My random meandering - stream of consciousness thoughts, ideas, and feelings

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tagaman 2010 Race Report

Saipan is a small island in the Pacific. So small there isn't even a Starbucks on the island! There is a McDonalds but no BK. It's a place where you can still give your phone number in 7 digits instead of 10, and basically a place like Cheers "where everybody knows your name." This year was my 2nd year racing in Saipan. Last year I did the double racing both the Xterra and Tagaman. This year I opted to just do a relay for the Xterra Race. I arrived late thursday night into saipan after commuting from Manila with a brief day in Guam. Friday was the Sunset 10K trail run - which I ran for fun and was able to win since none of the other pros participated since they were saving their legs for Saturday's race.

For the Xterra I was able to form a team last minute. I did the swim, Mario Galeng did the most arduous task of the mountain bike and Ronald Villafria was the run leg. We won the relay division!

For the Tagaman, there were many last minute entries from Japan and Korea. Takumi Obara an Olympian from Sydney was racing for the first time in 5 years and members from the Korean National Team showed up sporting their ITU outfits. I knew it was going to be hard to replicate my top 5 finish from the 2009 Tagaman. I was going to have to use Long Distance Strength against the ITU speed.
The Race:

After a fairly stressful setting up transition - we were ready to go at the first break of daylight at 6:15 in the am


at exactly 6:15 in the horn sounded. We dove into the water and spinted all out to the first bouy. I was in good position and found some good feet drafting behind Sam Gardner the XTerra Champion and Mike Vine - we barely got to the first bouy and then our pack of about 10 athletes were called back!! It was a False Start!!!! Since some of the guys were a bit too far to the left of the start buoy, they sounded to the horn to call us back instead of using the megaphone. I was very disappointed. Putting in such a huge effort for nothing! So after about a minute of relaxing the counted was repeated and we went off in typical ITU style. The Koreans pulled out all the dirty tricks- I got my leg pulled back, There was alot of banging around as we were swimming on top of eachother for the first 200m. Finally I got some clean water and found some feet to draft off of - unfortunately my tugboat steered me off course and over some shallow coral reef where I had to skull carefully over to not get cut. By the time I got swimming again we were off the back of the pack!

I decided to choose my own line and swam the second loop of the 2K swim alone. Fortunately I was able to avoid the reefs on the 2nd loop. My finish time I believe was just over 30 minutes


As I only packed one pair of bike shoes this trip in my vain attempt to travel lighter, I had only my 3 strap shoes that I used for the Ironman in Malaysia. 3 straps offer great support, but they are not easy to transition with when they are clipped into the pedals. I wasted about 2 minutes or so trying to get them on. In retrospect I should have just put them on and ran on the cleats.

As it was now an ITU type style race, there was a lot of drafting going on in the Lead group. In a race that is supposed to be draft illegal, this was also disappointing. The Korean team was working well with the lead group that included Vine, Gardner who caught them, and the other British triathlete Mike Hiscott. The bike course starts with a small loop by the airport with some rolling hills and then it's about 20 miles straight into the headwind all the way to the bird island turnaround

Bird Island Saipan

During the bike was to try to hold a steady 250 Watts against the headwind, but for some reason, perhaps because I've become too much of a techy, my powertap conked out and I had no power reading! So I had to do old school and go on feel. It was tough since I was pretty much by myself and saw the group up the road riding away from me. To add injury onto insult the winds were even stronger Saturday am and climbing a steady incline into headwind was very hard.

By Bird Island I had caught all the women and was working my way to catch the remainder of the men's field that had fallen of of the lead group. By the Grotto Turnaround, Sam Gardner had already broken away from the pack.

The Other Equipment error I made was to borrow my kuya (older brother) Jazy's front Hed3c wheel. Although a faster wheel than my Stingers, in the crosswinds, it was much more difficult to handle. Had I had the tri spoke in the rear, and stinger in the front, that would have been a better combination.

The Tagaman course is really one of the prettiest courses I've ever raced on as you have these dramatic views of the cliffs and ocean. The Grotto is also another pretty site and famous dive spot:

There is one more out back on Banzai Cliff before we headed to T2 in American Memorial Park
It was a here where the wind was the strongest. I think all in all the bike was windier than Queen K in Hawaii!!

Now Finally heading back downhill with wind on our backs, I was spinning out my 54x11!! going well over 35mph (50kph) ! This was fun - at times I did have to change my grip to hold the bars as the tri-spoke would catch the cross winds. I caught one of the Korean men on the downhill section.


