Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011 California 70.3 Race Report

I signed up for this race with two goals in mind, test my ability to race in the early season on indoor training only and get a spot to Clearwater. The plan for the year was Oceanside 70.3 , Muncie 70.3, Ironman Wisconsin for a Kona slot, and Clearwater 70.3. However after I paid WTC for Oceanside 70.3 and Wisconsin they went and moved the 70.3 World Championship to Vegas and on the same weekend as IMWI…. so my plans went out the window.

My new goals became just to test my early season racing and finally break my 2 year streak of bad runs off the bike.

It’s not often that I say this but I’m actually pleased with how this race went for me. My nutrition was perfect and I had a great run off the bike. As I shared in my goals posts, this year I’m much more focused on performing to my ability in races than gaining fitness like I focused on in the past.

Here is the summary of my results and the long boring details are below.

Swim 31:47 (37th AG)

T1 2:42

Bike 2:30:19 (6th AG)

T2 1:18

Run 1:20:03 (2nd AG)

Overall 4:26:09 (4th AG)

Before I get into the details, as usual I could have never raced this well without the support of my family, friends and sponsors. There are too many to mention but Theresa and Abigail once again were there to support me every minute before, during, and after the race. I couldn’t imagine doing this without them. Having the best wetsuit, clothes, shoes, and recovery gear from Zoot Sports is awesome. Also having my coach, Dr. Phil Skiba, craft my workouts, taper, and race plan to work for me was a huge help.

Theresa was busy with Abigail so she wasn't able to take as many pictures as usual but still got a few.  Mark Harms was also on course and took a few as well.


I followed my taper exactly and felt awesome all week. On Thursday I got my bike from TBT and did an easy spin on the coast highway just to make sure the bike worked. I have to say I was a bit nervous about using TBT after Kona, but they took care of me to make up for the mishap and their service was great this time around.

My confidence was pretty high as my fitness was better than I expected and I also felt strong, rested, and ready to race.

On Friday morning that confidence quickly disappeared. I did a quick swim in to try out the new Zoot Prophet wetsuit. The suit was awesome but I got crushed by some waves that beat me up pretty good. After that I went for a bike ride and had a pretty big descent right after leaving the hotel. The road went over a valley and when I hit the bridge I was easily over 40mph, hit a bump while getting hit with a cross wind and then had a crazy speed wobble. It took a few hundred feet to slow down enough for the bike to stop shaking but when I came to a complete stop I was still shaking and not so confident anymore. I was starting to think racing on only indoor riding might not be the best idea but it was too late to change that now.

The rest of the day was uneventful and consisted of my normal pre ironman meals and getting to bed early. Of course I didn’t sleep well thanks to getting beat up by both the waves and the wind and it took forever to get to 4AM.

Setting up transition went quick and then I spent some time with Theresa and Abigail.

Swim 31:47

With all the hype about how cold the water is I was pleasantly surprised to get in and not be cold at all. We had maybe a 200-300 yard swim from the boat launch to the in water start. I was looking to swim 30 minute and lined up front and center as it was not crowded right in the middle. I just keep my head down and swam hard for the first few minutes. I’m used to always being in a crowd and having feet to draft off of so I just wanted to not get swam over too much. This race went much different than ever before as I had open water for a bit. It was a great feeling to have open water and not be getting passed. Only problem was when I started to sight I was off to the right and a group had formed a bit in front of me and behind me and I was solo. I tried to catch up to the first group but wasn’t able to and didn’t want to swim too hard to I just swam solo until catching up with people in the next wave. Then the fun began of trying to go around people. I really feel I have the fitness to go just under 30 but need to work a little more on my sighting, drafting, and swimming straight.

When I came out of the water my watch just said 11:37 and battery low. I messed with it while running to the bike and got it to restart and it wouldn’t do anything except show a battery low message which was interesting as it was 100% charged before the race.

Bike 2:30:19

As usual, I was thrilled to be done swimming and now the race could actually start for me. For the first few miles I was messing with my watch while just settling in to just under my target watts. I was never able to get the watch to start working again and it went into an endless loop of restarting every few minutes for the rest of the race.

