Thursday, April 4, 2019

One Island... One Love - The Puerto Rico 70.3 Story

Our IM 70.3 Puerto Rico story started a few years ago. We’ve always wanted to do it but somehow it was never a good time. We love the island and consider it kind of our second home (or third if you count Colombia as our second home). From spending time working there a few years back to more recently when Adriana was deployed twice on the relief missions after hurricane María.

Last year, her last deployment actually ended on race weekend. I went to visit her during that weekend and was really close to racing but didn’t pull the trigger as it was too early in the season and I had not done any sort of training for this. We were training for running races only early in the season. We then decided we will cheer our hearts out and maybe consider it for 2019. Fast forward a few months and Adriana was asked to go to Puerto Rico for work the week of March 18-22, 2019.
We looked at the calendar and saw that race was March 17, I guess the stars and planets lined up and it was meant for us to sign up for it.

We will spare the boring details of training, particularly in the winter. It was a lot of basement hours on the trainer with very few outdoor rides and also on the treadmill with much less outdoor runs, trail had ice and snow most of the winter and the days it didn't were just miserably cold to do anything outside. The swimming was very limited, the pool had a lot of weather related closures, snow and ice kept lifeguards and staff from coming to work and sometimes it was so cold outside that we simply did not want to go swim at night. So there you go. Training was just matter of doing what we could while we could. Work also for some reason kept us from putting a lot of workouts in, sounds like an excuse but I guess clients didn’t want to hear about that triathlon training (although one of my clients is an Ironman) and deliverables were still due.

Traveling and lodging

We decided for this one to get an Airbnb. Adriana had the option to check into her hotel earlier but it was near Isla Verde which is about 5 miles from Condado. Condado is where the race expo and everything is at. So we decided that staying closer to the race was a better idea. We like the Condado area more. Our condo was right across from the Marriott Hotel and we had plenty of places to eat, walking to the expo, race stuff was convenient and even Ubers to the locations weren’t more that $3-$5 a ride. For $110 a night we couldn’t beat it. It was a good option. Hotels will go for about $200 a night or so. Getting there, from NYC there are plenty of options. We left from JFK on a Delta flight. But pretty much LGA and EWR have convenient flights too. We left on Friday at noon due to work commitments and got to SJU at 4 pm. We didn’t have our bikes with us as we shipped with TriBike Transport. We rather pay for it than haul bikes around town. That seems to be a pain in the rear.

Race check-in and expo

On Saturday we woke up early at around 7 and went to get some breakfast down the street. We wanted some açaí bowls but the place didn’t have açaí so we ended up with fruit bowls and granola. We then headed to do our practice swim in the Condado Lagoon which is where the race starts. We had done the swim last year so it was just to check the water. Make sure it was nice which it was and head out to the expo. We got our package, skipped the store and went to get our bikes. I had to get some things done on the bikes so we stayed at their tent a little bit. Went out for a quick spin to check them out and by that time was already noon so we checked them in. While I was getting the bikes ready Adriana went back to the store to get a few things. We were so happy to see the recovery of the San Juan area. Last year when we were there recovery was happening a bit slow. A lot of restaurants were still closed and you could see the struggle. This time was the complete opposite. All restaurants where pretty packed, new ones opened, great food. The Condado/Old San Juan area is a bit of a foodie heaven. You get so many options and the best is that the majority usually have some sort of Puerto Rican style to them. We had our share of Puerto Rican food for sure and it’s so good.

Race Day

Since we stayed about 1.5 miles from the transition we got up early and got an uber to pick us up. By 4:45 we were in transition. Took us about 20 min per bike to get it all set up. We got our system down and we tag team each of our bikes together. While I was pumping air on my disc I bent the valve a little (more on that later) and thought it would be a problem but didn’t want to change it there so I said if it leaks I just pump it on the road. After we were done we just sat outside and waited for Margo to get her stuff and we all walked to the swim start. Glad we went there early because I got to the port-a-potty early. Then we just waited for the start. Took a couple of pics, said hi to Heather Jackson and US Senator Kyrsten Sinema who was competing too and we had met last year while swimming the course and she remembered Adriana.

The swim (by Felipe)

The swim was interesting. I was the last AG wave (last one was the relays), just like our very first half ironman in Austin 2012. I started towards the middle which was a little physical. Haven’t had that much contact since Ironman Arizona that was the last mass start we did. Took about 200 yds to get a clear line and then I got into a good rhythm. I was averaging 1:45-1:50/100 yd which is a little slower than I thought I was going to go but I was in a comfortable pace, once we went under the Dos Hermanos bridge it got a little rough but actually felt the current of the ocean a little more. I finished in 40’. Not the fastest, not the slowest.... considering the volume I had done I think it was alright.

