Race Report: Oceanside 70.3

Note: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this post. All products listed below were purchased with my hard-earned money and are provided for informational purposes only.

A gorgeous weekend in Oceanisde

A gorgeous weekend in Oceanisde

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of racing Oceanside 70.3. The southern California weather was perfect, the course was challenging but beautiful, and I managed to finish a few seconds under my goal time of 6:30. Rather than recount each of the 23,377 seconds of the race, I’m going to share some tips and lessons learned from the day in a bullet-list-y (not a word, I know) kind of way.

Lodging

If convenience is your priority, choose lodging at the Oceanside Harbor. You can walk to the start and don’t have to deal with parking and shuttles race morning.

I wanted to keep expenses low so I booked a hotel a few miles away from the action and made my reservations before race registration opened and only paid $70/night at the Best Western Oceanside Inn. If you go this route, I suggest going to packet pickup ASAP to snag one of the limited parking permits for race day.

The day before

As expected, there were a lot of people peacocking and sizing each other up before the race. As a middle/back-of-the-pack athlete, this aspect of racing is always entertaining to me. Many of these guys are indeed very fast, but in some cases it’s just for show. My slow ass passed a lot of fancy tricked out bikes (and also got passed by people on not-so-fancy bikes). A bike is only as fast as the person riding it.

The days leading up to the race were very hot, about 90 deg F. I made a point to limit my sun exposure and stay hydrated.

My coach also advised me to let some air out of my tires at bike check-in to keep my tubes from expanding too much in the heat (genius!).

Just before bed, I drank 1 scoop of Osmo PreLoad (a full dose for my weight is 2.5 scoops).

Race morning transition setup

My first priority, pump tires back up to pressure.

To prevent blisters, I put foot powder in my socks and had a second pair for the run.

In case something should happen with my contact lenses during the swim, I put the prescription insert for my sunglasses in my transition bag (in a sturdy case). At IMCdA, I put spare pairs of contacts in all my gear bags, but I didn’t want to deal with them for this race.

At first, I made the mistake of putting my helmet, sunglasses, and food on my aerobars. I walked away for a few minutes and came back to find everything scattered on the ground.  Lesson learned: put everything on the ground under my bike in transition.

Prior to entering the swim start corral, I drank 2 scoops of Osmo PreLoad.

Beware: Port-a-potties were extremely limited in transition, plan accordingly!

Waiting in a long line for the ladies room

Waiting in a long line for the ladies room (and perhaps, engaging in a little peacocking…)

Swim

The water was warmer than usual (upper 60s, I believe) so I didn’t wear the booties I brought. A wetsuit, two latex swim caps, and ear plugs kept my body at a comfortable temperature.

I had my watch (Garmin Forerunner 920) set up and ready to go in triathlon mode before wading out to the swim start line. Unfortunately, I discovered it was in power save mode when I went to start the timer as the horn went off for my swim wave. Rather than waste time playing with my watch, I chose to swim immediately and dealt with it after exiting the water. Lesson learned: turn off power save mode on watch before race.

Be advised, if you’re in one of the later swim waves, it’s going to be a full-contact swim. I was in wave 17 (out of 20+ waves total) and the mens 40-44 waveS (the age group is so big, they start in multiple waves) started just after me.

The first half of the swim was fairly mellow. I passed some people from the earlier waves but there was plenty of room to get around. The water got a little choppier as I approached the end of the harbor, but nothing terrible. The end of the swim is when shit got a little crazy. The space between the buoys and harbor is narrower on the return trip and it was more crowded as I started passing more people from earlier waves and more of the faster guys from the later waves started to catch up. I had various parts of my body grabbed and pushed and got punched in the face but somehow managed to remain calm and keep swimming. I used to have a lot of anxiety during the swim portion of races but I think surviving IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene must have calmed the part of brain that would freak out in the water.

The week before the race, I did a “dress rehearsal” swim where to test for issues with the Castelli Stealth T1 top I bought for sun protection on the bike and didn’t find any. Unfortunately, on race day the collar was sticking out of the top of my wetsuit and caused some serious chafing. Lesson learned: make sure all clothing is fully encased by wetsuit to avoid chafing.

Swim time: 42:09

mmm… friction!

mmm… friction!

