Starting with Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 and I hope for every race from now on, I will write 2 different posts. One of race report and then a race review with recommendations, things I learned that nobody told me about or couldn’t find online. I hope this will be helpful for people wondering how the race is.
Travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico
I landed in San Juan on Thursday at 1:30am after some delays leaving JFK, even though the day was absolutely beautiful. As soon as I landed I knew that I had to go to baggage claim because I tracked my bags, using the Delta App and I knew at least one of my bags had not made it. I checked 3 bags for this trip, 2 housed my bike (1 bag for the frame and 1 for the wheels). I am trying out the Ruster Sports Armored Hen House, which I’ll have a review for. The third bag was my regular luggage with my helmet, clothes, shoes, etc. Something happened in Denver that only 1 of the 3 bags made it to Puerto Rico with me, one I wasn’t going to get until later that day and the other one had been rerouted through Atlanta and was waiting for me in San Juan. After filling out the missing bag report and waiting for my bag, I finally made it to the hotel around 2:30am. The rest of Thursday, Friday and Saturday were uneventful, more details on what to do and where to train on my race review. Tried to sleep in on Thursday but was up by 8am, worked from the hotel and waited for the last bag so that I could finish putting the bike together. After getting the bag at around 3pm the bag finally made it. I finished putting the bike together and headed out for a quick ride.
I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which is 1KM away from the swim start. However T1 is another Kilometer away, making it 2KM from my hotel. So that morning while I was getting ready I decided to take a cab to T1, knowing that I was still going to have to walk to the swim start. It was a weird morning because I woke up at 4:45am, but my wave didn’t start until 7:40am so 3 hours later. I didn’t really eat anything when I was getting ready, just started hydrating. While getting all my things ready, I double checked everything, especially making sure that I have both my cycling shoes as well as my running shoes. Once I made sure those were in my bag, I headed out. After a quick 5 minute cab ride I was at T1. My Garmin had malfunctioned the night before and I had to reset it, so, sure enough, when I tried to pair it to my bike I kept getting a message that there were too many other power meters around. For those of you that don’t know for Puerto Rico 70.3 you must check your bike in the night before, this is what the transition area looked like on Saturday.
I took my bike from the rack and went as fast as I could so that it wouldn’t read any other computers. It was very dark still so I was worried I was going to be biking without a computer, but after the first attempt it paired. Feeling relieved I racked my bike again and made sure that everything else was ready. About 10 minutes before 6am, which is when they closed T1 I started walking back. At this time I ate a little and continued hydrating. By 6:05am I was at the swim start waiting for the professional triathletes to start, but their wave didn’t start until 6:40am. Being too early to warm up I just sat there waiting, watching other people. I did watch both male and female pros start and then I decided it was time to start getting ready. The first thing I put on, was my timing chip, this year they have changed it completely, it is very large but I now it’s disposable, so you don’t have to take it off at the end of the race and make sure you return it. I did see that a couple of pros had to get out of the water and have one of the volunteers use duct tape to secure it in place. The announcer said not to use a pin as it would mess it up, interesting disposable concept, but I feel it’s a little too big. It was annoying throughout the race.
On the other side of the street from the start there is another beach, which makes it very easy for warming up, I put my tri suit on, my swim skin the Viper Pro from Roka, and started to warm up. I swam out about 200 meters and back twice, I felt that was going to be enough for the day. By the time I made it back to the start I saw that my wave was starting to line up. We went through the timing chip mat and heard that familiar constant beep. Got in the water and I started making my way through to the front of the pack. I just didn’t want to get kicked and I figured that if there was going to be someone faster than me, they’ll have to go either around or through me. Nobody could touch the bottom but I did get kicked a lot while I was waiting. I don’t really understand why people spend so much energy just trying to stay afloat before a race starts. Just relax, you might have to use your hands a little to stay up but there is no need to use your legs much. If you have never tried this and you know that the swim start will be in the water, you should try this in the pool.
Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 Swim
When the gun went off I was maybe 3-4 people behind and people were kicking hard as usual, I decided not to push it and waited about 100 meters to start moving around them. I did notice that a couple of people tried to get on my wake to try to draft, their hands kept brushing against my arms and body, it was a little annoying so I kicked harder for about 20 strokes and then I breathed to both sides and I didn’t see anyone next to me. By the 3 buoy I was by myself, I felt pretty good in the water. After 2 or 3 more buoys, I started passing people from the wave that started 5 minutes earlier. I was really hoping to have a little more time by swimming by myself, but it was not to be. Once I started passing other waves, there wasn’t a gap of people until I came out of the water. At the first turn around I looked back but couldn’t see any white caps (my wave). This felt good but I started wondering if I might have been going a little too hard. I started to concentrate on leaning my stroke out, it was hard at times as people were popping in front of me pretty often. With about 400 meters to go you go underneath a bridge. The bridge you see on the first picture of this post. As I was about to swim underneath the bridge, I swam over of someone else. I felt bad, but he was swimming at a 90 degree angle from where I was swimming, didn’t see him in front, he came from the left side and I breathe to my right. The next thing I knew I was using him as a paddle on the side of his torso, quickly looked back and I saw him stop and realize he was going almost in the opposite direction. As it has been the case in the past, the closer I got to the swim exit the more people that were around me, I was trying to save as much energy as possible so I slowed down a little. The swim exit was a nice ramp, no stairs and there were volunteers on both sides of the ramp giving everyone a hand. I grabbed one hand and he/she, can’t remember, helped me get over the ramp in 2 steps. The run to the bike was long, about 600 meters on pavement. I saw 3 different people stop and put either shoes or sandals on. Picture below shows the shoes waiting. I giggled and continued running. It was pavement, but it wasn’t rough enough for people to have to wear shoes to get to their bikes. I remembered all the stories of people burning their feet at T2 for Ironman Boulder the previous year, and thought this would have been a good way to avoid that. For the first time, in a triathlon, I didn’t feel out of breath coming out of the water, I felt fresh. During the run to T1 I zipped down my swim skin to my waist (remember this). Took off my cap and goggles and held them in my hands. Usually when I’m wearing a full wetsuit I take off the cap and goggles and as I roll down the top part of the suit I leave the cap and goggles in the sleeve so I don’t lose them. Felt a little weird not being able to do that this time but just made me hold on to the cap and goggles a little tighter.
Got to my bike, dropped my cap and goggles, put on my helmet, put my socks on, double checked that my bike shoes were still clipped on to the pedals, where I had left them, un-racked the bike and ran out to the bike exit. Jumped on the bike, started pedaling and after I had gotten some momentum I slid my feet in the bike shoes. As soon as I got to the first turn I felt a little tightness around my thighs. I looked down and….I realized I had left my swim skin on. You can see it on the picture below.
Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 Bike
What a dummy…I completely forgot to take it off. At that moment I decided I was going to have to ride with it. I laughed out loud and thought: “It almost seems that I have to do something stupid like this in order to make my race reports more interesting”. The suit felt pretty comfortable so I just tried to forget about it, I rolled up the top of the suit as best as I could inside so it wouldn’t be flapping. Once that was done, I got on my aero bars and started pushing. Coming out of T1 the road is not very wide so as I was passing people there were some spots it got a little dangerous as everyone was trying to pass each other; it made it hard to go around them. I was feeling pretty good and it wasn’t until mile 10 that I caught up to someone that was riding about my speed, after I passed him, he waited 30 seconds and he passed me back. We continued like this until about mile 17, when the first person from my age group passed me, he was going so fast that I felt I was standing still, immediately looked down at the computer and saw that I was going about 25 mph, he must have been going 30 mph, that was a little disheartening, knowing that there was absolutely no chance I was going to catch back up to him. Before the first turn around I got passed by 2 other guys my age group. It must feel so good passing someone your age group on the bike…I haven’t really experienced this, so I can only imagine. This is the down side of coming first out of the water. I was averaging about 24.2 mph so I figured that I had a tail wind the whole time, after the turnaround I was surprised to see my average only dropped to 23.9 mph, but it was mostly because of the course, not so much the wind. I was still feeling pretty good at this point. The road is not the best but it’s actually better than I had expected, although I did see some lost water bottles, spare tubes and random stuff on the ground. As soon as I turned for the second loop I completely lost count on how many people my age group had passed me. I had counted 7 before that point. After the last turn, on the way back to transition the wind had really picked up. I could feel it in my legs, I was trying to push the pedals and my legs were simply not responding. I had 20 miles to get back to T2, it was at this point that I realized that it was going to be a longer day that I had expected. My speed went down significantly and my power did also, even though I felt like I was pushing harder. For some reason at this point I started feeling a pinch on my butt only the left side, right were my saddle hits it. As I tried to move around to get rid of it, my left thigh also started to tighten up and started feeling a pinch there as well, not a cramping pinch but more of an overworked muscle pinch. The way back was long, trying to fight the wind, saw a couple of other guys my age group pass me, got even more frustrated. Going back to T2 all I wanted was to get off the bike. I don’t remember another 70.3 when I felt this poorly. Got off my bike, surprisingly I was able to run to my spot, racked the bike took off my swim skin, helmet. Put my running shoes on, visor, sunglasses and number. I had to pee and I hadn’t tried to pee on the bike because I had to swim skin still on, so I decided it was a good time to visit the bathroom, maybe the pain in my butt would also go away while I was standing there. The pain didn’t really go away, but my legs didn’t feel that bad, so I just decided to man up and continue.
Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 Run
The run goes up a bridge immediately after coming out of T2, that hurt, then downhill and another uphill right after the first aid station. At the aid station I grabbed water and ice water, drank the water and poured the ice water on my head, it felt so good, it made me feel like I had just woken up. It was amazing.
This is what you can find on the Ironman.com website:
The first really steep hill comes at mile 2, the only good thing about this hill is that you can really feel a breeze when you are going up, it’s very refreshing, plus it’s shaded. Then you rest for 200 meters and you go back up. Then as you come to old San Juan and you start running on cobblestone you realize that coming back this very steep hill will not be pretty. I came around the castle and it seemed that the out and back from behind the castle wasn’t going to be that bad, but every time I came to a turn and could see in front, I realized that it just kept going and going. This is the toughest part mentally as there is no shade and it’s a false flat going up. I could feel my heart rate going up and my pace slowing down. Finally, as I got to the turnaround, it was so weird, it was completely empty there was nobody there, I looked around and the volunteers were under an umbrella trying to stay cool, at this point it had gotten very warm. I chucked to myself and thought…”I want to go hang out there, at least for a little bit”. The cobblestone hill was worse than I thought, as I reached a little break I passed a lady and said to myself out loud: “That hurt more than I expected” she replied “Yes it did”, that made me laugh and gave me a little boost. The way back felt very long, I just kept thinking: “one foot after the other”. At every aid station I would grab as much water and ice as I could, drink some and dunk the rest on my head to try to keep cool. I knew I was running slowly but there wasn’t anything I could do to speed up, I kept trying but my legs never really responded. As I came to the half way point I knew that I had 4 tough hills coming up, so I just kept trying to keep the same pace. The second time around, as I ran up the first steep hill, nobody was running up it. I almost walked it also, but remembered that my wife had told me earlier that morning, in a video she had recorded, that I’d better not walk, so I just raised my head and ran up the hill, slowly but ran. My legs burned so badly, but the break felt great, I was able to lower my heart rate pretty quickly and continued running. I passed about 3 guys in my age group, which felt absolutely amazing. As I was running up the cobble stone hill for the last time, after the turn around all I could think of was that after that hill it was all going to be downhill. Of course I was lying to myself, but it was all I could do to keep myself going. I was somehow able pick up the pace the last 2 miles. I guess the fear of more guys my age group passing, kept me going.
With 500 meters to go I realized that I had to run up the first bridge again, this killed me mentally luckily it wasn’t very long, but it hurt a lot. Came down on the other side and I could finally see the finish line, there was nobody in front or behind me, so I tried to run as fast as I could, the announcer said my name as I was crossing the finish line and I felt so relieved that I had finished. At a couple of spots on the race I thought I might not finish.
It was a great learning experience, wasn’t the result I was hoping for but I still think it was a great way to start the season; I am more motivated than ever to improve. I ended up coming out of the water first in my age group with a time of 25:42 almost 2 minutes ahead of the second person. Had a pretty rough bike, although it was faster than my previous bike splits at 2:24 and my run simply hurt at 1:41 for a total time of 4:37 which is good enough for 15th in my age group and 62nd overall. This was my first race without my wife or girls with me, I have to say it was very hard not being able to share this experience with them, but it was amazing to get back to the hotel and check my phone. I had a ton of messages and calls. There is nothing better to see all that after a long day. Now I will rest up, my body is tired and start to train for IM Boulder 70.3. I would like to thank my wife Christelle for all the support, my coach Eric Kenney for preparing me for the race, Kompetitive Edge my triathlon team and to Roka Sports for providing the Swim Skin Viper Pro Swimskin, which is amazing!