Ironman Los Cabos Race Report
As I mentioned in my last post, the Los Cabos Ironman has been one of the smoothest races I have been able to be a part of and perhaps the only race that I was already planning to attend the following year before we even got to the starting line. I tried to put some useful info in that post since it was a first year race and hopefully we will see you down there next year too!
I had a lot of questions about going into this race with my recent injury but I left my excuses at home and had more rest than I have ever had going into any race so my plan was just to do as much of the race as possible and take my mid-season break when I was done.
The swim was out of Pamilla cove and the water was perfect. Clear, ~70 degrees and one big loop. As we started, I lined up on the far right and a fast group took out the swim into the surf close to the buoy line on the left side. This was all left turns and I should have started on the left but I got clear water and lead out a group on the far right slowly making my way to the left as we closed in on the first major turn. By the time I got there I was in the back of a very big lead group that split at the turn leaving me in the back of the second group.
Shortly after rounding the first buoy, I made my way to the front of the second pack and then tried to bridge up to the leaders. I put in a solid effort for what felt like a long time but it was probably just a few minutes. That left me swimming in the middle of both packs and still not close enough to get onto the front pack who continued to pull away. I decided to swim a bit smarter and do some breast stroke until the 2nd pack caught me and then just find some feet.
The pace felt very comfortable after racing a couple halfs and an olympic over the last couple months and the proof that the smart sessions at Nova were working. I have also continued to feel very aware in the water and have been able to watch what is going on around me more and more which in some way relaxes me throughout the swim. Specific OW sessions + Smart Nova practices + experience = progression. Now I just need to work on some muscular endurance so I don’t fade at the end of the swim.
As we rounded the final buoy and headed to shore we ran into a little chop and what felt like a head on current. I got dropped. I missed some feet and then more and more space opened between me and the group. My long strokes were burning me up and by the time I switched to more of a choppy quick cadence my pull felt faded. That last section I really slowed down and could not even hold pace with anyone passing me. This was by far my longest swim in a while and I know where I am at now and how to address it by the next IM. I was happy to get out of the water!
The bike course was a lot of fun with consistent “rollers” out along the coast and then a climb towards the airport on the toll road. Two laps of that with a progressive wind and streets lined with cheering spectators yelling “VA VA VA” and the time just flew by…
My goal was to ride the first lap building into the climb at the airport and then stay strong on the pace the second lap. I was still unsure if I was going to run but I realized it would do me no good to send it on the bike even if I was not going to run. This was the proof if my training was working and my pacing was right, so, run or not, I decided to practice executing my race – I wanted to build good habits and proper pacing. I also stuck to my nutrition plan (Vitargo + Salt Stick) just like at Panama which both provided my best pacing/power so far. My average power for this race was 1 watt less than I did when I raced a half ironman in December (a PB at the time) so I was pretty stoked with that knowing I didn’t even feel like I rode hard when I got on the run. The bike progress is coming along nicely!
The nature of the course also had a lot of rest built into it. Rolling hills and some wind that was at our backs at times made for some good recovery between the efforts. Compared to the humidity and lack of tailwind I felt at Panama, I was all smiles on the bike. I was in no-mans-land again by about 20 miles in. There was a small pack of pro men way out in front and a group of about 4 pro women in a pace-line I would see at the turn around and I just focused on trying to catch them.
Finishing the bike, I rode up the last 180 degree turn around and was directed back through the turn. I didn’t think this was right as that would have put me on track to head back to the airport for a third time but I did not see any other options. I turned around again mid-street and back to the turn asking the volunteers and spectators for directions to the bike finish. To keep it short, I got a bit lost at the end of the bike. The right way was to ride through the last 180 degree turn – I rode in a couple small loops on that street before I finally got direction to do just that…No biggie.
