2012 San Juan 70.3 Race Report
March 18th 2012
Although my alarm was set for 4:00am, I was awake at 3:00 and just relaxed in bed for an hour. Relaxation was nowhere to be found as anxiety was building. 4:00 came and I got a good hot shower in. My sunburnt arms and face didn't appreciate it much. A winter's sun was all I'd experienced in the past few months in DC so a 2 mile run and a walk down to transition scorched me.
I'd brought a small container of oatmeal, brown sugar and raisins down with me since nothing that serves a decent breakfast would be open that early. The in room coffee maker provided the hot water, a banana and bottle of powerade provided some additional nourishment. I had double checked the transition bag the night before, and everything was there. At the last minute I threw the sun sleeves in just in case. I had doubts as to how easy they'd be to put on wet arms after the swim.
Rather than walk the 2 miles to the caribe Hilton where transition was set up, a taxi was a better option. Worth the $12 to have fresh legs this morning. Unpacked the gear, same as last time and the time before that. Bike shoes with socks in them. Running shoes, s-caps in a ziplock, nutrition. HR monitor, tri top, helmet, sun sleeves. I'm not terribly picky when it comes to setup. I don't roll my socks out into my shoes, I don't leave my shoes clipped into my bike. I'd prefer to out the shoes and socks on and then jog out of transition and go. 5-10 seconds isn't going to matter over 6 hours. Checked the tire pressure at 115 psi, put sunscreen on my shoulders, face, arms and neck. Notice I didn't mention legs. More on that later... I met up with Jorlie from the DC Tri Club in transition.
It was a lengthy walk from transition to the swim start, perhaps a mile. But it was a beautiful Puerto Rican morning, no wind. I drank another bottle of water on the way over but my hydration had been excellent the past couple of days. My wave was the last to start, with the pro's in the water at 6:50 and the 30-34's in at 7:55. This wasn't a good thing because not only was there a long time sitting around waiting, but I'd be finishing towards the end at the hottest part of the day. On the bright side I got to pass people all afternoon.
I watched lots of people doing warm up runs, swims, bikes, stretches, all sorts of crazy things. I'll let them burn those calories up they may need later. I just relaxed and watched the waves start. As 7:40 arrived I was corralled and with the other pink caps meeting nice people from the mid-Atlantic. Everyone who's ever approached the swim start knows the feeling. It was kind of funny for this race as I was surrounded by several HIM first-timers and the air was thick with anxiety. I felt good, no worries. I've done this before. Just like being shot out of a cannon.
Swim - 0:36:43
In water start and non-wetsuit. Water temp approximately 79 degrees. I moved out into the deeper stuff and took a few strokes, tasted the salt water while at least half of the wave stood in the knee deep edge of the lagoon. Might as well get comfortable, we're about to be immersed for a half hour. Treading water for a couple of minutes helped warm me up but it started to get chilly. I was towards the front of the group near the buoy keeping my space.
The horn sounded and I got to moving quickly. I had hoped to stay near the front pack and draft the swim as much as possible. Bodies flailing everywhere. A man breast stroking in front of me. I found a good rhythm fairly quick, but the thought of drafting the swim just kept in my head. So I found a guy who was going at a decent pace and just rode his bubbles for about 10 minutes. Once he got tired and slowed down, I passed him and moved onto the next guy. I ended up drafting 70% of the swim. Took it very easy. Good practice for IM distance I suppose.
Crossing under the bridge, the current water clears to where you can see the bottom. I saw the rocks and sea urchins on the ocean floor. Under the bridge the current picked up as well. As Jorlie said, it's like swimming on a treadmill. You felt like you just weren't going anywhere. On the ocean side of the bridge, the swells got bigger and it felt as if the tide was pushing in because you had to fight the current for the last 0.2 miles to the ramp. This was definitely the most difficult part. Seaweed hitting your face feels creepy.
T1 - 0:08:13
I exited the water up the ramp, and started the run to transition. 5-600 yards, barefoot on the street I jogged to my bike. Ran through a sprinkler shower. The sunscreen people were waiting to spray you down as you entered the stadium. I respectfully declined with a grunt and a frown at that long barefoot run on asphalt I'd just experienced.
