Saturday, December 31, 2022

Ironman California - Race report

(Didnt get time to put into coherent sentences)
  • drove to sacramento midst so much drama
  • spent the day checking in, driving the bike course and realizing 20mph on
  • ensured I had everything, made my nutrition, washed my bike and made transition bags
  • race day
    • maneesh pickup to swim
    • bfast regular
    • bike prep, shuttle to swim
    • alone, cold
    • start: had to pause and collect myself: happened second time this season (donner)
    • easy swim after: really shallow at times, current, against at one point etc.
    • t1 really long -- jogged all the way
    • bike
    • first loop: 21-23 super hard, rest very easy -- didnt feel much sidewind or tailwind.
    • way back: 8 miles of misery -- at mile 32 really thinking of dropping out
    • managed and just kept going to loop1 end
    • second loop much higher winds -- mentally the goal was to just get to the run.
    • run
    • started off regular 9-9:30 min/mile with legs feeling tired but manageable.
    • around mile 7-8 felt pain on the outside of the knee on the right and tad bit on the left too.
    • windy and nice weather
    • by mile 11-12 it was significant enough to prevent running -- started walking 
    • peed mile 14 -- dark brown -- scary!
    • continued to drag until mile 18-19 for special needs. wore shirt getting cold and lights.
    • giving other athletes company and chit chatting a bit until 22.
    • two small loops to finish -- felt great instead because hear finish line and mentally I had made it.. it was just a matter of continuing to do what had worked until now.
    • finished two loops and then a volunteer flagged me to the right and I followed .. only to realize that its the same loop and the finish line noise has faded away. asked people around and volunteers but didnt get anything useful. decided to go back (take a risk of coming back!) and finally figured where I got off the course
    • finished really happy
    • saw neha and piku at the finish line :)
Didnt see a single known soul from t0 dropoff to finish. 

Still a blur and from next day going on with regular day to day .. no muscle soreness at all.. just the knee itb pain took a day or two to get better.

One hell of a season and race and did not feel burnt out at all! loved doing it all over again this year with more challenges to face.

The readers can read by season report here which has a lot more masala:

Monday, December 12, 2022

2022 season: The real deal

Having not done any races in the past 2-3 years (see The pandemic seasons (2020-2021 post) had definitely kept me hungry and wanting to do some races in 2022. I had a deferral for IM Hawaii 70.3 (June) and signed up for the usual IM Santa Cruz 70.3 (September). With the potential deferral in mind and possibility of Piku's grandparents' visiting us, I signed up for IM Sacramento (Oct) as well.

One-mile-a-day experiment

In late 2021, I got inspired by one of my coworkers who had done Ironmans back in his days and was a Boston finisher multiple times. He used to run/walk at least a km each day and has been doing that for years! I thought of giving that a shot and had started doing at least 1 mi of run each day. I think I lasted until Mar or so (~4 months or probably missing once or twice) before I gave up. The positive side was that when work got real crazy in Jan, Feb and some of Mar, the one mile runs held me together; there were many instances I ran at 11:5x pm in cold just to get the run in. Having no time to possibly get a workout in, sparing 10 mins to get a run in still turned out to be hard but a feasible way to get the body moving.

My legs felt awesome and I have had my best run feels in those days without the need of any massage or foam rolling (which I am really bad at). I have typically had some pain or the other develop after a few months of hard training and this time around even doing speed workouts, legs felt alright!

Hawaii's calling

Keeping June 70.3 in mind, I focused myself to train seriously starting March. With 2021's one-swim-a-week experiment, I had some confidence that I can pick up swimming late in the game and decided to stay focused on the bike and run. Again a lot of trainer rides and outdoor runs and I felt great during training. Now, the pandemic was not yet over and me (and Neha) being a bit paranoid about it made us wonder if we should travel to Hawaii. One fine day in late Apr or May, Shashi called, who was supposed to give me company in Hawaii, and said that he had decided to pull out. That gave me enough set of reasons to pull out and cancel my Hawaii trip. But I did not have strong reasons to abandon my training, so I continued half heartedly until I decided to do a self-supported one, the same day Hawaii 70.3 was supposed to be.

DBH and Souj were generous enough to help me out plan my race course and support me during the swim at Gull Park. Neha supported me with the baby duty all day. Cool weather helped me finish strong especially when I had a bit of lapse in training and motivating leading up to the race.

COVID finally

Soon after in around mid June, finally saw the double line on the home test. Yes, I tested positive for COVID finally after 2 odd years. This was the night before I was supposed to an Alcatraz crossing with some fellow TA folks (the swim got canceled due to bad weather luckily).
Creating panic at home, I started isolating in a room while my parents and Neha with the kid managed to stay away from me and safe. Suffered for 4ish days and then came out of isolation after 8-9 days and tested negative only to learn that soon after Piku tested positive, perhaps contracting it from her small day care! Now there was no escape for Neha who tested positive too after a couple of days. They both had a rough 6-7 days before feeling close to normal. Luckily my parents kept testing negative all throughout.

All of this wiped out 3-4 weeks from our lives. Finally some sanity prevailed in July. We were lucky to make it to the swim event in Donner Lake and both Neha and I could partake, while my parents took care of the baby while we were swimming. 

IM mindset

With just under 4 months remaining and the prior month diminishing my fitness quite a bit, it was the time to make the call: IM Sacramento or not.

