I very much consider Santa Rosa to be a hometown race. Living in the bay area for 17 years and going to school at Sonoma State for 3 years, the area has a familiarity to it. With that in mind I knew it was going to be a strong race. Staying calm, cool and collected during race week isn’t always easy and just when you think you have it under control life throws you a curve ball. The Sunday before race week I lost a friend and college roommate to suicide. We had lost touch over the last few years but never the less he had an impact on my life and I vowed to stay strong for him throughout my day on Saturday.
Mace had sent over a race plan on Thursday we had tweaked and updated several times. I probably read over about 10 times. He set some numbers to hit and goals to reach and if I was able to do that it would put me in the running for the ultimate goal of Kona. It’s been my dream since starting my Ironman journey 4 years ago!
Swim: 1 hour
Ride: 5 hours
Run: 3:25 or less
I spoke with Mace early Friday evening before eating dinner. It’s always reassuring and puts me at ease. We’ve worked hard to get to where I am today and knew that I was capable of what he set forth. No nerves. No doubts. I had my numbers in mind and went to bed relaxed, confident and excited with a perfectly filled belly.
Pre race dinner:
Grilled Chicken Breast w/ salt and pepper
1 cup of white rice
4-5 stick of asparagus
My alarm sounded at 230 and I woke up rested and ready. I was hungry so I made breakfast right away.
Pre Race Breakfast:
1 cup of oatmeal
Copious amounts of Honey Roasted Peanut Butter (because it's Peanut Butter!)
1 cup of coffee
With my friend in the back of my mind I headed out the door for the shuttles to the swim start. I was fortunate to sit next to a volunteer on the shuttle and we talked almost the entire way to the swim start. He was a retired EMT, born and raised in Santa Rosa and was excited to have the event in his hometown. He seemed to know when I needed my time to focus my mind and prepare but the distraction was sure welcome. I made sure to thank him for his time and for the distraction.
I loaded my nutrition on my bike put on my wetsuit and headed down to the swim start. Hit the john one last time and was ready to go. Put myself at the back of the 60 minute or faster swim time so there were about 40-50 people who entered the water first. I found open water on the inside track and settled into a good rhythm. It was a two loop course with an exit and reentry into the water, which gave me an opportunity to see where I was time wise. I must have hit the down arrow button because watch gave me no information as I ran around the cone and back to the waters edge. The second loop wasn’t as smooth as we had to merge with the swimmers just starting their day. It was a lot of swimming over people and a fight at every turn buoy. A bit slower than the first loop but as I exited the water I looked down and saw 1:00:56
SWIM 1 HOUR ✔
The bike has been my kryptonite at every race and Mace and I have worked so hard to get stronger in the discipline. I had my numbers in mind. I needed to get my HR under control. It was low 160’s getting out of the water so I used the first descent to take on nutrition, ½ of a Banana Nut Bread Pro Bar and at least a ¼ of my bottle of Infinit. By the start of the first climb my HR was mid 130’s…perfect! I knew the wattage I needed to hit, what my HR needed to be and what speed I needed to go. With those three data points in mind I rode my fastest Ironman bike ever! I was actually passing people…I never do that on the bike. If my HR got too high I backed off the power, if my power was too high but my HR under control I stayed at that power until my HR reached the ceiling and then I backed off. A game of cat and mouse that got me off the bike in 4:59:10!
Two incident’s of note that happened on the ride: 1) when I hit some rough road I lost an entire bottle of Infinit. That was 300 calories gone but it was still cool enough to take on some solid food. I ate the rest of my Pro Bar and took a water bottle at the next aid station. Back on track nutrition wise. 2) As I came into Santa Rosa the first time a spectator ran out in front of me forcing me to slam on my brakes and skid a few feet. I managed to stay up right and went on my day.
BIKE 5 HOURS ✔
The run is where I pull people back who pass me on the bike. I’m a runner at heart so knew this should go smoothly. I knew my plan but like everyone else I go out way too fast off the bike. First mile was 7/mile. Ok…back off a bit. I was able to settle into a pace I knew I could maintain. Held that for the remainder of the first loop getting water at every aid station. I knew I can run a bit slower and still hit the goal but wanted to ensure a Kona spot. At some point I had no control over my speed and at the start of the 3rd loop my support group saw me and informed my of my 4th place AG. I picked up the pace a bit but couldn’t maintain and at mile 20 the cramps arrived. Was given salt by two other runners and I was able to make my way to the finish chute and across the line with a 3:23;42 marathon.
RUN 3:25 OR LESS ✔
TOTAL TIME: 9:32:24
What a rush. To be able to execute exactly what was drawn up is an amazing feeling. I accomplished what I set out to do and left everything out there on the course. As I crossed the line I heard Mike Reilly call me an Ironman and that was something I’ve been waiting for since I started 4 years ago. It’s small but means the world to so many people who toe the line at these races. 4th in my AG, first IM podium, 19th overall and a 28-minute PR! I had to let that sink in for a minute. With a small field of a little over 1800 athletes I reasoned my chances for a Kona slot to be pretty high. I went to bed that night excited and with high hopes.
At the award ceremony I had the privilege of standing on stage with some amazing athletes. The 30-34 AG is always fierce competition and it’s always an honor knowing I’m going up against the best and strongest athletes. I was on cloud 9 until I found out that there were only 3 spots for Kona available in the AG. That meant I needed just one of the top 3 to pass. Needless to say that didn’t happen and I walk away from a 28 minute PR and first ever podium with no Kona slot. Emptiness! Trying to focus on the positives and my accomplishments was tough. Really, really tough.
I’ve had a few days since then and have received so much support from everyone around me. I did what I could, followed my plan but there were just 3 people I needed to beat that had a faster day…such is Ironman racing. All I can do is lace up my shoes and try again and believe me…I will! I set this goal of Kona on Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe 4 years ago and I won’t stop until I get there. Maybe its what my Mom instilled in me as a young kid that you don’t give up on your dreams or maybe I’m crazy, whichever one it is… I will run down Ali’i Drive!
A special thank you to all the volunteers out there with us all day. You guys are the real heroes of the day and we couldn’t do what we do with out you. Thank you to my mom who raised a stubborn man and for always supporting me in my dreams and ambitions. Thank you to Coach Mace for believing in me and always pushing my limits. I still imagine you sitting on your couch writing up these training programs just to see if I will actually do it! Thank you to Maverick Multisport for the support and encouragement. Thank you to Patrick Ray of Rocky Mountain Multisport for getting my bike in top notch condition! Thank you to all the sponsors Infinit Nutrition, Polar, Altra Running, Swiftwick Socks, Recovery Pump Boots for the best equipment in the sport.
Thank you to everyone for reading.