Put on socks, bike shoes, HR strap, tri top. It wasn't that hard to wriggle into a tri top onto a wet torso. I'd much rather taken on that challenge than swim with a parachute. The sun sleeves were there, and I decided to pull them on. It really didn't take more than about 15-20 seconds to get them both on. Not setting any transition records with that long run and I think it was the right call. I took two S-caps and stuffed a PB&J bonk breaker in my pocket. Off to view the island by two wheels.
Bike - 2:47:30
I know what road kill iguana smells like. As DC has squirrels, Puerto Rico has iguanas. With the last age group to start, most of the bikes were gone by the time I was on the road. I don't recall a lot of what happened on the bike specifically but I felt fast. The winds were light early on, and I'd just hammered down in the aero position for 10 miles until I was outside of the city. There was one good climb up a bridge, but nothing that ever made me leave the saddle. I got out a few times just to stretch the legs. The course was entirely closed. No vehicular traffic. Only racers. Lots of police presence.
One thing I tried new to this race, was relying entirely on course provided hydration. I wanted to be able to toss the bottles that were empty and just grab new ones from the water stops. However I didn't want to throw out the ones I'd brought with me (call me cheap). An unsuccessful attempt at buying Gatorade or water bottles with a sports top at the local Walgreens the night before meant I had to figure something out. My solution was to put powerade into a water bottle with a smaller top so it would be easier to drink while moving. This was executed about as well as it was planned: poorly. About 5 miles into the ride I struggled to get the cap off. Once that cap was off it was not going back on so I stowed the topless bottle in my down tube cage and carried on. Big bumps in the road meant I had red powerade on my legs so it was consumed quickly. It wasn't until the first water stop my plan became effective. Tossed the almost empty aquafina bottle of red powerade, picked up a new cold water bottle and Gatorade. Both sports tops. Gatorade went into the torpedo cage (in between the aero bars).
Stocked with fluids, I continued to follow the 20 minute timer I'd setup on my garmin as a nutrition reminder and ate 1/2 a powerbar every 20 minutes. I had enough for 3 hours starting at 20 minutes in. The 20 and 40 minute bars were good, but I skipped the 60 minute one because my stomach was feeling full. I wasn't really hungry for the remainder of the ride, but I continued to eat what I had.
2x s-caps in T1
1x PB&J bonk breaker at start of ride
5.5x oatmeal raisin powerbars evenly over 2:45
1x 20 oz red powerade
2x blue sport top gatorade
2x water bottles (the water stops ran out of sports top bottles towards the end so for the last one I downed half the bottle and threw it back).
Outside the city it became beautiful. It was hard not to look off towards the blue ocean water no more than 50 yards away. Unfortunately one of my race goals (actually, a goal every time I ride) was to not crash the bike. So I was forced to pay more attention to the road than the scenery. Large iguanas peppered the sides of the road, sunning themselves in the dirt. Some former reptiles flattened on the asphalt. The smell about what you'd expect.
The course was an out and back, with a double short loop along the nature preserve portion. The sun was hot and the wind picked up on my way back from the 2nd loop, 17 miles to go. I just stayed on it, stayed aero, kept the cadence high. I hadn't expected to use the large chainring for the majority of the ride, but it felt right. Climbed the remaining hills (by hill I mean highway overpass), ran out of my last gatorade bottle and made my way into transition to the very large crowd that had gathered. I could see the runners. Time for a couple of 10k runs. No big deal.
T2 - 0:03:51
Legs felt about like normal off the bike. Stiff at first but loosened up once they were jogging again. The run to transition was quick. Swapped shoes, put on my hat, took 2 s-caps and stuffed the ziplock in my pocket with the remaining 2 for the run. Decided to keep the sun sleeves on. Stopped at the porta-john and had to pee. Brown pee. Not good, gotta get more fluids. Plan to take at least 2 cups every water stop for consumption.
Run - 2:34:28
The run course for San Juan can be summarized in two words. Hot and hilly. The course was 2 loops with little to no shade throughout. Water stops were well stocked, until the end when they started giving out warm water. That was disgusting to drink. Bad part about being in the last wave.