T1 aka longest transition on earth

This transition once you get out you have to get in between a couple of hotels and run about 0.56 miles to transition. People line up the swim exit with shoes, flipflops or anything to run in, we had some socks that we thought of putting on. I didn’t. I just ran barefoot. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I got on the sidewalk which was the cleanest. Got to the bike, took an apple sauce we had brought to take the salt taste off our mouths and off I went. When I mounted the bike realized I hadn’t taken off my skin suit, so I just took it off and put it in my rear pocket.

The most eventful bike in all 7 seasons 

 The course is a two loop course. It’s for the most part flat with a few false flats as you head out. Getting out of San Juan into Guaynabo you go through a couple of bridges and on one of those the cap of my front bottle bounced out of the bottle, that was all within the first 5 miles. Wonderful!!! Now all my Infinit was literally showering me on each bump. I tried to drink as much as I could early on trying to gauge where the aid station was so I could change my drinking strategy. My front bottle was shut, it was pointless to put anything in it as it was coming out. Also on top of that my power meter pedals decided that they wouldn’t read consistently which was very unusual. Never had that happened before (new batteries were in them). I was getting reads every so often so I guess I was going to ride by feel like the good old days. My heart rate was high which by now I wasn’t trusting either. I wasn’t feeling like I was exerting a lot of effort but my HR was saying otherwise. I just put my head down and went at it. At mile 30 I caught Margo who had left 2 waves before me and about half a mile up the road I caught Adriana who had left on wave 4. I chatted with both of them. Was happy to see them both. We had a good group (non drafting) going with a couple of other riders. 1 lady and 2 guys we were taking turns to stay in the front and lead without blowing. It was good until mile 50 when I hit a pothole and got a flat. I had too options at that time.

  • Remember the bent valve? I thought it might have been with all the vibrations of the potholes and road the air had leaked. I only had 1 CO2 so I took a gamble and used it. Well guess what that wasn’t it. Heard the flat.
  • Had to change the flat (rear) but didn’t have a CO2 by then. I pulled a Chrissie Wellington and asked people riding by for one. One guy stopped and gave me his after like 20 or so that went by. So thankful for that athlete.

After fixing the flat and losing about 8-9 min on the side of the road due to my mistake my legs weren’t responding anymore. Had a 21.5 mph avg up to the flat and the last 5 miles seemed like I wasn’t moving. I ended up with a 2:55 bike which wasn’t a PR but that included the flat, according to the garmin the moving time was 2:45 which was a PR and I think it could’ve been faster if the legs didn’t stop for 10 minutes. Anyways I used the last 5 miles to take in some nutrition and finish up my bottles. I think considering that after taking an infinit shower I managed the nutrition pretty well. I tried to control what I could and just didn’t panic. What else can you do. Got back to town and all I saw was clear blue skies, the run was going to be hot. When I got off the bike.... the legs said “you want to run? Good luck”

The run 

The Puerto Rico run is probably one of the hardest I’ve done in 11 half ironman races, not even Quassy or Lake Placid compare.

  • It isn’t flat 
  • Doesn’t have any shade 
  • Little to no wind 
  • When you get wind is head wind 
  • Hills... oh yeah already said it isn’t flat 
  • HOT!!! 

 The run takes you out of the park into old San Juan. Up by La Perla into the San Juan Door (puerta de San Juan) and around the wall and back. You do that twice. The first loop I was somewhat ok, by the second loop I saw Margo and Adriana and they were inching closer. Margo looked strong, Adriana was smiling and I was questioning my sanity. Needless to say at mile 9 before the climb into old San Juan Margo passed me and at that point all I wanted was for Adriana to catch me. Those last 4 miles seemed like 20. I knew the sub 6 was long gone and I was just dying slowly in the heat. Saw my friend Alejandro who I worked with 11 years ago when I lived there and he is also an Ironman. He was in his lounge chair in the shade drinking beer. I told him to give me one. Maybe that would get me moving but apparently the cops were being strict for the first time ever.

Finishing was sweet, except the last bridge. That one was unnecessary they could've gotten us around on the grass :). I saw Margo at the tent she had beaten me by a few minutes and Paul said that Adriana was right behind me, I grabbed my phone and went to see her finish and take her pictures.

Ironman 70.3 No. 11 in the books!!! While it was hard it was good to be back!!! Totally recommend it, Puerto Rico knows how to throw a race. The competition is steep and the race is amazing. Everything is great, organizers really cater to you and having done 9 editions they really know what to do.

 For now, we are done with our recovery week.... up next our 4th Rutgers half marathon in 3 weeks and IMLP in 17 weeks... shit is getting too real for it. At least spring arrived and we can now train outside.

 Until then.... we are out!