HOT, HOT, HOT!
Going into Ironman Cabo, my one fear was burning up throughout the day. Coming from the winter we had in Chicago, I was unsure on how I would fair in the burning sun of Mexico. Prep wise, I felt I was ready to have a good performance and knew I would have a good chance at top 3 overall for the amateurs (aiming for the top spot!). But the Ironman distance is a long race, and anything can happen over the course of 8:30-10 hours of physically pushing your body.
Race week was a bit crazy as I had a few busy days of work. The night before leaving, I was out in Madison giving a run clinic to two groups of 1/2 marathon and marathon runners. I drove back that night, loaded the car, and was ready for the 4am wakeup to hop the plane out to Los Cabos. Checking in was a breeze at the airport with our Ruster Hen Houses. Jacqui was asked if there was band equipment in them. She looked at me not knowing what to say, then turned back and said, “yea, something like that.” I’ll need to teach her how to be a little more smooth when flying with bikes! We still weren’t charged which now makes us 3 for 3 with flying for free with the new bags!
No airline charge!
Off to Cabo we go!
From wet, cold rainy….to sunshine and heat!
Upon arrival, we grabbed the rental car, drove over to our PENTHOUSE suite at the Mykonos condos to drop our bikes/bags off, and drove right back over to the airport to pick up my dad and younger brother who were coming along for cheer squad / vacation. We all went straight over to the race check in to get our bib numbers and race swag. Nothing too exciting there and only spent money on picking up some CO2 cartridges. Figured if we had a good race we’d buy a shirt online once they go on sale. Post race check in, we stopped at the Mega, Cabos’ local form of Super Target (groceries, electronics, pharmacy, etc..). We were hungry and wanted some food, so loaded up on some giant bread loaves, drinks, and snacks for our stay.
By the time we drove back to the condo, dropped off the rest of the luggage, we were all still pretty hungry and decided to drive into downtown Cabo San Lucas to walk around a little and grab some late lunch / dinner. Since Jacqui and I spent out honeymoon in Cabo the year prior, we knew of a few places that we wanted to stop at again. We were hoping to find one restaurant in particular, Panchos, but after walking around and not finding it, we got tired and just stopped at Mi Casa. In Cabo, every restaurant begs you to come in and eat which gets a bit annoying after a while. One lovely local kept asking us what place we were looking for as he wanted us to go to his seafood restaurant. After telling him we didn’t want his food, he yelled and said, “Fine then, I hope you starve!” We had quite a laugh over it and was a good start to our trip.
After dinner, we went back to the condo to assemble the bikes. It was already getting late and with the time change, we we ready for bed by 9pm.
Friday morning, we went on over to the swim venue at Palmilla with our coach Bill (who was staying with us in the condo) and a few of his other athletes Meagan and Stephen. The swim venue was absolutely beautiful with its soft sand, tropical trees in the background, and crystal clear water. Truly felt like we were in paradise. We zipped up the wetsuits and planned to swim out to the first buoy, regroup, and see how it felt. YIKES..the swim out to the first buoy was around 500meters out. The chop in the water was larger that what I’m used to...which is flat pool water. Fortunately it wasn’t just me that was struggling. After gathering ourselves, we made a left turn and headed out to the next far buoy. It only got worse. We were swimming into the current, and with the chop I didn’t think I was moving. I actually had to stop after about 6 minutes to rest and catch my breath. We went on to finish the smaller loop of the swim, which ended up being 1.2 miles. It took me 33 minutes! Not a good start to feeling confident going into race day. All I could do was pray (and check the weather forecast every 10 minutes) that the wind would die down and calm the nasty, choppy water.
After swimming, we all gathered our gear, drove out and previewed the run course. It looked pretty flat and easy, but the scary part was noting that not a single section had any shade. We ended up in downtown San Jose del Cabo at an excellent restaurant, the Tropicana Inn. Post breakfast, it was already getting later into the day and Jac and I wanted to throw the shoes on and shake out our legs (as well as see how hot it was mid-day). We ran from the condo, totaling 5 miles to a few parts of the run course with my dad and brother. My legs surprisingly felt great, which brought me back to feeling confident after that scary morning swim. While running back, we stopped at the mega as I needed some teflon tape for the bike tires.
