It’s been over a month and this race report is late. Since the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, Australia took place, I’ve raced two other local events as well. These last few races really emphasize how I’m a big fish in a small pond. That’s not to say anything negative about these other amazing fish here in Kona. When I got to race with the big dogs on the Sunshine Coast however, I see that it’s a different league entirely.
IM 70.3 Worlds – Sep. 4, 2016
Place: 567th OA/ 99th AG
The field was stacked. I had a few friends from the states coming out to tear it up, but I knew my Australian buds would really steal the show. I was really impressed by my American friends however. It was fun to reunite with friends from the Bay Area and New York and see them perform really well! It’s cool to know that out of myself and my friends—I did the worst! It’s good to be at the bottom, it builds character and provides so much yearning for improvement.
Before I go on, I want to say that none of this trip could have happened as smoothly as it did without the generosity and love from the Rea family. Tim and his ohana truly opened their arms to me and made my foreign race experience incredibly easy. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and fun times together. Be sure that there will be plenty more Wild-Rea sessions to come.
Let’s get amongst it shall we?
I showed up about five days in advanced and got used to the time zone (HST+20 hours) and the temperature. It was not dissimilar to Oceanside, CA in April earlier this year. I was feeling optimistic for another stellar performance due to the similar conditions and course. The ocean was chilling, but I did a non-wetsuit swim on a cloudy, windy day two days prior which was not the best idea. It took it out of me and I feared I may have gotten a little sick from it. No illness or symptoms occurred so I was ready come race-day.
Tim and I watched the pros come in lightning speed with Josh Amburger leading out of the water. We were getting amped. My swim however didn’t play out to be any different from nearly all of my 70.3 swims this year—29 minutes. My sighting was a bit off only a few times, however I felt that I was swimming alone for the most part, despite some shoves and elbows all the way to just past the half way mark. Upon exit through the long transition, my toes and fingers still tingled numbly.
I grabbed my bike and tip-toe ran-through the extra-long red carpet. I didn’t witness any run-ins or collisions along the crowded, narrow and long chute, but I had to stop for a second to grab my Picky Bar that was wedged in my cockpit or turn on my Garmin bike computer (I can’t remember why I stopped mid T1! That’s what I get for writing this two months later). I did not have to put up my sleeves and zip up my tri-suit because I put it all the way on before I put on my wetsuit. The brand new Xterra Vengeance wetsuit was slick, flexible and looked awesome in silver and black. I think I need another crack at it to get its full potential. I think I need another break-in session.
It was a fast bike-start and I was rearing to get on that highway out past Maroochy and rip. Unfortunately, that was my first mistake. I ripped too hard on that flat open road. My average watt goal of 240w was surpassed on the first two 5-mile laps averaging about 255w per lap. The reason why I was surging is entirely my fault. I let the packs of drafters get to me emotionally and mentally. I hate cheaters. I can’t stand cheaters. However, I should have learned to control my anger and my emotions. Due my convictions I took it upon myself to both show them how fast I really am and to try to teach them a lesson, by scolding them verbally (sometimes with profanity). Whenever a draft pack came up on my right (Aussie road rules) I would try to surge past them again and thus spiking my power and probably my heart rate (I went without an HRM this race. Next race I’ll wear it as I would have loved to see these HR spikes). Whenever someone slotted in (filling the legal limit gap of 12m between bikes that I always kept) I would drop back, then surge past them while sometimes shaking my head or cussing them out. What an idiot I was! I was losing my cool and channeling lots of negativity towards my fellow racers.
