a lESSON IN hUMILITY AND dEVINE iNTERVENTION
It’s been a while since I’ve posted in here, but this trip was definitely worth the post. On top of training, I have also been juggling full time student teaching at Saline High School, taking classes, and trying to remind my friends I still exist. Needless to say, this blog has taken a back seat.
It’s easy to learn a lot about yourself from a race. To put my spin on a famous quote, “Racing doesn’t build character, it reveals it,” which is exactly what my first race of 2015 did. I went down to this race intending to learn about my fitness level, but got a much bigger lesson about life in the process. My first race of the 2015 was set to take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This happened to be an Ironman 70.3 This race was decided in October right when my 2014 closed out in South Carolina. I want to build a larger base than ever before and felt that a 70.3 would be a good measure of that since that’s what I ended with. My goal was to start with a similar performance this year that I ended with last year.
My flight left bright and early Thursday morning on March 12th. The race was on the 15th. My first of many special thanks goes out to Miss Lexi Dudas, who agreed to drive me to the airport at 4:30am with much less begging than I had anticipated. Earlier in the week leading up to my departure had been very hectic as I was just starting a new unit with brand new kids at my student teaching placement. The Monday of that week we just switched to the kids’ third and final trimester of the year. Trying to learn 100+ kids’ names in three days before I left was not easy, but I got most of them down. The real test will be how many I remember when I get back. On top of introducing the new classes. I had to make sure all my lesson plans were filled out, planned, and all the materials were ready for my mentor teacher as she was going to have to implement my lessons during my absence. Luckily, I have a phenomenal mentor teacher whom is very supportive. This semester would have not been possible without her guidance and understanding nature.
Anyway, back to the trip! My flight into Puerto Rico was smooth with just a short layover in Baltimore. From when the wheels went up in Detroit to the time they landed in San Juan I was met with a pleasant 63 degree difference in temperature. I picked up my rental vehicle and easily located my stay. It was only about 10 minutes from the airport and about another 10 from the race site. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the location. I lounged around for a bit and unpacked my bike. Afterwards I stopped at the local grocery store to pick up some stuff for the week. I got back home and went for a nice jog. I didn’t have much time at this point because I had to go pick up Jake from the airport, where shout out #2 comes. Jake happily agreed to be my pit crew this weekend, which was much needed and I couldn’t have asked for better support for the week!
Despite a little trouble at the airport, I picked Jake up pretty late so when we returned back to our stay we went right to bed. Friday, we stopped by the expo to check in and lounged around a bit. Saturday we decided to drive out the Arecibo Observatory. It was 45 minutes drive away, but was a quick morning and we would be back in plenty of time to check in my bike. The observatory was incredible! The picture below or any picture you see of it really doesn’t do it justice as to how massive it actually is. Anyway, it was just a morning trip and then we were back in town to drop off my bike. The transition was pretty awesome. It was right in the middle of Sixto Escobar Stadium, a pretty historic sports venue for the island of Puerto Rico. I had no troubles dropping my bike off and then it was a quick dinner and off to bed at 9:30pm.
Finally, the actual race report!!
Sunday morning 4:30am came quick and I was up pretty easily. I immediately slammed two PowerBar gels and 12 oz of water to get some caffeine flowing and some fluid back into my body. Breakfast was two bananas and a bowl cereal. I don’t like to get creative on race morning. Usually, whatever is lying around will be just fine! My gear was already packed from the night before so we were out the door a little before 5.
My swim wave took off at 7:16am and was one of the earlier waves. The water seemed pretty calm as it was protected by a cover from the 3-4 foot swells coming in from the Atlantic Ocean just around corner of the break wall. It was a simple water start. Historically, this has not been a wetsuit legal swim and this year was no different. The final water temperature read at a warm 81 degrees! Luckily, I had my Roka Viper swimskin.
T1 was super long, about 800 meters or so to the Sixto Escobar Stadium. I made the jog up to the stadium and easily located my bike. I had a great T1 and was on my way out of the stadium ready to embark on the most exciting part of the race for me. This past winter I underwent a large amount of changes in my approach to bike training, most notably deciding to train by power. I am beginning to become a numbers geek and I am really starting to learn how to get the most out of my training, by understanding my power zones and what I need to be doing on a trainer on winter. I also increased my volume by about 1.5x compared to last winter and was just really excited to see what I could do for the first race of the season.
Of course that couldn’t happen though. As I hopped on my bike at the mount line the first 150 meters or so were on side walk, which dumped out into a parking lot, which we rode out of onto the road. About halfway through the sidewalk, I hear a loud pop and sudden release of air and I began to lose control of my bike. I knew immediately what had happened and I couldn’t believe it. I got a flat tire on my rear wheel. I quickly reacted and clipped out and made sure I didn’t ride on my rim and I got off my bike. By the time I got done rolling I was to the end of the side walk, right where the blacktop started. I pulled off the side and stood there for a moment in disbelief. The moment of self pity quickly subsided and was replaced with urgency. I quickly got out my flat kit and my spare tube. I quickly removed the flat tube and placed the new one in. As soon as I got the needle into the needle hole of the tire, I realized I had overlooked something VERY important. I ride a 404/disc combo and and because of the 404’s depth I use an 80mm thread needle so I don’t have to bother with valve extenders. Unfortunately this does work well discs because the hole in the disc is only so deep into the wheel and therefore I was unable to pump it up after it was in the needle hole. So there I stood, with a blown tube, a useless tube, and my thoughts. Since it was so close our of transition there were hundreds of people watching and around me. Race support came over to see what the problem was and check if I was okay. I tried to explain what the problem was, but none of them were fluent in English so we had difficulty communicating. For some reason Jake decided to walk over this way thinking I had already taken off on the bike, but came up to me when he saw me standing there. Finally a race support staff came up to me and asked what the matter was. He could speak English! I explained it to him and he said he’d see if he could find one. As we waited on him I began asking passing cyclist if they had a tube. One sweet lady actually stopped, but she only had an 80mm tube as well! She showed true sportsmanship! Finally after about 15 minutes the support staff member came running back to me with a tube in hand. I was so relieved as I had become increasingly scared that my day was over.
