Monday, April 4, 2016

Oceanside 70.3

First, I would like to acknowledge that my race’s results have been removed from Ironman’s website due to my disqualification. There is a section of the bike course where a speed limit is enforced for safety. It was made clear that a violation of this would result in disqualification. For that reason, I take complete responsibility. I take rules seriously and any jokes I may make telling this story are simply to add humor. During the race, I was not mentally impacted because I didn’t find out until after. 

This past weekend I raced my second 70.3 of the season in Oceanside, CA. Recovering from Puerto Rico, swimming and biking came around quickly while running took a few more days. In 2015, I was on Team EMJ. We held a training camp in Oceanside, so I was somewhat familiar with the area.

Team EMJ 2015 training camp
Oceanside is often the first race of the season for many stupid-fast pros. Looking at the start list before the race, I saw it was loaded with all of my tri-celebrities/heroes; Andy Potts, Sebastian Kienle, Lionel Sanders, Joe Gambles, Tim Reed, Jordan Rapp, Jesse Thomas… Instead of feeling intimidated by this, I viewed the race as an opportunity to challenge myself.

Mace and I had decided to be more aggressive in preparation for this race. Part of the reason I wanted to race in the professional field was to challenge myself. I wanted to feel the same tenacity I had racing Olympic distance races where I let my competitiveness take over. Essentially for Oceanside, we decided I would go out there and race. That made me excited.

Even though I sat behind Kienle at the pro meeting, the highlight of the meeting was getting to see Bailey again!
Race Day
The pro men were set to go off at 6:40 am. I got up at 3:15, had an Ensure and a banana, then went back to sleep before biking to the start at 5. I had my transition area ready by 5:30 and went for a quick warmup run. A few minutes later I was waiting to use the same porta-potty as Andy Potts! The sun was coming up and the weather was going to be perfect.

We were allowed into the water 10 minutes before our start. There wasn’t much time to warm up, so I did some dryland exercises and put on my Roka wetsuit. After the national anthem, we treaded water for a minute, gradually edging past the start line. 

Roka's Maverick X wetsuit
Both Jesse Thomas and Jordan Rapp had new Roka Maverick X wetsuits. The suit’s red pattern stood out. I chose a spot near Jesse and a few others I thought I could swim with. The start was frantic for the first few minutes. I noticed I was more or less going stroke for stroke with Jesse. 

I told myself to keep going hard, ambitiously hoping to make it into a faster group. Then I recognized Kienle’s Orca wetsuit. Was this seriously happening? I was swimming in a pack with Sebastian Kienle and Jesse Thomas. There were a few others around us, one of which I thought was Jordan Rapp (again, because of the wetsuit). As our group navigated around the buoys, it was not a comfortable effort. Gaps opened up, sighting wasn’t always the best, and we accelerated hard out of turns. Every time I lost feet I’d put my head down and swim 15-20 strokes hard. Yelling in my head “get back here Kienle”. 

Exiting the water behind Kienle. I totally noticed him taking off his swim cap so he could exit with the Red Bull cap!
I tried my best not to get too far ahead of myself, only to be dropped by the group. The last 200 meters or so, I got my kick going to prepare my legs for what I believed would rival a 20 minute all-out effort to start the bike. Jesse and Kienle are two of the best riders in this sport. They would do everything in their power to get to the lead bikers. I decided that if we exited the swim together, I was going to do everything I could to bike with them. 

In transition, I stripped off my wetsuit, threw on my bib and the bat helmet, and dashed to the mount line. I knew I would need every second getting into my shoes before the onslaught of Kienle and Jesse began. The bike course was one big loop with a short section athletes complete at the beginning and end of the ride. The loop has a fair amount of climbing with 3 larger hills in the middle third. 

I got the shoes on and both rockets (Kienle and Jesse) were right with me. Now I just had to keep it that way. We went up a short, punchy hill away from the coast and began heading to Camp Pendleton. They were going full gas. We blew by a few riders in the first couple miles. 

The first 10 miles of the bike have some technical sections. My front bottle ejected on a bump, but thanks to my elementary school football skills I snagged it mid-air.
I had gone into the race wanting to challenge myself and here it was. I knew both Jesse and Kienle were on a mission. They would not let up until the lead group had been caught. I told myself to stick with them no matter what it took. My heart rate was high and even though I wasn’t riding with power, I knew I was over “threshold”. But, I smiled and said “screw it, I’m racing!” And then Jordan Rapp inserted himself into our group. Legend. 

A couple minutes later a green blur (seriously) went by me to the front of our group. Lionel Sanders. That’s about when I started salivating. For over 30 minutes, my legs felt like they were being torn to shreds. But I stayed with them. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I would have been laughing to myself; how awesome is this? The effort level was way out of my comfort zone for a 56 mile ride. At several points, I started thinking “there is no way I’m running after this...If I stick with these guys, I’d be content walking 13 miles!” 

Picture of how it feels to ride with Sanders, Kienle and Jesse Thomas...
Picture of after riding with Sanders, Kienle and Jesse Thomas - fetal position
My goodness, it hurt. But, in the back of my head, I believed that these guys weren’t going to ride at this intensity for 2+ hours. With hills added in. That would be suicide… your legs might actually die. Instead of thinking about the pain, I accepted it. I drank from my bottles and shoved a few Clif Shot Bloks in my mouth. When I was becoming discouraged that we would never catch the group, a string of riders appeared in the distance. The lead group seemed to be within a few minutes. Lionel and Kienle smelled blood and kicked into another gear. 