The confusion over not knowing the final miles however had me lose focus on the bike exit and taking my feet out of my shoes. That was slightly exaggerated by a slight downhill that had me moving at a quick pace towards T2. I got my left foot out and by the time I looked up I realized I was coming in quick! I reached down and was able to get my right foot out just in time to look up and see the dismount line, so, I naturally grabbed two fists full of break and felt the weightlessness that only comes from a high speed indo. Yeehaa! I managed to get both of my legs around my handlebars that were sinking below and behind me at this point and as my bike tumbled beside me on the left and we both floated over the dismount line. I landed barefoot on the far side but my bike was not so lucky. My immediate thought was “I hope someone got that on video”. The support grabbed my bike and told me they would take it from here and I said, gracias amigo! and took off running into T2.
My shin lit-up before I hit the first mile marker on the run. I was hoping to at least get a few miles under my legs before that started but other than that my legs really did feel good. The run course was a ghost town the first lap but that let me dial into my pace and run relatively easy. At this point I still was not sure how far I was going to run but I was keen on practicing executing proper pacing off the bike. I honestly feel that the first 5 miles of the run will make or break your marathon and this was the time to use my discipline of sticking to what I felt I could sustain in the final miles. My mind went to fueling, electrolytes, rhythm and form…anything but the pain in my shin.
keeping it going lap two of three
Before I knew it, I was rounding mile 10 and starting the second loop. Hot dog! I may finish this dang race! My goal of mile 3, 5, 10 turned to mile 16 until I finally had to commit to finishing even if I had to walk. It is best not to allow yourself any negotiation in the final miles of the marathon.
Although it felt like I could feel the muscle ripping from the bone with every step, I got the confirmation I needed about my training – finally getting the quickness I needed. Every other Ironman I have lacked the quickness to take advantage of the downhills or have variation in pace. I have always trained at about 7:30-8min/mi pace and ran close to that for the marathon but it would destroy me to deviate from that range. This training block, I was almost always running closer to 6:30-7min/mi pace at the same heart rate and have ran more miles at or below 6min pace in the last couple months than I have my entire life. Unfortunately, the result of my shin splints and now tendinitis of my ATT was in one way proof of that… A little too quick, too soon, but with some adjustments I know I am headed in the right direction.
From mile 18 on, I had to take a few breaks to stretch my calves. I was subconsciously favoring my good leg (left) and my calf was so loaded I was fighting cramps in it along with the unnecessary struggle that comes when your form goes to crap from limping. The run was bittersweet for me. I was stoked that I was going to be able to finish, and that I ended up running the same time I did at Kona when it was a PB for me and today I was not up….as a “bad” run. It also gave me more confirmation and confidence about the type of run I know I have in me and will execute when I’m not gimpy. However, I was running injured. Something I would never recommend and am totally against. The only exception was that I was planning on taking a break after the race but it is not something I am proud of… Never run injured!
Outside of the obvious, I was in a deep pain cave trying to cope with this in the last 10 miles of the race. There has been plenty of times I have ran for 5, 6, 7+ hours and was dealing with the fatigue and heavy legs that accompany such experiences but I have never had the struggle like I did in the last hour of this race. It did feel good after not running for 3 weeks to finally get out and move on my own two feet so I just thought about that, the people that inspire me and every drop of positive I had until I crossed the finish line.
rounding out mile 26
I won my age group and took a slot to Kona so it looks like Monique will have to do some more bikini shopping before the end of the year.
In the end, I was very happy to have support from friends, sponsors and the rest of the team around me. I did better than expected and I was glad I was able to finish while learning about what has been working in my training where I need to focus on for improvement. Not a PB in swim, bike or run but stoked to see after taking 18 months away from triathlon that the specific fitness comes back fast and the desire is stronger than ever. With less Ironman training than ever going into this race (a good thing for March), I feel like my PB was executing a race that squeezed higher percentage of what fitness I had in me on the day. A breakthrough of sorts that I know will only have more to work with for the next time I get to the starting line. Until then.. Its time for some R&R!