This year was different for many reasons. I did not have the luxury of time to train as I did in 2017. I had a toddler at home to take care of, support Neha with her own fitness goals, and a job in a startup. So I really had to set my expectations and make informed tradeoffs to train realistically. 

With IM Sacramento course advertising a pancake flat bike segment and a downstream river swim. I decided to structure my training by making some informed trade-offs.

Swim 1-2x/week max: Given my 2021 experiment of swimming once a week and doing 2.4 mi distances, I chose to reduce my swim training as much as I could i.e. once a week of long swim and once in the pool.

Bike 1-2x/week max: Given that I had some bit of fitness from 70.3 training and my past experience of ramping up on bike alright with 2 rides or so per week, I decided to structure it by planning mostly trainer rides and maybe a ride outdoors on the weekend when it got longer. I decided to never exceed 6 hrs of riding to not "waste" the entire day riding, and get ready for the baby duty by 3pm ;) I modified the training plan a bit to incorporate some planned weekend days, long rides and IM Santa Cruz 70.3. I converted those distances to time by assuming that riding on flats would be faster and I may not need to exceed 6 hrs for the two longest weekends and that getting some long rides of 4-6 hrs on other weekends would be sufficient.

The idea was to do swim + bike 3x/week total at a min and 4x when I can.

Run 3x/week: This is the usual frequency. I knew I needed to spent the most effort keeping runs healthy and making sure I don't skimp on those. I feel I am a strong runner but only when I train well. Especially with run being the last segment, I had to train well for it. Planned for hitting 30-35 miles/week in the peak weeks.

Execution ... in every sense

The following table for remaining 16 odd weeks and the potential feasibility of it, helped me make the decision to go for it starting July: 

DateBikeRunBike time (hrs)Actual
Sun, Jul 10, 202260113:45
Sun, Jul 17, 20225773:33Brick
Sun, Jul 24, 202262143:52
Sun, Jul 31, 20227084:22Brick
Sun, Aug 7, 202272154:30Run: 13
Sun, Aug 14, 202280165:00
Sun, Aug 21, 202280105:00Brick
Sun, Aug 28, 202290175:37
Sun, Sep 4, 2022100186:15Bike: 56+28 (trainer)
Sun, Sep 11, 202256133:30BrickIMSC
Sun, Sep 18, 2022100196:15
Sun, Sep 25, 202280135:00Bike: 42+28 (trainer)
Sun, Oct 2, 2022Super BrickSuper BrickSuper BrickBrick
Sun, Oct 9, 202260133:45Run: 12
Sun, Oct 16, 202240102:30
Sun, Oct 23, 2022RACERACERACE

The constraints for the long workouts on the weekend were based on the fact that I got Fri and Sun mornings free of baby duty (in exchange for Sun afternoon):
1. Swims on Fri: OWS early mornings or pool in the afternoon or evening.
2. Runs on Sat: Sneak out for 2-3 hours late morning. Couldn't do later, to be able to recover by Sun.
3. Bikes on Sun: Start early and get back by 2pm => a 6 hr ride would have to start latest by 8am, which was doable.

I started executing on my plan and things started to look up. In fact the weekend of July 24 with 14 mile run and 62 mile bike on back to back days was a breakthrough for me: My legs felt just fine on the ride after a long run the previous day and the ride went really well; almost as if I was riding with fresh legs. This gave me the confidence that Sat and Sun plan might just work out (during 2017 IM training, I had to switch to running to Fridays to add a day between run and ride for recovery).

IM Santa Cruz 70.3

Had signed up for this race last year as well. Its always a fun race to do and was so happy to get back to it. It was a bit closer to the Ironman, so I had planned the weekend distances around it and making it a shorter "brick" workout weekend. The previous and the following weekends were both century rides with 18-19 mile runs, so did not plan to taper for this one and instead just treat it as a long workout. Work (see below) forced me to taper in the week of the race anyway.

I had absolute fun in the race, and had never had such a fun race since 2016 (same race incidentally). I was of course better trained than ever because of my IM training and had to really keep myself in check during  the day since I had a 100+19 the following weekend. Had a blast during swim and bike. The best bike time ever: clocked 19.7 mph avg, after making sure I don't push on the bike so hard ;). There were hardly any winds and looked like the roads were resurfaced and the weather was cool. The weather suddenly turned to become super hot at around mile 8 of the run, after which I felt a "bit" of a struggle and kept my pace in check. I easily cruised to the finish line with an overall PR (5:38) by 20 mins for this distance! I am sure if I went in "race mode", I could have squeezed out another 5-7 mins. 

Testing times

Had a pretty bad run on Aug 7 weekend. Was supposed to do 15 miles, but couldn't run well at all due to some badly executed pre-race nutrition and ended up limping to 13 before calling it a day. One of the worst runs but I was confident that it was an outlier. But this was pretty minor compared to what lied ahead.

