triathlon. From Olympic Gold- Medalists to World Champions - this race has at least 15-20 guys who could win.
This year, the PRO male lineup did not disappoint, showcasing some of the best of the best names in the sport: an olympic gold medalist and 2x Kona winner, a world record holder for Ironman distance and possibly the most dominating force in 70.3 racing, and the most consistent long distance racer of all time and former 70.3 world champion. The first race is always daunting...but against a field like this? It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Focusing on myself and my goals for the race was the best I could do. The great thing for me is, the expectations are low, so the more stacked the field, the less pressure I feel.
Leading up the race day I was actually pretty relaxed. #PROTIP: Traveling can be stressful and we’ve found of good system of preparation and organization of the things we can control and remaining calm cool and collected on the things we can’t control. I like to arrive a couple days before race day so I can acclimate and make sure everything works, I see the course and get some good sleep in the timezone I’m racing. We flew into San Diego on Thursday before the race (the race was on Saturday). Once we arrived at the hotel and checked in, the first thing I always do is unpack my bike and build it up to make sure it got there unscathed. Sometimes its also nice to get out and move a little. I had done a morning jog before we left Boulder that morning, but I felt antsy (nerves, excitement and had been sitting quite a bit) so I got on my bike to test it out with a nice and easy 15-20 minutes ride. #PROTIP: Doing something active (anywhere from 15-30min and super easy!) always helps release built-up energy, gitters or anxiousness and helps calms you down.
Once I came back, we unpacked and organized our food and my fuel for the race (making sure we had everything we needed leading up to the race and race day). Speaking on nutrition and after my experience of an ingested bacteria infection in Buenos Aires, I was a little tighter on what I was going to eat leading into this race. Some things I do change on race week are the following: No red meat. No Dairy. One coffee per day. Zero gluten. Limit my vegetables and fruits intake. No pork. Lots of white rice and sweet potatoes. Eggs and Chicken for protein (but I make sure chicken is cooked all the way through). Increase Vitamin C. Follow my Beet-Loading Protocol (adding beet juice to my smoothies as this has shown to be super beneficial to endurance athletes). Keep rest of my diet the same. I only do these things because I have found it what works for me - everyone is different.
Upon landing and ubering to Oceanside, we made a pitstop at the Whole Foods on the way to the hotel to stock up on some basic necessities. For me, that includes: hemp milk, gluten-free bread, no sugar-added applesauce, bananas, almond butter, rice chips, chocolate (of course), etc. During race week, I make sure to have a Groothie smoothie once a day. What I love about
Groothie is that it provides me with all the great nutrients I may be losing by cutting back on my veggie and fruit intake. I also incorporate that with my beet juice protocol - which is still just as tasty! Unfortunately for traveling, it’s hard to travel with a Vitamix and all the right ingredients for a Groothie, but Whole Food can make a good green smoothie so I made sure I got one as soon as I could. It is super important to keep feeding your body what it is used to on race week. I really don't think there is much of a need to change things up too much. #PROTIP: If you are going to do the classic “carbo-load”, I find it best to do this two days prior to any event.
Thursday and Friday went by smoothly. All my pre-race training went well, a short run, bike and swim. I was able to spend some time in the Normatec Recovery Boots (which are amazing!) down at the expo thanks to the awesome people at Normatec. Friday afternoon, I he PRO Meeting (which is like a race briefing for athletes) was super chill. Even with all the world-class athletes in the room, I felt like there was just a relaxed feeling about everyone. I was excited to race.
Race morning might be the longest morning of the year. I wake up 3.5 hours before the start of the race- which means a 3:00am for a 6:45am race start. I woke up, ate my pre race morning breakfast and did my ritual medication (I find it calms me down and focuses me for the rest of the day). At 5:15am, we head down to transition (where I rack my bike and prepare my run gear). I like to get to get to transition 75minutes before the start of the race to keep my stress levels low, get a short 15 minutes jog in with some pickups to properly warm up the body, and to mentally prepare for the race ahead and how the swim-to-bike and the bike-to-run works (it’s different for every race and if done incorrectly could be a major error in the race (every second counts!). #PROTIP: It’s helpful to visualize how you will excuse your transition just like you visualize how you will execute your race.
