Before I get rolling with a report, here, I want to offer a kind of caveat about race reports and the like. Doing so requires fast-forwarding to the end of the race I’m about to report on, so bear with me. The Los Cabos 70.3 and Ironman races feature giant kiddie pools full of ice water at the finish line, a most welcome benefit after a grueling day. After finishing 7th (oops, spoiler alert), I climbed into one of the pools with a few of the other racers I’d finished close to. Although the conversation was mostly harmless, I heard a lot of “Yeah, I just didn’t have very good legs today,” or “I just couldn’t get going,” or “You couldn’t get ice anywhere out there today.” It made me think about the differences between analyzing your race and making excuses about your race (which no one should be doing any more, given the great work that @triexcuse does for our world). Making excuses, or trying to explain things that didn’t go as you’d like them to have gone, comes from a place of wanting to assure people that you were thinking of that thing it looks like you ignored, or that you did, in fact, do the training and preparation for something, despite the fact that your result makes it appear differently. In another life, when I taught creative writing, a weekly feature of the class was the workshop, in which writers had to submit their work to critique by their colleagues/friends/peers. One rule (pretty general to creative writing workshops) was that if your work was being examined, you weren’t allowed to say anything. The reason for that rule was that writers (understandably) would hear a piece of criticism and instantly want to say “Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say!” or “No no no, that’s not what I meant!” Unfortunately, that kind of outburst would usually limit further critique. Making excuses is really about a desire to be understood, to remain inside the realm of normal. Maybe here’s a better way to think about it:
Excuse: I want to change how other people think about me (“I didn’t have good legs today” = I’m usually a better runner, please don’t judge me on the basis of this one subpar (in my judgment) performance.
Analysis: I want to change my behavior for the future through looking at mistakes I may have made.
Where things get dicey is that analysis, these days, is aired for the whole world to see. What—just a decade ago—may have been kept between athlete and coach is now posted for the world to see, usually in shorthand, and often coupled with economic concerns in mind.
So with all that said, here’s my “analysis” (maybe) of the 70.3 in Los Cabos this past weekend. This is the writeup I sent to my awesome coach, Cliff English, so it’s much more an information dump than any kind of polished piece of writing (see, that, right there, was an excuse, and is the kind of thing that would have been verboten in creative writing classes).
—Two sauna sessions, on Monday and Tuesday. Skipped it Wednesday but would totally have had time for it. Monday was hard, Tuesday was easy. Would have been interesting to see if Wednesday would have been hard.
—Visualized four times that week.
—Didn’t feel particularly light or sharp most of the week. Had to push back against feelings of screwing up my body composition.
Woke up, had two cups coffee and egg/avocado tacos with four flour tortillas. 24 oz Gatorade Endurance.
Swam 24 minutes.
Came home, made four large pancakes, two fried eggs, and one large roll. Syrup. No potatoes, no butter.
Ate a bowl of tortilla chips around 11.
Skipped bagel, skipped pretzels. Was feeling pretty full this time, and figured the two breakfasts would make up the difference in calories.
Rode around noon, taking in a bottle of sports drink.
Ate lunch around 2 pm: large roll with ham and mustard.
Nature’s valley bar at 4 pm
Bottle of sports drink at 5 pm
Ran at 5:20
Nature’s valley bar at 6 pm.
Small bowl of gnocchi, tomato sauce, and chicken at 6:30.
20 oz of Osmo pre-load at 7:45.
Bedtime at 8:15-8:30.
—Woke up an hour early, due to a phone snafu. Ate 130g of CHO (660g of applesauce, 1 banana, 24 oz Gatorade Endurance (41g of CHO). Went back to bed.
—Added 1 full PowerBar (45g CHO) at t-minus 60′
—200 mg caffeine at t-minus 40′
—20 oz Osmo pre-load with 2.5 scoops of mix at t-minus 30′
—12’ WU with stretch cords as 4x(45” double arm, 45” single arm, then lunge sequence and dynamic stretching for shoulders/pectorals
—1 PowerGel at t-minus 20′
—Very short in-water warm-up. Probably only 5-6 minutes.
—Lined up to the left, just behind Bryan Rhodes, who got an amazing start down the beach and into the water.