Before I go on this narrative, let me say that I am not proud of my emotions getting the best of me. I was filled with resentment and felt like a fool for playing by the rules. Whenever someone slotted in or a draft pack came past me and I would try to hold on with the legal limit of 12m between me and the final ride, I would have to surge my power. In triathlon, we try to minimize our spikes. The human body only has so many spikes it can handle before it starts to become over-fatigued and crumble. They call it “burning matches,” for a reason. Our muscle fibers are like match books and we can only burn so many before we are just an empty vessel with nothing left to burn. I don’t know much of the science behind that, but there is plenty of research out there. There is also plenty of great writing on the problems with the rules and organization of races put on by triathlon organizers such as Ironman and Challenge in that it can be arguably impossible to not draft despite the rules. Imagine a course in which no one is drafting with everyone 12m behind each other. How does one pass without slotting in? How does one find their sweet spot in the pack fairly? It’s hard to say if it’s possible or not. I remain optimistic despite my colleagues’ vehement position of non-drafting in a race with over 2000 athletes is unrealistic. The problem I have with that attitude is that it begets the weak attitude of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” In other words, “Hey if they’re cheating, why can’t I cheat?” Because it’s a race and a race has rules. We must abide by them or else why even pay and participate? My closing thought on drafting is that I will always play by the rules. If it means having to drop back to a dangerously slow pace behind a draft pack 12m behind the last guy, then so be it. All I know is that I’ll then have more energy on the run to race the best race I can only hope to achieve. That’s what it boils down to—I want to race my best race. I must do this by first, racing my own race and brushing off the cheaters and outside influences. It is easier said than done, but Ian Rea aka “Old Mate” (Tim’s wise dad) told me that that’s what I can do now—prepare my mind for the next race because there will always be cheaters.
Check out this article on what Ironman can do to help stop the drafting.
Check out the weapon, Lionel Sanders’, take on pro-level drafting albeit legal drafting.
Long story short, I inevitably blew up on the bike as you would expect from someone who just ranted a very long paragraph up above. (My coworkers in the English department would be wagging their fingers at that rant). The temperature never got too high so I had to force down my second bottle of nutrition I carried three bottles with two of them filled with 3 squeezed out Huma chia seed energy goo where one bottle had a salt stick pill in it and a Hawaiian Ola energy shot in another. With my Picky Bar I was going for 800 calories again as I do at all of my 70.3 races this year. After seeing my lap power slowly drop from 260 down to 240 down to 225 and climbing a couple little hills and seeing the draft parties pass me by, I realized I was going down. I am thankful for the lack of any mechanical issues, no near-crashes, and no flats! However, my disappointment in myself and shame with using up my energy trying to be a bike-official and wasting my spikes early on, led to a flatness that started to creep in. I sucked down my nutrition without finishing my 3rd bottle of fluid. I just wasn’t thirsty. My watts fell down to the high 190s by the last 10 miles. Would I redeem myself on the run? I had hope!
However, hope isn’t enough to carry the human body 13.1 miles at a 6:05min/mile pace. In fact, it won’t even do it for me at a 7min/mile pace. I started out “conservatively” with a 6:30 pace on the run sizing up the field and trying to find my pacing partners. It was fun to see all of the pros out there finishing up. I will never forget the look on Tim Reed’s face as he was inches behind Sebastian Kienle climbing the last little hill (little, but vicious after 12.75 miles). I wanted that pace and that grimace of pain to be me! Sebby looked like a machine as usual with very little expression. However Tim had some sort of radiating electricity coming out of him. I was elated to hear that he pipped Sebby at the last stretch taking home the 70.3 World Champion title. I’m still in awe of that legendary guy I am lucky enough to call my buddy. Speaking of Aussie legends, I can call my buds, Pete Jacobs gave me a shout out just when I needed it at about 1/3 into the race! I was feeling my fatigue set in as my pace dropped to just below 7min/mile and realize that I was not catching my other age group friends who biked better than I did. I was feeling lousy. But Pete shouted me out and it reminded me about how small our sport is and how fun it can be if you let it. Despite my dropping pace, I ran with a smile until about the last turn around. The final quarter was painful and I remember walking a few times through some of the aid stations losing all hope for any strong finish or negative split (just like last Worlds in Zell!). It was a pathetic jog back to the finish line, but I gave it my all and ended my run with a 1:35.
Despite my lackluster performance overall, I am not ashamed. I am not disappointed either. I learned so much from this race. Seeing old friends from all over the States racing and meeting a ton of new friends from Australia was a beautiful thing. I bonded with the Rea family in a new way and really feel like their my Australian hanai now. God I would kill for a piccolo with the Rea’s right now at one of Australia’s many amazing, European-like cafes. They know how to do food, drink and sport right!
