2,400 words of Passion and Love.
In July 2017 while still living in Alice Springs, Australia, but knowing that in just under 3 weeks we would be moving to Tucson, Arizona, we decided to sign up for 70.3 Oceanside. Located between San Diego and Los Angeles, we knew the race was legendary for the quality of talent, the course, and its location. By December, we had been proud owners of our 2017 33’ Forest River Forester RV for 3 months and I booked us in at the Olive RV Resort, 20min from the race start. In October we competed in and placed in the Bartlett Lake Olympic Triathlon outside of Phoenix, known as the hardest Olympic in Arizona. We decided to make a week long holiday out of it and planned on volunteering at the event. And finally, in the weeks leading up to our holiday, Fiona’s 3 Masters courses required internet access so I searched KOAs between Phoenix and Oceanside and settled on Palm Springs, California. So there you have it, our 9 day/8 night RV and 70.3 holiday adventure.
I put together a 6 month training plan for the first part of 2018 which included my complete 1:27 half marathon, three 70.3’s and a 5K. But, I haven’t followed any of it. Instead, I’ve focused on training as much as I can building up the volume and focusing on running as much as I can. I’m not in as flexible a situation as I was previously which has caused my 20-30 hour training weeks to be reduced to 10-16 hours. I also haven’t done any quality training in the pool or on the run and my diet hasn’t been ideal. It’s for these reasons that I don’t know what I’m capable of tomorrow but I’m positive and looking to have fun.
So we left last Saturday driving 3 hours north to Barlett Lake, AZ. We went paddle boarding and running and camped in the RV along the beach. The water was down 50’ so there was plenty of room for the ton of campers on this Easter Weekend. We volunteered from 4AM till 12PM at the triathlon and earned free entry into the next Olympic in October. The location is incredibly beautiful and the course is downright brutal. We did an 11 mile run climbing 1,500’ along the roads of asphalt and dirt. We did more paddle boarding with Sydney onboard. On Easter we watched Passion of the Christ.
We drove another 5 hours to Palm Springs, CA and stayed at the great KOA which had 3 hot springs hot tubs that went up to 104F. We also ran up dirt trails into the mountains on the edge of Joshua Tree National Forest. We did 3 rides along routes in which thousands of cyclists have ridden dominated by Professional Cyclists on Strava. After, we headed to the Skytram ride which rotates along its 6,000’ climb to the top. We hiked through the 50,000 acre forest to incredible views from 8,500’ above the desert floor. Then, it was on to SoCal where we headed towards athlete check in and saw Lionel Sanders and Mike Riley. I had flashbacks to when I was walking down our hotel stairs in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii back in 2016 and realizing that right in front of me was Lionel about to head out for a run. For Mike, I remembered sitting in the natural hot springs outside of Taupo, New Zealand and looking over to see Mike and a Pro Triathlete.
The night before the race was a first, I went to the casino. With 3 trips to Vegas within a month of each other, I’ve gotten the bug. But I’ve really diverted away from playing Basic Strategy in Blackjack and now preferring Craps. After winning $395 the night before the race I was up nearly $3,100 in just a few days between Palm Springs and Oceanside; I was in good spirits. I was home by 9:30PM and Fi and I had whats turned into our tradition, champagne the night before the race. I had 2 glasses and in bed at 10:33pm. With out 3:29am wake up, I got just under 5 hours of sleep and 1hr22 of it was deep over 3 cycles. (TIP: I’ve been wearing my Garmin 920XT to bed and GarminConnect.com shows very interesting sleeping insights). The last interesting thing that happened that night was I saw lots of runners while driving home. Turns out the 200mile Ragnar Relay from LA to San Diego had a leg stop right outside our RV park, I saw hundreds of runners and their famous vans. It was very very random.
