Saint Croix 70.3 Race Report

Better late than never!

I signed up or the Saint Croix Half Ironman at the last minute 10 days before the race in early May…here’s what happened:

Getting there took 2 connections from Vancouver. First Chicago, then Miami to finally arriving in Saint Croix late Friday night (I was on the same flight as the eventual race winner Andy Potts…for you non-triathloners he’s kind of a big deal:)).

I was pretty exhausted from the full day of travel, but found myself putting my bike together to make sure there was no damage.  Thankfully there was none courtesy of Nathan Killam‘s awesome Aerus bike bag that he loaned me (thanks again Nathan!!!).

The reason I chose St. Croix was:

  1. I found myself with time off between jobs
  2. Teammates were already going, so it made logistics a snap
  3. It’s in the Caribbean…duh!!

Saturday we spent the day picking up our race packages, driving the course, and going for a short run and swim. I quickly learned that training in Vancouver is not the best way to acclimate to the humidity and heat of the Caribbean. No worries though, I was here to have fun!

One thing I should confess… I’d be lying if I didn’t reveal that I was dreaming of coming away with one of the 30 Ironman World Championship qualifying spots that they had up for grabs. I’d researched the past qualifying times for my age group and figured I had to complete the race in under 4:35 to have a shot at qualifying. I ran all the possible time combinations in my head and believed that it was possible…albeit extremely challenging!

We were staying at arguably the best place on the island, Pyramid Point, which is a vacation rental by owner (VRBO) that Richele found (thanks Richele!). We had our own private beach, an incredible view, and I could hear the ocean crashing into the shore all night…it was awesome!

Lance on the bike

The Race

I got into transition with lots of time to spare, got body marked, went to the washroom, setup my transition area, went to the washroom again, and hung out until it was 6am. I made the short 200m swim over to the start which is on a small island. I had my first Lance Armstrong sighting when I noticed him in line behind me…yep, he had to line up as well.

It was a wave start with the pro men off at 6:30, the pro women at 6:32, and my wave off at 6:35. My plan for the swim was to swim hard for the first 200 meters then find some feet and stay on them for the rest of the swim. This was a different approach then I’d tried in the past, but after discussing with Coach Bjoern it made sense to conserve energy behind someone that was basically swimming the same speed as me. I came out of the water feeling fresh and knowing that I could have worked a lot harder, but felt good about executing on the plan. I knew my swim wasn’t very speedy based on the many different colored swim caps that had passed me (each age group has a different colour). I didn’t know the full extent of it until the end of the race when I learned it wasn’t just rough, it was a disappointing 41:xx. I’ve been working hard on my swimming this year and so I don’t feel very good about what seems to be a complete lack of improvement.

Lesson: Coach Bjoern and I agree that I’ll need to be swimming 4-5 times per week until Coeur d’Alene.

I made two errors in transition which cost me a few seconds including dropping my goggles and initially forgetting my sunglasses. I’ll need to practice my transitions a bit to avoid this in the future.

Getting onto the bike, I was excited to ride the course which is known as one of the toughest half iron bike courses on the circuit. With the conditions being what they were I felt like I had an advantage. It was a torrential rain storm with often blinding pounding rain and foot deep flash floods across the course in places. I don’t have a problem with riding in the rain…in fact, this was warm rain so very unlike the cold rain I’ve been training in all year in Vancouver. I found myself steadily passing riders and felt very comfortable in the conditions.

I maintained a steady effort throughout the course and spent 95% in aero and came in with a 2:40 bike split. It was 10 minutes slower than my goal but there’s nothing I would have changed to go faster.

One thing that I would definitely change is my complete lack of adherence to my nutrition plan. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from IMC!

What did I do?

I didn’t drink water on the bike and didn’t take my salt pills. During the race I found it so easy to keep my head down working that I didn’t think about the longer term impact of my decision not to take in what I would need to sustain myself on the run – water and electrolyte.

The run started off well enough, I was feeling tight and tired, but that is to be expected. I ramped up my pace to my planned 4:15 /km for the first few, but quickly realized that this was not sustainable and dialed it back to 4:30/km. This worked until the last 5 kilometers when the leg cramps brought me to painful halt. I took in water at every aid station and focused on getting to the finish line. I got it done, but it sure didn’t feel so good! My overall time was 5:03, definitely not speedy but as fast as I had on the day.

Photo evidence of incredibly painful cramping!

A few things:

  1. Andy Potts is a great ambassador for our sport. I saw him talking with some of the incredible volunteers and asked if we could get a photo with him, he was incredible gracious and friendly.
  2. Lance Armstrong, not so much. He didn’t show up for the awards ceremony (he placed third). Yes he attracts a lot of media attention and money to the sport, but my perception is that he demonstrated poor sportsmanship by failing to show up….just my opinion.
  3. Drafting. I spoke with the race director, Tom Guthrie about the blatant drafting that I witnessed during the race with the course officials doing absolutely nothing. He listened and responded that this was only the second time in 20 years that he’d received this feedback. I told him about the multiple race reports that I’d read before the race describing Saint Croix as a race where this is not enforced and he just smiled and nodded. Every athlete needs to decide how they choose to race, whether that is by the rules or at any cost. My two cents, either enforce the rules or make it a draft legal event.

Lessons learned

  1. Follow the race nutrition plan
  2. Follow the race nutrition plan
  3. FOLLOW THE RACE NUTRITION PLAN!
  4. IVs are incredible
  5. IVs are ridiculously incredible

I  would definitely go back to St. Croix. The volunteers were incredible and the entire community gets up to support the race…very cool!

One thing: West Jet – hook us up with a direct flight from Vancouver!!

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This entry was posted in Biking, Ironman, Racing, Ridiculously fun, Running, Swimming and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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