Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico Race Recap: Riding the Pain Train in Paradise

Climbing Mt Lemmon in Tucson, AZ. Photo Courtesy of Jesse Vondracek, shot with a GoPro Hero3.

After a 3 week early season training camp in Tucson, Arizona, I made it home for a few days before I had to fly out for the first race of the season at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico. After having some health issues last summer and fall, I was unsure as to how an early season camp would go, but Tucson went very smoothly, without any issues or injuries popping up, with the exception of a cold after arriving home in Vancouver. I wasn’t too fussed though, it wasn’t the worst cold and training had gone well enough that I was confident I had absorbed a lot and gained some early season fitness. Also having a good pep talk with my best mates in Tucson, as well as my coach, instilled in me some extra confidence that I was performing well early season.

The new Dimond Brilliant race rig, set up with Easton EC90 Aero55 wheels, and Rotor 2INpower cranks.

Stepping out of the Puerto Rico airport, I had the familiar feeling of heat rush over me. When you’re from a fairly cold/moderate climate, there’s nothing like being hit with the hot sticky mess of humidity to signal to your brain that you’re at the races and it’s time to go to work.

Out for an easy pre-race spin to check out the bike, ensuring it is working properly. Shot on my GoPro Hero3.

The few days leading into the race went without any glitches, and come race morning, I felt fairly rested. Some races I can’t sleep worth a damn the night before, while others I’m out like a busted light bulb and sleep through the night without fail (this race being the latter of the two.) After getting a good warm up in, it was time to line up at the start.

The swim start, 30 professional men. Chaos as usual. Photo credit: Paul Philips of Competitive Image Photography

As is usually the case in the pro swim start, it was absolute chaos. But after a short few hundred meters, the packs started to break up and I found myself swimming at the front of a few swimmers, feeling in control and strong. After the first few turns I realized I was with Stephen Kilshaw and Matt Russell, so I knew I was going to have some good wheels to ride with. Coming into the home stretch of the swim, there was a bit of confusion amongst our group about which direction to swim. You see, all the marker buoys were bright orange. Now, this is a great colour choice, as it stands out against all backgrounds. Except, there happened to be about 5 or 6 canoes on the water, filled with people wearing huge jackets that were ALSO BRIGHT ORANGE! After the ensuing pandemonium and course correction, we came out of the water and ran like mad through the 700m run into transition. I decided, for the first time, to try swimming with my speed suit off my shoulders and tucked into my swim skin (because the water was almost 28C, it was a non-wetsuit swim.) Anyone who has tried to put a tight-fitting cycling kit or tri kit on while wet knows that it immediately becomes two sizes too small and feels like you’re trying to get out of a straight jacket. To combat this, I used some wetsuit lube on the inside of the kit (thanks to the suggestion from Wattie Ink,) and it went on smooth as butter.

Riding hard in the early stages of the bike. Photo Credit: Paul Philips of Competitive Image Photography

Heading out on the bike course, the pace was high early. There were a few lead changes within our group over the course of the ride, but the pace was fairly high the whole time. We held our gap to the front group, and weren’t able to put any time into them. The course was fairly flat, with some decent wind at points and some rough roads at points as well. My new Dimond Brilliant helped a ton with the rough sections, as the beam soaked up a lot of the bad vibes. There was some fairly blatant drafting going on in our group, but I tried not to let it mess with my race too much. There was a fair bit of surging throughout the bike, whether it was to ride up through the group, or try to drop other riders that were barely hanging on. After pushing it on the bike, I rolled into T2 in 5th after a 2:04 bike split, my fastest ride yet.

Heading back towards T2 to run. Photo Credit: ATV Photography

Heading out on the run, it was starting to get bloody hot. The humidity was high, the temperature was high, and there was no hiding from the sun beating down on us. I can’t say my legs felt too fresh as I ran, they just never really seemed to gain any ‘pop’, and the run just became a grind. There were some pretty steep hills on the run course, adding to the already challenging features. One of the huge benefits I found from my new Wattie Ink speed suit was the two different types of rear pockets. They were super easy to access for storing my gel flask, and also the perfect size for stuffing a bag of ice into, where it could help cool me in the heat. After losing 4 positions by the halfway point on the run, I was beginning to struggle with the course and the heat. Hitting the final turn, with about 300m to go, I realized there was someone closing fast. This was an “OH CRAP” moment, and I just started sprinting as hard as I could. Luckily I was able to keep it alive, and came in to the finish for 9th place. The run was definitely one of my worst in a long time, but I fought through the whole way and tried to keep nothing but positive thoughts in my head. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, but if you let the negative energy seep into your mind you’ll only do greater damage mentally, and you won’t be having any fun! As much as I had a first class seat on the Pain Train, I tried to enjoy the fact that I was racing in a stunning location, surrounded by people who also love this amazing sport. I would 110% recommend Puerto Rico as a race or travel destination; the island is beautiful, the weather is amazing, and the people are so welcoming and friendly.

During the first lap of the run, battling the heat and the hills! Photo Credit: ATV Photography

I would have to say my nutrition was really good during the race, using F2C glycodurance and electrodurance throughout the whole day. There is a reasonable chance I didn’t take enough liquid in though, which could have contributed to my poor run. Since this was almost 2 months earlier than I usually start my race season, and this winter being one of the worst we’ve had in Vancouver (ever), it was a great way to start the season. With a little fine tune to my race strategy, I think I’ll have a solid race at the Texas 70.3 in two weeks. All my gear worked perfectly during the race, which I’m super stoked about, as a few things are new this year. I have some of the coolest sponsors, and they’ve all helped me get where I am so early this year.

Thanks to everyone who has been cheering me on and supporting me through all my escapades, especially my wife who has been my biggest supporter, my biggest fan, and lets me chase my dreams around the world! I must sned huge thanks to Raul Nazario and his incredible family for their hospitality and generosity while I was in Puerto Rico. Also, thanks to all you amazing people out there that leave me positive energy with your comments and messages, I read them all and each one gives me a little boost!

Stay safe out there training and racing, I’ll chat with you cool folks in a few weeks after Texas 70.3!

Nathan

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