This past Saturday was my third time at Oceanside 70.3 in three years, but first time crossing the finish line. In 2014 I was there to spectate and in 2015 I raced the unofficial aquabike (coming off of a calf injury) so it was a real nice experience, despite what may follow, to be capable of completing this race for the first time, in front of so many familiar faces. As an early season race and with such great competition I believe Matt Dixon said it best in his pre-race talk – “set no expectations, not low expectation”. Because of the early season aspect and not being able to get in the proper warm up (no pre-swim in the harbor) I decided to approach my race strategy different than I would typically mid-season. Also, being un-coached, at least not 1-on-1 this year, I didn’t get a race plan like so many years past, leaving it for me on my own. Therefore, here is what i decided upon in the days leading up –
The idea behind my swim strategy wasn’t to go out easy by any means. The combination of no proper swim warm-up and a conversation with coach Gerry Rodrigues of Tower26 prior about not having practiced strong swim starts off of the gun, as well as similar direction from Matt Dixon the day before led me to try a slightly easier start (perceived effort only). I felt I was swim fit and wanted to swim my own race with very good sighting rather than race to find feet and trust the person or group ahead. The outcome was an underwhelming result. I was sure I would see a 29:XX on my watch peeling off my newer and hopefully faster Roka wetsuit, but was disappointed to see a 32:08 instead (my slowest swim in years, and almost a full 2 minutes behind my time last year).
My plan for the bike was to settle in easier (first 5-10 minutes) in an attempt to bring down my HR sooner and get in the right fuel and hydration early on. My only real hope was to find myself at about 160 bpm pushing 260 watts, a comfortable target from the past. Headed out of T1 I was passed by people like I wasn’t even moving. I remember a guy yelling “OUT OF THE WAY, on your LEFT!!” going up the first hill. Looking down I was at 300 watts, so he must have been well over 400 watts (I passed him back 15 minutes later, huffing and puffing). After 15 minutes I decided I was ready and settled into a lap split target of 260 watts. I rode the hills no bigger than 270 and descents no less than 250. My power has never been so consistent yet I was amazed by the people I traded places with passing me so aggressively than blowing up soon after. The effort felt just right, hard but almost conversational still, however I watched my HR, eager to see it come down from mid 170’s after the swim, and was alarmed to see it never did. I would have liked to be at 160 bpm but averaged 170 bpm for the whole duration. Here’s a comparison of my bike to last year –
The unsettling reality when your HR and watts don’t add up is you’re somewhat doomed. You can follow HR and have a terrible bike split or stick to output and risk being destroyed for the run. I made the decision early on better to blaze up in a flame of glory.
My plan from above was to start off about 6:40 and descend the pace, following HR. My last 3 70.3 run splits have been between 6:08-6:15 average (1:21), however that was before the calf issues. I looked at results from last year where the top 5 in my AG were all at or above 1:30, so with this in mind I decided to be reserved in the first half, anticipating a tough run. The first mile felt easy but I noticed very quick my pace was not going anywhere. I held onto 6:40-6:50’s for the first loop, hoping to drop into the 6:20’s for the second half but the reality was my HR was still screaming and that wasn’t to be. Still I never blew up, which leads me to believe I ran a good race considering.
I wan to get into the habit of recalling one fun or beneficial aspect of every race. For this one, most notionally I suffered NO piraformus pain at all on the bike. I attribute this to a good warm up, massaging and stretching my piraformus and adductors, but also the Yoga I have been taking twice a week over the last 5 months to improve flexibility and overall body posture. Piraformus pain has been a consistent nightmare over the last few years so to not have it to contend with is a dream come true.
Also great was spending the weekend with two good friends who have been training partners and mentors over the years. There apartment was only 0.5 miles from Ironman village, things couldn’t have been any easier compared to my last race battle with the elements. Looking forward greatly to heading down to Texas with these guys in 5 weeks.
I feel at my current level it is necessary to go out strong in the swim. “Strong” can be a relative term but next time I race a 70.3 I intend to stick with the lead pack or as close to it as I can. I’m less concerned about this for Texas, but I can’t sacrifice the minutes in Vineman. Sub 30 needs to be the new standard, no exceptions!
Area to improve
Clearly my run. I don’t expect it to come over night but intend to build back into 6:00 pace after Texas. Losing a competitive edge through lack of confidence is a sad thing. I know I have the ability but also know I need to listen to my body if I want to stay off the sidelines. I remain excited and optimistic about this aspect.