Ironman Pamama 70.3 Race Report
Kicking off 2013 racing with a good hard race! Panama 70.3 did not disappoint and after the travel home I am glad this will be the hottest, furthest and most “questionable” race of the year for me.
I had a couple main reasons I wanted to spend the 10+ hr of travel to get to the starting line. A) I wanted to RACE! Racing is fun. B) I wanted to get a hard race under my belt to start the year off and something before Cabo – Not many options fit that category C) This would give me a good baseline about how my training formula was going from December D) I wanted to see where I would stack up from my time/placing and see the course. This was the Latin American Pro race and I maybe back next year so I wanted to learn the logistics and turn by turn by suffering it out first hand.
After just running most of last year and getting things in order to race a lot this year I have been VERY hungry for some run PBs. Ironic that that is where the questionable came into play for this race. A couple weeks before this race I was questioning if I was even going to be running at all. That changed some of my goals and perspectives but in the end taking time off from running going into the race turned out to be the best thing for me. I have had less triathlon specific training than in the past races (a good thing for February) going into this race and with the combination of pushing and trying to get back in bike shape faster with higher intensity rides left me with some lower leg issues right before the race. As is pretty common, this did not show at first on the bike but on the run. Long story less drama – I got shin splints in my right leg. Crazy. I run 2,600 miles last year just focusing on running with no issues and I get back on the bike and get shin splints. I could dive into many thoughts here and there but the best thing to do was just_rest and not test it so that is what I did (easier said than done!). What I ended up with was my biggest block of rest the week before the race and even bigger block of rest following the race (lowest week in about 3yrs). Again, maybe not the best prep for Cabo but not a bad thing for this early in the year and to come out of it injury free.
The good thing was that Josh and I made it to the starting line in Panama and after a short swim, bike, run the day before the race I knew I could run off the bike without causing any damage or pain because my splints had disappeared. Time to party!
Swim 22:55  1.2 mi (1:11/100m) ahr:140 max:149
There were a lot of unique and cool things about this event. For starters, we kicked things off with swimming in the Panama Canal. Cool! The start was off of a small pier just outside of the hotel Josh and I were staying at and we would swim the 1.2 miles down the canal before climbing the stairs and sprinting just over a quarter mile into T1.
Race morning we walked to transition at about 5:40am to setup our stuff and although the sun was not yet up just doing an easy walk/run warm up from T1 to the swim start got me sweating. That was all the warm up that I did. I figured the day was going to be hot enough and the pros were about to go off at 6:50 and my wave (7th) was starting at 7:16 which gave me about 20min. I took my pre-race fuel and then found out there was a delay… 10min turned into 20, then 40, then an hour later we finally got the clear to start. The sun was now up and the heat and wind already started to show us how tough the day was going to be.
We had the normal chaos of the race start but I managed to get close enough to the front to take my pick of feet when the pack split. I found a set of feet that were slightly faster than I was going and got in second position. I could not ask for a better start. Locked in and soon swimming steady along with nobody else close by except for the previous waves we were swimming through. I knew from experience I was swimming hard enough so that I could have gone around but I would have worked just a bit harder and gone the same speed so I just focused on the bubbles in front of me, technique and mentally running through T1 once again. We slowed the last ~600 meters or so and I started to get really cold. I remember my hands/arms/feet getting numb and having to relax my jaw from grinding my teeth. No wetsuits allowed but it felt pretty dang chilly! In some strange way I took comfort in that knowing it would be the coldest part of my day.
apparently nudging out father time on the way to T1
Bike 2:31:07  57.25 mi (22.7 mph) +3153ft ahr:146 max:163 shoes: DA
The heat and hard of this course began to set in on the bike. In addition to the climbing (which I really enjoyed) we had what felt like a cross or headwind for the entire bike. Not gusty like Kona but just always pushing. Besides the last ~10 miles through the city of Panama, the course was rolling up or down the entire time and I was very stoked to see that they shutdown the city roads and even one side of the Pan American Highway for us so there were no cars at all. Yeee!