At 6:15am (3omin before the Men’s PRO race started), I put my wetsuit on and made my way to the swim start. #PROTIP: It’s good to get in, get wet and take a couple of strokes to get your feel for the water and prep the body for the start). I got a 20-minute warm-up in, which is perfect for me. A few of us athletes had some confusion as to where we were supposed to be for the start of the race and were alerted, with 1-minute to the start (?!?!), that we needed to get out to the start line (about 100 meters away!). We swam-sprinted out to the start line but by this point all the PRO men were in position and I was forced to line up behind everyone at the back of about 45 men. The gun went off and I spent the first 200 meters in a boxing match. Ugh. I was swallowing water, getting punched and kicked, and almost in panic mode. This was not the start I was hoping for...but eventually it settled down and I relaxed into a small group of athletes. I could see the main group pulling away from us but at this point and in my position, there was little I could do at this time. I was a little bummed because that was not part of my race plan - it was one of my goals to make the front group. I remained positive and focused on doing the best I could do in that moment - and in that moment, I needed to stay with this group and get this swim done. #PROTIP: It’s SO important to maintain positive thoughts and remember that you can only try to control what you can control and make the best of every situation.
I got out in high 26 minutes, about 2 minutes to 90 seconds down from the 1st group. The good news was that I came out of the water with a solid group of guys, one of which I knew could ride well, Sam Long, so I just made sure I was going to stay with him as long as possible. Eventually a group of 6 or so guys had formed and we rode together for 30 or so miles until a couple of other riders (Sam Long included) broke away and rode off in front to make up time on the rest of the field. This was turning out to be a good ride. Just before the end of the bike leg, Sam pulled
away from me but I kept him in my sights. He was riding strong but I felt really good and my power was higher then what I had planned in my race prep. I was riding well so I just went with it. I came into T2 (T2 = transition from bike to the run) in 18th place, further back than I had hoped, but still in a good position to do some damage on the run! #PROTIP: Set process goals during a race - it not only helps you stay positive but it helps you refocus and stay present.
I had a quick T2 and running out of the transition zone felt great. Its easy to run a little too fast for the first couple miles so I always just try and relax the body as much as possible. #PROTIP: Finding your rhythm is important at the start of the run - make sure nothing feels too hard or out of control right away. I felt pressure all around me - I could see some of the PRO men in front of me and I knew there were a few guys behind me
trying who could run well. I felt good. It’s good to go in with a strategy to conquer the half marathon/the last leg of the race. My plan was to run as close to 6:00 minute mile pace for 10 miles then run the last 3.1 miles as quick as possible. I didn't pay attention to anyone else, I just ran my own race. I was averaging sub 6:00 minute pace -it felt easy and I felt better and better the more I ran so I didn't question it. When I got to mile 10 I took a couple deep breaths relaxed the shoulders and neck and committed to go hard for the last 3.1 miles. That’s where I passed a lot of guys- in the final 5k of the run. I found myself in 13th place down the finishing shoot and crossed the line running a 1:17 half marathon (one of the faster splits of the day).
It was a huge breakthrough race for me- mentally and physically. With such a deep field, I proved to myself that this year will be an exciting season of racing, that I am capable of so much more, and that this is just a start.
Race #1 done and dusted. I couldn't have had such a successful race without the amazing support of my family, my coaches and sponsors. My girlfriend, Mary, also gets a big shout out. I can’t thank them all enough.
Next up for me is Ironman 70.3 St George, which is the North American Championships. It is showcasing maybe one of the best 70.3 fields ever, and a very hard course as well. My main focus is Ironman Boulder June 11th so Ironman 70.3 St George will just be a stepping stone, but its another great opportunity to see how my training is going, and where I line up against the best in the world. Also Mary and I are renting an RV and driving there- my next post will have some awesome pictures from out trip!
Cheers and thanks for reading!