My First Half Ironman: Ironman Oceanside 70.3 Recap

Hi everyone! Wow, it sure has been a long time since I’ve blogged, let alone done a race recap. To catch up on the last couple of months, I took a very big off-season from pretty much November to December. After a rough 2016 season and bumpy start to triathlon, I really needed a mental break and an opportunity to recharge before racing my first 70.3 in April 2017. I didn’t touch my bike until January 1st except for team turbo classes and pretty much forgot how to swim. But I still ran ;) I always need to run! I don’t think my off-seasons will be this extreme in the future, but for where I was in my life and how burnt out I was, it was exactly what I needed. I came back in the new year in full force, ready to conquer my fears on the bike and swim. Which reminds me, I have two other race recaps I should probably do… but we’ll talk about that later :)

Despite taking so much time off, the last three months have been filled with hard and great training. Turns out, if you listen to exactly what your coach tells you to do, you get great results ;) I guess that means I should probably stop skipping my swims, I mean, what? IMG_3215.JPG

Even though I knew my first half Ironman race was going to be a lot of learning as you go and trial and error, I still had some A, B, and C goals for myself:

A goal: to go under 6 hours (this is assuming I had the PERFECT day) and swim between 40-45 minutes, bike between 3:05 – 3:15 hrs, and run between 1:50 -1:55 hrs. B goal was around 6:15, C goal was 6:30 and working really hard not to be a bummer at the finish if that happened ;)

Woke up at 3:09AM the day of the race, made coffee and a big batch of oatmeal, and forced myself to eat while I prepared for the rest of the day. The butterflies were really kicking in but knew that there would be more regrets later on without proper nutrition. An hour and a half later, we were on our way up to Oceanside! It was freezing at the transition area and happy I got there 15 minutes after transition opened. I was able to take my time to set up then socialize with teammates to help ease the nerves. Then, it was time to line up for the swim!

The swim: 

The swim this year was a rolling start, so I placed myself between the 45-50 minute finishers (giving myself plenty of time to either pass people if all was going well and to have a panic attack if things were not going well). I loved the rolling start even though I know others were not a fan. Just knowing the chances of getting punched and swam over was lower eased my mind and I ended up having the best open water swim to date during a race! Don’t get me wrong – I was still slow as hell, but this time, I felt more like a mermaid and less like a drowning cat. Kept telling myself to stay calm, even after getting punched in the face once, to look out for all the people on paddleboards and kayaks, and to not get lost during the swim back with the sun beaming into my eyes. My teammates and friends prepared me so well for what to expect along the course and I just kept ticking buoy after buoy off. Finished in 45 minutes after I swam an extra 100 yards (damn you, sun and poor siting). So far, we were on track for how I wanted my day to play out. IMG_3245

The bike:

I spent pretty much the last two weeks panicking about the open water swim after having a not so hot experience at a triathlon 3 weeks prior. Little did I know, I should have been concerned about the bike and my nutrition! I’ve been putting time in the saddle (a lot more than I ever have before) and doing a better job at adding climbs like rides through Elfin Forest, Torrey Pine Hill Repeats, and Three Witches. Planned on having three bottles of Gatorade Roctane on the bike plus a Clif Bar and a Gu but made a rookie mistake and ate WAY too fast from miles 1-30 on the bike. I was so panicky about bonking that I forgot to think about how crappy my digestion is on a day to day basis and that my stomach was going to go into extreme shock of riding and force feeding myself. Cue the GI stress and stomach cramping from mile 30 of the bike alllll the way to about mile 9 of the run. I tried breathing through the cramps but as the cramps were coming, so were the three massive climbs of the bike course. At that point, it was a battle til the end of the bike leg between headwind and a stomach that was going to explode. Throughout the rest of the bike course, I kept reflecting on what I could do better for my next 70.3 so you could say it wasn’t traumatizing, but motivating ;) Finished the bike course well below my target at 3:23 with a thirst for redemption and anger for next year. 17796757_10154282012756965_412133866294059846_n

The run:

My coach and I planned for me to survive the swim, don’t burn out on the bike, and give it my all on the run. The first 5 miles were ridiculously frustrating. My legs felt fantastic and fresh and wanted to go faster but my stomach was exploding. I tried taking in another Gu at mile 3 but it worsened the problem. The cure of the stomach cramping: RedBull and Gatorade from miles 9- to the finish. I remembered my friend Jason saying that if I saw Redbull and wanted Redbull, to take the Redbull. I brushed off that advice (although at this point, I really shouldn’t do that since he’s almost always right) because I HATE energy drinks. Little did I know, something with the carbonation eased the stomach cramping. While my stomach could no longer digest food, although I really wouldn’t call Gus or Clif bars “food,” it was calmed by liquids. My friend Shoko was at the turn around for the first lap of the run and she saved the day by running the rest of the run course with me.

At that point, I already knew I missed my goal of finishing under 6 hours. Instead of getting crushed by missing the goal, I knew I could still make my B goal of finishing 6:15 or faster by just making sure I finished the half marathon under 2 hours. I decided to enjoy the course support, the beautiful ocean, and reminding myself I will never have a “first half-Ironman” again. Talia, Jackie, and Felipe all reminded me that the first one is to learn from and to enjoy. Then, we can start working on crushing some goals. I was super happy to see Anthony, his sister, and his mom on the run course, and knew I needed to go faster to see them at the finish. Crossed the finish line crying with tears of happiness from the magnitude of finishing my first half-Ironman, even though I didn’t hit my A goal. Half marathon time: 1:55. Made me pretty happy this was my second slowest half marathon to date and gave me hope for future 70.3s to come. IMG_3256.JPG

Total time: 6 hrs and 13 minutes. Good enough to squeeze into 5th in my age group but knowing I will need to really up my cycling and on course nutrition game if I want to hit that sub-6. Oh, and my age group is going to get a whole lot more competitive. Not looking forward to you 25-29 year old ladies kicking my ass. You know it’s a good day when you spend the rest of the day researching your next race. Unlike my marathons where I spend the next couple of months regretting all life choices ;)FullSizeRender (1)

I am so ridiculously blessed for an amazing support team and beyond grateful that Anthony’s mom drove down from Apple Valley the night before to come watch me race as well as his sister who had beer and fries waiting for me at the finish line. Plus, Anthony had someone to drink bottomless mimosas with as I biked for 5ever. IMG_3249

Congratulations to all of my amazing friends and teammates who rocked Ironman Oceanside 70.3!!!! So beyond lucky for the best coach, Felipe, the most incredible boyfriend for all his sacrifices for my big races, awesome sponsors (even though Nytro makes fun of me for how often I am there… every single time) and the best family and supporters I could ever ask for. This entire experience was exhilarating, humbling, exhausting, and probably the most fun during any race I’ve ever had. I couldn’t have asked for a better day (okay fine, I’m still really sad about the bike) and  knowing what I know now, I can’t wait to do more. I’m excited to see what is in store for the rest of 2017!!!