The months of Aug and Sep were the highest volume months for me, but at the same time they also turned out to be the hardest for multiple reasons:
  1. Neha got her migraine-like headaches (cluster headaches) back with a much higher intensity than usual (probably an after-effect of COVID per the doctor). The doctor prescribed her with strong daily medication which made her drowsy with the feeling of always tired, making her life really miserable. It was only after she got over the medication (~end of Sep) that we both realized that not only her physical health, but her mental health really got affected with all this. She did support me as much as she could, but did take a toll on both of us. I substituted a couple of the longest bike rides with multiple trainer rides over the week.
  2. At work, on Sep 4 (week before IMSC 70.3), I was handed over a team and responsibility of a critical component rewrite with a deadline of Oct 21 (2 days before my IM). This immediately consumed all the time I had and more. I decided to take it one week at a time and trying to keep up with a reduced workout load and desperately trying to keep up with the weekend workouts.
My volume of workouts got really affected and I could barely space 30-60 here and there to go out for a run or a short bike ride etc. Gave up on keeping up with swims and tried to stick with one odd swim a week and that too in the pool, since going for an OWS had too much overhead that I would rather use in biking and/or running. Week over week, I was toying with the possibility of being forced to drop out of the race, but just tried to hold my ground and not destroy my training completely.

The super brick weekend went really well, which gave me some bit of reassurance. My bike and run workouts were as strong as any prior weekend. I was very consistently clocking 17-18mph speed on the rides and 8:45-9:15 pace on the runs for all weekends, brick or not. But the race was still 3 weeks out ...

Taper -> Cliff

What I had not really emphasized until now is that we had support of my visiting parents who greatly helped take care of a lot of household chores like cooking, cleaning etc. They flew back to India the day after Super Brick, when taper started.

My taper was as bad as it could get. I dropped a lot of workouts. I knew that I was really walking on thin ice, but just couldn't do things differently. I hardly did any workouts during the week where I was working 14-15 hour days and slept 6 hrs average. Barely got through my weekend workouts.


Now 10 days before the race, I caught a viral infection with some fever and severe cough. Took a good 5-6 days before I felt a bit more normal. I did not want to stress myself out during this time to maximize the chances recovering in time. However, even after that, I did not get any time whatsoever for my regular workouts. 

Last minute drama

The evening before the mandatory athlete checkin, the work deadline day had arrived and there was some failure in one the components I was working on, making it a fire I had to put off.  At this point, Sacramento felt far. After spending some hours of debugging/tuning at around 10pm, we saw a ray of hope and then I decided to:
1. Go home and dump all my IM stuff in the car (except the bike).
2. Drive to Sacramento alone first thing next morning, check and drive back to work by 1pm.
3. IF all goes well at work, Neha picks me up from work and we all drive to Sacramento the same evening. ELSE spend the weekend fixing things at work.

I dumped all the stuff I could think off in a span on 30 mins and went to bed. Executed the bullet points 1 and 2 above and then the "IF" happened. Yay, I was going to Sacramento after all!


The training season got intense for various reasons and I am just glad I was able to hold myself up. 2017 Ironman season and 2022 had many stark differences. 

2017 was my first Ironman which was hilly and I spent my heart and soul training really well for it. The work was at its calmest, I had all the time during the week and weekends to focus on the race and mentally prepare myself along with obvious physical preparation and go at it during the race!

2022 was a very different season which really made the race so worth it, again! The work couldn't be worse, had a toddler at home which meant a significant cut in overall personal time and sleep and then  various forms of sickness really detailed us as a family. I had no mental space to think about the race at all for all these months. I did less (but focused) workouts, literally taking it one week at a time.

I guess the little-but-not-so-little experience of one Ironman and multiple half Ironman races over the years had kept me calm and hopeful all this while. I almost never panicked but of course did doubt going to the race multiple times. I naturally (had no choice really) ended up treating the race as another long workout day. It did not feel special that way, just a milestone which would ease up the day-to-day life afterwards.

The season ended with a successful Ironman race which I cover in the following post:

Friday, December 31, 2021

The pandemic seasons (2020-2021)

My last real race was in 2019 and since then, becoming a new dad in 2020 and the pandemic made sure it remained the last race until at least 2022. Somehow at the end of 2019, I convinced myself to buy tri bike (Cervelo P2), even though I knew I wouldn't be putting it to good use for the next year or so ;)


All this while I did try to keep myself moving by either hopping on the bike trainer or running outdoors. There were really hard months especially after Piku (aka Samaira) was born. Running felt very hard and I think that was primarily due to lack of sleep and good sleep quality; something I had never experienced before for such sustained periods of time. Now, when I say hard, it was really small compared to Neha who struggled a lot post-partum (C-section, painful and slow but good recovery over weeks).

Just had fun with a lot of stroller walks and runs, went outdoors a few times on OLH and such, rode on the bike trainer and just kept it going whenever I could. (off-note: a smart trainer has been one of the best triathlon related stuff I have bought. Paired with apps like Rouvy has made riding indoors not too far off from outdoors, or least way better than riding on a dumb trainer).

To motivate myself, planned to run a half marathon on Jan 1, 2021 and trained hard for it to target the best time I could; something I had never focused in the prior years due to chasing other goals, mostly triathlons. I trained hard in winters (my fav training months for running) and finished a 13.1 with the fastest time ever: 01:48 hrs or 8:10 min/mile.


Came 2021 and overall the body started feeling better. I was able to run with a feel closer to what it was like before, though much lesser volume. I had gained and sustained a few more pounds than my typical weight over this time making it a new normal for me. My goal was to just keep moving and having fun while keeping mental and physical health in check.

The way I target my off and on seasons is to just focus on a subset of things and/or try new stuff to keep things interesting. For 2021, I started off targeting Everest worth of climbing in a month, riding mostly on the trainer. I was lucky enough to realize that the Venki-led TA biking group (that had gone rogue during the pandemic doing crazy climbs) were doing the Mt. Umunhum climb, which had remained an elusive climb for me over the last few years. I joined them and had an awesome climb with the awesome and strong riders. Finished 29k+ feet of climbing in Jan over 12 rides.

