It’s been a crazy week on so many levels. Some personal stuff, getting sick the week before the race (see post on that HERE), and the actual race itself. Everything just happened at once but my coach gave me probably the best advice I’ve ever received before the race. Flanny said I’m prepared physically to have a great race but my performance will have everything to do with how I perform mentally. It actually took a lot of pressure off because I trust his judgment on my fitness and it was up to me to prove that mentally I can stay strong for 4 1/2 hours and 70.3 miles despite all the challenges against me.
Two-three days before the race is when I finally started feeling like myself again and just tried to wrap my head around giving everything I had on race day. Race check-in went smooth, The Bike Shop once again had my Slice ready to go and during my last few workouts I finally felt some pop in my legs, something I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. With us living 30-40 minutes away from the race I was able to sleep in my own bed and get to the race in plenty of time to get my new 2014 Wattie Ink kit – thanks Dusty, Karin and Chris for all the support! Race morning I didn’t have the usual pre-race anxious bathroom pit stop which told me mentally I was already heading in the right direction. I was relaxed and really ready to embrace the day. It was all about hanging out in transition with friends and then chillin with my fellow teammate Mo until my wave went off, which happened to be one of the last wave starts…
AG 35-39: 333 Athletes
1.2 Mile Swim: 35:57 (AVG 1:51/100 pace) 84th out of the water
So a couple of things going against me here which didn’t help since the swim is my weakest discipline. A lot of people make the big mistake in triathlon of judging performances by time when place is the only thing that matters. Especially since triathlon courses are rarely measured accurately or held accountable for the correct distance. For this particular race the swim course was long. To give you perspective last year 52 athletes in my AG broke 30 minutes for the swim. This year it was 11. Yes, I looked it up. This race was an important gauge of fitness for me leading into IMCDA so I needed to do my homework. I know I’m not a 36 minute swimmer and the fact that only 11 broke 30 minutes tells me this swim was 3-5 minutes slow. Distance wasn’t the only thing that slowed our wave down. We had a lot of traffic to navigate, the chop picked up and we had horrible sighting issues when we made the turn back home with the sun directly in our eyes. Excuses? Nope. Again, gauging fitness accurately is important and you have to include all of the variables to make an educated guess of fitness. Just like science class! I did my best to draft, navigate traffic, kick as little as possible and keep my level of exertion as even as possible. All this said, when I exited out of the water and saw my time, my heart sunk. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I really thought my chances of cracking the top 10 in a very tough and talented age group would be impossible. By the time I got through transition and onto my bike – my mind shifted to “I’m going to do whatever it takes to crack the top 10…”
Long run to T1 from the boat dock, stuff my wetsuit into the bag and got outta there.
56 mile Bike: 2:31:00 (AVG 22.3 mph) 1800ft elev. 9th fastest bike split in AG (passed 69 to move up to 15th place going into T2)
SRM Power file HERE.
For the first time ever in a triathlon I got on the bike and had some pop in my legs. I can’t believe how much the SRM power meter helped me too. Our target watts was 230 (I ended up averaging 218). Since it’s pretty much impossible to stay right on target watts the entire ride I tried to stick as close to 220-230 the whole time because I knew I would go over that quite a bit with the climbs. I was actually surprised my normalized power was 218 as I was afraid I was going to be more like 238! I really didn’t want to ride too hard as I knew I could make up a ton of time on the run with some good legs as opposed to hitting more watts and making up just a little bit of time. My only struggle during the ride (which you can see in my power file notes) was trying to pee on the downhill’s. There’s about four of them on the ride and it took me until the fourth long downhill to finally go. Sorry if this grosses you out but if you want to podium in Ironman, you have to pee your pants (haha). Last year I had no issues going twice but I guess I was a little shy this year and it cost me a lot of time and speed (possibly a podium) because I didn’t pedal at all on all of the downhill’s.
Another goal on the bike this year was to close strong. In the past two years I’ve always struggled after making that final turn to head back to transition. It’s a false flat and usually you have quite a bit of headwind and you’re tired. This year I made up a lot of ground on this stretch and power numbers were strong. All of Flanny’s ridiculous trainer work helped big time here and I ended up passing a lot of people along that stretch. My time goal was to break 2:30 which I may have done if I had my urine issues handled…
In and out of there. Only thing that slows me down is putting on socks for long course, which I have to until I find a shoe that doesn’t tear me up for weeks after.
13.1 mile Run: 1:25 (AVG 6:33 pace) 3rd fastest run split in AG (passed 7)
Run file HERE.
So they changed the run course this year. One of the cool things about the run course in the past is that it’s always been 12.5 and it makes you look fast (again, times don’t mean sh*t in triathlons) but this year to decrease run traffic and make it truly a half marathon they switched up the beginning of the run course. The past two years I ran 1:23, 24 and now this year 1:25. So technically this was my best half marathon off the bike ever because it was the full distance. The first mile I kind of felt like garbage but then miles 2-6 felt amazing and effortless. I just locked into a pace and it felt fairly easy. I was only taking in cola and water and I think that’s where I screwed up. I hate taking in nutrition on a run, my heart rate is sky high and I hate breaking up momentum. Miles 7-10 started to hurt and then that last three miles the wheels fell off and all of my 6:2x’s became 6:4x’s and I just did my best to stay focused, keep my form intact and finish strong.
This was a very emotional run for me. There’s a lot going on in life right now and I broke down about four miles in and then again at the finish. Its weird how competing hard and giving it everything you have can make you very venerable to life’s challenges. My buddy Dusty said it best. “Sometimes we race for more than just the clock.”
4:37, 8th in AG, Qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mount Tremblant Canada.
Here’s coach Robert “Flanny” Flanigan’s coaches evaluation of my race:
Oceanside was going to be a make or break day for James. In the weeks leading up to the race he started to show uncharacteristic signs that he was cracking. After a successful training camp with him in San Diego he ran into an emotional wall that started with a unexpected result at Desert Tri and strung into a few weeks of training that was not what I have come to expect from James. We circled back and managed to get him in a better mindset after some good sessions and a fresh perspective on training. We had some great momentum rolling when he was hit with some personal challenges that would have broken most athletes. We worked together daily to make sure that his focus was in the right place (and that wasn’t necessarily training and racing). The day before the race we reviewed our race plan one last time and I stressed the importance of racing his race….no matter what.
James was in a good place mentally the night before the race and if he could pull off a good result in light of all that was happening around him, I knew he would have what it takes to see his seasonal goals become a reality.
James came out of the water slower than we expected but was able to shake off that result and get to work on the bike. He executed the ride just as planned and set himself up for a solid run performance on the now honest 13.1 Oceanside course.
The result of this race, the time, placing, and Worlds Qualification were not the standout result of this day. James showed the ability to be mentally tougher than most any athlete I have worked with and that will be the take away from this race that we build on.
I can’t thank Flanny enough. He’s been instrumental in keeping my head screwed on straight, getting me to perform at my best and being a great friend.
I thank my warrior of a wife for all of the support with all we’ve been through along with our two amazing kids. I truly couldn’t do any of this without you or them!
So now I have the 70.3 qualifier in my hip pocket if for some reason I don’t qualify for Kona at IMCDA. I have to admit, I wasn’t too optimistic about my chances at Kona until I raced Oceanside. I did my research and a lot of the competitors in front of me and behind me are really really fast. I’m unhappy with my time ONLY because it doesn’t justify how good of a race I really had.
The confidence is there now, now it’s just time to do the work.