We were up 3hours 20minutes before the race. I had half a jar of applesauce, 2 slices of toast, and a regular red bull. Timing Chip and Blue Camo Wattie Suit on. We left around 4AM and were the 2nd car in the parking structure near the race finish. We grabbed our transition gear and decided to walk the 20minutes to transition. (Their were shuttles we didn’t know of, but the warm up was a good idea as it was quite cool.) We arrived before transition opened which was a first and then set up our areas. (IM Towel in front of bike. Brand new never worn, Altra Torins, run socks on them, Rudy Wing 57 helmet with visor attachment at the ready. Cleats on bike, Garmin turned on, 3 shot bloks and 1.5 cans of coke on the bike = 800 calories, bib on race belt with 6 salt tablets and BOOM gel, and 2 HOT SHOTs (Craig Alexanders recipe to prevent cramps with seal removed and another M&M canister with 8 more salt tablets.
We sat on the curb at the entrance to the race with our wetsuit half way up to stay warm and watched the 3,000 age groupers and Pro’s head in like Jan Fordeno and Heather Jackson bringing their bikes in. We finally checked in our bag, drank out 200mg caffeine ARO supplement, and tried to make down the 400meter line up getting as close into the 30-35min swim seed we could. As we neared the start, hand in hand, Fiona and I spotted the race leaders emerge out of the water, Jan Frodeno and Tim Reed. Then it was our turn. The rolling start was great leading 5 athletes into the water, down the boat ramp every few seconds. I said another I love you to Fiona and wouldn’t see her for another 3 ½ hours.
SWIM 1.2 miles (1.9KM): 29:37, 1:33/100m
*3rd fastest 70.3: 27:15 Half Vermont Journey 2010, 27:33 Geelong Australia 2015, and < 30:49 Tempe Arizona 2017
After a nice start in January, swimming volume and days has decreased. I also removed any 100’s and focused on just swimming. So my 1km – 4.2km workouts typically involved 1k warm up free/non free, 500m-1km sculling and drills, 1km free with pull buoy, 1km with pull and paddles, and 200m kick. I have no desire to swim in the AM and in the PM I’m focused on 10mile runs or quality bike sessions. I had gone 30:49 in Tempe only 5 months ago in a flat lake. I thought I could go 31-33minutes.
For me, race day brings a different mentality. One that has focus and belief that I don’t always have in training. I took off focusing on form and keeping it light. I felt strong, powerful, and started passing poorly seeded people early on. 5min in, my Garmin was tapped and went from Swim to T1 so I wouldn’t have a good garmin profile of the swim but should know my time when emerging. I also knew not to press Lap until exiting T1. There were many swimmers and the 62C water felt cold but tolerable. The salty water was quite salty giving my heaving legs additional lift. I felt like I was moving fast and when I focused on kicking my feet, was immediately propelled. For my swim, this kick is critical and really is what helps me shave the minutes off. I had good lines to the inside and even with 500meters to go was swimming into the back of a guy doing breast stroke. I emerged breaking 30minutes and pretty stoked with that result. How did I go faster than Arizona? I think it was the salt water.
Nothing special, it was long. I took garmin off wrist and held in mouth. Wetsuit off from strippers. At bike put down 1 hot shot and headed to line. The ARO was now going to kick in, the engine was primed and ready to go.
Bike 56 miles: 2:32:08, 286NP, 269Avg Power, 1.06 VI, 90%Intensity Factor (317FTP), 3.26w/kg, 2,415’climb
For the bike, I had one goal, ride as hard as I could for as long as I could, I didn’t care, nor truly expect bonking the run. I had auto lap every 14miles. Lap 1-4: 305NP, 299NP, 286NP, 245NP. Net Grade per lap: .1%, .1%, .4%, (.6%).
I was passing a ton of people until mile 30 and even by then I was still passing people that I wondered how they were so far ahead of me, but that’s triathlon. So the course was 1 loop that headed up the coast to start on awesome pathways. I was flying sitting on 300-330 watts for long extents. I was just pushing and working hard. I kept going back and forth with one guy on a $15K Cervelo P5X that looked pissed I was keeping up with him. I didn’t see one single draft Marshall and while drafting looked less than average, people were doing stupid shit like passing on the right. Some bunching occurred and at times I was in the draft while trying to pass 2 side by side riders.
Around the half way mark we entered Fort Pendleton. An Army Base with loads of troops out on course armed with their assault rifles; it was pretty cool and I was thankful to them. Seeing the helicopter base was cool too.