A quick change back at the condo and out onto the roads to test out the bikes to make sure they were put together properly with no problems. I was the chief mechanic..so you have to be a little weary about them! The bike course was pretty much a straight shot down the highway for 18 miles, turn around to come back and repeat 3 times! Our condo was right on the bike course near the end of loop. It was also our first time testing out our new EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes road cycling kits. Super comfortable thanks to the high quality Castelli line!
The ride itself was pure fear. I couldn’t wait to turn around and head back. Cars whizzed by at 80mph mere inches from the shoulder of the road. Not exactly feeling too safe out there and wanting to make it to race day in one piece, I stopped after 10 minutes of riding, waited for Jac, and turned around to go back. That was more than enough riding for me. As a side note, the week before the race, I had Shimano Di2 shifting installed, so it was my first time riding outdoors on the new setup, and WOW...incredible. I do not think I will be going back to mechanical. Pure effortless and crisp shifting. So smooth that many times I couldn’t even tell that I had changed gears! And Flick at Sammy’s did a great job routing the wires that you cannot even see one on the entire bike! Not to mention that I’m now riding 11speed giving another gear option!
We regrouped at the condo and prepped for dinner. Since Bill hadn’t been down into Cabo San Lucas yet, we gathered our group and made the drive into town. We were all able to check out the bike course and noted that the biggest of hills seemed to come at the start/end of each bike loop near our condo. Since Jacqui and I had been into town the night before, we knew were Panchos was this time and decided to eat there that night. DELICIOUS chips, salsa, guac, toritillas...I could definitely eat that every day. Might have eaten a bit too much but just told myself I would need a lot of stored up calories for the long day ahead.
Day before the race! Saturday
Since I was worried from the swim the day before, I didn’t want to freak myself out the day before the race and decided to forego the swim in the morning. Instead, Jacqui, Bill, and I took the bikes out for one final bike ride. This time, since it was a little earlier in the morning, the cars weren’t as bad which allowed us to ride a bit more. I threw some hard accelerations in on the hills and noted that I was hitting over 800 watts, which told me the legs were ready! After 30 minutes of riding, we called it quits to grab some breakfast with Stephen, my dad, and brother Jason. We stuck with a local restaurant, Habeneros, as it had a good menu and only $10 for anything on the menu.
Nom Nom Nom
Saturday was also bike and gear check in day. They did it by bib number, so we had to wait until 1pm to check in. We spent the afternoon packing bags, which is a big task in itself. For those that are wondering what my bags contained, here is a run down:
Morning Swim Gear- Wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, timing chip, body glide, race shorts/top, and clothes to wear in the morning (jacket/pants)
Blue Bike bag- Aero helmet, sunglasses, Castelli T1 Stealth top with two PowerBars tucked into the pockets, bike shoes, towel, water bottle with just water to drink in transition, race number belt
Green Bike Special Needs- 3 spare PowerGels, spare tube, spare CO2
Red Run bag- Saucony Fastwitch shoes, Balega ultra socks coated with skin silk power, handheld Nathan flask, PowerBar visor, another pair of sunglasses
Yellow Run Special Needs- nothing
After going through the bags 10 times and feeling like something was missing, it was time to load up the gear into the rental van and take it down to say goodbye until race day. There were no cars allowed for about 1/2 mile away from transition, so we parked on the highway and walked the bikes / gear bags down to transition. All was pretty simple, just took a while to walk with all the gear. We then headed back to the van and drove over to transition 2 to drop off our run bags. When leaving transition 2, there was only a one way road that didn’t allow us to head back to our condo. Instead, we had to drive up a sidestreet to get back up to the highway. Well, since everyone was required to do this, the backup looked to be about 2 hours long. Since we had Stephen in the car with us, and he had not checked his bike in yet, I turned the car around, and went back to the one way street. Made the turn and floored it going head on into traffic. There we were screaming down the road honking the horn to warn any cars we weren’t going to stop. Luckily it was two lanes, so the cars that came flying head on with us switched over to the other lane. That was a good pre-race adrenaline kick!
