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.

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