Aug 13, 2008

RACE REPORT: The Vineman Ironman 70.3 Triathlon

Well I did it.

My second Ironman 70.3 Triathlon is now complete and it was fantastic! But if you aren't interested in wine, vineyards and detailed race reports, you may want to skip this report.
First things first. I beat my Hawaii Ironman 70.3 time by 45 minutes and I am extremely happy with that result. Elated.

When I finished in Kona, I felt great, actually not that tired at all. That's because I played it safe. I was holding back not knowing what to expect on my first 70.3. Now that I knew what to expect and had completed the event, I was ready to push things a bit harder in the California Wine Country.

I arrived two days prior to the event to settle in and to review the course. That was a good idea, as it was a very technical bike course and I felt better knowing what to expect on the narrow, winding and rolling roads coursing through these beautiful vineyards.

Race day morning I rose at 3:45 am with three separate alarms (2 watches and my cell phone alarm). This was a wetsuit-legal race as the water was less than 78-degrees. An up and back route in the shallow river was much easier than the open-water melee of the Hawaii Ironman start. I had plenty of clean water (meaning, no one swimming in front of me or crawling on top of me).

Swimming up the current was no big deal at all compared to my Endless Pool workouts at home, but the return trip with the flow of the water seemed effortless. One really crazy thing is that I got hit with a giant catfish during the swim! The fish was so big, and hit me with such speed and force that it nearly knocked the wind out of me. It was pretty scary because the water was so dark green that I could not see the fish hit me and was not expecting it. The surprise of the hit, combined with the powerful "thud" when it collided with me, really shook me up!

Despite the run-in with the giant fish, I finished the swim about 5 minutes faster than the Hawaii event. The transition from the swim to the bike took four minutes and the bike leg went well. I pushed the bike harder than I had planned, and I broke somewhat from my race plan. I let my ego push me a bit as I tried to average 19.5 MPH. I finished the bike about 20 minutes faster than Hawaii.

The hard effort on the bike really took its toll on the run; I paid the price to be sure, but that was OK.

One interesting note was that my toes were nearly frozen on the bike. It was cold and I was not wearing socks. So when I transitioned in T2 and started running, the exact feeling was that of running with my feet frozen inside of two blocks of ice. I literally had no feeling at all and I really thought that someone could have hammered nails or spikes into my feet and I may not have felt them at all. It felt as if my feet were going to shatter. Literally.

On the 13.1 mile run, I seemed to average just under a 10 minute mile, but was surprised by how many hills there were. I walked many of them. I also made it a point to walk the aid stations. Since Gatorade really makes me cough, I stuck mostly to water. I picked up the pace toward the end of the run and literally passed dozens and dozens of people in the last mile. That tells me that I probably did not push hard enough during the middle of the run.

I was very, very happy with my race results. No shoulder pain, no trigger point pain in the aero position and no hip pain. I just ran out of wind on the run and my legs were pretty much shot from the harder than normal bike. But with all of that, I still recorded a very great time, shaving about 45 minutes from my first 70.3 Ironman which was only about 50 days before this race.

My confidence has skyrocketed based on these results.


Next weekend I will be attempting a 50K (30 mile) Ultra run through the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu and Agoura Hills, CA.

I have run-walked as far as 20 miles on a flat riverbed course. However, this will be the first time I will attempt any distance over 20 miles. This should be a terrific confidence booster if I finish the race because it is not only 4 miles longer than the full Marathon I will face in November with the Tempe Ironman, but it will also involve as much as 8,000 feet of elevation gain.

The good news is that the course is two, 15-mile loops. So if I come crawling back on the first loop, if need be, I can just walk off the course and be done with it. Naturally, I have every intention of finishing the full 50K distance.

I will be carrying Electrolyte capsules and plenty of fuel in addition to a 2 liter hydration pack. In addition to the hills, it is pretty much guaranteed to be very hot, some years, it has been in the low 100s.

I have no idea how I will do or if I will make it.

My plans are to use the Galloway method of run-walks, probably trying to average 12-minute miles on the course for 5 minute spurts, then walking at any comfortable pace for exactly one minute. Then repeating for about 8 consecutive hours.

I will be walking down all hills, regardless of where I am in my cycle because of my hip problem. The jarring motion would really wipe me out if I ran down those very steep hills.

The course follows a lot of firetrails up the mountains and along the ridge. For many years, I have watched those fire trails from seat 2A and always wondered what it would be like to run those.

There is a 9 hour cut-off time for the entire race; we are required to complete the first 15.3 miles in 4 hours, or they take us off the course. The longest period that we will have to go without an aid station is 5.6 miles. I will have enough water, food and electrolytes to go at least twice that distance because I am planning on a very hot day in the mountains.

I am extremely excited about this event and wish to thank the race director for making a special exception to allow me to run. She was impressed by my progress (she read this blog) and decided to take a big risk with me, carefully warning me that this is a very tough course.

Doing the Bulldog Ultra run means that I am not going to be doing the Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon that was part of my race plan. However, at this point in my training, it is probably more important to build up my confidence by doing a really long run.

MRI for the Ongoing Hip Problem

Ongoing hip problems forced me to slow down a bit and see a specialist; an MRI was the only way to really learn what was going on deep inside my hip joint. Asked to relax and stay still, they quickly whipped out a roll of medical tape and made numerous wraps around my feet. Once my feet and legs were immobilized, they tied me to the platform and slid me into a giant MRI machine. WOW that thing was loud!

With the photos in hand, I went to see my Orthopedic Surgeon. Turns out that a chronic case of bursitis in my hip was swelling against a major nerve, essentially taking me out of any serious training. But the good news is that surgery is not needed.

I can no longer do my high-speed track workouts at an all-out pace. Nor can I continue with Fartlek, high tempo runs or running down hills. I need to throttle-back and stay focused on a slower pace which will result in far less jarring. We will try this approach for thirty-days and see if there is improvement.

I am going to be using Voltaren twice a day to try and keep the swelling down. In the worst case, I do have the option of Cortisone shots, but only if this hip pain returns.

I have been completely cleared to continue all training activities, but must eliminate all speed work until further notice.

Long, slow distance with walking intervals is now the key workout. Using the Galloway running method, I will likely be running 5 – 7 minutes, then walking exactly 1 minute, then repeating this process with all long runs.