I started out pretty well. The first 2 miles were right around a 10:00 min/mi pace. If I could keep it up that would be great. Then the hills began. First a slow gradual, and a really steep bring-you-to-a-walk type, followed by a "wtf is this doing in a 70.3 course!?" all of these done twice.
Legs were sore and my pace dropped off. Mainly due to walking through the water stops occasionally. Again I relied on course nutrition, taking a gu about every 3 miles. I took at least 1 Gatorade, 1 water and a cup of ice/water for my head or to dump down my jersey.
Fortunately the good residents of San Juan were out in droves to cheer on the competitors. Many had hoses set up with sprinklers, spraying those who wanted it down with cool water. Good people. They definitely helped me.
As time went on, my pace suffered with water stops but I was determined to stay under 12:00 min/mi. I couldn't remember what I'd run on my last HIM, but I thought it was a 12 min pace. Had to do better. I tried to keep my cadence 90+ and just keep moving. Even if my steps were short, keep moving. At mile 7 near the race finish and start of the 2nd loop, I took an s-cap. Keep those electrolytes up, keep hydrating.
I found a few people I could keep pace with and stuck with them for awhile and eventually left them on a hill. I recall around mile 10 asking a guy how to say "this hill sucks" in Spanish. He replied with a thick Puerto Rican accent, "this hill sucks, its the same in every language". That gave me a laugh.
With only a 5k left I picked up the pace and brought my average to 11:50, and held it to the finish. I tried to run in the shade when possible, hoping up on a sidewalk occasionally to just get 5 or 6 seconds out of the sun. Even if it made me run further, the cooling provided was worth it.
2x s-caps in T2
1-2 waters per stop
1-2 gatorades per stop
1x gu every 3 miles
1x s-cap at mile 7
1x s-cap at mile 9
Crossing the finish line, I was kind of bummed thinking my run pace was so slow. I thought I'd only improved by 10 seconds/mile from the Redman. My math wasn't adding up and I had thought I'd only done better by about 10 minutes from Redman for the entire race. Bummer.
I'm not a big fan of hanging around after the race. My priority is to get some food, fluids and a shower. I just grabbed a slice of pizza and bottle of Gatorade. Got into the ice bath for a couple minutes and was ready to get my bike and get to the hotel. I was sunburned, hot and ready to be off my feet.
Walked the 2 miles back to the hotel with the bike. Showered, ate a quesadilla and french fries for lunch around 4:00pm. Also had a celebratory sangria and a couple of waters. By 6:00pm the bike was packed and ready to fly out the next day. Spent most of the rest of the evening relaxing, with a bacon cheeseburger and milkshake I desperately needed around 9:00pm.
Turns out I'd done better than I thought. My time for Redman was 6:49, and San Juan was 6:10. A 39 minute improvement on a more difficult non-wetsuit legal hilly course in warmer conditions. Thanks coach AJ.
Good job Jason on the PR!!! The DCTri pre-swim "crowd" of 3 did quite well. PR for both you & me on a legit 1/2 course, while Kaj Laursen got a podium spot (3rd) on his AG. Congrats to Kaj on a very strong showing. It was good to see other DCTri folks and be able to encourage each other on that brutal run.
This is an awesome race with great support. It has become my HOME race, while away from home. I think you summed it up nicely. The swim and its bridge/threadmill effect. Also, the weather Gods finally listen to my prayers, as I started praying for winds to be easier than last year, when the palm trees were blowing pretty hard at 5am. This year, the wind didn't pick up until after 10am & made for a fast bike course. The run, oh well, it's tough, tough, tough, particularly for us coming off the winter & getting hit in the face with 80+ temps & humidity. BTW-the local guy was right about his description of the hill. Next time, just use sign language. I'm sure the run makes you appreciate the cobblestones of Old San Juan.
On another note, if enough DCTri folks sign up for next year, I may have to do a clinic at HP on how to bunny hop an iguana while going 20+. After you clear the front, you gotta watch for that long tail on your back wheel :)