All of my negativity towards this race is gone. I am stronger, smarter and more mature now from this race. I am so grateful for the whole thing as to how it went down. It’s the only way to really grow! You must go through some low points and really force yourself to vent, reflect and think of solutions. As my coworker in the math department says “Fail, fail again and fail better.” I’m grateful for my family who supported me on this trip with warm wishes and support despite my near-obsessive level of love for this sport. I am grateful for my school and coworkers who cheered me on despite my super-early-year week long vacation. Of course I can’t forget my friends in Hawaii and the mainland. My friends at Bike works Kona always have my back with necessary gear, tune-ups and nutrition before any race. I have no right to complain about any of my performance or of the venue and event itself. I am only stoked to have been given the chance to race at a World Championship in another country. Let’s see now how much I can apply my new learning to my next race!
Team Mango Races Pre-Ironman Triathlon – Sep. 18, 2016
SWIM: 1.2MI / BIKE: 15MI (HILLY) / RUN 6MI (HILLY)
Place: 1st overall (3rd year in a row)
This is always such a fun event. It was small as usual and had that intimate, Kona-feel to it where we all know each other and could probably predict the podium even as we first rack our bikes just as the sun is rising on our beautiful Kailua pier with the Team Mango ohana waking up and helping out make this race possible. I didn’t notice any pros who were going to race and didn’t see my favorite local competition, Luis, around so I started the swim feeling confident. Adam Ankrum’s 10-year-old (?!) son, Aiden, was going to be my fish to chase.
Let’s rewind one day however to the Kukio Blue Water swim. It was a great 1.2-mile race from Kua Bay to Kukio Bay. I chased the high schoolers (and middle schoolers!) and caught the current while gawking at dolphins who must have been laughing at us. It was my fastest 1.2 miles swim ever with a time of 25 minutes and change. Oh and just in a speedo. Aiden swam two whole minutes faster than me that day! Well at least we were on the same page come Sunday at the Pre-Ironman Triathlon.
Aiden stayed on my toes for the first ¾ of the swim. It was a great strategy for him. He was giving me false confidence and just sitting pretty until we closed in on the last buoy. Then he turned on his jets and ended up beating me by 10-20 seconds! We still came in with around a 29-minute swim. This was in my Xterra speed suit by the way. Funny how much slower I was at the pier than I was at Kukio!
Once I got on the bike though I knew I had the win. I caught Adam who was leading after relaying from his torpedo-child on the first hill descent after climbing up Hualalai towards the highway then dropping down Kuakini. I cannonballed past him just at the bottom near University of Nations. On the second lap I let him surge a little knowing that I would steadily get him soon. I got him and never let him pass again for the next two full loops.
I downed that 200-300 calorie energy mix (I forgot what brand I used!) I had in my one water bottle and started that run feeling fresh. The run is just one of the bike laps. That means a nice steady climb with a bombing downhill run to Ali’i. At the top however, before dropping down. I sucked down one of my caffeinated chia gels and grabbed a water from a wonderful volunteer. I needed this little jolt to run in the low 6’s down that hill. What a fun run that course is to end with almost two miles of steady downhill to lead into the flat Alibi drive-finish!
I took that tape for my third year in a row. I was so excited to win it twice in a row last year, but three times makes it more than just a fluke. This race has become part of my yearly plan! Team Mango is such a warm group of people with the hard-working Carl aka Gecko leading the charge. The Randerson’s, Prater’s and Pratt’s always take care of the athletes and each other so well.
So next year? Will I do it again? It’s hard to say! I do think that I may have raced too many local races this year to hope for a maximal performance at my big A races. If I have an A race in September or later next year, I don’t plan on doing any local races to be honest. If anything I need to race less. However, who knows—I may just want to get out there and have fun with the ohana that is Team Mango! Their races are good for the soul.
PATH 5k – Oct. 3, 2016
Place: 2nd overall only behind my student, Cody Ranfranz (BIIF cross country champion 2016).
