Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ironman 70.3 California (Troy)

March 30th, 2013 – Oceanside, CA
Swim 1.2m – Bike 56m – Run 13.1m
5:01:28 (29:03 - 2:42:50 - 1:43:14)

32nd / 239 (13%)
Robin Soares
First big race of the season and I'm in a new age group, 45-49.  So much to look forward to as the "young guy" in the pack.  We just had a fun week in Disneyland and visiting family in San Diego.  Yesterday was a wonderful Good Friday Iron Prayer service on the beach in Oceanside.  To top it all off, the weather is great and the water temp is 63 deg, 9 deg higher than expected!
One of my prayers for this race was not to be uncomfortably cold.  We came prepared with hand/feet warmers which we stick in our shoes and on handlebars to help after the cold swim.  But the morning is 58 deg, no wind, and the water is warmer than normal.  Thanks, God!
Robin and I arrive on time, set up T2 near the pier, and pop up the FCA tent on "Tri Club Row".  One of the race director staff helps with the tent and encourages us to go on and get ready.  The race staff has been very supportive of FCA Endurance.
We ride over to T1 and set up.  Thousands of bikes and athletes.  I see my old training buddy, Jeff Fieldhack.  It's been years!  Hopefully I'll see him on the course. This race is a huge deal.  I get concerned when I come back from a warm-up run / bathroom trip to find the transition closed.  But I find my way in and Robin and I meet up with wetsuits and do our final preparations together.
It's calming to be together.  Best friends racing an IM70.3… and the grandparents have the kids!  This doesn't happen often.  We pray together, encouraged to focus on Christ, the perfector of our faith, during the race, no matter how difficult it gets.  Robin heads off to her wave which is 4 ahead of mine.
I line up in the "orange-cap" 40-44 group.  The last wave. I didn't remember I had a yellow cap on.  Guys keep coming up asking me where the "yellow-cap" wave is.  I tell them it's probably way up there and wonder why they're asking me.  After 10 minutes I comment to the guys around me, "wow, they put us old guys in the last wave".  They say, "Yeah, but you're 3 waves up".  Doh!  Hope I didn't offend anyone.  I go find my wave.
It's 7:30 and I pray for Robin as her group of ladies takes off in the swim.  I hope she feels the Lord's comfort and strength out there.  12 min later, I'm jumping into the cold water.  Ugh, a terrible feeling but I know it wears off after a minute.  We're lined up.  I'm on the outside.
The Swim
Go!  I feel great starting out. I'm surprised to be ahead of the line to my left.  I know it won't last but it's encouraging.  My goggles start getting impaired with water and fog. I take in some salt water from splashes.  Gotta stay calm.  I find a draft and try to keep behind him.  Easier watching him than looking for buoys.  We go by many swimmers in waves ahead.  Now swimmers start passing me.
It's going well.  Soon enough we're making the far turn at the mouth of the bay where the swells get a little bigger.  My draft guy is erratic.  I have to continually change path to stay behind him.  Still better than going on my own.  Around the final buoy, heading back.  I get kicked in the lip.  I think it was a woman.  Whoever it was, they had a good powerful kick.  I couldn't see well to 130330_ca_70_3_troy_swimstay out of the way.  I'm ok but feel my lip getting bigger.
I can't see the buoys so don't know where the end is.  I just try to swim fast and hope to get out soon.  Arms are tired, body getting stiff, and drinking too much salt water.  I desperately keep an eye on the yellow cap I'm following.  He weaves around other swimmers.  Finally the finish line barely appears and I head for shore.
I'm glad to get out.  Long run to transition.  Slower runners ahead makes the pace slow.  But, nice thing, I'm not feeling cold!  I put my FCA jacket on (a long frustrating process) but am thinking I don't need it.  But I "stick to the plan".  Again I thank the Lord for letting me not be cold after the swim.
The Bike130330_ca_70_3_troy_bike2I start cruising through the cool morning air.  I realize the jacket is nice to have.  The toe warmers feel good.  Hand warmers aren't really needed.
Mile 5: 20mph. The road and path straightens. We have a tail wind.  I should be going faster than I am… probably need to loosen up.  I wonder how close I am to Robin now.
Mile 10: 22mph.  At the first out-n-back section I expect to see her but don't.  Did I pass her and not realize it?  The bike path takes us North along Hwy 5.  This is the good part.  I feel like I'm doing well but every mile another guy flies by me.
Mile 15: 22mph.  I think about my ride with Shayne a week ago.  I felt comfortable and strong on my tri bike.  I try to get that same feeling now.  I try to keep my head still and imagine my aero helmet cutting through the wind.  This is the longest straight section.
Mile 20: 22.1mph. I'm drinking Sustained energy and take a Perpetuem solid.  A 65yr old guy passes me, then settles back, multiple times.  I let it slide because, hey, he's 50% older and beating me!  I take off my jacket already.  Thanks, Lord, for great temperatures.  We hit the 1st no-passing, narrow section.  I strategize it well, get some rest, and take off at the end.  Christianitos Rd now heading into the Camp Pendleton hills.  I've been looking forward to this.. maybe just to change things up.  Or maybe because my "flat" riding hasn't been that great so I'm going to focus on pushing the "climbing".