Months of Feb, Mar, Apr were really stressful. Some org/leadership mess forced me to look for a new job and I spent the remaining part of my paternity leave preparing and doing a lot of interviews and landing a job at this startup where I had some of my ex-colleagues from Google whom I had fun working with in the past. So in the meantime, I had shifted my focus off of running to have fun on the new Tri bike that I had not ridden much on flat terrains or outdoors in general. The pandemic gave me a really good place to ride flat traffic free loops -- Oracle parking lot in Santa Clara, just a quarter mile from home. It was a mostly rideable-without-brakes 2 km loop. Rode a few times targeting 30 mins or 60 mins ride with consistent effort and was able to get to riding 60 mins at 20 mph pace. It was a good learning experience and honestly riding fast on a flat terrain felt a bit harder mentally compared to climbing because there is always an option of slowing down :)

Neha also worked hard on losing weight and gaining fitness over the last few months and I supported her as much as I could to have her run a half marathon before the Piku turned 1!

TA was starting with their Tri season in the spring after a 2020 pandemic washout, so I entertained the idea to join them in the open water swims assuming I could maintain my distance socially without risking covid. I knew I wouldn't be going to the pool just to keep it safe. Started doing swims once a week with the group and inadvertently started training with folks who were signed up for Alcatraz swim or Ironman. I realized that I was able to ramp up fairly easily in a month or so in doing distances over a mile/mile-and-a-half in cold waters, by swimming just once a week. Of course the form and pace was not very close to my best, but not too far off either. So I continued with this experiment and signed up for Alcatraz and convinced coach Char to give me company for an Alcatraz crossing in June.

I started going to a pool once a week or so and continue with the OWS. Decided to make a trip to Donner Lake (an annual TA tri group tradition) and swam the 2.4 miler in July. Continue with the swims, runs and rides on and off and then did another Alcatraz crossing in Oct to give Nakul some company for his first crossing!

Now winters were approaching, so I decided to bookend the year by target another half marathon on Dec 31. Again trained hard and was able to get yet another PR: 1:42 hrs, or 7:50! (first ever sub-8 pace long run).

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa - Race Report


Last year I experimented with training for half ironman distance without disrupting my day-to-day life including vacations and other time pass stuff. The year went well with two strong 70.3 finishes and an Olympic with PRs.

This year, the goal was to improve the PRs a bit and tried to train better compared to the previous year. Lot of hyper-enthu newbies training hard gave me enough motivation to train. I tried to improve my swim and took some early lessons in the season. Got pretty good insights and worked on it but didn't see much improvement in my times. Closer to the race, I was talking to Chaitanya and got a good tip about improving my stroke rate and reducing dead spots in my stroke. I
tried to consciously and gradually increase the stroke rate from avg of 27 spm to 30-32 spm. Overall it felt great as I felt more balanced in pool and the times got better (with potentially more inefficiencies but sustainable). Bike and run training went as usual and I was reasonably happy with that.


The goal wish was to do a 5:45 finish. However, given the training, I hoped for 5:50-55 in the best case (assuming I could perform similar to previous year's race). I was sincerely hoping for close to a 40 min swim given my training times in pool and open water. I was confident that I could do sub 1:55/100yd for that distance. 


We did not get a chance to warm up and get wet before the race start. This meant not knowing if googles would fog up, will leak or not and warmed up upper body. Also, in all the waiting and regrouping, I forgot to eat an e-gel which I typically do. Not a big deal though.

The race started and I figured that the visibility is not that good. It made me hard to sight properly. I imagined that there was fog on the water surface causing this and kept swimming. Swim felt a tad bit harder than usual for whatever reason (warm water?).  I kept delaying clearing up my goggles in the fear that water may start leaking in if I adjusted. However, after 17 mins or so, I decided to clear them up and yes it was the fog inside the goggles and no water leak happened. 

I did feel like I was not able to swim very straight as still was not able to sight very well. Swimmers around me didn't make my life better by any means. Around 35 min mark I realized I was way off from a 40min finish, so continue chugging along and finished in around 43:40 -- much below par :(
Hopes of a 5:50 finish were wiped off. 


It was a hard run/walk up a steep ramp coming out of water. I ran/walk the steep section, got to the wetsuit stripping area, got out pretty quick and jogged to the bike. Quickly got geared up and left T1 in about 8 min or so which was not too shabby.


I thought I trained better compared to the previous year but some pre-race rides didn't live upto the mark especially with the last one with race wheels being below 17mph avg. I was reading a bit into it and thinking that won't be able to do a sub-3hr bike ride this time.

The bike course starts with a 3 mile downhill section that sets up a good pace to begin with. I was able to bike without a lot of perceived effort and still avg over 19mph! Looking at the power meter it did feel that I was putting more power than needed. Kept an eye out and the avg power did drop a bit without affecting the speed too much. Being on aerobars was definitely helping and got reminded multiple times when people crossed ;)

After mile 35, I could feel that I am starting to feel tired and may not be able to hold up until the end the same way I was going. Eased up very slightly and especially on the uphills. Took a bottle of pickle juice which I think worked out well! Miles 30-40 were slower due to some hills on the way. Took an extra salt tab or so. Tried to capitalize on the flats and downhill sections and was able to somehow avg just under 19 to make it to the end in less than 3 hrs. Was very happy with the ride and was hoping that it doesn't cost me the run.


