Living in the northern hemisphere, this race was my first to kick off my 2017 race season. After what felt like a long off-season with a winter that never wanted to end, I was more ready than ever to get outside with my friends and see if my training in the off-season would show great improvement in 2017. This winter, while others were focused on swimming, biking and running, I spent my time focusing one thing: strength (both physically and mentally). I spent more time than I ever have doing power lifting and mobility with the coaches at Crossfit Gold Rush, and Kristian and I continued to slowly chip away at the mental blocks I have up against my abilities as an athlete that I know hold me back from having the results I’m capable of having. By the time race day rolled around, I felt more ready than ever to see what I could do. I felt strong and capable of a solid performance and of setting a few new PRs.
During race week, I limited my time in my private practice as to not stress myself out with work obligations, race packing and prep, food prep, packing the trailer (we were “camping” in our travel trailer for race weekend), and tying up any lose ends around the house. I wanted to keep a good sleep cycle (which I was able to do) and I felt very little stress the week leading into the race.
We left Grass Valley on Thursday afternoon. We made it down to Santa Rosa without any issues and were set up at camp by sundown. I had a great night sleep and a wonderful training session the next morning before heading over to Ironman Village for race check in. This was the inaugural race for Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (in terms of organization). It is also a dual transition, which made the athlete check in process longer than usual. We were mandated to drop shoes and all run nutrition at T2 and bikes at T1 on Friday (with race day on Saturday). By the time I got checked in, listened to the athlete briefing, dropped off run bag at T2, headed up to T1, dropped off my bike, and completed a short practice swim, we weren’t back to camp until shortly after 3:00pm. It left little time to relax before dinner and bed, but I was able to get my feet up for a few moments. Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo, so I came prepared on Friday for a long day, and had an ice-chest full of snacks and water to get me through the day.
Race morning came early (it always does) with my alarm sounding off at 3:00am. As usual, I slept soundly from about 9pm-2am, then was tossing and turning until 3:00am. I made my usual pre-race (also pre-training) smoothie at 3:30am and had that down by the time I left camp at 3:45am. My smoothie was 560 calories (1/3c unsweetened coconut milk, 1 banana, 1T chia seeds, 1 pkg mushroom coffee, 1T collagen, 2T cacao powder, 1t MCT Oil, 2 scoops Whey Protein) and was easy to drink, even though I wasn’t hungry. I left with a cup of regular coffee in a to-go cup that I drank on the :45 minute bus ride from T2 up to T1. It wasn’t until the bus ride up to the lake that I started to feel slightly nervous. Still confident, but nervous. I had been working so hard to stay out of my own head and my biggest fear of the day was where my brain would wonder once it got hard (which I knew it would get hard eventually). I wanted so badly to be able to stay positive all day and not tell myself “I’m not good enough” or “this is too hard” or “I’m so slow,” which are all thoughts that can easily creep into my head during a race when it gets really tough. I know those thoughts don’t serve me and I REALLY wanted to avoid them today.
Once we arrived at Lake Sonoma, I was able to quickly use the loo, pump tires and set up my transition area. We had spectators up at the lake volunteering, so I was able to keep my warm clothes on until about 5 minutes before the race start then hand them off to them (I seriously can thank my husband enough for ALWAYS be there. It’s the best!). It was chilly that morning (in the low 40’s) and there was some wind. I brought a band with me down to the water and used that to warm up (instead of running- which I have finally discovered causes me to cramp in the water). I took 1 Vespa Junior, 2 salt tablets, 1 package of Beet Elite, 6 ounces of water and headed into the coral.
This swim was a self seeded rolling swim start (starting at 6:25am). I self seeded at the back end of the :30-:33 minute swim group. With a previous swim PR of :32.18, I felt confident that I could finish around that time. Once the cannon went off, I had about a 5 minute wait before I made it to the front of the pack to start my swim. Like previous rolling starts I’ve been a part of, I didn’t have to fight for my life at the beginning. I found myself in a pack of like paced swimmers and was able to get into my groove immediately. I focused on staying on other athletes feet as much as possible to get the benefit of a draft and keep good form from start to finish. The day before the race, Ironman decided to change the swim course (due to high winds), so I convinced myself that no matter what my watch said when I got out of the swim, I wouldn’t be happy or sad. I know that these swim courses can be long or short and my time does not always reflect where I’m at in the pack when I get out. Once I finally exited the swim and hit the steep launch ramp, I could see my watch said :35 and some change. “Ok,” I thought, “not exactly what I wanted, but a solid swim without any cramps. Moving on to T1.” In the end, I swam a :35.28 and was the 18th female out of the water in the 35-39 age group.
