My first race of the 2015 season was back in Puerto Rico for the 70.3 race there. It was great to go back to the race where I earned my pro card last year to race my first professional 70.3 event. They moved the event up a month earlier on the calendar this year, so it was a pretty early season test in mid March. Having this race to look forward to helped get me through the long winter months and all the indoor training this year.
The trip down was uneventful, which was appreciated. In fact, all of the days leading up to the race were pretty low key with no overly stressful incidents. I traveled with my bike to this race, which is the first time I've flown with it, but the Scicon Triathlon travel bag was fantastic. The packing process was quick and easy and there is almost no disassembling of the bike required. I would definitely recommend looking into this bag for people who need to fly to races.
This was not a priority race for me, so going in I wondered how my body would respond. I had trained hard through Monday and had a couple harder efforts during the week, so there wasn't complete recovery. On the other hand there wasn't as much pressure from myself either because I knew I wasn't fully tapered. It was just an opportunity to test myself out, gauge where I was at from the winter training, and get some experience racing in the pro field at a 70.3 event.
In the two days before the race I went through my normal routines, checking out the swim course, running a loop of the run course, and spinning my legs on the bike to make sure it was running smoothly. This was my first opportunity to ride my new Trek Speed Concept outside, so I was really looking forward to that. Friday night I got to have dinner with Steve and Karen, my friends who I met last year, at a great restaurant in Old San Juan called Al Dente. I hadn't seen them since Ironman Cozumel last year, so it was nice to have an opportunity to catch up with them.
Race morning I went to transition to rack my bike and set up my gear. Being on the pro rack is really nice because there is a lot of space and it was really close to bike out and bike in. The little stuff like that can be nice perks. After setting everything up we walked over to the swim start, which is about a 10-15 minute walk. Once we got over there I actually warmed up! I've never done any kind of actual warm up for a race before, but I did some running and dynamic stretching this time. I definitely felt warm and ready to go when we hit the water.
We were allowed in the water about ten minutes before the race start, so I got some swimming in to loosen up my arms. I worked really hard in the pool over the winter and was motivated to have a good swim. I lined up near a big group and was hoping I could hop on the back of the group and get a good draft to help me out. It didn't work. My goggles got kicked off in the first 50 meters and then I just had a crap swim. I don't know what went wrong. I do know I was not swimming very straight, which was the first issue. I could see at big group ahead of me up until the first turn, which was at 700 meters, and they weren't that far away. After the second turn to head back I was all over the place and I ended up losing a lot of time there I think. I didn't wear my watch in the water, so I don't have the map to see what it looked like, but I'm fairly certain I swam way wide a few times. I opted to leave my watch on my bike synced up to my power meter already to avoid any issues like what happened to Cozumel last year.
They used new timing straps at this race that were disposable. They were awful. Mine came off in the water before the first turn buoy, so in less than 700 meters. Apparently about half of the pro field lost them in the water. It was kind of funny because when someone asked about them in the meeting the day before the organizers kind of came off rude about it saying "Of course we have tested them and they work great. Do you think we would use something that we didn't try out first?" Not so much...
Anyway... I came out of the water in 31:07 according to my father's watch since I didn't have mine and I lost my timing chip. Good enough to be about 20 seconds faster than last year...ugh. Fortunately, I wasn't last out of the water, so at least there's that. It's still not nearly good enough and is really frustrating because in the pool I felt like I was making good progress. I had even cracked 14 minutes in a timed 1000 yard TT the week before, which was by far the best swim I'd ever had. Clearly I need to keep working in the pool though. I can't be giving that kind of time away right off the bat. It is just too much to come back from.
When I came out of the water there was a volunteer standing nearby with extra timing chips. Apparently since so many people had lost them before me they were well prepared. I was handed a new one as I ran by and I continued the long run to T1. The new strap didn't have Velcro like the first one, so I wasn't sure how it was supposed to go on. After grabbing my bike I stopped at another volunteer and she gave me a different strap. Apparently on the new ones you had to peel off the back and then they were like a big sticker. It was a bit of a cluster, but eventually it got sorted out and I was on my way. (This year I remembered to take my swim skin off in transition rather than riding away with it still half on. That was good progress...)