—I started well, sticking to my 76 SPM with my tempo trainer. I could see Rhodesy and a few others moving off the front, but I had resolved not to worry about them. I looked over to see Matt (Lieto) and Chris Leiferman in my group, and I realized this was a good group. From then on the focus was on sticking with them, which actually wasn’t that tough. I stayed on Chris’ feet, and weathered the confusion when we went around the second turn buoy and couldn’t seem to find the third one. I even took a few strokes of breaststroke to get our bearings. I ended up right at the tail end of the group, which wasn’t as good positioning as I would have liked. I came out of the water at 28:03, which doesn’t sound good, but most people reported a longer, slower swim (my Garmin showed about 2275y, or 175y long), and my average pace was 1:14/100y, or bang-on the threshold pace I’ve been using in the pool recently. All in all, a good swim. I’m going to give myself a grade of B+ on it.
—Left shoes clipped to pedals, whereas maybe I should have gotten into my shoes in transition and ran in them, as I struggled to get into my shoes on the climb out of transition. Matt pushed past me and I didn’t respond, and by the time we were turning onto the coast highway, he and Cody Beals already had a small gap. This was a big mistake. It was a large group of about seven: Matt, Beals, Derek Garcia, Cody Beals, Red Kit (11th place?), and me. Leiferman didn’t respond to Matt’s move, and I pushed past him and tried to keep the gap somewhat close, but it began to stretch. We picked up Rhodesy as we were just about to descend into Cabo San Lucas, and Derek passed me but didn’t really keep the momentum going. On a slight uphill the pace slowed and group bunched. Leiferman and I went to the back to avoid drafting penalties, and as we came into Cabo San Lucas, our group was about three minutes behind the sole leader (Davide Giardini), who was about to be caught by a group of James Hadley, Brian Fleischmann, and eventual winner Serrano. Matt and Cody were in between, about 60 seconds ahead of our group. We turned and started the climb out of Cabo San Lucas, where our group swelled to 8 as we picked up Leon Griffin. Leiferman lifted the pace, Garcia responded, and I responded too, using the hill out of San Lucas to try and drop the rest of the group. I succeeded in getting away from that whole group, but wasn’t able to close the gap to Leiferman. I had trouble keeping fluid down, but just kept trying. My heart rate was quite high for 70.3 intensity (lots of 160s, where I’d usually expect to see mid-150s), so I focused on drinking and eating on descents, where I could maybe lower the heart rate and get water in. Leiferman slowly pulled away from me, but I was also pulling away from Garcia and the others in that big group.
—My first 60k, I’d say, were pretty good, although lower in power (309 and 305 NP, respectively) than what I had aimed for (315). The climb up to the airport was tough. I was alone, mystery guy in the red kit was reeling me in, and Garcia wasn’t far. Giardini was still off the front, but the chase pack had added Matt, Cody, and Chris, in other words, three riders from my chase pack, and three guys I should be able to ride with. Letting them get away early was a HUGE mistake, I’d say. Patrick Evoe (oh yeah, him) had closed to about 90-120 seconds, and there were a few other riders not far that were concerning (Garcia wasn’t far, and Defillipis was only about 5:30-6:00 back; on a good day he could certainly run me down). There was a bit of a tailwind on the way back from the airport, so I made sure to get as much food and water down as possible (I had switched to water in an effort to get my stomach to behave, but I believe I only got in two salt pills during the ride). I rode back from the airport pretty well, distancing Red Kit. One the course of the ride I got in:
1 package Black Cherry Clif Bloks (@ 30’ and 55’), and then gels at 1:15, 1:40, and 2:05. I believe I got through 5 bottles of fluid: 3 gatorade, 2 H2O.
—Mentally, I wasn’t doing super hot, I think. I was a bit unfocused during the ride, especially in the final third, getting caught in that no-man’s land between groups. I certainly didn’t feel incredibly sharp, and I was thinking back to the big week of training I had put in before. I kept trying to hit 345-350 while climbing, with some success. I ended up normalizing 299 (.85 IF) and averaging somewhere in the 280s, i.e. not very good. I rode 2:16 and change, good enough for 8th fastest bike split, but I had given up too much time to the front group. I’m going to give myself a B- for not being assertive enough early. You don’t need to charge off the front, but if you can be in the front of the group leaving transition, you can respond better to early moves/attacks.
