From the start I was seriously looking forward to racing Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico. A large group of fellow BTTers racing and the course looked like it would be a beautiful race in a beautiful location, not to mention my first Ironman branded race (There is something to be said about Ironman). I believe it went into being as prepared as I ever have for a race, working with a coach (Dave) for the first time, and ready to go on race morning.
We all got there on the Friday before the race. After a brief hiccup getting my bike to the hotel (thanks Delta -_-), I got it together and did a brief bit of riding, running, and swimming to make sure everything was working properly. It ended up being really good idea as I haven’t done much salt water swimming and it took a little getting used to. I got everything together and was ready to go the next morning.
Race morning came, I got up and began my typical fret and worry getting everything together and dropping it all off at transition. We were a little rushed because transition closed a little bit early as it was about a half mile from the swim start. After quick rush to the bathroom, I made the long trek and started the waiting game. It was my intent to use a swimskin, but a zipper mishap made me give up and throw it in my checked bag. Then I sat and waited some more. While I appreciate WHY M30-34 starts 38 minutes after the start of the race, I don’t have to be happy about it … but alas …
FINALLY, they called my group and we climbed in the water. The swim was fantastic. The water was warm (not wetsuit legal), but not uncomfortable, and the lagoon is secluded and calm. As usual I tried to say a little to the outside at the start, but moved in closer as the pack spread out some. I kept a nice steady pace and worked my way through it, staying mostly on course. With the sunrise some of the orange bouys were a bit hard to see, but overall not a big deal. The only part I didn’t really care for was the approach to the bridge, in the last quarter mile or so, as you have to start dealing with some strong waves and the temperature noticeably drops, but it’s not enough to detract from the overall experience.
After climbing out of the water with the help of some awesome volunteers (you literally climb a huge temporary stair), I worked my way through the quarter mile run to transition. Well a bunch of folks left shoes near the swim out, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the lost time to mess with it and just trucked through barefoot. The path was pretty clear and clearly marked (no carpet though). I pushed through transition and got out on the bike. And I ROCKED IT. I was so happy with my bike, which I generally consider my major weakness. The scenery was beautiful, though the roads had a few rough patches. There were definitely some yard sales along the way. And a large vine that wacked quite a few folks in the head. I stayed on my nutrition/hydration plan and tried to enjoy the ride. A few parts were pretty windy, but overall a pretty manageable course, with some great views.
Made it back into transition and did a pretty quick bike to run (changing shoes doesn’t take that long :P), and was out on the run …. I started trying to run about 9:00-9:30/mile and then the sun and the heat kicked in. It was brutal, and there was no relief. The elevation profile is deceptive, and quite rolling, which you don’t really get from the online maps. Then you get to cliff climb #1 … and, well, the wheels fell off. At that point I knew it was gonna be a run/walk kinda day, and seeing pretty much everyone else doing the same. You run on the top of the hill for bit, with some beautiful views of the old castles, and then go down the other side (mind you this is two out and backs … so you know you are coming back up L). But you get down, enjoying the only shade on the course, then go through this gate and run along a sea wall. Again in the blazing sun, with no shade. And the breeze I felt on the last half of the bike … gone. It was a hell of an experience, but I kept moving. It was awesome to see my fellow BTTers on the run course as well. Knowing that there were a few friends out in this sufferfest with me made it a little better. And while the run didn’t go how I really wanted it too, I was super proud of myself. And you bet I sprinted to the end. This truly is a great race even with the run through hell!
I also wanted to note that this race had the best volunteers I have had during a race. They were awesome at keeping people soaked and getting what we needed, all the while having a great attitude. They were some of the best cheerleaders out there and they really helped make the race. The race director was also a really awesome guy with a fun personality, and the community was out in force during the run. I am really glad I decided to do it, and while I am not in any rush to do it again, I would highly recommend it. Even in just for a race through paradise!