Then I saw it, hill 1. A long sweeping snake of a hill and a sign calling out the hill. I saw and said “Bring it on. Let’s do this.”. I looked at the watch and climbed for a good 4minutes at 330 watts. I was definitely huffing and puffing on its 10-15% grade. We encountered a 2nd hill of same intensity and 3:30 long, another hill at 3:30 long, and a 4th and final of 3:00 long. All were tough because my front gearing is 55/42 and my rear cogs smallest gear rubbed on my disc. During this I understood why Heather Jackson was doing 3 minute repeats of Mt Lemon; smart girl.
While I’m not satisfied in the time of a sub 2:30, and I wasn’t as nearly as competitive as I should be since my w/kg were so low as I weigh 184 pounds and the course was so hilly, I blew away my 90min peak power of 276 with a 291. And set a 60min peak power record of 296watts vs my previous of 295watts. Comparing this to my fastest 70.3 in Arizona 5 months ago, I was 11 watts higher and had much greater intensity of 90% vs 85%. And while it appears I faded with power, part of this could be the net descents during lap 4 and spinning 100RPM at 37MPH.
Ultimately the course was beautiful, way way better than Arizona 70.3 and quite challenging. But because of the intensity slipping I had a thought on 70.3 racing and comparing it to IRONMAN. The thought is that they are two completely different races, in fact, they aren’t even close. It’s like Rice and Beans. They may be served on the same plate but they look, taste, and feel completely different.
Riding all the way into transition was the highlight. At the rack I sat on my ass putting socks on. I had peed on bike twice so I never wear bike socks in a race. I had another hot shot. While on the bike I finished my bloks but had none of my salt tablets.
Run: 13.1miles (21.1km) 1:38:45
In-line with what I’ve typically done and a time I’d pretty much expect off of that bike course. I’ve run two 1:27’s in the last 4 months on very fast net-downhill courses and ran a 1:34 on a flatter course in Tucson. So 4min slower after a 1.2mile swim and 56mile bike ride? Sure, I can see that. But 4:23 slower than 70.3 Arizona? I just had a great day that day and mentally I was highly motivated that day. It’s evidence that in a half ironman, being highly motivated will help you run much closer to a regular half-marathon run. However, in an IRONMAN, the day is just too long to totally expect that.
1 mile in I saw a pro collapsed laying on the ground. “Yikes I thought.” I also saw another runner collapse in front of me later on and then heard him puking for the next 400meters while all the athletes around me were yelling out for a medic to the volunteers. But, the weather was 70’s and overcast, absolutely perfect racing weather.
I had a smile on much of the time. I was happy and grateful to be out there. I was happy with my swim and bike and just thought about being consistent and kept thinking of quick cadence staying strong, and telling myself “I got this”. Once lap 1 registered a 7:27mile, I knew I’d have a good race. My legs felt fairly decent and knew that they’d get more warmed up, especially with the short and steep ramps that we traversed. At each aid station I had Red Bull. I had 1 coke, and a few Gatorades. But in the end, I had no gels or salt tablets. The Hot Shots really work, trust me.
When I saw Fiona I screamed out “WWWWIIIIFFFEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”. I screamed out for Heather Jackson twice and Lionel also. The crowds were probably the best of any race I’ve ever been too as there were people nearly the entire 2 lap course. I was planning on pushing it over the last mile and making a big jump, Chelsea Rogers and Tim Van Berkel inspired at the finish.
Splits/mile: 7:29, 7:42, 7:30, 7:27, 7:32, 7:35, 7:50, 7:28, 7:48, 7:32, 7:27, 7:32, 7:04, .1mile @ 6:24/mile
The Final Word
I highly recommend this race. I had a lot of fun, it was beautiful and well organized. I’m happy with my race and know I’m capable of much more. Fiona and I stayed for the 70.3 World Championship roll-down. For the 2nd time I qualified for the race in South Africa and Fiona qualified as well but like the 40 people ahead of us, we’re not interested in going. Next week is a 5km race and 4 weeks is 70.3 St George, Utah. Stay tuned!
I love Triathlon. It’s the greatest sport leading one to an incredible healthy lifestyle. Swim, Bike, Run into a new journey.