As I finished my ride, saw Asha folks cheering at the bike finish. Saw Neha who ran up to me in T2 and asked how I felt. She didn't use the C-word (cramps) since I have a history of that. I gave a thumbs up and continued. After dropping the bike and almost when I reached my bag, realized that I forgot my watch on the bike. Had to run back to the bike and get it. Then as I was putting the bib, I realized that the bib was upside down. Instead of ignoring it, I decided to sit back, relax and redo the bib on the race belt. At that point, I had no hope or wish for a PR and just wanted to do a good run. Filled up water in both the bottles (out of which I threw water from one right after since it was heavy) and started my run.


The run felt great! Unlike only a couple of times in training when I felt like "brick" legs, this time it was fine as I typically feel and was able to do sub-9 miles for 3-4 miles keeping a tab on my HR.

Until mile 6, I was feeling reasonably ok after which it started to get really hot and legs feeling overall fatigued. No pains/aches or cramps but just fatigued. I started having coke/gatorade water and gels at a higher frequency and started pouring some water on the head and trisuit very well knowing it would cause some chafing down below.

The pace from miles 6-10 was around 9:15-30 which was pretty good given the conditions at the time. I had to walk a min or so couple of times and was fighting in my head whether to stop and lie down and just take it easy. Continued to push along as much as I could. I took a bottle of pickle juice just to make sure that I avoid cramps in whatever way I could. Time wise I was doing fine and calculated that if I was able to maintain my pace, I would be able to do a sub-2 run finish and hence sub-6 overall finish and quite possibly a PR (beating 5:58 from last year). That gave me some mental strength and motive to finish strong.

Miles 10+ were all a mental battle. The calved and quads were screaming but I was able to hold my pace fine. Lots of water on the head, body and inside and gatorade/coke helped keep me going. I was literally counting every half a mile (thinking it would be a mile :P) and carefully paced myself until the home stretch near the Courthouse Square. 

I saw Coach Char cheering which gave me adrenaline and I started to sprint when I immediately felt a cramp in my calves. Started limping a bit and slowed back down to my regular pace to make sure I can finish without cramps. Made it to the finish line with a run PR and an overall 70.3 PR!

What didn't work

  1. Swim did not go as expected. Sighting was off (extra ~100 yards) for sure but other than that pace was also slower by at least 5 sec/100 yd. Adding them up, a loss of 3+ mins which lines up with my prior estimate.
  2. T2 was slow which cost me another 2-3 extra mins. I had no motivation of making it fast after I had to turn back to get my watch. Should try to carry bib etc in the hand and put in on the way to save some time.

What worked

  1. Good balanced training in all three disciplines without overreaching in either.
  2. Pickle juice! Possibly prevented cramps and also change of taste was welcome.
  3. Carrying my fuel belt in the run. Initially I thought of ditching it but in the hot weather, the water bottles came in handy.
  4. Nutrition was bang on!
The best part of the race was to see all the other 9 folks (8 first timers!) cross the finish line. Lucky to have such an enthu bunch train hard and finish the race with grit in that hot hot weather. Couldn't be more proud of the team!

Overall an exciting and a hard race. The bike course is annoying but fast. Hope to carry the momentum on to Santa Cruz 70.3 next!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ironman Canada - Race report

"Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life." - John Collins

I earned my bragging rights on July 30, 2017 :-).

How it all started

After finishing my first two Half Ironman distance races last year, Coach Rajeev Char planted the seed in our heads (me and Shashi) to do a full distance this year. We were both a bit skeptical but decided to do if Rajeev signed up with us :). After discussing a couple of possibilities, we all signed up for a hilly course of Ironman Canada on Oct 14, 2016 along with Stanley Ho (aka Stan the Man). In addition, we signed up for Napa Marathon (Mar 2017) and Auburn Half Triathlon (May 2017) as milestone races for the full distance. Rajeev Shankar (ex-Asha athlete) also had signed up for the race, so we were five of us now!


Rajeev, Shashi and I started training a bit as early as November to build a good running base and do the Napa Marathon in March. I struggled with ITB pain that came with longer miles and started going to SMI for massages with Greg. It took good 2-3 months for that pain to go away! The training picked up full throttle in Feb/Mar. 

I chose not to run the Napa Marathon since my running mileage wasn't up to the mark (due to recent illnesses). Successfully finished the "World's Toughest Half" at Auburn Triathlon and now the focus was all set on the Ironman race! I was pretty happy with how the training went overall.


  1. Make it to the race without an injury.
  2. Finish the race.
  3. Finish the race strong!

Pre-race days

Fast forward and now after months and months of relentless (and good!) training, we were already in July and tapering! The taper went well and the body was feeling relaxed with the urge to do long distances.

We arrived in Whistler four days before the race in July 27. Did the athlete check-in and picked up our bikes. 

In the evening we went for a drive to see some of the hills on the bike course. Initially when descending, we freaked out since the hills looked nasty, though coming back up we felt a lot better when we were also monitoring the grades. All's well!

We all went for short bike ride, run and a swim to get a feel of the course (especially the bike course) and the Alta Lake for the swim. The views and landscapes were spectacular and added to the excitement!