Bike

My strategy for the bike was to maintain a moderate level of effort, eat/drink constantly, and see what happens. The first half of the bike course is flat and fast, the second half is hilly and hard. You definitely don’t want to go balls to the wall at the beginning because you’ll become one of the many people walking their bikes up the hills later on. Bike nutrition: 1 bottle of plain water, 2 bottles of green tea Skratch, 3 smooth caffeinator Picky Bars

Bike time: 3:16:13

Run

The run course is mostly flat with some short and steep climbs/descents between sea level and street level. I ran all of the first loop then decided to walk the steep bits and aid stations on the second lap. At each aid station, I topped off my water bottle and put ice in my top to keep my core temp down.

Around mile 10, I ran through a huge puddle at the aid station and soaked my feet, causing hot spots and blisters to form. After a decade of distance running, I’m still a huge wimp when it comes to the skin on my feet and walked a good portion of miles 11 and 12. I finally forced myself to suck it up and run the last mile. Lesson learned: don’t run through puddles (and maybe, toughen up a little…)!

Nutritionally, I felt pretty solid. I didn’t have a single muscle cramp and my GI system stayed calm the whole day. Let’s be honest, it’s not fun when you feel like you’re on the verge of shitting yourself throughout the run. I’m ecstatic that I didn’t have to deal with tummy troubles this time.

Run nutrition: 1 bottle of green tea Skratch and lots of water from aid stations

Run time: 2:20:40

Total time: 6:29:37 (Hello, PR!)

Strains, Sprains, and Fractures!

It looks like the trend of sporadic blog updates continues but this time, there’s a legitimate reason.  Typing is a challenge when your hands look like this:

Photo on 5-28-14 at 7.01 PM

First, let me break the suspense by announcing that I did complete IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene on June 29, 2014! Stay tuned for a race report.

Now, let me review the incidents that had me on the verge of withdrawing from the race.

More baby cow drama

Shortly after returning to outdoor running, my calf started whining again. My coach suggested trying Hokas to reduce impact of running with my full body weight. Thanks to free overnight shipping from Zappos, these hideous clown shoes arrived at my door the next day. Much to my delight, they kept my calf happy and it hasn’t bothered me since.  Crisis #1 averted!

IMG_3139

What goes up, must come down

The day after my first run in my Hokas, hope soon turned to horror as our group rolled out for a Saturday ride up Mt. Hamilton. Within seconds of pushing off, my front wheel got caught in some train tracks and I crashed.   My left side felt a little sore, but I decided to keep riding and see if it got any better. Within a few minutes, my left knee and hip calmed down and didn’t bother me any more but my right thumb started to hurt like hell. Gripping the handlebars was excruciating so I started climbing with my right hand elevated, determined to make it to the summit and then hitch a ride in my coach’s truck for the descent. The pain became unbearable and it seemed dangerous to continue as I couldn’t brake with my right hand so I bailed after only 12 miles.

A few days later, I decided to have my thumb checked by a doctor.  Urgent care took some x-rays, concluded there was a tiny fracture, and referred me to a hand specialist in orthopedics. The hand specialist reviewed my x-rays and told me my thumb wasn’t broken but he was very concerned that I may have torn my ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) which would require surgery.  The exam involves many crazy manipulations of the thumb that were very painful at the time so the doctor recommended that we wait a week and try again.

When you’re two months out from an Ironman, a week is a long time to wait to find out if you need surgery.  I cried many times because I assumed I wouldn’t make it to the starting line at Coeur d’Alene.  I kept trying to remind myself that there are much greater tragedies in life than dropping out of a race but the pity party raged on.

The next week, I headed to the doctor’s office expecting the worst.  The exam was much less painful on the second try and the doctor was very pleased with the progress my thumb made.  My UCL was sprained, but didn’t need surgery.  I had to wear a splint full time for six weeks but I was cleared resume training.

Another day, another hand injury

A month after spraining my thumb, I broke my finger on the pool wall during Masters. W.T.F.

Feeling like a stalker, I went back to the hand specialist (my last thumb appointment was only three days before).  Fortunately, it was a minor fracture and I was back in the pool the next day with my finger splinted and taped.

All of these obstacles seemed huge catastrophes at the time, but in hindsight they now feel like minor inconveniences.  Well, except for the medical bills.  Clumsiness is an expensive habit!

Stay safe and happy training!