Bike Check in Photos-
We all made another quick stop at the Mega to pick up groceries for dinner. Jac and I love eating lean meat and greens before our races so we picked up some filets, salad, and a bunch of mixed vegetables to grill out at the condo. This was a perfect move as we avoided getting trapped sitting at a restaurant for hours and were eating foods that we knew exactly what was going into them. Stephen stayed with us at our condo, so we had a big family dinner saying our final prayers the night before the big day! Thanks to my dad for cooking and as well as Stephen for the delicious salad! After dinner, it was a quick cookie for some extra carbs and lights out by 9pm!
Finally...the day had arrived. All the hours spent grinding away in our basement, the Friday nights suffering in the pool, and weekends logging mega miles on the treadmill (all indoors!!!) were all for this day. I set the alarm for 3:30am to start loading some calories in. I wanted to get them all in so that I could digest them before the 7am start. Breakfast consisted of:
-one banana (90cal)
-two PowerBar wafer bars (170 each, 340 cal total)
-one hazelnut spread on toast (260 cal)
~700 calories. I was hoping to get another PowerBar in, but was feeling full and didn’t want to force anything
After eating, I drank a bottle of water, and went back into bed. Surprisingly I fell right back asleep waking up to Jac’s alarm at 5am. It was time to head out, I grabbed my bike nutrition bottle (Profile Design Razor!) which had 1600 calories worth of PowerBar gel in it, garmin, and swim gear bag, and went downstairs to hop in the car. My dad was nice enough to get up with us and drive us down to the swim venue that was 3 miles from our condo. This is where it got a little interesting. While my dad was waiting for us to load into the van, the van died. Luckily, it started back up. Problem was that while pulling to the off ramp of the highway, the car died again and got stuck on the highway. This was the highway we were supposed to ride up and down and would be closed to all traffic. Since we needed to walk the half mile down to the beach, we left my dad with the van and let him figure it out. I guess they ended up just pushing the van off the side of the road and left it there!
Down in transition, we pumped the tires, got body marked, hit the restrooms, and before we know it, we were lined up on the beach!!!
I started front row, right next to Coach Bill. There is no feeling quite like it standing on the start line waiting to start a whole day long adventure of emotions, pain, and happiness! After what felt like 2 hours (really 5 minutes), they fired the gun (errr..sirens) and it was a mad dash into the ocean!
If you ever wonder what it looks like with a mass beach start…its crazy!!
I had a decent start but got gobbled up in the masses. I swam Tarzan style for about 200 meters (thats swimming with my head above water). Once some clean water opened, I got into a groove and never felt panicked or overwhelmed. The water was beautiful, clear, and I actually felt good swimming!
I latched onto a few others and swam comfortably around the first turn. It was then that I noticed a buoy pretty far off to the right. I wasn't sure where I was going so I started to swim towards it, but noticed the group I was in stayed straight. I lost contact with the group and soon realized that the buoy I was swimming towards wasn't in line with the others. It must have drifted a bit, so I swam a little extra and cost me some time. Little would I know how close the guys in front of me would finish at the end of the day! About half way through, I got VERY thirsty. I think it was the salt water, but all I could think about was getting a drink! Next time I will bring a bottle of water to the start and continue to drink it. Lesson learned.
As I made the final turn, I glanced at my watch and saw 50 minutes. I was thrilled! I knew I was going to be under an hour, so made a little surge and made my way towards shore. Standing up out of the water, my heart rate was through the roof. Garmin read 2.45 miles, so I think the distance was accurate! Into the transition tent, I had no trouble getting my bag. I sat down and felt like I had just run an all out 5k! I used a towel to dry off, threw on my Castelli T1 Stealth top, grabbed the sunglasses/helmet and ran out to the bike.
