Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ironman Los Cabos Race Report/Pictures

2013 marked the inaugural year for this race, so I and 1,500 or so other athletes didn't quite know what we were getting into, and it shows in the DNF % and average times- this was a pretty tough race. Fortunately for me it was my first full so although I suffered quite a bit I wasn't too discouraged on the course as I had no preconceived notions on what an IM feels like. I wanted to do an early season race as I have more time to train during the winter, I considered IM New Zealand and Texas but NZ was too expensive for me to travel to and the Cabo course was more appealing to me. Everyone I talked to advised me to go easier than I thought I should, but I opted to go on a mix of feel and heart rate and risk blowing up, as I felt it was more in the spirit of the event. Blow up I did, but we'll get to that later.

The logistics of equipment in triathlons in general are a hassle, but racing an Ironman in another country is a huge pain and more stressful for me than the race itself, fortunately it worked out far better than I had expected. I packed my bike in a Serfas hard case and flew on Alaska Airlines, they charged me $30 extra for the bike on the way there and nothing on the way back, I was quite happy with the experience. Leaving the Cabo airport is where things became more bothersome. The race has several host hotels, I stayed at the Westin, packet pickup was at the Hola Grand Faro, about 15 mins away, the dinner that night (which was amazing) was a 10 minute walk from there, the swim start was at the Palmilla, between the Grand Faro and Westin, T2 was 10 mins past the Grand Faro, and lastly the slot allocation/rolldown was 30 mins away from San Jose Del Cabo in Cabo San Lucas. There was a free shuttle to bike check in on Saturday and the race on Sunday morning but aside from that you are on your own. I highly recommend renting a car for the time you are there, cabs aren't cheap.

It was already fairly warm when I woke up at 4am on race morning. Although the various bags for swim/bike/run gear were a bit confusing to me as it was essentially a point to point everything was explained well when I asked so the bike and gear check in the day before went smoothly. This really takes a lot of the stress away you would normally encounter on race morning, definitely a perk of a WTC sanctioned Ironman. I took the free shuttle to T1, made sure my bike was all in order, got marked up, and for the most part relaxed until the race start. I did do a practice swim for about 5 mins at 6:15 or so, I'm not 100% sure on the water temp but I'd wager around 70-72 degrees.

The mass start in most WTC Ironmans stresses a lot of people out, but I didn't think it was too bad. I started off on the right (outside) and sprinted out a bit, I was able to get a relatively open lane for the majority of the swim. My goal was to settle in with what I thought would be the 1:00-1:05 pack and take it easy, which is what I did... at least I thought, til I got out of the water at 1:15. I knew there weren't that many people ahead of me since I scoped the front pack at all the corners, so I didn't know what happened at all. I found out by asking on the bike that the swim was pretty slow for most people. I felt very good coming out of the swim regardless, I don't wear a heart rate monitor on the swim but I'd estimate I was at around 70% max at most.

The bike course is where it got interesting for me and most other people in the race. It was obvious the course was hilly just from driving around but not to the degree most people expected - 7500ft of climbing total on the course. There weren't any crazy climbs, just relentless rollers for the entirety of the 112 miles. This kind of terrain suits me pretty well, as it's similar to what I train on, so my bike started off very strong. The first 30 mile out and back to Cabo San Lucas I averaged 22mph at my easily maintainable heart rate. The out and back to the airport, with 2 700ft climbs, I averaged 20mph, so I was sitting at 21mph for the first lap. At the very beginning of the bike I noticed someone that was in my AG passed me, I passed him a few minutes later, and this went on for the entire first lap. I didn't know where I was after the slow swim, turns out that guy ended up in 2nd and is going to Kona - congrats #269

Heading out for the second out and back towards San Lucas there was a brutal headwind, and this is where I started to fade. The main issue wasn't the wind or hills, it was the heat. I stopped sweating a few times and got worried, but couldn't stomach enough liquid to maintain my sweat rate. In retrospect I should have drank more water and less malto mix earlier on. My second lap both my heart rate and average speed were about 20% lower, turning my 5:10ish pace into a 5:45. Fortunately the last 8 miles of the bike were both downhill and with a tailwind, allowing me to get back on top of my nutrition and regain my composure.

As I headed out on the run I felt pretty good again. I had no pace planning for the run, was just going on heart rate. My first 11 miles I was running 8:10-8:20s on exactly 75% max HR, which felt great. Just like on the bike however I felt myself getting dehydrated in the 95 degree heat bouncing off the asphalt. I made the decision to walk an aid station to try and stomach some extra water and jam ice in my tri suit, and it really slowed down my next few miles, I couldn't get back in the rhythm I was in. After a few 9 minute miles I decided to walk another aid station and try and reboot, it appears I didn't learn my lesson after the first time, since I had 3 horrible miles after this. At around mile 20 though I decided to skip the remainder of the aid stations aside from dumping water on my self, and managed to run 8-9 minute miles for the remainder of the race, and a 7:20 for my last, since i saw someone in my AG at the 1 mile mark - turned out he was on his 2nd of 3 laps and not finishing then, still netted me another minute though, thanks dude.

With all that went wrong I didn't have any idea where I stood, but it turned out I was in 7th in my AG, a lot better than I expected. The bike leg seemed to destroy a lot of people - 41% DNF for the race. A lot of the athletes with faster bike splits in my AG didn't finish the run. I don't think the course was too hard at all, but being a first year race it took a lot of people off guard. Knowing the course now makes me want to race there again, and I would assume a lot of other racers feel this way. Then again, I'm sure quite a few never want to see that airport toll road again in their lives. Remember though, after you ride it for the second time and run a marathon a nice beach, great food, and an overpriced margarita await. ¿Hasta el ano que viene?

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