Please don’t trip, Please don’t trip
Just the stats:
Swim 1:24:28 (groan)
Bike 6:12:22 (double groan)
Run 4:22:08 (triple groan)
Total: 12:08:00 (the reality)
Place: 200 overall and 5th in age group (yay!)
Is it possible that I might just have to admit that I am getting slower as I age? I hope not. Like many triathletes, I feel as if my best race is still to be had however recent results seem to say otherwise. Oh well, on to the race report…
I had a good week leading up to the race. Often it can be quite difficult to eat well when travelling to a race, especially when you are completely reliant upon restaurants for your nutrition. However that was not the case in San Jose del Cabo. There were tons of great restaurants that were all within a 2 km walk from my hotel. Great fish tacos at Los Claros, monster organic salads from Mi Ensalada, pizza and craft brews (try the Scorpion) from Baja Brewing and delicious pre-race pasta at Habanero’s.
Not only did I eat well but I also had a great time with Eric and Gen from Vancouver. They drove me out to the practice swims before the race and also to the awards banquet. I could not have done any of that without them since it was difficult to get around Los Cabos without a car.
On race day I could a shuttle bus from my hotel in San Jose out to the swim start. I spotted Jeff Symonds on the bus. Jeff is also from Penticton and was racing his first long course triathlon. So I offered him some words of encouragement (not that he needed it) as we walked down the hill to drop of our special needs bags at T1.
The gun went off and we ran from the beach into the ocean. There was a bit of panic when a big wave came in and pushed the lead swimmers back into the rest of the pack and so I paused to let the wave pass and then race out before the next wave came in. The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful. The water was not as clear or warm as the swim at Ironman Cozumel however it was certainly nice to swim in. I was swimming to the outside in order to avoid swimming in the pack. This cost me some time however it bought me a lot of peace of mind since I was able to avoid the crush of swimmers. My biggest mistake was coming in too close to the shore for the last 1.8 km since then my progress was slowed down by all the currents. I also had to detour around a couple of reefs since I was so far off course. All of which meant that it was a long, hard and slow slog back into shore.
It felt good to be out on the bike and I was eager to try to make up some lost time from my swim. We headed west for the first of 2 loops of the 90 km course. The terrain was fairly rolling however the speed was kept in check by a fairly constant headwind that only seemed to increase in strength the further west that we went. We turned around just outside Los Cabos and then grabbed that wind and used it to push us all the way back to San Jose. After San Jose we began a series of long climbs as we headed out on a toll road towards the airport. There was nothing to steep however the hills were long and it was very hot since we were quite exposed out in the arid desert. I managed to eat two Pro Bars and also 1.5 flasks of Hammer Gel so my nutrition while not great, was far better than in Cozumel. I was disappointed that it took me over 6 hours to complete the bike course however I was feeling pretty good when I got off the bike and therefore was hoping to have a decent run performance.
The run course was a nice mix of terrain. It was a 3 loop course that started in the resort area, then headed over a viaduct to the Puerto Los Cabos district before finishing up in downtown San Jose. I was feeling pretty strong for the first 10 miles and was really enjoying the crowd support that lined the course. I was wearing my Canadian team uniform which was a big hit with all of the Canadian tourists that were out cheering us on. My stomach went totally sideways at the ten mile point and then it was all I could do to run from porta-pottie to porta-pottie. I will spare you the details but lets just say that I was very glad that I was able to make it make to the next port-pottie without having an accident. Thank you Jesus for small miracles.
It was after dark when I finally finished. Nonetheless it was an awesome sight to fly down the floodlit chute and hear the spectators shout Guapo Guapo. I was too ill to eat or drink so I just grabbed some water and walked the 2 km back to T2 so I could pick up my gear. Security was super light at T2, I am sure that I could have walked out with anyone’s bike and it would not have been noticed by anyone. Then I had a long and slow 2 km walk as I lugged all my gear through the dark and dusty streets of San Jose.
The people of Los Cabos did a great job in hosting their first Ironman competition. I would certainly put it on my list of races to repeat if the chance were to come up.
Kudos to Gen for picking up a Kona slot and to Jeff Symonds for finishing 4th overall at his Ironman debut. Great job you two!
This Monday I am heading out for Ironman #14. As usual, I am both very excited and also somewhat apprehensive about racing in a long course triathlon event. I suppose those feelings are healthy. I feel well prepared for the race however I also have a great respect for endurance events and therefore know that things can easily go sideways on race day.
So what is different this time around?
