Two weeks ago, I participated in the San Juan 70.3, and the race did not go as planned. I had some positives and got a quick reminder that one must respect the heat, particularly when one decides to race in it in March and one lives in Boulder, Colorado. Here is my recap plus thoughts on what to do and not do in the future.
The swim: If you know me, you know this is usually my strength. I almost always recommend people take an outside position to avoid contact. However, I won the swim last year and my wave was all men 50 plus making me the youngster in the group. I should be able to line up anywhere, right? So I took the shortest most aggressive position and took off. I lead for 100 or 200 yards, but I did see a guy that took the outside line eventually get ahead, and he won the swim and race as well I later found out. I swam within myself and alone most of the way and ended up third out of the water, 15 seconds faster than last year. I clocked a 29:15. It was a good start for the day.
T1: The first transition for this race is a long run. Last year I tripped, so I was really careful. All went well and, as I was getting ready, I saw two MarkAllenOnline Elite team members transitioning as well: Crisssy Fuentes and Erica Dueger. Both of these ladies had started 5 minutes ahead of me, and I caught them on the swim. I had a feeling this could happen, and I was glad to see familiar faces.
The bike: I started the bike calm and rode close to Crissy and Erica for the first 20 miles. My legs felt good, and my heart rate was in the 140's which is perfect. No one came around in my age group. No reason for me to overdo it, YET! At mile 20, two guys in my age group came by, and I mean they came by. They looked strong, tall, and aero. Yikes. Decision time came for me. Do I stay comfortable here or do I risk it and go with them? But first of all, can I go with them? Well I decided to give it a try. I pushed the pace a little and caught up to them rather easily, I may say. This was a nice thing. I used my Computrainer this off season and it forces me to stay in the right training zone. It was very hard training, but here was my payoff. I looked down at my heart rate monitor, however, and I was in the 150's. I went back and forth with these two guys for another 20 miles. The pace was sometimes easy and sometimes hard, but I was not going to let them go. My legs could do it and felt fine. I worked hard to maintain fluids and took some extra calories and salt. Near the end of the ride, one of my arm pads almost came off, and I had to be careful not to lose it. This happened over some of the hills on this bike course, and the guys got away from me as I could not stand up easily for fear of losing my arm pad. But that was fine with me. We had to run soon. This run is tough and separates the men from the boys. Little did I know! I ended up with a 2:32 bike split, my best since I started training again last year.
T2. This was uneventful. I dismounted leaving my shoes clipped on the bike which saves time, and I had a fast T2.
The run: The first mile of this run is very tough, and the first mile of any triathlon run is always tough, so I went really easy and started finding my run legs. It went well up to about mile 2. This is when I began to feel like things were not going as planned. My heart rate was sometimes in the very high 150's and on hills in the 160's. This is just very high for me. My legs were not responding. I started feeling really hot. That is when I realized I did not have a hat but a visor. I traditionally put ice in my hat, and it helps me cool off but not today. The San Juan 70.3 run is two loops with some tough hills. I walked the hills in hope my legs could come around, but nothing was happening. I initially walked the aid stations, but now I was being forced to also walk in between. I started getting some hamstring cramps which I solved with some additional salt tablets, but I was just reduced to walk, run walk, and run. The finish line could not come soon enough.
What happened: Bottom line, I did not respect the heat and had too much confidence. I am traditionally strong in the heat, and I did not take it seriously this year. Last year I negative split the run at Buffalo Springs 70.3 when it was over 100 degrees. Last year on this same course I ran about 40 minutes faster. It was not a great run, but I would have been thrilled with that this year. Puerto Rico's 85 and humidity got me. Last year I stayed with my good high school friend and decided not to turn on the AC in the room and sleep in regular San Juan weather conditions allowing my body to acclimate. This year I stayed at the host hotel with my family and enjoyed the nice AC. Finally, the two days prior to the race I spent many hours at the expo. I swear you can maintain meat at standard cool temperatures in this place. I was forced to wear a jacket to stay warm, which is not the way to get acclimated for a race. It was not all heat; my legs were not strong enough for this tough run course. Again looking at last year, I did some run races before San Juan 70.3, something else I ignored this year. Lessons learned. The funny thing is I know all of these lessons and just ignored them. I plan to race Boulder 70.3 and Miami 70.3 this year and hope to put it all together at some point. I am excited about my bike...just trying to turn lemons into lemonade.