There is no one I would rather lose to than one of my students and one of the members of the Konawaena Tri Club. Cody Ranfranz and Lawrence Barrett have been my friendly little rivals/students/tri-club-members since I moved here over two years ago. They have grown up to be such mature and talented young men. Cody loves racing these local races. He and I knew we would be chasing each other down for this 5k. I had been training hard and for 70.3 stuff (with some full Ironman training sessions with all the Ironman athletes in town this time of year). Cody has been honing his 5k skills to master the Cross Country scene for the past few years. I should not have underestimated him! He did after all just win the Big Island Cross Country championship a couple of weeks ago and took 10th overall at the State championship just last week!
There were a few wild cards though also. My buddy, professional triathlete, Max Fennell was there. Notably he is the only black professional in our sport. He is a fast short course runner too. I was definitely intimidated as he ran a sub 5:30 pace out of the gate. Hot on his heels were two high school girls from the mainland and a 12-year-old Australian boy (Amish was his name!?). Cody and I were holding back a little. Cody was running smart the whole race. At the abrupt turn around, Cody and I took the lead. We were shoulder to shoulder and then I dropped to just behind him to try to mess with him. He didn’t falter one bit. We were running at around 5:35 pace. By the time we hit the hill just past Honl’s I couldn’t hold my pace. We ascended the bump and Cody made it seem like we were still on flat ground! The gap widened. I tried to sprint down the other side with about ¼ mile to go to the finish. Cody didn’t even look back though. I was hurting. I ended up running a 17:25 (my fastest 5k ever even on a track!). Cody was around 17:10! Amish ended up taking third! What little beasts!
It was a hot morning with a late-for-Kona-racing start at 8:10am and I was drenched in sweat even just after that short of a distance. I got to meet Max’s sponsor, Levelen, who makes energy supplement drinks and powder semi-custom to one’s bodily-needs based on sweat tests. Meeting the owner, Livingston from Philadelphia was great. He had me try out a sweat test and provided me with my numbers in terms of water-loss and sodium-loss based on a weigh-in and weigh-out and my sweat composition after a hard 1.5hr run later that week. It turns out my numbers are quiet low in terms of sodium-loss. I am recommended to take in about 20oz-40z of water per hour. That range is quite wide, so I’m still experimenting. I think about 25-30oz is what I really need, but it all depends on the temperature.
Since this last race, I’ve been sticking to my Purple Patch training plan with one more race coming up. Guess where? Yep. Back to Oz! I’ll be heading out in just three weeks from now to stay with Tim in Sydney for the Thanksgiving break! The timing and location work out perfectly for one last 70.3 race this year. I know, I know, it’s time for a break. That’s what winter is for! In all seriousness, I know I have one more excellent race left in me this year. I hit it during my first 70.3 this year at Oceanside and that was with little sophistication in the swim and bike. Those areas have dramatically improved this year since then. My body weight is back down to April levels (~140lbs) and I feel optimistic as ever that Western Sydney 70.3 will be even more perfect than Oceanside for me.
I have learned so much this year from race strategies, nutrition during the race and training, daily-diet to managing my stress and emotions in this glorious sport of triathlon that tests the human limits of endurance and focus. It’s been one week in fact since I started my new high-fat, low carb diet. Encouraged by ultra-marathon runner and buddy, Billy Barnett, I’m trying to retrain my body to burn the fat stores instead of the easy-access sugar. I want to cut sugar out completely, but racing 70.3’s is teaching me that I still need some carbohydrates (smart carbs) during training of over an hour. I’m sticking to the super low-sugar (fructose?) and high-electrolyte First Endurance mix with their recovery protein drink for after. I’m still getting used to this diet, but no grains and no sugar (still fruit!) has been fun! I’m eating lots of bacon, eggs and avocados. For dessert I am eating whole-milk yogurt with berries. To start my day, I add in coconut oil and butter to my coffee and blend it for a proper bullet proof. I’ve been sore and tired all week, but that may not be from this diet. I’ve had terrible sleep and been doing race-simulation workouts all week. Stay tuned for more updates on my diet.