My gear is pretty much the same with the exception that I am racing on new carbon race wheels that have tubular tires. This new setup should be fast as I have a 90 mm Easton wheel on the back and a 50 mm Profile Design wheel on the front. I decided to keep a 50 mm wheel on the front just in case there are a lot of cross-winds on the Los Cabos bike course. Hopefully it will work out well. The new speed does not come without risk though since if I get a flat tire then I won’t be able to repair it so I will be pretty much out of the race.
Nutrition on the bike has been an ongoing problem for me in recent years. I am currently using the Superfood Slam Pro Bar which are nutrient/calorie rich but do not have the sugary sweetness taste that other products seem to have. I am planning to get in 4 of these while on the bike which along with my gels and Gu Brew should set me up well for the transition from bike to run.
My approach to training has been somewhat different this time around as well. I have been doing much more focused workouts, choosing to do intervals of more intense work rather than the usual long/slow slog outs. I have always done intervals as part of my running program however this is the first time I have also really fully integrated interval training into both my swimming and cycling workouts. So we will see how well that strategy plays out on race day.
So if you have nothing better to do this coming St Patricks Day (which would be hard to believe) then please feel free to follow competitor #1102 on Ironman.com .
I celebrated the start of my 55th year on this planet by racing in the Golden Gate 30 km race which took place down in the Marin Headlands (just outside of San Francisco). The area is one of my fave places to run single track. I have been lucky enough to have run here 5 times before at The North Face Endurance Challenge and therefore I know some of the trails quite well. They are absolutely gorgeous.
I love the look of anticipation on the faces of these trail runners as we await the starting gun in the early morning sun.
Here is a peaceful shot of Rodeo Beach (location of the start/finish line)
This is the only photo that I took during the race. We were zipping along the Coastal Trail which had magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.
It was a tough course. One that reminded me that I have not been training on hills and therefore shredded my calf and quad muscles. Nonetheless I still managed to finish 25th overall and 3rd place in my age category. Which is a pretty good way to start the season.
Just the stats:
Swim = 1:23:48
T1 = 5:13
Bike = 5:56:45
T2 = 4:46
Run = 4:17:10
Total = 11:47:42 (27th in AG and 428 overall)
Favorite moment of the day = running negative splits on the run
Toughest moment of the day = completely bonking on the bike ( I must find something new to eat on the bike)
Biggest surprise of the day = seeing people just stop cycling and lie down on the pavement
Something new = paqueta de agua (small plastic bags of water which were perfect for drinking and cooling)
As usual, Ironman race day began very early. There were many Iron Virgins from Brazil staying at my hotel and they were a noisy/nervous bunch at 4 am. So I had no choice but to join them and start my my preparations earlier than expected. Truth was I was a bit anxious before this race as well. I had been sick during the previous 3 days and had also developed an infection in my left eye. So on race day morning, I was not sure if I woud be able to keep down breakfast or even be able to get my contact lenses in. Despite all this hesitation, I managed to get all my pre-race stuff done and then went down to the lobby to wait for my taxi to take me 15 km out to the race start at Chankanab Park. A taxi showed up and myself and a couple from Holland jumped in and we raced off through the quiet streets of San Miguel.
We got about half way to the race when all hell broke out in the back seat of the cab. It seems that the Dutch couple had forgotten their bike pump and they insisted that the taxi driver pull over and stop. I tried to convince them that there would be plenty of pumps at the transition area and that it would be easy for them to get assistance once we arrived. However they would not hear of it and insisted on getting out of the cab in the middle of nowhere and somehow making their way back to the hotel. I have no idea how they intended to do that since we were now in the middle of nowhere and it was only 90 minutes before race time. Ironically when I got to transition there were armies of bike technicians with bike pumps available so it would not have been a problem.
The sky was dark and the wind was whipping up the seas into quite a chop when I made my way out onto the pier. Despite the ominous conditions, everyone was in great spirits as dolphins danced and did tricks for us (at their trainers urging). A warm-up swim was not permitted so I got into the water a few minutes before race start and made my way to mid-pack on the right (shore) side.
Racing when you are ill is never an easy or sure thing to undertake. However I had decided that I would rather be out on the course than sitting in my hotel feeling sorry for myself. Therefore my goal was to check in with myself after each segment of the race and if my symptoms got worse then I made a deal with myself that I was ok to pull the plug at the point and call it a day. With this plan in mind, the gun went off and swim began.
The first aspect of the swim that I noticed was that my positioning so close to the shore was not the best. The depth of the shoreline varied as we swam over coral and reefs. This made it difficult to swim without touching anything or getting cut by the coral. In addition it seemed that the current that we were fighting actually intensified in the shallow areas. This was not good because it was already tough going as we fought the choppy waves, I did not have to make it any harder than it was. I managed to angle away from the shore and swim closer to the buoys just as we rounded the first turn. I managed to make up some time on the back half of the swim since we were now swimming with the current however I could not breathe on my right side since the chop was fierce on that side. Soon we rounded the outer buoy and headed back towards the start. This meant that we were again fighting the currents and wind which meant that it was a very slow slog back to T1. As tough as it was, this section of the swim was also very beautiful as the water was crystal clear so that we could see all kinds of tropical fish.