In transition I opted to put on socks. Generally my rule is no socks for olympic distance and down and socks for half IM and up. For a 15K run, it was a judgement call. Last year I opted for no socks and developed bad blisters so I choose with the safer but slower transition with the socks. As a price the Korean I passed on the bike, passed me back in transition.

I used foot pod function on my GPS to monitor my stride rate. Thank God that function worked! I pretty much tried to stay as much over 90spm as I could for the entire run. I eventually reeled in the Korean who had passed my in transition and caught another Korean athlete who was battling with cramps I was now in 8th position overall and the leaders were too far ahead. So I just kept the effort steady - I took a gel at the first turn around point and just tried to hold on the the stride rate. There were a few sections where I started to bonk, but I just tried to shorten the stride length and get the rate back up.

I think all the talks I have been giving on run technique have been helping. I just focused on keeping my feet underneath me, picking up my heels and turning my shoulders. I kept telling myself "stike lightly, quick, balance" I and repeated the manta counting my steps with each inhale and exhale "1,2,3,4-2,2,3,4..." over and over again. There were plenty aid stations on the run and it was nice to hear to cheers of all the Filipino Volunteers and Spectators. The majority of the run is along beach road where you can see the ocean - definitely on of the more scenic run courses

So I just tried to maintain my gap on the runners I had caught, taking gatorade and water as needed and finally got to the finish line. I held under 7min/mile (4min/km) pace which was fine for this time of year and for the 4th fastest run split of the day, my average stride rate was 89spm - but that included some walking and hand standing at the finish line:

The only thing I forgot to do at this point was take a picture with the podium girls:

My Total spilts for the day:

Swim Plc Tran #1 Bike Plc Tran2 Run Plc Total Div Plc
30:55 21 :01:24 1:41:33 12 :00:58 1:00:43 4 03:15:33 8

Full race results here:

So after a quick Massage and breakfast with Helen Olbes (my homestay from last year) I did a short cool down ride back to the PIC (Pacific Islands Club) where the swim start was. And guess what? My powermeter was working again!!

So now I'm back in Guam and gettting set to race the Xterra here this weekend. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. Thanks also to everyone who helped me in Saipan: Wolf and Bill from Taga Inc. for putting on this great event, Jeff and Lisa Taylor for hosting me in their lovely mountaintop home, all my fellow saipan based Pinoy athletes esp. Manny, Ron, Butch, Mario, Alex. Thanks to John for his aero helmet and Jazy for the front wheel, EFS, and Optygen, to Twinkle for sending me a new foot pod, Newton running, Rotor Components and of course Elite Bicycles.

Till the next race!


Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Ironman Malaysia Race Report

The Preparation:

I hate to preface race reports with excuses but I knew coming into this race that the heat was going to play a big factor in the race. Last year when I first decided to race here in Langkawi I was expecting to spend the majority of my winter in the Philippines. However "wintering" in NJ did have some good points.

First of all I was able to Train with the Montclair State University Swim Team which has always helped my swimming with the heavy yardage and the January camp in Puerto Rico. Supplementing this training with the Master's swim Program at Drew University always worked out well. Unfortunately no open water swimming in the north east USA during the winter months - in Fact, you can actually go ice skating on Mirror Lake where the IM USA swim is!

For the Bike, this was the first winter where I did about 95% of my training indoors on the Computrainer. After 10 years of riding the old Nintendo version, I finally decided to upgrade to the PC version - and what a great help that was! On New Years Day I rode the entire Ironman Canada real course DVD (112miles/180Km). During the week - we would mix in regular 3D PC rides along with the Wed night indoor trainer session at Mountainside Hospital. In my last training week in NJ - Derick my "assistant coach" taught me how to make our own intervals using the ERG function but unfortunately we only got in one of those before I left.

If any area I was under-trained in coming into this race - it was the run. Running in the cold is tough. Since I don't own a treadmill, it's always a struggle to get to the gym and an even bigger struggle to do brick workouts as running off into the cold after sweating on the bike trainer is not such a good option sometime especially when you're trying not to get sick. My longest run was only 15 miles and only a handful of interval workouts. But like I said I really have no excuses.

