Tuesday, March 26, 2013

IRONMAN Los Cabos 2013

March 17, 2013
St. Patrick's Day
The inaugural 2013 IRONMAN Los Cabos, Mx ,for me, was a great early season race to motivate me to push through winter and get ready for Whistler in August. It just so happens that IMLC turned out to be an awesome event all it's own.

I want to begin with the people of Los Cabos. Not just the amazing volunteers, but the spectators and locals too. After the race, we were treated like celebrities. People would approach me to ask about the race or just to shake my hand. It was like we had actually done something important. The locals had a genuine interest and amazement with us. They seemed to admire us and want us to really love Mexico. I have never felt more welcome and accepted than I was at this venue.

Sunrise at the Palmilla Resort
Morning grub:
2x Ensure Plus (700C)
6c Coffee

Since I wasn't really sweating this race, I slept pretty well the night before, but I was still bright eyed and bushy tailed at 3:00am. After a quick shuttle to T1 and a tire pump up, it was time to head to the beach for kickoff.

Swimming the Sea of Cortez
Time 1:14:12

This wave rolled in just as the swim start went off.  Fortunately, I was already wet!
Oh how I wish there was no clock at swim exit.  Its so very heartbreaking.
Expecting a good swim, I lined up to the far right, close to the front, and just charged ahead when the crowd surged. There wasn't a ton of contact at first, and I felt like I was steadily moving up as I bridged from one small group to the next. Unfortunately, once we made the halfway point, the congestion started. I ended up with a heel to the chin and an elbow to the ribs. Surprisingly, I also got a few people grabbing and pushing off of me. Then the cramping started. First it was my foot, then calf, then hamstring all shifting into just-barely-swimable cramps. Once I hit the beach, I was blessed with some super cramps as I hobbled my way into T1.

Transition 1
Time 00:03:27

the beach hike to T1
A small part of the embankment up to bike mount.
T1 was a hike away. We had 20-30 yards of sandy beach, then another 20 yards of climbing up an embankment to a steep staircase that lead into T1. From there it was right to the bags, changing tent, and bike rack. Then another short jaunt up to the mounting line along a carpet covered rutted dirt path. Beyond the mounting line was a upward winding drive of asphalt broken up by cobblestone sections leading to ultimately the Palmillo exit and onto the bike course. Definitely not the smoothest of transitions.
oh yeah, there were still some wheel suckers out there.

The bike course
Time: 5:34:00 

Click for Garmin File ~6000 ft Elevation

nutrition: single 1500C bottle of Infinit, 1-2 bottle of water at every aid station

Again out of the swim and onto the bike my quads felt like they'd been tenderized with a meat mallet, just like at Ironman Florida.  I'm not sure what's going on there, but it took around 90' for the stinging sensation to dissipate from my legs. Before I could even get my shoes on, I managed to find some roadway gremlins that ejected my sole nutrition bottle. I ditched my bike and had to scavenge around to find my grub lodged under a parked car. At this point, IMLC is not going well for me. Fortunately, it only got better.

The bike course was a double loop of buttery smooth asphalt broken up by 10' wide sections of unavoidable reflector strips, the occasional rumble strip, and speed bumps. The first lap was full of heroes. I was shocked to see how many athletes were going around me. I typically swim poorly enough that I don't get passed much on the bike or run. But at IMLC, I had guys sprinting ahead of me on the climbs like it was a short course race.

All my nutrition and a flat kit is in this picture!
After the first lap, things changed dramatically. We had a net descent back to San Lucas followed by a tailwind pushing us back uphill to San Jose. The real drama happened for most of us on the second trip to the airport. The airport toll road is a steady ascent out of San Jose del Cabo and into a furnace. This was the area every athlete described as the most miserable section of the course; several Garmins recorded temps in the upper 90s. After the turn around at the airport is a fast, long descent. Unfortunately, we had a significant headwind that robbed us of some of our free wheeling we'd hoped to get. As we passed across the toll area, there were rows of rumble strips covered by duct-tape-secured plywood, not very confidence inspiring. This was at the fastest section of the course, but a lot of guys checked up here. I kept the hammer down and felt like I was able to gain a chunk of speed as I made passes in droves. After the descent from the airport, we were directed-ish to T2. I was actually directed out for another lap, but ducked into the T2 chute instead.
Shooting for 210-215 AP
I ended up with 201NP, 196AP
107 VI & 73 IF
with 27.5 minutes of COASTING!

Staggered Reflector grids made for interesting descents!