The run from the swim exit to T1 was LONG and steep. I chose not to wear shoes and that is something I would change next time. The road was rough and my feet hurt badly by the time I actually got to my bike. With the air temps being low and having a forecast of high winds, I elected to put on more clothes than I normally would have. I used an ear warmer under my helmet, arm warmers, and toe covers on my bike shoes. I had gloves just in case I wanted them, but elected not to put them on. 2 weeks before the race, I came down to Santa Rosa with some friends to test swim/ride/run the course. During that training, I royally screwed up my nutrition and didn’t take on enough salt (and I paid for it!). I was fearful that if I had on full fingered gloves, I would not be able to access my salt tabs easily and I did not want to risk getting low on salt again this week. I’ll take cold fingers over a massive headache and all the other symptoms that come from low electrolytes…including a decrease in performance! I made it out of T1 in what felt like forever, but my final time was :07.36 which was pretty fast for most transition times that day for age group athletes.
As soon as I got on the bike, I started telling myself things like “now you hit it hard” and “this is your sport.” I am not the fastest swimmer out there, but I know I can make up time on the bike. So that’s what I set out to do. I kept my head down and pedaled hard. The entire 56 miles. I had a very specific nutrition plan for the bike with a goal of sticking strictly to it. I planned to take on about 250 calories per hour (which is more than I would usually take on) and consume approximately 2,000mg of sodium in the form of Salt Stick tablets. There were many moments when I didn’t want to eat (not because I was full, but because I just wanted to stay in aero and keep pedaling hard towards T2). But, I ate anyway…at all the times I was suppose to eat. I started with a Vespa Junior at mile 2, then used my homemade Endurance Bites (kind of like a glorified rice crispy treat), Huma Gels (x3), and about 2/3 package of Skratch chews. I took on all 2,000mg of sodium (1 tablet every 15 minutes) and got down about 3-4 bottles of pure water over the 56 miles. In the end, I consumed about 665 calories (241 calories per hour) and felt great. My goal was keep my concentration the entire ride (which I did), follow my nutrition plan (which I did), and set a new bike PR (my previous PR was 2:39.56). At mile 55, I looked down at my watch and realized that I wasn’t going to get a bike PR today. As a matter of fact, I realized that I was going to get the same bike time I’ve been getting for years…2:45 or around there. For a spilt second, I thought “WTF!!!!!,” but immediately thought “you still have every opportunity to PR your run!” I kept pedaling hard until the very end, and made it to T2 feeling ready to run. My final bike split was 2:45.43 and was the 11th fastest bike split in the 35-39 age group for the day.
I didn’t waste anytime in T2 (I usually don’t). I got out of my shoes on the bike so I could run quickly (barefoot) through T2. I racked my bike, got quickly into my T2 bag and threw on my shoes. I tossed off my helmet and grabbed my race belt, my Vespa and my hat to get out on the run course. My T2 time was :02.15.
As soon as I exited T2, I immediately passed by our Gold Country Triathlon Club tent where I was able to high five my friends and family and get settled into my run pace. I notoriously go out too fast (I thought we ALL did that, but apparently some athletes are able to pace!). About 1/2 mile into the run, my quads started to cramp. In the past, I would have immediately gone into “worry mode.” “What if these don’t go away?” “What if they get worse?” “I can’t keep running with these cramps.” Blah, blah, blah. This time, I thought, “ok…cramps. Proof you left it all out there on the bike. Take a salt tab or 2. You know they’ll go away shortly.” By mile 2, they were gone. And although they were very uncomfortable, I don’t feel like they really slowed me down. After the cramps were gone, I could finally focus on my goals for the run. My goals for this run were to: 1. PR, 2. follow the nutrition plan, and 3. smile and run as fast as I could while still being able to thank the volunteers and give kudos to other athletes who were kicking butt. I immediately settled into a sustainable pace (which was really good for me). For once, I didn’t feel rushed. I felt like I knew what I had to do, and I did it. I kept my focus on a fast leg turnover and my nutrition plan, which was 1 Skratch chew at every mile, 1 salt capsule at every even mile (so 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12), and water at every aid station while running thought the stations (no walking). I chose not to carry water with me for the run. The aid stations were not as evening spread out as I had hoped, and they were definitely not set up on the mile markers. That made it a bit challenging to take my nutrition and salt tablets on the intervals I had planed (since I didn’t carry my own water). I just went went with, and took nutrition and salt before aid stations as close to my planned time as possible. Pacing was pretty easy as there was a 29yo female ahead of me running a strong, sustained pace that I felt good about pacing off of. I made it through the first 9 mile loop feeling “good” (“good” meaning tired and ready to see the finish line, but able to keep going). I was ready to pick up the pace for lap 2 (which was only 4 miles), and apparently the 29yo ahead of me had the same plan. I tried to keep up, but the legs were not responding. I slowly watched her drift further and further away, but it didn’t stress me out. I was doing everything I could to run the best race I could, and that was all I could do. The 4 miles went by much faster the second time around (not literally, just figuratively) as I saw many other GCTC athletes and every time I got to call out or high five them, I felt a surge of energy. Before I knew it, I was back in downtown Santa Rosa and quickly approaching the finish line. Once I entered the finish chute, I found Sean and my parents and gave them high fives. I kept my arms out (airplane style) and drifted down the finish chute giving high fives to anyone who would reciprocate. I was smiling and enjoyed every minute of it. I finished the run in 1:50.12 which was the 9th fasted run in the 35-39 age group on the day.