On the first hill, we caught a group that had been spit out. I was surprised at how much ground I was able to make up on the hill. Not to say that it didn’t still hurt! And as soon as we got to the top, they put the hammer right back down. No opportunity to recover on the downhill. By the time we got to the 3rd hill, the tail end of main pack was about half way up. This was seriously happening. 

Bike data. Strava 
The hill was steep and had a turn at the top where Sanders, Kienle and Jesse went out of sight. By the time I crested they had a gap on us. Only Jordan Rapp was still close to me. On one of the downhills was the speed trap. Radar speed signs didn’t register anything for me, (I was going that fast). Only two people had been DQ’d last year. I tapped the breaks a few times so I figured I was good to go. 

Luckily, speed wasn't enforced like this...
I caught back up to Rapp. We rode the remaining 10-15 miles together on military roads. Kienle had gotten a flat and by the time we passed him he had the tube out so I estimated they were about a minute or so in front of us. For the last 8 or so miles I went by Rapp, trying to let him know that I could take over pacing duties for a while. On our way through the transition parking lot, we saw the leaders starting their run.

Oceanside run course map
In transition, I put on socks and shoes, snapped on my Stryd device and headed out. The run course at Oceanside is a mostly flat, two loop, out and back run. The course goes along a road near the beach called the “strand”. The streets were lined with people cheering. The first few minutes I didn’t push and built into my pace. I had to pee so I stopped at a porta-potty to get the flow started after the first mile. My legs began to come around. Two miles in, Rapp was still in sight. I tried to soak in the atmosphere. Spectators lined the ramps up and down the roads we ran on. 

The last few 70.3s I’ve done, I’ve faded in the last few miles of the run. Looking back, I took in less than half a gel (<100 calories) for the entire run. This time, I was going to make sure I took sips from my gel flask every 2 miles. After a few miles on the strand we ran through a residential section. Soon, I saw the leaders coming back the other way. 

Staring the run!
I felt strong. I focused on my form and looking down a few meters in front of me. After the first turn around, I saw I had a minute or so gap to Joe Gambles. I couldn’t tell if he was coming strong or not, so I focused on my own run and made sure I was running hard but not too hard for the remaining 9 miles. At each aid station I’d take some water and at least swish it around my mouth. I stuck with my plan of sipping from the flask. A few times, I felt a bit bloated and so I’d skip swallowing anything for a mile or so and would feel better. My nutrition seemed to be working and I didn’t feel any weaker starting the second lap. 

My goal was to get to mile 10 still feeling strong. The crowd gave me good energy and I passed Maik Twelsiek heading up a ramp. The small hills in the neighborhood felt fine and I started to believe I’d figured out the nutrition my body needed. Lionel, as usual, looked ready to die as he went by on to the finish. I made my last turn around a little over a minute behind Rapp and saw a hard-charging Matt Hanson. 

Matt is an incredible runner. He ran something like a 2:4x marathon at IM Texas (aka, the sauna) in 2015
I told myself to give it everything the last two miles. A few EMJ guys were out on the course and we gave each other encouragement. I made it back to the strand and could see the finish line. I focused on my forward lean and glanced back to see no one as I entered the finish shoot. Zipping up my top, I saw a 4:01:5x as I crossed the line with a smile. I was so pumped to have put together a solid half-marathon. At the time, I'd gotten 11th! 

Deciding I should run faster to the finish!
I walked my way through the finishing shoot, savoring the feeling of accomplishment. Eventually, I worked my way over to pick up my morning-clothes bag with my backpack and phone. During a race, I will think about those following along on-line. The first text I saw from my brother read: “please tell me you’re biking with Jesse and Kienle right now!” If you know Ernie, there were a few expletives in there. Then there were two missed calls and a third message asking if I had gotten DQ’d because there weren’t any more splits. 

Immediately, the speed limit came to mind. It was possible, but I was skeptical that there weren’t other technical problems. Jimmy Riccitello, the head referee and University of Arizona coach, came over to congratulate me and asked how I finished. He said it was great to see me up there with the big guns. I said thanks and asked if he could check on the DQ. A few minutes later, it was confirmed that I had gone 39 mph in the section limited to 35 mph. 

I was sad but I immediately knew that the DQ didn’t matter to me as much as the race experience. I’d “raced” again. I’d pushed myself on the bike, past my comfort zone, and proved something to myself. I was more disappointed that those following along weren’t able to see live splits. Without an official result, to an outsider it’s as if the race never happened. But, it is out of my control. There is nothing I can do about the outcome other than learn from my mistake and move on.

A massive thank you to Windsor Eye Care and Vison Center and BASE Performance. Without these guys this trip would not have been possible. Thank you to Patrick Ray and Rocky Mountain Multisport/Runners Roost Fort Collins. The Cervelo P5 is incredible. Stiff on the climbs and doesn’t like being held back! I can only ride that thing one speed: fast. Thank you to coach Mace for the guidance and to the CSU triathlon team for being the best training partners. Thank you to the fam, and the friends who follow along… your messages of support are much appreciated and make this journey fun! 

Up next is a bit of recovery time before building again to the next race, either Wildflower or St. George. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions about the race/triathlon/speed limits/peanut butter… 

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter : @steve_mantell, Instagram : @stevemantell37, Strava, Snapchat: stevemantell37 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!



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