I was flying and under my target watts so I knew something was up. I checked and at 1 hour in I was already just over 25 miles into the ride. When finally turned east the cross wind hit me… yep, it was going to be a long way back into a head wind. The next 25+ miles were pretty much a consistent head/cross wind. The climbs were no big deal and I was able to spin up them and even pass some folks that were out of the saddle, however due to the death wobble ride on Friday I was a bit nervous on the descents that I had never seen before. I definitely used the brakes more than I ever have before in a race and for the first time ever people were actually passing me on the down hills. I doubt I lost all that much time but I didn’t really enjoy the ride (the bike is usually my favorite part).

When we turned by the airport there was about 12 miles left and all into a head wind. I decided my legs felt pretty good and I took the first part of the ride pretty easy so I pushed the pace a bit and rode the a bit harder the rest of the way in.

I came in right about 2:30 and I felt I should have been under 2:25 so I was a bit disappointed however when I got to my rack it was empty so I guess I didn’t do too bad. I quickly took my bike computer off so I at least at some sort of timing device on the run.

Run 1:20:03 (New PR)

As I’ve shared before, the run used to be my strength but over the last two years I haven’t been able to nail a good run off the bike. I held back a good bit on the first mile and then stopped at the toilet (something I usually won’t waste time with during a race). After that I felt much better and slightly picked up the pace, then around mile 2 a guy in my age group flew by me. He had an all green tri suit on that said "dream crusher" on his back. His number was a few hundred higher than mine so I assumed he was in a later wave and therefore a good bit ahead of me. After the race I found out it was a local stud, James Walsh.

Even knowing that he likely had 3-6 minutes on me, I’m a pretty competitive guy and after James passed me I really wanted to throw my plan out the window and go after him but I didn’t. I tried to force myself to run no faster than a 6:00 mile but also keep James in sight. This was pretty hard to do as James was flying and continuing to pull away. By the time we hit the strand on the way back I lost sight of James but I still wanted to have a good run and stuck to my plan.

Once I hit mile 9 I put the bike computer in my pocket and just ran hard. At the final turnaround I was shocked to see I made up some ground on James and thought I was in a position to catch him. By about mile 11 I was only 25 feet back and I saw James look over his shoulder at me. I immediately thought, oh shit this one is gonna hurt. We were shoulder to shoulder on the strand and being local there were quite a few folks cheering James on which gave me a pretty good boast. When we made the turn at the harbor I went for it and ran as hard as I could. My calf and arch of my foot both cramped and my stride felt horrible. I had no idea where James was but I wasn’t stopping until I hit the finish. Of course as I crossed the line in a full out sprint they had a bunch of volunteers right there and I plowed right into them and then proceed to fall over while my legs twitched from the cramps. Once I was on my feet again James was there. We talked for a minute and confirmed that he was in the third wave for our age group and I was in the first. I congratulated him and then got my free ride to the medical tent as I guess they didn’t like my graceful finish and the fact that I could barely stand up. After some help stretch my calves to get the cramps out and some ice, I was able to get my results.

Thanks to the motivation of catching and running with James, I achieved my goal of running well off the bike again and set a new 70.3 run PR by 2 minutes.

Congrats to James on a great race.  Check out his blog and watch out for him in Kona this year.

Lessons Learned

• 30-34 is tough. There were twice as many people in my age group as ever before and a lot of fast guys. I’ve got to be on top of my game to place well.

• I’ve made huge gains on the swim in the last two years and now I need to learn how to race in the water. I’m still nowhere near FOP in the swim but I need to at least be able to get into the second (or third) pack of people and not just swim on my own the whole time.

• I can run! The combination of small changes to my bike setup, nutrition changes and working with a coach on my training and tapering added up to setting a 70.3 run PR of 2 minutes. (All this off of LESS running than ever before)

• I’m still a competitive type A person, even though Kona is not in the plans this year, I’m disappointed I missed a slot by about 2 minutes.

• I was able to keep my fitness and was in great shape for this race on only indoor training, but my confidence in both the water and on the bike suffered due to being a little rusty. Next time I need to make sure to ride outside a little bit more.


  1. Nice job...I like the part about plowing into the volunteers...that must have been quite a sight. And you should have included a link to James' blog.

  2. awesome report.... and gnarly how well you raced on "indoor" training only. It was rad pushing each other the final two miles and like i said on my blog if you wouldn't have caught me (and eventually crushed my dreams in the final 100 yards) there is pretty good chance I would have not passed the last guy for the win....

    our AG is tough... such close, fun racing. hopefully we'll get race again sooner than later.

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