This was probably my best on the bike yet (pacing/nutrition). Although I averaged almost 20 watts higher than I did at the Half Ironman about a month ago I still rode about 13min slower overall. This course and conditions were tough and I like that! After racing 3 different half ironmans now (206w/228w at my first-Oside, 244w at HITS and 261w at Panama) – I am moving up my effort and not worrying about going too hard on the bike. At HITS, I was not in bike shape and literally rode until I had my legs give out and realized I could still run well off the bike. That was a big mental help and I have had the last month or so to try and get my bike legs back. I also usually start and end the ride with lower watts but this time I just got on and held about the same until my feet came out of my shoes. For the first time, I took in all my nutrition I had on my bike and 3 salt sticks. I know I have a lot of work to do but I was happy with my bike in that it is moving in the right direction.
The rest of the ride was (thankfully) uneventful. I passed some of the first waves early on and then did not see anyone until I started catching some of the pro women in the final miles. I took the approach of “drop it like its hot” to control my effort. I knew my legs had more and my HR was slow to drift up but also slow to drift down do to the heat. The heat mixed with this humidity was pretty brutal. When I felt my head getting hot like it was going to melt or my core temp creeping up, I dialed into that instead of my watts and just rolled with it over the hills dropping my power to keep from overheating. Simple but it worked.
Running 1:27:36  13.1 mi (6:41 / mi) +382ft ahr:165 max:202 shoes: NB-1600-Blu-1
Last year, I had finally, in my own mind, become a runner. It may sounds strange and nobody except me would understand and that is exactly why I am so stoked about it. It is also why I was patient to wait if I was going to cause damage running at this race because I really believe I have some of the best running off the bike in my future and I want to be healthy and strong then. The questioning about if I could run at Panama ended a couple days before the race but how I was going to run was still unknown. Thats why racing is so exciting.
When I got off the bike I was told while heading out of transition that I was 1st amateur and 2nd was right behind me. No biggie. I ran out and just focused on my rhythm, turn over and all the little reminders of FORM that I learned last year. The guy in the picture below just behind me got right on my shoulder and we ran together for a while…at my pace. I have never felt more comfortable and confident. I never thought about my shin or lack of running going into the race. I just ran. A mile later I was alone and feeling pretty good…and hot. Really hot.
Just before the turn around I was running with two other guys and I think the overall amateur (I finished 2nd amateur overall – I think he started in a wave behind me but I really dont know). I felt like I was holding back but my head was getting so hot and my feet heavy with water from aid station floods of water poured over me. This was two out and backs but the first lap turned towards the finish before making another small loop and out and back on an asphalt road. That is where I hit my low (meltdown) of the race. The guys I was running with were two pro’s on their final lap and as we made our way around the turn they ran to the finish and I thought I was lost off course…Crap! In one way I thought I would have a good excuse to stop running. ha. funny what goes through your mind. Then I saw a little sign that said second lap U Turn. Right on. Stay the course.
The next mile or two were BRUTAL. I have had tough and hot spots in race past – You cannot avoid these going the distance at Kona, Ultraman, or in the desert of Utah but I have never had it come upon me so quickly. I should have known I was in trouble when I dumped two cups on my head at the aid station before only to realize afterwards that it was coke ;-) Things were getting sticky… I went from running strong with these two guys to hitting this black asphalt a mile later (now out of the wind and feeling the heat from the ground) and started throwing up in my mouth. This is something I do not do at races and I was not about to start now. Wow… That took some tough love talk but I soaked up a good long walk and stop at the next aid station and got my core temp down and then was on my way.
Running out of that pit was actually the best part of the race for me. I was able to turn things around and get back to running ~6:30 pace lifting my effort at the end and balancing my head melting with the smarts to keep the ice water pouring over my head instead of coke. I was informed again at the last turn around that I had about 20sec ahead of the next amatuer and I ended up finishing about a minute ahead of him but I am most stoked that I never looked over my shoulder (a huge change for me). Not close to my best run but stoked I was able to run and even more that I am injury free after the race and getting on my proper preparation on for Ironman Los Cabos. I like going long!