March 30, 2012

Oceanside 70.3 Thoughts & Goals

To be honest, I feel like this race kind of crept up on me! I was just going along with my training, taking one week, one day at a time, and then bam!, it's race week. Oceanside 70.3 is the first big triathlon of the season, but with less than three months left til IM Cd'A (!!!) I figured it would be a good race to see where I'm at and figure out what needs to be tweaked or focused on in the upcoming months. With that said, here are my goals:

1) Practice my nutrition strategy. 
Admittedly this is a bit half-assed on my part. I tend to wing it with nutrition which leads to underfueling, especially on the bike, in both training and races. Despite this, I have yet to really come up with a fueling plan let alone practiced one. After talking to a few fellow triathletes I've come up with a plan I'll be trying for the first time tomorrow. I'm not adding any new products, simply coming up with a schedule to take more. Pre-race I'll do my usual breakfast and then a Gu just before the swim. 

The bike leg is where I know fueling is the most critical. I want to consume most of my calories in liquid form so I'll have my main bottle filled with 2 servings of Gu Roctane drink (480 cals). I plan to supplement this with a couple Gu (100 cals each) and Honey Stinger waffles (160 cals each), depending on what I feel like. My goal for the bike leg is 220 cals per hour, so every 10 miles or so I plan to check in on where I'm at and consume accordingly. On the run I'll carry 2 Gu with me and take them around miles 4/5 and 8/9 per usual.

2) Execute smart pacing.
I came across some excellent posts (here and here, thanks to Nicole!) on preparing and racing Oceanside and one of the things they both emphasized was the importance of smart pacing. I'll be wearing my HR monitor, so I plan to use that to gauge my effort throughout the day. For the swim I'll be relying on effort more than pace (since that's hard to determine). I'm not fast, but I think I've gotten stronger so I want to give a consistent effort that still feels comfortably hard. I'll focus on my breathing and my technique when I start to get fatigued. This will also be my first ocean swim, but I've heard the harbor protects swimmers from any major swells. I'm also hoping not to swallow too much salt water : /
swim course
The first 24 miles of the bike are flat and fast, but the final 32 are pretty hilly and the final 10 often have a nasty headwind. It's going to be crucial to pace myself on the first stretch so I have something left to get me up and over those hills. I have not done enough hill training on the bike so I am definitely nervous about the back half of the race (especially miles 30-36, yikes!), but hopefully if I don't go out too hard I'll survive them. 
bike course
just a few hills...
Fortunately the run is nice and flat, and this is where I plan to shave off a decent amount of time from my first 70.3. My open half marathon PR is a pace of 8:28, and according to the experts I should aim for 20-30 seconds slower, so I'll be aiming anywhere from 8:45-8:55.
run course
3) Practice racing long course.
One of the benefits I see to doing a 70.3 before a full Ironman (as opposed to just long training days) is the opportunity to practice race strategies. That means everything from fueling to transition, pacing to mental challenges. Like many, I tend to push myself more in a race setting, surrounded by other athletes and the adrenaline pumping. That's something you just can't simulate on a training day. I haven't raced a triathlon since last summer, so this will be both a refresher and a chance to see what I need to work on.

4) Improve my times.
Considering that I've done one 70.3 before, of course I want to improve on my times. But it goes a bit deeper than that. For Vineman 70.3 last summer I trained on my own with no set training plan. I was coming off of AR 50 so I was in decent shape, but I was starting almost from scratch with the swim and bike. I didn't really do any specific workouts, I just made sure I got to the point where I could cover the race distances and didn't worry too much about speed. This time around, things have obviously been different. I started training in January coming off of two marathon training cycles, and this time I had a coach. My training has been much more focused than before and also higher in volume. I've seen gains in all three disciplines, even just from when I started in January.

As such, I have some expectations for myself tomorrow. I keep thinking that compared to my training for Vineman, I should PR. If I don't, what does that mean about all the training I've been doing? I know that pending no disasters, I should have a good day and see some improvements. But I'm also trying not to put too much pressure on myself. Specifically, I'd like to improve my swim from 43 minutes to about 40. For the bike, I'd like to go from 3:25 to somewhere around 3:15. And on the run, I hope to make the biggest improvement, from a 2:12 to sub-2. I hope to be efficient and speedy with transitions and keep them under 5 minutes each. That gives me a goal finish time around 6 hours, compare to 6.5 at Vineman.

With all that said, I want to have fun. It's easy to forget that this isn't my job. Nothing serious depends on how well I do. While it's certainly fine to be competitive, I know for me it often causes me to lose sight of why I do this. And so tomorrow, my mantra will be something like relax, breathe, smile : ) If anyone wants to follow along, you can track me here. I'm bib no. 1899 and my wave starts at 7:27am. Wish me luck!


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