Friday, March 22, 2013

Hot Hot Hot at San Juan 70.3!

I’ve had finals this week so this is the first free moment I’ve had to sit down and right my race report. I raced my second half ironman on Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Conditions were all over the place— windy, rainy, pot holes, puddles, iguanas, stray dogs, HEAT, and probably the most enthusiastic aid station volunteers EVER.

Out of water 19th, 2:29 back.
The field was enormous, 50 pros, the same size they boast at the World Championships. Clearly everyone was trying to get an early jump on the season. I knew I had my work cut out for me and I was told by teammates that it was a great race.

Swim: 1.2 miles. In-water start in the protected Condado Lagoon. Out-and-back, finishing under the Dos Hermanos Bridge.

With a field this big, the start was chaotic. I was getting the crap beat out of me, but I’d like to think I was reciprocating appropriately. The chaos dragged out longer than usual which was good because it meant I was hanging in the thick of it. Halfway through the swim, it spread out a bit and I was able to bridge up to a pack of 6 that was putting out a pretty good clip. I exited 19th, 2:29 behind the leader. Again, the offseason swim-work paid off!

I also have to attribute my best 70.3 swim of my career to my Xterra Speedsuit. If you have the means and necessity for one, pick one up ASAP!

Bike: 56 miles. On Interstates 25, 1, 2, 24, and 165. Out-and-back with a mini out-and-back in between.

Into T2 24th, 2:12:44 bike split.
Despite all the Interstates the course was pretty straightforward but where that confusion lacked, the conditions made up for it. In the first 40km we rode through a pretty good down-pour that created puddles on the course, hiding potholes and uneven parts of the road. Around 10km in, I looked back to see that 2 of 3 of my bottles had already popped off. Nonetheless, I had a great bike! I found myself leap-frogging in a group of 4 or 5 riders. We were holding true to the 10m drafting rule because for the first 60km we had a motorcycle official riding with us. The guys who weren’t trying to gain a competitive advantage by breaking rules kept the train going while one or two bad apples got pulled off for penalties.

At 60km, bike-haus Patrick Evoe went by with one or two riders and blew up our pack. Being an out-and-back, by that time age-groupers were all over the road so it was impossible to stay in contact with the group, at least for me. I rode solo the last 30km back into San Juan continuously marking a rider who remained about 20 seconds up the road. I came into T2 24th, with a 2:12:44 bike split.
DT Swiss Dicut-66 Front and Dicut-T Disc.

This was the first race I got to ride on my new wheels from new sponsor, DT-Swiss. My Dicut-66 front and Dicut-T Disc were responsive, lightweight and incredibly durable amidst about as tough conditions as any will come across. Not only that, I felt confident on these wheels to the point I could hang with riders that previously would out-ride me in a 40km bike by minutes! Granted, I’ve been working on my bike during the off-season as well but I feel psychological factors, like riding a brand new set of industry-leading DT Swiss race wheels, raise your game. And they don’t look too bad either..! I look forward to flying on these babies in 2013!
Run: ½ Marathon, 13.1 miles. Out-and-back twice through Old San Juan. Hilly.

Not my day on the run. Thanks bike..
Being a runner by trade, this is where I normally do damage in a triathlon. Not this time. I most likely paid for my effort on the bike with the slowest run of my career! It was about 10am by the time we started the run so the sun was getting high, and despite the wind having picked up, IT WAS HOT. Hot like it bogged you down hot. Hot like you wanted to find a shaded alley and go to sleep hot. Hot like, well, just damn HOT. Historically, I’ve been averse to over-indulging in the aid stations but that thinking went out the window fast. I couldn’t consume/pour-on my body enough. Happily, like I mentioned earlier, the young volunteers knew it and were incredibly empathetic to our needs.

I slaved through the run, unable to respond to anyone going by and crossed the tape, 27th in 4:13:48. Despite the fact I could have crawled faster than I ran, I didn’t stop, I didn’t walk. I kept throwing one foot in front of the other to find that finish line. The crowd appreciated the effort knowing full well how tough it was and some even dubbed me ‘Captain America’ for my efforts, but mainly for my awesome Champion System race kit!

What I do know is that my swim and bike were very competitive and had I tied-on a run-split more expecting of my ability, I would have easily finished inside the top-15 in a world class field.

Positives: season is very early, not even April yet; I’d rather use these early races to iron out the kinks than in the bulk of the season; happy where my swim and bike are; 2013 is a long, long season! Thinking about racing Life Time South Beach in April but other than that, I have nothing on the schedule until the end of May. A great opportunity to fine-tune and get ready for June-July-August, which will be jam-packed!