I finally got going on my bike. My race plan called for about 195w-200w NP and I wanted to average 85+ RPMs for my cadence. I wasn’t too concerned about splits because past race reports has mentioned that the winds on the island can get pretty nasty so it’s definitely not a course you’re going to set any records on. I just wanted to maintain steady power with any huge spikes and high cadence. My main focus was not to fly like a bat out of Hell for the first 20 minutes trying to make up for the lost time. We had a nice cross wind on the way out and I averaged 208w NP and about 24.2 mph at mile 20. The course was set up by having it as a two loop out and back, except the second loop was only the last half of the entire big loop. Obviously this is pretty fast for 208w so I realized the cross wind, must be somewhat of tailwind too. As I made the turn around I gritted my teeth and braced for a huge headwind, but it never came. Rather the same old cross wind was felt. I didn’t want to gas myself for the run like I usually did so I brought my watts a shade lower to my original plan and was holding about 190w NP. About 3 miles went by and my second streak of bad luck hit: my Garmin died. I would post the first 22-23mi of the power file, but there’s really no point. At this point, I felt comfortable about how was I was riding and wasn’t too phased about basing the rest of the bike off perceived effort. I got to the final U turn/Mile 37 (where the first U turn/mile marker 20) and was still steady. After about another six miles, we made a right turn at about mile 43 and the headwind had finally come first circle. The last 13 miles or so were a pretty large struggle. My back started to give out from being in aero and the wind really slow things down. I tucked my head down and just pressed on as best I could.
I had a pretty smooth T2 and was pleased with my efficiency having not done any transition work since last season. The run course was a two loop course from Sixto Escobar Stadium to Old San Felipe del Morro Fort. It was originally built right on the peak peninsula right next to a port to defend from sea invasion. I had driven by it the day before and it was massive! I got out on the run course and immediately had to make a decision. With my flat, I knew my chances of podium were slim, and any solid time was out the window. While many people would only see the negative in this, I viewed it as an opportunity to explore new limits on the run since I really had nothing to lose. My goal was to run about 6:50s. I felt all my fitness leading up to it indicated that this was a doable goal. I decided to lower this goal and came through the first mile in 6:36. I felt okay, but it was hard. I had not realized how blistering hot the run would be and how dependent on aid stations I would become. The second miles clicked off at around 6:45. At this point, it was close to noon and the temperature was peaking at about 90 degrees with zero cloud cover on an open road alone the coast line of the island. The beauty of running next to ocean was nullified by absolute misery of the this run. Mile three was my first test as it had about a 75 yard 4-5% grade up cobblestone. While making my charge up it, I was pretty conservative as I knew I had 10 miles still left I didn’t want to gas myself even if I was going to push it a little harder than planned. The hill was brutal! I grimaced as I knew I would have to attack the hill again on the second lap. After I made the climb, I did a little jog through the first shaded area and relished in it for a moment. Then it was out to the Old San Felipe del Morro, one of the most famous piece of architecture from Spanish Colonial times. Despite the agony of the heat, sun, and body beginning to give up, it was truly beautiful to see something like this, a simple reminder of a different era in the world. At this point, things got a little hazy. I was beginning to feel a little light headed and not sure what was really going on around me. The next thing I know I was back in near transition making the turn around for the second loop. I had completely blanked on the last three miles or so couldn’t piece them together or how I got there. I switched from Gatorade/water to cola at the aid station for some caffeine and higher sugar intake to see if I could regain full consciousnesses. The run was really beating down and I could feel the burning on the skin that was exposed. At mile 8 or so I stopped at the aid station to take in gel, and extra fluids. I knew my pace had fallen significantly off and I changed my concentration to running fast to finishing upright. I trotted along the last five miles and made crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.
The next few days after were spent mulling over the race and tending to my sunburn; what went right, what went wrong, etc. I am most frustrated with the swim as I’ve put in a lot of work in the pool over the winter and this race did not reflect it. I mourned over it for a day, but I am refreshed and ready to get back into the pool and keep improving. I was very happy with my bike effort. While the split doesn’t show, some huge gains have been made on the bike and I’m happy with the way I’m progressing. The run was such a toss up here because of the weather and course condition. I believe that my fitness is there, but it was just hard to really examine. I’m really excited about this season and feel much more confident about where I am and my overall fitness. Definitely have a lot of things to sharpen, but this race served its purpose and was a very successful rust buster. Thankfully, my post race examinations and race analyses were able to take place during some really great experiences.
Next up is Lifetime Marquee in a few weeks, which will act as my final prep for Nationals.