I stopped my watch when I crossed the finish line and saw my final time of 5:21.14. I couldn’t help but smile. Not because I was happy with my time, but because I seriously couldn’t believe that I had managed to finish another 70.3 in 5:20ish. My 70.3 PR was set in 2013 (5:17.18) and I have managed to race almost all of my 70.3 races since then in 5:20ish. I seriously thought that I would finally break through the 5:20 barrier and be on my way to faster times. Nope. Not today. I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. But, when I looked back on the entire day, I have NOTHING to be disappointed about. I dream of the perfect race. I’ve always imagined what it would feel like to have nothing go wrong in a race (that is SOOOOO RARE) and I feel like this was it. I felt like I paced perfectly, I stayed focused and positive pretty much the entire day, I enjoyed the course, I enjoyed my fellow competitors, I was proud of my nutrition plan which I stuck with and felt great about, and most of all, I had a blast! The only thing I’m upset with now is that my desire to have a time and/or a place on the podium partially ruined the celebration I should have had for having what I would consider a perfect race. Clearly, there is still some work to do mentally. I train hard, I don’t skip workouts, I put the hard work in when I’m suppose to and go easy when it’s time to go easy, I listen to Kristian and take days off when I’m told, I recover well, I RARELY deal with injury, I sleep well, I eat right and I’m pretty good (I could be better) at hydration. The work that still needs to be done is in between my ears and that’s the hardest work of all. I’d rather push myself to the point of puking on a track. Seriously.
So, we push on. I’m not really sure what work I have in store to break through these mental barriers that I’ve put up around myself, but I trust that Kristian has a plan and I’m eager to do the work. Next up, an epic summer road trip from California, to Wyoming (to crew for Kristian at Big Horn 100), to Coeur d’Alene (for Ironman 70.3 Cd’A), then up to Whistler for Ironman Canada. It’s going to be one hell of a summer. I can’t wait…
The final results posted on the internet forever…
5:21.14 which put me 8th out 130 women in 35-39 age group (top 6%)
Summarized Race Day Nutrition Plan (Please note that what works for me might or might not work for you. You need to test your own nutrition plan weekly in training until you find YOUR perfect race day nutrition plan.)
3:30am Smoothie (1/3c Coconut Milk, 1 banana, 1T chia seeds, 1 pkg mushroom coffee, 1T collagen, 2T cacao powder, 1t MCT Oil, 2 scoops Whey Protein) = 560cal (28C/41F/31P)
5:30am Vespa CV25
6:20am VESPA Junior, 2 Salt Tabs, Beet Elite
6:25am Race Start
T1- VESPA Junior
*Salt Tablet every :15 (total of 2,000mg or 10 salt tablets)
*BCAA Tablet at the top of every hour (total of 1.2g BCAA or 2 BCAA tablets)
Mile .5 3 Skratch Chews (48 cal)
Mile 7/14 Endurance Bites (132 cal)
Mile 21 Huma Gel (100 cal)
Mile 30 Endurance Bite (66 cal)
Mile 35 Huma Gel (100 cal)
Mile 42 Endurance Bite (66 cal)
Mile 48 Huma Gel (100 cal) = 612cal (approx 222 cal/hour)
T2- VESPA Junior
*Every Even Mile Salt Tablet
*Every Mile (except 3 and 4) Honey Stinger Chew (160 cal)
Mile 3 Huma Gel (100 cal)= 260cal (approx 140cal/hour)
Finish- 2 Scoops First Endurance Ultragen
Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 Course Summarized
This is the largest 70.3 race in North America (with 3,500 athletes registered). It was well organized and absolutely beautiful! The swim is in Lake Sonoma and was cold (64F), but well marked and fairly protected from the wind once they moved it inside the cove. The bike course is a point to point through green rolling hills covered with wine grapes. It was chilly at the start (low 40’s F), but warmed up by the time we hit the run. The roads are very rough. The elevation gain on this course is 2,100’ spread out over the course. There were no monster climbs (in my opinion), mostly just rolling hills (some that were a little bigger than others). The run is on a canal trail and is 1 1/2 loops. It was cool on race day, but the 2 weeks before when we trained on the course, it was very humid. The run has plenty of shade, so even if the air temp gets hot, I’d imagine it would be cooler on the course from the shade. I think this is one of the best courses I’ve raced on and I would highly recommend it.
Personal Race Highlights
-Racing with my Mom on Mother's Day Weekend! She relayed the swim with a friend!
-Our Tri Club won the Division V category (beating the Olympic Club)
-We had 26 athletes from our club race this race. 3 of them for their first 70.3 (and they did AWESOME). We had multiple spectators after the race talk about relaying in the future (which gets me REALLY excited to hear others thinking about our sport for the first time).
-Our oldest athlete in the club (Linda Hegle at 68 years young) made her way onto the podium after a year "off" of racing in 2016. It was GREAT to see her back out there doing her thing.
Tiana Rockwell is a certified nutritional therapist, avid endurance athlete and dark chocolate lover. She believes that by eating REAL food, we can balance our body and reach optimal health and wellness!