Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Puerto Rico Does It Better - San Juan 70.3 Race Report

It's True!

The 2013 race season has begun! I chose to start with San Juan 70.3 for a number of reasons. I had heard wonderful things about how the race was organized, it had plenty of Championship points and a big old prize purse and the climate would be warm! I need to learn how to race well in the heat because Half Ironman and Ironman Championships take place in similar environments. Racing fast in hot weather is an entirely different beast than racing fast in cool weather.

We arrived in San Juan on Thursday, unpacked and than walked across the bridge to have a light dinner with fellow racers: Gina Whipple, JR,  Keith Shields and of course my partner in crime/training partner  Ryan Kelly (who was here to get some BIG redemption on last years race. And just for the record - HE DID!)

After a long day of travel we hit the sack early only to wake to the most beautiful view of San Juan right outside our hotel balcony. The sun was shining, the water was crystal clear and the breeze was warm.  Our room overlooked the swim course which was good and bad. Good because I got a birds eye view of the swim section and bad because I was thinking: Boy, that looks far! And, is that a Manatee?

After some tasty PR coffee I headed off for an easy, relaxing swim on course (unless of course you count the minutes of sprinting after I nearly swam head on into a big water creature. Yes, it was a Manatee).  Manatees are harmless and love-able and exceptionally slow moving...but scary enough for me to sprint back to shore.  Next up was a shake out jog in which I realized that I was not in New Hampshire anymore. This race was going to be HOT!

We spent the rest of the day in the Yunque Rain forest which was a sight to see.

San Juan monkey's sure do look human-like

And so do the San Juan frogs

The monkeys were all over the place!

The coach's orders: STAY OFF YOUR FEET!

The guidebook states: Puerto Ricans DO NOT LIKE TO HIKE. Therefore, they will pave everything they can. So this is the paved, winding path in the Yunque Rainforest.

But this paved path led us to a beautiful waterfall....

See what I mean!? Puerto Rico is absolutely beautiful.  After the rainforest and waterfall we found a hole in the wall cafe called: Juice and Vegetables.  It was an outdoor lunch place that looked like you were still in the middle of the rainforest. We ordered fresh squeezed carrot and ginger juice and salads that the cook prepared right in front of us by cutting the greens from the garden. SO GOOD!

It is actually quite hard to fine salad and greens in PR but we made an effort!
But there are tons of coconuts

On to the race!  All in all in it was an awesome experience.  The race directors put on a great event and the people of Puerto Rico were so welcoming and showed up on race day smiling and cheering: Vamos! My goal going in was to execute a steady opening day and I think I did just that. I got in a good swim warm up and said good luck to Ryan as the male professional left 5 minutes prior to the females.  Right before the gun went off I spotted some girls I new I should be able to stay with and positioned myself next to them. The swim started off especially fast due to the three olympians in the race.  Boy, I need to work on my start speed. Once again I missed the lead pack and swam solo for 1.2 miles. I tried to remain positive and considering this was the first open water swim of the year I actually felt strong and relaxed.  The swim goal for this year will be to get MY BUTT OFF the start line and swim with the first pack. Or sprout gills and a dorsal fin. Either or works for me. Before I knew it I was exiting the water and than Carfrae goes flying by me in transition. That girl gets in and out of transition like she stole something. I, on the other hand, spend enough time in transition you can liken me to my Manatee friends.  Slow and sloth-like.  Gotta work on that.

I left T1 and immediately saw Danny and gave him a big smile and also asked if I was going the right way in which he answered: Seriously? There is only one road here Amber. :)

I have been working REALLY hard on my bike for the past year. My coach has been awesome and he is such a wonderful resource I owe him a lot.  But still, I always pray before the race that my bike quads will surface and today they did! I felt very strong and in control the entire bike which is great because the bike course was hot, windy and flat (I like cold and hilly.)  I spent the majority of the ride going back and forth with Kim Schwabenbauer and Carfrae.  The bike course was definitely flattish but had enough rollers and jumbo sized iguana to keep it interesting.  I guzzled down 3 bottles of EFS and GU Roctane, 2 Cherry Lime GU's and before I knew it - RUN TIME!

Fortunately (for sunbathers) and unfortunately (for Ironman racers) San Juan is HOT. And because I neglected to apply the American Academy of Dermatologist recommendation of 1 shot glass full of sunscreen every 2 hours I am looking a little crispy these days. It's hard to comprehend how much a shot glass full of sunscreen is unless you actually go test it out. Do it, I'll wait. Still waiting.  So needless to say the run was hot, very hilly, but also extremely gorgeous. The most beautiful run on the ironman circuit if I do say so myself. Part of the course takes you through one of the most historic gates in San Juan and along the sea wall which holds the heat but gives you a breathtaking view of the crystal clear waters of San Juan. Except for the fact that I ran like a complete TURD I would say the race was a success. I crossed the line and promptly submerged myself in the GIANT sized iced bath the race organizers had waiting. Ahhhhhh.

The rest of the trip was spent in Old San Juan exploring the forts, soaking up the energy of the city, swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach!

Now it's back to work because I have just 10 days until Oceanside!