3 minutes to midnight
I would never think a half ironman would be a minor race. In this case it was for me because it was considered a prep race for Ironman Texas. So Ironman 70.3 Florida was a “B” race, but it was important to see how I’m preparing for the “A” race.
The house was very quiet at 4am. I woke up and did all my duties. Hefty breakfast, clean the pipes and load the van with stuff. Bernie, Joan and myself left the house first as the others were still prepping up. It was a good choice since finding parking was chaotic and when we got to transition to prepare our stuff, the announcer was saying that it was going to close in 15min. I was like “oh, shit, hopefully everyone else can make it in time.”
Luckily they did. But I was already cleaning the pipes for 2nd and 3rd time and it was just a waiting game in the chilly morning. The day was expected to have great weather for racing and I was confident that I would break my PR (personal best), and break the 5:30 in a 70.3. For the past months I have been doing mostly double of the distance and it seem that compare to what I have been doing, it would be an easy day.
The plan was to stick to a steady zone 3 through the whole race. Fuel properly and the most important thing was to not walk the half marathon at the end, which has always been a painful thing that has happened in all my past 70.3’s. So I did a warm up run with Bernie and Julious and then headed to the Aminorip tent, where all my friends were camping. One by one everyone left to the start line, until it was my turn. I put my wetsuit and went to the start line. Since my rib problem I wasn’t able to swim much in the last 2 weeks, so I would do whatever was possible for me to do. The water was cold and it was perfect for a wetsuit swim. The “M” shaped swim course would be a little tricky but doable.
I started the swim front right side next to the buoys. Relaxed and controlled breathing. Most of the swim I kept drafting from a guy in a Orca suit, and tried to not lose him out of my sight. It was a toggle war since sometimes I was in front of him and then he will be in front of me. Almost at the end of the swim, the fastest guys from the next wave started passing us. I tried to keep up and grab the draft but they were insanely fast! So I kept up with the Orca guy lol.
Finally out of the water and into T1. Transition was this weird “U” shape parking lot. Which had a lot of running inside it. I was happy to see that my rack had no bikes, always a good sign and motivator that you are doing great! Took off my wetsuit, grab my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. The first half of the ride was great, it was still cold and you had tailwind most of the time. I resisted the urge to push on the bike, and always kept remembering that I needed to have a steady zone 3 and to push around 80 rpm. I remembered when I did an all-assault bike ride in 70.3 Miami and died later in the run, so I was trying to stick to the plan and respect the distance. The second part of the bike was mostly headwind and a lot more hills to roll on. But overall I felt great. Very few times I activated the engines to pass some people but most of the time I acted intelligently and saw moments on where to pass (for example on a downhill). Funny enough at the end of the ride I thought, “that was it? So short!,” certainly Ironman training makes you look at things in a different perspective LOL.
Until this point nutrition was on point and did everything as I have done in previous trainings. Tailwind nutrition bottles (2x), where I drank a bottle and a half (having sips every 15min), 1 Bonk Breaker which I took when I reached the first hour of the bike, some Sportlegs capsules and a Glukos gel at the end of the bike. I felt AWESOME after the bike ride. I keep the whole ride steady as planned and I didn’t pushed hard. My legs felt fresh and ready to run. Back into transition I racked the bike, put socks, shoes, cap, sunglasses and bib number and off I went.
The run had a 3 loop course, which makes it very spectator friendly. The weather was still great, it was not as chilly as earlier in the morning, but compared to the heat of Miami, it was awesome. I couldn’t believe how great I was feeling on the run which is my worst discipline. On the course I passed the Aminorip cheering squad and they cracked me off. I was feeling happy for REALZ. The run was not flat and had several hills to manage, especially at the beginning of the loop. There was this big ass continuous rolling hill that lasted for almost a mile. So I knew I had to take it easy right there. Saw a lot of my friends crushing it on the course, but I knew they were on their last stretch… I was just beginning it. At 45 min I took another gel and I still felt great, I was still cursing on the second loop and on each aid station I would throw water on me and put ice inside my suit. This was the first time doing a race with a trucker hat and it was great to put ice inside the cap and it will slightly melt on your head while running. Definitely switching to trucker caps for next races, especially long ones and on hot conditions.
As the third loop came in I was starting to feel the fatigue settling. My legs were starting to feel heavy, although my heart rate and pace was still on check. Then it came the big ass rolling hill. As much as I wanted to hold the pace, my legs were saying no. I broke and started walking a bit. Then tried again, I hold it for a bit longer this time but when I was getting to the top I broke again. After that it was a walking/ running effort. On mile 11, I was feeling hungry, and I knew it was a bad sign. I was checking the time and already felt defeated because there was no way possible that I was going to break my goal time. I completely screw up and felt thatI disappointed my coach, Cobi Sensei, Bernie, the whole Darkside and my friends that support and encourage me. On the last aid station I grabbed some Red Bull, which was a first, and thought that probably it will give me a final kick to finish the race. The finishing chute was downhill so I tried to speed up. Nevertheless I saw Julious passing me and I tried to stick with him on the final stretch. He speed up and crossed the finish line first. I took my time and crossed the line with my trademark finish…
I congratulated Julious and then exited the finish. I was PISSED OFF with myself. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and wanted to be left alone. I screw up AGAIN, I was very patient through the whole race in holding back, and still ended up walking the run. Shit, I wanted to cry for being so stupid. My best time in a 70.3 was 5:41 and that day I did 5:44… 3 minutes to midnight.
I took a deep breath and relaxed. It was not the end of the world after all. Sometimes I am too hard on myself when I fail a goal, but I needed to scratch the page and let it go. There was a mix of results with my friends during the race, but most of them positive. Some people winning their age groups with absolutely amazing performances, others breaking PRs. On the bad side we had other people bonking, a stolen wetsuit from transition and the worst... a bike crash. Aside from positives and negatives, the team's efforts placed us in 3rd place of the Ironman TriClub Program and we qualified for the 2017 Pan American Triclub Championship to be held in Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico next year. Great job Darkside Miami!
Aside from results, I recommend the race. It was well put, the course was well marked, and the course was challenging but not impossible to do. I wonder if the weather was warmer, probably the story would have been different. But that day the weather was perfect. I don’t usually repeat races, but this one is one that probably I would redo.
Fourth 70.3 in the books for me. Now thinking about it, probably this one was the best 70.3 from the four I have done. It has been the most challenging course I have done in this distance and I was close to do the same time I did in a flat course. So probably it would mean that in a flat course I can do better. Then again, details that now certainly don’t matter. Now is time to reassess and especially practice more my nutrition game. Things that really matter are coming up, the big actual race, Ironman Texas in 5 weeks!