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Monday, March 29, 2010

Ironman 70.3 California Race Report by San Francisco Sports Medicine Podiatrist


On Saturday March 27, 2010 I officially started the triathlon season with my first half Ironman.

The Rohto Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside, CA is one of the most popular events on the 70.3 circuit and this weekend I got to find out why.

Given that I have competed in many full Ironman distance triathlons (but no half-Ironman events) I really only had three main goals for this race:

1. Finish injury-free! (bad form for a podiatrist to get injured while running)
2. Finish in 5 hours 30 minutes or less.
3. Test the engine and see what I need to do to prepare for the 2010 Ironman season.


PRE-RACE DAY:
Early that morning I went out for the obligatory short ride and transition run. It felt great to loosen up all of the 8-hour car ride stiffness sustained from the drive down from the San Francisco Bay Area. The weather was perfect! I picked up my registration packet and went back to the room to meet Paige and Alex and go for a swim with my favorite 2 year-old.

Because the swim portion takes place in the Oceanside Harbor, athletes are not allowed to swim at the site before race day. No big deal as swimming is swimming and it all looks pretty much the same on race day… arms, legs, and churning confusing.


Because the bulk of the bike leg winds through Camp Pendelton, competitors are not allowed to ride on the bike course. This would be the first race where I would have basically know clue of what to expect on the bike.

I just figured I would treat it like one of my group rides in Marin with my biking buddies in the Bay Area. I usually don’t really know the routes I am being led on when we head somewhere new, so this should feel similar. I’d try to just take it as it comes and pay attention to my heart rate and perceived exertion.

RACE DAY:
We rented a condo right by the harbor which made race morning stress-free as can be. Up at 4:00 a.m., peanut butter and jelly sandwich down, make coffee, shower, get dressed, pump up bike tires, fill aerodrink bottle, gather gear, etc.

It seems like every race lead to some item forgotten in transit to transition, and this was no exception. I had everything meticulously organized. But just as I was headed out of the door I realized it was cold and decided to put on a fleece jacket. In doing so I forgot to put my backpack on again.

So I headed out into the dark and streamed in line with the other 2300 or so athletes heading to transition. I found my spot and racked the bike. When I got ready to lay out my running gear, I realized the conspicuous absence of the back pack.

No big deal as the condo was only about ¼ mile away. I did a warm-up jog back to the condo and grabbed the back pack. Paige, Alex and I then headed back to transition so I could add my towel, running shoes, hat and number belt to the #589 pile in transition.

With everything in place, just had to wait for the start.


SWIM 1.2 MILES:
The goal for the swim was simple. Relax and swim 1.2 mile in 40 minutes without getting worn out or beaten up.

My swim wave was relatively early and I got to start right at 7:00 am. The cannon went off and away we went. The water was clean, clear and way warmer than San Francisco Bay! It seemed like no time before I was rounding the red turn buoy at the mouth of the harbor. I drafted a little, but mainly tried to stay clear or the flailing arms and kicking feet that surrounded me.

When I got back to the boat ramp, I checked my watch and saw success! Swim time of 39:33, no black eyes, and no one kicked me in the head. I felt great knowing I could get out on the bike without having to extract an impacted earplug (at least this time).

Transition 1:
After the 600 foot long run in a wetsuit, I made it to the bike. Stripped the wetsuit, put on my socks, helmet, Garmin, sunglasses and away I went!

BIKE 56 MILES:
The bike course was great! Lots of gentle rollers, some big long climbs interspersed with plenty of flat stuff where I could get on the gas. I can say with confidence that the course is beautiful as it wind through the Marine Corps base. Big green mountains, wildflowers and blue ocean dominate. There is also the occasional “Tank X-ing” and “Live Fire Zone” signs just to remind you where you are. The soldiers volunteering on the base provided (no surprise) perfect order and execution at the aid stations.

I kept a constant low-stress level on the bike course. I went hard, but easy enough that I knew I could still run the half marathon. After 2 hours 45 minutes and 9 seconds (20.35 mph average) I was back in Oceanside and ready to run.

RUN 13.1 MILES:
The run course is a mostly flat out-and-back two-loop affair. The best part was that it runs along the ocean and passes directly in front of the condo where I could see Paige and Alex waiving and cheering from the balcony.

I really wanted to make sure I finished in under 5:30 total. So after some quick math I knew I could coast in as long as I maintained an average pace of 9:00 per mile for the entire half marathon. I went about 9:30 min/mile pace for the first mile to try get moving and loosen up my legs. Then I started to gradually increase the pace.

About two miles from transition I saw my old motorcycle road-racing partner Fred Provis cheering for me out on the course. Fred is one of those guys who can make anyone feel like a champion. He definitely put a spring in my step. The next few miles felt much better. By the first turn around I knew I would make the finish on target.

By the second lap I was in a comfortable groove. I fought the urge to push the pace knowing that I might invite injury, or blow it and end it walking. Given that I had a goal of getting a qualifying slot for Ironman Arizona (as well as doing Ironman Canada five months from now) I knew I should be sensible and just keep the pace steady.

About a quarter mile from the finish I realized I was still slowly creeping up on another guy in my age group. I had been behind him for about 5 miles. For some reason passing him suddenly seemed important.

Right after I crossed the bridge to the harbor, I kicked it in high gear and shot past him. Confident that I was far ahead, I slowed down. Next thing I knew he flew by on my right as we entered the last 50 feet of the finish shoot. I started chasing him as he peered back at me over his right shoulder.

I was picking up speed as we approached the finish line. Then the poor guy suddenly stood bolt upright, grabbed he right hamstring and started limp-running to the line just ahead of me. When I crossed the line he was holding onto a volunteer with one hand his his hamstring with the other. I patted him on the back and said “You reeeeeeally earned that one!”

My total time was 5:29:42. I made my goal with 18 seconds to spare. And most importantly (unlike the guy in front of me), I was injury free. Best of all, I went to watch the roll down... and secured my Ironman Arizona slot. See you in Tempe in November!

Let the training begin...


Dr. Christopher Segler is an Ironman triathete, marathoner, and an award-winning Sports Medicine Podiatrist in San Francisco. He has written extensively on the subject of podiatric sports medicine and running injury prevention. His San Francisco Podiatry practice focuses on house call appointments for busy professionals and athletes who want to prevent or recover from running injuries. He offers the convenience of podiatry house calls at Bay Area homes and offices so that his clients don’t have to lose time going to the doctor or getting custom orthotics. You can learn more about common running injuries at AnkleCenter.com and Doc On The Run.com.

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