Once on the bike I got pretty dialed in to the power number I was targeting. I started taking in nutrition and fluids early since I knew it was going to be a lot warmer than the temperatures I was used to. All in all it was a pretty uneventful ride for me. I was all alone for almost all of the first loop. I caught a couple guys on the way out to the first turn around. Having the turn arounds was nice because it let me see how far ahead people were and let me gauge where I was in relation to the field. On the second loop the roads got a little more crowded with age groupers, but I pretty much just stayed to the left and didn't have any issues. The biggest issue I had was at the one aid station the volunteers were handing out water bottles with no tops. They didn't have sport tops or regular tops. How is that supposed to be useful? All the water just spilled right out. It forced me to drink my second bottle of Nuun earlier than I had planned. The second time past that aid station I had to grab two bottles of Gatorade to make sure I had enough hydration to get me back all the way to transition. Fortunately it all worked out.
Coming back into the city I caught a group of three guys and rode with them into transition. No point in trying to push hard past them with only a couple of miles left to go. We cruised into T2 and I knew I had PRed the bike split. I had gone through 25 miles in about 58:40 and then through 50 miles in 1:57. I ended up with a 2:11:24 split, averaging 273 watts. My new LG Course tri suit and Kask Bambino helmet, along with my new bike of course, made for a very fast and comfortable ride. I am definitely going to enjoy racing in that gear this year. It let me focus and racing and never distracted me with discomfort.
On to the run and I had thoughts of last year. I melted on the run course last year. I was hoping to have a much better experience this time around. I remembered the course very well and had actually run almost the entire loop once on Friday, so that was helpful. I exited transition with the guys I had come off the bike with. One of them took off, one got dropped really quickly, and I ran with the other guy for a bit. We kind of went back and forth until I ended up pulling away from him. I could see another guy well up the road, so I set him as my target to try to reel him in. By the turn around I caught him, we had a brief conversation, and then he took off again. I knew I couldn't go with him, so I held my pace. At the end of the first loop I had almost caught back up to him. Then, on the way back out to the run turn around, we went back and forth a couple of times. Finally I put in a solid surge and moved well past. He must have really cracked because by the time we made the final turn I was over half a mile ahead of him. During all that though another guy came flying past both of us, so I ended up not moving forward but not moving backward either. Heading back to the finish I knew I couldn't catch anybody and there was no one closing in on me, so I just held my pace consistently to the finish line. I ran a 1:27:55, which was 23 seconds per mile fast than last year. I still have some work to do on my running, but given that run course and the heat I was pleased with it.
After crossing the finish line I got some water and met up with Becky and my dad. I was happy with my performance and had taken ten minutes off of last year's time on this course and set a new 70.3 PR, finishing in 4:15:24. There was not a ton of time to relax though, as our flight left for home at 3:45pm. I went right to transition to grab my bike and gear and we headed back to the hotel. I packed my bike back up in my case, cleaned up, and we headed for the airport. It was kind of strange to not stick around at all after the race. This is the only time this year I have to catch a flight the day of the race, so fortunately I won't have to do that again.
Thanks to Nuun to keeping me hydrated in the heat, Honey Stinger for fueling me with their delicious bars, HUUB for the extremely comfortable swim skin, TriSports.com for my training gear, Towpath Bike for taking care of me in Rochester and doing all my bike maintenance, and Trek for making an awesome bike. And of course thanks to my dad and Becky for traveling with me and all their support, even though it was such a quick trip without a ton of time to enjoy the beautiful island. (They both did manage to get some sun though). Time to get back to work and prepare for Wildflower!
Swim - 31:07
Bike - 2:11:24
Run - 1:27:55
Finish Time - 4:15:24