Team HH!
Thanks again to all the volunteers. Thank you to my family who chose to hijack my race weekend and make it a vacation of their own! Thank you to my wife for giving me splits during the race and greeting me with a sweaty hug and kiss whether I finished 30th or 3rd. And last but not least, thanks to all my amazing sponsors! The best in the biz! Xterra Wetsuits, DT Swiss, Skechers, Champion System, Rudy Project, Royal Hawaiian, Evolution Physical Therapy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

70.3 Season Opener

I’m en route to Puerto Rico for the first half-ironman of my season. The field is stacked, as big as a world championship field – 50 male pros! We’re expecting scattered showers throughout race morning, but my hope is that it’s a typical tropical storm: rain 5 minutes and pass, rain 5 minutes and pass. Rain in 80 degrees is never too bad, right?

I’ve heard good things about this race course. Pretty flat out-and-back bike and a twice out-and-back run that’s apparently deceptively tough. Looking forward to challenging the elements in addition to this enormous field! All the big players from last year’s race have returned and it’ll bring nothing but the best out of me to toe the line with these powerhouses!

Gun goes off at 6:50 Sunday morning. You can track the race in real time at IronmanLive. A full race report to follow.

Thanks for checking in.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Mechanical?

Last weekend I raced the 33rd Annual Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon; my fourth Alcatraz race, 3rd as a Pro.

This year it was the deepest pro field to date and the most extreme conditions. The race is normally held in June but it was pushed up three months to March because of America’s Cup sailing race, held in the bay. A March 3 race date meant water and air temperatures around 50 and 55 degrees respectively.

A blurry swim exit, literally.
If it wasn’t bad enough, as we were pulled out on deck, the organizers told us the swim start would be postponed 10 minutes because a cruise ship, arriving 3 hours ahead of schedule, had to pass in front of us before we could brave the frigid waters. That in turn meant we now had an enormous wake to swim through after the ship had passed. Needless to say, it’s what makes this race so great—the elements. Add a cruise ship’s wake to the equation? Why not!

The horn sounded suddenly and I dove in. My adrenaline was red-lining so I didn’t pay much attention to the water temp. I was more concerned with swimming a good line and finding feet. As the wake started to hit us, it became clear this was going to be a battle of attrition—who would crack due to the elements? Several times, I put in surge after surge to bridge the gap to several pairs of feet that were about 10-15 yards ahead of me. With one final effort, the gap closed. By that time, I noticed my 2 swim caps and goggle straps were slowly creeping up the backside of my head. Just before they came off, I stopped in my tracks, grabbed either side of the caps and jammed them back down onto my head. This motion rushed a significant amount of water into my goggles which meant I needed to stay on those feet or I’d be lost at sea! For the remainder of the race, in the midst of a swim stroke, I would probably “cap-check” 10 more times.

Up, up and away..
Despite those issues, I had the best Alcatraz swim of my career in my Xterra Wetsuit which was motivating because I knew I had put in good work during the off season. I ran the ½ mile to transition barefoot on the newly paved sidewalk. There sure is nothing like thawing out your feet in a sprint on pavement at 8am on a Sunday! Onto the bike and up into the hills I went and that’s exactly where things would fall apart. A complete rookie mistake, I thought my bike’s cables and shifting were dialed-in for race day but I was dead wrong. They bounced all over the place as I ascended. I had two options: (a) ascend in the easiest gear or (b) ascend in a heavy gear that put out <40 cadence.="" nbsp="" p="">

..still going up.
I struggled through the bike, trying to overcompensate where I could and tore apart my legs. I came into T2 a bit demoralized but soon found solace in my coach’s voice in the back of my head, “So you’re having a shitty race. What can you do RIGHT NOW to turn this race around?” I threw on my Skechers GoRun2’s and shot into that wicked headwind. I didn’t quite find the pace I expected but I was nonetheless able to reel in a handful of guys and finish 15th in a field that boasted several Olympians and the current Ironman World Champ.

I always look for the positive in everything and I’m pleased with my early season fitness. Next weekend, I race my 2nd career half-ironman in San Juan, Puerto Rico against an abnormally large field of 50 hungry pros. It’ll be a very different race than Alcatraz and I’m happy to report the whole fam will be in attendance!

Back to Alcatraz, I wanted to thank my wife, family and friends for braving the cold and cheering their loudest. That’s what makes EFA such a fun race-- the enthusiastic crowd. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped put this race on. They are truly the working cogs that make each and every race function. And last but not least, thanks to my amazing sponsors for their unparalleled support! Xterra Wetsuits, Champion System, Skechers Performance, Royal Hawaiian, Rudy Project, DT Swiss and Evolution Physical Therapy.

L to R: K-Shack, Jules, TJ, JLove, HH, NH, Chaz, BRIT.
As I said, off to Puerto Rico on Friday, toeing the line on Sunday. Thanks for checking in, talk soon.


A moment of pause and recognition: We lost one of our own that cold morning in the frigid bay waters. As with any sport, there are highs and lows and in our sport it is the lowest of lows when something like this occurs. My deepest condolences to his friends and family who were waiting to see him cross that finish line. I will think about this all season and hope that in the future, better measures can and will be taken to avoid such catastrophes.