Is my time right?!
Overall place- 112
Age Group place- 14
Onto the bike! What used to be me weakness is now my strength!
Right out of transition, you climb the 1/2 mile road up and out of the swim venue. I had my bike in an easy gear, so it wasn't too bad getting up, but speeds were low! I started passing others very quickly which surprised with with the low watts that I was putting out. I had a plan to keep the watts lower than Kona, as my run suffered there. It was also hotter and hillier here. The bike course was very simple in that it just went up and down the highway for 3 loops, but it made up its difficulty in the terrain. Constant up and down rollers making the total climbing for the 112 mile ride to be up over 6000ft of elevation gain! Ouch! Sure is hard to simulate that on the bike trainer! With the heat, my goal was to finish my front aero water bottle by each aid station. They were supposed to be spaced out every 10 kilometers. That would give me around 16 ounces every 16 minutes.
After the first loop, I had moved through the field pretty well. I moved into 36th overall and 4th in my age group in those first 35 miles. That's passing 76 people right off the bat! The next challenge was catching those that were strong riders and had good swims. After the first lap, my power was right where I was expecting, but I could tell I was already fatiguing. Not a good sign. My nutrition was great, power levels were on, but my legs just weren't feeling the same. I caught coach Bill around mile 45. He was the first amateur out of the water in 46 minutes!!! We exchanged words and he told me there were about 2 guys in my age group just ahead.
After 60 miles, I backed off just a bit as I knew I was sitting pretty high up in the standings, and thought I could recover and rebound with such a long distance still to cover. After I hit mile 70, I upped it a bit and caught a few more people and the legs weren't feeling as bad. But when I started to press again, the fatigue came back. I pretty much coasted and soft pedaled for the final 20 miles. For the most part, the bike ride was very uneventful. 5 hours sure went by quickly! I was able to see my dad and Jason out on the course each loop which was exciting, but other than that I had my head down and was focusing on the task ahead of me.
Bike: Cervelo P5-3 Ultegra di2 components
Wheels: Zipp Super 9 clincher, Zipp 404 front - Continental Grand Prix 4000s tires. 11-25 cassette
Helmet- Giro Selector, no visor
Shoes- Sidi T3
Hydration- RZ2 bottle that had all the calories (15 power gels), Profile aero bottle up front for water only
Rear bottle: 2 tubes, 3 co2, co2 inflator, tire lever
I came off the bike not feeling great, but just told myself to stay focused and see what would happen.
5:01:47 (22.27mph avg) FASTEST AMATEUR BIKE SPLIT!
Overall place- 26th (including pros)
Age group place- 2nd
Time to run!
After flying down the hill to come into transition, I dismounted, handed my bike off to the volunteer and ran into the changing tent. I sat down with about 5 volunteers there to help me. One was putting suntan lotion on, one was dumping my run gear out, and one was helping me take my stealth top off, while the other two just stood there watching :) I opted to use normal laces in my shoes this time as I get a better fit in the shoes over elastic laces. I had prepped my socks and shoes with skin silk powder, which ended up being a great move. My feet felt great the whole run (thanks Saucony for the sweet Fastwitch 5s)! I grabbed my nutrition bottle (again, 6 power bar gels, some salt, and water mixed up), and onto the run course.
OUCH…every step hurt. My feet were throbbing and my legs felt awful from the bike. Not sure what it was, but I felt like my race was over. In the first mile, I told myself that I am never doing an Ironman again, even if I qualify for Kona (funny how things change a few hours post race!).
One thing about the run course was that it was HOT. The main problem was that there was not a section of shade. Pure blazing sun was on us the entire time. I could feel my skin starting to burn and secretly wished I had a long sleeve top to wear. The entire run was a mind game for me. There was nothing more that I wanted than to just stop, sit down, and cover myself in ice. My legs just didn't' want to go. I told myself to keep jogging and make it from aid station to aid station.