Transition 2
Time 00:01:27

Bike to Run transition was in a different location from the swim start, and it wasn't setup Saturday afternoon when I pedaled out to recon it. Fortunately, it was a simple affair. I snagged my bag, hit the tent and started throwing on battle rattle. A volunteer came by and slimed *most* of my back and shoulders with sunblock, and I hit the run course. Really there wouldn't have been a hang up except I had left my watch on my bike and had to chase it down.

Running through San Jose del Cabo
Time: 3:21:06 

Click for Garmin File ~1,100 ft elevation 

Nutrition: 5x Gu Espresso, water as needed on course

Feeling good heading out for Lap 1 and rocking my St. Patty's Day Green A5s
I came onto the run course just behind my soon-to-be new buddy Guido (pronounced gE-doh, not gWE-doh) and just in front of Max, both M30-34 and both solid runners as I find out.

There were other climbs, but this was the largest.
I had some chores to do when I first hit the course, so I settled in behind Guido. I began putting on my visor, tucking in my nutrition, and setting the Garmin to run mode. While all this was going on, I was getting passed by Max three times. Two times he stopped to tie his shoes after passing me, the 3rd time stuck. When my watch came on, Guido had put us on a suicidal 6:30 pace. We hit an aid station, and I grabbed some water and started walking. I walked my watch down to a 7:30 average pace before starting to run again.

Still running well going out for Lap 2, my TYR Carbon top
is full of ice, and I have two big handfuls trying to keep my cool.  
I typically don't get passed on the run. Well, at least, the passes don't stick on the run. Another perk of being a non-swimmer. So I wasn't too worried about Guido or Max. I was looking for the guys way in front of me that would be struggling later in the marathon.

The run was largely uneventful. I fell in behind one of the female pros on her final lap, and let her pace me for several miles. At IMLC, there was aid every kilometer with several out and backs over the 3 looped course. That meant there were absolutely tons of aid stations. I was taking water bags and ice at every chance, as well as sucking down my Gu gels. I felt pretty good the first lap. My race strategy was to be cautious the first lap and shoot for a 7:30-45, then be steady the second lap. As I finished up
yes.  it was that hot.
7:40 average pace
I know I can do better!
the first lap, Emily said I was 18th M30-34 off the bike and I knew I had passed 4-5 guys already. That put me 4 spots ahead of where I was off the bike at Ironman Florida. The second lap became a bit uncomfortable and I started feeling nauseated. I decided to forgo water, calories, and ice as I started the final lap. There was a ton of crowd support on the run course. I got a lot of encouraging comments about how strong and fresh I looked, but inside I was coming unglued. As I hit the final 10k mark, I decided to try to wick it up and close out the day. I put in a few low-7:0X miles but by the time I found the final 5k the wheels were running off. I had been stalking Guido and managed to pass him right around the last 5k. Then I found Max. I reeled him in to within 20 ft. Then I noticed he had calf sleeves on. I decided there was no way I would've known he was in my age group, so I backed down to survival mode and let him go. Truthfully, I am not sure I had anything for him; even in retrospect I can't summon the strength to really challenge him. I was absolutely running on fumes. The last section is a M-shaped double out&back that may well be the most tortuous design possible. Thankfully, beyond that was Emily and the finisher's chute.

Official Time 10:14:12 (bib 950 link)
9th M30-34, 59th OA

Guido is far Left
Max is rocking the visor with the shades
that lady chick'd us all 
I crossed the line and met Max in the kiddie pool to find the "D" marking on the front of his leg instead of his calf meant he was in my age group. I must've noticed it when he passed. Thankfully, we were all three 20 minutes away from a slot, so it ended up not mattering (to anyone but me). After a few minutes in the pool and a few pizzas, I was blessed with the most intense cramping I've ever experienced. I spent an hour in medical getting stripped off by Pedro and his three buddies while they worked and pulled at my muscles, then got an amazing post race massage sponsored by the event. Unfortunately, we had a 5 block hobble back to T2 and a 1-2 mile bike ride to the hotel. Once back, I made red Koolaid in the commode. I think my kidneys were upset at me.

I am not sure if the cramps hurt more
or the treatment for the cramps
Overall, this race presented a lot of challenges. Rumors are there was a 41% DNF which puts it in a rare category of tough 140.6 courses.  Being early in the season meant few athletes were properly acclimated. The bike course gave every opportunity for us to be too ambitious and destroy our race early. Then the run course hot, unshaded, and protected from the wind. The looped course meant there was nothing interesting on the 3rd loop to distract from the suffering.

