Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3

Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 was this weekend. I had registered for this well before I had shoulder surgery so the timing was a little iffy on whether I would be able to race at all. Three days post race, I can look back and say it was a great venue. I've never been to Puerto Rico but definitely want to go back and am already planning on a trip with hubby and me (a non-race trip!).

Pre-race -
In order to be economical, my friends and I found a condo about a mile or so from the host hotel to rent. We were warned that it was in a sketchy neighborhood but we never had any issues.
view from the condo
We made friends with a couple of the taxi drivers and were able to call them directly for all our transportation - even at 4:45 am on race day. Being within a block of the local Walmart was great for us to stock up on groceries. Our first couple days were spent getting oriented and playing in the water.
I shipped my bike so had to wait until after the practice swim and athlete briefing to pick it up and get checked in. Even though I'm having to be without Ella for a month, the process of using TriBike Transport has been a smooth one. After taking our bikes out for a pre-race ride to make sure all was working correctly, we dropped our bikes off and headed back to condo to eat in and finish our race prep. As always, the volunteers were fabulous!

Race Morning -
We took a taxi to body marking and our bikes. We must have timed it just right because we sailed through and walked over to the swim start with very few people.

Swim -

Looks like we were having a dance party! Before getting to PR, I was super nervous about the swim. It was new to me to swim without a wetsuit and in saltwater. The practice swim helped alleviate my fears. I actually loved the feeling of being out in the water in just a swim skin. I was starting in the first wave after the pros at 7 am. My first blunder of the day was forgetting my banana in the taxi  but luckily I had a bar that I was able to eat half of which helped since it had been a couple of hours since I downed my oatmeal. It was time to swim -

I had no illusions of breaking any personal records in the swim or race in general but I was feeling strong so was hopeful. As with every race swim I've done, I never look at my Garmin until I exit the water so am blissfully clueless as to where I am. I started at the front in the middle of the pack and felt good. My shoulder was feeling ok until the later waves started catching up and it got a little crowded. Swimming was ok but when I would catch another swimmer on the down stroke, I was getting jarred a bit. About halfway thru, I started feeling the underarm chafing start. Duh! I know what to do in a wetsuit but since I didn't feel it in the practice, I totally spaced lubing up. I was pretty raw at swim exit. Lesson learned. Had hoped for sub 50 minute swim - actual 57:36.

Transition is really long - almost half mile from water to bike out. Some people stowed shoes but I ran the distance without them. It wasn't super hot yet so it was okay.

Bike -
I was starving when I got to my bike so I took an extra half minute to chow down on one of my rice cakes. A gal near me also had some miracle cream that she shared so I could doctor my chafing. Other than that, transition was pretty smooth.

The bike course is billed as relatively flat. I always chuckle at this because one person's definition is different from another's. Having trained in St. George, I had to agree but it was a little hillier than I expected. There is a change this year in the drafting zone rule. It is 5 bike lengths and I spent the first little while trying to calculate this distance. According to my Garmin, I spent the first two hours hovering around 18-19 mph, topping out at 32 mph. I felt good. The wind started picking up a lot sooner than I expected. MaryEllen had told me the last 8 or so miles were the worst. The course is beautiful and I really tried to focus on that. I stayed up on my nutrition and was even able to do a bottle transfer without stopping! Next blunder that I realized was I had forgotten to lube up again in transition so I started to notice that after 25 miles. I made a decision to hang on until aid station at mile 40 before stopping. At that point I got off, took care of business and got my last bottle of water. The last 16 miles were super windy and my average speed dropped to about 14 mph. My positive experience on the bike was that I was able to pass dozens of the women that had beat me in the swim. I even passed a few dudes! The last couple of miles were the roughest for me, dropping to 9 mph a couple of times. Had hoped for a 3 hour bike - actual 3:32.

Soon I was entering the transition chute and mentally preparing for the hot, hot run!

Run -
I downed part of another rice cake, drank some water and donned my nutrition belt and "walked" out of transition. I started running as I got out of the stadium and soon was made aware of my run blunder. I don't usually wear a nutrition belt in a triathlon. It has a zip pocket for my gus that I had left unzipped and as I started heading up the run bridge a volunteer came running after me telling me that I was dropping them. She had one she picked up but I was missing a few!
This is a two loop course but thankfully running over this overpass only happens on the way out and coming back to the finish. There was supposed to be cloud cover and possible rain on race day but as shown, it was clear blue skies. The volunteers put sunscreen on in transition but it soon washed away with the dumping of water at each aid station. I knew right away that I wasn't going to be able to maintain my 4:1 run/walk ratio. The wind on the bike took more out of me than I realized so I ran a couple minutes and walked a couple. At about 2 miles, the run enters the "microwave" through the red gate.
It's a non-supported section of about a mile out and back along a rock wall. You literally are baking!

As I was returning on the first loop, I was ready to pull myself. There is another new rule this year that the cutoff is from when your swim wave starts. Before it was 8 hours from the last wave start. As I came in for the second loop, I knew that if I did the same time I would not make the cutoff so I was having a major debate in my head of what to do. I felt horrible and was ready to quit. A nice thing about this two loop run is seeing people you know several times. It was nice to have encouragement at various spots on the course. I was tempted to jump in this fountain on my way back from the second loop!
MaryEllen was so encouraging!

I remember saying "Eff this" at the turnaround but sucked it up and headed back out. The aid stations were out of ice and Pepsi! Somehow I managed to do the second loop faster than the first and came in under the cutoff by a couple minutes. Hoped for 2:30-2:45 - actual 3:13.
My head was pounding and I was super overheated. I've been there before with bad results so just after this picture, I went to the med tent. The sweet lady there tried all she could do to cool me off, finally resorting to an IV.

We started crying at this point!
MaryEllen needed ice on her knees! We were quite the pair.
Overall, my expectations were obviously too high considering my shoulder surgery, the heat and the wind. I am glad that I stuck to it and finished. It was longer than my first 70.3 but looking back at Boise, I realized that I was faster by about 37 minutes so that made me feel better about the whole day. I will live to race again! Both MaryEllen and I are doing IM Los Cabos in October and have talked endlessly about the similarities of this race. We debated pulling out but are determined to train for the conditions and finish to become "Ironmen".

I'm grateful for our sherpas - Bill and Ashlan were so great to be stuck out in the heat while we raced for hours and hours. I also am grateful to have met new friends and was able to cheer on a first-time triathlete! It's inspiring to see people conquer their fears.

I will probably choose to race in Puerto Rico again. There are so many other places I want to race before doing this again but it's definitely on the list!

Thank you for all the encouraging texts, messages and notes - it was all of these that kept me on the course!