After a shit-show of a transition (how long does it really take me to put on socks?! And why was the back of the changing tent still zip-tied closed?!) I got started and got running. I kept things easy for the first two minutes or so, seeing 6:50/mile on my watch, and then I tried to pick it up. I saw the leaders already coming back at me, because I thought the run turnaround was a lot farther down the road. The self-talk was “How did they get that much time on me already? Shit.” The first turn, however, was just around the corner, in front of our rental. Derek Garcia caught me right there, pushing me into 9th place. Already out of the money, my brain said. I fought back, saying Just keep him in sight, you’re still warming up. It did require a big effort to not give in to the negativity, which had me saying things like you’re going to get caught by everyone behind you, you’ll finish in 13th again, why do you try to do 70.3? I focused on getting ice (“Hielo!”), ice water (“Aqua Hielo!”), and Gatorade in. I reminded myself to keep eating: gels at 3, 6, and 9 miles. I forgot to pack salt pills for the run, a potentially ruinous mistake on a day as hot as it was (mid 80s, high humidity). The 70.3 course at Cabo has lots of out-and-backs, giving one chances to see where everybody else is. Around mile 3, Patrick Evoe closed on me and made the pass, but didn’t really do much with it, hovering just about five feet in front of me. We ran together for a couple of miles, and I felt my legs feeling better and better. I passed Patrick back, and carried on and passed Garcia, too. Suddenly I was back into 8th place. We came to the turnaround at the finish line and I tried to keep my momentum going. Matt, who was running in 6th place, told me that Brian Fleischmann was just ahead and struggling, and I caught him somewhere around 6.5 miles, I’d say. I was running well, ticking off miles in the 6:15-6:30 range. 7th place. I saw Amy as we made the turn onto the bridge out to the Marina, and she told me I was unhitching Derek and Patrick. I knew Giardini would be paying for his heroics on the swim and bike, so asked how he was doing, and VT told me he was struggling. I thought Matt didn’t look great, and knew that he’d been struggling with a calf issue all week—a good finish suddenly seemed possible. During a 70.3 I like to imagine that I’m in a cyclocross race with six-minute laps, and with each passing mile I subtract a lap from my Mental Lap Counter. At mile nine (four laps to go), I started to believe that I could move up into sixth, or maybe even catch Matt for 5th. Unfortunately, at mile 10.5, Chris Baird had rediscovered his run legs and appeared right behind me. Chris is a class runner, and I knew it would take a lot to pass him back. I was back into 8th. I thought I could see Giardini’s awesome fluorescent yellow kit in the distance, however, and now the laps were coming down. As I ran back across the bridge from the Marina, I said two laps to go—only 12-and-a-half minutes. Heading into the final out-and-back, I caught Giardini at mile 12, pushing past him hard to make the move stick. I think he knew he was done for the day, because he didn’t fight back. I ran the 13th mile in 6:07, which was one of my better miles of the day, and then finished off the last .1 in 40”. I finished 34 seconds behind Baird, and only 58 seconds behind Matt. I had, somehow, posted the fifth fasted run of the day, making it my best leg of the day. I’m going to give myself an A- for the run, with the minus coming from some negativity early on.
—I got in:
—Lots of ice and ice water (I chew ice on the run, and hold ice cubes in my hand, these two methods being the best for cooling the body).
—Cups of Gatorade and water at each aid station
Since I’m going with the grading analogy here, I’m going to give myself a B+ for the race. I swam effectively, tucking into the right group with a minimum of stress. The ride is the biggest issue, as I shouldn’t be giving up four minutes to Matt. He’s certainly a stronger cyclist than I am, but not by much, and certainly not that much. Missing the move early on, getting caught in some bad group dynamics, and then playing the pity party late all contributed to a sub-par ride, one that certainly kept me from earning more money, more Kona points, and a better result. On the other hand, this was a well-executed race, more on par with Rancho Cordova last year. I finished only 8 minutes behind the winner, which may, statistically, be my best result. I hit the goal I was aiming for (6th-7th place, 200+ KPR points; make a little money), but I didn’t hit the goal I’d set for myself in terms of putting myself in place for a podium finish. If I had gone with Matt and Cody, stuck with them up to the front group, and still run well (note: there are a lot of “ifs” in that sentence…), I would have met that goal of “put myself in place to podium.” On the other hand, I could have totally blown up, too, and finished 15th. I think the week in Kona, two weeks prior (8 days spent in crushing humidity and heat), plus a couple sauna sessions, prepared me well for the heat. On the other hand, I was 179.8 lbs on the day we left for Cabo, which is well above race weight.
TERRIBLE headache all afternoon. Got better with Tylenol, but didn’t seem to respond to hydration, caffeine, or food. Took a salt pill mid-afternoon—perhaps that helped?