Green Lake next to Hwy 99
Alta Lake - Swim course location

Just chilled for the rest couple of days and finally met Neha with the other Team Asha friends (Mittal, Prakash, Raghu, Ravali, Shrushti) who flew to Calgary and then did a short road trip from to Whistler to come cheer us on the race day.
The athletes
The Team Asha cheerleaders
Surprisingly I was not as nervous as I thought. I was really excited to get started with the race, so I will put the feeling mix to be 80% excitement, 20% nervousness.

The Race Day

Had a decent ~4 hour sleep the night before and got up at 3:30 for my race day breakfast:
1 oz Almonds, 0.75 oz Raisins, 1 Bagel with Cream Cheese and half a bottle of EFS sports drink. Had my motion soon after and I was all set ;)

We went to the T1 area to put gels etc in our bikes, fill in air in the tires and then get ready for the swim warmup and race start. Clearly I was a fair bit nervous: Ran between the bike and the changing tent numerous times to either fill up water (water got empty near the bike tech tent) or put gels or put Advil etc etc. Finally half put on the wetsuit and packed everything into the morning clothes bag .. well I just ripped it apart and there was staring at all my stuff barely contained in it. I went up to the drop-off area and they taped it up well. As soon as I dropped it, and just 5 mins away from the warm-up end, I realized that my glasses, slippers and bottle are still with me. I kinda freaked out and right then I saw Shashi and dumped the stuff in his bag. 

Quickly I had my E-gel and a salt tablet, went to the water, splashed around for 2 mins and out. Few mins away from the start now! We lined up around the end of the 70-80 min swim wave (self seeded start).

Perfect weather conditions for the race day: 60s weather in the morning and 70s in the afternoon with cloudy sky to start with! Couldn't have asked for a better weather!

Eagerly waiting for the race start

Swim (1:20:36)

Started off with the swim towards the inside-most side of the herd.  The course was well marked with clearly visible buoys that were apart by 100m or so, making it really easy to swim in a straight line. I swam well and followed buoy after buoy.

At the end of first loop, I looked at my watch and time was ~37 mins, approx. 2-3 mins faster than I imagined. So I made sure I slowed down in the second loop but found a swimmer whom I could draft for a while and worked out perfectly. I was swimming with ease and still ended up finishing my swim in 1:20!


Went by reasonably fast. Got the bag, sat down in the changing tent and had half a bottle of EFS (~90 cals). Came out and started walking to the bike before I realized that I had to give the bag to someone. Turned back and asked an athlete who pointed me to the area right outside the tent that I missed. Handed over the bag and got to my bike. Couple of bikes were entangled, so got rid of them and removed my bike. Saw our cheerleaders right there :)

Bike (7:09:28)

I broke down the bike course in these various stages and had ran it through my head before the race. The harder sections were #2 and then #5 onwards.
  1. Descent to Callaghan: First ~13.5 miles were mostly nice low grade descent. Didn't have to fire up the legs at all and still cruised at pretty good speed. Reached the start of the first climb up Callaghan in 45 minutes. There was some headwind going down, so aero and hood positions helped quite a bit.
  2. Out and back on Callaghan: Next up was the 8 mile climb with 1300-1400 feet of elevation gain, which was one of the three long climbs in the entire course and the hardest one in terms of elevation gain with few short 10%+ grade climbs. I took the climb easy and went to easy gears wherever there were steep descents and mostly remained on the smaller chain ring in the front. Took around 41 minutes to climb and 21 minutes to descend it. Amazing snow capped mountain views on the way back :)
  3. Climb back to Whistler: Now back to climbing the descent in #1 above. Climbed ~9.5 miles  and 600 feet in another 35 minutes including a pee break. A little tail wind on the way back was helpful.
  4. Descent to Pemberton: This was a long and pretty 19 mile descent (with few rollers) to the Pemberton town. Covered this entire patch in just 55 minutes! Often went upto 30+ mph topping off to around 41mph! It was scary to descend in aerobars and I had to go down on the drops and table top back position. Interesting with that position and just cruising, I overtook a few folks pedaling while on aero or hoods position :P. Total time: 3:17 for 57 miles. 
  5. Flat out and back in Pemberton: This was the 16+16 miles out and back flat section of the race (i.e. miles 57-90). After hearing a lot of people earlier who had done the race, there was a common theme in their advice: DO NOT burn yourself out in the flat section since the long 20 mile climb to the finish starts right after this. From the beginning, I kept telling myself, that the race starts at mile 90.
    BUT, there was a slight problem already: When I got to the special needs bag at mile 57, I got down the bike when I didn't really have to. I did that to give myself a small break because my legs were feeling a 'bit' weak. I was surprised since I did not had to push until this stage and I had never felt this in the training rides even when I pushed hard. I decided to take the flat section cautiously and made sure my HR never increased 150 and remained in Z1. I finished the flat section of 32 miles in 1:56. Coming back was a bit harder due to more head winds. Total time: 5:13 for 90 miles.
    I decided to take a pee break right before getting back on Hwy 99 and climbing back 20 miles to the finish. I stopped for another couple of minutes and realized that my legs were indeed feeling weaker. I did not want to change anything with my nutrition. Did take it an extra salt tablet. This reminded me of first couple of hours in the Auburn Half Ride. I got a bit concerned but decided to carry on and take it really easy on the climb up next.
  6. 10 mile climb: Mile 90-100 was a bit steeper overall compared to the remaining miles with totl elevation gain of ~1400 feet. My legs continually felt weak/numb as I was climbing extremely easy and had to stop once or twice even on low grades.  After crossing 100, I had to take a 2-3 min break at an aid station where Stan caught up with me (apparently he was consistently 4-5 mins behind me the entire time). I told me how I felt and he offered his electrolyte drink, but again I was already taking my stream of calories so that wouldn't have helped. I concluded that I had entered the calorie deficit some time back and am bonking. There was no muscle fatigue and HR was well in 150s even in the climbs, but the legs refused to work. Negative thoughts started colluding my mind and thats when I recalled  (Don't Stop, Don't Quit, Don't Give up). I walked for a few seconds before getting back on the bike. I tried to stand up quite a bit to make sure blood flow is good in legs; it was just marginally better.  Took 1:07 for these 10 miles.
  7. Last 10 miles: In theory much easier that the previous 10 miles and gained only 500-600 feet in total with low grades. However, with my weak legs, they felt long. I was just counting a km at a time making sure I reach T2. This is the part that we all biked couple of days ago when we arrived at Whistler. I knew these are fairly easy rollers so just have to spin through them patiently. Managed to reach T2. Took 49 mins for these 10 miles.