Mile 25: 21.8mph.  Doing well in the hills.  I enjoy looking at all the military training grounds and the marines volunteering for the race.  We climb a steep grade at 28.5mi and then head towards the "dangerous" descent no-passing zone.  I strategize it well and pass others before I enter.  Just after entering the zone, a woman passes me on the right saying, "I need to get ahead, there's a no passing zone coming up".  It was kind of funny because of how many rules she broke all at once.
Mile 30: 21.2mph.  I still haven't seen Robin.  I'm starting to slow a little, getting tired, feeling the wind.  Then I see her climbing a hill ahead!  It motivates me to try harder.  I pass many riders on the hill but don't really gain on Robin.  I make up some ground on the descent but again can't catch her on the hill.  Wow, she's doing great!  Finally I catch her and I wish we could just ride side-by-side for a while.. but the rules won't allow it.  An exchange of smiles and encouragement will have to do.
Mile 35: 20.3mph.  Knowing Robin is behind me helps me ride better.  Seeing my average drop below my 20mph goal also has me pushing harder.  I just have to get through the hills…  but the last 10mi is hard, too.  It's always a head wind.  I'm dreading knowing I'll have to give it everything I've got there to keep my speed.
Mile 40: 19.9mph.  Ugh.  Will I be able to get back to 20mph?  It's windier.  The hillsides are beautiful.  I'm not hurting much on the climbs.  I focus on passing others.  Finally, the top!  As we start down, I see 2 guys drafting another.  The lead guy is pedaling all out while the 2 guys are just coasting in his draft.  Pretty obvious.  I catch up, making a big effort to get past them.  I tell the lead guy there's 2 on him.  He isn't happy to discover that.  The extra push to get passed them and the long downhill got my average back up.. Now it's time for the dreaded 10mi finish.
130330_ca_70_3_troy_bikeMile 45: 20.4mph.  Wow, that was a great descent.  44mph.  The 2 wheel suckers have fallen back.  The fast guy and myself aren't far from each other.  We're working hard.  All the way back to the base we keep seeing each other.  He says, "If we lived near each other, we could train, we're similar ability"  It makes us both push harder.  But my main motivation is how exciting I am that there's a tail wind instead of a head wind!  I feel fast and am working to pass everyone ahead.  This is terrific.  130330_ca_70_3_troy_bike3I'm actually increasing my average instead of losing it.
Mile 50:  20.7mph. looking forward to being done.  Just keep pushing.  Getting more windy now.  I ease up a bit as we weave through intersections, through the base and into the harbor.  I'm happy about my ride and don't mind losing a little time now to prepare well for the run.
Mile 55: 20.6 mph.  We see the runners along the beach.  I drink the rest of my fluids.  My bottle cages on the back are almost falling off but I didn't lose any bottles.  The ride went well.  I drank well, pee'd twice, didn't get a sore seat and wasn't cold. Thanks, God.
The RunReally looking forward to the run.  After a good transition, I grab sunscreen from a table on the way out, applying it as I go.  Sunburn is always a problem after the wetsuit rubs off initial sunscreen.  I'm thankful more was available.  A U-turn and I'm on the new run course.  Looking forward to checking it out.  Down onto the pier and a steep descent to the strand. The course is already crowded with the 16 waves ahead of me.  But the pros are already done!
Mile 1: 7:19.  Back up the steep part to the pier, along the top and down a steep rode to the beach Strand. I run by Robin's Dad, Gerry, at the FCA-E tent.  I see Greg Price, our generous Home Stay provider.  My hamstring is suddenly starting to hurt.  It's the twinge before it goes.   It's a serious concern.  At the Stampede a month ago it started like this at 10mi and I was walking at 12.
Mile 2: 7:46. I look for a spot to stretch and find one. Although it didn't help at the Stampede, I still want to take care of it best I can.  Wouldn't you know it, Coach Muddy Waters just happens to be nearby.  He comes over to give me advice and encouragement.  Amazing how he is always at the critical spots on a course.  He's a great coach that we came to know over our years in San Jose.  I tell him I feel good, just have to wait on the leg to feel better.  After 40 secs, I'm off again, at a very controlled, careful pace.
Looking down the road, across the many athletes, I remember some great and tough times on this run course. Running as fast as I could and trying to stay cool in the heat.  Today the temperature is great and this easier pace makes the run seem so doable.  But I'd rather be gasping for air than wondering when this twinge in my hamstring is going to explode and render me helpless.
130330_ca_70_3_troy_run2Everybody has something they're struggling with out here.  Whether it's the obvious of being paralyzed and racing in a wheelchair or running on prosthetics without legs.  Or nagging training injuries that are now making the race miserable.  Or just racing hard trying to find your self worth and having the frustrating feeling that it's not going to be good enough.