Out of the ocean, into the fresh water showers and then I was in the change tent putting on my bike gear. I was very happy to be out of the water and since I was not feeling too bad decided to continue on with my day. I had been slow out of the water so that meant that I was right in the thick of things on the bike. The transition area was super crowded and it was tough to maneuver my way through the mayhem and get out on the course.
The bike course consists of 3 loops of the southern portion of the island of Cozumel. The first 10 km is flat and fast, mostly because there are a lot trees to protect you from the wind. Then suddenly you round the tip of the island and the trees pretty much stop as you head out onto the eastern shore of the island. The next 30 km has spectacular scenery as you ride along the open Caribbean Ocean however you are completely exposed to the trade winds that whip in off the sea. It was really hard going during this section because you basically had to stay in the aero bars the whole time and just grind away as you battled your way northward. I was really surprised at how tough this section of the course was. The good news is that after that 30 km section we made a hard left and then picked up a tailwind so that we could fly right across the island into the town of San Miguel. After we zig zagged through the city streets then it was a quick 5 km back to T1 where we started the whole thing all over again.
Nutrition on the bike was once again my nemesis. I had one Hammer Bar that went down well. I also managed to eat about half a Honey Stinger waffle before the wind caught it and blew it away. However that was the only solid nutrition that I could keep down. To make things worse, the Aid Stations did not have anything that I could eat. Fresh fruit from an Aid Station was just not an option for my stomach. They had some odd looking cookie type thing but that did not look too palatable. So my only option was to stick with my Gu Brew, gel and electrolytes and hope that I could get in enough calories before my stomach shutdown. The last lap on the bike was long and slow as I felt myself start to bonk from the lack of calories. The slower I went, the more my cadence dropped which causes the circulation in my legs to drop and my feet begin to swell.
I was in a total bonk when I got off the bike in T2. Forget about running because my legs were so cramped that I could barely walk. I took stock of the situation and decided just to walk for awhile and then decide as to wether I needed to pull the plug or continue. I started in on the coke on the at the first Aid Station thinking that the caffeine and sugar would help my bonk. Slowly the walk became a shuffle and then the shuffle became a run. I started to alternate coke and water at the Aid Stations. In addition I was able to pick up some PowerGel’s which always seem to work for me. By the end of the 1st of the 3 loops I was starting to feel good, so good that I revised my goals from just survival to now run negative splits for the rest of the run. On I went running into the night, pushing myself faster as I went, feeding off the noisy crowd that lined the streets and yelled “guapo” as I ran by.
I came across the finish line at around 11:48. Certainly not my best finish time at Ironman however not my worst either. As usual, I was ignored at the finish line. There was no announcement of “Donald Smith you are an Ironman” as the announcers were busy doing a recap of the day. I did not care though. I was just so proud of myself for pulling myself out of that nasty bonk on the bike and then rescuing the run by pulling off negative splits. Starting the day off being ill and then to hang in throughout the race, face the challenges of the day and then still be able to turn things around, that for me was truly satisfying.
Despite my fatigue, I managed to collect my bike and gear bags and then walk the 2 km back to my hotel through the crowded streets of San Miguel. Most of my route home took me along the race course which gave me the opportunity to share some words of encouragement with those that were still out on the course.
I have heard varying accounts as to how many people did not finish Ironman Cozumel. Officially 2770 people were registered for the race however I believe that around 1670 actually finished. If that is the case then they have a very high DNF rate at around 40%. I do know that between 200 and 300 people did not complete the swim within the allotted time so that is an indicator of how tough the water conditions were on the day. Whatever the final numbers were, I do know that many people thought that it would be an easy day out there because it was considered to be a flat and fast course. Certainly that was not my experience nor for the 1000 people that DNF’ed.
Back at the hotel, it was time to take stock and assess the damage from the day. I find it ironic that sometimes it is not until you are in the shower that you notice the pain points. The feet that are swollen from running in wet shoes for 42 km. The jelly fish stings on my neck and hands. The nasty sunburn on my arms and shoulders. Why had I not noticed these things before? Well it was too late to do anything about my wounds now. I took my anti-HIV meds, put on some loose clothing and then shuffled off to a local Argentinean BBQ for some well deserved dinner and beverages.
Much gracias amigos to the people of Mexico that hosted me during this adventure. I very much appreciate your hospitality and support during my stay.