Gave the bike to the bike handler and got my bag and just sat on the chair in the tent. As soon as I sat down to wear my shoes, I got some cramps on both sides of upper inner thighs that almost spasmed. Massaged a bit and thought that this would be a Vineman repeat where I had to crawl for 13.1, but this time the distance was double of that. Somehow, I pushed my feet in the shoes without bending down.

Took a deep breath and tried to strategize on the next steps. I remembered that after sufficient rest, the cramps will go away and legs might feel better. I thought that I have 8 hrs to do the marathon, so even if I had to stop for an hour, I can recover. After 3-4 mins of massaging, cramps kinda went away and I decided to just start walking: Again .

Run (4:45:53)

I started walking and partly ran a few yards on and off. I could feel slight onset of cramps in my calves and legs still feeling weak a little. My goal was to keep my HR in Z1 (below 150) at all times. Before the race, the plan was to keep it in Z1 until 13, then early Z2 until 20, and then early Z3 if I could pick up the pace. That plan was out of the window.

I decided to walk a bit more and run slight downhills/flats to see how am I feeling. I took salt and gels and increased the frequency of both (took at 45 mins instead of waiting for an hour). I could see the different within minutes of taking a gel: legs felt slightly better but kept getting worse until I took another. It confirmed my suspicion of calorie deficit and keeping HR low was working since I was able to sustain the pace without getting worse. I met Neha around mile 3 and asked her to get me some salt tabs when she meets me after the first loop is done. I figured, that I could be on the run course forever and may need more salt even before getting to the special needs. 

Apart from the weak legs, I was literally waiting for the unwanted cramps until mile 13 around the turnaround time. On the way I met everyone and was so relieved to see Shashi on the run since he was cutting close to the bike cutoff. I met Neha (who handed me the salt) and other folks near the turnaround and by that time, exhaustion was setting in and I did not know what I was feeling :-/. I could feel more fatigue but felt that cramps situation has gotten better. and HR was fine too. I was not very positive at that time. Took around ~2:25 for the half. 
Struggling a bit
For the next few miles, I found a girl running the exact same pace right in front of me, so I just kept walking uphills and ran at my easy pace keeping up with her. After the half. I started having Pepsi at every aid station and could feel a noticeable improvement in my energy levels. My situation seemed to get better but legs and feet were tired which is expected at this point in the race, I thought :)

I just kept going mechanically and kept comparing the remaining distance with the routes I used to do during the training. Every mile/km sure felt longer and bottom of the feet were getting really tired. When I reached the 32k mark, I just pumped myself up saying that this distance I should be able to do no matter what state I am in. I finally decided to stop worrying about cramps and just concentrate on making progress. Ran more and walked less (also felt easier on the feet). Every time I walked at the aid station for a Pepsi, getting back to the run was harder. But, I knew I got this. I checked the time in my watch and was surprised to see that I have 1.5 hrs to make it under 14! Thats the first time in the race I targeted a time, though it was an easy target then.

With ~5k remaining,  I could hear the finish line  and those magical words "You are an Ironman" with those dramatic pauses. Couldn't wait to finish! Met Neha et al. ~2k away from the finish line and high-fived them and just started running with that added adrenaline rush. 
With some smiles :)
The biggest disappointment was when the run course was facing the finish line and as I went a bit towards it, the course turned away 90 degrees to take us through a windy loop in the village. Though it was just another few hundreds of meters, it was annoying as hell. I just ran and ran at a decent pace and prepped my bib and fuel belt for the finish line photos B-)

Finally the finish line was right in front and I could see that awesome crowd and told myself: I am finishing an Ironman "strong" and just zoomed in high-fiving our cheerleaders continuing over the finish line and getting that finishers medal! 

Had to tell myself repeatedly that I just finished an "Ironman" :D. Was so hard to sink that feeling in. The bike course definitely felt very hard especially the last 20 miles and those were the first words out of my mouth when I didn't know I was being recorded and telecasted live :( .. all my energy and adrenaline was spent in sprinting the last 50m so much so that I could not emote for a while. Slowly the smiles came in :) I am glad I was able to finish the race really strong. My second half marathon was faster than my first by 5 minutes!

All five of us finished and that made the deal even sweeter :)

Our awesome cheerleaders... still smiling after a loooong day!
The long and amazing journey to my first Ironman, that started almost 8 months ago, comes to a happy end. The training phase was so challenging, hence so much fun!