The run course was 3 loops with each one passing by the finish line to tease you.
The best part of the run course was that there were aid stations every 1km (just over each .5 mile!). Each one was fully stocked with water, gatorade, coke, ice. I was dumping chunks of ice into my race top and bottoms. The ice would be melted within 2 minutes! I also saw Jacqui out on the course a few times, she was absolutely flying. Even compared to the pro women, I could tell Jacqui was going much faster. Honestly, she looked like she was going faster than anyone else on the course!!
In the end, I have no clue how I made it through the run course. I made it through without stopping or walking once which was a positive. Sure, it was a slow painful jog, but I kept ticking and digging deeper and deeper. But he worst part about the run was seeing the leader of the amateurs just in front of me. There were about 5 turn around sections on each loop, and I was able to see the few guys coming towards me at every one of them. It was painful knowing they were so close..yet there was nothing I could do about it. They weren't even running very quickly, which made it worse. Knowing that I didn't' need to run very fast since they weren't, yet I couldn't get my legs to wake up and go. I was pretty constant hitting the miles in the 7:30 range all the way into the finish. It never felt so good to cross the finish line and be done with the longest 3+ hour run of my life.
Clock was still reading for the pros
3:18:07 (7:33 per mile avg)
Overall: 21st including pros - 5th overall amateur
Age Group: 2nd place
Total Time- 9:23:45
When all was said and done, I finished just under 2 minutes behind the winner of my age group and 8 minutes behind the overall amateur. Speaking of age group, this year I'm racing 30-34! Yikes… Even though I am 29, I turn 30 in December. So I am required to race up as that is what I will be at the end of the season. Needed the 3:10 marathon to come away with the overall win, but the body just didn't want to go. I knew I had qualified for Kona, but still had to wait to see where and how Jacqui would end up. We discussed that if one of us didn't qualify, we wouldn't do it. Ends up she had a phenomenal race, placing 2nd in her age group, 2nd overall female amateur, and 11th female including pros!!! To boot, a 3:10 at the end (hmmm, that time sounds familiar and would've helped if I ran that!). I couldn't have been more proud of her finish and know her potential is through the roof as this is her 2nd year of taking triathlon seriously.
Post race, we got the best massages at a race I've ever had, ate some pizza, and walked about 2 miles with our bikes back to the condo.
Since Jacqui's age group was so small, we weren't even sure if she would have a slot for Kona. Sometimes with the smaller age groups, there is only one slot given. So we had to wait until the next day at 5pm to see if we were going to Kona. We really didn't think about it and tried to enjoy the day. Here is what our post Ironman day looked like-
Food - whale watching - food - analyzing sunburn - food - seals - food - el arco
By the time we were finishing up our 5th meal of the day at 3:30, we realized the Kona slots were up from 4-5:30. We thought we had time to drive the 18 miles back to the condo, shower, change, and drive the 18 miles back. Midway to driving back, we realized we were really going to cut it close. Driving close to 95mph back into town for the Kona slot allocations, I was having doubts we would make it in time! Good thing there was no traffic and no accidents on the road as we walked in at 5:15. First thing was to check how many slots per age group were given-
Two for Jacqui's age group, three for mine!
We looked at each other and said, "so do we go?!?!" There was a little hesitation as I wasn't too set on going, but our time was getting close as they were going to divide up the unclaimed slots for roll down. With 2 minutes left to claim, we took the slots and handed over the money for Kona!
Ready for Kona part 2!
The rest of the night was spent at the awards dinner where we both got up on stage and received the HUGE M dot trophies.
The next day was a travel day back to the cold weather of Chicago. Overall, it was an incredible trip, and one that I hope to repeat some day. My mind is now set on going into Kona with the best fitness that I can get to…that is of course after having a few weeks of splurging :)