Whatever it is, the hard part is that no person can help you out here.  I want to know what to do to help my leg, to keep me going.  I do have help.  It's so comforting to know the Lord Jesus is with me always.  I immediately go to Him in prayer.  I feel like He's telling me, "the nagging twinge is a reminder to have faith in me.  You'll be fine to the end if you focus on me."  At the Stampede the twinge turned to full-blown muscle pull in less than 2 miles.  It doesn't make sense, but I believe God.  Now I just have to look to him every time I feel pain in my leg.
Mile 3: 8:01. Good considering the stop.  Now on the cement section of road.  Always feels harder and hotter here.  Down to the turn.  Backtrack along the houses.  Careful around the U-turn cone.  All the while remembering, "look to the Lord, He will take care of the hamstring, I will get to the end, I have no other help but Him and He is sufficient"
Mile 4: 7:46. Get lots of water at the aid station.  Back around the street corner.  Up the gradual climb.  I like the climbs, I can push a little harder.  Climbing shortens the stride, strains the muscle less.  But the hamstring can still go any mile, unless I keep my eyes on Christ.  I see Robin running well the other way.  We both smile.  I ask her to pray for my hamstring.  I've been praying for her race and am glad every time I see her running well and looking strong.  I also see other FCA Endurance and familiar faces on the out-n-back course.
Mile 5: 7:46.  It's a longer way back than I thought.  But soon I'll be on the beach Strand seeing family.  I'm looking forward to the 1/2 way point.  I'll start taking gels then.
Mile 6: 7:56  On the Strand now.  I can see the FCA-E tent a long ways off.  I get waves of encouragement when I go by.  Now up the steep part, slowly, but still running, to the street above.  People are finishing down below and some just starting on the course up above.  Down the pier ramps to the Strand again for an out-n-back to the aid station.
Mile 7: 8:15.  I take a gel and water and am feeling motivated to head South again.. for the last time.  The hamstring is staying exactly the same but I'm trusting God every mile that it will last.  Sometimes I want to go faster, sometimes slower, but I try to just maintain and trust.  Going up the ramp I see Robin, closer than last time, "You're gaining on me!"  I hope that encourages her.  She looks like she's having to push harder now.  By the FCA-E Tent again.  Robin's Dad is keeping a close eye on me and Robin while the girls play on the beach with Grammy watching.
Mile 8: 8:35.  I start reciting Ps 23, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me lie down in green pastures.."  Oh how nice that would feel to finish and lay down on some cool grass.  It takes me quite a few tries to remember most of the verses.  Each 1/2 mile I start over.  I think about each verse and it's application and how good and important the Lord is to me.  It's not easy diverting energy to remembering the verses while trying to push through fatigue at the same time, but every mile without hamstring-shutdown is so rewarding.  Celebration is coming.
I look at my watch and am surprised to see a low time, like I'm going to finish way below 5 hrs!  Even though my last mile was my slowest yet.  Perhaps the mild wind, the good swim, the flat, steady-but-surely run is adding up to be a big surprising 4:30 1/2 Ironman!  But I don't think about it much because math is too hard right now.  I just focus on God and keep the running form together. (after finishing I realized I was looking at the wrong time on my watch which didn't include the swim).
Mile 9: 8:23.  Up to the cement section and down to the street corner.  I can't wait to make the final turn-around.  Mile 10 will mark the spot where my hamstring conked out at Stampede.. but today I feel like it's going to be the spot where it feels better and I pick it up.
Mile 10: 8:10. Splits getting better.  I make the final turn-around!  Heading back, grabbing my gel, I drop it!  Just like at Stampede.  But this time I let it go and don't risk hurting the hamstring bending over.  I take a different one. I thank God for His faithfulness in getting me to this point and I feel it's time to push it now.  I slowly pick up the pace. I look forward to seeing Robin.
Mile 11: 8:13.  There she is!  Closer than the last time we passed.  I'm so glad she's able to pick up the pace.  I tell her the hamstring is feeling better.  I'm motivated to charge these last couple miles.  I start taking Coke now at the aid stations, yum!  My friend, James Player, who started 3 waves behind me, comes up on me.  "Bring me home, Troy".  This is so great to be able to run together.  We weave in and out of other runners.
Mile 12: 7:41.  The faster I go, the faster he goes.  I encourage him on the last climb and to look forward to the rest on the final descent.  Careful going down… Now it's a straight shot to the finish.  I'm pushing and the hamstring is feeling great.  Legs, knees, everything getting more sore but just feeling the motivation, the strength, the excitement, the enjoyment of racing the best I can.  Having James to work with is helpful.  The Lord always knows how to make my race exciting and I feel it's a reward for looking to Him every mile in faith when I didn't know if the hamstring would last. This is a great!   Finish line right ahead, the team tents on the beach, Robin's family cheering from the FCA tent.
Mile 13: 7:01.  James falls back a little. Another guy comes along side and we both sprint.  People are cheering.  I feel no pain, just fatigue now, but am so happy for what God has done is letting me run my fastest at the end, letting me feel good about having given a great effort.  I know it was a real possibility of having to walk much off the course.  But I'm finishing, running, with a big smile and pointing to God.  I'm so glad to be done but even more thankful for what God has done.  That's the lasting memory I'm grateful to have from this race.