The Race:

The Swim:

Ironman Malaysia is the first IM I've done with a 1 loop out and back swim. The Swim actually had markers for every 200M of the swim! So at least the whole time you know how far you've gone and how much is left. So as my swimming has never been my strongest event, I was even more under-trained in it coming into this race so I knew a sub 1 hour swim was going to be tough. I went off in the pro wave which started 15 minutes before the age group wave. Right away the pace is fast! I was able to find some feet for the 1st 400 meters or so - and then then after some banging around and jockeying for position I lost the pack and found myself swimming alone. But by about the 1.5k mark, I managed to catch up one the female pros - looking at the splits now it must have been
Ladislava Cisarovska. So I had at least 1 person to keep me company for the 1.2 miles back to transition. The swim split was 1:07

The Bike:

Because of the Heat, I opted to ride with a regular vented helmet (a la Chrissie Wellington) and with white arm sleeves (not to be called arm warmers when it's close to 100 degrees F!) I rode with my powermeter and HR monitor to keep myself under control. I'll actually post the GPS info when I download later. This was also my first race on my new Karma Chameleon Elite Razor - which fit like a glove! I was a little apprehensive about riding an aluminum bike again after being used to Carbon - but the fit and the geometry were so dialed in I felt as comfortable and powerful as ever. Especially considering I probably had less than 10 outdoor rides this whole year!

The bike was a 4 loop course. 1 big loop and 3 small loops. I was working with one the Brazilian female pros
Ariane Monticeli. She was really strong! But I did notice that I was going a bit higher than I wanted to during certain points and as we started the 2nd small loop I lost her as I slowed during an aid station to get a water.

The other rookie mistake I made was that I forgot one of my high calorie nutrition bottles in my refrigerator back at our hotel. As I wanted to wait until the last minute to keep it cold for the race. So I just relied on gels, energy bar, and clif shot bloks for the bike. Also by the last loop on the bike they started to run out of gatorade and water. Also because of the rough roads my aerobars came loose again!! just like they did at the ChesepeakeMan!! At this point I was losing it mentally also so I decide to make a pee break out of it also. But by the time I go back up and running - there were some Australian tourists who had come out on the course and started handing out water to us - I guess other riders must have told them that we had run out of fluid. I graciously thanked them and got back up to speed. I started to get my 2nd wind and actually got Ariane back into sight. So finally I rode to transition trying to get more calories and electrolytes in - but I knew it still wasn't enough. Total elapsed time was 5:20 but I think my ride time was something like 5:15

The Run

I took my time in T2 and let 2 other athletes come in and out before starting my "death march" there was only vaseline in the tent and no sunblock - i peeled of my arm arm warmers and put on my compression sleeves on my calves and my Newtons and started out on the run.

It was HOT!!! there is some shade early on in the run running from T2 to the out and back loop. Having skipped the pre- race meeting, I was imagining the course to be 4 loops of 10K so mentally I was ready for that. I was runnning ok the first out and back - but on the 2nd lap I started hurting a bit more, plus weather went from overcast to the the sun shining full strength. I started to melt down - it was literally like running through an oven - with heat index I think it was over 100 (36c) I had a visor and put on the sponges on my shoulders and tried to exchange them ever water stop.

My run quickly became a jog and then the jog to itermittent jog/walking. I stopped a few times in the shade to try to re-group - but I pretty much knew that it was just going to be survival. Then thinking it was going be my last loop #4 - I realized looking at my GPS that the laps were only 8Km each and that I had another 5th loop to go!!! My spirits sunk even lower and I sat again to try to re-group. Then one of my roomates Ramon "Meo" caught me toward the end of my 4th loop. He was going a steady 10min/mile pace - as opposed to my up and down 8min pace run/walk - so I decided to stay with him the entire loop. We made it a point not to walk in between aid stations and that seemed to work. By this point in time almost all of the age groupers were on the run course and the aid stations were a mess of sponges, cola, water and gatorade and gels.

Nutrion-wise I couldn't hold anything down anymore at this point - even the sight of gatorade and cola made me sick. Plus I was hoping to be only out for only 10 hours not 11. But anyway I finally made it to the finish line, did my patented hand stand finish - and went to the recovery tent. Total elapsed time was 4:24 but I think my actually "running time" was 4:12 Finish time was 11:02

All in all it was not so bad considering all the mistakes I made even before the gun went off. But at least now I know better and hope to not go into an Ironman event under prepared again.

So in closing I just want to thank everyone who helped me get here: my new sponsor Elite Bicycles, PBN Nutrition, Newton Running, MSU swimming and Diving, Tim Johnson the head mechanic from the Montclair Bikery, Twinkle, Lilly, and all my friends from the Fil Am Tri Club, team Fitness First and to everyone on facebook, twitter etc who sent me positive their positive energy.

So 1 race down - 1 to go! Saipan here I come!