The completion of such a race makes me feel so accomplished, its just hard to put into words. The disciplined and successful training makes up at least 90% of this awesome finish!


What worked

  1. Attempt at drafting in the second loop. Definitely could see a time improvement without more effort.
  2. Using the butt cream. No chafing at all.
  3. Trisuit: helped with no-chafing around the nipples area.
  4. Nutrition: No stomach upset with gels + water and 30 min gel schedule. 
  5. Peed 3 times during the bike and 2 times on the run.
  6. Aero torpedo bottle: Super stuff! Did not have to stop at all during the race for water refilling. 
  7. Aerobars + forward seatpost gave a good aero position.
  8. HR based pacing on the run.
  9. Coke during the run.

What DID NOT work

  1. Swim to bike nutrition: Bonked on the bike. Sort of happened in the Auburn Tri as well. Though, never had a problem during the training. My guess is that too much calorie deficit after the swim. TODO: Figure out nutrition strategy for swim-to-bike portion especially when swim gets longer.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz - Race report

Alright, two months after my inaugural 70.3, I was back again but with much more grit and excitement. Since one 70.3 finish was already in my pocket, I was excited for this second race and wanted to give it my best (with the learnings from my previous race).

Unlike Vineman, which had a lottery system to sign up and therefore only a few of us racing, Santa Cruz had the biggest ever (at the time) Team Asha contingent doing a half ironman distance race: Rajeev, Sony, Prasad, Amit, Surya, Karthik, and myself. Shashi was signed up but decided to skip the race. It was Karthik's and Surya's first 70.3.

The previous day, we drove to Santa Cruz and did all the pre-race checkins. Headed back in the evening. The best part was sleeping at home for the night :)

Race Day

The next morning, had breakfast and headed to Santa Cruz. Set up the water and stuff in T1 and was all set ... and then, suddenly felt slight pull in both the quads when I stretched. I freaked out like hell since it was almost at the same point where I got cramps during Vineman. This time I was sure I wasn't over or under hydrated. Within a few minutes it felt normal but I was still a bit concerned.

The weather was as perfect as I would have imagined. Cool late 50s and expected to go to 60s-70s during the course of the race.  


The ocean looked surreal and as usual was a bit nervous about the swim. The water was cold and so was the weather outside. Spent a couple of minutes warming up and getting over the initial water and cold jitters. Felt much better when I came out.

I knew my swim has improved since last time, so I guess I could be done ~5 mins faster than Vineman. The swim went according to the plan and I was out of the water in 46 mins! Was excited to see Neha right out of the swim and couldn't wait to get on the bike. 


The T1 setup was a bit away from the beach (around 0.25 miles). I made sure I didnt over-exert and ran/walked the way to T1.  Was feeling pretty cold and the hands and feet were frozen. Couldn't feel them at all. Met Shashi in T1 was using his race band to just loiter around ;). Took some time to put on the bike gear due to frozen hands and was off to Bike out.


The bike course was supposed to be harder than Vineman due to a mile long hill and crazy headwinds and sidewinds. I was prepared for that since we did go on the bike course a couple of times during our training.

Started spinning with easy gear for the first few minutes and then settled into the rhythm. A few miles onto Highway 1 and voila! NO headwinds or any winds for that matter. Before I became too happy, I remember being told that last year athletes faced headwinds while coming back on the course. So I just braced myself for the headwinds on the way back.

The bike ride felt nice and I was cruising at 17-18 mph average pace! Got to the mile long hill on Swanton Road and just spun to the top without expending all my energy on it. The descent was nice and since we had done it before, I knew what to expect and maneuvered just fine. Got to the turnaround on Hwy 1 soon after.

Now on the way back, NO headwinds again! I was so excited and could easily continue with 17-18 mph pace. Around 40 miles or so in, I realized that I might be feeling a bit in the legs and my expected time to finish the ride would be around ~3:15. I immediately eased up a bit since did not want to repeat Vineman or anything close to it. I could easily cruise at around the same pace and finished the bike in 3:13. Achievement unlocked!


Went into T2 feeling pretty strong. Tried to stretch out my hamstrings and damnnnn... was about to pull something there really bad. Such a terrible idea to stretch out for no reason. Anyway, managed to put on shoes and headed off to the run.


Saw our Asha cheerleaders right outside run out. I started off the run at an easy pace and making sure HR is not exceeding 160s. The run felt good mostly because the weather wasn't too hot and the cool breeze from the ocean made it even better. At around mile 8-9, I suddenly felt that my legs have stopped working. I started walking and took some salt. It definitely made it better and by mile 11 or so I felt normal again. The body was feeling very tired by then and I managed to continue at a reasonable pace until I was very close to the finish. The adrenaline kicked in nicely and I sprinted my way to the finish line where Neha and other folks were waiting. Now I would like to think that my run was that fast that Neha could barely get a shot of me crossing the frame with my rear leg in view :P.

All smiles for a super strong finish -- much stronger and faster than I even imagined! Was hoping for sub-7 and got a sub 6:30 finish. Coach was very happy and gifted me his archaic steel frame Lemond bike (which he btw never actually gave me :-/). Promptly, he planted the seed for a full Ironman race as well.

Pooja and Ravali made it just in time. Neha, Deepa, Venky, Shashi and Rajeev were all there to celebrate my finish.