Pedro and friends forcefully worked out the cramps.
I was very surprised how aggressive these guys were.
On the plus side, I think the course was easier than Ironman Florida. Sure it was slower, but paced properly the bike was much more enjoyable and the change in elevation meant a lot of coasting. The swim had little current, and it was a single loop so no midway running required. T1 was a hike, but it's so convoluted in Florida that my times were very similar. The run course was hillier, of course, but the hills really give you a chance to adjust your stride. I took every opportunity to walk the bridge hill, and it was nice to bomb the descent.

This angle was amazing.  Best post race massage ever
The support was top notch. I've never seen a race better supported. There were absolutely tons of volunteers with lots of goodies. I was surprised to have a few kind souls run after me with cups of ice after I had passed.

What I did wrong:

  • I think I've been sucking down too much coffee.  The thing is, I love the stuff and only get decaf besides race morning.  It's so easy to endulge.  I think for the next race, I will have a 2 cup limit.  
  • I am going to be less of a push over on the swim.  I have no intentions of being one of the "aggressive" swimmers, but I spent a lot of time trying to get out of people's way.  I think next time, I will be more assertive and hold my position.  
  • I need a more secure bottle mount.  I saw a few of the pro women had elastic bands around their aerobars, I can only assume this was to go around the bottle to add security.  I think I will rig up something similar.
  • I was a (i) and didn't make that pass on Max.  I was in pretty bad shape, honestly.  If I had been one spot away from Kona, I'd be crushed.  Going into Whistler, I am glad to know that feeling, and I hope I have the courage to suck it up.

Gear review:

Finishing up Lap 3.  I think its crazy that my form still looks pretty good
considering just how much my body was begging for me to stop.
TYR Carbon 2-peice suit
TYR hooked me up with a sweet deal, and I was excited to get a chance to try out their top of the line race suit. I had never used a two piece, and was a bit reluctant. I ended up not getting it until it was too late to try before the race, so it's first trip was 140.6 miles! Thankfully this thing is amazing. The suit is difficult to get on, but once in place it is like skin. It is thin and light, but not too snug or constricting. The pad is awesome on the bike, I loved it. The top design is allows a lot of freedom of movement. Having a two piece meant that I could roll my top up and fill the inside with ice. This was a blessing. I'll never go back to a one piece; I loved it. The over proof for me in the TYR Carbon suit was it is the first kit that hasn't chaffed me at least somewhere over a half or full distance. I honestly had come to expect the abrasion as just part of Ironman racing. Well, it ain't happening with the TYR.

Salty Sea Hoodie

Loving sunrise on the beach in my Salty Sea Hoodie
It's odd to review a hoodie for a triathlon, but I wore this thing to death. It's like climbing into a warm blanket when the bed is cold in the winter. It's perfect to throw over the race kit for the pre-race commute to T1, and it's handy to have in your dry clothes bag for the hike home! The best part is, it's privately owned by a Northwest Alabama couple that are doing their part to show the world how awesome the southern coast really is.

and ready to save $250
all wrapped up
The Ruster Sports Hen House
Holy smokes this thing is amazing. I was apprehensive about smuggling a bike around the Delta $150-200 EACH WAY!!! bike fees.  But, I read up on several different cases and ultimately decided on the Hen House for that very reason. I paid $40 for an extra check bag each way, and I was able to stuff a lot of other gear into the bags to save on needing another check bag.  I timed myself for the first reassemble at 22 minutes and a careful repack job at 30 minutes.   I was careful on the first packing, but the whole process was simple.  There are 8 hex bolts to remove or loosen; that's pretty simple.  The Hen House has already paid for 50% of its cost after just a single trip!
lots of info on airline fees from Slowtwitch.com

The DiMOND Bike
Wasn't ready in time.

View over the Cabo San Lucas Marina

heading out for lap 3, this was the scene for much of the run course.  Tons of spectators and volunteers. 

Every lap had us loop within 20 yards of the finish before sending us back out.  Torturous! 

From the comments of other athletes  the Halo Grand Fero was the best choice for host hotels.  We were very happy with it.  This image is from one of the shows put during the week.  


  1. Great job and great read...the switch to TYR surprises me. I'm gonna have to hear more on this.

  2. Hey Chris,

    I just randomly came across your blog after reading an article on Slowtwitch. I actually started the run in IMLC right next to you and remember watching you crush it! You had some great pacing throughout the bike with a sold run split to cap it off. I ended up jumping into the kiddy pool after the finish just as your legs started to lock up and the volunteers were lifting you out. I even commented to my buddy that you had "let it all out on the course". Great race!

    I absolutely agree that this was an awesome event.

    Viva Mexico


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